RAF Metfield - USAAF Station 366

Text © Copyright Evelyn Simak, May 2014
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.


The airfield was built to the standard Class-A bomber design, with three intersecting runways forming a large A-pattern, 50 dispersal points and two T-2 type hangars, intended for the use of the United States Air Forces as a heavy bomber field. Additional buildings provided accommodation for about 2900 personnel. Metfield aerodrome was one of the most isolated aerodromes of the Eighth Air Force in Suffolk. It was designated USAAF Station 366. The dispersed accommodation and communal sites were located to the west of the flying field.

Completed in August 1943, the station was used as a base for the 353rd Fighter Group which formed part of the 66th Fighter Wing headquartered at Sawston Hall near Cambridge. Flying P-47 Thunderbolts, they began combat operations on 9th August but due to a rearrangement they moved to RAF Raydon (USAAF Station 157) in April 1944. Their place was taken by the B-24 Liberators of the 491st Bomb Group (H) - The Ringmasters - from June 1944 until August 1944, when a massive explosion occurred on the airfield, resulting in the relocation of the 491st to North Pickenham airfield > Link.

On 15 July 1944, a bomb exploded in the bomb dump, setting off the entire munitions storage area which contained 1200 tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs, killing five men and severely damaging a number of B-24 fighter aircraft. Experts, however, believe the figure quoted to be unlikely, as an aerial photograph of the airfield (dated 18 January 1947) shows the crater rim covering one end bay outwards whereas the remaining three bays are shown as being intact. Presumably the contents of one bay, in combination with the contents of a truck being unloaded, detonated. Each bay would have contained between 50 to 75 tons but this could, of course, have been exceeded.

After the move to North Pickenham, a small number of B-24s were retained at Metfield and put under the command of the European Division of Air Transport (USSTAF) to be used by the 1409th Army Air Force Base Unit, a classified unit engaged in clandestine operations to Sweden.

A memorial put up by the current owner at the southern edge of the airfield commemorates the 491st BG. The 852nd, 853rd, 854th and 856th Bombardment Squadrons were assigned to this group. A memorial plaque is set into its base in memory of the 353rd Fighter Group, the Carpetbaggers, commemorating the bomb dump explosion. The 350th, 351st and the 352nd Fighter Squadrons were assigned to this group.


TM3078 : Memorial to 491st Bombardment Group (H) by Adrian S Pye TM3078 : Memorial to the Carpetbaggers, RAF Metfield by Adrian S Pye


There is no Memorial Museum at this airfield, where not many buildings would seem to have survived, but a Liberator B-24 fighter bomber nose wheel tyre, which presumably came from the airfield, has been preserved at the Metfield Garage. It can be seen beside the garage which is situated in Christmas Lane.


TM3080 : The old Metfield Garage in Christmas Lane by Evelyn Simak


In May 1945, the airfield was closed and turned over to the RAF, and subsequently abandoned, ie sold off and returned to agriculture. During the 1960s, the main runways and the taxiways were broken up for aggregate or turned into narrow agricultural roads used by the farmers to get to their fields. The pillboxes guarding the airfield are still in place as is the Braithwaite water tower, constructed from sections of pressed steel. The site of the control tower is now part of a field.


TM3079 : Metfield Airfield (USAAF Station 366) - site of the control tower by Evelyn Simak TM3178 : Old Metfield aerodrome water tower by Adrian S Pye TM3079 : Pillbox in Metfield north-west of the old airfield by Adrian S Pye

TM2881 : WW2 pillbox beside Foxes Lane by Evelyn Simak TM2781 : WW2 pillbox beside Withersdale Road by Evelyn Simak TM3181 : WW2 pillbox beside Mill Lane by Evelyn Simak TM3178 : WW2 pillbox by Nunn's Lane by Evelyn Simak TM2579 : WW2 pillbox beside Mill Lane by Evelyn Simak

TM3079 : Metfield Airfield (USAAF Station 366) by Evelyn Simak TM3179 : Disused airfield service road, now a farm track - Metfield by Evelyn Simak TM3179 : To Metfield on Christmas Lane by Evelyn Simak TM3179 : Cracked concrete surface on old airfield road by Evelyn Simak TM3080 : Hardstanding on the edge of the disused WW2 airfield by Evelyn Simak


The probably largest cluster of buildings still standing is situated on the Technical site. The parachute store (building no. 507) is largely intact and on the hardstanding in front of it an old loading ramp can be seen. Nearby are the Fire tender shed and the FW Equipment store (building no. 512). The station's two T2 hangars, long since dismantled, could also be found on this site, along with the Radar workshop, Gunnery trainer, Floodlight trailer and tractor shed, Armoury, Shooting-in butt, Dinghy store and Bomb sight store to name only a few.


TM3079 : Metfield Airfield (USAAF Station 366) - parachute store by Evelyn Simak TM3079 : Metfield Airfield (USAAF Station 366) - parachute store by Evelyn Simak TM3079 : Old loading ramp on Metfield airfield (USAAF Station 366) by Evelyn Simak TM3079 : Metfield Airfield (USAAF Station 366) - brick shed by Evelyn Simak TM3079 : RAF Metfield  (USAAF Station 366) by Evelyn Simak


The original small Operations block and Crew block building (building no. 50 on the airfield site plan) still stand on the former Operations site on the edge of a field near Office Farm. The Picket post (building no. 230) that once guarded the entrance into this site is however long gone.


TM2979 : Metfield Airfield (USAAF Station 366) by Evelyn Simak TM2979 : Metfield Airfield (USAAF Station 366) by Evelyn Simak TM2979 : Metfield Airfield (USAAF Station 366) by Evelyn Simak TM2979 : Metfield Airfield (Station 366) by Evelyn Simak TM2979 : Metfield Airfield (USAAF Station 366) by Evelyn Simak


About one kilometre to the south, the barns and huge modern sheds of Cherry Tree Farm now occupy the later Administrative/HQ site where the Station office, the Operations block as well as the Crew briefing and Interrogation office once stood. The red-brick Operations block on this site is considerably larger and more solidly built. It is the only building still surviving and can still be found here, converted to farm use. The Station Sick Quarters, of which no trace remains, adjoined in the west.


TM3078 : The old Operations block by Evelyn Simak TM3078 : The old Operations block by Evelyn Simak TM3078 : The old Operations block (interior) by Evelyn Simak TM3078 : The old Operations block (interior) by Evelyn Simak TM3078 : The old Operations block by Evelyn Simak


A short distance further to the north was Communal Site 2. This site is now occupied by the poultry houses of Vale Farm. Communal Site 1 adjoined in the west. The two communal sites were separated by a concreted road, currently a public footpath, leading past Common Farm. Communal Site 1 comprised an Officers' Mess, Sergeants' mess and showers, Airmen's dining room, a ration store and a grocery and local produce store, and the institute. A second Officers' Mess was on Communal Site 2 which also had a Gymnasium, a Squash court, an Education block, and a Barbers' shop. The commanding officer's quarters and showers were also located on this site. Only a brick-built blast shelter has survived.

A short distance north of Communal Site 2, six large Orlit huts have survived amidst the various more modern buildings on Fir Tree Farm, a pig rearing farm occupying the area that used to be Site 4, one of the aerodrome's accommodation sites. The two huts which can be seen from the concreted road, now a public footpath, leading past the farm in the west, are buildings nos. 260a and 260b. Both these huts formed part of the Officers' quarters and are currently housing pigs.


TM3079 : View towards Fir Tree Farm by Evelyn Simak TM3079 : Prefabricated concrete building on Fir Tree Farm by Evelyn Simak TM3079 : Buildings at Fir Tree Farm by Evelyn Simak


The two WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) sites were located a short distance to the north-west. WAAF site 1 comprised dining rooms and the WAAF's sick quarters, a Sergeants' mess, a bath house, ablutions blocks, latrines and a laundry. WAAF site 2, formerly occupied by Jomaroma Farm, adjoined it in the south-west. Buildings on this site were the Sergeant's and Airwomen's quarters, ablutions blocks, latrines and a dining room. The farm no longer exists and the location is currently occupied by J Spindler & Sons Ltd, a recycled truck spares dealership. The three surviving Orlit huts on this site - buildings nos. 310b, 310c and 310e - formed part of the Airwomen's quarters. Building no. 310c currently houses the dealership's site office and reception.


TM2978 : Triangulation pillar on Metfield Common by Evelyn Simak TM2979 : Office and reception at Spindler & Sons Ltd by Evelyn Simak TM2979 : Building on the WAAF Site 2 by Evelyn Simak TM2979 : Building on the WAAF Site 2 by Evelyn Simak TM2978 : Tractor tyre on Metfield Common by Evelyn Simak


South of the two Communal sites was Site No. 3, an accommodation site which was adjoined by Site No. 6, another accommodation site situated in the fields south of Metfield Hall. Site No. 2 (accommodation) was located to the south-west of Metfield Hall and a short distance further to the north was Site No. 5, west of Metfield Hall and bordering on Fressingfield Road. The only building remaining on this site is a prefabricated concrete hut which would seem to once have been a Drying room but was converted into garages after the war.


TM2978 : Private road to Metfield Hall by Evelyn Simak TM2978 : Old RAF building by Evelyn Simak


A short distance further north, also bordering on Fressingfield Road, was Site No. 1, of which no trace remains. All the accommodation sites were guarded by a Picket post and housed the Officers, Sergeants and Airmen of the various squadrons based at the station.

All the aerodrome's dispersed sites were linked with each other by concreted roads which are still in place, some currently serving as farm access roads and others as public footpaths.


TM3078 : Path on Metfield Common by Evelyn Simak TM3078 : Old concreted road by Evelyn Simak TM3078 : Public footpath past Common Farm by Evelyn Simak TM2978 : Track on Metfield Common by Evelyn Simak TM2978 : Concreted road on Metfield Common by Evelyn Simak


The sewage works were located on the southern edge of Metfield village, on the edge of a field to the south-west of Willows Farm. The site has since been abandoned.

One of the airfield's two T2 aircraft hangars as well as a blister hanger have survived at Richardson's boatyard in Stalham in North Norfolk. According to Mr Clive Richardson, the T2 was damaged when the bomb dump exploded and some of the purlins had to be replaced while others were straightened by driving a digger over them. His father, Mr Robert Richardson Jnr., who served in the RAF and was stationed in Palestine, Egypt and India, flying in Wellingtons and Liberators as a Flight Engineer during the war, in the 1950s acquired a number of disused airfield hangars for use at the boatyard.


TG3724 : At Richardson's boatyard by Evelyn Simak TG3724 : One of the hangars at Richardson's boatyard by Evelyn Simak TG3724 : Hangar at Richardson's boatyard by Evelyn Simak TG3724 : Blister hangar at Richardson's boatyard by Evelyn Simak

-----

Please note that all these sites are on private land and should be accessed only by permission of the respective owners. Several public footpaths traverse the fields where some of the sites described above were located.

More information about Metfield airfield can be found here: LinkExternal link

For detailed information about the operations involving the Metfield aerodrome see: LinkExternal link
KML
You are not logged in login | register