RAF Rackheath - USAAF Station 145

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


The aerodrome's Administrative/HQ site (Site 2) was located in a field a short distance to the west of the Technical site and east of a small wood called Round Hills. This area has since been overbuilt with housing and no trace of original buildings remains. Across the road from the former site entrance there are two bungalows which are included in the original site plan where they are marked as Buildings 137 and 138, Bungalows. Perhaps some of the Admin staff was accommodated there.


TG2813 : Bungalow in Rackheath by Evelyn Simak TG2813 : Bungalow in Rackheath by Evelyn Simak


The station's Sick quarters (Site 3) was situated a short distance further to the north-west, along a track which is still in existence. It turns off Green Lane West and leads past the south side of Ortolan's Grove and past the west side of Round Hills and into Rackheath Park further to the south, connecting the dispersed domestic campsites with the Technical site located on the western side of the flying field. The Ambulance shed and Mortuary (building 203), a small part of the Ablutions block and latrines (building 204), a water tower as well as the Picket post (building 200) have survived here, albeit in various stages of dereliction and much overgrown. In March 1944, the squadrons' medical personnel was incorporated into a medical facility, comprising a surgeon, four medical officers, a dental officer as well as a pharmacy, a laboratory and x-ray, medical and dental technicians, two ambulance drivers and several clerks. Only large heaps of concrete rubble remain of the hospital building which was comprised of three wings.


TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak

TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak

TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : RAF Rackheath - Site 3 by Evelyn Simak


The Communal site (Site 4) was situated roughly centrally to the other sites on the north side of Newman Road, a cul-de-sac turning off Green Lane West and skirting the southern edge of Heath Wood. This road now serves as access to a handful of industrial companies situated alongside it. Site 4 comprised an officers' and an airmen's mess and bath houses. A Red Cross area, a Post Exchange (PX), a Gymnasium and the station's theatre were also located here, and indeed the most significant building to have survived on this site is the Gymnasium. It is adjoined by the shell of a Nissen hut. The road into the site and the concreted tracks connecting the various buildings are still in place.

The location of the site where P-51D Mustang 44-14571 "Ellie May", flown by Lt Robert C Young, crashed on 22 April 1945, about 100 metres north of the gymnasium, was discovered in early June 2016 during construction work for the Northern Distributor Road and has since been investigated and confirmed by Oxford Archaeology East. The artefacts recovered included part of an air frame, an engine block and part of a propeller. The tragic accident happened during the celebrations on completing the 200th mission at the Rackheath aerodrome, with an air display including aerobatics by P-47 Thunderbolts from the 56th Fighter Group based at RAF Halesworth in Suffolk > LinkExternal link and a display team of three P-51 Mustangs participating, the latter performing their final stunt which involved flying inverted beneath the 50' high "clothes line" radio antenna, when an unknown P-51 decided to join in, "buzzing" the field at very low altitude then attempting a slow roll. He, however, got into difficulty in the inverted position, resulting in the aircraft diving nose straight down and crashing into the ground where it exploded on impact. (Source: Chris Collins, in 647th Bomb Group Association Newsletter, January 2016)


TG2712 : The shell of an old Nissen hut by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Old concreted tracks by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The shell of an old Nissen hut by Evelyn Simak

TG2712 : The old gymnasium (building 196) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The old gymnasium by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The old gymnasium by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : WW2 aircraft crash site by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : WW2 aircraft crash site by Evelyn Simak

TG2712 : The old gymnasium - interior by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The old gymnasium - interior by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The old gymnasium - interior by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The old gymnasium - interior by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The old gymnasium - interior by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The old gymnasium - interior by Evelyn Simak


A Picket post was located a short distance to the west of the site entrance and its ruin can still be seen beside Newman Road. Presumably it guarded the road to the accommodation sites situated further along. Just inside the entrance to Site 4 stands what appears to be a fairly modern bungalow. During 2015/2016 it was used as offices by the North Norfolk County Council, who also purchased some of the surrounding land which lies in the path of the planned new Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR). The bungalow is in fact a modified RAF building which was encased in brick and enlarged after the war, when it was converted into a private dwelling that for many years used to be Gazebo farmhouse. Nearby there is a substantial brick-built and rendered building which served as the station's Ration store.


TG2712 : Gazebo Farm by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The former Gazebo Farm by Evelyn Simak

TG2712 : Picket post beside Newman Road (building 230) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Picket post beside Newman Road (detail) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Picket post beside Newman Road (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Picket post toilet by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Picket post beside Newman Road (detail) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Door into the Picket Post by Evelyn Simak

TG2712 : The old Ration Store (building 192) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The old Ration store (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The old Ration store (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The old Ration Store (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : The old Ration store (interior) by Evelyn Simak


The officers, sergeants and enlisted men were quartered on the surrounding campsites. Site 5 was located a short distance further to the north, separated from the Communal site by a field. A number of latrines, a couple of brick-built blast shelters, the fuel compound and an M&E plinth can all still be found here. The eastern portion of this site is today occupied by the Mahoney Green Business Park where the Standby-set house has survived intact and in industrial use.


TG2713 : RAF building in industrial use by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : The old Standby set house by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : Standby set house on Site 5 by Evelyn Simak

TG2713 : Latrine on Site 5 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : Latrine on Site 5 by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Meadow by Gazebo Covert by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : Latrine on Site 5 by Evelyn Simak

TG2713 : Ruins in the wood by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : Ruins in the wood by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : Ruins in the wood by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : Ruins in the wood by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : Ruins in the wood by Evelyn Simak

TG2713 : Blast shelter in the nettles by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : Overgrown M&E plinth by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : Danger High Voltage (sign) by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : M&E plinth on Site 5 by Evelyn Simak TG2713 : The fuel compound on Site 5 by Evelyn Simak


The Station Regulations (MC 371/495, USF 11/1) give an insight into the use of fuel for heating: 56 lbs of coal or coke were allowed per man/week, with two deliveries being made each week. No officer or enlisted man other than those authorised by the CO was permitted to remove coal or coke from the fuel compounds. Fires were to be kept under control at all times to prevent overheating and under no circumstances was it allowed to remove fire bricks from the stoves.

The Mess site (Site 6) was located by the junction of Newman Road and Green Lane West, spreading out along both sides of Newman Road which still has its original concreted surface. Most of this area is now covered by a wood. A Classic Cars workshop stands in the footprint of one of the mess halls.


TG2712 : Industrial building in Newman Lane by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : WW2 aerodrome bollard by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : WW2 aerodrome bollard (detail) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : WW2 aerodrome bollard by Evelyn Simak


A number of hut foundations, concrete bases and brick-built blast shelters have survived on the south side of the road, albeit much overgrown. The concrete tracks are also still in place here and are today used by walkers. The largest structure to have survived on Site 6 is the ruin of Colonel Albert Shower's quarters, in his time known as "The White House". It is now roofless, overgrown and derelict but considering that none of these buildings were expected to last for more than 10 years after their construction they have in general done very well indeed. The White House is described as having comprised two offices, each with a bedroom, a bath or shower room and a toilet, and a small kitchen at one end. Coke stoves provided the heating. After Colonel James Mahoney's promotion to Deputy CO he shared the building with Colonel Shower.


TG2712 : Ruined building in the woods by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Ruined building in the woods by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Ruined building in the woods by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Ruined building in the woods by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Ruined building in the woods by Evelyn Simak

TG2712 : Concrete hut base in Heath Wood by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Hut foundation amongst the trees by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Overgrown blast shelter by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Hut remains on Site 6 by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Remains of a latrine by Evelyn Simak


Site 7 (Accommodation) was strung out along the northern edge of a wood known as Pig's Park, further to the south-west. The 1946 aerial view shows a number of huts along the concrete road that separates Pig's Park from Fir Covert. Another group of huts was situated along a track leading southwards from there. Until a few years ago, a small part of the latter location was occupied by the "Simply Soaps" company and a couple of blast shelters have survived here. The hut bases aligned alongside the concrete road running from east to west are still in place, as are a number of blast shelters. A water tower is also still standing beside this road.


TG2712 : Old concreted road by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Ruined building on Site 9 by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Old concreted road by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Remains of WW2 RAF campsite by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : A WW2 relic by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : A brick-built blast shelter by Evelyn Simak


A short distance further along was Site 8 (the 790th Squadron's accommodation site), located between Sites 4 and 7, adjoining Rackheath Hall in the south and separated by a field from the northern edge of Fir Covert. After the war this location became March Farm. The farm however no longer exists and today several large glass houses belonging to a plant nursery are situated here. Several of the pre-fabricated concrete huts which once housed RAF personnel can still be found on the northern edge of this site, some still with the names of the crew members from various squadrons written on their walls.


TG2712 : Old RAF building by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Former RAF accommodation hut by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Wartime graffiti by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Old building in modern day use by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : Former RAF accommodation hut by Evelyn Simak


Site 9 (Accommodation) occupied part of a field immediately to the north of Paine's Yard Wood. Of the 40-odd buildings that once stood on this site only the remains of one of the barrack huts can still be found here. Site 10 (Accommodation) adjoined a strip wood known as The Owlery in the east, and Site 13 was situated a short distance further north, on the east side of Newman's Strip. A current aerial view shows remaining hut bases at the location of Site 10, west of Home Farm, and a number of prefabricated concrete huts would seem to also still be standing in the small wooded area that today marks the location of Site 13 (Accommodation) on the western side of the park, bordering the Sprowston Manor golf course. The site comprised accommodation for officers, sergeants and airmen. Also found on this site is a large structure with corrugated iron roofing, which is believed to have originally formed part of the Aero Club, and to have been transported from Site 6 to Site 13 after the war where it is said to have served as a Sunday School until the late 1950s.


TG2712 : BCF hut in the woods by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : BCF hut in the woods by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : BCF hut in the woods by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : BCF hut in the woods by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : BCF hut in the woods by Evelyn Simak

TG2712 : BCF hut in the woods (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : BCF hut in the woods (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : BCF hut in the woods (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : BCF hut in the woods (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : BCF hut in the woods (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG2712 : BCF hut in the woods (interior) by Evelyn Simak


According to the airfield site plan, the campsites numbered 11 (adjacent to Home Farm, immediately north of Rackheath Hall) and 12 (north of Gazebo Wood) were intended for occupation by the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) but because Rackheath was an American airfield the WAAF would not have served here and these two sites were presumably put to some other use, housing USAAF personnel instead. Hut bases can still be found on Site 11. Four prefabricated concrete huts have survived on Site 12. A number of hut foundations and concrete bases as well as the remains of air raid shelters and at least one brick-built blast shelter are also still in place here.

After the war, the barrack huts on Sites 5, 10, 12 and 13, which were mainly of Seco-type construction, were occupied by families who had lost their homes in the aftermath of the bombing of Norwich and the local area. The Council refurbished the buildings, fitted fireplaces, installed kitchen sinks and piped water and drainage facilities. Flush toilets were installed on the ends of each building. For a weekly rent of 5 shillings the huts, divided into two separate units, each of which comprises a kitchen, a living room and two bedrooms per family, housed a total of 136 families. The number '13' was obviously considered unlucky and Site 13 was renamed Site 4, and all the sites occupied by civilian families received new postal addresses. Site 12, for instance, became Hillside Grove. The huts were finally abandoned in the late 1950s.

The airfield's two fuel installations consisted of 100,000 gallon storage facilities, one located on the south-western side of the field, the other on the east side near Salhouse railway station. The bomb and ammunition storage area was located to the north of the flying field. The old concrete road leading to this site is still in place, now used as a farm track.


TG2814 : Gated concrete track leading to Muck Lane by Evelyn Simak


The Sewage works, Site 14, were located on the south-eastern edge of Lady's Carr, surrounded by the crop fields bordered by Sloe Lane in the east, Beeston Lane in the west and Wroxham Road in the south. The works are still in use.

Site 15, the HF Transmitter Station, consisted of a small building of which no trace remains. It straddled a field boundary about 100 metres west of Newman Strip and The Owlery which today is the southern boundary of the Sprowston Hall Hotel golf course.

Site 16 was the aerodrome's HF/DF Station. HF/DF was used for high-frequency direction finding. The station was situated near Newman's Farm, in a field south of Salhouse Road. No trace remains today.

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While the land occupied by the aerodrome's domestic sites is privately owned and should hence be accessed only with the permission of the respective owners, most of the buildings still remaining on the Rackheath Industrial Estate, including the restored Watch office, can be seen from Wendover Road, Hudson Close and Witchcraft Way. The former flying field can be explored by walking along the public footpath linking Witchcraft Way and Muck Lane, and a small fraction remaining of the full-width runway can be seen from Muck Lane, which was reinstated after the war, bisects it.

Nearby, the Norwich International Airport marker beacon stands in a fenced off area on the north side of Muck Lane, immediately to the east of the runway.


TG2814 : Norwich Airport marker beacon by Evelyn Simak


KML

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