RAF Swannington

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


RAF Swannington was built in 1942/1943 and became operational in April 1944 as part of the newly formed 100 Group, the headquarters of which was based at Bylaugh Hall > LinkExternal link. Swannington was the last wartime aerodrome to be opened in Norfolk and was always known locally as Haveringland aerodrome.

The first units to be based at the station were No. 85 and No. 157 Squadrons, flying de Havilland DH 98 Mosquito fighter aircraft. The two squadrons were also temporarily detached to RAF West Malling (Kent) to counter the V1 Flying Bomb (the "Doodlebugs") threat. Nos. 229 and 451 Squadrons RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force), who escorted bomber aircraft during day-time missions against Nazi Germany, were also based at the aerodrome for some time, and briefly during the winter of 1944/45, three squadrons of Spitfires used the airfield for training and anti-V2-rocket launcher patrols in the Netherlands.

In mid-August 1945, the aerodrome was passed over to RAF Maintenance Command and became the headquarters of No. 273 Maintenance Unit for RAF Little Snoring, RAF North Creake and RAF Oulton. All these stations had mothballed Mosquitoes and several hundred Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, and the role of the site between 1946 and 1947 was to service and carry out modifications to aircraft before they were flown out for an in-depth service and then sold off. The unit was disbanded in 1947 and the RAF left in the same year. Haveringland Hall, which had been requisitioned and served as the Officers' mess, was demolished in 1948. Plans to upgrade the base for the use of jet fighter squadrons were abandoned and in 1957 the airfield was sold off.

A memorial stone by Haveringland's parish church, St Peter, which was at the time situated very close to the perimeter track, commemorates all the units stationed at RAF Swannington. The perimeter track was in fact so close that some of the aircraft dispersals situated alongside it adjoined the churchyard. On 22 December 1944, one of the station's Mosquitoes crashed near here due to a problem with the aileron (the part of an aircraft's wing that can be moved up or down to cause the airplane to turn), killing Flight Lieutenant W Taylor, the pilot, and Flight Officer JN Edwards, the navigator, both of 157 Squadron. F/O Edwards is buried in St Peter's churchyard. Corporal CA Mace, who was also stationed at the base, is buried nearby. He died on 23 August 1947, 40 years of age.

The local war-time history is also remembered by the Haveringland village sign which depicts the village's old stocks, the parish church of St Peter, Haveringland Hall, and a Mosquito aircraft flying above them.


TG1619 : Haveringland village sign by Evelyn Simak

TG1520 : Memorial to all units who served at RAF Swannington by Evelyn Simak TG1420 : View along the former perimeter track of RAF Swannington by Evelyn Simak TG1520 : St Peter's church, Haveringland by Evelyn Simak TG1520 : War grave in St Peter's churchyard by Evelyn Simak TG1520 : War grave in St Peter's churchyard by Evelyn Simak


The sections of full-width runways that remain - the main east-west (10/18) runway was 2000 metres long and 50 metres wide - are today used as hardstandings and the perimeter track serves the local farmers. Large sections of both have over time been lifted and crushed for aggregate but many of the old concreted roads that connected the various airfield sites are still in place. Remains of aircraft dispersals can be glimpsed alongside the minor roads skirting the airfield which has long since returned to agriculture and is covered by crop fields. Sections of the runways, reduced to the width a farm tracks, can also be seen from these roads. A number of old concreted tracks still traverse a large wood marked on maps as Great Wood, which forms part of the Haveringland Hall Park, where many of the dispersed sites were located.


TG1320 : Track into fields by Evelyn Simak TG1320 : Fields south of Brandiston by Evelyn Simak TG1320 : View along the runway by Evelyn Simak TG1320 : This way to Hengrave by Evelyn Simak TG1420 : Windbreak in crop field by Evelyn Simak


No trace remains of the large hangars once dotted about in the vicinity of the Technical site, which was located east of the runways. A large warehouse south of Brandiston Road was erected on the footprint of one. The concreted area in front of it would appear to be original. A dispersal hut has survived across the road from Church Farm, next to the parish church of St Nicholas in Brandiston, where several loop dispersals were situated when the airfield was active. The maintenance and repair work of the aircraft was commonly carried out on the dispersals, summer and winter, no matter the weather. At some aerodromes the ground crew built their own shelters, sometimes from discarded bomb crates and other pieces of timber that could be found, in an attempt to keep warm especially during the winter nights. It would seem that small buildings were provided for the ground and maintenance crews at RAF Swannington.


TG1421 : Warehouse near Brandiston by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Concreted area beside Brandiston Road by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Ex-RAF building beside Brandiston Road by Evelyn Simak


A short distance further to the south-east is the location of the Watch office (Control tower) which during the time the aerodrome was active was situated in the triangle between the NE/SW and the NW/SE runways. The Watch office is still standing, albeit quite derelict, and it has long since been converted for farm use. It is now located on a large fenced-in compound bordered by fields on one side and a section of full-width perimeter track on the other. A handful of contemporary buildings such as the Fire tender shed, a workshop and the NFE (Night Flying Equipment) store can be found nearby. The Signals office adjoining it, housed in a Nissen hut, was removed to make way for a more modern shed.


TG1421 : The Night flying equipment (NFE) store by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : A Fire tender shed by Evelyn Simak

TG1421 : The old Watch office by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : The old Watch office by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : The old Watch office by Evelyn Simak

TG1421 : The old Watch office - interior by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : The old Watch office - interior by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : The old Watch office - interior by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : The old Watch office - interior by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : The old Watch office - interior by Evelyn Simak


The section of perimeter track in the south-east is occupied by poultry houses belonging to Stump Cross Farm, the bungalow-style farmhouse of which is situated on one of the former loop dispersals. A short distance further to the north-east the Flight Office building has survived on the edge of a small wood called West Clump. Other buildings in the vicinity would seem to have been demolished. The remains of the Bombing trainer building, now reduced to a heap of broken concrete and brick rubble, can be glimpsed in the passing from Haveringland Road.


TG1420 : Entrance to Stump Cross Farm by Evelyn Simak TG1420 : Poultry houses at Stump Cross Farm by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Old RAF building by Evelyn Simak

TG1421 : Remains of the Bombing trainer building by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Remains of the Bombing trainer building by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Remains of the Bombing trainer building by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Remains of the Bombing trainer building by Evelyn Simak


A stone's throw away, to the north of Brandiston Road and opposite the modern warehouse mentioned above, there is a cluster of overgrown buildings which served as the Crew lockers & drying rooms, adjoined by a couple of larger structures built from breezeblocks, with large doors and loading docks. Sections of old concreted roads are also still in place, leading to the hangar near the Watch office only a short distance to the south-west and to the huts situated in the wood immediately to the east. In later years this site was occupied by a factory which made garden furniture and it is reasonable to assume not only that the existing buildings were modified to suit production requirements but also that a couple of modern buildings were perhaps added during this time.


TG1421 : Old factory building by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Overgrown factory buildings by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Shutters on window of the Crew lockers & drying room by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Overgrown loading dock by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Crew lockers and drying room (detail) by Evelyn Simak

TG1421 : Crew lockers and drying room by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Crew lockers and drying room by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Crew lockers and drying room by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Crew lockers and drying room by Evelyn Simak TG1421 : Crew lockers and drying room by Evelyn Simak


Further to the north-east, Oakland Farm B&B now occupies the area of the former Administrative site of which only the Station headquarters (housed in a Nissen hut) and the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) and RAF latrines would seem to have been completed. None of these buildings has survived.

All of the dispersed sites would seem to have been located in the grounds of Haveringland Hall Park which is bordered by Haveringland Road in the west and Holt Road (B1149) in the east, with Great Wood covering most of the eastern section of the area. There would appear to have been three Accommodation sites, all in close proximity of the wood which is still traversed by a number of old concrete roads connecting the campsites with each other. Besides the overgrown foundations of huts and a number of blast shelters nothing much would however seem to have survived on these sites.


TG1521 : On the edge of Great Wood by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : Hut foundations in Great Wood by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : Concrete road in Haveringland Hall Park by Evelyn Simak


On Site 5, the most northerly campsite and located in the fields which adjoin both sides of an old farm track to the south-west of Quebec Farm, a number of hut foundations can still be found. Strung out alongside the track, which today forms part of the public footpath linking Holt Road (B1149) in the east with Haveringland Road in the west, many of the foundations of the buildings which once stood on the site - the Officers', Sergeants' and Airmen's quarters, ablutions blocks, latrines and a Drying room as well as two brick-built blast shelters - and large pieces of brick and concrete rubble can still be seen here although this area like all others has since become overgrown with trees and shrubs. The remains of a third blast shelter and of a Picket post can also still be found.

A small HF/DF hut was also located on this campsite. HF/DF stands for High-Frequency Direction Finding, commonly referred to as "Huff-Duff", a type of radio direction finder used for intercepting enemy radio traffic but also for locating friendly aircraft and as a navigation aid. A fuel compound, of which no trace remains was situated in the field adjoining in the south, on the other side of the track. Across the field to the south and linked to Site 5 by a short track, Site 6 (accommodation) was located on the northern edge of Great Wood. Hut foundations and blast shelters have survived here albeit much overgrown.

Following the public footpath in a westerly direction towards Hall Farm it skirts the location of Site 3, another accommodation site, which was situated in what today is known as Nine Acre Plantation. Nothing has survived here. A short distance further along the path leads past Site 8, to the south-west of Hall Farm. This was the location of the Sick Quarters.


TG1522 : Brick-built blast shelter by Evelyn Simak TG1522 : Brick-built blast shelter by Evelyn Simak

TG1522 : Brick rubble by Evelyn Simak TG1522 : Hut foundation amongst the trees by Evelyn Simak TG1522 : Hut foundation amongst the trees by Evelyn Simak TG1522 : Hut foundation amongst the trees by Evelyn Simak TG1522 : Hut foundations on Site 5 by Evelyn Simak


For many years the area to the west of Great Wood used to be a camping site. Guarded by two gate houses built from knapped flint, the access road into Haveringland Hall Park now leads to a number of holiday homes. Near the Park Office and Reception, the Sergeant's mess building still stands and it appears to be in good condition. Nearby is the Standby set house, now used for storage. The Squash court building is located a short distance further south.


TG1521 : The former Standby set house by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : Storage shed on the lawn by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : The Sergeant's mess by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : Ex-RAF building amongst the trees by Evelyn Simak

TG1521 : The old Squash court by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : The old Squash court (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : The old Squash court (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : The old Squash court (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : The old Squash court (interior) by Evelyn Simak


The Institute and the NAAFI store, as well as a couple of smaller buildings, can be found in the vicinity, albeit all now quite derelict. Some interesting original stencilling has survived above two of the doors in the Institute building, which was a large Nissen hut, indicating the purpose of the rooms these doors gave access to. Only the partitioning walls are still standing, whereas the curved corrugated iron roof has long since fallen away. The above-ground Stanton air raid shelter adjoining it is in good condition.


TG1521 : Remains of a Nissen hut by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : A dilapidated Nissen hut by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : This way to the dormitory by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : Brick-built water tower by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : Old Nissen hut and water tower by Evelyn Simak

TG1521 : WW2 air raid shelter by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : WW2 air raid shelter - interior by Evelyn Simak

TG1521 : The NAAFI store by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : The NAAFI store - interior by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : The NAAFI store - interior by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : The NAAFI store - interior by Evelyn Simak TG1521 : The NAAFI store - interior by Evelyn Simak


The airfield's bomb and ammunition storage area was situated south of the flying field and to the south of Clay Lane where several Fuzing points, bonded Bomb bays and Incendiary bomb storage buildings were aligned beside a looping concreted track. Until a few years ago, the remains of two of the Fuzing points still stood on Newstead Farm. Both these buildings had originally been Nissen huts and at least one had been converted into an agricultural shed after the war. The bomb trolleys crossed Clay Lane by what is now Newstead Farm, travelling a short distance further northwards until they reached the perimeter track and the aircraft dispersals where the waiting aircraft were armed.


TG1420 : Old concreted road by Evelyn Simak TG1420 : Concreted hardstanding by Evelyn Simak TG1420 : WW2 bomb storage area by Evelyn Simak

TG1420 : WW2 remains by Lorna Wilson TG1420 : WW2 remains by Lorna Wilson TG1420 : WW2 remains by Evelyn Simak TG1420 : Converted Fuzing point by Lorna Wilson TG1420 : Converted Fuzing point by Lorna Wilson


The Sewage works were located east of Haveringland Lake, on the southern edge of Great Wood which in the 1940s did not reach that far south. The four settlement tanks are still in place and appear to be in good condition. The sewage tanks would seem to have been removed but two adjoining brick structures are still in place, as are three large concrete cubes the purpose of which has as yet to be confirmed.


TG1620 : View across the settlement tanks by Evelyn Simak TG1620 : Remains of the old sewage works by Evelyn Simak TG1620 : Remains of sewage works by Evelyn Simak TG1620 : Remains of the old sewage works by Evelyn Simak TG1620 : Remains of sewage works by Evelyn Simak


The station's Scoreboard was rescued when the building that housed it was demolished. It can now be seen in the 100 Group Stafford Sinclair Memorial Room, dedicated to the RAF 100 Group (Bomber Support) in the main building of The City of Norwich Aviation Museum. The museum is located near the north-western edge of Norwich International Airport which was built on the site of RAF Horsham St Faith.


TG2114 : The City of Norwich Aviation Museum (CNAM) by Evelyn Simak TG2114 : The City of Norwich Aviation Museum (CNAM) by Evelyn Simak TG2114 : The City of Norwich Aviation Museum (CNAM) by Evelyn Simak


The Defence of Britain Archive and the Norfolk Heritage records both mention a couple of pillboxes in the wider neighbourhood as having formed part of the ground defences of the RAF Swannington airfield. It is true that a network of defences, the most common being pillboxes, was constructed in 1940 at strategic points and no doubt these structures would have formed part of the aerodrome's defences, but considering that the station was built in 1942/43 and completed in spring 1944, the existence of these pillboxes, which predate the airfield by several years, would seem to be incidental.


TG1221 : WWII pillbox (Type FW3/22) by Evelyn Simak TG1721 : Type-22 pillbox north of Heath Road - interior by Evelyn Simak TG1721 : Pillbox north of Heath Road by Evelyn Simak

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Please note that all the sites described above are situated on private land and should be accessed only by the respective owners' permission. My sincere thanks go to all the landowners who kindly allowed free access. Haveringland Road, Brandiston Road and Clay Lane all offer good views across the former airfield, and fractions of runways and perimeter track can been seen beside these roads. In order to reach St Peter's church a field gate has to be opened (it is kept unlocked) before it is possible to drive along a section of the old perimeter track right up to the church. The church, however, is always kept locked.


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