RAF Foulsham

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

The Foulsham aerodrome was built between 1941 and 1942 for No.2 Group RAF Bomber Command. It was situated about a mile (a good 1500 metres) to the north of the village of Foulsham, flanked by Hindolveston in the east, Wood Norton Road in the west and by Guestwick Road in the north, with the northern section being located in the parish of Wood Norton and the eastern boundary reaching nearly to Guestwick, near where the main domestic sites were located.

Altogether 45 aircraft based at RAF Foulsham were lost during missions and many damaged aircraft of other RAF and USAAF squadrons returning from raids made emergency landings on the airfield, such as No. 61 Squadron's Flight Officer Derek Patfield's Lancaster bomber, returning with considerable damage and four injured crew members on board from the ill-fated raid on Nuremberg, where 94 aircraft were shot down. A memorial plaque on the base of the Foulsham village sign commemorates all who served at RAF Foulsham, listing the squadrons which were stationed there. The village sign has in recent years been relocated and can now be found on the village's former market place opposite Foulsham House, by the junction of High Street, Guist Road and Reepham Road where it is adjoined by the War Memorial.

TG0324 : Foulsham village sign (detail) by Evelyn Simak

One of the contractors involved in the airfield's construction was Kirk & Kirk but local labour was also used. A minor road along its northern edge, linking Foulsham with Wood Norton, was closed and the few buildings situated alongside it were demolished. The road was reinstated and opened again after the war and now forms part of Guestwick Road, with a section of it following the course of runway 08/26. The large hardstanding to the north of this road denotes the spot where runway 08/26 crossed the north-south runway, which the hardstanding was part of.

TG0227 : View along the remains of runway 08/26 by Evelyn Simak TG0227 : Runway becomes road by Evelyn Simak TG0227 : View along Guestwick Road by Evelyn Simak TG0227 : Two runways crossing by Evelyn Simak

All the long steel girders required for building the huge aircraft hangars were transported from Melton Constable station on special long lorries. Other materials presumably arrived at the railway stations of Foulsham and Guestwick, both long since closed. At first only three T2 hangars were erected but four more T2s and one B1 hanger were later added in order to accommodate the 100 Group's aircraft. According to Len Bartram, a local author who has written a booklet about RAF Foulsham, there were altogether 9 hangars, considerably more than usually found on aerodromes. Some of the T2s were later used for storing Horsa assault gliders. The concrete platforms of two which were removed after the war can be seen in current aerial views. Four T2 hangars have however survived and are currently used for storage. The Watch office, long since demolished, stood in what today is a crop field further to the west, just east of the main (north-south) runway.

TG0327 : Hangar north of Guestwick Road by Evelyn Simak TG0327 : T2 aircraft hangar south of Guestwick Road by Evelyn Simak TG0327 : Wheat crop field by Evelyn Simak TG0326 : T2 aircraft hangar at Addison Farm by Evelyn Simak TG0326 : T2 aircraft hangar at Addison Farm by Evelyn Simak

A workshop building and a transformer station are nestled amidst a group of these huge structures located in the grounds of Preva Produce, a potato farming, importing, storing and packing operation. The company has named the 5-acres it now occupies on the former Technical site 'Addison Farm' in recognition of Air Vice Marshall Edward Barker Addison. In November 1943, Addison commanded the newly formed 100 Group of RAF Bomber Command which was tasked with the jamming of enemy radar and communications systems from the air. Addison was its only commander.

TG0326 : Former RAF workshops at Addison Farm by Evelyn Simak TG0326 : Former RAF workshops at Addison Farm by Evelyn Simak TG0326 : Transformer on the old Technical site by Evelyn Simak

Beside the entrance to Addison Farm on Hindolveston Road the airfield's only B1 hangar would also seem to still be standing, albeit much changed in its appearance. The structure caught fire several years ago and has since been rebuilt and re-clad.

TG0326 : Hangar on former airfield by Evelyn Simak < before and after > TG0326 : Hangar at the entrance to Addison Farm by Evelyn Simak

An aerial view taken in 1946 shows that three more T2 hangars stood across the road from here, ie to the east of Hindolveston Road, which had remained open to the public. Two crossing places were installed, allowing for aircraft to be towed across the road whilst the public traffic was stopped by an RAF policeman. One of the crossing points is denoted by the wide concreted road at the gated southern entrance to Addison Farm. The area where the three hangars were situated is currently occupied by the business premises of a company called Kendle Beef. The hangars have long since been removed. The second aircraft crossing point was about 500 metres further south, where two large hangars are shown in a 1940s aerial view to have been located, also east of Hindolveston Road. Their concrete bases can still clearly be seen in current aerial views. A concreted track, which is still in place, connected the hangars with several aircraft dispersals on the other side. The empty shell of a Nissen hut is still in place beside this track.

TG0326 : View north along Hindolveston Road by Evelyn Simak

TG0325 : Concreted track east of Hindolveston road by Evelyn Simak TG0325 : Old concreted road by Evelyn Simak TG0325 : The shell of an old Nissen hut by Evelyn Simak

RAF Foulsham was declared operational on 26 June 1942 and the first units to arrive were Nos. 98 and 180 Squadrons, flying North American Mitchell bombers. They were joined by No. 320 Squadron, formed from Dutch naval personnel who had escaped the occupation of Holland in 1940. In September 1943, the station was transferred to 3 Group which used Short Stirling and Avro Lancaster bomber aircraft. The USAAF's (United States Army Air Forces) 357th Servicing Squadron moved in, carrying out modification work on Mosquito aircraft for the photo-reconnaissance role. Another squadron, No. 514, formed at Foulsham, flew Lancasters, and a squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force, the 462nd, was also based here. When the aerodrome was transferred to the then recently established 100 Group, an electronic warfare unit which had its headquarters at Bylaugh Hall in the Breckland district, its squadrons, including the recently arrived 192nd, were tasked with gathering intelligence by monitoring enemy transmissions and later with developing countermeasures.

Foulsham was one of only four airfields in Norfolk to have been fitted with FIDO (Fog Intensive Dispersal Operation) in 1944. Fog was a constant hazard to aircraft and a method was hence developed to disperse it. This required a network of pipes and petrol burners which were aligned with the runway. By burning petrol at the rate of 100,000 gallons (456,000 litres) per hour sufficient heat could be produced to lift the fog, thus enabling pilots to take off and, more importantly, to land safely. The FIDO fuel tanks were located near Low Farm on the north-western edge of the flying field. The tanks are reported to have held 480,000 gallons pumped in via an underground pipeline from Foulsham railway station.

RAF Foulsham was closed to flying in the summer of 1946. Mosquito aircraft were stored here until the late 1940s and the USAF used part of it until 1955 but the airfield remained the property of the Ministry of Defence until the 1980s when it was finally sold off. By then the land had already reverted to agriculture. Part of one of the runways, still the original full width, is currently occupied by poultry houses and a section of taxiway is un use as a landing strip. Many of the old concreted roads which used to link the dispersed campsites with each other are still in place, now being used as farm tracks. There are also a number of rural junctions where public roads are met by concreted RAF roads, creating a number of most peculiar wooded triangles which can be found by some of the junctions of the roads skirting the airfield.

TG0425 : Concreted track off Guestwick Road by Evelyn Simak TG0426 : Old concreted road by Evelyn Simak TG0227 : A short concreted road by Evelyn Simak

The main entrance into the Technical site was located beside the then closed Guestwick Road on the northern edge of the airfield. A short distance further east stands the Fire tender shed, one of the first buildings to be put up in 1942 and one of the last remaining. It is believed to have housed a photographic and film studio producing adult movies for some time but the property has since changed ownership and the building is currently used for storage.

TG0327 : A Fire tender shed by Evelyn Simak TG0327 : A Fire tender shed by Evelyn Simak TG0327 : A Fire tender shed by Evelyn Simak

The Motor Transport section, adjoined by a small hutted camp occupied by civilian workers from the Ministry of Works Department, was located by the junction of Guestwick Road and Hindolveston Road near Dukehouse Corner. Modern maps call the location Dukehouse Bridge and locals know it as "Dukeersbeck". This location is now a small horse sanctuary and apart from an intact, albeit flooded air raid shelter no other original building has survived here.

TG0327 : Entrance to an air raid shelter by Evelyn Simak TG0327 : WW2 air raid shelter by Evelyn Simak TG0327 : WW2 air raid shelter by Evelyn Simak TG0327 : WW2 air raid shelter (interior) by Evelyn Simak

A type-22 pillbox, part of the airfield's defences, is situated in the small wooded triangle opposite the site entrance.

TG0327 : Type-22 pillbox by Evelyn Simak

The station's Communal and Accommodation sites as well as the Sick quarters, the first site to be found along this road, were situated about 1500 metres east of the airfield, in the crop fields and pastures surrounding what is now Wakefield Farm. The main RAF road linking the campsites with the airfield crossed Hindolveston Road immediately north of Barnard's Farm, and a wooden picket post stood across the road from here guarding the entrance into the airfield. This concreted road was closed to the public but remained in use by the local farmer. It still is in farm use today but now terminates at the edge of a field where the Sick quarters used to be located. A hardstanding marking the spot can still be seen in current aerial views. A section of this track is however still in place on the former Communal site further to the east. A concreted track leading north from Guestwick Road linked the various campsites with each other.

TG0326 : Farm track into fields by Barnard's Farm by Evelyn Simak TG0426 : A section of concreted road by Evelyn Simak TG0426 : Concreted track to Skitfield Road by Evelyn Simak

With the notable exception of the Communal site and one of the Accommodation sites (Site 6) adjoining it in the south, nothing would seem to have survived on any of the airfield's domestic campsites. The former Communal site is now part of Wakefield Farm. It comprised the Officers', Sergeants' and Airmen's messes, the NAAFI, an Education block, a Gymnasium with a chapel extension, barbers' tailors' and shoemakers' workshops, a Post Office and the old WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) quarters. Only a few of these buildings have survived. The Officers' mess and the remains of the Sergeants' mess, latrines and shower blocks have been converted for farm use and are currently used for stabling horses, whilst the surviving boiler house (type 'K') and the Barbers', tailors and shoemakers' shop and the adjoining Post Office were converted into private dwellings, the latter two now forming part of the farmhouse.

TG0426 : Ex-RAF building by Evelyn Simak TG0426 : View across the former Communal site by Evelyn Simak TG0426 : Converted boiler house by Evelyn Simak TG0426 : Sheep grazing by Wakefield Farm by Evelyn Simak

A short distance further south two overgrown huts can be seen in a fenced-in compound and current aerial views show the concrete platform of a third. This was Site 6. An old aerial view dating from 1946 depicts 10 huts situated on this campsite. The hut nearest the site entrance was one of the latrine buildings. The other building still standing used to be the Sergeants' quarters. The Officers' quarters and Airmen's barrack huts would appear to have been demolished along with the associated ablutions blocks. Air raid shelters may have survived. A short distance further to the east was Site 4 which was another Accommodation site comprising Officers' and Sergeants' quarters and Airmen's barrack huts and the associated shower blocks and latrines as well as a fuel compound. The WT (wireless transmitting) station was also situated on this site.

TG0425 : A former RAF campsite north of Guestwick Road by Evelyn Simak TG0425 : Ex-RAF building by Evelyn Simak TG0425 : WW2 barracks hut by Evelyn Simak

The main WAAF site was located north of Wallers Lane, beside the minor road linking the villages of Foulsham and Guist, about 3 kilometres distant from the airmen's quarters. Some of the huts on this site were later used to house civilian families.

The airfield's bomb and ammunition storage area was located in an isolated area to the south of the airfield, in fields west of Wood Norton Road near Littlemore Farm. Every aerodrome had a bomb dump, usually located as far distant from the main body of the aerodrome as possible and well away from the runways, so that the base would not be damaged in the case of an explosion. The bomb dump area has reverted to agriculture but several earthen mounds can still be seen. The Ultra heavy fuzing shed is still standing nearby. This was the building where the laden bomb trolleys coming from the bomb dump were towed to for the purpose of fitting the aircrafts' bomb loads with fuzes, and from where they were then very carefully towed out to the aircraft. In the RAF, bomb triggers are called fuzes, spelled with a 'z' and electrical connections are called fuses, with an 's'.

TG0225 : Concreted track to Littlemore Farm by Evelyn Simak

TG0225 : The Fuze Point   shed by Evelyn Simak TG0225 : The Fuze Point  shed by Evelyn Simak


Please note that all the sites described above are situated on private land and should be accessed only by the respective owners' permission. Concreted tracks, fractions of runways and a couple of hangars can be seen simply by following the triangle of minor roads skirting the airfield.

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