TF6204 : WW2 Battle headquarters

taken 6 years ago, near to Wimbotsham, Norfolk, Great Britain

This is 1 of 9 images, with title WW2 Battle headquarters in this square
WW2 Battle headquarters
WW2 Battle headquarters
Most WW2 aerodromes had a Battle Headquarters (BHQ) - all built to a similar design and commonly situated somewhere on the edge of the airfield - which could be used to co-ordinate the defence of the airfield in the event of a land or air attack. The BHQ at RAF Thorpe Abbotts for instance > Link comprises several small brick-built rooms - some with small windows > Link for passing information between the plotting and communications rooms. There is commonly also an above-ground observation post with all-around viewing apertures and a bomb-proof concrete cap. The BHQ at Bexwell is flooded and hence inaccessible.
RAF Downham Market

The airfield was opened in mid-1942 as a satellite station for RAF Marham. It had three concrete runways which in the late 1970s were lifted and crushed for aggregate, to be used in the construction of the Downham Market by-pass, the A10 road. Only a tiny fragment remains in place today.

The station was home to No. 635 Squadron which formed part of the Pathfinder Force, flying the lead aircraft to mark bombing targets for the following formations. A memorial to two squadron members who were posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross can be found on the green adjoining St Mary's church in Bexwell.

A number of buildings on the former Technical site have survived at what is now the Bexwell Business Park, and a former Mess building can be found on the Stonecross Industrial Estate. See also: Link

Airfield Battle Headquarters (BHQ)

In 1939 the defence of airfields had been confined to a limited number of light machine-gun posts for anti-aircraft use to protect against enemy attack. Some operational stations had the use of additional guns of a higher calibre, such as two-pounders and three-inch guns. With the increased threat of an invasion, pillboxes, rifle pits and Dannert wire entanglements were also constructed in 1940, but owing to variations and topography there was no standard procedure for the defence of an airfield and the task of planning the defences usually fell to the local military authority. Their designs and drawings for the structural work were then sent to the Air Ministry Works Area Headquarters for the preparation of detailed drawings to be used by the contractors who were to carry out the work.

When the threat of invasion lessened in 1941, the location of airfield defences was considered a priority second only to the runway layout and above the requirements for accommodation and emphasis was placed on all-round defence, with priority given to establishing defended localities to protect key elements of the airfield. In July 1941, a General Defence Strategy was agreed which placed all airfields in one of three classes depending on location and importance, from Class 1 with the greatest provision for pillboxes, modified buildings, rifle pits etc, to Class 3, which frequently ended up with only rifles points and Dannert wire (coiled barbed wire which could be extended concertina-like to form a barrier to impede the movement of hostile troops).

Many if not most of the airfields constructed from now on were equipped with a Battle headquarters (referred to as "Emergency Control Bunkers" by the US Army Air Forces) from which the defence of the aerodrome could be co-ordinated. BHQs were frequently built on high ground, at times concealed in a hedge or close to farm buildings; some were built in the vicinity of the Watch Office (control tower). Like other types of defence work, BHQs were not always included in the airfield site plans as they were sited in agreement with the local Army authority, taking into account terrain and camouflage.

Several variants existed, with the most common having been the type constructed to the Air Ministry drawing number 11008/41. It comprised an underground structure consisting of the defence officer's room, a runners' room (a member of the personnel who would have acted as a messenger in case the telephone communication was cut), a toilet, and an observation room (measuring 1.80 x 1.80 metres), the floor level of which was raised to about 0.90m (3ft) above the other rooms and accessible via a few concrete steps. The only part of the structure visible from aboveground was the observation room's bombproof concrete cupola which had observation apertures all the way around. The whole building was approximately seven metres (20ft) long and 2.50 metres (8ft) wide, with a flight of brick steps at one end for access.

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TF6204, 45 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Monday, 14 July, 2014   (more nearby)
Thursday, 17 July, 2014
Geographical Context
Defence, Military 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TF 62 04 [1000m precision]
WGS84: 52:36.8378N 0:23.9227E
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