TM1488 : WW2 Battle Headquarters

taken 4 years ago, near to Tibenham, Norfolk, Great Britain

This is 1 of 8 images, with title WW2 Battle Headquarters in this square
WW2 Battle Headquarters
WW2 Battle Headquarters
The overgrown entrance into the subterranean Battle headquarters (BHQ) of RAF Tibenham. In the event of an air or a land attack the co-ordination of the airfield's defences would have moved from the Watch office (control tower) to the BHQ.
RAF Tibenham (USAAF Station 124)
Tibenham is an ex-WWII airfield (constructed in 1942/43), located in South Norfolk, approx 7.5 miles from Diss and 15 miles from Norwich.

The airfield is currently owned by the Norfolk Gliding Club and consists of three tarmac runways as well as plenty of landable grass areas. During the war, Tibenham airfield was occupied by the American Eighth Air Force. The first aircraft of the 445th Bomb Group arrived in 1943, with their mission being the precise daylight bombing of targets in Germany, in support of the night bombing activities of the Royal Air Force. The 445th flew 280 missions and 6,323 sorties. 576 airmen were killed in action and a total of 138 bomber aircraft were lost. Their final mission was carried out on 25th April 1945. A memorial to the US airmen of the 445th Group has been erected by the club house (the former control tower).

The Royal Air Force took over the airfield in July 1945, and in 1952 parts were sold off to local landowners. In 1955 the main runway was lengthened to take jet aircraft but no units were assigned to the base, and Tibenham was finally closed as an air force base in 1959. The Air Ministry sold the airfield to a local farmer. The control tower was used as a clubhouse but whilst the Norfolk Gliding Club continued to pay rent for the use of part of the airfield, the landowner had plans for the demolition of the hangars and control tower as well as the digging up and sale of the dispersals and perimeter track. A regular Sunday market was started on the airfield with consequential operational and safety problems. After lengthy negotiations the club in 1987 finally managed to buy 32 acres of concrete and 22 acres of arable land, and when in 1990 the remainder of the airfield site was offered for sale the club purchased this too. The two agricultural buildings included in the purchase were dismantled and rebuilt and presently serve as an additional hangar for powered aircraft and motor gliders.

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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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Grid Square
TM1488, 49 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Thursday, 21 May, 2015   (more nearby)
Thursday, 21 May, 2015
Geographical Context
Defence, Military 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TM 14 88 [1000m precision]
WGS84: 52:27.1391N 1:9.3192E
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Image classification(about): Supplemental image
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