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Heroes Of Our Time

Airfield Information

 

Name

Royal Air Force Oulton / RAF Oulton / Oulton Aerodrome / No 110 Storage Sub-Site

Opened

31 July 1940

Closed

1 August 1952

Runways

Originally Grass, then later 3 x Concrete

Hangers

4 x T2

Location

3 miles SW of Blickling Hall

OS Ref

TG145275

Current Usage

Farmland

Notes

Opened as a satellite for Horsham St Faith and was used as such from July 1940 to September 1942.  From then until September 1943 it was used as a satellite for Swanton Morley. Transfferred to 3 Group Bomber Command in September 1943 at which point it closed for flying whilst runways rebuilt with concrete, along with new taxiways and parking. Many new buildings and two new hangers also built, and it reopened as a base for 100 Group in Spring 1944.

Links

http://www.ukairfields.org.uk/oulton.html

http://www.ukairfieldguide.net/airfields/Oulton

http://www.controltowers.co.uk/O/Oulton.htm

http://www.abct.org.uk/airfields/airfield-finder/oulton/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Oulton

http://www.geograph.org.uk/article/RAF-Oulton

 

 

Introduction

 

Being a Norfolk lass brought up in the region I am some what disappointed in myself for not being more familiar with Oulton.   My paths crossed close but never close enough to realise that there was either an airbase here and the vital importance of it.

 

Unlike Foulsham where I spent many hours travelling past the old site on my journeys to work, Oulton’s only become known to me by sheer fate, mainly because of the journey my partner and I have taken in continuing my own’s father’s research surrounding the second world war.  This journey has in a remarkable way led us to discover the honourable work of both the RAF 100 Group and now the association that strives to promote the work that these unsung heroes did.

 

In that respect Oulton holds the key, particular for the RAF 100 Group Association and its beginnings, generally regarded as the spiritual home of the group and returned to annually by the association in both remembrance and commemoration for those gone before.  The reunion is often accompanied by a flypast, which has previously been a single Harvard or Navion which will fly low over the throng below made up of veterans and their families, the pilot waving, dipping the wings of the aircraft back and forth in salute to them.   I can only hope one day I can see this memorable event.

 

So why is Oulton so important to the RAF 100 Group Association, I refer you back to the writings of the association itself and Eileen Boorman (nee Staunton) who sadly lost her husband Pilot Officer Stafford Sinclair killed in action over Hamburg on March 21st 1945, being based at Oulton that is why the association started and why this base is of upmost importance to the group.

 

RAF Oulton, its humble beginnings

 

Early summer 1940 an area of farmland was cleared making way for a dispersal site for aircraft at nearby Horsham St Faith.  The need for this base became even more apparent after enemy bombers hit Horsham damaging hangers and aircraft.  By the end of July a grass landing strip was established.

 

Conditions were harsh at first for airman being billeted in cattle sheds at Green’s Farm, later to be supplied with better facilities e.g. showers and electricity.    In addition, a number of Nissen huts were erected so by the time aircraft started arriving around 70 personnel were stationed on-site.

 

Even during the early days the base was a hive of activity seeing many squadrons come and ago with a vast mixture of aircraft including Blenheim’s and Boston’s and as such many daylight operations were flown from here.  One notably being ‘Operation Oyster’ which involved a large daylight raid on the Phillips works at Eindhoven.

 

As the site developed, more local roads around the site became closed and only extensive knowledge of the area allowed locals to travel around.  To most local residents the base was known as ‘Bluestone Drome’, likely because of the railway crossing in close proximity of the same name.  During September 1943 the base was closed for reconstruction work during which it would see drastic changes, with the building of a control tower, blister hanger and a bomb storage area, and like Foulsham it would appear that the site was being prepared for heavy bombers.  As such the familiar A pattern airfield layout was formed with three concrete runways.  It is easier to picture the base from Len Bartram’s original drawings as below which Evelyn his wife has kindly let us include.

 

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© Len Bartram (used with permission from his wife Evelyn Bartram)

 

 

Blickling Hall

 

Many of us have visited the now renowned national trust site, for me in my youth local school visits enabled me to take on some history but it now seems not in full.  At that time, I didn’t realise the relevance it had on the life we lead today due to its vital importance being home to many Officers and WAAF personal.

 

The beauty of its surroundings must have a been a much-needed diversion from the horrors faced on a daily basis in the sky, let alone the thoughts of the WAAF who often would sit and count in and out the aircraft leaving and landing.  Their hearts must have sank each time a plane failed to return, never knowing what had really happened, never knowing if they would ever see the crew again who they may have previously seen on a daily basis.

 

Airbase defences

 

Like Foulsham defences were initially very light and in fact all there was in place was an old Lewis gun mounted on a pole.  Later a number of gun pits were dug around the perimeter.  However, with such limited resources you have to admire the ingenuity of those charged with ground defence.  In reading both Len Bartram’s original writings and later Janine Harrington’s, both include some quite remarkable quotes from a Cpl.Lawrence Round (2857 Sqn) who describes the following:

 

“We converted an old Fordson lorry into an armoured car with a cement body and a Lewis gun on top, we called it ‘The Armadillo’”

 

He then goes onto to talk about the gun pits.

 

“Four gun pits were dug around the landing area, these contained two bunks and a stove, useful for a piece of toast.  Coal was sometimes thrown to us from passing trains”

 

Improvements in equipment were to come with the arrival of six Beaverette armoured cars, 3-ton trucks new guns.

 

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© IWM (H 2506)

 

Standard Beaverette reconnaissance car

 

Oulton and RAF No.100 (Bomber Support)

 

With the ground improvements and general work complete at Oulton, RAF 100 Group were now in control of the base, bringing to the fore RCM (Radio Counter Measures), general diversionary tactics and many more valued techniques.

 

On the 16th May 1944 214 Sqn RAF and 803 Sqn USAAF arrived from Sculthorpe, with B-17 Fortresses.

 

Squadrons

 

214 Squadron

 
Motto: Ultor in umbris – ‘Avenging in the Shadows’

 

The first 214 squadron was initially formed near Dunkirk on the 28th July 2017 under the name of 7A Squadron, RNAS.  On 9th December 1917 it reformed as No.14 Squadron, before finally becoming 214 Squadron on the 1st April 1918.  This being the same day as the formation of the RAF so 200 was added to its original number hence 214.

 

Its main duties were operating in the heavy night bomber role.  This role is indicative in its Squadron badge which depicts a nightjar.

 

Early aircraft flown by the Squadron was Handley Page twin-engined bombers, engaging in naval and army targets based in France and Belgium.  Involvement had been under both Naval and Army Command.  

 

A historic point to note is that on the 24/25th July 1918 it dropped the RAF’s first 1,650-lb bomb.

 

The squadron officially entered the second world war in June 1940 being equipped with Wellingtons and was involved in attacks on German forests.

 

In September 1941 the squadron was given the title of ‘RAF No.214 (Federated Malay States) Squadron’.  This was an honour by being adopted by the British Malayan Federation who put up funds to raise and equip the squadron.

 

The squadron was based throughout Norfolk and Suffolk with No.3 Group equipped with Wellingtons and Stirlings.  During this time, it was involved in ‘Gardening’ mine laying missions and unfortunately had the highest percentage of losses within No.3 Group.

 

The Squadron joined the 100 Group at Sculthorpe where it re-equipped with B-17 Fortresses.  The main focus of the squadron was Radio / Radar Countermeasures and these particular planes allowed special equipment (focused on jamming and confusing enemy transmissions) to be fitted in the bomb bays controlled by special operators.

 

803 Squadron

 

The original role of the Squadron at Sculthorpe was to familiarise RAF personnel with the Fortress.  Colonel G.E Paris was the CO later to be replaced at Oulton by Colonel C.A Scott where its Fortresses where replaced by Liberators.

 

During June 1944 the Squadron left Oulton to become 36 Sqn and carried out its operations from Cheddington and Alconbury.

 

Other Squadron Activities at Oulton.

 

During June 1944, 1699 Training Flight was formed in order to convert and train crews for both the Fortresses and Liberators.

 

223 Squadron

 

Motto: Aloe defendant Africam – ‘Wings defend Africa’

 

On the 23rd August a new RAF Liberator squadron was formed, to continue the work of jamming enemy radio \ radar.  The Liberator’s were fitted with special equipment including the ‘Jostle’ Transmitter.  This was arguably one of the largest devices used at the time, and fitting the device sounded like quite a task with the plane reportedly being parked over a hole in the ground to aid its fitting.

 

Initial operations were centred around the V2 rocket, but once it was determined that these were not radio controlled or guided then they moved onto to other missions using RCM (Radio Counter Measures) and other spoof methods.

 

To give a brief insight on the history on the squadron it’s earlier operations as the name suggest centred around Africa and the middle east.

 

Becoming No.223 on the 1st April 1918, its role was reconnaissance and bombing over the Aegean sea until the end of World War One.  It reformed in Kenya in December 1936, before moving onto to the Summit of Sudan where it was one of the few to be equipped with the Vickers Wellesley, this was following the Italians entering into the war.

 

Continuing with the Wellesley the Squadron moved to Perim Island, near Arden before becoming an Operation Training Unit in April 1941 converting squadrons over to such planes as the Bristol Blenheims, Martin Maryland, Douglas Boston’s and Martin Baltimore bombers.

 

This work led to active service in North Africa, Sicilian and Italian campaigns before October 1941 to January 1942 carrying out reconnaissance missions over the Western Desert.  It then returned to light bombing missions in May 1942 taking part in the Battle of the Gazala.

 

Further moves to Malta in July followed by September in Italy was the beginning of the Squadrons introduction to jamming equipment before finally moving to No.100 Group in Oulton, where their secret work was really about to begin.

 

This work would involve missions involved in using diversionary tactics such as Window and jamming techniques such as the already mentioned ‘Jostle’, Carpet, and Piperack.  Both Liberators and Fortresses were used by the Squadron.

 

 

The end of operations

 

Both 214 and 223 Squadrons were disbanded at Oulton during July 1945.  The base then became a sub unit of the 274 (maintenance unit) with some of the hangers being used for storage and overhaul of Mosquito aircraft.  

 

Like many of the bases after the war the work had been done and the end was then in sight.  In this case the base was then used for Norfolk Turkey sheds erected on the old runways and general agricultural use.  

 

Seeing the demise of these sites, which once were a hive of activity, hiding secrets, sacrifices, acts of heroism and bravery all to save our country was what drove the founders of the RAF 100 Group Association to make a change, ensuring that people will always remember and that we shall never forget.  

 

It was the inspiration of Eileen Boorman driven by her own sad loss and the support of her brother Martin that a memorial is now in place at the base, and therefore Oulton will always be at the heart of the association.

 

 

 

Images

 

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© IWM (EH 365)

 

Oblique aerial photograph of Oulton airfield looking south the main runway runs horizontally, the bomb dump is at the bottom of the airfield, 16 April 1946. Photograph taken by No. 541 Squadron, sortie number RAF/106G/UK/1430. English Heritage (RAF Photography)

 

 

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© Janine Harrington

 

Memorial Wreaths at RAF Oulton

 

 

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© Janine Harrington

 

Remembrance Day at RAF Oulton

 

 

Squadron Information

 

114 Squadron

 

Code: RT

Dates

August 1940 - March 1941

Planes

Bristol Blenheim Mk IV

Information

A light bomber squadron which took part in low level attacks against ports, shipping, gun emplacements mostly during daylight.  In March 1941 transferred to Coastal Command and moved to Thornaby, Yorks.

18 Squadron

 

Code: WV

Dates

April 1941 - July 1941

Planes

Bristol Blenheim Mk IV

Information

A light bomber squadron which took part in similar operations to other squadrons.  Moved to Horsham St Faith in July 1941

139 Squadron

 

Code: XD

Dates

July 1941 - October 1941

Planes

Bristol Blenheim Mk IV

Information

Flew some shipping operations from Manton, Kent.  Converted to Hudson's and moved to the Far East in early 1942

1428 Hudson Conversion Flight

Dates

December 1941 - May 1942

Planes

Lockheed Hudson Mk III

Information

A Coastal Command unit which trained crews for overseas operations.  Part of the flight moved to Horsham St Faith in January 1942 to form 1944 Flight.  1428 was disbanded at the end of May 1942

18 Squadron

 

Code: WV

Dates

December 1941

Planes

Bristol Blenheim Mk IV

Information

The squadron had been operating in Malta but some of the Blenheim's returned here for a short while before moving to Horsham St Faith.

139 Squadron

 

Code: WV

Dates

June 1942

Planes

Bristol Blenheim Mk V

de Havilland Mosquito Mk IV

Information

The old 139 squadron that had moved to the Far East in Hudson's in early 1942 were renamed as 62 squadron.  At the beginning of June 1942 a new 139 squadron was formed at Horsham St Faith and moved to Oulton a week later where it received some of the first of the bomber version of the Mosquito.  Moved back to Horsham St Faith on June 26th.

236 Squadron

 

Code: ND

Dates

July 1942 - October 1942

Planes

Bristol Beaufighter Mk IC

Information

A Coastal Command squadron which came to Oulton to fly coastal patrols and shipping strikes off the coast of Holland.  Moved to North Coates, Lincs in early October 1942.

88 Squadron

 

Code: RH

Dates

September 1942 - March 1943

Planes

Douglas Boston Mk III and IIIA

Information

Took part in many daylight low level attacks against coastal and inland targets.  During its stay at Oulton the squadron had its HQ at Blicking Hall.  Moved to Swanton Morley at end of March 1943.

21 Squadron

 

Code: YH

Dates

April 1943 to September 1943

Planes

Lockheed Ventura Mk I and II

Information

Moved in from Methwold and worked as a light bomber squadron. Ventura not a particularly reliable aircraft.  In September 1943 the squadron moved to Sculthorpe and re-equipped with Mosquito's.

1699 Fortress Training Flight / Bomber Support Conversion Unit

 

Code: 4Z

Dates

May 1944 - June 1945

Planes

Boeing Fortress Mk II and III (B17F and B17G)

Consolidated Liberator B24H

Information

Ex USAAF Fortresses were introduced into 100 Group to work in the bomber support role.  1699 flight was set up with American assistance to train crews in the operation and handling of the Fortress.  In early 1945 the flight changed its name to 1699 (Bomber Support) Conversion Unit.  They also operated from Sculthorpe and Foulsham.  The unit was disbanded a few weeks after the war ended.

214 Squadron

 

Code: BU

 

Dates

May 1944 - July 1945

Planes

Boeing Fortress Mk IIA and III (B17F and B17G)

Information

Formed as part of 100 Groups radio countermeasures effort which flew in support of Bomber Command's night bombing offensive.  Operations involved detection and jamming of German early warning radar and radio signals.  Disbanded in July 1945.  A new 214 squadron was formed shortly afterwards this time as a transport squadron based in Italy.

803 Bomb Squadron

 

Code: R4

Dates

May 1944 - August 1944

Planes

Boeing Fortress Mk II and III (B17F and B17G)

Information

An American squadron who trained with the RAF at Sculthorpe and came to Oulton to gain experience on operations with 100 Group.  Its main job was to operate "Mandrel" jamming in support of Bomber Commands efforts on and after the D-Day landings.  Renamed 36th Bomb Squadron in August 1944 and moved to Cheddington, Herts.

223 Squadron

 

Code: 6G

Dates

August 1944 - July 1945

Planes

Consolidated Liberator Mk IV

Boeing Fortress Mk IIA and III

Information

A 100 Group squadron, its main job being "Window" dropping in support of Bomber Commands night bombing force.  Also carried specialist equipment to jam German radar and radio transmissions.  In August 1944 it started to use "Big Ben Jostle" to try and jam the control devices on German V2 rockets, until they found out the rockets were not radio controlled anyway. Taken over by Maintenance Command in October 1945 and became a satellite of 274 Swanton Morley.  Hangers used until November 1947 to store surplus Mosquito's.