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30 April 2015

RAF Bircham Newton

This bank holiday, why not visit the historic airfield on our doorstep?

If you’re in Stanhoe this weekend, the RAF Bircham Newton Heritage Centre just down the road is open on Sunday and Monday from 11 am to 5 pm. Admission is free, and there’s parking and disabled access.

images: David Jacklin

Photo collage of museum exhibits

The volunteer-run museum sets out the history of this former RAF station (1918–1962) and its satellite airfield at Docking. On display are unique photographs, airfield plans, models, drawings and personal recollections from former airmen and their families.

Open days in 2015 are:

  • Sunday 3 May / Monday 4 May
  • Sunday 24 May / Monday 25 May
  • Sunday 28 June
  • Sunday 26 July (10th anniversary celebration)
  • Sunday 30 August / Monday 31 August
  • Sunday 27 September

RAF Bircham Newton Heritage Centre is at the National Construction College, Bircham Newton, Norfolk PE31 6RB. The College is signposted from the A148 and B1454.

Photo collage of airfield buildings and aircraft

RAF Bircham Newton (1918–1962) and its Heritage Centre

Royal Air Force Bircham Newton has a proud history of 44 years of service spanning two world wars and involving more than 80 operational units.

A bomber base from 1918 until 1936, RAF Bircham Newton was the home of many iconic aircraft including the Handley Page V/1500, DH9A, Fairey IIIF, Fairey Gordon, Hawker Hind and Hawker Hart.

In 1936 the station was transferred to Coastal Command and served in that command throughout World War II. It became one of the most important airfields along the east coast, performing reconnaissance, anti-shipping and air-sea rescue operations across the North Sea. Satellite airfields were opened in Docking and Langham to accommodate the increased number of operations required to support the war. A large variety of planes flew from the station’s grass runways, including the Avro Anson, Bristol Blenheim, Lockheed Hudson and Vickers Wellington.

From 1948, the station was transferred to Technical Training Command and hosted various training schools which were amalgamated to become the RAF School of Administration. In 1959, the Adminstrative Apprentices School was located at the station until closure in December 1962. The station experienced a brief return to flying in the mid 1960s when it supported the trials of the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel V/STOL aircraft.

After closure, the site was acquired by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), which today still occupies many of the original RAF buildings. The CITB generously provides the accommodation for the Heritage Centre.

The RAF Bircham Newton Memorial Project (a registered charity) was established in 2005 to commemorate the distinguished history of the airfield and to preserve its memories into the future. Permanent memorials are now in place at both this site and near Docking (Sunderland Farm).

The RAF Heritage Centre is located in the former Commanding Officer’s residence at Bircham. Visitors to the Centre can see an eclectic mix of memorabilia, relating not only to RAF Bircham Newton and its personnel but also to other associated areas of interest. In 2014, visitors saw new displays relating to World War I and also an exciting new collection of die-cast model aircraft. Books and miscellaneous gifts are also on sale.

See above for the list of open days in 2015. Group visits on other dates can be arranged – contact (01485 578527) or (01485 578588).

Posted by: Charles
Posted on: 30 April 2015