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Airfields of the 8th & 9th Air Force, Years After The Battle


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This thread was lost after the forum crash, so I'm starting it again with the pictures, and will try and add the airfield descriptions as time allows.

 

First of all, my 'home' base for my Jeep, Dodge and B-17, the 'Bloody' 100th Bomb Group ( Heavy ), Station 139 - Thorpe Abbotts.

 

The 100th Bomb Group arrived at Thorpe Abbotts in June 1943, after a brief assignment to Podington for a few days until it was realised the field wasn't completed enough to use. The 100th became known as the hard luck group of the 8th Air Force due to spectacular losses on single missions, but overall, their losses didn't differ much from that of other groups in combat for a similar length of time. The 100th Bomb Group were the only group to be stationed at Thorpe Abbotts, starting operations in June 1943 and flying 306 missions, including 6 food dropping missions over Holland. The group received two Distinguished Unit Citations.

 

The runways were removed in the early 1980's, but the difference in the topsoil can still be seen, and this is also true when the crops grow. In picture 5, you can see a set of 'spectacle' loop hardstandings at the bottom centre of the picture in the grass area.

 

In picture 9, just ahead of the glider wing, you can see the old cross runway cutting diagonally across the tractor tyre marks.

 

The first set of pictures are general aerial views, with the exception of a close up of the 351st Squadron accomodation site. Two ablutions blocks still stand, there are several blast shelters there, and the hut bases are there but completely overgrown.

 

Steve

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Thorpe Abbotts part 2

 

Clockwise - The Sub Depot site, where several rusting Nissen huts are slowly dying. Drapers Farm, the location of the crash of B-17G "Hang The Expense". The edge of dispersal 5 can just be seen bottom right ( one of only two surviving dispersals ). The control tower and 100th BG museum. The secondary runway and in the light green field beyond, the second technical site.

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Attlebridge

 

319th Bombardment Group (Medium), flying the B-25 Mitchell & B-26 Marauder.

 

466th Bomb Group ( Heavy ), Flying the B-24 Liberator.

 

Attlebridge was used by the RAF until September 1942 flying Bostons and Blenheims. One the base was allocated to the 8th Air Force, the 319th BG moved in for a short while before moving on to North Africa. The base was then upgraded to Class 'A' heavy bomber standard by lengthening the runways and adding more dispersals. During August 1944, the group were involved with flying fuel to Normandy, transporting over 2,000,000 gallons. Attlebridge was sold in the late 1950's and early 1960's. A couple of aerial pictures of the runways and bomb dump, plus three ground pictures showing the Bernard Matthews Turkey houses built on the airfield.

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Bassingbourn

 

91st Bomb Group ( Heavy ), Flying the B-17 Fortress.

 

Bassingbourn was one of the pre-war stations opened in 1938, which featured four brick and steel C-Type hangars and centrally heated bring barracks. It was later extended for American use. The first US unit at the base was a Marauder Group who spent only a few days at the base before moving on. The 91st BG arrived in October 1942 with 32 B-17F's. They flew 340 missions from the base. The 'Memphis Belle' amongst others were stationed there.

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Bodney

 

352nd Fighter Group, flying the P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang.

 

Bodney was a grass surfaced field first used by the RAF. It was used briefly in May 1941 by the RAF's 90 Group flying the Fortress Mk1, becoming the first unit to use the Fortress in combat in Europe. In the summer of 1943, Bodney was turned over to the USAAF. The runways were reinforced with steel matting to take the weight of the seven ton P-47 during the winter months. The 352nd FG moved in and began operations in September 1943, and because of the markings on their P-47's, they became known as the 'Blue Nosed Bas*ards of Bodney'. They converted to the P-51 in April 1944.

 

In the early hours of D-Day, with light rain restricting visibility, a P-51 crashed into the tower during take off killing the pilot. The group left for the USA in November '45. The airfield was later returned to agriculture.

 

No fly over of this field, just a lonely control tower and pill box peeping over the brow of a farm field.

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Bovingdon

 

11th US Combat Crew Replacement Centre, operating the B-17 Fortress.

 

Bovingdon was constructed in 1941-42 by John Laing & Son Ltd. The airfield was never developed to Class 'A' standard, the longest runway being 1,634 yards. The US Army Air Corps arrived at Bovingdon in August 1942, but the base wasn't officially handed over until April 1943. The 92nd Bomb Group was the first unit to arrive there, and was assigned the role of a B-17 Combat Crew Replacement Centre. The group split in January 1943 with some of the group moving to Alconbury and re-forming as a Bomb Group while the remainder stayed training new crews.

 

Bovingdon was the nearest base to 8th AF HQ, and as a result housed several other units including the 8th HQ Squadron and General Eisenhower's personal B-17 was kept in Hangar 1. In September 1944 the CCRC was disbanded and the base became the terminal through which many GI's returned to the USA. In 1946 the RAF once again took control of the base.

 

Bovingdon was also the location for the 1961 Steve McQueen B-17 film "The War Lover", plus "633 Squadron" and "Mosquito Squadron", also filmed in the 1960's.

 

The technical site is now the location of a Youth Custody Centre, or at least it was during my visit in the late 1980's.

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Bungay

 

428th Bomb Squadron, 310th BG ( Medium ), flying the B-25 Mitchell.

 

329th Bomb Squadron, 93rd BG ( Heavy ), flying the B-24 Liberator.

 

446th Bomb Group ( Heavy ), flying the B-24 Liberator.

 

Bungay was built in 1942 and originally intended as a satellite field for Hardwick. The first Group there was the 428th who eventually moved to North Africa. Next the 329th BS moved in for special intruder operations. These were single plane operations in bad weather designed to harrass the German air raid system. From March 1943, the base was developed to Class 'A' standard, but it wasn't until November that the 446th BG moved in with their B-24's, eventually flying 273 missions.

 

For a while in the late 1970's, there was a parachute club operated from Bungay, but eventually the runways were broken up. Two aerial photos and one of the underground bulk aviation fuel tanks which had recently been dug out.

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No probs, but I'm charging you overtime this time around!!

 

Bury St Edmunds

 

47th Bomb Group ( Light ), flying the A-20 Havoc.

 

322nd Bomb Group ( Medium ), flying the B-26 Marauder.

 

94th Bomb Group ( Heavy ), flying the B-17 Fortress.

 

Bury St Edmunds was built in 1941-42 to class 'A' standards. The 94th BG, who were based in Essex, exchanged bases with the 322nd BG and went on to fly over 300 missions from Bury. At the end of the war, they were involved with ferrying displaced persons from Germany.

 

Housing estates are gradually creaping across the airfield.

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Eye

 

490th Bomb Group ( Heavy ), flying the B-24 Liberator and the B-17 Fortress.

 

In the centre of Eye now is a gas pumping station with security measures that appear to be copied from today's active airfields, if it really is a gas pumping station!!??!!

 

The third picture shows a twisted pair of loop dispersals. There was a standard plan for bomber fields, but there was always the need to make allowances and alterations to the design due to local topography.

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Fowlmere

 

339th Fighter Group, flying the P-51 Mustang

 

Fowlmere began its aviation links in 1916 and later became a satellite to Duxford before becoming an independant station. Light aircraft still fly from Fowlmere, though todays runways follow different headings to the wartime runways which were formed from Pierced Steel Planks.

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Hardwick

 

93rd Bomb Group ( Heavy ), flying the B-24 Liberator.

 

In the top left of the second picture, you can see a rectangle marked out away from the wartime runways. This is the airstrip where Warbird collector Maurice Hammond bases his small but growing fleet. He owns two P-51's ( the second nearing completion ), a AT-6 Texan, PT-17 Kaydett & Auster MkV. See http://www.hardwickwarbirds.com/

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Hethel

 

320th Bomb Group ( Medium ), flying the B-26 Marauder.

 

389th Bomb Group ( Heavy ), flying the B-24 Liberator.

 

Hethel is now the location of the Lotus car factory, and parts of the runways and perimeter track are used as the test track.

 

The third picture shows a T2 hangar which I don't think was originally located here during wartime. It is either one of the original hangars that has been relocated, or has been brought in from another airfield.

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Horsham St Faith

 

458th Bomb Group ( Heavy ), flying the B-24 Liberator.

 

Horsham St Faith is today Norwich airport. While the airfield was developed, many of the dispersals still remain around the airfield perimeter. The Liberator picture is of a 1/6 scale model, belonging to a member of my model team, which unfortunately has now emigrated to the USA along with its owner! John the builder worked on the Norwich airport industrial estate, so this group was the natural one to base the model on.

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Metfield

 

353rd Fighter Group, flying the P-47 Thunderbolt

 

491st Bomb Group ( Heavy ), flying B-24 Liberators.

 

Metfield was the scene of a large explosion when one section of the bomb dump detonated while bombs were being unloaded from a truck. The crater remained and became a base dump.

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Molesworth

 

15th Bomb Squadron, 27th BG ( Light ), flying the A-20 Havoc.

 

303rd Bomb Group ( Heavy ), flying B-17 Fortresses.

 

The only WW2 remains are two T2 hangars and a J type hangar. The airfield is dominated by the compound for the Cold War missile bunkers.

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