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Royal Air Force Station Hethel
USAAF Station 114

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch 8thUSAAF.png

Located Near Norwich, Norfolk, England
Hethel-16-Apr-1946.png
Aerial Photo of Hethel Airfield - 16 April 1946
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 52°33′52″N 001°10′15″E / 52.56444°N 1.17083°E / 52.56444; 1.17083
Location code HL
Built 1942
In use 1943-1948
Current
owner
Ministry of Defence
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
Garrison Eighth Air Force
RAF Fighter Command
RAF Technical Training Command.
Occupants 320th Bombardment Group
389th Bombardment Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Hethel is located in Norfolk
Map showing the location of RAF Hethel within Norfolk.

RAF Hethel is a former World War II airfield used by the US during the Second World War (and briefly as an RAF station) in Norfolk, England situated located 7 miles south west of Norwich.

Contents

USAAF use

Hethel airfield was constructed in 1942 for American use and was assigned USAAF designation Station 114.

From 14 September 1943 though to 12 June 1945, Hethel served as headquarters for the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing of the 2nd Bomb Division.

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320th Bombardment Group (Medium)

The 320th Bomb Group (Medium) was a B-26 Marauder group which arrived at Hethel on 12 September 1942 from Drane AAF Florida. At the time of their arrival, many of the airfield buildings were still uncompleted. The group used the base as a staging and transshipment point for deploying to La Senia, Algeria as part of Twelfth Air Force though 2 December 1942.

310th Bombardment Group (Medium)

During the spring of 1943 Hethel housed elements of the 310th Bombardment Group (Medium) which also used the airfield as a staging area for deploying from Greenville AAF South Carolina to Mediouna, French Morocco.

In addition, the airfield was also used as a training base for B-24s by other 2nd Air Division Groups.

389th Bombardment Group (Heavy)

With the completion of the facility, Hethel was assigned to the 389th Bombardment Group (Heavy), arriving from Lowry AAF Colorado on 11 June 1943. The 389th was assigned to the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing, and the group tail code was a "Circle-C". It's operational squadrons were:

  • 564th Bomb Squadron (YO)
  • 565th Bomb Squadron (EE)
  • 566th Bomb Squadron (RR)
  • 567th Bomb Squadron (HP)

The group flew B-24 Liberators as part of the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign.

Consolidated B-24 Liberators of the 389th Bomb Group on a mission over enemy-occupied territory.
Consolidated B-24J-145-CO Liberator Serial 44-40052 of the 565th Bomb Squadron.

Upon its arrival at Hethel, almost immediately a detachment was sent to Libya, where it began operations on 9 July 1943. The detachment flew missions to Crete, Sicily, Italy, Austria, and Romania. The group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for the detachment's participation in the famed low-level attack against oil refineries at Ploesti on 1 August 1943.

For his action during the same operation, Second Lieutenant Lloyd Herbert Hughes was awarded the Medal of Honor. Refusing to turn back although gasoline was streaming from his flak-damaged plane, Lt Hughes flew at low altitude over the blazing target area and bombed the objective. The plane crashed before Hughes could make the forced landing that he attempted after the bomb run.

The detachment returned to England in August and the group flew several missions against airfields in France and Holland.

The unit deployed again temporarily to Tunisia during September and October 1943 with the group supporting Allied operations at Salerno and hit targets in Corsica, Italy, and Austria.

Resumed operations from England in October 1943 the group concentrated primarily on strategic objectives in France, the Low Countries, and Germany. Targets included shipbuilding yards at Vegesack, industrial areas of Berlin, oil facilities at Merseburg, factories at Münster, railroad yards at Sangerhausen, and V-weapon sites in the Pas de Calais. The group participated in the intensive air campaign against the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20–25 February 1944. Also flew support and interdictory missions on several occasions, bombing gun batteries and airfields in support of the Normandy invasion in June 1944, striking enemy positions to aid the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July 1944, hitting storage depots and communications centers during the Battle of the Bulge (Dec 1944-Jan 1945), and dropping food, ammunition, gasoline, and other supplies to troops participating in the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945.

The 389th Bomb Group flew its last combat mission late in April 1945. It returned to Charleston AAF South Carolina on 30 May 1945 and was deactivated on 13 September 1945.

RAF Fighter Command use

After the departure of the Americans, Hethel airfield was assigned to RAF Fighter Command. On 25 June RAF Polish-manned North American Mustang squadrons moved into the base. In mid-1947, Hethel became a Personnel Transit Centre but was transferred to RAF Technical Training Command. However, with the downsizing of the RAF, the field was closed in 1948. For many years the base was inactive and abandoned until it was finally sold by the Air Ministry in 1964.

Civil use

For a number of years the old airbase Nissen hut buildings were used to house many families awaiting the re-housing under the post-war building programme. Forehoe & Henstead R D C also used part of the area as a store depot. This would have been during the 1950s era & this was a number of years before the Lotus Factory arrived. With the end of military control, Hethel found a new life in civilian hands becoming the manufacturing and testing site for Lotus Cars. The actual location of the factory is, in fact, on the old technical site and the manufacture of vehicles, originally started in the old hangars and workshops, now takes place in several modern buildings. Lotus utilizes parts of the airfield perimeter track and lengths of the main runway as a testing track.

Very little remains of any buildings on the dispersed sites around Hethel Wood; the only thing of real interest being a former gymnasium which became a chapel. On the end wall of this chapel, behind where the altar formerly stood, is a crucifix painted by "Bud" Doyle who was assistant to the Roman Catholic chaplain, Father Beck. It was painted in early 1944 and remains in good condition. The chapel has recently undergone extensive restoration carried out by a group of volunteers with the full support of the landowner. The chapel is on private property.

The former 2nd Air Division Headquarters at Ketteringham Hall lies just to the north of the airfield. Group Lotus use it for their headquarters.

In June 1946 a memorial plaque was dedicated in Carleton Rode Church, in memory of 17 members of the 389th Bomb Group who were killed in a mid-air collision over the parish on 21 November 1944. A stained glass window in the church is also dedicated to the crew members killed in this collision.

A Memorial Headstone is located in the Hethel Churchyard and the 389th Roll of Honor is housed inside Hethel Church

See also

Notes

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

References

External links


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