RAF Shipdham: Wikis

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Royal Air Force Station Shipdham
USAAF Station 115

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

Located Near East Dereham, Norfolk, England
Shipdham-31jan46.png
Shipdham Airfield - 31 January 1946
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 52°37′29″N 000°55′26″E / 52.62472°N 0.92389°E / 52.62472; 0.92389
Location code SH
Built 1942
In use 1942-1957
Controlled by Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Garrison Royal Air Force

Eighth Air Force
Occupants 44th Bombardment Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Shipdham is located in Norfolk
Map showing the location of RAF Shipdham within Norfolk.

RAF Shipdham is a former World War II airfield in England. The field is located 3 miles S of East Dereham in Norfolk, now used as a privately owned airfield.

Contents

USAAF use

Shipdham airfield was the first US heavy bomber base in Norfolk and was also the continuous host to B-24 Liberators longer than any other Eighth Air Force combat airfield in Britain - from October 1942 to late 1945. It was constructed 1941-42 and was assigned USAAF designation Station 115 (SH).

From 13 September 1943 though 13 June 1945, Shipdham served as headquarters for the 14th Combat Bombardment Wing of the 2d Bomb Division.

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319th Bombardment Group (Medium)

The 319th Bomb Group (Medium) was a Eighth Air Force B-26 Marauder group which arrived at Shipdham on 12 September 1942 from Harding Army Air Field Louisiana. The personnel of the group used the base as a staging and assembly point before moving in early October for RAF Horsham St Faith in Norfolk.

44th Bombardment Group (Heavy)

With the departure of the 319th BG, Shipdham was assigned to the 44th Bombardment Group (Heavy), arriving from Will Rogers AAF Oklahoma on 10 October 1942. The 44th was assigned to the 14th Combat Bombardment Wing, and the group tail code was a "Circle-A". It's operational squadrons were:

  • 66th Bomb Squadron (Squadron code letters WQ)
  • 67th Bomb Squadron (Squadron code letters NB)
  • 68th Bomb Squadron (Squadron code letters QK)
  • 506th Bomb Squadron (Squadron code letters GJ)

The group flew B-24 Liberators as part of the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign. The 44th was the first USAAF group to be equipped with the Liberator and the unit had helped form other groups destined to fly the type. The Group was initially under strength, one of its four squadrons having been detached in the US. In March 1943 the 506th Squadron was assigned to the group.

Consolidated B-24 Liberators of the 44th Bomb Group on a parachute drop.
B-24 of the 44th Bomb Group hit by enemy fire on a mission over enemy territory.
Medal of Honor Ceremony for Col Leon Johnson at Shipdham Airfield, 1943.

The 44th Bomb Group's operations consisted primarily of assaults against strategic targets in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Romania, Austria, Poland, and Sicily. Among the targets attacked were submarine installations, industrial establishments, airfields, harbors, shipyards, and other objectives, November 1942 - June 1943.

The unit received a Distinguished Unit Citation for an extremely hazardous mission against naval installations at Kiel on 14 May 1943: Its B-24's flew in the wake of the main formation and carried incendiaries to be dropped after three B-17 groups had released high explosive bombs, thus the group's aircraft were particularly vulnerable lacking the protection of the fire power of the main force. This vulnerability increased when the group opened its own formation for the attack; but the 44th blanketed the target with incendiaries in spite of the concentrated flak and continuous interceptor attacks it encountered.

Late in June 1943 a large detachment moved to North Africa to help facilitate the Allied invasion of Sicily by bombing airfields and marshalling yards in Italy. The detachment also participated in the famous low-level raid on the Ploesti oil fields on 1 August 1943. The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its part in this raid and its commander, Colonel Leon W. Johnson, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his daring and initiative in leading his men into smoke, flame, and alerted fighter and antiaircraft opposition over the target, which already had been bombed in error by another group.

Before returning to England at the end of August, the detachment bombed an aircraft factory in Austria and supported ground forces in Sicily. In September 1943 the group struck airfields in Holland and France and convoys in the North Sea. Also in September, a detachment was sent to North Africa to support the Salerno operations.

This proved to be the 44th's last detachment and in October when several new B-24 groups were arriving in Norfolk, the 44th was fully committed to the combined bomber offensive from the UK. From November 1943 to April 1945, the group carried out operations against targets in western Europe, concentrating on airfields, oil installations, and marshalling yards.

The group took part in the intensive campaign of heavy bombers against the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944. The group flew support and interdictory missions. Struck airfields, railroads, and V-weapon sites in preparation for the Normandy invasion; supported the invasion in June 1944 by attacking strong points in the beachhead area and transportation targets behind the front lines. The group aided the Caen offensive and the Saint-Lô breakthrough in July. Dropped food, ammunition, and other supplies to troops engaged in the airborne attack on Holland in September. The group also helped to check the enemy offensive during the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945, by striking bridges, tunnels, choke points, rail and road junctions, and communications in the battle area. The group attacked airfields and transportation in support of the advance into Germany, and flew a resupply mission during the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945.

The 44th Bomb Group flew its last combat mission on 25 April 1945. During the course of hostilities, the 44th flew a total of 343 missions and its gunners were credited with 330 enemy fighters shot down and its own losses. highest of any B-24 group in the Eighth, were 153. The unit returned to Sioux Falls AAF South Dakota in June 1945.

Legacy

Reassigned to Great Bend AAF, Kansas 25 July 1945. In preparation for Operation Downfall - overall Allied plan for the invasion of Japan the group was redesignated the 44th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) in August 1945 in preparation for receiving B-29s. Assigned to Strategic Air Command on 21 March 1946. Reassigned to Smoky Hill AAF, Kansas, 14 December 1945. Inactivated 12 July 1946.

Air Ministry use

After the war, the airfield was used as a transit centre for German POWs a route from the United States for repatriation to Germany. Part of Shipdham was sold in 1957 and the remainder during 1962-63.

Civil and Current Use

Final approach on NE-SW runway, September 2008.

With the end of military control Arrow Air Services acquired the airfield from a local farmer and applied for planning permission to re-open the airfield. This was granted in September 1969 and, the following April. work began on refurbishing the facility. Two of the concrete runways were refurbished together with the approach road and perimeter track. The runway lights were found to be still serviceable although they had to be brought up to modern standards.

Shipdam was opened to private flying on 16 June 1970 and currently is the home of the Shipdham Aero Club. Its clubhouse is home to their museum. Most of the airfield buildings remain in various states of decay with part of the site being in use as an industrial estate.

Airfield operations

The aerodrome is an unlicensed airfield, but Light aircraft and gliders are more than welcome to land at the pilot's own risk. There is military and civil low level flying in the vicinity seven days a week. All aircraft should make blind calls to Shipdham Radio (132.250) when the radio is unmanned, and contact Marham Zone during their hours of operation, otherwise Norwich approaches. Lower Airspace Radar Service available from Marham F/S and alerting service available from Marham or Anglia Radar.

Circuits at 1000 feet above aerodrome level. Gliding on week-ends. All powered circuits at 1000 ft to the East of the airfield. All gliding to the West of the airfield. All gliders carry and use radios and make frequent calls giving their location. Powered aircraft must give way to landing gliders..

The Airfield is staffed at the weekends by club members who provide a Ground/Air radio service and dispense fuel to visitors. The airfield also offers a variety of cooked food and liquid refreshments.

See also

References

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

  • Freeman, Roger A. (1978) Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0900913096
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1991) The Mighty Eighth: The Colour Record. Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35708-1
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • www.controltowers.co.uk Shipdham
  • mighty8thaf.preller.us Shipdham

External links


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