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Royal Air Force Station Tibenham
Royal Air Force Station Tivetshall
USAAF Station 124

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

Located Near Diss, Norfolk, England
Tibenhamairfield-1945.png
Postwar photo of Tibenham Airfield, England
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 52°27′24″N 001°09′47″E / 52.45667°N 1.16306°E / 52.45667; 1.16306
Built 1941
In use 1942-1959
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Garrison Eighth Air Force
Occupants 445th Bombardment Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Tibenham is located in Norfolk
Map showing the location of RAF Tibenham within Norfolk.

RAF Tibenham (Also known as Tivetshall) is a former World War II Royal Air Force Station and airfield in England. It is located about 13 miles (21 km) south-southwest of Norwich, N of Diss in Norfolk. 4 miles (6.4 km) southwest of Long Stratton, which is situated on the A140 Norwich to Ipswich Road.

The Airfield can be approached from the east via the B1134 from Pulham Crossroads, turning 2nd right after the automatic level-crossing along Plantation Road. Alternatively if you are approaching from the west use the B1113 or B1134 roads via Tibenham Village.

The entrance is at the east side of the Airfield on Plantation Road

Contents

History

Tibenham was used as a Royal Flying Corps landing ground during the First World War.

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USAAF use

The airfield was built up during 1941/42 as a standard heavy bomber airfield with a main runway of 6,000 ft long (03-21) and two secondary runways of 4,200 feet (1,300 m) in length (08-26, 15-33). It had an enclosed perimeter track containing 36 frying-pan type hardstands and fourteen loops. Two T-2 hangars were constructed on the eastern side of the airfield and adjacent to the technical site. Accommodations were constructed for about 2,900 personnel. Tibenham was assigned USAAF designation Station 124.

320th Bombardment Group (Medium)

The first American units at Tibenham were the personnel of two B-26 Marauder squadrons of the 320th Bomb Group (Medium) which were en route to La Senia, Algeria in November 1942. They had no aircraft and their stay was a matter of only a few days. During the summer of 1943, Tibenham was assigned to the 2d Bombardment Wing (later the 2d Air Division) and was used by a few B-24 Liberator training aircraft, but it was not until November that the first combat units and their aircraft arrived,

445th Bombardment Group (Heavy)

Tibenham became home to the 445th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the United States Army Air Force Eighth Air Force. The 445th arrived from Sioux City AAF, Iowa on 4 November 1943. The 445th was assigned to the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing, and the group tail code was a "Circle-F". Its operational squadrons were:

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

The 445th BF entered combat on 13 December 1943 by attacking U-boat installations at Kiel; only fifteen crews were considered fit for this mission which was heavily defended area. The unit operated primarily as a strategic bombardment organization until the war ended, striking such targets as industries in Osnabrück, synthetic oil plants in Lutzendorf, chemical works in Ludwigshafen, marshalling yards at Hamm, an airfield at Munich, an ammunition plant at Duneberg, underground oil storage facilities at Ehmen, and factories at Münster.

Consolidated B-24 Liberators of the 445th Bomb Group on a mission over enemy-occupied territory.

The group participated in the Allied campaign against the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20–25 February 1944, being awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for attacking an aircraft assembly plant at Gotha on 24 February. The 389th Group was part of the Gotha mission but after their master bombardier collapsed dropped their bombs before the target and the 445th attacked alone. Thirteen aircraft were lost.

It occasionally flew interdictory and support missions. It helped to prepare for the invasion of Normandy by bombing airfields, V-weapon sites, and other targets. The unit attacked shore installations on D-Day, 6 June 1944 and supported ground forces at Saint-Lô by striking enemy defenses in July 1944. During the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944-January 1945 it bombed German communications. Early on 24 March 1945 dropped food, medical supplies, and ammunition to troops that landed near Wesel during the airborne assault across the Rhine and that afternoon flew a bombing mission to the same area, hitting a landing ground at Stormede.

On occasion the unit dropped propaganda leaflets and hauled fuel to France. Awarded the Croix de guerre with Palm by the French government for operations in the theater from December 1943 to February 1945 supplying the resistance.

By far, the 445th's most notorious mission is the Kassel Mission [1] of 27 September 1944. In cloud, the navigator of the lead bomber miscalculated and the 35 planes diverted from the rest of the 2nd Air Division and proceeded to Göttingen some 35 miles (56 km) from the primary. After the bomb run, the group was attacked from the rear by an estimated 150 Luftwaffe planes, resulting in the most concentrated air battle in history. The Luftwaffe unit was a Stormgruppen, a special unit intended to attack bombers by flying in tight formations, up to ten fighters in line abreast. This tactic was intended to break the bomber formation at a single pass. The 361st Fighter Group intervened, preventing a complete destruction of the Group. Twenty-nine German and 25 American planes went down in a 15-mile (24 km) radius. Only four 445th planes made it back to the base; two crashed in France, another at RAF Old Buckenham -- representing a 75% total casualty rate.

The 445th Bomb Group flew its last combat mission on 25 April 1945. It departed Tibenham and returned to Fort Dix AAF New Jersey on 28 May 1945.

James Stewart, the film actor, was 703rd Squadron Commander with the 445th when it arrived at Tibenham.

Postwar use

The Americans returned to the USA in late May 1945 and on 15 July the airfield reverted to the Air Ministry becoming a Maintenance Unit satellite. Although part of the airfield was sold off in 1952, the main runway was lengthened in 1955 for possible use by jet aircraft. However it was never utilized and Tibenham was closed in 1959, being sold during 1964/65.

Civil Use

With the end of military control, the airfield has been used by the sailplanes of the Norfolk Gliding Club for peaceful recreation since 1960. In civilian hands most of the wartime airfield buildings were demolished; however, there are a few derelict huts and other structures on some of the dispersed sites which lay to the east between the airfield and the main London-Norwich railway line. Most of the main runway with its postwar extension still exists, along with both secondary runways. The perimeter track and various hardstands, however, have been removed for hardcore.

The control tower was used until 1975 as a club house by the Gliding Club. Later that year the club moved into a new home which was constructed close by. It was said that the old control tower was haunted, and at least four members of the Gliding Club were afraid to enter the building, even in daytime. It was reported that a person in flying clothes, similar to those worn by the USAAF combat crews, had been seen on several occasions wandering through the darkened rooms. The old control tower was demolished in 1978 after the new clubhouse came into use. Current projects include plans for a Heritage Centre to preserve the history of the airfield and the connection with the 445th Bomb Group.

A memorial to the Liberator crews stands on the airfield.

See also

References

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

  1. ^ www.kasselmission.com

External links


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