aviation history and heritage


USAAF Norfolk - Home of 2nd Air Division USAAF

Norfolk’s links with military aviation were established in the early years of the last century by the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps, forerunners of today's Royal Air Force, and Norwich was a centre of aircraft production in the Great War of 1914-1918.

Today the county is home to front-line elements of the modern Royal Air Force, but it is perhaps the events of the 1940s for which it is best known and the area is rich in reminders of the flying services.

As Bomber County, Norfolk - like Lincolnshire - was in the forefront of the allied air offensive in the Second World War of 1939-1945. It stood at the western edge of the largest battlefield the world has ever seen, stretching almost 1,000 miles to the east.

The county was primarily home to the 2nd Air Division of the United States 8th Air Force. Its bases were to be found over the whole county, and the historic City of Norwich was a natural focus. The Bomb Groups were equipped with the B-24 Liberator, and established a record second to none.

B-24 at Duxford
B-24M Liberator 44-51228 in the American Air Museum at Duxford
in the markings of the 392nd Bomb Group, Wendling

The story is not simply one of the B-24s, and the county saw much other activity - day fighters, night fighters, and anti-shipping strike also took place, together with air-sea rescue missions and the electronic warfare operations of Bomber Command’s 100 Group flying in support of the main bomber force.

allies During the Second World War the Royal Air Force and United States 8th Air Force developed their links, and with the air forces of the Commonwealth and Allies, notably Australia, Canada, and Poland. By 1945 there were 37 military airfields in Norfolk.

From the 1950s the RAF’s role in the county included Thor missiles, Lightning interceptors, Valiant strategic bombers, and later Victor tankers. For some years the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was based in Norfolk.

The county’s long association with the Royal Air Force continues, although the only flying station now open is Marham with its Tornados. Horsham St Faith is Norwich International Airport and light aircraft flying takes place from many wartime airfield sites.

RR sound push button for Rolls-Royce Merlin flypast
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RAF sound push button for Royal Air Force March Past
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USAAF sound push button for United States Air Force March
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US Air Forces Commemoration and Remembrance US Air Forces

all text © Mike Ingham
B-24 photograph © Mike Ingham


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this page last updated 1 January 2011

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