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RAF Bircham Newton in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

The Wartime Memories Project

- RAF Bircham Newton during the Second World War -

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RAF Bircham Newton

   RAF Bircham Newton, situated 8 miles W of Fakenham in Norfolk, opened in 1916 as a Royal Flying Corps fighter training school. In 1918 166 Sqn was formed with long range bombers intended to attack Berlin. Although no operations were flown, this was the beginning of RAF Bomber Command. Bircham Newton became a heavy bomber station in 1923 and in August 1936, transferred from Bomber to Coastal Command and was rebuilt. Between 1939 and 45, the station was used for convoy protection, reconnaissance, anti-shipping and U-Boat patrols. 53 Sqd where based at Bircham Newton from September to November 1940, July to October 1941 and March to April 1943. The base was home to 236 Sqd for a short time at the end of July 1940. From 31st March 1942 to September 1942 RCAF 407 Squadron aka "Demon Squadron" Costal Command were based at RAF Bircham Newton.

From 1945 to 48, it became home to the Air Beam Training Flight and Transport Conversion Unit, transferring to Technical Training Command in 1948 until closure in December 1962. Today the site is used for Agriculture and is home to the National Construction College.


April 1940 On the Move

1st January 1941 Detachments

February 1941 Patrols

12th Mar 1941 Night Ops

15th Jun 1941 Aircraft Lost

July 1941 Detachments

1st August 1941 Another Move

20th October 1941 Detachment

March 1943 Patrols

20th April 1943 Move

If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have served at

RAF Bircham Newton

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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Did you know? We also have a section on The Great War. and a Timecapsule to preserve stories from other conflicts for future generations.

Flight Sergeant Douglas Alfred Workman 521 Squadron

My father was Flight Sergeant Douglas Alfred Workman of No 521 Squadron, Bircham Newton between 1941-1945. My father past away in 1960, of cancer of the nose and throat, he was 38 years old, I was 9 years old at the time. We think it was caused by his flying in the war years. I remember my father telling me stories about flying in the war but not in too much detail. My mother sadly passed away recently and I am now in possession of his logbook and pictures. Can anyone please put me in touch with someone from my father's squadron or an association through which I can find out more information

Paul Workman

LACW Helen Fraser

I was born in the RAF hospital at Bircham Newton on 21st June 1944. My mother was LACW Helen Jane Fraser. I was taken to Downham Market for adoption.

Who could I contact for information regarding the birth and subsequent adoption? My mother has passed away and I have no information about my father. Where would the medical records be kept? I would appreciate any leads.

Sheila Thompson

John Gilmore 235 Squadron

I have just aquired a letter dated 28 Feb. 1941 from my mother to my father, John Gilmore, addressed B Flight. 235 Squadron, R.A.F.Station Bircham Newton, Norfolk. They were about to get married. I just wondered what my father did there - is there any way of finding out? Like most people in the war years they never spoke about it. I know he wasn't a flyer.

Trevor Gilmore

B Lesley Harding

Lesley Harding volunteered for the RAF soon after the war broke out in 1939. He did his Square Bashing etc at Uxbridge and when this was finished he was posted to Henlow to train as an Aircraft Electrician. When this training was finished he was posted to Bircham Newton in Norfolk to a Squadron of Blenheim Bombers.

Towards the end of 1940 the squadron moved to Limavaddy in Northern Ireland where it stayed until about May of 1941. Then without any Embarkation leave he was put on a convoy to Egypt via South Africa. Dad was possibly the worst sailor and suffered horribly from seasickness. The convoy put in at Capetown and stayed there for a few days to allow the troops to recover. When they set off again dad told me about the lady opera singer who used to stand on the dockside and sing to each convoy as they left the harbour. Hazel and I heard about this when we visited South Africa a couple of years ago.

Upon arrival in Egypt, Dad was posted to a Squadron of Wellington Bombers and moved up into the desert where the Eighth Army were fighting the Italian Army. Then the German Afrika Corps joined in the fighting and drove the British back to Torbruk. When the Eighth Army were strong enough they began to push the Germans back and a lot of the RAF Personnel, Dad included, were used as Army backup Troops. Then dad, and part of his Squadron, were posted to Malta. The Germans had cut Malta off from the Convoys supplying Food etc., living in starvation conditions. Then the Navy eventually managed to get though and things changed for the better. Dad went onto serve in Sicilly and Italy until the war ended. He finally arrived home about September 1945, and found his little brother serving in the Parachute Regiment.


W/OP. J. "Chick" Layfield 103 Squadron

Chick (John I think), was a member of the crew of Pilot "Bill" (Ralph William) Crich, at RAF Newton in 1940/1, possibly before. The same crew crashed on two of their sorties, one in Abergavenny Wales and the other, ditching in the North Sea in Feb 41 and floating in a Dinghy for 3 days. I am seeking his relatives.

Dani Miles

Sgt. G Chad 103 Squadron

G, (Geoff I think) was a member of the crew of pilot "Bill" (Ralph William) Crich, at RAF Newton in 1940/1, possibly before. The same crew crashed on two of their sorties, one in Abergavenny Wales and the other, ditching in the North Sea in Feb 41 and floating in a Dinghy for 3 days. I am seeking his relatives.

Dani Miles

Sgt. G. Arthur Farley 103 Squadron

Arthur Farley and his wife Joan were very special people and I am only sorry that I have not been able to trace the family whom I know lived near me and repeat our gratitude.

Arthur was a very unassuming hero of Bomber Command. His crew were based at RAF Newton. He also saved my father's life and enriched it. When they ditched a Wellington in the North Sea in Feb 1941, Arthur pulled my father out of the plane. He had a broken arm/collar bone, could not swim and was afraid of water! Arthur got him into the dinghy.

Arthur was later Commissioned. They were reunited in old age and Arthur and Joan were faithful visitors to my parents, isolated by mental and physical injuries of war. The family had connections with Havant, Hayling Island, Bedhampton and Fareham as well as Zimbabwe. Please get in touch if you read this.

Dani Miles

Thomas Michael Duffy 407 (Demon) Squadron (d.21st Jun 1942)

My great-uncle, Thomas Michael Duffy (aged 29), who was an Australian gunner serving with the RCAF 407 Squadron nicknamed 'Demon'. He was killed on the 21st of June 1942 when his plane was lost at sea presumed shot down. On the shipping raid with him were Pilot Officer Little, a Sergeant Bennett, and Sergeant Lloyd Lawrence Aikenhead (air observer), flying in a Lockheed Hudson FH 346 aircraft out of RAF Bircham Newton, Norfolk.

The bodies of Sergeants Aikenhead and Bennett were washed ashore on the East Frisian Islands. The bodies of Pilot Officer Little and my great-uncle have never been recovered. Last year I travelled to Holland and hoped to make it to the cemetery at Delfzijl where Sergeant Aikenhead is at rest to lay some flowers on his grave but I never made it. I'm very sorry I didn't.

Elise Pedley

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