'Ludham Airfield 1941 to 1946': William Buck

Tuesday 21st September 2021

It was a balmy evening when we welcomed 24 MLHG members into the Methodist Church for the AGM.  This was our first face-to-face indoor meeting after eighteen months of the Covid pandemic. Tenuously, Pat showed those attending to their seats, socially distanced of course.  Noel opened the evening with a welcome, and the usual array of reports and business followed. Ann gave us a briefing on the progress of the 2022 programme, after which we had a short break. 


Our speaker, William Buck, then gave a most interesting illustrated history of Ludham Airfield.  The land once belonged to Fritton Farm.  Following the end of WW1 the Government initiated grants to approved projects providing work for those returning from the war. Norfolk County Council purchased the farm; it was split into smallholdings which continued until the outbreak of the 2nd World War.


The Air Ministry took control of the area and it became operational in 1941 becoming a second satellite for the main fighter station at RAF Coltishall, having three concrete runways built with ancillary buildings.  A total of ten fighter Squadrons were based here between 1941-1946.  At any one time 1,600 personnel could be billeted at the base but it was generally a lot less.


King George the V1 and Queen Elizabeth visited Ludham Airfield in January 1943 and witnessed a sortie by 167 Squadron whose Spitfires were sent to intercept a German air force plane that was harassing shipping off the East Coast. The King and Queen were reported to have been impressed.


Martham experienced an air attack by a German Focke-Wulf 190. These small single-seater aircraft were widely used and were capable of out manoeuvring our own Spitfires. It was this type of aircraft which in 1943 flew over the coast at Great Yarmouth killing 26 ATS girls billeted at Sefton House, now Burlington Court Hotel.


We listened with interest to some of the personal stories of these brave young men. One famous pilot, Raymond Baxter, Television presenter and writer, served with 602 Squadron and was billeted at Ludham.


In 1944 Ludham was commissioned as HMS Flycatcher having been transferred to the Admiralty and the site was occupied by the Mobile Naval Airfields organization primarily used for the service of aircraft.


The site is a history of brave young men defending our country in a time of war. There are too many individual stories to tell here, of landing damaged planes and walking away with little injury to fly again, or of flying into action never to return.


Janet Edwards

If you want to know more, perhaps the best summary has been written down from local memory by Mike Fuller who was aged between 8 and 15 when the airfield was most active and it can be found on the Ludham Archive web page: http://www.ludhamarchive.org.uk/Booklets/airfield1.pdf

Watch/Control towers

Above: the Watch (Control) Towers (from John Allan, https://www.controltowers.co.uk/L/Ludham.htm)
Below: plan of the airfield in 1940 (from Royal Navy Research Archive, https://www.abct.org.uk/airfields/airfieldfinder/ludham/)

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