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After an original idea by Paul Freeman.
First published 7 Nov 2010. This collection of airfields is © 2010 - 2018 RonaldV
uk

Langham

28-01-2018


169

52°56'23"N 000°57'43"E

Runway: 02/20 - ...x...m/1,400 yards - concrete/asphalt
Runway: 07/25 - ...x...m/1,988 yards - concrete/asphalt
Runway: 13/31 - ...x...m/1,400 yards - concrete/asphalt

Langham airfield (RAF Langham) was an airfield 175 kilometer north-northeast of London.
It was open from 1940 to 1961. The airfield was the most northerly of Norfolk wartime RAF airfields and its position just 5.3 km from the North Sea made it a desirable location to be used by Coastal Command, whose 16 Group became the airfields main user. The base was initially built as a dispersal and satellite station to RAF Bircham Newton during the first few months of the war and it became operational in the summer of 1940. When it opened, it had three grass runways. It did not have any official resident units until 1941, so it saw little operational action. Langham was initially used as a gunnery training airfield, towing targets for gunnery practice at nearby Stiffkey, a few miles to the north. This is perhaps Langham’s most famous role and the one that many people associate with Langham. In 1941, the Polish and Czech 300 and 311 squadrons used it as a forward operating base. 
The station became a full station when it was upgraded with three concrete (asphalt-covered) runways, 3 T2 hangars (one to the north-west and two the south-east) and 4 blister hangars. The perimeter track held 36 loop-type aircraft parkings. The airfield had a Type 12779/41 control tower ('watch office') and approach lighting for night operations.
The first operational units arrived in April 1944, with Beaufighters of 455 (Australian) and 489 (New Zealand) squadrons of the Beaufighter Strike Wing. In August, 521 Sqn moved from their base at RAF Docking to Langham to carry out its role of meteorological reconnaissance. Operating with Lockheed Hudsons, they would soon be upgraded to much larger Boeing B-17s, which were adapted for these special duties. Other coastal command roles such as air-sea rescue were also carried out from Langham and a range of aircraft types would operate from here for the duration.
On 2 October 1944, six Beaufighters of Coastal Command took off from Langham to carry out a night patrol along the Frisian Islands off the coast of the Netherlands. Their task was to randomly attack any enemy shipping encountered there. One of the aircraft (NT 909) was piloted by New Zealander Warrant Officer Douglas Mann. His navigator was English Flight Sergeant Donald Kennedy. Close to the German island of Borkum the plane went into an attack on a convoy, but in poor visibility the plane struck an unknown obstacle causing Mann to lose control. The Convoy’s flak ships opened fire on the stricken plane shooting it down and, after some difficulty, Mann and Kennedy managed to climb into their rescue dinghy. After several failed rescue attempts, the airmen were finally rescued on 10 October by High Speed Launch 2679 from Gorleston-on-Sea, after having been in the sea for eight days. When the crew of the launch located them and pulled them aboard, the men were both suffering from acute hypothermia and immersion foot. They were taken to Great Yarmouth Naval Hospital, were both men made a full recovery. Douglas Mann was eventually returned to 489 Squadron and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

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Beaufighter TF Mark X, NE798, of No. 455 Squadron RAAF, in its dispersal at Langham, Norfolk, carrying two 500-lb MC bombs on a centreline attachment under the fuselage (© IWM (MH 6451))

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The airfield and supporting sites during the use of the Royal Netherlands Air Force in 1946
 
After the war was over, Langham was used by the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Air Service of the Royal Netherlands Navy as a Technical Training School, until June 1947 when it was vacated and then finally put into care and maintenance in September. but it was reactivated during the Korean War between March 1953 and November 1958. During this time, it became a target towing site once more, pulling targets for No. 2 Civilian Anti-Aircraft Cooperation Unit. It was later used as an emergency landing strip for RAF Sculthorpe, before final closure in 1961.
The station was purchased by one Bernard Matthews, who constructed turkey sheds on the runways. The turkey farm is now operated by another farmer, but the construction of the sheds has preserved large sections of the runways.

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The Watch Office as seen from the public road that bisects the former airfield in the summer of 1973 (Peter Kirk, via AirfieldResearchGroup)


Surviving buildings on the site include the control tower and a dome trainer building used for the instruction of ground-to-air anti-aircraft gunnery. Langham Dome, which sits on the edge of the former base, is one of only six remaining training domes in the country and was built in 1942. Film of enemy planes were projected onto its walls for target practise. The concrete structure has been restored and a museum has been installed following grants from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund. On 17 May 2015 a documentary about the dome, entitled The Dome: A Secret of World War II, narrated by Stephen Fry, was broadcast by BBC One. Also in 2015, the owner of the airfield decided that 50 percent of the remaining concrete taxitracks and runways was to be dug up. The work began that same summer. 
A small aircraft repair and maintenance facility is based in buildings on the south side of the airfield, and uses the southern perimeter track and adjacent grass area for flying operations.

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The control tower in 2009 (Panoramio)

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The control tower, photographed in 2011 by Richard Flagg



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