Beccles Airport

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Beccles Airfield
Beccles Aerodrome
Beccles Airport in 2007.jpg
Airport type Private
Operator Rain Air
Location Beccles
Elevation AMSL 80 ft / 24 m
Coordinates 52°26′07″N 001°37′06″E / 52.43528°N 1.61833°E / 52.43528; 1.61833Coordinates: 52°26′07″N 001°37′06″E / 52.43528°N 1.61833°E / 52.43528; 1.61833
EGSM is located in Suffolk
Location in Suffolk
Direction Length Surface
m ft
09/27 696 2,283 Concrete/Grass
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[1]
Control Tower / Watch Office, RAF Beccles

Beccles Airfield, also known as Beccles Airport or Beccles Aerodrome (ICAO: EGSM), is located in Ellough, 2 NM (3.7 km; 2.3 mi) southeast of Beccles in the English county of Suffolk. Built during the second world war, it has operated as a heliport servicing the North Sea oil and gas industry and currently operates as a base for private flights, flight training and parachuting.

Beccles Aerodrome has a CAA Ordinary Licence (Number P837) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee (RainAir (Beccles) Limited). The aerodrome is not licensed for night use.[2] The current airstrip consists of around 450 metres of the original wartime concrete surface with 150 metres of grass airstrip.[3]

Origin and wartime use[edit]

Always known locally as Ellough Airfield, it was built for the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and completed in August 1942.[4] It used the three concrete runway layout typical of many bomber airfields in East Anglia, and was built for the 8th Air Force and allocated airfield number 132.[4] It is possible that Ellough was intended to be used by the 3d Air Division, 95th Combat Wing. The 95th had two Bombardment Groups, the 489th at RAF Halesworth and the 491st at RAF Metfield. Other combat wings had three Bomber Groups.

The airfield was the last to be completed in Suffolk during the war and the USAAF had no use for the airfield so it passed briefly to RAF Bomber Command before being operated by Coastal Command from August 1944.[4][5] The field was used as an air-sea rescue post until closure in 1945, and saw operation by various RAF and FAA squadrons operating such diverse types as Vickers Warwick, Fairey Barracuda, Supermarine Walrus, Fairey Swordfish, Supermarine Sea Otter and Fairey Albacore on air-sea rescue and anti-shipping duties.[4][6] The Fleet Air Arm used temporary lodging facilities at RAF Beccles under the stone frigate name HMS Hornbill II.[5]

One of Ellough's few claims to fame is that in 1943 it was used by de Havilland Mosquitos of 618 Squadron to practise dropping spinning bombs called 'Highball' which were a derivative of the bombs used by 617 Squadron to breach the dams. The use of 'Highball' is shown in the 1970 film Mosquito Squadron.[5][6] The wartime control tower was demolished in 2009.[6] The airfield was the most easterly wartime airfield in England.[4]


The site was used by different units:

Post-war use[edit]

After the war the airport remained dormant until 1965 when it became Beccles Heliport, serving North Sea oil and gas rigs.[4] Operation of the heliport was transferred to Norwich International Airport in the 1990s.[5] The airfield has been home to RainAir since 1997 when Rainer Forster transferred his flight training operations from Swanton Morley.[5] The airfield is the base for No. 28 (Suffolk) Civil Air Patrol Unit, a volunteer organisation which aims to aid the emergency services.[12] UK Parachuting carry out free-fall parachute training from the airfield,[13] Virage Helicopter Academy conduct Helicopter training and Mid Anglia Microlights carry out Microlight flying training in both 3-axis (fixed wing) and weightshift machines. Since early 2016 Skylark Radio Control Flyers have been authorised to fly their models at the airfield operating from the concrete runway 09/27 in close cooperation with Rain Air operations.

Other uses[edit]

Most of the runway have been broken up and much of the area of the airfield is now used for a variety of industrial uses.[4] Beccles printing company William Clowes Ltd. moved their main factory to the site in 2004.[14] Plastics company Promens operates a warehouse on the park which has the UK's largest solar roof installation with a generating capacity of 1.65MW.[15]

Other areas of the site are used for agricultural use and as a site for a farmers market.[16] A kart circuit, Ellough Park Raceway, also occupies part of the airfield site.



  1. ^ Beccles – EGSM
  2. ^ Civil Aviation Authority Aerodrome Ordinary Licences Archived 28 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ UK AIP – Beccles, NATS aeronautical information service. Retrieved 2011-06-25.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Beccles (Ellough) Airfield, Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 2011-06-25.
  5. ^ a b c d e History of Beccles (Ellough) Airfield
  6. ^ a b c Beccles (Ellough), Control Retrieved 2011-06-25.
  7. ^ "Beccles II (Ellough)". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 2016-01-07. 
  8. ^ a b c Jefford 1988, p. 83.
  9. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 101.
  10. ^ Sturtivant, Ballance 1994, p. 162.
  11. ^ Sturtivant, Ballance 1994, p. 230.
  12. ^ No. 28 (Suffolk) Civil Air Patrol Unit, RainAir (Beccles). Retrieved 2011-06-25.
  13. ^ History, UK Parachuting. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
  14. ^ Staff call for safe route to work, BBC news website, 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2011-06-25.
  15. ^ The UK’s largest solar roof installation launched at Promens in Beccles, Eastern Daily Press, 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
  16. ^ Beccles Farmers Market


  • Bowyer, MJF. (2000) Action Stations Revisited, Crecy
  • Jefford MBE, Wg Cdr C G (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6. 
  • Smith, G. (1995) Suffolk Airfields in the Second World, Countryside Books
  • Sturtivant, R; Ballance, T (1994). The Squadrons of The Fleet Air Arm. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-223-8. 

External links[edit]