WWII ground-to-air training dome
|Type||Royal Air Force station|
|Controlled by||Royal Air Force|
|Battles/wars||Second World War, Cold War|
|Garrison||RAF Coastal Command|
Royal Air Force Langham or more simply RAF Langham is a former Royal Air Force station, located 27.2 miles (43.8 km) northwest of Norwich, Norfolk, England, from 1940 to 1961. The airfield was the most northerly of the Norfolk wartime RAF airfields and its position, being just 3.3 miles (5.3 km) from the North sea at Blakeney. made it a desirable location to be used by Coastal Command which had come into prominence since the outbreak of the Second World War.
The airfield was originally laid out with three grass runways when it opened as a satellite station for RAF Bircham Newton in 1940. The station became fully self-supporting in 1942, when it was upgraded with three concrete runways (tar-covered), 3 T2 type and 4 Blister hangars, encircling perimeter track and 36 spectacle-shape hardstandings, plus a Type 12779/41 control tower and normal Mk 2 approach lighting for night operations.
Primarily used by Coastal Command of the RAF throughout hostilities it was placed on Care and Maintenance in 1947, but reactivated during the Korean War. It was later used as an emergency landing strip for RAF Sculthorpe, before final closure in 1961.
Several types of aircraft were based Langham, including:
- Hawker Henley
- Fairey Swordfish
- Bristol Beaufighter
- Vickers Wellington
- Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
- de Havilland Mosquito
- de Havilland Vampire FB5, and FB9.
- No. 455 Squadron RAAF
- No. 489 Squadron RNZAF
- No. 524 Squadron RAF
- No. 521 Squadron RAF
- No. 612 Squadron RAF
- No. 2 Anti-Aircraft Practice Camp (AAPC)
Station operations and events
On 2 October 1944 six Beaufighters of Coastal Command took off from Langham to carry out a night patrol along the Frisian Islands of 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 and he was Flight Sergeant Donald Kennedy. Close to the 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 took to their rescue dinghy.
After several abortive rescue attempts the airmen were finally rescued by High Speed Launch 2679, stationed at Gorleston-on-Sea, on 10 October after being in the sea for eight days. When the Skipper of the launch, Flying Officer David Ross, 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.
A small aircraft repair and maintenance facility is based in buildings to the south side of the airfield, and uses the southern perimeter track and adjacent grass area for flying operations.
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. The others are at Pembrey, Limavady, Mildenhall, Wyton and Shoreham. Film of enemy planes was projected onto its walls for target practice.
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.
- Smith, Graham (2007). Norfolk Airfields in the Second World War. Section 17 – Langham – Reference to location, usage and operational timeline. Countryside Books. p. 143. ISBN 9781853063206.
- Smith, Graham (2007). Norfolk Airfields in the Second World War. Section 17 – Langham – Reference to the No 1 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Units Hawker Henleys. Countryside Books. p. 143. ISBN 9781853063206.
- Pitchfork, Graham (2005). Shot Down and in the Drink. Description of the mission and the rescue of Mann and Kennedy. The National Archives – UK. p. 168 to 171. ISBN 9781903365878.
- "Supplement to the London Gazette, 2 May 1945" (PDF). Annocment of DFC for D Mann. Bad Penny Books. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
- Turkey sheds on runway at Langham
- Views of Langham airfield[permanent dead link]
- "Airfield Information Exchange". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
- "WW2 Langham training dome restoration complete". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
- "BBC One - The Dome: A Secret of World War Two". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
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