RAF Langham

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RAF Langham
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Langham, Norfolk in England
DSC 0336-langham-dome.JPG
WWII ground-to-air training dome
RAF Langham is located in Norfolk
RAF Langham
RAF Langham
Location within Norfolk
Coordinates52°56′17″N 0°57′29″E / 52.938°N 0.958°E / 52.938; 0.958Coordinates: 52°56′17″N 0°57′29″E / 52.938°N 0.958°E / 52.938; 0.958
Site information
OwnerAir Ministry
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byRAF Coastal Command
Site history
Built1940 (1940)
In use1940-1961 (1961)
Airfield information
Direction Length and surface
00/00 1,800 metres (5,906 ft) Concrete
00/00 1,250 metres (4,101 ft) Concrete
00/00 1,250 metres (4,101 ft) Concrete

Royal Air Force Langham or more simply RAF Langham is a former Royal Air Force station, located at Langham, 27.2 miles (43.8 km) northwest of Norwich in the English county of Norfolk. It operated between 1940 and 1961. The airfield was the most northerly of the wartime RAF airfields in Norfolk and its position, just 3.3 miles (5.3 km) from the North Sea at Blakeney,[1] made it a suitable site for RAF Coastal Command aircraft.[1]

The airfield was built during the first few months of the Second World War as a dispersal and satellite station to RAF Bircham Newton. It became operational in the summer of 1940.[1]


The airfield was originally laid out with three grass runways. The station became fully self-supporting in 1942, when it was upgraded with three concrete runways (tar-covered), three T2 type and four Blister hangars, an 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 RAF Coastal Command throughout the war, 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:

Based units[edit]

The following units were based at Langham:[3]

Notable operations and events[edit]

On 2 October 1944[4] six Bristol Beaufighter 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 with English navigator Flight Sergeant Donald Kennedy. Close to the island of Borkum the plane attacked a convoy, but in poor visibility struck an unknown obstacle causing Mann to lose control. The convoy’s escort 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,[4] stationed at Gorleston-on-Sea, on 10 October[4] after being in the sea for eight days. Both men suffered from acute hypothermia and immersion foot. They were taken to Great Yarmouth Naval Hospital, eventually making a full recovery. Mann returned to 489 Squadron and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[4][5]

Current use[edit]

The station was purchased by Bernard Matthews Ltd, who constructed turkey sheds on the runways. This has preserved large sections of the runways.[6]

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.[7] Langham Dome, which sits on the edge of the former base, is one of only six remaining training domes in the United Kingdom and was built in 1942.[8] Film of enemy planes was projected onto its walls for target practice. The structure has been restored and a museum installed following grants from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.[9] 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.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 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.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Langham". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d 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.
  5. ^ "Supplement to the London Gazette, 2 May 1945" (PDF). Annocment of DFC for D Mann. Bad Penny Books. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  6. ^ Turkey sheds on runway at Langham
  7. ^ Views of Langham airfield[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Airfield Information Exchange". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  9. ^ "WW2 Langham training dome restoration complete". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  10. ^ "BBC One - The Dome: A Secret of World War Two". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 17 May 2015.

External links[edit]