Monument record MRM 083 - Martlesham Heath Airfield; Foxhall Heath.

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The First and Second World War airfield (with later cold war use) at Martlesham Heath, is visible on aerial photographs of Second World War date. Parts are probably of national importance.


Grid reference Centred TM 2430 4519 (4937m by 2341m)
Map sheet TM24NW


Type and Period (5)

Full Description

First and second world war airfield. Details see (S1-4). Situated south of the A12 trunk road, three miles NE of Ipswich. Martlesham was used as an experimental base by the RFC and for the 37 squadron. It is Suffolk's oldest airfield, being made on 16th January 1917. Early plans of the airfield (1920s-1930s?) from the RAF Museum, London are in the archive store.
It is only 8 miles from the coast and was for that reason used as a fighter station for No 11 Group Fighters. It was basically used as a satellite or advanced landing ground for 2 senior airfields. American and British fighters used the base. It was later used as a light bomber airfield late in 1938. Aircraft flown included light bombers, fighters, Hawker Hurricanes, Hurricanes, Spitfires, Mark 1's, PSI's. At the outbreak of War the establishment moved away to a more secure position at Boscombe down where it has remained to the present time (S4).

The airfield was attacked on the 15th august 1940 destroying hangars and causing large craters in the runway. The airfield closed in 1963. The site is developed although some roads still bear RAF names. Hangars and the Watch house have survived and a memorial still stands. The control tower, a C type hangar and barracks are all considered worthy of preservation (S5).

Unable to precisely define area of airfield due to modern housing estate.

The first and Second World War airfield at Martlesham Heath is visible on aerial photographs taken during and immediately following the Second World War, to the north-east of Ipswich, centred on circa TM 243 451. The airbase structures and defences visible on the photographs are too numerous and extensive to sensibly record from the aerial photographs, but include those described above and also the anti-aircraft and anti-invasion defences built during the Second World War, such as pillboxes, Light Anti-aircraft Artillery gunpits, slit trenches and barbed wire obstructions. The probable boundary of the base has been transcribed and covers and area of approximately 490 hectares (almost 5 square kilometres) (S6 -S9).

A 1930s period Operations Room, a "T" shaped building, with Art Deco features and surrounded by a blast wall, built over by the American Forces in the cold war period, is partly preserved within the Ex Foxhall WT Station. It is intended to set up a small Heritage Centre within the station. See (S10).
The US Autovon Telephone Exchange (TM223443) at Martlesham Heath is abandoned. Much remains including both of the generators, aerial masts and various items of electrical plant.Created by the US Department of Defence the AUTOmatic VOice Network was built to provide rapid world wide command and communication, it was a secure system with the use of secure phone calls and was a major and integral part of the Defence Communications System (DCS) during the Cold War Period. Rare survival? Visited in 1999, now secured and sealed. Details in (S11, copy in parish file).
For copies of original (2ndWW) plans with building lists see parish file and hanging cabinet).

A military airfield, used in both World Wars and post-war to 1963. The airfield was initially opened in 1917 as the base for the Aeroplane Experimental Unit. In 1922 a fire damaged part of the technical buildings and the airfield was subsequently rebuilt. In the interwar years both civil and military aircraft were tested. Early in the Second World War the war the test function was moved to a safer site and the airfield was used for intercepting enemy aircraft over the sea with fighter aircraft (including 17, 29, 504, 85 and 151 squadrons). It was also used by squadrons of 11 Group during the Battle of Britain. In 1943 the site was redeveloped for use by the 356th Fighter Group of the United States 8th Army Air Force as Station 369. This included hard surface runways being laid down. The redeveloped site included a control tower on the west side (now housing a museum opened in 2000- please see TM 24 NW 74 for details) with an ammunition dump and fuel store to the south of the flying field. The pre-war RAF camp and 1917 hangars were on the north-east side. Opposite this to the south of the main runway were technical buildings around a main square. Post-war some of the experimental functions of the airfield were resumed. The main runway was extended further. Part of the experimental work for Britain's nuclear deterrent was carried out here. The RAF left the site in 1963, since then the airfield has been mainly used for commercial industrial purposes and has been mainly built over (S12).

2008: An assessment of aerial photographs identified the presence of military structures in the southeast of the study area. These were interpreted as airfield defences aor trench shelters all probably of WW2 date. (S13)

Sources/Archives (12)

  • <S1> Bibliographic reference: Miscellaneous Bibliographic reference. Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum Publication - Airfields and Airstrips in Norfolk and Suffolk.'93.
  • <S2> Bibliographic reference: Smith, G.. 1995. Suffolk Airfields in the 2nd World War.
  • <S3> Bibliographic reference: Freeman, Roger A. 1978. Airfields of the Eighth - Then and Now.
  • <S5> Bibliographic reference: Email. Cuthbert, M. email to Pendleton, C. (SCCAS). 27/10/04.
  • <S6> Photograph: RAF. Air Photograph. RAF 106G/LA/34 3054-6 15-AUG-1944.
  • <S7> Photograph: RAF. Air Photograph. RAF 106G/LA/22 4050-2 06-JUL-1944.
  • <S8> Photograph: RAF. Air Photograph. RAF 106G/UK/1635 2327-9 09-JUL-1946.
  • <S9> Photograph: RAF. Air Photograph. RAF 58/80 PART 1 5019-23 28-JUL-1948.
  • <S10> Bibliographic reference: Email. Atkinson M (Hon Sec, Suffolk Aviation Heritage Gp), to Colin Pendleton, 12 March 2010.
  • <S11> Machine readable data file: Website.
  • <S12> Index: English Heritage. Pastscape.
  • <S13> Unpublished document: Palmer, R.. 2008. Adastral Park, Martlesham Heath, Area centred TM258448.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Nov 8 2022 4:36PM

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