Monument record HNN 017 - RAF Honington

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WWII airfield, opened 1937, handed over to USAF in 1942, returned to RAF in 1946, see details.


Grid reference Centred TL 8866 7535 (3547m by 2806m)
Map sheet TL87NE


Type and Period (4)

Full Description

RAF Honington opened on 3 May 1937 as one of six operational airfields within No 3 Group Bomber Command. The Station housed in turn Nos 77,102,215 and 1X Squadrons who flew Audaxes, Harts, Heyfords, Wellesleys, Harrows and Wellingtons for varying periods until the outbreak of the second world war. By then all but No 1X Squadron had been redeployed and they took part in one of the first bombing raids of the war when they attacked the German fleet at Brunbuttel. Between 1940 and 1942 the station also supported No 311(Czech) Squadron, Flying Wellingtons and Anions, No 103 Squadron flying Battles and No 105 Squadron flying Battles then Blenheims. Additionally No 214 Squadron, with the Wellington, operated from the Station during 1942 and three Beam Approach Training Flights, instructing Pilots in the use of blind landing equipment, were also based here (S1).

A military airfield, opened in 1937, which played a significant role during World War II. It was constructed as a permanent station during the Royal Air Force's pre-war "Expansion period", beginning in 1935. Initially it was a grass airfield with four Type C aircraft hangars to the south of the flying field, with the permanent domestic buildings, built of brick and timber, adjacent to these. Wellington bombers of 9 Squadron from Honington took part in the first British bombing raid of the war of 4th September 1939. This was an attack on German warships at Brunsbuettel. In 1942 the airfield was handed to the United States Army 8th Air Force, who first used the airfield as a depot for overhauling bomber aircraft. Honington was designated as Station 375 by the Americans. In 1943 the airfield was modified with the addition of a steel track runway. In 1944 the role of the base changed as American fighters of 346th Group were stationed here. The airfield remained in American hands until 1946. After this date the airfield returned to Royal Air Force control and was used for a number of purposes. The flying field was redeveloped between 1950-1956 with a 9000-foot concrete runway being built. Between 1956 and 1965 Honington became a major base for the so called "V"-Bomber Force. This was the bomber element in Britain's nuclear deterrent. In the early 1980s hardened aircraft shelters were added. The base is still a Royal Air Force military airfield and is also used as a Nuclear Biological and Chemical warfare training site for all three armed services (S3).

1937-1942: The Luftwaffe made sixteen recorded attacks on the Station, mainly during the Battle of Britain. 'E' Hangar was hit twice by bombs and a Junkers 88 was shot down near 'D' Hanger by ground fire; the soldier responsible was initially reprimanded for firing without orders but later decorated. Twenty-four airmen were seriously injured, Eight fatally as they crossed the old parade ground on their way to the Mess during the First two surprise attacks on 19 August 1940. The North-west wing of Barrack Block 76 received a direct hit on the second attack later that evening, killing several airmen; the wing was reconstructed in 1988. Wartime damage is still visible in some of the hangers with the absence of roof spars and strafing damage can still be seen on the walls of the Airmans' Mess and on the shelter railings outside. Station personnel received many wartime awards and decorations and the then station commander and senior medical officer were awarded George Medals for rescuing aircrew from a burning Wellington, which had crashed into the main bomb dump (S1).

1942-1946: In late 1942 the station was handed over to the United States 8th Army Air Force and the Advanced Air Depot No1 was set up to repair and modify the B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 3rd Bomber Division. In 1943 the Unit was renamed the 1st Strategic Air Depot and they moved most of their facilities to the Troston site, an area extending between Rymer Point and the present Air Traffic Control Tower. The airfield was enlarged in preparation for the arrival of the 36th Fighter Group (383rd, 384th & 385th Fighter Squadron and later the 1st Scouting Force) in 1944. The Group initially flew the lightning but were quickly re-equipped with the Mustang and they achieved notable success in their role as a fighter escort to the bombers. They also took part in strafing and dive bombing missions and they played an important part in the battle of the Bulge and the assault across the Rhine in 1945. They earned distinguished Unit citation escorting a bombing raid over Hamburg and flew their last mission on 25 April 1945 after completing 342 missions and destroying 449 aircraft against 143 losses. Before the Americans left, several large pits were excavated near the woods opposite Crash Gate 2, and filled with great quantities of equipment, ranging from broken aircraft to small technical and domestic items. Honington was the last American wartime base in England to be returned to the RAF in February 1946 (S1)

RAF Honington was adapted in the 1950's to hold nuclear weapons and this was part of a country wide operation to upgrade the nuclear stores that were currently in use to two new types (S2).

Sources/Archives (5)

  • --- Bibliographic reference: Smith, G.. 1995. Suffolk Airfields in the 2nd World War.
  • --- Monograph: Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum. 1993. Airfields and Airstrips of Norfolk and Suffolk, 3rd ed.
  • <S1> Machine readable data file: Website.
  • <S2> Machine readable data file: Website.
  • <S3> Index: English Heritage. Pastscape.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

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Record last edited

Feb 28 2020 6:06PM

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