Skip to main content
Edit entry 

Marks Hall

Military site : non-airfield

Marks Hall estate was requisitioned in 1941 for the construction of Earls Colne airfield (USAAF Station 358).

The mansion itself became a separate HQ facility for US Eighth and, later, Ninth Air Force units from December 1942; and for the RAF's 38 Group from September 1944 until May 1946.

It was demolished in 1950, having suffered the loss of most of its interior wooden features after the war.

Detailed history

Marks Hall, a Jacobean mansion between Colchester and Braintree in Essex, served as a wing-level and command-level HQ for the US Eighth and Ninth Air Forces between December 1942 and September 1944.

Part of its estate’s deer park had been requisitioned in 1941 to build Earls Colne airfield, which came under USAAF control as Station 358 in the spring of 1943.

The mansion (USAAF Station 160), along with its immediate grounds, was selected in 1942 as headquarters for the 4th Bombardment Wing (4BW), one of five such supervisory units the Eighth Air Force planned to bring to the UK.

The other four initial wing HQs were Brampton Grange (1BW) near Huntingdon; Ketteringham Hall (2BW) near Norwich; Elveden Hall (3BW) near Thetford; and Stisted Hall (5BW), which was just a few miles west of Marks Hall. In the event, the 5th Bomb Wing did not join the Eighth Air Force and was diverted to the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa.

The 4BW, under Brig Gen Frederick L Anderson, began missions with B-17 bombers in May 1943. Its early constituent ‘heavy’ bomb groups (BGs) included the 94th at Earls Colne, the 96th at Andrews Field (Gt Saling), the 100th at Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk and the 390th at Parham, near Framlingham, Suffolk. The following month the wing and its groups swapped bases with the 3rd Bombardment Wing (3BW), whose headquarters moved to Marks Hall from Elveden Hall, Suffolk.

Taking over airfields in Essex for its nascent force of B-26 Marauder ‘medium’ bombers, the 3BW began flying in tactical roles at altitudes around 12,000ft – half the height of the B-17s and B-24s – from July 1943. Earlier attacks at even lower altitudes (on targets in Holland) had incurred heavy losses among Marauders of the wing's 322nd Bomb Group.

That autumn the 3BW was absorbed into the US Ninth Air Force which, newly arrived from North Africa, now oversaw tactical bombing missions in France and the Low Countries in preparation for the Allied invasion planned for 1944.

Under this reorganisation, Marks Hall became the headquarters of the Ninth Air Force's IX Bomber Command (IX BC) on October 16th 1943, led by Maj General Samuel E Anderson.

It would eventually control 25,000 personnel in 11 bomb groups at airfields across Essex (including three equipped with A-20 ‘light’ bombers) by D-Day, June 6th 1944.

Around 1,000 personnel, including some 120 US Women’s Army Corps members (WACs), were serving at Marks Hall by D-Day.

The facility was unique among such HQ units in being co-located with an operational airfield (Earls Colne; 323rd Bomb Group), although they functioned independently.

Marks Hall also hosted a detachment of the USAAF's 4th Combat Camera Unit, whose output included most of the extant film footage of IX BC missions available today online.

In addition, IX BC's public relations units at Marks Hall facilitated noted US journalists' inclusion on bombing missions – among whom were Walter Cronkite and Ernie Pyle.

General Anderson and his team moved to Chartres in France in September 1944 – IX BC then being redesignated as the 9th Bombardment Division.

In October, Marks Hall became headquarters of the RAF’s 38 Group, which controlled Halifax and Stirling squadrons supporting army and Special Operations Executive (SOE) operations. Its aircraft also towed troops in gliders across the Rhine as part of Operation Varsity on March 24th, 1945.

The mansion was demolished in 1950, but today Marks Hall Estate’s gardens and arboretum attracts thousands of visitors annually. The 200-acre site includes a memorial to the units that served at the adjacent Earls Colne airfield.

English Heritage's record description

Not yet known

Service

Units

People

  • Jack Arnold

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Bombardier B-26 Marauder | 323rd Bomb Group
    Jack T. Arnold, born December 7, 1921 in Dupo, Illinois. Graduated from East High in East St. Louis, Illinois, received a first alternate appointment to West Point and enlisted in the U.S. Army Infantry. Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he...

  • Frank Burgmeier

    Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator - B-26 Marauder | 323rd Bomb Group
    Lt. Burgmeier grew up in Upstate New York. He married his wife, Tedi, in July 1943, just days before he left for his tour of duty as a navigator for the 323rd Bombardment Group. He kept a diary, which has been invaluable to historians studying the...

  • William Collins

    Military | B-26 Marauder Pilot | 323rd Bomb Group
    Mentioning Chief Collins to any member of the 456th BS elicited an immediate smile and chuckles. "He was a character!" according to, it seems, everyone. Hands down, Chief Collins is one of the most endearing members of the 456th. He combined a sense...

  • Patricia Dog

    Military | Private First Class | Flight Surgeon/Pet | 323rd Bomb Group

  • Lawrence Dorsey

    Military | Pilot | 323rd Bomb Group
    Lawrence was from Houston, Texas, a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Petroleum Engineering. He was best man in Lt. Foster's wedding. He later worked for Brown & Root (Houston) as a mechanical engineer, later to become...

  • Walter Foster

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Bombardier | 323rd Bomb Group
    Lt. Walt Foster was a navigator and bombardier from Upstate New York who served with the 456th BS during the Second World War. His first combat mission was flown from Earls Colne Airfield on February 3, 1944 to the Ruisseville "No Balls” secret weapon...

  • Trey Great Dane

    Military | Flight Surgeon/Pet | 323rd Bomb Group
    See Marauder Men, Maj. Gen. John O. Minch (USAF Ret.)

  • Emanuel Hauser

    Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Crew Chief/Flight Engineer | 323rd Bomb Group

  • John Moench

    Military | Major General | Pilot B-26 Marauder | 323rd Bomb Group
    Born on August 4, 1921 in Chicago, Illinois to Laura May and Ferdinand Carl Moench, Sr., John was a product of the Great Depression. He was raised on the south side of Chicago and then on a rural Indiana farm. He graduated from Valparaiso High School...

  • Hildegarde Molnar

    Military | Staff Sergeant | WAC
    WAC Staff Sergeant Hildegarde Molnar, from California, was a court-martial stenographer with IX BC's Judge Advocate General's team -which could sentence US servicemen to two years' detention for simply being found asleep on duty. Her wartime diary,...

Show more

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
13 June 2019 10:18:45 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Clarifications

Date Contributor Update
13 June 2019 10:15:39 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Clarifications added

Date Contributor Update
29 March 2017 10:29:33 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Corrected factual error

Date Contributor Update
10 March 2017 09:22:11 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Amended Bombt Divs' function.

Date Contributor Update
24 February 2017 20:33:30 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Punctuation change

Date Contributor Update
16 February 2017 19:21:34 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Dates amended

Date Contributor Update
16 February 2017 19:20:26 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Dates amended

Date Contributor Update
16 February 2017 19:17:34 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Dates corrected

Date Contributor Update
16 February 2017 19:14:44 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Amended punctuation

Date Contributor Update
16 February 2017 19:13:34 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Amended punctuation

Date Contributor Update
16 February 2017 19:12:23 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Added Frederick Anderson details.

Date Contributor Update
08 January 2017 11:18:43 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Added 4 CCU and IX BC PR functions (from Marks Hall archives)

Date Contributor Update
05 January 2017 16:06:50 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Amended nomenclature

Date Contributor Update
05 January 2017 16:03:18 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Amended nomenclature

Date Contributor Update
05 January 2017 16:01:24 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Amended nomenclature

Date Contributor Update
05 January 2017 15:55:45 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Amended nomenclature

Date Contributor Update
05 January 2017 15:46:02 SavvyGA Changes to description and history
Sources

Corrected nomenclature

Date Contributor Update
01 January 2017 14:31:10 SavvyGA Changes to description
Sources

Added RAF 38 Group to summary section (from RAF records).

Date Contributor Update
01 January 2017 14:03:57 SavvyGA Changes to description
Sources

Addendum

Date Contributor Update
01 January 2017 13:44:10 SavvyGA Changes to description
Sources

Estate requisition date added

Date Contributor Update
29 December 2016 16:11:53 SavvyGA Changes to description
Sources

Additional details on the mansion's demolition.

Date Contributor Update
29 December 2016 16:10:09 SavvyGA Changes to description
Sources

Additional information on Marks Hall mansion.

Date Contributor Update
10 December 2016 17:43:37 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Punctuation edit

Date Contributor Update
10 December 2016 15:48:00 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Punctuation edit

Date Contributor Update
10 December 2016 15:40:43 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

The Mighty Eighth (Roger Freeman) 1970

Date Contributor Update
10 December 2016 15:28:35 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

Air Force Combat Units of World War II (Maurer/US Air Force 1983);
US Air Force Archives, Alabama

Date Contributor Update
10 December 2016 15:17:42 SavvyGA Changes to closure date
Sources

Marks Hall archives

Date Contributor Update
09 December 2016 15:04:19 SavvyGA Changes to usaaf from date and usaaf to date
Sources

Air Force Combat Units of World War II (Maurer/US Air Force 1983)

Date Contributor Update
09 December 2016 14:57:06 SavvyGA Changes to history
Sources

The Mighty Eighth, Roger Freeman, 1970

Date Contributor Update
29 September 2015 08:43:21 Carl Changes to history
Sources

US Air Force Historical Research Agency archives (ref EO 11652)
Mighty Eighth War Manual (Roger A Freeman)
Air Force Combat Units of World War II (Maurer/US Air Force 1983)
Army Air Forces in WWII, Vol. II (Air Historical Group, USAF)
Eighth Air Force Historical Society (8thafhs.org)
Marks Hall Estate archives (markshall.org.uk)
Pathé News film archive (britishpathe.com)

Date Contributor Update
24 July 2015 14:54:15 Lucy May Changes to media associations
Sources

Associated images to the entry from the identification given in their captions.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:02:17 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Barry Anderson, Army Air Forces Stations (Alabama, 1985) / Office of History, Headquarters Third Air Force, United States Air Forces in Europe; Installations and USAAF Combat Units in the United Kingdom 1942-1945, Revised and Expanded Edition (February 1967, Revised October 1980).
http://www.markshall.org.uk/

Share