Marks Hall

Military site

Object Number - UPL 14572 - Marks Hall house with huts around the house. Used by Earls Colne airfield.

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

However, it never served as the airfield's headquarters, as is sometimes suggested, but operated as a discrete HQ facility for higher echelons of the US Eighth and, later, Ninth Air Forces 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.

Connections

See how this entry relates to other items in the archive by exploring the connections below.

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 (known as 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 original Wing HQs were Brampton Grange (1BW) near Huntingdon; Old Catton (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, with Stisted Hall transferring to British military control.]

The 4th Bomb Wing, under Brig Gen Frederick L Anderson, began missions with B-17 'heavy' bombers in May 1943. Its early constituent bomb groups (BGs) included the 94th at Earls Colne, the 95th at Horham, 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 HQ then moved into Marks Hall from Elveden Hall, Suffolk.

Taking over existing and new 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 US Ninth Air Force's IX Bomber Command on October 16th 1943, led by Maj General Samuel E Anderson. Construction of additional hutted facilities (including messes, a dispensary and extra accommodation) was completed by a US Corps of Engineers unit by early 1944.

Marks Hall would eventually control more than 25,000 personnel at 11 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 the site by D-Day.

The facility was unusual 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 much of the extant film footage of IX BC missions available today online.

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

Gen Samuel Anderson and his HQ team moved to Chartres in France in September 1944 – when IX BC was redesignated as the 9th Bombardment Division.

In October, Marks Hall became headquarters of the Royal Air Force's No 38 Group, which controlled Halifax and Stirling squadrons, based at Essex and Suffolk airfields, in support of army and clandestine Special Operations Executive (SOE) missions.

No 38 Group's squadrons 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 attract thousands of visitors annually. The 200-acre site includes a memorial to the units that served at the adjacent Earls Colne airfield.

People

  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 323rd Bomb Group 456th Bomb Squadron
  • Highest Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
  • Role/Job: Bombardier B-26 Marauder
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 323rd Bomb Group 456th Bomb Squadron
  • Highest Rank: First Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Navigator - B-26 Marauder
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 323rd Bomb Group 456th Bomb Squadron
  • Role/Job: B-26 Marauder Pilot
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Unit: 323rd Bomb Group 456th Bomb Squadron
  • Highest Rank: Private First Class
  • Role/Job: Flight Surgeon/Pet
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 323rd Bomb Group 456th Bomb Squadron
  • Role/Job: Pilot

Revisions

Date25 May 2022 08:36:51
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Clarification that Marks Hall was never the HQ of Earls Colne airfield, the two facilities operating independently (information from Maurer; and USAF archives at Maxwell, Alabama.

Date8 Oct 2021 09:17:47
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Altered to reflect similarity to 2nd Air Division HQ's proximity to Hethel airfield.

Date24 Apr 2021 18:40:57
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Parentheses added.

Date31 Aug 2020 15:20:05
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Spelling error

Date31 Aug 2020 14:57:48
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Added 95BG to 4BW's constituent list.

Date31 Aug 2020 14:52:33
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Corrected 2BW's original, albeit shortlived, HQ as Old Catton (Apr to Oct 1943).

Date24 Mar 2020 16:42:55
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Roger Freeman: Airfields of the Ninth; Airfields of the Eighth
USAF archives, Maxwell AFB, Alabama;
833rd Engineer Battalion, US Army archive;
816th Engineer Battalion, US Army archive;
Marks Hall archives

Date20 Mar 2020 16:53:28
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Roger Freeman: Airfields of the Ninth; Airfields of the Eighth
USAF archives, Maxwell AFB, Alabama:
816th Engineer Battalion, US Army archive;
Marks Hall archives

Date20 Mar 2020 16:49:29
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Roger Freeman: Airfields of the Ninth; Airfields of the Eighth
USAF archives, Maxwell AFB, Alabama:
816th Engineer Battalion, US Army archive;
Marks Hall archives

Date20 Mar 2020 16:38:40
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Roger Freeman: Airfields of the Ninth; Airfields of the Eighth
USAF archives, Maxwell AFB, Alabama:
816th Engineer Battalion, US Army archive

Date13 Jun 2019 10:18:45
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Clarifications

Date13 Jun 2019 10:15:39
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Clarifications added

Date29 Mar 2017 10:29:33
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Corrected factual error

Date10 Mar 2017 09:22:11
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Amended Bombt Divs' function.

Date24 Feb 2017 20:33:30
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Punctuation change

Date16 Feb 2017 19:21:34
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Dates amended

Date16 Feb 2017 19:20:26
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Dates amended

Date16 Feb 2017 19:17:34
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Dates corrected

Date16 Feb 2017 19:14:44
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Amended punctuation

Date16 Feb 2017 19:13:34
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Amended punctuation

Date16 Feb 2017 19:12:23
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Added Frederick Anderson details.

Date8 Jan 2017 11:18:43
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

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

Date5 Jan 2017 16:06:50
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Amended nomenclature

Date5 Jan 2017 16:03:18
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Amended nomenclature

Date5 Jan 2017 16:01:24
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Amended nomenclature

Date5 Jan 2017 15:55:45
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Amended nomenclature

Date5 Jan 2017 15:46:02
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Corrected nomenclature

Date1 Jan 2017 14:31:10
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

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

Date1 Jan 2017 14:03:57
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Addendum

Date1 Jan 2017 13:44:10
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Estate requisition date added

Date29 Dec 2016 16:11:53
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Additional details on the mansion's demolition.

Date29 Dec 2016 16:10:09
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Additional information on Marks Hall mansion.

Date10 Dec 2016 17:43:37
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Punctuation edit

Date10 Dec 2016 15:48:00
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Punctuation edit

Date10 Dec 2016 15:40:43
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

The Mighty Eighth (Roger Freeman) 1970

Date10 Dec 2016 15:28:35
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

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

Date10 Dec 2016 15:17:42
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

Marks Hall archives

Date9 Dec 2016 15:04:19
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

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

Date9 Dec 2016 14:57:06
ContributorSavvyGA
Sources

The Mighty Eighth, Roger Freeman, 1970

Date29 Sep 2015 08:43:21
ContributorCarl
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)

Date24 Jul 2015 14:54:15
ContributorLucy May
Sources

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

Date27 Sep 2014 18:02:17
ContributorAAM
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/

Marks Hall: Gallery (28 items)