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Military site : airfield

Built in 1938 as a medium bomber station with a grass airfield, Wattisham was occupied by the RAF until handed over to the Eighth Air Force in September 1942. The 68th Observation Group was the first American unit to occupy the station from October to December 1942, equipped with P-39s. Intended to be improved in 1943 with three concrete runways, it had eventually had one concrete, one mainly steel mat, and one mainly grass runways. There were ultimately 56 loop and 19 pan concrete hardstandings. The original four C hangars were supplemented by four T2 hangars. Expanded to become the 4th Strategic Air Depot, responsible for overhaul and repair of fighter aircraft, the Air Depot complex was built mainly in the village of Nedging Tye on the southern edge of Wattisham airfield, although was named officially Hitcham. The 479th Fighter Group shared the airfield with the Air Depot from May 1944 to November 1945, equipped initially with P-38s and then with P-51s from September 1944. Handed back to the RAF in December 1945, the station was an RAF fighter base until closed in 1992 and handed over to the British Army in 1993. Wattisham Airfield is currently the biggest centralised operational Army Airfield in the UK.

Detailed history

Not yet known

English Heritage's record description

A military airfield used from World War Two onwards. The airfield was built in 1938 by John Laing and Sons as part of the Royal Air Force's Pre-War expansion scheme. There was a range of permanent military buildings, including an arc of four aircraft hangars (either Type C or Type L). It opened in 1939 and was initially a Royal Air Force bomber station for 107 and 110 Squadrons. 110 Squadron carried out the first bombing raid on the German fleet at Wilhelmshaven. In 1942 the airfield was transferred to the United States Army 8th Air Force, as USAAF Station 377. The Americans began to redevelop the airfield with new hard runways for use by bombers but the priorities were changed and the work was not completed as fully planned: the airfield became an Air Depot for serving and repairing aircraft, and to this end a technical area to the south of the airfield with a taxiway and Type T2 aircraft hangars was built on the south side of the airfield. Additional accommodation for personnel in the form of Nissen huts were added. The airfield also had a fighter unit, the 479th Fighter Group, nicknamed "Riddle's Raiders". During the Cold War the airfield returned to the Royal Air Force and was altered, including the laying of a new runway in 1950. It was used for the British "V -bomber" jet force and later for a Bloodhound Missile site: for further details of the latter site please see TM 05 SW 24. In 1993 the airfield transferred to the British Army Air Corps.




  • John Archibald

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 479th Fighter Group
    Assigned to 436FS, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. End of War (EOW). Awards: AM (3OLC), WWII Victory, EAME (1 x Battle Star).

  • John Atwater

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 479th Fighter Group
    Assigned to 434FS, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. End of War (EOW). Awards: AM (OLC), WWII Victory, EAME. Post War: Celebrated FBI agent who later became Police Chief of the Village of North Palm Beach.

  • Robert Baird

    Military | First Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 479th Fighter Group
    Assigned to 435FS, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. EOW. Awards: AM (7OLC), WWII Victory, EAME.

  • William Barsky

    Military | First Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 479th Fighter Group
    Assigned to 435FS, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. EOW. Awards: DFC, AM (6OLC), WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Frank Beatty

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24 Pilot / Fighter pilot | 467th Bomb Group
    Assigned to 859BS, 492BG, 8AF USAAF 5 x missions plus an abort. Transferred to 788BS, 467BG, 8AF USAAF 35 combat missions plus a couple of fuel hauls for Patton. Transferred to 436FS, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. Completed Tour of Duty (ETD). ...

  • Norman Benoit

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Fighter pilot | 479th Fighter Group
    Assigned to 435FS, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. Credited 2.5 kills. Completed 2 x Tour of Duty (ETD). Awards: AM (7OLC), WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Jules Biscayart

    Military | Major | Fighter pilot | 479th Fighter Group
    Assigned to 436FS, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. Credited with 2 x kills. Completed Tour of Duty (ETD). Awards: SS, DFC, AM (6OLC), WWII Victory, EAME.

  • A Bloom

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Armourer | 479th Fighter Group

  • David Born

    Military | First Lieutenant | Fighter pilot | 479th Fighter Group
    Assigned to 434FS, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. End of War (EOW). Awards: AM (8 OLC), WWII Victory, EAME.

  • James Bouchier

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Fighter pilot | 479th Fighter Group
    Assigned to 434FS, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. Shot down by “friendly” fire on 25-Dec-44 whilst flying P-51D 44-15376 in the same action where Major George Preddy was killed. Bouchier was luckier in that he was able to bail out and return to his unit (RTD). End...

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  • 42-102541 Ain't Miss Behavin' II

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 12/3/44; Gr Island 2/4/44; Grenier 29/4/44; Assigned 728BS/452BG [9Z-Z] Deopham Green 3/5/44; on return from Royan Afd complete with bomb load 19/6/44 with Oliver Wright, Co-pilot: Bob Merryman, Navigator: Alfd Turner, Bombardier:...

  • 42-68147 Little Edris

    P-38 Lightning
    Piloted by 2nd Lt Flamm Dee Harper on the fighter-bomber mission of 15 July 1944. Damaged by exploding ammunition dump debris while strafing at very low altitude; right motor on fire; cockpit damaged; left motor vibrating; very little power. Lt Harper...

  • 42-68161

    P-38 Lightning

  • 43-28341 'Peoria Pulverizer' 'Texas Longhorn' 'Scat III'

    P-38 Lightning
    Assigned to 38FS, 55FG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 434FS, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) fighter sweep Melun - Dijon 10-Aug-44 Crashed into Epernay Forest Lt James E Fleming Jr KIA MACR 7622

  • 44-11755 'My Pride and Joy'

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 435FS, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) sweep to Tarnewitz 13-Apr-45 - Hit by flak on second strafing run. Pilot Lt Richard Candelaria Prisoner of War (POW). MACR 13904.

  • 44-14351

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 376FS, 361FG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to HQ Sqn, 479FG, 8AF USAAF. Personal A/C of Col Hubert Zemke. Failed to Return (FTR) escort to Hamburg structural failure in heavy weather crashed vicinity of Celle, Germany. Pilot Col Hubert Zemke...

  • 44-14651 Pin Up Girl

    P-51 Mustang
    Originally painted for Lieutenant Berkley Hollister by Sergeant Fred Hayner 'Pin Up Girl' was used by Hollister in winning two victories in August 1944. It was shot down while being piloted by anoth 434 Squadron pilot, John Donnell during an air...

  • 44-14740 Hot Toddy

    P-51 Mustang

  • 44-23171

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    P-38 Serial 44-23171 had no known nickname. Assigned to Headquarters 479th Fighter Group at Wattisham, it was the regular Lightning flown by Lt. Colonel Kyle L. Riddle, CO of the Group. It was lost on the 10 August 1944 mission to strafe the Meaux...

  • 44-14574 Little Zippie

    P-51 Mustang
    9B-J: Flown by Captain Hans J Grasshoff ...

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Date Contributor Update
03 September 2019 13:43:23 Emily Changes to english heritage description

Historic England National Monument Record TM 05 SW 29

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

Barry Anderson, Army Air Forces Stations (Alabama, 1985) / Roger Freeman, Airfields of the Eighth Then And Now (London, 1978)

Roger Freeman, Mighty Eighth War Manual (2nd edn, London, 2001)

Michael Bowyer, Action Stations 1: Wartime

Military Airfields of East Anglia 1939-1945 (London, 1979)