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Royal Air Force Station East Wretham
USAAF Station 133

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Eighth Air Force - Emblem (World War II).png Flag of the British Army.svg

Located Near Thetford, Norfolk, England
East Wretham Airfield - 5 February 1946
Type Military airfield
Coordinates Latitude:
Location code UT
Built 1940
In use 1940-1946 as airfield
now part of STANTA
Controlled by Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
British Army
Garrison RAF Bomber Command
Eighth Air Force

European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945

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RAF East Wretham is a former World War II RAF Station airfield in England. The field is located near East Wretham 6 miles NE of Thetford in Norfolk.

RAF use[edit | edit source]

Engine testing on a Lancaster B Mark II of 115 Squadron at RAF East Wretham, 1943

East Wretham airfield was hurriedly brought into service during the early years of World War II as a satellite airfield with No. 311 (Czech) Squadron dispersed there from RAF Honington on 29 July 1940. A more permanent allocation followed in September. The squadron operated their bombers from the airfield until April 1942 when it transferred to Coastal Command. Later, RAF Bomber Command No. 115 Squadron RAF, operating Vickers Wellington Mk IIIs and later Avro Lancasters, occupied the airfield from November 1942.[1]

A plan to turn East Wretham into a "Class A" airfield was not carried through, the bomber unit moved to Little Snoring and the station turned over to the USAAF for fighter operations.

USAAF use[edit | edit source]

In October 1943, East Wretham was assigned USAAF designation Station 133 and was allocated to the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force.

The first American tenants at East Wretham were the 359th Fighter Group, being reassigned from Westover AAF Massachusetts. The group was under the command of the 67th Fighter Wing of the VIII Fighter Command. Aircraft of the 359th were identified by green around their cowlings and tails.

The group consisted of the following squadrons:

The 359th FG entered combat in mid-December 1943 after some of the pilots had already flown combat missions with another fighter group. It began operations with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, later converting to P-51 Mustangs in April 1944. In combat the group flew escort, patrol, strafing, dive-bombing, and weather-reconnaissance missions. At first, it was engaged primarily in escort activities to cover B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator bombers that attacked airfields in France, and later expanded their area of operations to provide escort for bombers that struck rail centers in Germany and oil targets in Poland.

Republic P-47D-5-RE Thunderbolts of the 359th Fighter Group. Foreground is Serial 42-8596 "Marryin' Sam" of the 368th Fighter Squadron.

North American P-51D-5-NA Mustang Serial 44-13404 of the 368th Fighter Squadron painted in D-Day Invasion markings, 1944.

The group supported the invasion of Normandy during June 1944 by patrolling the English Channel, escorting bombardment formations to the French coast, and dive-bombing and strafing bridges, locomotives, and rail lines near the battle area.

During the period July 1944 - February 1945, the group was engaged chiefly in escorting bombers to oil refineries, marshalling yards, and other targets in such cities as Ludwigshafen, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Berlin, Merseburg, and Brux. The 359th FG received a Distinguished Unit Citation for operations over Germany on 11 September 1944 when the group protected a formation of heavy bombers against large numbers of enemy fighters.

In addition to its escort duties, the 359th supported campaigns in France during July and August 1944, bombed enemy positions to support the airborne invasion of Holland in September, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-January 1945). The group flew missions to support the assault across the Rhine in March 1945, and escorted medium bombers that attacked various communications targets, February–April 1945.

The 359th Fighter Group returned to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey and was inactivated on 10 November 1945.

Postwar RAF/British Army use[edit | edit source]

Initially after the war ended, the field was used by the RAF as a Polish resettlement camp. With the refugees resettled by 1946, East Wretham was closed as an active airfield and became part of the British Army's Stanford Practical Training Area (also known as STANTA).

This huge training area in Norfolk has facilities for the live firing of artillery, mortars, anti-tank and machine guns as well as for dry training and bivouacking. Tanks are used during restricted periods from July to September. There are also facilities for parachuting, air-to-ground attacks and other training involving aircraft.

Many of the original World War II airfield buildings still stand, including one of the T2 hangars.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Bomber Command, East Wretham

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

External links[edit | edit source]

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