Unit History: RAF West Raynham

RAF West Raynham
RAF West Raynham.
This aerodrome was an expansion scheme airfield located five miles south-west of Fakerham and two miles west of West Raynham village. The camp was situated to the northwest of the landing ground with the standard Type C hangars arranged in an arc fronting the bombing circle.  To the south-east were bomb stores.   The airfield was originally equipped with a Watch Office with Tower (Fort Type), although the tower was later removed and new Control Room built. Later in the war the station was provided with a "Control Tower for Very Heavy Bomber Stations", one of only four such towers to be built.
In the mid- to late-1950s RAF West Raynham was Central Fighter Establishment of the Royal Air Force. It still had at least two operational Gloster Meteor jet fighters, a squadron of twin tail-boomed de Havilland Venoms and de Havilland Vampire trainer jets. The very latest arrival in 1957 was a flight of Gloster Javelins.
From August 1960 the station also hosted fighter squadrons, Javelins and then Hunters, the later under No. 38 Group. After the Hunters left in the summer of 1969, Canberras appeared and remained until the end of 1975 when West Raynham was finally closed for flying.

RAF West Raynham during WW2


RAF West Raynham was built in 1938-39, No.2 Group moved in No. 101 Squadron and its Blenheims from Bicester in May 1939. No. 101 had the station all to itself as the reserve squadron of No. 2 Group until a target-towing flight was formed in February 1940. In April No. 76 Squadron was reformed with the prospect of becoming a second operational Blenheim unit but the crisis in France brought about a hasty disbandment after only three weeks. 1940, RAF West Raynham also acted as a temporary base for 18 and 139 squadrons after they suffered losses in the Blitz.

On 4 July 1940 No. 101's Blenheims went into action for the first time attacking German oil storage and tanks and ports. The 101 continued to fly sorties from RAF West Raynham for a year during which time it lost 15 Blenheims in some 610 sorties.

No. 101 Squadron was transferred to 3 Group and consequently left West Raynham. They were replaced at West Raynham by 114 Squadron, another detachment of Blenheims. They were stationed at West Rayham for over a year before they were despatched to North Africa as part of "Operation Torch". The squadron converted to Blenheim Mk Vs in August 1942, in preparation for combat in Africa. No. 18 Squadron also went to RAF West Raynham to be refitted with Mk Vs. At this time, squadrons 180 and 342 were formed at West Raynham. No. 180 Squadron was formed to fly Mitchells, which were flown from the larger airfield at Great Massingham, Raynham's satellite. No. 342 Squadron French-manned to fly Bostons, was also formed at West Raynham in the spring of 1943 before moving on to Sculthorpe for operations.

Between May and November 1943, the grass landing area was replaced with two concrete runways. Hard runways were then put down but, in contrast to most bomber airfields, there were only two and to build these it was necessary to extend the boundaries of the station, notably to the west where a country road was closed. The runways, built from May-November 1943, additional accommodation raised the station's facilities to 2,456 for males and 658 for females.

In December 1943, the station was taken over by No: 100 Group bringing in two Mosquito equipped night fighter squadrons to pursue bomber support operations in enemy air space. These were Nos. 141 and 239, which flew patrols and Ranger sorties (seek and destroy enemy fighters in the air and on the ground) until the end of hostilities. No. 141 then transferred to Little Snoring in July 1945 while No. 239 was disbanded at West Raynham the same month. Bomber Command operations carried out from this station during the war claimed 86 aircraft: 56 Blenheims, 29 Mosquitos and a Beaufighter.

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