By the little village of Weston Longville, ten miles out of Norwich, are the remains of Attlebridge Airfield. Between March 1944 and July 1945 it was home to the USAAF 466th Bombardment Group. Today, amid green and golden fields and small areas of woodland, three runways and some buildings are still in use — but the only wings here belong to turkeys.
Built in June 1941, Attlebridge Airfield was originally a satellite to the grass field at Swanton Morley. Between the end of 1943 and March 1944 the base was extended to accommodate heavy bombers. (One runway plowed right through a nearby hamlet, of which not a trace remains.) It is closer to Weston Longville than to Attlebridge. The RAF, faced with a naming dilemma — there were already three stations beginning with ‘Weston’ — seems to have resolved the issue by taking the name of the nearest railway station, at Attlebridge.
The Friendly Invasion
The American Air Force 466th BG arrived at Attlebridge from Topeka, Kansas, in time for the group’s first bombing mission. The ground units, twelve thousand G.I.s destined for British bases, sailed from New York on the Queen Mary on 28 February 1944. (Space was tight. The liner’s peace-time capacity was only 3,240.) At 29 knots the crossing took five days. The “Gray Ghost”, as she was nicknamed, was so fast that Hitler placed a bounty on her worth $250,000 and promised an Iron Cross to the U-boat captain who would sink her.
On March 22, 1944, Consolidated B-24 Liberators from Attlebridge wailed over Berlin on a daylight raid. This was the longest initial assault ever flown by any unit in the history of the USAAF in Europe. In the following thirteen months the B-24s of the 466th completed 232 missions — 5,693 individual aircraft sorties — and dropped nearly 13,000 tons of bombs. Over three hundred men were lost. Almost two hundred more became prisoners of war.
Note that the Attlebridge Airfield is now private property, and permission must be obtained prior to visiting. The Memorial Library staff will be pleased to assist you with this.
Attlebridge Airfield Facts:
USAAF Station #: 120
Built: August 1941
Use (8th AF): March 1944 to July 1945 (466th BG)
Use (general): 1941-1950
Squadrons of the 466th:
784th: 1943-1945. Tail marking T9.
785th: 1943-1945. Tail marking 2U.
786th: 1943-1945. Tail marking U8.
787th: 1943-1945. Tail marking 6L.
The runways, perimeter track, and a few of the hardstands remain. The control tower, now extensively renovated, is used as offices by Bernard Matthews Limited, who own the airfield site. The briefing room and HQ block still exist, the latter being used as a private house.
The T.2 hangars have long since gone but a few of the old Quonset huts and other structures remain on some of the dispersed sites and are used for a variety of purposes.
In 1959, Bernard Matthews Ltd. began buying up disused World War II airfields for use in the production of turkey meat. Six airfields are now owned by them. A considerable number of poultry sheds have been built on the concrete areas of these bases.
The Airfield and Surrounding Area
The Memorial Library staff will be pleased to help you arrange a visit to the old Attlebridge Airfield, which is now private property.
Foot and Public Transport. The X29 (Fakenham) bus goes in that direction. Stop at Morton on the Hill, near Weston Longville.
Walk from the bus stop. Take the Marl Hill Road southwest, becoming Church Street, through Weston Longville. Then take the Honingham Road southwest. Right turn onto Weston Green road.
Cycle. Take the Marriott’s Way path. Maps can be found online, in the main library (reference), or for sale at tourist information centres.
Head northwest on the Marriott’s Way path out of Norwich. There are two ways to get over to the airfield. Near Attlebridge, take the Felthorpe Road west towards the A1067. Cross the River Wensum near the A1067 and take a slight right onto The Street. This parallels the A1067/Fakenham Road. A little further beyond where it joins the A1067, take Marl Hill Road southwest. Follow the walking directions above.
Otherwise, continue on the Marriott’s Way northwest beyond Attlebridge. Near Lenwade, get on the Norwich Road (A1067). Heading southeast towards Norwich, take the left onto Marl Hill Road, just beyond Morton on the Hill. Follow the walking directions above.
Rail. If you fancy taking the train, you could also travel to Reepham. You can take a bike on the train at no charge. If you haven’t got a bike you can hire one at Reepham and travel south to the airfield. Look for Marriott’s Way Cycle Hire, Whitwell and Reepham Station, Railway Museum, Whitwell Road, Reepham, Norfolk, NR10 4GA. Telephone, 01603 871694.
What else to see in the neighbourhood
The neighbourhood of Attlebridge Airfield is Parson Woodforde country, and still evokes some of the atmosphere of his beloved Diary of a Country Parson (5 vols., 1924-31). The pub named for him, on Church Street at Weston Longville, makes for a fine mid-day refresher.
At nearby Hockering Wood — known locally for its striking carpet of bluebells — is a former WW2 ammunition depot designed to store and supply bombs to No. 2 Group Bomber Command in Norfolk. It had a close relationship with Attlebridge and a satellite was constructed along Blind Lane near the airfield which stocked American bombs (One HE Group). You can still make out the fire breaks cut around the bomb dumps despite sixty-odd years of subsequent growth.
The Marriott’s Way, a popular footpath, bridleway and cycle route, winds with the River Wensum to the north. Directions from the Marriott’s Way to the airfield are provided below. To the south, about six miles, a number of old windmills can be seen in and around the village of Mattishall.
There is a 466th BG Roll of Honor at All Saints’ Church in Weston Longville. The church is well-preserved and holds an important medieval screen. Also of interest are wall paintings and glass windows.
Bodle, Peter and Mike Harris. The 466th Bomb Group in Norfolk: A Pictorial History. (Stoke Ferry: Liberator Publishing, 2009). 60p. 358.417/940.5449.
Baynes, Richard C. Replacement Crew: the Training and combat Experience of a typical 8th Air Force Replacement Crew in 1944. (1993). 940.544.
Bowman, Martin. Bomber Bases of WW2: 2nd Air Division 8th Air Force USAAF 1942-45. (Pen & Sword Aviation, 2007). 196p. 940.5449.
Bowman, Martin. Sentimental Journey: Reminiscences of War. (Quidenham: Erskine Press, 2005). 247p. 940.544.
Bowman, Martin. Fields of Little America. (Wensum Books, 1977). 115p. 940.544.
Bowyer, Michael. Action Stations Revisited: No. 1 Eastern England. (Crecy, 2000). 358.417/940.544.
Childers, Thomas. Wings of Morning: The Story of the Last American Bomber Shot Down Over Germany in WW2. (Addison Wesley, 1995). 940.5421.
Delve, Ken. The Military Airfields of Britain: East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk). (Crowood, 2005). 272p. 358.417.
Freeman, Roger. Airfields of the Eighth Then and Now. (London: Battle of Britain, 1978). 240p. 940.544.
Goede, Donald H. I remember: Memories of Life and War. (Morning Star, 2004). 940.5449/358.4133.
Handy, Ned. The Flame Keepers: The True Story of an American Soldier’s Survival Inside Stalag 17. (Hyperion, 2004). 940.5472.
Harding, Steve. Gray Ghost: The RMS Queen Mary at War (Pictorial Histories Pub Co., 1982).
Meconis, Claude V. “Hunting of the Snark”: A Combat Diary of Crew 504 in 1944 in the ETO. Typescript. 940.544.
Phillipson, Neil. Fifty Years On: 1994 Norfolk and Suffolk airfields of the Mighty Eighth. Vol 1. (1994). Colour photographs. 358.417.
Pipes, Robert Felton. The Playboy Crew: 1944-45. (C.S. Hosie, 1989). 125p. 940.544.
Wassom, Earl and Chris Brassfield. Attlebridge Arsenal. (Turner, 2005). 352p. 358.417.
Woolnough, Lt Col John H. The Attlebridge Diaries. 2nd ed. (466th Bomb Group Assoc., 1995). 218p. 940.544
Films, Photographs, Recordings (for use in library):
Return to Attlebridge 2012 (Bill Curtis Video Productions/466th Bomb Group Association, 2012), CD/DVD No. 96.
“Troublemaker”: A Pilot’s Story of WW2. Robert Harrington was a B-24 pilot with the 466th BG based at Attlebridge. 2007. CD/DVD No. 1.
Dougherty Crew photo files, scrapbook, May-Oct 1944. (Bill Curtis Video Productions, 2011[?]). 786th Bomb Squadron, 466th Bomb Group (Attlebridge). CD/DVD No. 92.
John Michael – 466th Bomb Group (Attlebridge). Short slide show of wartime, colour photographs of personnel including John Michael taken at Attlebridge. One is listed as ‘crew of A/C no. 747, B-24’ 18.2.44. CD/DVD No. 26.
Dzenowagis, Joseph G. The Kansas City Tapes (May 1994). A Collection of 13 interviews in 9 volumes of 2nd Air Division 8th United States Army Air Force Veterans of World War II. Volume 3: Elwood W. Nothstein (tail gunner, 466th BG). 30 mins. CD/DVD No. 148.
Hodge, Chuck. Interview with Everett R. Jones Jr. 31 March 2011. 458th & 466th BG. 2hr. 19min. CD/DVD No. 82.
Norwich Fringe Project. Marriotts Way and northern woodlands cycle tour. (NFP, 2004). maps. 796.64. Reference.
Elsewhere on the Web
Please let us know if you find any useful web resources for the 466th BG and Attlebridge Airfield. Our list is below.
There is a general overview of military airfields in Norfolk on the Norfolk Heritage website.
Attlebridge Airfield and the 466th Bomb Group
466th BG Facebook page
Eighth Air Force Historical Society – long written history and details of squadrons, stations, and commanders.
Wartime Memories – short facts and personal histories of 466th BG airmen.
Control Towers – website archiving photos and facts of World War 2 airfields in Great Britain. Maintained by Robert Truman.
Norfolk Heritage – short written description and facts. Points to archival sources.
English Heritage – short written description with links to maps and other resources.
Airfields of Britain – map and a few links.
History of War – aircraft, timeline, commanders, main bases, and related books (which we have in our collection).
This post is part of a series on the 2nd Air Division airfields and bomb groups in World War 2. The Memorial Library distributes information sheets on both. These posts combine the sheets, extend the bibliographies to include the library’s audio and video resources, and cater specifically to the researcher, family historian, and interested tourist. The information collected here will be published on the Memorial Library website.