In this series of posts, we will be featuring a different 2nd Air Division airfield and bomb group from World War II. In this post, the airfield in focus is Rackheath, home of the 467th Bomb Group.
Rackheath Airfield is situated 5 miles NE of Norwich. It was the most easterly and therefore the nearest to Germany of all British wartime airfields
In February/March 1944, the 467th Bomb Group moved in with 58 B-24 Liberators. They were commanded by Colonel Albert J Shower, who was the only group commander to stay with the same group from beginning to the end of the war. He achieved the rank of Colonel at age thirty-one, one of the youngest Colonels in the Air Corps.
They flew their first mission against Bourges airfield in France, on April 10th 1944. They were a top-notch group, leading the 8th Air Force in bombing accuracy, and set a 2nd Air Division record by completing their first 100 missions in only 140 days. Witchcraft, a B-24 Liberator of the Group (and a model of which can be seen in the library entrance), held the record for the most combat missions for this type of bomber in the 8th Air Force (flying 130 missions).
Crew of a B-24 Liberator bomber
By the end of combat, the 467th Bomb Group had logged the following numbers:
- Flown 212 missions
- 5,105 aircraft attacked targets in Germany or German-held territory
- Dropped 13,353 tons of bombs
- Flown 35,537 hours of operational flying time.
- Lost 49 aircraft, of which 29 were missing in action
- Used 160 combat B-24 planes.
Rackheath Airfield & 467th Bomb Group Facts:
- The aircraft stationed here were given the nickname ‘The Rackheath Aggies.’ It’s rumoured that the name came from local village resident Mrs Aggie Curtis, who had a reputation for being a lively resident. It is also rumored that the name came from a Texas football team.
- By the end of the war over 5,000 men and women had been stationed at Rackheath.
- Group commander Colonel Albert J Shower’s nickname was ‘Black Al’ and was described as a “strict disciplinarian” who believed in shiny shoes and strict dress code.
- The famous Witchcraft was one of the last aircraft to leave Rackeath. She went on a tour of America to promote the sale of war bonds, but it is reported that (like the majority of wartime aircraft) she was scrapped and sold for next to nothing, the buyers making more money from the petrol they siphoned from her tanks than what they paid for the entire aircraft.
[Source: David H. Kibble-White’s readable and informative book The Rackheath Aggies]
After the War
After completing their final mission on April 25th 1945, the 467th BG returned to the USA in July 1945, and Rackheath returned to more peaceful uses with the help of the St Ives Sand & Gravel Company. The technical site was later adapted for light industry, which still flourishes as the Rackheath Industrial Estate, with many new buildings added in recent years. The control tower has been restored, and is used as office premises. There is a memorial plaque dedicated to the 467th Bomb Group near the village sign on Salhouse Road, next toto Holy Trinity Church.
All sites are now private property and permission must be obtained prior to visiting. Please contact Memorial Library staff.
A B-24 Liberator of the 467th Bomb Group flies over Berlin during a mission. Source: The American Air Museum
Bodle, Peter. The 467th Bomb Group in Norfolk : a pictorial history of the USAAF’s 467th Bombardment Group at Rackheath, during WWII. Stoke Ferry : Liberator Publishing, 2010
Healy, Allen. The 467th Bombardment Group, September 1943 – June 1945. Healy, Allan 5th ed.. 467th Book Group, 2008
Kibble-White, David H. The Rackheath Aggies. Banham, Norwich, Norfolk: Erskine Press, 2001.
Watts, Perry. The famous B-24 “Witchcraft”: the enchanted Liberator : a unique U.S. bomber’s experience during WWII. Atglen : Schiffer Publishing, 2015
467th Bomb Group (Official Website)
Norfolk’s American Connections
The 467th Archive
American Air Museum in Britain
The Mighty Eighth American Air Force
East Anglia Film Archive
Be sure to also check out our post on Attlebridge Airfield (466th Bomb Group).