Swanton Morley - UK Airfield Guide

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Swanton Morley


Note: This map shows the location of the WW2 airfield. The later civil airfield is just to the north. See seperate entry below.


SWANTON MORLEY: Military aerodrome

Aerial view
Aerial view

Note: This picture (2017) was obtained from Google Earth ©


This is an interesting example of how a WW2 grass airfield can still be clearly defined - by the perimeter track.





 

Military users: WW2: RAF Bomber Command             2 Group

88 Sqdn (Bristol Blenheims later Douglas A-20 Bostons)

105 Sqdn (Blenheims later DH Mosquitos)

226 Sqdn (Bristol Blenheims, then Douglas A-20 Bostons, later North American B.25 Mitchells)

305 (Polish) Sqdn (Vickers Wellingtons, later Mitchells then Mosquitos)

613 Sqdn  (DH Mosqitos)
 

RAF Fighter Command           12 Group

152 Sqdn  (Vickers-Supermarine Spitfires)


USAAF  15th Light Bombardment Sqdn  (Douglas A-20 Bostons)

 

Post 1945: No.1 Air Signallers School

CSDE (Central Servicing Development Establishment)

MACE (Maintenance Analysis & Computing Establishment)

 

Flying Club : From the 1950s to 1990s at least the Norfolk & Norwich Aero Club were based here


Gliding: Early 1970s:  CGS  (Central Gliding School)   Moved to SYERSTON in 1975

1981:  Norwich Soaring Group

1981 to 1997 (At least): 611 VGS   (Volunteer Gliding Squadron)
 

Location: W of B1147, SSE of Worthing village, S of the B1145, 3nm N of East Dereham, E of the B1110, about 15nm WNW of Norwich city centre

Period of operation: Military, 1940 to 1985 at least. Civil later (?) see below


Swanton Morley in 1993
Swanton Morley in 1993

Note: This map is reproduced with the kind permission of Pooleys Flight Equipment Ltd. Copyright Robert Pooley 2014

Runways: WW2: NE/SW   1509   grass           NNW/SSE   1463   grass
                          NW/SE   1234   grass

1990: 03/21   1000   grass           06/24   1402   grass           
         09/27   1220   grass           14/32   1220   grass          
         18/36   1250   grass

 

NOTES: On the 4th July 1942 the first combined, (USAAF & RAF), bombing raid took place from here. Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower were attending this typical propaganda exercise. Six crews from the 15th Bombardment Wing and six RAF crews flew Bostons provided by 226 Sqdn. Both these highly influential men knew full well of course the importance of a propaganda exercise far exceeding any lasting damage done by the bombers.

Despite having just grass runways with no reinforcement even in late 1944 the RAF had 1968 men plus 390 WRAFs based here. It must be very well drained….sandy soil?

I was told, by somebody who belonged to the Norfolk & Norwich Aero Club at the time, that Taffy Rich, (the CFI), and Alfie Warminger flew two Tiger Moths more or less in line astern, right through one of the hangars in around 1965/66?


A STORY
I read an account recently of the first Mosquito being delivered to SWANTON MORLEY for use by 105 Squadron by Geoffrey de Havilland in person. The narrator tells that they had heard whispers on the grape-vine of this incredible new aeroplane, but it seemed too fantastic to believe. Geoffrey de Havilland announced his arrival by a very fast low-level pass over the airfield which had everybody stunned. Training on this latest top-secret type was conducted in the most secretive fashion, but, when the squadron became competent they were posted to HORSHAM St FAITH in Norwich, where a public road runs next to the airfield and anybody could see this latest 'Top-Secret' type. So, who made that decision?


A GLIDING CENTRE
In 1975 listed as being a RAF Gliding Centre, but also with private and club aircraft. In fact I later learnt that gliding for Air Cadets at least had been provided here during the 1960s and probably before? See 'Comments' below.

It was in January 1966 that the aviation centre of the Royal Aero Club and the Association of British Aero Clubs merged to form the British Light Aviation Centre. The Norfolk & Norwich Aero Club based here were amongst the original members of the BLAC.

Here is a list of the others:

 

BLAC COMMERCIAL GRADE CORPORATE MEMBERS

Airwork Services Training PERTH (PERTHSHIRE)

Bedfordshire Air Centre CRANFIELD (BEDFORDSHIRE)

Birmingham Air Centre ELMDON (WEST MIDLANDS)

Blackbushe Aero Club BLACKBUSHE (SURREY)

Bristol & Wessex Aeroplane Club LULSGATE (AVON & BRISTOL)

Cambridge Aero Club CAMBRIDGE (CAMBRIDGESHIRE)

Coventry Aeroplane Club COVENTRY (WARWICKSHIRE)

Cumberland Flying Club CARLISLE (CUMBRIA)

Fairoaks Aero Club FAIROAKS (SURREY)

Flairavia Aero Club BIGGIN HILL (KENT)

Gregory Flying Training School DENHAM (BUCKINGHAMSHIRE)

Hampshire Aero Club EASTLEIGH (HAMPSHIRE)

Herts & Essex Aero Club STAPLEFORD (ESSEX)

Isle of Wight Flying Club SANDOWN (ISLE of WIGHT)

Lancashire Aero Club BARTON (LANCASHIRE)

London School of Flying ELSTREE (HERTFORDSHIRE)

Luton Flying Club LUTON (BEDFORDSHIRE)

Middleton St George Aero Club TEES-SIDE (TEES-SIDE/COUNTY DURHAM)

Midland School of Flying CASTLE DONNINGTON (LEICESTERSHIRE)

Newcastle Flying School NEWCASTLE (TYNE & WEAR)

Northamptonshire Aero Club SYWELL (NORTHAMPTONSHIRE)

Oxford Air Training School KIDLINGTON (OXFORDSHIRE)

Oxford Helicopter Centre KIDLINGTON (OXFORDSHIRE)

Plymouth Aero Club PLYMOUTH (DEVON)

Scottish Aero Club PERTH (PERTHSHIRE)

Shoreham School of Flying SHOREHAM (SUSSEX)

Southern Aero Club SHOREHAM (SUSSEX)

Stansted Air Centre STANSTED (ESSEX)

Staverton Flying School STAVERTON (GLOUCESTERSHIRE)

Sunderland Flying Club SUNDERLAND (TYNE & WEAR)

Surrey & Kent Flying Club BIGGIN HILL (KENT)

Three Counties Aero Club BLACKBUSHE (SURREY)

Ulster Flying Club NEWTOWNARDS (NORTHERN IRELAND)

West London Aero Club WHITE WALTHAM (BERKSHIRE)

Wiltshire School of Flying THRUXTON (HAMPSHIRE)

Wolverhampton Aero Club HALFPENNY GREEN? (WEST MIDLANDS)

Yorkshire Aeroplane Club LEEDS/BRADFORD (YORKSHIRE)

 

I think, even at this stage, before listing the ‘Restricted Membership Clubs’ and ‘Associate Commercial Corporate Members’ that this list illustrates a significant point in British aviation history in many respects – which surprised me having discovered and looking at this list in 2009. Lets take one point, of all these thirty eight organisations only twenty five were ‘Board of Trade’ approved. I’d like to know the significance of that.

 

This listing also shows, even as early as this, the trend of giving up original site names, with a few surprises I’d say:

 

For example: BAGGINGTON = COVENTRY          ELMDON = LEEDS/BRADFORD

MIDDLETON St GEORGE = TEES-SIDE                 ROBOROUGH = PLYMOUTH

 

Given this information I’d have half expect a handful of others might have already made the change. But no, it was still to come:

CASTLE DONNINGTON to EAST MIDLANDS                    ELMDON to BIRMINGHAM

HURN to BOURNEMOUTH                                            KIDLINGTON to OXFORD

LULSGATE to BRISTOL                                                RHOOSE to CARDIFF

 

It can of course take quite a long period to make the transition. I really can’t remember when LAP changed to LHR in my mindset. It is also clear that even as early as 1966 the trend to depart from the “Flying Club” and “Aero Club” or “Aeroplane Club” had already transitioned through the “School of Flying” phase into the Air Centre and Training School period.

 

RESTRICTED MEMBERSHIP CLUBS

Airways Flying Club      WYCOMBE AIR PARK (BUCKINGHAMSHIRE)

London Transport Flying Club      FAIROAKS (SURREY)

 

ASSOCIATE COMMERCIAL CORPORATE MEMBERS

Rochester Flying Club      ROCHESTER (KENT)

 

 

 

SWANTON MORLEY: Private airfield

Aerial view in 1999
Aerial view in 1999
Aerial view in 2017
Aerial view in 2017

Note: Both these pictures were obtained from Google Earth ©



The 2017 picture appears to show that this airfield was now disused?


 
 

Operated by: 2000: J K Avis Esq
 

Location: Just N of the disused WW2 SWANTON MORLEY aerodrome

Period of operation: ?

Swanton Morley in 2000
Swanton Morley in 2000

Note: This map is reproduced with the kind permission of Pooleys Flight Equipment Ltd. Copyright Robert Pooley 2014.

Runways: 2000: 09/27   650x45   grass           14/32   350x45   grass



NOTES: I find it rather interesting that, if you measure the runways on Google Earth, which is claimed to be very accurate, the runways in the 1999 picture are 09/27 530 metres and 14/32 325 metres. A significent difference, especially for 09/27. 

I realise that those publishing pilots flight guides had to rely on information received, and probably still do, but many pilots - myself included, had to rely on this information to calculate performance data. Especially in the summer months when the heat can seriously degrade aircraft performance.

 

 


 
 

Ron Curant

This comment was written on: 2017-05-03 20:45:05
 
I was stationed at Swanton Morley 1954/5 As Electrical Mechanic to the MT Section,it was my duty on Fridays to run up the Ford V8 engines on the old searchlight winches ready for use by the Gliding School at weekends. The winches were located in the hanger on the far side of the airfield furthest from the control tower.

 
 

George Rogers

This comment was written on: 2017-05-13 23:32:10
 
Ron, Interesting to read your details on RAF Swanton Morley. We could well have met as a boy I lived on Swanton my farther was Station Barrack Warden, we had lived on the airfield from mid to late 1945 and my playground was on the airfield, at the time of moving there we lived in the old gunners quarters just east of the Worthing Black hanger, which later the last of the Prentice aircraft were sold from, it was a sad day to see them go. It was this hanger you said I started to learn to fly the ATC 611 T21 and mark 3 gliders, on the 19 February 1956 with instructor P/O Burton , the gliding school CO was Ft/l Alf Warminger. Other instructor being P/O Ray Fisher, P/O Peter Salmon, Dave Tayor. As you said to winches at that time were old balloon winches with V8 engines, which I later winched the gliders off great fun until the cable broke. Some 300no gliding flights later in 1959 started with the Norfolk and Norwich Aero Club and learnt to fly power on DH82a Tiger Moth G-APVP , G-APVT , G-AODT going solo 7hrs and 40mins on the 9/1/1960 My Instructor was Taffy Rich. Having flown at Swanton until 1/11/1998, I hope that fills in a few of the gaps for you.

 
Reply from Dick Flute:
Dear George, Many thanks for these memories which I shall keep posted. Best regards, Dick
 

 
 

Don Johnstone

This comment was written on: 2017-09-09 19:07:27
 
Dick. FYI, RAF CGS (Central Gliding School) also operated out of RAF Swanton Morley for a time although I'm not at all sure of the specific dates when CGS actually moved there. CGS was later moved to its long existing current base at RAF Syerston in 1975. CGS is essentially the RAF's gliding counterpart to its CFS (Central Flying School) although CGS is still actually commanded by CFS. CGS was staffed and operated by a mix of full time commissioned RAF pilots (OC CGS is still a full time appointment), J Class commissioned officers (rather than VR or VR(T)) and was supported by various regular ground trades. A lot has been completely restructured in recent years, so many things may have changed and many roles switched to civilian staff. If memory serves however, CGS only operated out of RAF Swanton Morley during the early 1970's which may well explain why you found an additional listing for the station being an "RAF GLIDING CENTRE" in your research. CGS would have operated as it still does during the week for tasking such as training new instructors, rechecking the qualifications of existing instructors who's category may have expired or upgrading the category of an existing instructor to a higher level, etc, etc. CGS also provides opportunities for Air Cadets to attend flying courses during weekdays in addition to the weekend operations of the various VGS's. At weekends, the airfield was used by 611 Sqn VGS and the N & N Aero Club. My father started out as a staff cadet on 611 Sqn at RAF Swanton Morley and went on to earn a VR(T) commission with the Sqn, spending over 30 years with the school in total. He held several staff positions on 611 Sqn and when he finally retired he was the CO, (by which time 611 Sqn was operating out of STANTA Airfield on what used to be the technical site for RAF Watton). My sister and I spent many weekends on the station and airfield at RAF Swanton Morley when we accompanied our father on his duty weekends with 611. In civilian life he was a full time police officer. George. Incidentally, "Ray Fisher" was later a Flt Lt and the CFI of 611 Sqn throughout the 1970's and early 1980's when 611 was operating Ventures. Sqn Ldr Ron Page was the CO. I joined the Air Cadets myself when I was old enough and 611 Sqn, CGS and the RAF graciously organised operating on a one off weekday especially to send me solo on my 16th birthday. At that time my father was the Sqn supply officer. I joined the RAF as a regular ground trade a few months following my first solo. I spent much of my career at RAF Marham, so I returned to 611 Sqn to volunteer my weekends and some of my annual leave for the Summer week long courses during the 1990's to give back what the Air Cadets had given me as a youngster. I later qualified as a C category instructor until a nasty back/spinal injury not only ended my RAF career, but I could no longer pass the required flying medicals either to continue instructing or flying in any capacity. A LOT of very fond memories of RAF Swanton Morley. It was a massive shame to lose such an excellent airfield that was perfect for gliding and light aircraft operations to the Army. The Army outright refused to let the Air Cadets carry on using the airfield after they had purchased the station from the RAF. Instead, they preferred to tear it up and destroy it by driving tanks and light armour all over it. Despite requesting it 4 times during my RAF career I never actually managed to get posted there either.

 
Reply from Dick Flute:
Hi Don, Many thanks indeed for such a comprehensive account. I shall be keeping this posted. Best regards, Dick
 

 
 

Terry Clark

This comment was written on: 2018-02-11 21:43:30
 
Central Gliding School was formed in about 1975 by merging No 1 Gliding Centre, which had been at Swanton since it had moved there on the closure of its previous base at Hawkinge in early 1961, and No 2 Gliding Centre which had been established at Kirton in Lindsey, then moved to Spitalgate, thence to merge with No 1 GC at Syerston in 1975 to form the Central Gliding School.

 
 

Ron Curant

This comment was written on: 2018-07-16 17:19:07
 
George Rogers.Its a small world whilst I was at SM from 1954/5 I was in a relationship with the then Barrack Wardens daughter, a redhead, she worked on the camp in the office. We used to ride bikes around the Peri Track to a haystack near the hanger on the far side of the airfield. I used to take the duty air controller out every morning to inspect the runways. Used to collect loads of fresh mushrooms on the way.Those were the days

 
 

Nick Ward

This comment was written on: 2019-10-06 04:22:09
 
I learnt to glide in April 1954. My initial instructor was Peter Salmon, Alfie Warminger was CO and Burton 2ic. An instructor not mentioned was Chris? Warner a rotund little gentleman who drove a Renault 750. Warminger had a private Olympus glider which Burton also flew.

 
 

Don Johnstone Senior

This comment was written on: 2020-06-25 14:27:27
 
I can add to what was posted by my son, also Don Johnstone. I joined 611 Gliding School as it was then known as a Staff Cadet in 1962. The Gliding School operated at weekends with longer courses over the bank holidays at Easter, Whitsun and August. The No 1 Gliding Centre stood down for those weeks but normally operated during the week. HQ for both the GS and GC was the control tower, now a listed building and the aircraft and equipment was stored in the J Hangar, now demolished. The airfield was shared with the Norfolk and Norwich Aero Club. In the Mid 60s the Norwich Soaring Group was formed, the senior instructor was Flt Lt Stan Easton who was on the staff of No GC. Launching was provided by a Tiger Moth owned by Alfie Warminger, a former OC 611GS and founder of NNAC. He had a Pheobus glider. The other gliders in the group were a Cobra and a Skylark 2. I remained with 611GS flying Sedberghs and Cadet MkIIIs, replaced by Venture Tx2 and later by Grob 103 Vikings. I was appointed OC 611 Volunteer Gliding School in 1993. The VGS left RAF Swanton Morley prior to it being taken over by the Army. In 2021 614 VGS will return to fly at Swanton Morley, now Robertson Barracks.
 

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