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Days Gone By: 100 years ago Martlesham’s air station was created, take a look at its history

PUBLISHED: 09:18 05 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:46 11 July 2017

The control tower at Martlesham during World War Two. The building is now used Martlesham Heath Aviation Society Museum. Bungalows in Dobbs Lane are in the background.

The control tower at Martlesham during World War Two. The building is now used Martlesham Heath Aviation Society Museum. Bungalows in Dobbs Lane are in the background.

Dave Kindred

Celebrating Martlesham’s aviation history, a century after the air station was created.

From 1958 to 1961 Battle of Britain Flight, later renamed The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, was based at Martlesham. It was made up of Spitfires and Hurricane aircraft, but no Lancaster. The hanger used by the flight was on Anson Road, Martlesham. Picture: DAVE KINDRED From 1958 to 1961 Battle of Britain Flight, later renamed The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, was based at Martlesham. It was made up of Spitfires and Hurricane aircraft, but no Lancaster. The hanger used by the flight was on Anson Road, Martlesham. Picture: DAVE KINDRED

It was commissioned in January 1917 when the aerodrome became home of the aircraft testing flight, which had been formed at Upavon, Wiltshire, writes David Kindred.

In March 1924 Martlesham became the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Station, Both 15 and 22 Squadron were present during the 1920s.

Squadron 64 arrived in the 1930s. During the Second World War Martlesham became a fighter station.

A German reconnaissance photograph from World War Two of Martlesham Airfield. The main Ipswich to Woodbridge Road is across the top left of the picture. Picture: DAVE KINDRED A German reconnaissance photograph from World War Two of Martlesham Airfield. The main Ipswich to Woodbridge Road is across the top left of the picture. Picture: DAVE KINDRED

Later it was an American base used by the 8th Army Air Force fighter squadron, used to escort bombers in daylight raids over occupied Europe.

When the Americans arrived a hard runway was put down for use by P47D Thunderbolts and P51s.

The lighter RAF aircraft had been able to use a grass runway.

A cutting from the Evening Star of Friday, September 28, 1956, reporting the crash of a Canberra jet bomber aircraft at Crown Point, Martlesham. The aircraft crashed at 11am narrowly missing the Blue Triangle Cafe and garage. It landed in a small paddock fifteen yards short of the runway. The report says two people on the aircraft were killed. Do you remember this tragic incident? Picture: DAVE KINDRED A cutting from the Evening Star of Friday, September 28, 1956, reporting the crash of a Canberra jet bomber aircraft at Crown Point, Martlesham. The aircraft crashed at 11am narrowly missing the Blue Triangle Cafe and garage. It landed in a small paddock fifteen yards short of the runway. The report says two people on the aircraft were killed. Do you remember this tragic incident? Picture: DAVE KINDRED

After the war further experiments took place at Martlesham Heath, including blind landings research, which saw a Canberra crash at Crown Point, Martlesham on September 28, 1956.

The Blind Landing Experimental Unit remained at Martlesham Heath until 1957.

The airfield then became home to RAF search and rescue helicopters and for a time to the Battle of Britain Flight’s Spitfires and Hurricanes and a gliding school for the Air Training Corps.

The Blue Triangle Cafe and garage at Martlesham that was narrowly missed by the Canberra aircraft when it crashed close by in 1956. Do you remember the Blue Triangle Cafe? Photo: RUSSELL WHIPPS. The Blue Triangle Cafe and garage at Martlesham that was narrowly missed by the Canberra aircraft when it crashed close by in 1956. Do you remember the Blue Triangle Cafe? Photo: RUSSELL WHIPPS.

The Air Ministry closed the station April 25, 1963, although private light aircraft used the site until the last flight in 1979.

Martlesham Heath Centenary Weekend is being held this coming weekend, and the event will be celebrating the Martlesham Heath story over the last century.

It will be held on the Main Green in the centre of the village and surrounding areas.

Do you have memories of the early coffee bars or photographs of them to share?

Write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, Portman House, 120 Princes Street, Ipswich, IP1 1RS 
or e-mail him here.

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