Gallery: Airfield anniversary celebrated

IT has played an important part in the social and military history of Suffolk since the start of World War Two and now Wattisham Airfield has celebrated its 70th anniversary.

IT has played an important part in the social and military history of Suffolk since the start of World War Two and now Wattisham Airfield has celebrated its 70th anniversary.

The site was a key strategic base in the war, launching the first allied bombing raids of the campaign, and hundreds of airmen and personnel have lived in the surrounding towns and villages both during and after their service.

Residents of Hadleigh were among the first to celebrate the historic landmark, with soldiers from 7 Air Assault Battalion REME parading through the town on Saturday morning.

The battalion is based at Wattisham and Hadleigh mayor Laurie Munson addressed the troops, thanking them and their predecessors for their efforts over the years.

He said: “This ceremony is to thank you all for protecting our community and for being such an integral part of it.”

The mayor presented Station Commander David Turner with a bond of thanks, and Colonel Turner said it was an honour to be invited to the thanksgiving event.

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He said: “Wattisham station looks very difficult today than it did in 1939. However, an aspect that has stayed the same is the support of a number of Hadleigh-based businesses who were directly involved in the construction of the airfield.”

Later in the day, serving and former soldiers and RAF personnel gathered at the airbase along with thousands of local residents and dignitaries who had been invited to a special open day.

Among the many veterans enjoying the day were ex-RAF engineers Fred Miller and David Clunie, both 85 and former members of 110 Squadron, which was based at Wattisham at the outbreak of World War Two.

Although they were never permanently stationed at the airfield after joining the squadron while it was out in the Pacific Ocean, Mr Miller, who lives in Ipswich, and Mr Clunie, who had travelled down from Scotland for the event, said it was an emotional day.

Mr Miller said: “We have had a reunion ever since 1979. I organised it and we would come back here every year and it got bigger and bigger.

After the open day, the proceedings concluded with a commemoration service at the flying station yesterday morning, attended by veterans, MOD staff, service personnel and their families.