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Wartime heritage unearthed in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 21:30 08 May 2003 | UPDATED: 13:51 03 March 2010

CHILDREN have helped uncover a World War Two air raid shelter that has been out of sight for more than half a century.

Brambles and nettles had obscured the shelter, off Eagle Way, Martlesham until they were hacked back by investigative children.

CHILDREN have helped uncover a World War Two air raid shelter that has been out of sight for more than half a century.

Brambles and nettles had obscured the shelter, off Eagle Way, Martlesham until they were hacked back by investigative children.

A hole with steps was revealed but the remainder of the shelter remained a mystery.

That was until members of the Martlesham Heath Aviation Society set about excavating the site using buckets at Christmas time.

Bob Dunnett, vice chairman of MHAS, said: "I suppose the children found this hole, pulled the nettles and brambles back and down the steps they went.

"They couldn't get in. There was just a hole but then we decided to find out what it was all about."

A 30-foot tree and more than four tonnes of rubble had to be removed before excavations were completed around two weeks ago.

A shelter, built in the early 1940s, was laid bare and plans are already afoot to restore it and open it to the public.

The underground facility – just yards from the control tower – was used by American air controllers who were part of the Martlesham-based 356 squadron during the war.

It is thought that around 20 people would have able to use the facility at any one time.

Lanterns, benches and a table are now being earmarked for the shelter to recreate its former "feel". This will be complemented with the playing of air raid tape recordings.

"People will get an authentic feeling of how children and adults had to spend many of their hours during the war," said Mr Dunnett, who added that many more such shelters probably still lay undiscovered in Martlesham.

The project to restore the shelter is expected to be completed by September 14, when the aviation society hosts its annual open day.

N Mr Dunnett is hoping to find period-style benches to put in the shelter. If you can help, please call 01473 624510.

FASTfacts: Martlesham at War

Martlesham Heath airfield was the oldest in Suffolk until it was closed in 1963.

The history of the airfield dates back to January 16, 1917 – when the Royal Flying Corps moved its testing squadron to the site.

On April 1, 1918, the station became RAF Martlesham Heath.

During World War Two, every land-based aircraft that entered service came to Martlesham Heath for evaluation.

Later in the war, the station was handed over to the United States Army Air Force, which operated three fighter squadrons from the base.

Following the war, it was reverted to RAF use but much of its site is now taken up by Adastral Park.

The control tower is now home to Martlesham Heath Aviation Society's museum. Flying came to an end at the airfield in 1979.

Source: Ipswich at War and www.mhas.org.uk


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