Came across these whilst on a recent Road Trip, a couple of rather sorry looking Type 22 Pillboxes on the North Norfolk Coast. One had been built into the Sea Defences and the other had fallen upside down off a clifftop…The reason for this is the rather pathetic looking Sea Defences that were installed in the 1950’s, the cliffs lose 2 meters a year in erosion from the North Sea.
Next to fall in are several houses and then a lifeboat station…
RAF Kings Cliffe opened in 1943, was operational until 1959 and was assigned USAAF designation Station 367, it was home to the 20th Fighter Group of the USAAF 8th Airforce who flew P38 Lightnings and later P51 Mustangs on bomber escort duties & ; also the 56th Fighter Group of the USAAF 8th Airforce who flew P-47 Thunderbolts. When the war finished the airfield was used by the RAF for armament storage up until 1959 when it was sold and turned back to agricultural use which continues to this day.
Sadly all of the hangars and most of the Technical Site have been demolished and in recent months some Stanton Shelters have also been demolished to make way for some currently unknown construction. There are however many smaller buildings still intact such as M&E Plinths, Substations, Sleeping Quarters, Motor Transport Repair, PBX, several defended Fighter Pens with work area, Mushroom Pillboxes, a Battle Headquarters, miscellaneous buildings and of course the Control/Watch Tower.
This visit focused mainly on the perimeter track and outlying defences, a planned return visit in winter (with less undergrowth!!) will concentrate more on the Technical and Communal Sites.
For BHQ geeks you will notice that the Battle Headquarters here isn’t sunk fully into the ground like most are, at least I think that’s the case, I guess the ground could have been removed over the years?, but that doesn’t explain the fully sunken Cantilever/Mushroom Pillbox right next to it…..weird!! Sadly despite it being higher than many this one is flooded to a depth of approx 3ft and always seems to be. The Cupola is still accessible (and dry) via the Emergency Escape hatch though.
There’s lots of pix so I’m posting this across multiple days…..enjoy 🙂
Straying from the Cold War theme slightly here is my attraction to old airfields, I’m not big on WW2 stuff but these places provide a certain draw to me and I’m lucky to have many old RAF/USAF sites very near to my house. A full report on one of these sites will follow in the near future but for now here’s a small article on Cantilever Pillboxes.
Cantilever Pillboxes, more commonly known as Mushroom Pillboxes are found only on airfields and mainly in the East of England, they are of a circular design, partially sunken into the ground and have a 360 degree embrasure (opening) to allow weapon fire to be layed down in any direction. Just inside the embrasure and attached to the brickwork is a circular gun rail so a machine gun could be moved almost anywhere in the pillbox to lay down fire.
The construction of these two are of a circular brick built base with a central cruciform wall which in turn supports a poured concrete dome. The example in the photo’s below is from RAF Grafton Underwood and was in a defensive position at the north end of the No.1 Runway. A second Mushroom Pillbox is also present on this site but the roof has sadly collapsed.
The airfield was opened in 1941 and was first used by the RAF Bomber Command 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit with Liberators. The original runways were approximately 1,600 yards and 1,100 yards in length. The runways were not suitable for the operation of heavy, four-engined bombers so the airfield was upgraded to Class A, including the lengthening of the runways to the required 2,000 yards for the main and 1,400 yards for each of the others, started in late 1942.
As a result of this Grafton Underwood was assigned United States Army Air Force Eighth Air Force in 1942. Its designation was USAAF Station 106. The airfield became a major base for the USAF and many squadrons were based there during WW2 – 15th Bombardment Squadron (Light), 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 305th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 96th Bombardment Group (Heavy) and 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy).