Anniversary season opens at RAF Bircham Newton heritage centre

Heritage Centre Open Day at RAF Bircham Newton, David Jacklin (Trustees Chairman) (left)  and Terry Cox (Volunteer) (right) in the main display room. ANL-150604-085557009
Heritage Centre Open Day at RAF Bircham Newton, David Jacklin (Trustees Chairman) (left) and Terry Cox (Volunteer) (right) in the main display room. ANL-150604-085557009

Officials at the RAF Bircham Newton Heritage Centre are looking forward to a busy season after staging their first open day of the year.

The free events, of which the first was held on Easter Sunday, will be held each month until September to share memories of the base’s 44 years of operations.

Heritage Centre Open Day at RAF Bircham Newton, David Jacklin (Trustees Chairman) with the new WW1 Exhibition, which was opened last year. ANL-150604-085619009

Heritage Centre Open Day at RAF Bircham Newton, David Jacklin (Trustees Chairman) with the new WW1 Exhibition, which was opened last year. ANL-150604-085619009

The former base, which closed in December 1962 and is now home to the National Construction College, started airfield life during the First World War.

It was first used to train fighter pilots who were going to join the war in the skies over France.

However, it soon became a bomber base and remained that way throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

During the Second World War, the base was one of the most important command stations on the east coast.

Heritage Centre Open Day at RAF Bircham Newton.'Another new display is a Ceramic Poppy from the Tower of London Art Installation. ANL-150604-085608009

Heritage Centre Open Day at RAF Bircham Newton.'Another new display is a Ceramic Poppy from the Tower of London Art Installation. ANL-150604-085608009

Its functions included reconnaissance, mine laying, anti-shipping strikes and air-sea rescues.

Trustees’ chairman, David Jacklin said: “There is lots to see, uniforms, medals, flying log books, and early photographs.

“The RAF memorabilia is really important in showcasing some local history.”

The first weekend saw 110 visitors with many having their own connections to the place.

Mr Jacklin, himself a former RAF officer, said: “Many people who visit have fathers or grandfathers who worked here.

“Any aviation enthusiasts and local people who remember it always find it really interesting.’

The centre is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its opening with a special event on Sunday, July 26.

Tony Nelson will exhibit Norfolk’s Model Air Force, a 1/6 scale model of a Stirling Mk III who flew from nearby RAF North Creake.

Local trio, Dreirad, will provide music and the centre hopes to have a Tiger Moth flypast, weather permitting.