Little Dunham unveils First World War base memorial

Little Dunham WW1 Memorial unveiling by RAF Marham Station Commander Group Captain Harvey Smyth (centre), and Father Martin Joyce (left), along with other guests and officials attending the  ceremony. ANL-141112-155834009
Little Dunham WW1 Memorial unveiling by RAF Marham Station Commander Group Captain Harvey Smyth (centre), and Father Martin Joyce (left), along with other guests and officials attending the ceremony. ANL-141112-155834009
0
Have your say

Air force chiefs joined residents and community leaders to unveil a new memorial to the men who flew from their village during the First World War.

The site at Little Dunham was used by the Royal Flying Corps from 1916 until November 1918 as a satellite station to RAF Marham.

Little Dunham WW1 Memorial unveiling by RAF Marham Station Commander Group Captain Harvey Smyth ANL-141112-155903009

Little Dunham WW1 Memorial unveiling by RAF Marham Station Commander Group Captain Harvey Smyth ANL-141112-155903009

The base’s current commander, Group Captain Harvey Smyth, unveiled the commemorative stone at a ceremony on Thursday.

A Tornado from the base flew over the site and the memorial was dedicated in a service led by Father Martin Joyce.

The memorial has been built after the history of the site, which was commonly known locally as the flying field, was uncovered by military historian, and retired Marham squadron leader, Richard James.

He said he first learned of the site’s past in a conversation with the curator of the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, Hoby Fairhead.

No Caption ABCDE ANL-141112-155753009

No Caption ABCDE ANL-141112-155753009

And he added: “We are delighted to be able to commemorate our forefathers of the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Naval Aviation Service and the Royal Air Force who flew from our village 100 years ago.

“It’s a celebration of the fact there was a base here.”

The first record of planes flying from the base dates back to September 1916, a few months after Marham itself was opened.

But Mr James said there was a direct link between it and the infamous Zepplin attack on Lynn in January 1915.

He explained that the former air base at Narborough was opened only a few weeks after the Zepplins attacked London in May 1915, four months after the Lynn attack. The Marham and Little Dunham bases then opened the following year.

He added that the base, which was known as the Sporle landing ground, would not have had the kind of facilities one might expect to see today.

He said: “It would just have been a couple of huts and paraffin heaters and some lights for the landing strip and that would have been about it.”

Parish councillor Ian Harding paid tribute to Mr James, whom he described as the “driving force” behind the six-month project.

The memorial, which was funded through donations and a grant from Breckland District Council, now stands on land which had been the subject of a long-running fight to prevent the building of an electrical substation, which villagers won earlier this year.

And Mr Harding added: “It’s got the village to get together.”