Sculthorpe a hot spot in a Cold War

Author Peter Gunn with his new book 'Sculthorpe Secrecy and Stealth'. ANL-140213-161838001
Author Peter Gunn with his new book 'Sculthorpe Secrecy and Stealth'. ANL-140213-161838001
Have your say

Secret flights over the former Soviet Union which were launched from a West Norfolk air base have been examined in a new book.

Docking man Peter Gunn has spent years delving into the history of the air base at Sculthorpe and learning about its connection to the Cold War.

His book Sculthorpe: Secrecy and Stealth also looks at reconnaissance flights made over the USSR by an RAF special duty flight in April 1952 and 1954.

The base was opened by the RAF during the Second World War but was transferred to the American Air Force in the 1950s.

Mr Gunn, a historian who is interested in aviation history, said: “It is an unusual history and there is still a lot about the base that we don’t know.”

Mr Gunn has spent several years speaking to veterans along with examining newspaper reports, RAF and other national archives to learn more about the base’s history.

The site opened in 1943 as a satellite of RAF West Raynham and was later re-developed as a heavy bomber station.

But the base was transferred over to the American Air Force in 1951 and was a front line nuclear bomber base. Super fortresses such as B29 and B50s took off from the concrete runway at Sculthorpe along with B45 Tornadoes, which had nuclear capabilities.

The base was also the launch pad for secret flights over the USSR after tensions were raised between the Soviet Union and America following the Second World War.

The first sortie into Soviet air space was made in 1952 while the second followed in April 1954. Mr Gunn said: “It is very hard to get hard facts about that. One or two of the veterans have talked about it and books have been written, but there is a lot still to be discovered.”

Sculthorpe: Secrecy and Stealth costs £14.99 and is available now.

“The route they took went into European Russia and got back to Sculthorpe safely.”

The based remained in the hands of the Americans until 1992 and it is still used by the Ministry of Defence for training exercises today.