RAF Swannington

Known locally as RAF Haveringland, either way it’s a little Gem, I spent the best part of a blisteringly hot afternoon messing around on the edges of an all but invisible Second World War airfield. It’s just there, lost in the landscape, the fields slowly inexorably folding back over it. It’s also a double tap to the head for me, as the settlements round here have many characteristics of DMVs (Deserted Medieval Villages). Swannington was the last airfield built in Norfolk, largely housing the beautifully built wooden framed Mosquitos, more famed for their semi fictional exploits in 633 Squadron than the hard fight their real crews put in during the war. During the war it was an active base under 100 group administration with 85 and 157 squadrons operating from here usually as bomber support ducking and diving in and out of the heavy bomber streams trying to knock out any opposition. Doubtless there was fucking and skiving as well when back at base as is the way with most people in their early twenties let of the leash, more so if you’re living on a knife edge. There is one particularly fine old photograph of a Mosquito (inset below) standing on the dispersal next to the church which you can in the middle left of the picture, had I time I’d have vanished off back there and had an imagine.

Swannington 2

This bit is the perimeter track at the Eastern end of the airfield just off the Haveringland Road south of the Park. The church of St Peter’s Haveringland is accessible although gated and locked, you’ll have to walk or open gates and move cars and close them again type thing. The church itself is usually locked.

Mosquito SwanningtonWhen I got here despite research I wasn’t sure what I’d find, I knew there was a scattering of buildings, but the runways have long since been smashed up and returned to agriculture as you can see from aerial view and googlemaps, but the pattern is still visible. There’s a surprising amount of stuff for a Landescapist to seek out, bits of dispersal, pieces of exciting concrete track. There’s even buildings hidden away earth jammed up in the pathways to stop cars in front of what look like mess buildings even a control tower being used as a store which in itself deserves another visit with permission to view it properly. The site extends as far as Haveringland Hall, which was the officers Mess, at one time it featured a large number of Nissan huts the sleeping and eating quarters of the young men, most of these have now gone marked by tumuli in the woods.

On the North Eastern edge of the old airfield, you walk along another small section of perimeter track that takes you through the technical area, just before you reach it is the end of SW/NE runway, this is it, just a track now, a layer of tarmac is slowly disintegrating freeze thawed in the heat and cold of the Norfolk seasons slowly peeling and revealing the concrete roadway underneath. This whole area up near St Peter’s Church and towards Haveringland was crammed with Dispersal loops and technical and admin buildings, mostly now gone, a few still remain, one appear to have been a workshop, something that might be a NAAFI, the site of the T2 hanger now contains a more modern agricultural industry building on it’s footprint.

Swannington 1

Viewed from the Haveringland Road as it cuts through the base, this was shot with me standing in what would have been the middle of the East West Runway. The block of trees are planted just to the left of that line, The row of trees behind it isn’t a runway, it would have been nice, I thought it was, but it ain’t It is just a windbreak planted post war, probably on an old hedge line.  Like Deopham Green, there’s a residual amount of concrete in the form of tracks, where the full width was taken out but some concrete was left as a roadway, makes sense. There’s also a few odds and ends of runway at nearly full width.

Swannington 3

The western end of the main east west runway, this chunk appears to be full width, although it’s not full length by any stretch of the imagination, now being used as hard-standing, with what looks like marl on it. It sits just off the old airfield perimeter track which is basically tarmac straight on part of the old concrete taxiway or road that ran around the whole site, nice taxiing around that in the car.

Swannington 4

Looking North East at what would have been the end of the runway, a containing wall built from sleepers to hold the fertiliser and muck, the concrete pad now agricultural hardstanding the only easily visible remnant of the runway.

Swannington 5

Above the view looking through that unpredictable British summer heat distilling into the dry ripening cereals. The gap in the trees is the only visual marker of the old RAF base runway line running east to west, viewed from the Western perimeter where it becomes a private track.

After the war it sadly became a Mosquite graveyard; a knackers yard, engines and useful chunks were stripped and the wooden airframes and other bits were dragged off and burnt in the fields, given the number of Mosquitos left flying this seems a sad ending to one of the more beautiful shapes in the skies of Europe during the war. And then it reverted to the fields, the young airmen and crew replaced by farm workers. Yet still a lovely lovely chunk of residual echoing history. Achingly nice.

Swannington 6