Halesworth Airfield Memorial Museum

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The airfield at Halesworth, known officially as AAF Station 365, was built between 1942 and 1943 to the standard Class A specification seen on many other airfields. Class A was the specification set for an airfield that was to be used as a heavy bomber station with three runways, 50 hard standings, two T-2 type hangars for aircraft maintenance, a bomb dump and enough accommodation to house around 2900 personnel.

56th Fighter Group arrived from Horsham St Faith on 9th July 1943 equipped with the P-47 Thunderbolt. Located eight miles from the Suffolk coast, Halesworth was seen as an ideal base to launch escort fighter operations as as this stage of the war the limited range of fighter aircraft was an important factor.

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The 56th flew numerous missions over France, the Low Countries, and Germany to escort bombers that attacked industrial establishments, V-weapon sites, submarine pens, and other targets on the Continent. In addition the 56th strafed and dive-bombed airfields, troops, and supply points; attacked the enemy communications; and flew counter-air patrols.

The 56th became one of the most outstanding fighter groups in the Eighth Air Force, producing fighter aces including Francis Gabreski and Robert S. Johnson. The group was responsible for pioneering most of the successful fighter escort tactics with the Thunderbolt and had many successes while operating from Halesworth and received a Distinguished Unit Citation for aggressiveness in seeking out and destroying enemy aircraft and for attacking enemy air bases, between 20th February and 9th March 1944. Having flown 128 missions, the 56th FG was transferred to Boxted in Essex on 19 April 1944 as Halesworth to make room for a new bomber group.

The four constituent squadrons of the 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy) arrived at Halesworth from the 1st May 1944 equipped with the B-24 Liberator and the group flew its first combat mission on 30th May attacking targets in preparation for the D-Day landings.

Halesworth 489th BG Liberator

The group supported the landings in Normandy on 6 Jun 1944, and afterward bombed coastal defenses, airfields, bridges, railroads, and V-weapon sites in the campaign for France. The 489th began flying missions into Germany from mid-July, and engaged primarily in bombing strategic targets such as factories, oil refineries and storage plants, marshalling yards, and airfields in Ludwigshafen, Magdeburg, Brunswick, Saarbrucken, and other cities until November 1944. Other operations included participating in the saturation bombing of German lines just before the breakthrough at St Lo in Jul, dropping food to the liberated French and to Allied forces in France during Aug and Sep, and carrying food and ammunition to Holland later in Sep.

The 489th flew a total of 91 combat missions and lost 23 aircraft before returning to the USA, between November and December 1944 to prepare for redeployment to the Pacific theatre.

 

In January 1945 the 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron moved from Boxted to Halesworth equipped with a mix of OA-10 Catalina amphibians, P-47 spotter planes and SB-17 Flying Fortresses that were especially equipped with lifeboats that could be dropped to downed aircrew in the sea. As well as the 5th ERS, Halesworth was now used as an operational training airfield for P-51 Mustang pilots.

At the cessation of hostilities Halesworth was closed for flying in 1946 and the site used for storage by the Ministry of Food until 1963 when the airfield was finally sold. Today a museum tells the fascinating story of this airfield and the people that served here through displays of artefacts, photographs and a wealth of other information.

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Sparrowhawk Way, Upper Holton
Halesworth, IP19 8NH
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