Hawker Fury - logo of the MHAS



This brief Chronology of Martlesham Heath is an extract by Linn Barringer, from the excellent book "Suffolk Airfields in the Second World War" by Graham Smith, published by Countryside Books, 3 Catherine Road, Newbury, Berkshire, England. ISBN 1 85306 342 8. Available in local shops for 11.95 or direct from the publishers with 1.00 postage with order.

Martlesham Heath was Suffolk's oldest airfield, beginning when the Royal Flying Corps moved its testing squadron from Upavon to "The Heath" on 16 January 1917.

1924 - enlarged to become the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (AAEE).

1939 - allocated to No.11 Group of Fighter Command, as a satellite to North Weald and Debden.
First fighters were Bristol Blenheim Ifs of No.604 squadron.
October 1939 - the first Hawker Hurricanes arrived.

1940 - the airfield's permanent squadron, No.264, arrived with Boulton Paul Defiants.
March 1940 - first Supermarine Spitfires landed for a short stay, No.266 squadron from Rhodesia.
10 July 1940 - airfield bombed, little damage.
Hurricanes of No.85 squadron, led by Sqn Ldr Peter Townsend (later Group Captain) used the airfield.
15 August - major Luftwaffe attack on fighter airfields but most of the aircraft were airborne.
Late 1940, No.257 squadron replaced by 242 squadron, with CO Sqn Ldr Douglas Bader.

1941 - three RAF "Eagle" squadrons - manned by American volunteer pilots, with an American leader William Taylor, an experienced US Navy pilot.

1942 - most of the squadrons that came to Martlesham flew Spitfire VBs. But Squadron No.182 was formed at Martlesham on 1 September as a Hawker Typhoon bomber squadron.

9 October 1943 - the first P-47Ds of 356th Fighter Group arrived, led by Lt Colonel Harold Rau, who later handed command to Colonel Einar Malstrom.
356th first kills came some weeks later when they destroyed 5 enemy fighters, but with a loss of 5 P-47s.

24 January 1944, over Frankfurt, 356th shot down ten enemy aircraft without loss. In February, the downed another 16 aircraft with the loss of one. Unfortunately successful missions were rather isolated, and the were thought of as a "hard luck" squadron.
Their shining hour with P-47s came on 4th August, when the 356th's pilots accounted for 15 Me109s for the loss of one fighter - their most successful mission of the war so far.
In November, they lost one pilot during their first mission with the new P-51Ds.
Six days later the Group's pilots destroyed 21 enemy aircraft with a single casualty.

7th May 1945 the Group completed their last operation, having accounted for 201 enemy aircraft but for the loss of 122 fighters - 72 pilots were killed in action.  to their memory, there is a lasting memorial (see below)
The airfield reverted to RAF use but by 1963 it was closed.
While many of the original buildings remain, dotted about the area, much of the site has been re-built as British Telecom's research and development centre.

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Martlesham Heath Hangars
Copyright 1964 Tom Miller

In 1999 the site was renamed Adastral Park.

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