War in the air over Norfolk
When William Buck first visited us with his collection of World War Two artefacts, almost exactly three years ago, it was his first venture into public speaking. Then, he attracted an audience of members and visitors that could just squeeze in to the Methodist Sunday School Room. This cold January evening we were in the Methodist Church itself. A good job too - it was nice and warm and easily accommodated the fifty people who braved the elements.
Something we learned last time was that every component part of every warplane carried the serial number of that plane. This meant that finds could be traced back to particular squadrons, to their crews and to the stories of their action and its consequences.
William has a personal mission to tell those stories in order to honour the memories of men who died or were injured defending our freedom. Also of those who came through, the last few of whom will soon no longer be with us. I will not attempt to repeat all he said but rather try to give you a taste of the whole event.
As the result of his careful research he was able to recount some seven or eight missions all of which ended, either sadly or triumphantly, within seven miles of Martham. They involved aeroplanes whose names are now written into history – Vickers Wellingtons, Mark 5 Spitfires, Halifax bombers, Hawker Typhoons. Enemy planes such as the Junkers 88, Heinkel 115 (A German seaplane, below), and even V1 rockets, entered some stories, as did a trawler and the Cromer Lifeboat.
We saw photographs of the actual aircraft, both before and after, and pictures of the crews. We were struck by how young they all were. Most were in their early twenties, with one or two teenagers andone “old” man in his thirties.
How local was all this? Well, three planes came down within sight of High Barn Farm, between Winterton and East Somerton; one crashed into the fruit farm on Rollesby Road in Martham and another was brought down by friendly fire near the Victoria Inn. Next time you drive along the A149 in the region of Potter Heigham and Catfield remember that you are following the route of the old railway – eleven pilots from five different nations were killed along this stretch of line alone.
Situated on the main bomber route from Germany to the English industrial Midlands, Martham and the villages around truly were in the front-line.