Our meeting on Friday 6th July at the Community Hall, Felixstowe Road was well attended despite the warm summer evening and the attractions of Wimbledon!

Peter Gunn, author of books on the airfields of East Anglia was accompanied by his wife Janet. He gave a fascinating story of airfields past and present. Some of them long forgotten and active in the Great War. Many radar sites and decoy airfields to distract the enemy from operational airfields.

Many churches contain stained glass windows in memory of past tragedies were spoken about by Peter. His illustrations made the evening most enjoyable.

Here at Martlesham our society has been responsible for the stained glass windows in the church of St Michael's and All Angels. These depict the crests of the Royal Flying Corp, the Royal Air Force and the USAAF as well as the crest for the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment. A poignant reminder of the aviation history of our village. On the Barrack square between the two war memorials MHAS were responsible for the third monument which tells the story of the important aviation history of Martlesham.

Our speaker spoke of many such historical reminders of aviation in East Anglia. A vote of thanks was given by our chairman, Martyn Cook.

Next month is the occasion of our annual outing. This year we will be visiting the famous Shuttleworth collection of flyable vintage aircraft. On the way we will visit what remains of RAF Tempsford, the secret aerodrome where agents were flown out to occupied Europe in WW2. A few tickets may still be available if you would like to accompany us on the coach. Contact Howard King on 01473 274300 if you are interested.

Martlesham Heath Aviation Society members – and a fascinating visit to Orfordness on Tuesday 12th June.

On a cold, blustery day 22 members met on the Quay at Orford for the short trip across by launch to Orfordness.

We were treated by Guides Grant Lahour and Andrew Capell , to a tour of the site – so large (about 10 square miles) that we had to use, for most of the tour, a covered Trailer, pulled by a tractor.

The first thing that we noticed as we trundled to our first stop was the abundance of wildlife – particularly unusual birds such as Little Egrets, Curlews and Peewits – and Chinese Water Deer, and hares – all not put out by our presence as they are little disturbed.

At our first stop we walked to a Great War Building, which is being altered, made watertight – but not tarted up – to be used as an interpretation centre – an ongoing project.

ON the way there we passed the crumbling remains of a rare WW2 ballistics testing building – where projectiles were fired at a target inside the building, and the resultant deformation of the warhead filmed on a special shadow screen system, using high speed Vinton cameras.

After passing the remains of other Great War Buildings, one of which houses a fascinating Exhibition of photos and artefacts covering the story of the site from its earliest days in 1914, to its closure as the Atomic Warfare Research Establishment in 1971…. though some other secret work may have continued later but much smaller scale.

We ate our packed lunch in the site Wardens Hut, once again a building of some age. This building acts as the centre of operations for volunteers working on the island. Here we learned more of the ‘ness’s fascinating story – and snippets about the involvement of Orfordness with Martlesham Heath – particularly on the Bomb Ballistic Unit’s work.

Carrying on the tour we had a view of Cobra Mist, the Cold War - Over the Horizon Radar System site. And in the far distance Radio Transmitter Masts – once used for the BBC World Service – but apparently now used as a booster facility for current Radio Caroline transmissions.

On then to look at the work done on Bom Ballistic Testing – where brave souls on the ground filmed (using high speed cameras and telemetry systems the descent and behaviour of Bombs and Bomb concrete filmed bomb casings – including inert British Atomic Bomb casings.

These were aimed a long strip of shingle at the seaward site of the ‘ness- which carried on into the North Sea. The landscape around there resembles a mini moonscape with craters in the shingle. Despite much bomb clearance work done over the years - it is not a good idea to wander onto this shingle area.

The work of the staff on the ground was not without risk. About 30 yards from the main monitoring tower there is a large crater in the shingle – apparently from a large bomb dropped by an American B52 Bomber from over 32,000 feet – which went somewhat off course.

We next went in a large Black Wooden Tower – which was used in early experiments in the 1930’s in the development of Marine Radio Beacons – which obviously had similar uses in creating Aircraft beacons – as well as doing experiments which would have had a bearing on early Radar Development.

Nearby was the iconic Lighthouse (the third on this site)… like the others before under threat from Coastal Erosion.

Now we moved on towards the Atomic Weapons research Establishment facilities.

These buildings, so easily seen from Orford Town Quay, many called “Pagoda Building by the locals and others - were used to test fuses for weaponry of various sorts – including the Fuses for The British Atomic Bombs.

The Fuses were shaken, heated, cooled, blasted with radio waves, shaken and hit – to access the stability of the fuses. Mush of the work done here is still Top Secret…. So, we were even more delighted to be able to enter these building – which – it must be said, are in a sorry state, being left to moulder away. One of our members was even more delighted than most – as he had worked in one of these buildings in the past…. and could tell some of his story – which was eagerly noted by our knowledgeable and friendly guides, who also told us what they knew.

Leaving these buildings, we were take back to the Orfordness Quay to get back to Orford. Tired, happy, a bit windswept, but chatting about what we had seen in a fascinating day out – thoroughly recommended to others.

This report barely reports what we saw and learnt… to find out more – you must go over there!

Many Thanks to our Volunteer National Trust Guides – who gave us a Great Day Out.

Howard King.


One of the AWRE

buildings we visited

This event coincides with the annual “Heritage Open Days” arranged by the Ipswich Society.

Our Control Tower Museum is on the list of buildings of particular interest. It will be open as usual and visitors are welcome to view the museum and enjoy our Classic Car Meet as well.

See the Ipswich Society Heritage Open days