RAF Woodbridge, Suffolk
(Image: Imperial War Museum, public domain)
The above photograph of a damaged Lancaster bomber taken at RAF Woodbridge in January 1944 illustrates perfectly the emergency airfield’s role during World War Two. The 550 Squadron Lancaster, numbered DV305 ‘BQ-O’, had been attacked by a German night fighter over Berlin, killing the rear and mid-upper gunners. The pilot, Flying Officer G. A. Morrison, managed to land his crippled bomber, albeit at the Suffolk strip rather than his home base at North Killingholme, Lincolnshire.
(Image: Google Earth)
Originally called RAF Sutton Heath, more than a million trees were cleared from Rendlesham Forest to make way for the Woodbridge site, which became operational in 1943. In July that year, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber became the first distressed aircraft to make an emergency landing at Woodbridge. That same month, a German Ju 88 night fighter mistakenly landed there after its inexperienced crew, who had only just completed 100 hours flying training, misinterpreted their compass heading and thought they’d arrived at their own base. Their aircraft was found to be fitted with a radar system that had been successfully used to intercept RAF aircraft. British engineers were able to analyse the system and devise countermeasures.
(Image: USAF, public domain)
Woodbridge remained an RAF base until 1948 when it was passed to the control of the U.S. Air Force. A variety of American fighter planes operated from there during the Cold War until the base was closed in the 1990s. The last A-10 Thunderbolt II departed in August 1993. The site is now used by the British Army Air Corps and an air assault regiment of the Royal Engineers. Surrounding the former RAF Woodbridge’s modern runway, the weed-strewn expanses of its original wartime strip remain evident to this day.