Bodney was a grass-covered airfield without the usual concrete runways and opened in early 1940 as a 2 Group satellite station for nearby Watton. Several Watton-based squadrons were dispersed here and included Nos 21, 82 and 105 Squadrons with Blenheim IV medium bombers, 61 Squadron with Handley Page Hampden medium bombers and 90 Squadron with the new Boeing B-17 Fortress Mk.1 heavy bomber.
From January 1941 the Miles Master trainers of No.17 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit used Bodney as a satellite landing ground while based at Watton. On 14th March 1942, 21 Squadron was reformed at Bodney with Blenheim IV’s that were coded YH. Soon Lockheed Venturas began to replace them with the last Blenheims leaving in July.
The same month a few North American Mitchells arrived for 21 Squadron, two of them being FL169 and FL179 and both being Mk.I’s. This type remained with the squadron for a month before they left for West Raynham. In October 21 Squadron left for Methwold and by the following spring the Master trainers of 17 (P)A.F.U. had left for Calveley.
The station was then transferred to the 8th Air Force, U.S.A.A.F. as a fighter base. On 8th July 1943 the 352nd Fighter Group arrived, made up of the 328th, 486th and 487th Fighter Squadrons flying the P-47D Thunderbolt, keeping these until April 1944 when they were replaced by P-51 Mustangs. The Mustangs of the three squadrons carried the following code letters: PE(328th), PZ(486th), HO(487th); later the aircraft had their noses and spinners painted blue and their rudders painted in squadron colours: red (328th), yellow (486th) and blue (487th).
In early 1944 construction of a new control tower was begun on the eastern side of the airfield, but during D-Day operations, in the early morning of the 6th June 1944 in heavy drizzle, a Mustang flew into the control tower on take-off, killing the pilot Lt Robert Frascotti,
In December 1944 the Group left for Asche in France and later moved to Chievres in Belgium, arriving back at Bodney on 13th April 1945. They departed for the States shortly after V.E. Day, leaving the airfield to run down and returned to agriculture.
Click here to visit the 352nd Association website.
Monday, 27th May, 2013 saw a unique 8th Airforce 70th Anniversary Tribute Flypast take place paying homage to the memory of the thousands of men of the 8th Air Force who served in East Anglia.
The flight included 5 fighters of the Eagle Squadron based at Duxford and the ‘Sally B’, a B17 bomber of the type that, during 1943, 44 and 45, roamed the skies of Germany in daylight hours suffering terrible losses until the arrival of what the crews called their ‘Little Friends’, the protective fighter cover of P47 Thunderbolts and the P51 Mustangs such as those from Bodney.
The flight left Duxford and flew over selected bases and the American Cemetery at Maddingley which contains the remains of 3,812 of American men and where 5,127 names are recorded on the Tablets of the Missing; many of whom were lost operating from East Anglian bases. The flight continued over Suffolk and Norfolk visiting Mildenhall, Bodney, Snetterton, Knettishall , Horsham, Thorpe Abbots, Halesworth and Leiston.
By kind permission of the Bowes family, The Breckland View joined many others at the old Control Tower at Bodney to witness and record this unique and moving flypast.