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‘They truly were knights of the sky’ - former airfield at Marsham is marked with a memorial

Veterans Norfolk chairman, Capt. Stewart Blackburn, left, and Leslie Willcocks, with the memorial plaque to the World War One relief landing ground after it was unveiled at Marsham used by the Royal Flying Corps. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Veterans Norfolk chairman, Capt. Stewart Blackburn, left, and Leslie Willcocks, with the memorial plaque to the World War One relief landing ground after it was unveiled at Marsham used by the Royal Flying Corps. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

Airmen dashing about in goggles and leather caps, the purr of propellers, fragile biplanes lifting off and landing with a bump and a hop.

Veterans Norfolk chairman, Capt. Stewart Blackburn, left, unveils the memorial plaque to the World War One relief landing ground at Marsham used by the Royal Flying Corps. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Veterans Norfolk chairman, Capt. Stewart Blackburn, left, unveils the memorial plaque to the World War One relief landing ground at Marsham used by the Royal Flying Corps. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

These sight and sounds were once familiar at a former First World War airfield in the village of Marsham, near Aylsham, which has been finally been marked with a memorial.

About 40 people attended a dedication ceremony at the site, just behind All Saints Church, which hosted a Royal Flying Corps relief landing field known as The Whites in 1915 and 1916.

Before the unveiling on Wednesday, two biplanes from the Felthorpe Flying Group, a Tiger Moth and a Leopard Moth, did a flypast, and a service was held in the church to honour those who fought and died in the war.

In a speech, Veterans Norfolk chairman Group Captain Stewart Blackburn remembered the men who honed their flying skills at Marsham before moving on to the battlefields of Europe.

A Tiger Moth, and a Leopard Moth aircraft flypast Marsham Church for the unveiling of a memorial plaque to the World War One relief landing ground used by the Royal Flying Corps. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY A Tiger Moth, and a Leopard Moth aircraft flypast Marsham Church for the unveiling of a memorial plaque to the World War One relief landing ground used by the Royal Flying Corps. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Group Capt Blackburn said: “Those were all young men with a passion for flying and life that drove them to be such exceptional pilots.

“They truly were knights of the sky.”

The Rev David Hagan-Palmer offered a blessing and led a prayer before Group Capt Blackburn unveiled the plaque, flanked by standard bearers from the Norwich and Wymondham branches of the Royal Air Force Association. The monument cost £1,200, paid for by donations from residents and businesses.

Lesley Willcocks, a village resident and parish councillor who led the project, said: “It’s wonderful that we are now on the aviation map of the UK.

A Vickers FB 5 Gunbus, one of the types of aircraft based at Marsham. Picutre: CONTRIBUTED/PUBLIC DOMAIN A Vickers FB 5 Gunbus, one of the types of aircraft based at Marsham. Picutre: CONTRIBUTED/PUBLIC DOMAIN

“Not many people knew it was here before, but now I hope this plaque will draw lots of visitors.”

Richard Knight, from Marsham, was one of two living historians from the Spirit of Coltishall Association who dressed as First World War airmen for the event.

Mr Knight said it was vital those who gave their lives in war continued to be remembered.

He said: “Those men sacrificed their lives for our futures and our freedom so every little memorial that can be dedicated to their memory is worthwhile.”

A Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2a, one of the types of aircraft based at Marsham. Picture: SUPPLIED/PUBLIC DOMAIN A Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2a, one of the types of aircraft based at Marsham. Picture: SUPPLIED/PUBLIC DOMAIN

After the ceremony the group moved to the village hall, where the New Farm Aviation Heritage Museum put on a display of equipment from the Great War, including aircraft-mounted machine guns.

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