Are these the final written words of a doomed Spitfire pilot at the former RAF Coltishall base?
- Credit: Submitted
A Second World War inscription has been discovered by archaeologists working at former RAF Coltishall, sparking speculation it could have been the final scrawl of a doomed Spitfire pilot.
The find was made late on Christmas Eve as Norfolk County Council's Historic Environment Service team was working on one of the airfield's most important heritage assets, a Second World War fighter pen.
The inscription, found on a brick in an air raid shelter next to the pen, reads 'N' and '194', which archaeologists have interpreted as the last letter of someone's initials and a date in the 1940s.
County archaeologist David Gurney is hopeful further work will reveal the missing letter and number, and that other inscriptions dating between 1939 and 1945 may be found.
He said: 'Under different lighting conditions we may well be able to read the full inscription, as has been done with a very successful project to record medieval graffiti in Norfolk churches.
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'We can't prove it, but there's a good chance that this inscription dates to 1940 and the time when RAF Coltishall was involved in the Battle of Britain.
'It might have been done by one of the groundcrew working on a Spitfire or a Hurricane, or even one of the pilots.
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'Although we'll probably never know who it was who left his mark here, coming across something like this always reminds us of all those who served at Coltishall and lost their lives during the war.
'This might have been the last thing that a pilot did before he took off in his fighter, never to return.'
Built at the start of the war, the E-shaped pen would have protected two single-engined fighters, such as Spitfires or Hurricanes, from airborne attack, while they were on the ground being repaired or refuelled.
There were 10 fighter pens on the airfield, dispersed around the perimeter track, but only one survives intact.
The pens at Coltishall are unusual in that they were made of hessian bags filled with concrete, piled up to form walls which then in time became solid.
They also had small brick sheds in front of them, probably for a small tractor which would have been used to move aircraft, people, equipment, fuel and ammunition around the airfield.
The county council, which bought the base for £4m in January 2013, is hoping to get funding to repair the small brick shed in front of the fighter pen, in which to tell its history.
Permission was recently granted for a huge solar farm at the site, which the council has rebranded as Scottow Enterprise Park.
Do you have memories of the base during war time? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, NR1 1RE.