Stephen Fry documentary tells story of Norfolk’s Langham Dome

Development manager Kate Fair stands inside Langham Dome. Picture: Ian Burt

Development manager Kate Fair stands inside Langham Dome. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

They called it the Christmas pudding, but it played a vital part in the Second World War.

Now a new TV documentary, narrated by Stephen Fry, reveals how Langham Dome also played its part in the development of 21st century entertainment.

Rescued from ruin by a dedicated bunch of enthusiasts the Dome, stands beside the former Langham Airfield, near Stiffkey.

Norfolk-based broadcaster Mr Fry, a supporter of the charity that has saved it, tells its story in the one-off programme, due to be broadcast on Sunday (2.55pm), on BBC One East.

The Dome was developed in the first years of the war, when losses were high from low-flying enemy aircraft closely attacking troop positions, airfields and ships.

It provided the world's first-ever simulated training. Films or aircraft were projected on to the dome walls for gunners to practice shooting at.

All the services adopted the 'Dome method', which was invented by Naval Commander Henry Stephens.

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It saved countless lives and helped the allies achieve superior air power over the Germans. Of 40 domes that were built just 6 survive. Langham is the only one to be turned into an interpretive museum.

Survivors who used the dome relive the poignant stories of the missions they flew from nearby RAF Langham and how the dome helped prepare them for war.

Stephen Fry also reveals how this idea in a 'Christmas pudding' led to the development of computer games, flight simulators and widescreen cinemas.

What began as ingenuity to defeat an enemy becomes the foundation for much of our entertainment in the 21st Century.

The programme also includes first hand testimony from a 94 year-old RAF navigator stationed at Langham, little-known revelations of how the Dome was used in the Cold War in the 1950s, an interview with the Dome inventor's grandson and previously unseen footage of Henry Stephens' hand-written journal.

BBC executive producer Diana Hare said: 'As someone born in Norfolk it's fascinating to discover the secrets still hidden in the county. This is a fascinating piece of our history.'