Memorial unveiled to safeguard a little-known part of Norfolk’s First World War history

The unveiling of the new war memorial at Little Dunham. Picture: Ian Burt

The unveiling of the new war memorial at Little Dunham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A little-known part of Norfolk's First World War history which was to be lost through time has been safeguarded thanks to a determined community project.

The unveiling of the new war memorial at Little Dunham. Picture: Ian Burt

The unveiling of the new war memorial at Little Dunham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Dozens of people gathered yesterday to witness the unveiling of a memorial to mark the 100th anniversary of a former First World War airfield just south of Little Dunham, between Dereham and Swaffham.

Few people today are aware of the 43-acre airfield, which was officially known as Sporle Landing Ground.

There were plans to build a electricity sub-station on the field but they were withdrawn last year following a three-year fight by the local community.

Historian Richard James, a retired squadron leader at RAF Marham, discovered its story when carrying out research into Little Dunham and spoke to to Huby Fairhead, curator at the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum.

The unveiling of the new war memorial at Little Dunham. Picture: Ian Burt

The unveiling of the new war memorial at Little Dunham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt


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He informed the parish council who secured a £500 grant from Breckland Council, further funds were raised and local workmen built the brick and slate memorial free.

Mr James, of Little Dunham, said: 'Before this project, only a couple of old farmers knew of the history - they called it the old flying field.

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'There may have only been a couple of pilots and a ground crew based here, but it is part of Norfolk's history.

'It would have been terrible if an electricity sub-station had been built without anyone knowing about what happened here so it is fantastic now, 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War, that this memorial is here to commemorate the brave people who flew tiny aircraft against German zeppelins.'

The unveiling of the new war memorial at Little Dunham. Picture: Ian Burt

The unveiling of the new war memorial at Little Dunham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

The memorial was unveiled by Group Captain Harvey Smythe, the station commander of RAF Marham, and blessed by Revd Father Martin Joyce.

A Tornado from RAF Marham performed a flypast.

Gp Capt Smyth said: 'It has been a real privilege to be invited to be part of the event at Little Dunham.

'It is incredibly important that we continue to honour and remember those from the local area who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and this year particularly being the 100th anniversary of the First World War.'

The project was made possible by Simon Fowler, Richard James, Bretts of Watton, landowner Pamela Griffin, Breckland Council, Ray Brolly, David Harris, David Walker, Chris Heslin, Ryan Malin and J Medler Ltd of Taverham.

Do you have any information about the history of Sporle Landing Ground? E mail adam.lazzari@archant.co.uk

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