Time to Remember: new online roll of honour for RAF North Creake heroes
PUBLISHED: 11:26 27 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:38 27 June 2019
Many miles from the Normandy beaches where D-Day heralded the beginning of the end of World War Two, this Norfolk Control Tower played a vital role in Hitler's downfall and now, its owners have created an online memorial to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
Seventy-five summers ago, 14 aircraft set off from RAF North Creake, their mission to support the Bomber Stream: only 13 returned.
One aircraft, 'N' went missing in action, never heard from again since take off and all on board were lost - Wireless Operator F.C Brittain, 22, Pilot T.W Dale, 25, Air Gunner J.C Higginbottom, 21, Air Gunner W Latimer, 19, Special Operator F Lofthouse, 23, Bomb Aimer K.M.F Swadling, 21, Flight Engineer J.M Watts, 19 and Navigator R.J Whittleston, 28, all died on June 16 1944.
The owners of the Control Tower where missions were planned at North Creake are set to land their Time to Remember project to build a memorial to the lost crews of the airfield in 2020 but ahead of the physical commemoration, have created a new online tribute to their heroism.
The aircraft crew lost in June 1944 were the first to be lost of 17 that would never return after take-off from the Egmere airfield which was once home to more than 3,000 servicemen and women and which boasted a main runway that was 2,000m long, three hangars, 36 aircraft dispersal points, technical and administration sites and, of course, central to all, a Control Tower.
From here, No 199 and No 171 Squadrons of No 100 Group of RAF Bomber Command flew Stirling IIIs and Halifax IIIs on radio counter-measures intended to conceal the true position of the main Allied bomber thrust and to create maximum confusion among German radar operators.
They used airborne radio transmitters called Mandrel to jam German early-warning radar and dropped aluminium strips, known as chaff or Window to give false radar readings.
In peacetime, Mosquito planes were stored at RAF North Creake for a while but the runways were largely broken up. It is difficult to comprehend just what a hive of activity this area once was, and as it falls away from first-hand memory, essential that we remember the part it played in winning the war.
Nigel Morter and Claire Nugent - owners of the Control Tower Bed and Breakfast, have been fundraising since October 2017 to build a memorial to those who served at RAF North Creake and aim to have a sculpture of a bomber in place by the roadside at the junction of the B1105 'Dry Road' and Edgar Road by August 1 2020, which marks the anniversary of 75 years since the disbandment of the airfield.
The sculpture, a stainless steel skeletal Short Stirling bomber, will appear as if in level flight, banking slightly and will be aligned with the original runway while the road itself slices through what was once the airfield's Technical Site where you can still spot the Nissan huts and two large hangars, which are now put to use by a range of businesses.
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Turret trainers and a Bomb Teacher are still hidden in the trees and a mains store, gas clothing and respirator store remain in use today and - slightly further away, the Airmans' huts still stand. There are the remains of runways, taxiways and hardstandings and a modern addition in the corner of a patch of concrete away from the busy road, a memorial erected by the Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust which stands as a lasting tribute to the 17 crews who never returned to North Creake and all their comrades who served alongside them.
Designed by architect David Exeter who is donating his work due to his love for the Control Tower and to honour his father, who was ground crew in the RAF from 1939 to 1945, the memorial will be created by sculptor Andy Knighton who previously crafted a Lancaster plane at RAF East Kirkby.
Nigel and Claire are also working with Mark Riseborough from Black Dog Computer Services and Vikki Powles of My Able Assistant to create a new website which will be a one-stop information hub for those wishing to learn more about the memorial, the history of the site, an interactive map of the airfield as it was in 1946, a news section and a full roll of honour for the 73 men from North Creake who lost their lives in just 12 months from 1944 to 1945.
The website will develop over the coming months and will eventually have searchable elements so that those with an interest can discover more from the vast archive the couple have been amassing since 2011. There is also an opportunity for those with memories or stories about the airfield to share them on the site.
"June is a month of anniversaries for us at The Control Tower - and not just those significant dates from its wartime past," said Claire, "we first saw and offered to buy the tower in June 2011 and then opened our Bed and Breakfast in June 2014. Since we started working on the tower and its fascinating history, we have been overwhelmed by the support from local people to people on the other side of the globe.
"We are delighted to finally be able to honour those who served here with this new website and next year with the memorial itself."
* For more information, visit www.rafnorthcreake.co.uk.