Fighter command heritage centre to open at former air base
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
The rich heritage of one of Norfolk's most important air force bases is to be celebrated at a new centre.
A team of volunteers is working to transform a guardroom building at the former RAF Coltishall - which is now Scottow Enterprise Park - into a heritage and learning centre, to be opened as soon as lockdown restrictions allow.
Mervyn Cousens, chairman of the RAF Station Coltishall Heritage Trust, said the centre was a long time coming.
Mr Cousens, 64, from Coltishall, said: "We wanted to do something to highlight the importance of everything that has gone on here, and keep it alive for generations to come.
"We're almost ready to go and we're planning to open June 23. We're in talks about getting some more static displays, like another aeroplane or two. It all depends on what the council and the neighbours want to do."
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The trust is leasing building No. 40 at the site on what it hopes will be a long-term arrangement. The enterprise park is owned by Norfolk County Council and leased to Hethel Innovation, which in turn leases parts of the site to tenants including the heritage trust.
RAF Coltishall became a fighter station in 1940, the year after it was built, and during the Second World War it was home to more than 80 fighter squadrons. It hosted pilots including the ace Douglas Bader as well as Polish and Czech units, and during the Cold War it was home to Lightning and Jaguar jets. The base was closed in 2006.
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Mr Cousens said Norfolk was unique in that it had three RAF command stations - fighter command at Coltishall, bomber command at RAF Marham and coastal command at Bircham Newton. He said: "Once we've got ourselves open we'll be able to link up and maybe make a heritage trail for people who do want to learn the facts of what happened."
Mr Cousens said the base had been part of many other chapters in Norfolk's history, including playing a pivotal role in the response to the 1953 North Sea floods, and hosting several royal visits.
He said there were thousands of people - both servicemen and women and civilians - who had been involved with Coltishall over the years, and the new centre was sure to draw many visitors to Norfolk.
He said: "It was such a big part of so many people's lives. For so many it was the one place they really loved. It's like a golden thread that goes through anybody who has been here."