Wendling Station and platform as they were in 1944. Only a few people can be seen to be waiting for a train, but many a time, this platform was bustling with GI's heading for Norwich or Kings Lynn or London on R&R. This was the closest station to the airfield and gave the field its name, as aposed to naming the field Beeston where most of the sites are located. The station has long since gone along with the track. The main A-47 road follows parts of the path of the former line. Other stretches have been turned into nature paths.
Wendling is situated in the heart of rural Norfolk, England and sits in an area of intensive farmlands and small villages. Work on building the airfield began in the early 40's. The airfield was specially constructed for USAAF use to house 2,800 men in the Nissen huts surrounding the village of Beeston, which then had a very small population of about 400 people. It wasn't until early August 1943 that its new tenants began to arrive. With the heavy arrival of the 392nd Bombardment Group, this small rural area was suddenly transformed into a hive of activity. Life in the communities suddenly had changed!
The 392nd arrived in early August 1943, and their first mission from Wendling took place on 9 September 1943, so little time was spent getting acquainted with the surrounding areas. When downtime did come for the soldiers, local towns and villages became very popular. The local pubs and lasses were especially popular, and being in such a rural location, the favourite mode of transportation was the bicycle. Although on many occasions, the mixture of blackouts, bicycles and beer resulted in many "mishaps" around Wendling and all of the other bases. Locals quickly became accustomed to having the "Yanks" as part of the communities. Ingenious locals soon latched onto the money these new found friends had and promptly set up various "businesses."
A common business was laundering uniforms for the "Yanks." A classic story from a villager at Beeston tells how the locals would steal the GI's issue bicycles while they were happily drinking a few warm ones in the pubs. These were then sold back to the airmen who were in need of transportation, not realizing they were buying what was theirs in the first place!
The following aerial view drawing shows the base, airstrip and the different sections of the base by numbers. Click on any of the following numbers to see buildings and information about that area.
The main airfield site was situated 1 mile South East of the village of Besston and 2 miles North West of Wendling village. It contained the bomb dump and the main technical site. Within in this site was to be found the control tower, the base fire department, crew rooms gas storage facilities and many of the maintenance facilities. The Link trainer was also on the site. The airfield also was home to a small contingent of British Home Guard soliders. They were found on the South side of the field in a few scattered huts.
Airfields are always bleak places to work due to the cold winds and little shelter as this dramatic shot shows of Wendling's Control Tower. Taken during the winter months with snow on the ground and a overcast sky, one can clearly see how tough the ground crews work would have been in keeping the aircraft airworthy for the next mission.
Aerial photograph of Wendling taken in the spring of 1944. B-24 aircraft can be seen parked around the field on the dispersed hard stands. The Technical site is encompassed within the main airfield making up Site 1.
Just West of the Technical site sits Site 13, where the hospital and sick quarters were located. North of the Hospital is Site 2 or the Administrative buildings. Here were the group's briefing rooms and Norden bombsight storage facilities. Ben Burgess now utilizes these building.
Seen between runways 19 and 26 at the NNE side of the field, the firing butt was located where the aircraft guns were test fired. A B-24 can be seen with its tail gun pointing towards the butt.
In the bottom right of the picture, Honeypot Wood can be seen. It was here that munitions were stored using the natural camouflage of the woods. Just to the west of this was one of the two T-2 hangars on the field. The various buildings around this belonged to the base engineering depot. Inside the taxi way and between runways 26 and 31 was a small skeet range.
An enlargement of the typical handstands located around Wendling's runways. In the top left corner of the photo one can see a lone B-24 parked on a handstand. This aircraft is 42-52548 S Jaw-Ja-Boy whose crew chief was Ernie Barber. His field built line shack can be seen to the left of the aircraft, with a concrete path leading up to it from the taxi way. This shack was one of the many that sprung up over the airfield. Most were built from the wooden bomb crates. In the lower right hand side of the photo is the outer edges of the Bomb Dump in Honeypot woods. In the centre of the field was a small skeet range and to the north east corner of the field were two firing butts located at the end of a concrete turnaround.
A 'Little Friend' buzzes the field at Wendling. The P-47 appears to be flying over the top of the photographic building located towards the north end of the main technical site, having buzzed the 08 runway.
Located to the north east of the control tower, this building served as the squadron's flight offices. To the right of the picture one can see the Floodlight trailer and tractor shed. Located behind these two buildings in the centre we can see one of Wendling's two T-2 hangars used for aircraft repair. A few pieces of equipment can be seen beside the T-2. Nothing of these buildings remain today. This photo appears to have been taken during the winter of 1944/1945.
A view looking north at Cannister farmhouse and barns. The owner at the time refused to move out of his house and told the officials during the building of the airfield that he was here long before them and refused to vacate his house. The outcome was that the main technical site was built around his property, much to the joy of the 'Yanks' stationed here as it was just a walk to fresh eggs and milk from their place of work! The main farm house is the only building surviving today. The farmhouse can be seen on the extreme left of the panoramic print taken from atop the control tower on the same site.
The runways were in the A formation with the longest, 260, being 6000ft in length. Runways 010 and 130 were both 4200ft in length. The main contractor for the concrete runways was Taylor Woodrow Ltd with work beginning in 1942. It wasn't until September 1943 that it was first occupied by its tenants, the 392nd Bomb Group.
For the aircraft dispersal sites these consisted of 25 pans and later after the intial constuction another 26 loops were added. Each squadron of the 392nd were then assigned an area on the field. The 576th were on the hardstands on the NW corner of the field. The 577th were in the NE corner, the 578th to the SE next to the Bomb dump, and the 579th were in the SW corner.
Wendling was built with two T-2 type hangars. One was located in the NW area of the airfield , the other in the SE corner.
Today, thanks to the efforts of a local turkey farmer, much of the runways still remain intact today. The perimeter taxiway also survives, and one can almost drive all the way around the field. The former technical site and its related buildings are unfortunately, long gone. Amazingly most of the outlines of where there were concrete pathways and foundations can still be seen in the freshly ploughed fields today. Even though concrete crushing machines have long since destroyed the foundations, from the air, the outlines can be clearly seen. Even as one walks the fields, where once stood a hundred or so buildings, you can still walk the pathways. The years of ploughing these fields still turn up the ghostly outlines.
The control tower remained on the site up until the early to mid 1980's when, by then, it was just an empty shell of a structure that had simply caved in on itsself. It was then simply bulldozed flat and the site cleared.
The only original part of the Technical site that remains today is an enterance road and a small concrete pad that sits aside a farmhouse. The farmhouse, known as Cannister farm, was surrounded by the technical site during the war. Now it sits as it did prior to the war, alone surrounded by empty fields. I worked for a hydraulic company that were based on this site so it was a daily visit for me. We operated out of a hangar not too disimilar to the wartime T-2 type. Now the site sits empty once again. Its hard to believe that this was the nerve centre of the field some 50 years ago, with all its briefing rooms and repair shops. Some things about airfields never change though, they are still cold and desolate places to work outside in, whether they are active of been closed for 50 years!
This is where the heart of the mission planning and briefing took place. Site 2 was the main administrative site for the 392nd bomb group. It is here that missions were planned and briefed to the aircrews.
Today, the former operations centre is now home to a John Deere dealership, Ben Burgess (Beeston). The main building on this site, containing the briefing room still stands today. It is used as a parts store room and offices for them. As one walk through the door, one can imagine the thoughts going through the minds of the young fliers who 50 plus years ago walked through the same door on their way to the briefing to find out todays mission.
To the north end of the building they have added a large workshop facility where tractors and agricultural machines are repaired. The actual operations building has had little changes made to it. A few wall here and there have been added, but it remains relatively the same.
Up until recently this building was outside. Now the entire structure has had a steel shed erected, placing the whole original briefing room under it. The briefing room was a listed building, meaning that it could not be altered on the outside, due to local code protection. In order to keep within the building codes of not destroying or altering the exterior of the building, this structure was built. This can be seen in the photographs.
A window of the former operation room can be seen here in the above right picture. This is taken on the roof of the original structure. Today it serves as an upstairs storage facility for the owners.
In the above left picture is looking towards the front of the building from the upper tier of the roof of the original building. The railings are original to the briefing rooms. Now, as can be seen here, the whole building is a building within a building.
Due to the nature of this site, it is the frequent call for many of the returning vererans where they are warmly welcome by the staff of Ben Burgess. Get togethers are often hosted by the owners and held in the large hangar which ajoins the original briefing rooms. At these, the veterans and locals can once again enjoy remaniccing together. It still maintains the american precence in the community with its dealership of John Deere!
This site was a center for activity for everyone on Wendling. It housed several of the mess halls as well as recreational facilities. The base cinema was located here. This was built by the airmen from parts they could find. The row seating, for instance, was salvaged from a bombed out cinema in London. It is believed a fitness centre of sorts was also to be found here. The Combat Officer's Mess was located just across the road from the main part of the site.
The Combat Officers Mess as it was in 1944(above left). The camouflage can be clearly seen covering the roof. The number of bikes show how this was a busy place!
The same view of the building as it is today(above right. It is now occupied by "Jagspares", a used Jaguar car parts dealer.
The layout of this site remains pretty much the same today as it was 50 years ago. The combat officers mess still stands and is now a used parts dealership for Jaguar cars. The building houses some of the best wall art of W.W.II.
The Combat Officer's Mess contains some of the best wall art to have survived from the war. It covers a whole interior wall and depicts a an eagle clutching a banner of the 392nd Bomb Group. The background is a cloudscape with B-24's flying towards you.
Higher headquarters, knowing full well the casualties facing the airmen as they entered combat and the need to pay attention to morale, sent an artist team to do the wall about as soon as they got to Wendling. The pencil lines of the artist can still be seen in the photographs as he tried to get the perspective right for the flying B-24 Liberators. The banner is about 10 ft in length so this gives you an idea as to the size of this wonderful piece of work.
On the main portion of the site, several industrial companies today occupy the remaining buildings keeping it a centre of activity up to the present day.
The base water supply was also stored at this site. The towers stood here up until the late 80's when they were removed.
Site 4, located 3/4 of a mile West of the main airfield, was another Communal site. Like Site 3, it contained various sports buildings and a chow hall for the enlisted troops. Several of the original buildings still stand today. It is on this site that the base library was, along with a racquetball court.
Much of the north part of this site is now home to a fruit canning plant, while the south half remains abandoned with the majority of the buildings still standing. As can be seen in the photos, the site is pretty much overgrown with vegetation.
Just to the East of this site and north of Site 10 was one of the numerous Military Police guard posts that were scattered around the base. These were id checkpoint to prevent unauthorized access to the sites.
Above left photo is located at the entrance to Site 4 and 10, this MP Guard Post building still stand today and is now a storage building for the local farm.
In the above middle photo it shows quite a few huts still stand today on this site. Pretty much, they are all original condition with some new tin been added over the years. This photo is taken looking West from the entrance, right across the road from the MP Guard hut.
Above right photo shows the concrete where buildings once stood as the remaining ones are covered in vegetation.
After the war, this site was owned by a local farmer and avid car collector. Up until the late 80's the remaining huts were filled with his historic and antique automobile collection, until his death when everything was auctioned. As a boy growing up, I remember cycling past this site and seeing all these old cars packed into the huts. The auction was held on the main airfield site leaving site 4 empty once again.
The ravages of time can be seen on this building as it crumbles year by year(above left photo). Vegetation has engulfed the whole rear of this hut and stinging nettles cover the former concrete slabs.
Robert Walthew stands in the entrance way of this building (above right photo). It is not clear what this building was, but it is said to have been a racquetball building. Robert and myself spent many a fun filled day exploring these old buildings.
Site 5 can be seen in the centre of this aerial shot taken in 1944. Mainly living huts and wash racks can be seen. To the immediate left is Site 14, the bases sewage facility and in the lower right hand corner is Site 4, Communal Site.
This site sat isolated from the other sites down off of Herne Lane about one mile NW of the main airfield. It is located in an area known as Drury Square. To the West of here about 1/8 of a mile site 14 is located, not the best site to be living next to!
The site was farther away from the main airfield than any of the other sites although a good location for the close proximity to the local drinking tavern, The Ploughshare.
It is not quite clear as to what personnel were assigned here as no records can be found and very few veterans remember. Not a whole lot remains of the present site. A few concrete pathways are still found along with an odd building.
Today the area is used to breed and train racing greyhound dogs. As one drives by the former site, the training areas can be seen, but nothing of the original buildings. They remain tucked away behind hedges and buildings.
This site is believed to have been used mainly as a storage area, with a few living quarters for crews from the 576th squadron. It is located about one mile north west of the main airfield. It is surrounded by sites 5, 7 and 8. About three buildings remain on the site today. Two underground bunkers are today covered by dense undergrowth but still remain visible as a mound. Access cannot be gained to them due to the vegetation as can be seen in the photos.
Above left image shows what appears to be just a clump of trees and blackberry bushes is in fact a former underground bunker, that nature has sealed.
Above right image is next to an original concrete pathway sits another well covered underground bunker. Behind this stand a newly constructed hangar. This is the same spot the original storage hangar stood.
On this site situated next to one of the bunker once stood a storage hangar. Today the concrete pad is still there with a new hangar building that has been erected. This can be seen in the photos above. The former hangar was used for coal storage that was used to provide fuel for the stoves in the buildings. In the living quarters, coal was a rationed item, so this site became a frequent haunt for many an airman on a late night coal raid. A veteran once told me how living on site 7, across the road from this site, was quite convenient, as his stove was always well stoked due to these late night 'missions' of acquiring coal. He said they could never figure out why the coal was disappearing so rapidly!
About the only other buildings remaining here are a couple of washroom buildings. These are not intact like the ones on site 10, just the outside structure remains the same. They can be found in what is now a copse, as can be seen in the photographs.
Above left image is what was once a wash and shower facility now stands derelict and surrounded by woods.
Above right image is another shot of the lone building. To the left of the building can be seen industrial units which stand on the former Site 3. It gives an idea of how close all these sites were to each other.
A few odd concrete paths still remain scattered around the site. The former entrance path still remains and is now in use as a driveway.
This area is now privately owned and two new houses have been built on the site. As you drive by this former site, its had to envisage it as part of the airfield complex with so much of it long gone.
This picture appears to have been taken looking to the SSE towards the end of Wendling's 26 Runway. A B-24 can be seen through the trees just having taken off. These buildings are the standard nissen huts that littered the field.
Unfortunately nothing much of the original site remains today. This was a living quarters site that was located about a half mile from the centre of Beeston village and about three quarters of a mile West of the main airfield of Wendling. It was home to crews from the 577th and 578th squadrons. They lived in the nissen huts that were to be found on every airfield.
Above left image is a panoramic shot of what the same spot looks like today. Only the odd pathway can be made out in a freshly ploughed field today.
Above right image is a camoflaged nissen hut stands on Site 7. This was home to four officer crewmembers.
These huts were often cramped and chilly. Four crewmembers lived in one hut and furnished them with whatever they could find in the local area. The interiors were dimly lit with one light bulb and a small stove in the center of the hut funished heat. The chest of drawers that can be seen in the interior shots below, were purchased from King's Lynn market for £15. The shelves seen on the right hand wall were constructed of ammunition boxes.
An interior shot of a nissen hut which was home to four officers for their tour of duty. Notice the locally purchased furniture and homemade storage shelves. The Officer's cap can be seen at the end of his bed.
Across the road from this to the north on Site 6 was a large coal storage building. This became the site of frequent late night 'raids' from the personnel on Site 7 in order to keep them warm with extra free rations of coal.
Only a few of the concrete pads still remain, where once stood a nissen hut or a washroom. Most of it has once again reverted back to farmland.
The Nissen huts still stand today on Site 8. These were temporary huts that housed four officers, two pilots and two co-pilots from two crews. These were cold and windy places to live with the only heat coming from a small coal stove in the centre of the hut. A latrine and shower building can be seen on the left between two of the huts. This site was home to crewmembers from the 579th Bomb Squadron. This is one of the few sites at Wendling where a large proportion of the original buildings still stand today. The huts now house farm equipment and animals. Although the steel and wood buildings were designed for short-term use of no more than a few years, they have now stood the test of time for over 50 years.
Above left image shows the barbed wire fence was not only good at keeping out any unwanted visitors, it also served as a great clothes line for the GI's seen here hanging out the laundry. The farm in the background was used as a great source of fresh eggs and milk. The GI's would help around the farm in return for 'supplies'. This farm is still standing and has recently been renovated.
Above right image shows another shot of the farmhouse and surrounding barns which backed up to the north side of Site 8. One can see a nissen hut along with the standard means of transportation parked outside in the racks.
Above left image shows three of the remaining nissen huts can be seen here in this shot, now surrounded by grass fields.
Above right image shows how not much in these huts protected the occupants from the harsh elements of the British weather. Only a single stove kept them warm.
Located in the heart of the small village of Beeston, Site 8 was living quarters to crew members from the 578th and 579th bomb squadrons. It is to be found on the main village road about one mile north of the airfield site and opposite site 9. Today, it has the most buildings to be found out of all the Wendling sites. Several wash facility buildings and about six nissen huts still stand. Also to found are a few of the last remaining underground bunkers.
In the last few years, several of the buildings are disappearing as new housing springs up over the site.
The site was adjacent to a local farmhouse which still stands today. It proved to be a great location for the crews, who had not far to walk for fresh food and eggs, a great bonus in wartime rationed England. It was also about a two minute bike ride from the "Ploughshare", a frequented drinking establishment. Always filled with the airmen during the war years!
Mr Rowland, owner of the site is always welcoming returning American veterans and their families.
In the above images a returning veterans take a reminiscing tour around the nissen huts trying to recall in which ones they had lived all those years ago. At the entrance to this site was a military police guard post, an id checkpoint. It consisted of a gate with a little shack next to it. The guard shack has long gone, but the post remains to this day.
Above left image shows the three of the remaining nissen huts can be seen here in this shot, now surrounded by grass fields.
Above right image shows a lone latrine building is flanked by three of the remaining nissen huts. These are standing at the back of the site next to farmland.
All of the buildings are now used for storage by the owner. All are still original with little repair, an amazing fact, as all of these building were designed for temporary use of no more than a few years. They were merely tin and wood construction as can be seen in the photographs. Even the original windows are intact on most of the buildings. Its hard to imagine, when walking through this site, how busy it once was with all the airmen living here.
This was a former living quarters site to airmen assigned to the 392nd. It is located right on the edge of Beeston village and is just over a mile north of the airfield. It sits hidden from view tucked away off the main road behind local homes. Today this site is a overgrown with weeds and trees and is home to some horses which live in the few remaining huts that still stand. A few concrete air raid shelters also litter the site, but due to the high water table, still remain flooded just as they were during the war!
Above left image shows two livings huts are amoung the few buildings still standing today and to the right can be seen a latrine hut. The building on the left was a shower facility.
Above right image looking SE at the huts. These are now horse stables. Behind the latrine building, in the right of the picture, remains an underground air raid shelter.
As with most of these sites nowadays, the few remaining buildings are giving way to the housing developers and the site is slowly becoming more built up. Many of the pathways still lie just below the grass and weeds that cover them and can be easily distinguished.
Above left image shows the pathways still litter the site and one can imagime how busy these were bussling with airmen over 50 years ago. Today many seem to lead to nowhere as the buildings are long gone.
Above right image shows where these buildings were a purpose built playhut for the children of the area. This one can be seen with 'Youth Club' painted on it long after it was vacated by its intended residents.
These buildings proved great play areas for us children growing up and as can be seen on one of the huts, somebody had painted 'Youth Club' on the outside of it.
This one bunker still lays intact on the site. One or two of these were usually found on each site but were rarely used at Wendling. Only on two occasions during Wendling's operational life were these shelters used. Both were when lone German aircraft straffed the field late at night.
Across the road from this area was Site 8 where the main MP guard post was for personnel entering these two sites.
These various views of the few remaining huts on this site are being overtaken by nature. Stinging nettles blocks the doors to several while blackberries grow on another. Ivy has virtually hidden another.
Several buildings still scatter the grounds of what was the former site 10 on Wendling. Aircrew and ground personnel lived here in the tin huts. A few pathways still lead the way around the site while the outline of others can still be seen in the fields. About four of the former living quarters still stand today and are used for storage.
This is one of the only sites that still has the washrooms and shower buildings standing to this day. In one building the interior is still complete with a toilet.
It is believed that this site was home to members of the 578th squadron. The area was probably quite a noisy site, being located approximately one mile due west of Wendling's main runway. It lies at the end of Herne Lane one mile due south of the main village of Beeston. There were also laundry facilities here. After the war, the tin sheds were used to house low income families for a time. Nowadays, all they are used for is mainly storage.
Site 11 was the communal site of the W.A.A.F, who were living right next to it at site 12. Found half way down Herne Lane, within a stone's throw from Site 11 and within view of the end of the main runway. This is where the American Red Cross operated out of with their various wagons etc. One such vehicle was the Flying Service wagon. This was a converted bus that operated around the field giving hot food and beverages to the airmen. This vehicle had an aircraft named after it - The Flying Service.
It is believed to have had a swimming pool on it, and evidence of one can be found today. Very little remains of this site except a few latrine buildings, a couple of concrete pads and what appears to be an inground concrete pool. Scattered around are several piles of concrete and brick rubble which were the former buildings, long since gone.
On what was the main site, today sits a small development of local council houses. The entrance to this development now, was also the entrance to this former site. Like so many of the other sites, it was used as temporary housing immediately following the war.
As one wends their way through the brush at the rear of this site, to the North can be seen the back of sites 7 and 3. Also, one can see the 392nd Memorial to the East.
Stencilled orders can still be seen on the wall of a former latrine on Site 11. As light bulbs were hard to come by then, it was necessary to try to prevent people taking them for their own living quarters. Stencilled on several walls, one can still read "DO NOT REMOVE LIGHT BULBS" and "USE WASTE CAN".
As Wendling was initially planned for the Royal Air Force, this site was designated to be used by the WRAF. When the USAAF moved in, it became the site where the women of the W.A.A.F were billeted. This included mostly American Red Cross girls.
The site can be found right off Herne Lane, a short distant from the main airfield site. Compared to the others on the field, it was a relatively small site, due mainly to the designation of the site as female billeting.
This site was the Wendling HQ for the American Red Cross, where girls like Birdie Schmidt operated from. Birdie had an aircraft named after her which can be found in the Aircraft listing link.
Today the site remains fairly much intact with most of the original buildings still standing. The brick buildings have had many uses over the years. Right after the war, they were used for housing for families bombed out of their homes. Then, they were storage buildings and in the 1980's a kit car company operated out of them until vacating them in the early 1990's. Today they sit abandoned and are used once again for storage.
Above left image shows an aerial shot of the main briefing room site (site 2) and the hospital (site 13). Taken in 1944 from a 7th Photographic Group P-38. An 'X' marks the spot where the 392nd Memorial now stands.
Above right image shows a nice winter shot looking towards the entrance to the hospital site located to the east of the main technical site. This is the 'Ambulance Only' entrance as can be determined from the signs. The entrance was located on Dereham Rd and is now the area where the current memorial is to be found.
On this site was the base hospital and medical facilities. It is located about 500 yards from the main airfield site. Several nissen huts served as the medical buildings which no longer remain today. It is on this former site that the 392nd Memorial is to be found. Only one concrete roadway and an underground bomb shelter remain today. The memorial was erected and dedicated here in 1945. The memorial was a simple granite obelisk that stood in lone corner of site 13 before it was renovated and re-dedicated in 1989.
Although this site was one of the smallest on Wendling, it was one of the most important. It covered about 2 acres in total with about 7 to 10 buildings. The main hospital buildings were the long nissen huts similar to the airmen's living quarters located on the other various sites.
The photographs below show what little remains today. A house has recently been built where the main hospital buildings stood. Behind that is to be found a bomb shelter.
It is hard to imagine, standing on this site today, this was a bustling place treating war wounded. Not all the injuries treated here were flying related of course. Many an airmen were treated here for 'mishaps' that occurred on the English country roads, after returning home late at night from a country pub after a 'few' pints of the local brew.
This Site sits about 2 miles to the West of the main airfield, for good reason. This was the the base sewage facility. It served the living sites of Wendling with all the water and sewage requirements. It contained a couple of small maintainece sheds and three filtration pools. most of this survives to this day. The site remains in use to this day for produce waste from the local fruit canning plant, found on site 4. As can be seen from the photographs, it is like the rest of the other sites with the vegetation running rampant.