flying commenced at on November 20th 1941 when the station
opened as a grass satellite airfield for RAF Coltishall and
forward base for fighter command. The Spitfires of 152
squadron making daily use of the airfield. It was to be used
by many RAF squadrons over next three years but none were to
stay for very long. The station was closed to flying
operations in July 1943 and work commenced to build three
concrete runways, taxi tracks and aircraft hard standing to
prepare the station for its next intended occupants, the
U.S. Eighth Air Force, however they never took up the option
of using Ludham for operational duties.
work was to take a year, after which time the station
remained empty of all but its maintenance complement until
August 1944. Although not an operational station in its own
right, Ludham was opened by a skeleton duty crew to provide
emergency recovery facilities for American bombers returning
from raids on the continent; Ludham being the first airfield
on the flight path home to Norfolk. In total 8 B17s, 1 B24,
1 P47, & 1 P48 aircraft did have to either crash or make
emergency landings at Ludham or in the surrounding area.
RN interest in the airfield
At the same
time as the works programme at Ludham was completed the
Admiralty were urgently seeking a suitable station to house
the newly formed Mobile Naval Airfields Organisation
(M.N.A.O.). Although the organisation had been in existence
since September 1943 it was not established at a central
location, its various departments were housed in the
Admiralty while the planning and organisation were carried
out. Initially the location of this H.Q. was to be overseas,
n the East, probably Ceylon, but as the war progressed and
resources for the new organisation were in short supply the
role and structures of the units planned by the MNAO
changed. It was to be late in the summer of 1945 before
sufficient materials and resources became available for the
MNAO to begin its work in earnest and the Admiralty began to
search for a formation and assembly base in the UK.
Admiralty had no suitable sites available so the search
turned to the RAF; the Air Ministry proposed Ludham, 11
miles NE of Norwich, not the most suitable candidate but the
only one available at the time. LUDHAM was transferred from
RAF No. 12 Group to Admiralty charge 24th August 1944, an
advance party of the M.N.A.O. arriving to occupy the
airfield the day before.
Commissioned as an RN Air Station
he station was commissioned as H.M.S.
FLYCATCHER, Royal Naval Air Station LUDHAM on September 4th
under the command of CDR (A) J.B. WILSON, Senior Officer
Mobile Naval Airfields Organisation (S.N.O.M.N.A.O.).
Captain L. J. S. EDES assumed command of R.N.A.S. LUDHAM and
the title S.N.O.M.N.A.O., on November 1st 1944.
Mobile Naval Air Base (MONAB) began assembling within days
of Ludham commissioning, assembling along the lines of an
earlier trial MONAB which had been assembled at R.N.A.S.
Yeovilton in June 1944. Despite short falls in both
equipment and manpower availability the second MONAB began
to assemble on October 1st. This posed a big challenge to
the fledgling organisation as it was decided to the tasking
of MONAB II to that of a Receipt & Dispatch Unit, a
completely new type of unit not envisaged in the original
planning. The originally allocated technical components
(Mobile Maintenance and Maintenance Servicing units) were
withdrawn and the MONAB was assembled with only Maintenance,
Storage & Reserve (MSR) components. The originally drafted
compliment of ratings was to be made almost totally
redundant by this change of task, a further batch of 997
ratings arrived in due course, this raising the total number
of personnel at Ludham to an unacceptable level. To overcome
this problem it was decided to split MONAB. II and to ease
the over crowding by sending the technical components,
comprising of 600 ratings, to RN Air Establishment Risley,
where they would complete assembly. This allowed MONAB III
to commence formation on October 18th.
forming at Ludham faced one common problem, the M.N.A.O. was
severely under manned; this was manly a shortage of ratings.
To overcome this shortage manpower was poached from the
assembling units. Another handicap to the smooth formation
of mobile units was Ludham itself; being a fully dispersed
airfield spread over a wide area the distance between the
Headquarters., forming areas and stores issuing points was
very prohibitive, especially in the winter months; in short
Ludham was a less than ideal station for the task allotted.
began to assemble from 18th October, and ten days later
MONAB I was complete enough to commission on the28th bearing
the ships name HMS NABBINGTON, just before personnel for
MONAB IV began arriving on the station at the start of
November, ready to began to assembling` on November 15th.
MONAB II commissioned on November 18th bearing the ships
names H.M.S. NABBERLEY.
MONABs I &
II departed by road and rail for Liverpool docks during the
18th - 20th of November, for embarkation and passage to
Australia. According to the MNAO timetable both units should
be fully manned, equipped and worked up by this time, the
reality was that both units were missing key personnel,
several vehicles, a/c spares, tools, together with many
other items of their scale of issue which Ludham was unable
to furnish. The stores & equipment of MONAB III were
despatched overnight on December 2nd, destined for Gladstone
Docks, Liverpool for embarkation. This was in advance of the
unit commissioning as H.M.S. NABTHORPE two days later.
4th 1944 personnel for Transportable Aircraft Maintenance
Yard No. 1 (TAMY 1) began to assemble at Ludham. This unit
threatened to pose the same problems as MONAB II and
exceeding Ludham's capacity. Although by the time TAMY 1
began to assemble in early December there were only MONAB.
IV and the personnel of MONAB III remaining, there would
still not be adequate room to house the considerably larger
elements of a TAMY. Therefore formation of TAMY 1 was to be
split in the same manner as MONAB II, the HQ component
formed at Ludham and the technical components at HMS
of 1944 also compounded the strain of the day-to-day
routines of the assembling units, things inevitably slowed
down; ratings were forced to queue for hours in rain, mud
and snow for personal kit issues. The large areas of tented
accommodation erected to house the personnel became a
quagmire. The Admiralty having taken onboard the problems at
Ludham began to look for a new site for its MONAB assembly
station. Ludham was not ideal from the start, it had poor
road and rail links, it was too far from the port of
embarkation, and the geography of the station itself was
working against it, negotiations were resumed with the Air
Ministry to find an alternative site.
18th 1944 the personnel and remaining elements of MONAB III
left the station for Liverpool docks, their place was soon
filled by the arrival of personnel for MONAB V which began
to assemble on December 28th. MONAB. IV commissioned on New
Years Day 1945, bearing the ship's name H.M.S. NABARON.
11th 1945 a second change in tasking resulted in MONAB V
having its component allocation revised, the Mobile Repair
components were withdrawn, being replaced with two
Maintenance, Storage & Reserve components. The equipment and
personnel of MONAB IV were transported to Liverpool for
embarkation and passage to Australia on January16th.
1st 1945TAMY I commissioned bearing the ships name H.M.S.
NABSFORD, and MONAB V also commissioned as H.M.S. NABSWICK.
The personnel & equipment of both these units departed for
Gladstone docks, Liverpool, on February 16th to embark for
passage to Australia. Meanwhile the Admiralty's search for
Ludham's replacement had resulted in the Air Ministry
offering to swap RAF Middle Wallop for Ludham. The Admiralty
accepted because Middle Wallop better met the requirements
of a MONAB formation & despatch station, it was more
centrally located, had better road & rail links and its
layout was of a more conventional type.
Returned to RAF Control
FLYCATCHER paid off at R.N.A.S. Ludham on February 16th
1945. The M.N.A.O. transferred to R.N.A.S. Middle Wallop,
the station being transferred from No.7 0 Grp. RAF to
Admiralty control the same day, and commissioned as H.M.S.
Click here for a list of
Drury, A.J., (2000 - 2019) 'The
MONAB Story' - A history of the Mobile naval Air Bases
of the Royal Navy.
Confidential Admiralty Fleet Orders:
1990/44 R.A.F. Station, Ludham
Transfer to Royal Navy
2019/44 R.N. Air Station
Ludham - Date of Commissioning
2334/44 Mobile Naval Air Bases
- Administrative Arrangements
2448/44 Mobile Naval Air Base
No. I - Commissioning
2804/44 Mobile Naval Air Base
No. II - Commissioning
2683/44 Mobile Naval Air Base
No. IV - Commissioning
86/45 Mobile Naval Air Base
No. V - Commissioning
197/45 Transportable Aircraft
Maintenance Yard No.1 - Date of Commissioning
284/45 R.N. Air Station Ludham
- Return to Royal Air Force in Exchange for R.A.F. Station