H.M.S. FLYCATCHER was the ships' name designated for the
headquarters and formation station of the Mobile Naval Airfields
Organisation (M.N.A.O.). Although the organisation had been in
existence 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 in 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.
The Admiralty had no suitable sites available so the search
turned to the RAF, an airfield at Ludham, in Norfolk was proposed.
The airfield lay 11 miles NE of Norwich, half a mile west of Ludham
village, and was built as a second grass surface satellite airfield
for RAF Coltishall. Later it had been prepared for use as a
USAAF Bomber field but was not taken up.
RAF Ludham was transferred from RAF No. 12 Group to
Admiralty charge on August 24th 1944, an advance party of the Mobile
Naval Airfields Organisation had arrived to occupy the airfield the
day before. The 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
MONAB I 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 of 1944.
Despite short falls in both equipment and manpower availability
MONA. II began to assemble on October 1st. This posed a big
challenge to the fledgling organisation as it was decided to change
its tasking to that of a Receipt & Dispatch Unit, a completely new
type of unit not envisaged in the original planning. The originally
allocated technical components were withdrawn and the unit was
assembled with only Mobile Storage & Repair (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
All units 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.
MONAB I was complete enough to commission on October 28th bearing
the ships name HMS NABBINGTON just before personnel for MONAB IV
began arriving on the station at the start of |November. 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 t H.M.S. NABTHORPE two days
On December 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 GOSLING.
The winter 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.
On December 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.
On January 11th 1945 a second change in tasking resulted in MONAB
V having its component allocation revised, the M.R. components were
withdrawn, being replaced with two M.S.R. components. The equipment
and personnel of MONAB IV were transported to Liverpool for
embarkation and passage to Australia on January16th.
On February 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.
H.M.S. 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. FLYCATCHER.
Back to top
Assembly, equipping, and formation of mobile airfield units in the
UK, and their despatch to their operational locations.
04 September 1944
Paid Off :
15 February 1945
- Commander (A) J. B. WILSON. 04 Sep 1944
to 01 Nov 1944
- Captain L. J. S. EDES 01 Nov 1944 to
15 Feb 1945
View Larger Map
See the history of the Mobile Naval Airfields
Organisation for a detailed account of operations at Ludham.
THERE ARE NO PHOTOGRAPHS OF
THIS UNIT PRESENTLY AVAILABLE
Can you help?