HORSHAM ST FAITH
In 1938, an area of farmland to the east of the A140, between the villages of Horsham St Faith in the north and Catton in the south, was selected for building a permanent RAF station. Being only two miles from the centre of Norwich this development was not welcomed by many in the city. Before work began the main A140 road from Norwich to Aylsham was diverted to the west. Construction began in earnest in 1939, the camp being at the Catton end with the usual flat-roofed brick buildings for administration and barrack purposes. Three of the later Type C hangars fronted the bombing circle with a fourth and fifth backing the two end hangars. The area of the flying field was approximately 1,700 yards by 1,500 yards and this was available for use late in 1939 and used for dispersal of aircraft from other stations. The station officially opened on June l, 1940 although the buildings were not completed until the late summer.
Following severe losses during the Battle of France, Nos. 114 and 139 Squadrons received new crews and Blenheim IVs at Horsham St Faith in June and July 1940. When deemed ready for operations again, No. 114 Squadron moved to Horsham's satellite field at Oulton while No. 139 stayed at the main base until July the following year and then moved to the satellite, changing places with No. 18 Squadron which had replaced No. 114 when this unit went to Coastal Command in Scotland. In September that year, No. 139 Squadron moved back to Horsham for two months before again moving to Oulton. No. 18 Squadron also returned to Oulton in November 1941, this toing and froing being deemed necessary to ensure the mobility of operational squadrons. During 1940-41 at least 24 pan-shaped hardstandings were put down, some with long access tracks.
Horsham St Faith was then chosen as the station at which the first two de Havilland Mosquito-equipped light bomber squadrons were to be formed. The first, No. 105, shed its Blenheims at Swanton Morley before arriving at Horsham early in December 1941. The supply of Mosquitos was agonisingly slow and, when No. 139 Squadron was reformed in June 1942, its crews had to use No. 105's aircraft on operations. Before both squadrons were transferred to Marham in September, a few Blenheims were acquired for training. The Mosquito attrition was high, 18 failing to return from 52 raids between May 31 and September 25 while at Horsham. All told, 51 aircraft failed to return or were destroyed in crashes during Bomber Command operations from the station (32 Blenheims and 19 Mosquitos).
Horsham St Faith had been earmarked for use by the US Eighth Air Force and scheduled for upgrading to Class A standard bomber station. In October 1942, the 319th Bomb Group, arrived with B-26 Marauders, having been assigned to the newly-activated Twelfth Air Force destined for Operation `Torch' and North Africa. While the 319th BG Headquarters remained at Horsham, the B-26s were mostly based at Attlebridge where the hard runways were safer for operating this bomber with its high wing loading which necessitated long take-off and landing runs. The Marauders and 319th personnel were gone by December and the airfield was little used until April 1943 when the P-47s of the 56th Fighter Group arrived. By July, contractors were ready to develop the station into the planned bomber airfield whereupon the 56th FG moved out to Halesworth. The three new intersecting runways constructed were OS-23 at 2,000 yards, 10-28 at 1,400 yards, and 17-35 at 1,400 yards. Fifty loop hardstandings were provided, several of the existing hard pans being destroyed in the process. Two new domestic sites with Nissen buildings were built in Catton and the total accommodation at the station raised to 2,972 persons.
The 458th Bomb Group with its four B-24 Liberator-equipped squadrons were based on the rebuilt airfield from March 1944 to July 1945, operating as part of the US Eighth Air Force's 2nd Air Division. Returned to the RAF on July 15, 1945, Horsham came under Fighter Command control first with Mosquitos, then Hornets, Meteors and Hunters before the RAF finally quit the station in 1960. The airfield then came into use for private flying and commercial operations, eventually being established as Norwich Airport.