RAF Marham 1916 - 1919
Marham Aerodrome 1916 - 1919
Marham aerodrome was first opened in 1916 as a military night landing ground covering 80 acres, being within the boundary of the present day aerodrome. From September 1916, units of 51 Sqn Home Defence were based here, flying on home defence patrols with an assortment of FE2b, BE2c. BE2d and BE12 fighter aircraft. At least one FE2b was converted by 51 Sqn at Marham to a single seater to improve the rate of climb and ceiling. Its forward cockpit was covered and twin guns were mounted in the nose; this FE2b was named ‘The Chinese Scout’. The patrol area of these machines was from Marham to Tydd St Mary.
On the night of 27th/28th November 1916, Lt Gaymer took off in FE2b No 7680 of 51 Sqn to intercept the German airship, Zeppelin L21. No contact was made, but Lt Gaymer crashed and was killed. This aircraft was built by Boulton and Paul Ltd at their Riverside Works in Norwich and test flown from Mousehold Aerodrome. The German L21 was, however, shot down later that night by aircraft of the RNAS off Lowestoft. C Flight of 51 Sqn was based at Marham from December 1916 to July 1917, being replaced the following month by B Flight. The headquarters of 51 Sqn moved to Marham from the Old Grammar School at Hingham on the 7th August 1917. Six German airships raided East Anglia on the night of 24th/25th September 1917. 51 Sqn sent two fighters from Marham, two from Mattishall and two from Tydd St Mary to intercept them, but with no success.
In addition to it’s primary role of home defence, 51 Sqn undertook the night-flying training of many crews who went to France to join the newly formed DH6 and DH9 squadrons. To further the training role, three training sqns were formed by 51 Sqn and were numbered 190, 191 and 192 sqns. 190 Sqn formed at Rochford in October 1917 and disbanded at Newmarket in January 1919, being equipped with DH6, BE2c, BE2e and Avro 504K aircraft. 191 Depot Sqn was formed at Marham on the 6th November 1917; on 21st December it became 191 (Night) Training Sqn, flying FE2b, BE2d, BE2e and DH6’s. In July 1918 this Unit moved to Bury (Upwood), disbanding in January 1919. 192 Sqn was formed at Newmarket in September 1917 with FE2bs and disbanding there during December 1918. To help in the training role, 51 Sqn obtained several additional types of aircraft including Martinsyde G100 Scouts, Avro 504s and DH4s.
In early 1918 Avro 504K night fighters were delivered to 51 Sqn. These were converted two-seaters with the front cockpit faired over and armed with a single Lewis gun on a Foster mounting fitted to the upper wing centre section. It took the Avro 504K about 15 minutes to climb to 10 000 feet, where it had a speed of about 85mph.
By October 1918 the HQ and C Flight of 51 Sqn were still based at Marham. ‘A’ Flight was at Mattishall with Avro 504s, while ‘B’ Flight was at Tydd St Mary with FE2bs. At this time, 51 Sqn had under its control the following landing grounds: Coldham, Earsham, Freethorpe, Frettenham, Goodestone Warren, Mousehold, Saxthorpe, Sedgeford, Sporle, Tottenhill and West Rudham.
The HQ and ‘C’ Flight remained at Marham until May 1919, when the Unit moved to Suttons Farm (Hornchurch) where it disbanded in June 1919.
The world war one aerodrome at Marham was closed down.