AATS moved from Hereford to Bircham in January 1959, the first entry to pass out being the 32nd at the end of March that year. The 36th to 46th
Entries commenced their training at Bircham Newton but the 43rd En try however, was the last entry to complete its training there. The 44th, 45th
and 46th entries were re-located to RAF Hereford in January 1963 – passing out in mixed flights of BEs and Apps together which was odd.
Bircham closed on the18th December 1962 with a Ceremony of Beating Retreat which coincided with the graduation parade of the 43rd Entry. The
station did remain open as a storage facility for USAF for a few months and in 1965 was used briefly for trials of the Kestrel by the Tripartite
Evaluation Unit based at West Raynham. The station was sold by public auction on 27 Novemeber 1964 at the Dukes Head Hotel in Kings Lynn
There are numerous tales of ghosts at Bircham, particularly those haunting the squash courts. Also there are some who believe that the odd ghost
or two of aircrew killed flying from the airfield still haunt the place. This is interesting stuff and if any ex-admin apprentice who served at Bircham
or anywhere else who has ghost story to tell then do let us know!
ROYAL AIR FORCE BIRCHAM NEWTON HERITAGE ROOM AND MEMORIAL TO THOSE WHO SERVED THERE FROM
Under the guidance of its first Chairman, Neil Grant, and two other trustees, David Jacklin, the present Chairman and Secretary and Brian
Hall, the project was launched in April 2005 and registered as a charity. The Chairman and trustees had all served in the Royal Air Force.
Three new trustees also have Royal Air Force connections. The patrons are Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir Michael Beetham, a former
Chief of the Air Staff, and Sir Michael Oswald, currently Honorary Air Commodore of No 2620 Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment.
The aims of the project are to commemorate the distinguished history of Royal Air Force Bircham Newton and its satellite airfields. The
Construction Industry Training Board, now known as Construction Skills, generously provided accommodation within the National
Construction College, and a Heritage Room was established, displaying archive material in the form of stories, memorabilia, photographs,
maps and drawings from Bircham Newton’s past.
Two permanent stone memorials have also been erected and dedicated to those who served at Bircham Newton and the main satellite
airfield at nearby Docking.
Several illustrated talks about the project and the history of the airfields have been given to clubs and other interested parties around East
Anglia. Such talks can be arranged upon request and in return for a small project donation.
The project maintains a website, which can be accessed at www.rafbnmp.org.uk .
David Jacklin has produced a number of books relating to local airfields: “Whin Close Warriors”, about the WWI aerodrome at Sedgeford;
“Up in all Weather”, about the WW2 satellite airfield at Docking; and several others relating to Bircham Newton. These are on sale in the
Heritage Room. All profits from these book sales are donated to the project. Books can also be obtained from David directly. He can be
contacted on 01379 741884 or by e-mail at email@example.com . Alternatively, you may write to him at
2 Fairways, Stuston, Diss, Norfolk IP21 4AB. He is also the contact for talks.
Open Days 2013
Sunday, 26th of May
Monday, 27th of May,
Weather permitting, Tony Nelson will put on a special static display of his large-scale model aircraft, known as
Norfolk’s Model Air Force
(see details below)
Sunday, 30th of June
Sunday, 28th of July
Sunday, 25th of August
Monday, 26th of August
Sunday, 29th of September
Details of Open Days can also be found on the website www.rafbnmp.org.uk
The National Construction College
Bircham Newton NW Norfolk
Signposted off the A148 and B1454
Come and discover the fascinating history of this former Royal Air Force station
and its satellite airfields.
For more information visit our website www.rafbnmp.org.uk
Administrator Note July 2011: Avril MacArthur is a trustee and assistant curator at the museum. Her late father FS Christopher Bush was
an ex-Apprentice Clerk (51st Entry) at RAF Ruislip. He served at Bircham Newton from 1947 until 1949. Avril has kindly provided me with a
series of images in relation to her father and these are shown on the Ruislip page of the site. To view these pictures and an account of her
father’s career click here
Letter Of Appreciation – RAF Heritage Room Bircham Newton
On 21 Sept 2011 The Association has received a letter of appreciation from David Jacklin, Chairman of Trustees RAF Bircham Newton
Memorial Project, to thank us for our generous and ongoing support of their project. The letter highlights donations of apprentice
memorabilia by our members including a complete set of entry shields (32nd to 46th Entries), a collection of historical records, several
AATS magazines, a large wall display (a collage of photographs) illustrating apprentice activities and the funding of the apprentice booklets –
these have all been well received.
In his letter David said:
”These have enhanced our Heritage Room and regenerated interest in this important period of Bircham Newton’s history. We have recently
enjoyed several visits by former apprentices including two large parties enjoying their combined fiftieth anniversary celebrations. Former
members of the 39th, 40th and 41st entries made a combined visit in September 2010, and former members of the 42nd, 43rd and 44th
entries visited on 7th May this year. We look forward to hosting similar visits in the future. We have also recruited a former apprentice onto
our team. John Wells (44th Entry) has volunteered to become one of our curators and is helping us in the Heritage Room during our open
As you are aware, Dixie Dean (40th) is the liaison officer between our Association and the Heritage Room. If you are planning a visit to
Bircham, Dixie will be happy to assist if you wish.
RAF Heritage Room 50th Anniversary Celebration
The open days for the RAF Heritage Room 2013 season are now available on their website
The 50th Anniversary of the closure of RAF Bircham Newton occurredr in December 2012.
The Heritage Room held a 50th Anniversary Celebration to mark this occasion as part of their last public open day this year on 30 September.
The 43rd were the last Entry to pass out at Bircham which coincided with the closing ceremony on 18 December 1962. The 44th, 45th and
46th Entries transferred to RAF Hereford to complete the remainder of their training.
RAF Bircham Newton Heritage Room 50th Anniversary Celebrations 30th Sep 2012
The main purpose of the day’s event was to celebrate the distinguished history of Royal Air Force Bircham Newton, which was continuously
operational for 44 years from early 1918 until the end of 1962. When the RAF station first opened, during the final year of the First World War,
it became the home of the RAF’s first four-engined bomber, the giant Handley Page V/1500. It then continued as Norfolk’s only flying station
for most of the inter-war years, hosting a multitude of flying units who introduced many new aircraft types into service. In 1936, the RAF
station was transferred to Coastal Command, and it performed critical maritime operations throughout World War Two, including air-sea
rescue. In the post-war period, Technical Training Command took over the station and it became the home of the Officers’ Advanced
Training School (OATS), later to be renamed the Junior Command and Staff School (JCSS). From the late 1950s, the station also hosted the
RAF Administrative Apprentice Training School (AATS).
The station eventually closed in December 1962. The closure was marked by a final graduation parade of the RAF administrative
apprentices and a ‘Beating Retreat’ ceremony conducted by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and the Queen’s Colour Squadron. The
Reviewing Officer was Air Marshal Sir Alfred Earle, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Technical Training Command. One of the honoured
guests was Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Tedder, who had commanded one of Bircham Newton’s squadrons in the early 1920s. At the
conclusion of the ceremony, trumpeters of the Central Band sounded the ‘Last Post’ as the RAF ensign was lowered for the last time. To
mark the 50th anniversary of the closure, we will replicate the final act of the closing ceremony here today during our ‘Sunset Ceremony’.
Update On This Event
The 50th Anniversary of the closure of RAF Bircham Newton will occurred in December 2012. The station was operational in both World
Wars after its opening in 1918.
To mark the 50th anniversary, the RAF Heritage Room, Bircham Newton is holding a celebration event took place on their last public opening
day this year on 30 September 2012 from 2pm.
The President of our Association, Jim Wilcox, and our Chairman, Bryan Schofield, attended as official guests. Furthermore, our Association
will be provided a ‘meet and greet’ table which was hosted by Barre Loftus (41st) and Dixie Dean (40th).
The Beat Retreat closing ceremony in 1962 was also the graduation parade of the 43rd Entry. Two members of the 44th entry were
standard bearers – John Wells and David ‘Lofty’ Squire. John will be present at the anniversary celebration. The 44th, 45th & 46th entries
relocated back to Hereford to complete their training. The 46th were the last of the 59—- series and this entry comprised the trade of Clerk
Secretarial only, surely one of the smallest entries.
The celebration on 30th September included the following:
There should be a flypast of vintage aircraft at approximately 3pm (weather permitting) and there will be a ‘Sunset’ ceremony commencing
at 4.30pm to re-enact part of the original ‘Beating Retreat’ ceremony performed before the station closed in 1962. The Reviewing Officer at
the original parade was Air Marshall Sir Alfred Earle AOC in C Technical Training Command. One of the honoured guests was Marshall of the
Royal Air Force Lord Teddar who had commanded one of Bircham Newton’s squadrons in the early 1920s.
There will be many other things to enjoy, including popular and military music performed by Fakenham Town Band. It is anticipated that
several RAF veterans will attend, including former RAF Administrative Apprentices.
Other organisations have been invited to participate and exhibit including the hosts, the National Construction College, the Air Training
Corps, the Royal British Legion, the RAF Association, the National Service (RAF) Association, the Norfolk Military Vehicle Group.
There should be a display of military vehicles and large scale model aircraft, and an exhibition of paintings and drawings produced by two
local primary schools.
In addition, one of the Heritage Room trustees, David Jacklin, will present an illustrated talk on the history of the former RAF station and its
satellite airfields (3.15pm – 4pm).
The RAF Heritage Room will be open throughout the afternoon.The 50th anniversary of the closure of RAF Bircham Newton was remembered
on the 30th of September, 2012 when hundreds of visitors turned up to enjoy an afternoon of activities around the RAF heritage room and
memorial. These activities included military music played by the Fakenham Town Band, a flypast of vintage aircraft from Felthorpe Flying
Club and a ‘Sunset’ ceremony which re-enacted part of the original ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony performed when the RAF station closed
in 1962. During this ceremony a trumpeter played the Last Post as the RAF ensign and various standards were lowered in the presence of
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Keith Williamson, Marshall of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham and other distinguished guests. Air
Training Corps cadets from 42F (King’s Lynn) Squadron (above) formed a guard of honour to add further dignity to this formal act of
A Report On The 50th Anniversary Of The Closure Of Bircham Newton – Bryan Schofield Association Chairman
The 50th anniversary of the closure of RAF Bircham Newton was remembered on the 30th of September, 2012 when hundreds of visitors
turned up to enjoy an afternoon of activities around the RAF heritage room and memorial. These activities included military music played by
the Fakenham Town Band, a flypast of vintage aircraft from Felthorpe Flying Club and a ‘Sunset’ ceremony which re-enacted part of the
original ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony performed when the RAF station closed in 1962. During this ceremony a trumpeter played the Last
Post as the RAF ensign and various standards were lowered in the presence of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Keith Williamson, Marshall
of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham and other distinguished guests. Air Training Corps cadets from 42F (King’s Lynn) Squadron
(above) formed a guard of honour to add further dignity to this formal act of remembrance.
Many former RAF administrative apprentices attended, including some who had participated in the closing ceremony in December 1962. The
photograph above shows some of the former apprentices with their Association Chairman, Bryan Schofield, and Life President, Jim Wilcox.
Left to right they are: Bryan Schofield, Jim Wilcox, David Newton, Barrie Loftus, David Tinley, David Weaver, John Wells and William “Dixie”
Administrator Note: The picture mentioned above will be included shortly
A Note Of Thanks To Dixie Dean From Celebration Organiser Dizzy Goff
Good morning Dixie!
I am so sorry I didn’t get to see more of you and your chaps on Sunday! I made a quick sortie down the drive and then suddenly the
afternoon seemed to have came to an end and I was saying goodbye to people.
I do hope you and Bob met many of your old colleagues and that you were well placed to grab them as they arrived. Everyone seems to have
enjoyed the afternoon – the level of conversation never flagged – we served hundreds of cups of tea – and the rain held off. I was totally
overwhelmed by the number of people who supported us. Please may I thank you and the Apprentices Association for giving us such a good
‘plug’ at meetings and in your magazine and for being there to share the day with us. If it is possible and appropriate – could you put in a little
note from me personally to say thank you to everyone who attended? I know David thanked everyone on Sunday but I had no idea when I put
the event together how much support we would have. For me it was amazing. Let’s hope this has a positive knock on effect for the 2013
season in the museum!
David is off to the States in a week’s time – coming back in March – but the rest of us are here if you wanted to come over or organize a group
visit. My phone number is 0148 578 527 – we are always delighted to see friends and visitors outside the opening schedule.
Although there is nothing planned so far, I do hope we will see you again soon.
My very best wishes – and SO MANY THANKS – for giving us your terrific support. Please say ‘Hi’ and thanks to Bob Loftus for me.
RAF Heritage Centre – Change of Name
Please note that the RAF Heritage Centre Bircham Newton is now known as The RAF Heritage Centre. Dixie Dean (40th Entry) has sent us the
latest photograph (this was the former site of Britain Block) as shown below.
36th Entry Pass Out
46th Entry Soccer Team
Royal Air Force
Administrative Apprentice Association