Site Records

Site Name: Rattlesden Mk. 1 Bloodhound Missile Site

Rattlesden Airfield
Hightown Green
OS Grid Ref: TL965556

Sub Brit site visit 25th July 2006

[Source: Nick Catford]


Rattlesden Airfield was built in 1942 as a Class A bomber airfield, with three runways, hardstands for 57 aircrafts and two T2 hangars. The domestic site for 2,894 people was east of the airfield.

Rattlesden was allotted to the US Army Air Force (USAAF) on 1st October 1942 and on 1st December 1942 the first Americans belonging to 451 and 452 bomb squadrons began arriving. They were there to fly some of the first B-26B Marauders to operate from Britain; these were delivered in February - March 1943.

Station Headquarters
With the 450th Bomb Squadron at Rougham, they formed the 322nd Bomb Group which became consolidated in April 1943 and formed an entity at Andrews Field to where the three squadrons all moved on 12th June 1943.

At the end of November 1943 the 447th Bomb Group arrived at Rattlesden from the USA and using B-17G's (Flying Fortress) entered the battle arena on 24th December 1943 by making a raid on V 1 sites in France.

On 19th April 1944 the 447th took a battering from enemy fighters losing 11 of its aircraft, their heaviest losses ever sustained in one raid and at a time when the 8th Airforce bombing offensive was at a peak. The 447th sustained further heavy losses on 12th May when seven B-17's failed to return from Leipzig.

Between December 1943 - May 1944 the group was primarily engaged in preparations for the invasion by attacking submarine pens, naval units, German industrial targets, ports and V 1 sites, as well as airfields and marshalling yards. In June 1944 they gave direct support to the Normandy invasion and then the breakout at St-Lo.

They assisted in the liberation of Brest in September 1944 and made supply drops to the French resistance.

They gave general support to the airborne landings of September before, in October, resuming their part in the strategic air offensive, concentrating on oil targets until December 1944 when they took part in the Ardennes battle by bombing marshalling yards, rail bridges and communications centres in the battle zone. Then the group resumed operations against oil, transport and communications targets until the end of hostilities.

The control tower

The 447th left Rattlesden in August 1945 having flown 257 missions and lost 153 aircraft and the station was returned to the RAF on 10th October 1945. The Ministry of Food established a supply depot there before closure on 15th August 1946. In the 1950's and 60's Rattlesden was an emergency landing ground for the Wattisham Hunters and Lightenings but it was never needed.

Plan of the WW2 airfield with the bloodhound site shaded yellow

During the 1950's the threat to the UK was no longer from low flying aircraft but high flying jet bombers armed with nuclear bombs. In order to counter this threat a new system of defence was developed. Initially the proposal was for a new weapon designed to fit the mountings at the old anti aircraft gun sites but with the need to destroy incoming missiles before they crossed the coast and provide a constant deterrent against surprise attack these plans were quickly changed with a proposal to build a number of large missile sites along the east coast organised in 'fire units', each consisting of sixteen missiles further divided into two flights of eight missiles.

Photo:Bloodhound Mk. 1 at Rattlesden c.1962
Photo received from Chris Andrews

These proposals were later modified to a larger number of sites spread over a wider geographic area with two units at each site. Ten missile sites were selected at Dunholme Lodge, Watton, Marham, Rattlesden, Woolfox Lodge, Carnaby, Warboys, Breighton and Mission with a trial site at RAF North Coates. Each of these sites was equipped with the Bloodhound Mk 1 missile.

Photo:The missile servicing building
Photo by Nick Catford

Bloodhound was part of an overall air defence system. Warning of an incoming raid would be relayed from one of the early warning radars to a tactical control centre. Four TCC's were built at RAF Lindholme, RAF North Coates, RAF North Luffenham and RAF Watton in Norfolk. The bloodhounds at Rattlesden would have been controlled from the TCC at Watton (this has now been demolished) The TCC's were equipped with Type 82 Orange Yeoman radars which would track the hostile aircraft and transmit data to a fire unit once it was within range of its Type 83 target illuminating radars. Target data could then be fed to the launch control post from where the missiles would be launched.

For further information & pictures of the Rattlesden bloodhound site click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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