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Photo from Lakenheath

Lakenheath

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About Lakenheath

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Lakenheath in Domesday
View Lakenheath in Google Earth

Estimated population (2009) of Lakenheath: 4860.


Local licensing authority for Lakenheath is Forest Heath.

The church has some interesting 15th cent. Twisted figures on the arm rests and a memorial to Earl Kitchener, whose family resided in the parish. Poor's Fen is where poor parishioners formerly dug for peat and collected litter for thatching and bedding. The railway station, which is still open, is some distance to the north of the village. An early Bronze Age settlement has been excavated between the village and Wangford; An Iron Age site has also been found in the same area. Another Iron Age/Romano-British settlement has been found just north of the village centre.

Legend tells of an 11 mile tunnel from Lakenheath to Ely, supposedly in use at the time of Hereward the Wake. Given the height of the water table here (especially before the fens were drained), it must have been pretty soggy if it existed. One interesting thing that definitely did exist was a tramway in the fens. This has been found on 1880s OS maps of the area and ran from the railway line just south of Botany Bay to an as-yet undetermined point somewhere a couple of miles to the north-west. Quite when it was operational is unknown; even in 1882 it was marked on the map as "old tramway".

Lakenheath was recorded in Domesday as "Lakingahethe", "Lakingaheda" or "Laringahetha". It appears on John Speed's 1610 map as "Lakenheathe".

This fenland village is however dominated by a massive USAF airbase. RAF Lakenheath was initially used as a decoy site (Q site) for nearby RAF Feltwell, its role was to help add confusion to enemy aircraft with dummy hangers and living quarters together with model aircraft and flare path runways. Subsequently rebuilt as an aerodrome from late 1940 it opened in June 1941 as a satellite for Mildenhall. By Nov, the 20th OUT (Operational Training Unit) had arrived with Wellington aircraft. Many of these were subsequently used in missions until departing in May 1942. In April 1942 the 149th Squadron formed here with Stirling planes. They flew many missions from here including the bombing of Turin (north Italy) until the end of 1943 after which time the Stirling planes were no longer used for bombing missions. During 1944 various mine-laying missions were undertaken until the base was closed for upgrading as a heavy-bomber station. Re-opening in 1948 with B29s the base has been occupied for over 40 years by various USAF groups.

Acknowledgements

Some details from "Suffolk Airfields in WW2" by Graham Smith.