Martlesham Heath

Photo from Martlesham Heath

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Martlesham Heath is part of Martlesham parish.

Population (2011) of Martlesham parish: 5478.

Local licensing authority for Martlesham Heath is Suffolk Coastal.

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About Martlesham Heath

First glance suggests that a mass of modern housing and a variety of industrial developments has totally enveloped the former RAF airfield from where Douglas Bader and others flew many WW2 missions. Whilst the modern A12 trunk road dramatically cuts the former airfield in half. However in many respects this very modern settlement containing a wide diversity of housing and the popular Douglas Bader pub may have more of a "village feel" than several other nearby and more historic villages which have lost all of their facilities, including the pub, shop and post office. Today some local residents claim that "the heath" is more representative of modern Suffolk than other nearby villages that may now contain a high percentage of second homes (many of which are only used at the weekends).

The modern village is centred on a large green where cricket and football are regularly played. Bus route 66 links the area to Ipswich town centre with a regular service including late night buses. Some remnants of the old heathland still survive and hold a variety of wildlife including the rare Silver Studded Blue butterfly. A group of Bronze Age barrows also lie on the edge of the heathland - some of which have been excavated in recent years.

RAF Martlesham Heath dates back to WW1 and the Royal Flying Corps. Between wars was one of just a handful of airbases that remained open. T.E. Lawrence (of Lawrence of Arabia fame) was based here for some of that time as a mechanic. He also spent some time at RAF Felixstowe. During the 1920s & 1930s the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (AAEE) was located here and was responsible for the testing of many prototype aircraft - including the Spitfire and Hurricane - usually undertaken from Hanger B, a site now occupied by a bowling alley.

During WW2 various squadrons and aircraft operated from here including Hurricanes of 151st, 17th, 257th, 504th, 85th Squadrons and the 242nd Squadron (a Canadian group led by Douglas Bader). There were also Defiants of 264th Squadron, Spitfires of 266th Squadron, Blenheims of 25th Squadron and Typhoons of 182nd Squadron. From October 1943 the base was used by P47 (Thunderbolt) airplanes of the USAF 356th Fighter Group until May 1945. During operations they claimed 201 enemy aircraft for the loss of 122 fighters. Reverting to RAF use it closed in 1963. The small barrack square still survives with memorials and Martlesham Heath Aviation Society maintain a museum at the old Control Tower.


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