Sporle Memorial

SPORLE LANDING GROUND

The former WW1 airfield located near the village of Little Dunham was officially known as Sporle Landing Ground.

It was one mile south of Little Dunham railway station and within the current parish of Little Dunham. It was used by 51 Squadron and part of the 47th Wing of the 6th Brigade, Royal Flying Corps between 1916 and November 1918 as a satellite station to RAF Marham for home defence duties. The airfield covered 43 acres and measured 520 yds by 440 yds. Facilities at a Class 3 night landing ground would have been very basic - a hut for the pilots and ground crew and paraffin lighting for the landing strip.

Little Dunham Parish Council have built a Memorial ready to mark the 100th Anniversary of the former WW1 airfield. A Tornado from RAF Marham conducted a flypast at 10 am on 11 December 2014. The Memorial was unveiled by Group Captain Harvey Smyth the RAF Marham Station Commander. It was dedicated by Rev Martin Joyce.

Local military historian, Squadron Leader Richard James visited the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum at Flixton in 2013 and chatted to the Curator, Mr Huby Fairhead, who told him about Sporle Landing Ground.

Richard James mentioned this, the following day, to the Little Dunham Parish Council, and suggested a Memorial should be built. By co-incidence, a few weeks later Richard was reading the Breckland Council newsletter when he found an article offering up to £500 for WW1 projects in Breckland. This too was passed to the Parish Council and they applied for the grant. The application was successful thanks to Councillor Mark Kiddle-Morris. Richard James suggested a memorial similar to the existing Little Dunham village sign which stands next to the village hall. Richard then found a thick slate base to an old half snooker table in a boatyard in Ipswich and bought it for £10.

The old half snooker table was taken to Bretts of Watton, who made a superb job of cutting and polishing the slate, then etching the inscription. The cost of this was £609 and thanks to a very generous donation from the current owner of the land, Mrs Pamela Griffin and the grant from Breckland Council, the bill was paid. The Parish Council applied for, and received approval by Highways. They also discussed the project with Mrs Griffin, who was very supportive.

Retired veterans Ray Brolly and Richard James volunteered to carry out the building works, which they started on 24 November 2014.

The ground was cut by David Harris of Dunham Diggers who donated his time and JCB free of charge. Another villager - Mr David Walker donated over 500 bricks, 2 tons of sand and 100 flints to the project. Just after the start of the building, Ray and Richard were joined by local blockweave expert - Chris Heslin, whose expertise throughout the build was invaluable. Chris Heslin also donated 30 blocks for the path from the roadside to the Memorial.

To complete the construction works, engineering plinth bricks were required and Chris Heslin suggested specialist builder’s merchant J Medler Ltd of Taverham near Norwich. Richard James wrote to them and told them about the project and they too were very supportive. When Richard went to Taverham to collect the plinth bricks and cement, he was hoping for a discount, but was delighted when J Medler Ltd donated all the bricks and cement free of charge.

The building works were completed on 2 December 2014. Local farmer Henry Kilvert, tidied up the whole site and laid turf around the Memorial.

The Memorial inscription reads:

This memorial is dedicated

to the men and women who served in

The Royal Flying Corps

The Royal Air Force

The Royal Naval Air Service

from the landing ground located

in this field during the Great War

1914-1918

“Lest we forget”

 

Many thanks to Richard James for providing this article and the photograph. If you have an airfield story please contact us today.

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