History of the Airfield
Rattlesden Airfield was built in 1942 by the British company George Wimpey as a bomber base for the United States Army Air Force (USAAF), in the campaign against Nazi Germany. Rattlesden was a “Class A” airfield with three intersecting concrete runways and hard-standings for 50 aircraft. It was initially a satellite of nearby Rougham (Bury St. Edmunds) airfield, both being part of the American 3rd Bomb Wing in USAAF’s 8th Air Force, “The Mighty 8th”.
Ground personnel of the 322nd Bomb Group arrived in December 1942 with plans to operate the B26 Marauder Medium Bomber, but by April 1943 the unit was operating exclusively from Rougham. In november 1943 the 3rd Bomb Wing moved to Essex with its B26s and was replaced in Suffolk by the 4th Bomb Wing. Rattlesden then became home to the 447th Bomb Group equipped with B17 Flying Fortresses, carrying out it’s first mission on Christmas eve.
A posthumous award of the medal of honor (the highest american military decoration) was made to 2nd lieutenant Robert Femoyer of the 447th Bomb Group, after he navigated his damaged Flying Fortress home to Rattlesden on 2nd November 1944 despite being terribly, and ultimately fatally wounded. The 447th Bomb Groups’ B17s flew 257 missions from Rattlesden and earned a reputation as one of USAAF’s most accurate bomb groups. It lost 97 aircraft.
After the cessation of hostilities the 447th Bomb Group quickly returned to the USA. By October 1945 Rattlesden had transferred to RAF control and was briefly used as a government food store. In the late 50s and early 1960s Rattlesden housed RAF bloodhound air defense missiles, but by 1968 the airfield had returned to civilian agricultural use.
Rattlesden Gliding Club now operates from what remains of this historic airfield, keeping alive the memories of the brave young men who flew, fought and died from here.
Download a PDF with more photos of the 447th Group by clicking the logo: