Friday 2 April 2021

RAF Norton

Just up from where we used to live in Sheffield was a place locally known as Lightwood. Hidden behind the high fence was in fact an old WW2 RAF base for barrage ballons

The site housed many of Sheffield's anti- aircraft Barrage Balloons during WW2. These were places at strategic locations to protect the city from enemy aircraft. RAF Norton was also an important training base. Here crews were trained in things such as signals, in readiness of flights to Germany for Bomber Harris.

The RAF took possession of the site in the summer of  1939. This was in preparation for the forthcoming war which was widely expected. The city urgentley needed air defences. Initially people were trainind at an office on 641 Attercliffe Road, then transferred to the site at Norton when it fininally opened.

Initially it was known as No.16 Balloon Centre Lightwood, after the nearby Lightwood Lane. By 1939 three squadrons were ready to defend the city. These were 393 West, 940 Rotherham and 941 Central squadrons. Initially each squadron had three flights each with eight balloons.

 However, at its full strenght there were a total of 72 balloons which could be deployed to defend the city. Later squadrons were merged into two. Not only did the site house balloons but much general maintainance and training performed at the site. The site played an important role in defending the city during the Blitz in December 1940.

Here were three main hangers and many additioanl buildings. Many call the site `Norton Aerodrome' which is incorrect, as aircraft were not stationed there. However a misunderstanding is unstandable as the site was built to look like an airfield in order to lure enemy aircraft to bomb it rather than the factories of Sheffield.

By 1943 the threat was receeding. The site was handed over to the Signals Division and renamed RAF Norton. It now took on a training role, housing No3 Ground Radio Servicing Squadron. Also of note was the nearby Cinderhill Lane where German POW's were housed. This was not a prisioner of war camp but a work camp.

After of the War

The site continued as a training camp and depot. Many remember the Spitfire (PK724) which was situated at the site from November 1955 - March 196 which, was painted Silver in 1957. 

The Spitfire went to RAF Gaydon as gate guardian then it went to the RAF Museum at Hendon where it was fully restored and is now displayed there. and later this was joined by a De Haviland Vampire. Lancaster Bombers would fly past the site. At its height 400 RAF staff were based here.

In the 1950's, a few airshows took place with a mass flypast by Wellingtons and Lanscasters a sight to behold

The place was finally closed in 1965 with its functions being moved to Rutland. It was once earmarked for a third big hospital before being used from 2014 for driving lessons.

Demolition work has now started, having been delayed due to the pandemic

A Meteor, left, and Vampire at RAF Norton in 1955.


Thursday 1 April 2021

V3- Hochdruckpumpe

The V3 site at Mimoyecques , France

Only one site was chosen for the Hochdruckpumpe (HDP) , the location a few miles inland between Calais and Boulogne.

In 1943 work started on the site, tunnelling into the hillside from both sides, with the planned length of 450 feet. The main railway line passed nearby.

Rather than being able to move the weapon this was fixed into the hillside. The gun barrels had to be buried underground and only the exit nozzles for the shells would appear above ground

In 1943 French agents reported that a new secret weapon was being built. The RAF wasted no time in bombing the site with 4,100 tons of bombs dropped. This was the heaviest bomb load dropped on any V- site

As a long range weapon, conventional artillery is limited because of the practical limit to the length of the barrel. One solution was to have a very long barrel, over 400 feet in length.

The V3 could fire 500 shells per hour. As the shell moved down the barrel, 28 sequential charges were fired electronically from side branches, each one accelerating the shell from its initial firing velocity in the breech

Originally 25 barrels were planned for the site, set in groups of 5, but by the time construction had started this had been reduced to 15 barrels.

The raid on 6 July 1944 included seven 12,000Ib Tall Boy bombs

Although the HDP never fire a shot from Mimoyecques, the remains of the barrels and other items were moved to Germany

Trains entered the main tunnel at the south entrance at Mimoyecques and unload supplies in the centre and then would be conveyed along eleven 160 feet side tunnels

On the 27 September 1944 Canadian troops found the site intact, but stripped of equipment. On the 9 & 14 May 1945 British Army sappers detonated 36 tons of explosives inside the tunnels.

The HDP project was later rebuilt in Germany, near Trier, on the banks of the River Ruwer. Here two shortened versions of the barrel would target the advancing Allies.

On the 30 December 1944 the first HDP shells were fired towards the  US Third Army in Luxembourg, a distance of 27 miles. Eventually as the Battle of the Bulge came to an end , 22 February 1945 was the last time the V weapon was used  with just over 180 shells fired.

A reincarnated HDP appeared as Saddam Hussein's `super gun', the  580 ft barrel aligned on Israel 500 miles away

Wednesday 12 August 2020

V2 Rocket

While the V1 flying bomb could travel at speeds up to 500mph, the V2 was far deadlier. It used a liquid fuelled motor to take off and fly at more than 5 times the speed of sound.

Imperial War Museum London

The first A4 (Later V2) was scheduled for the 13 June 1942 attracted a large gathering including Albert Speer, the new Armaments Minister.  Despite all the checks the A4 fell back onto the pad and exploded as 10 tons of fuel ignited in a massive fireball. On 16 August 1942 002 was launched successfully only to break up after 45 seconds travelling at Mach 3. Despite these failures 003 was launched on the 3 October 1942 and made a perfect flight.

In Antwerp the V weapons took a heavy toll as they did in London.  Beginning in September 1944 over 5,000 rockets fell on a radius of eight miles of the centre. 3,470 civilians were killed along with 642 Allied servicemen. 6,400 buildings were destroyed and a further 60,000 buildings were damaged.

An Eighth army solider was heard saying `It was bloody safer fighting the Germans in the desert' than being in Antwerp

War & Peace Show reconstruction

Production in late 1943 was 900 per month but gradually increased to 1,800 per month by April 1944


The V2 was still unreliable and problems didn't get solved until early 1945

The colour pattern changed from the black & White chessboard pattern, when it was in the test phase, to the olive green colour in 1945
 RAF Cosford

Recently discovered information has established a link between the V2 and poison gas. It wasn't until British troops stumbled on the factory by accident. V2's were found adjacent to factory entrances which showed that some warheads had been modified to carry a gas payload. 

RAF Norton

Just up from where we used to live in Sheffield was a place locally known as Lightwood. Hidden behind the high fence was in fact an old WW2 ...