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Remembering our wartime history ahead of the Great Yarmouth Air Show

PUBLISHED: 11:37 15 June 2018

A historical picture of the  naval air station

A historical picture of the naval air station

Archant

Aircraft will be buzzing over Great Yarmouth seafront at its first ever show this weekend- but the shoreline has seen aerial action in the past - when it was a vital First World War military base repelling enemy airships, navy vessels and submarines.

In Great Yarmtouth in the years of the naval air station
PARADE PIONEER: the Marine Arcades, built in the early 1900s, housed the first shops on the sea-front. The twin turrets above the entrance are to the left of centre in this picture, taken about 1914.
Picture: PERCY TRETT COLLECTIONIn Great Yarmtouth in the years of the naval air station PARADE PIONEER: the Marine Arcades, built in the early 1900s, housed the first shops on the sea-front. The twin turrets above the entrance are to the left of centre in this picture, taken about 1914. Picture: PERCY TRETT COLLECTION

The Royal Naval Air Station was at the South Denes, which has been used for horse racing and drying fishermen’s nets, and is now the location of the town’s outer harbour.

It opened in April 1913, closed in 1919, was used for pleasure flights until the 1930s and then turned into a holiday caravan park – whose visitors spent a penny in former barracks buildings.

Air show director Asa Morrison says: “Military planes will be flying over Great Yarmouth’s shore to entertain the crowds – a poignant reminder of the town’s important and serious role as a naval air base in the Great War.”

The Great Yarmouth air station was part of a network founded by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to tackle the growing threat of zeppelin raids.

Yarmouth beach station blue plaque. Staff in 1919.
Photo: Andy Darnell
Copy: Alan Thompson
For: GYM
Archant © 2009 (01603) 772434Yarmouth beach station blue plaque. Staff in 1919. Photo: Andy Darnell Copy: Alan Thompson For: GYM Archant © 2009 (01603) 772434

A fleet of 30 planes and 300 airmen and crew were also tasked with spotting German ships and detecting U-boats. There was a mix of wheeled and float planes able to land on sea or land. Hickling Broad was on standby if the sea was too rough.

The public were barred from the site during flying operations, but could visit on Sunday afternoons if the crews were not in action.

Unfortunately the local planes were unable to save Great Yarmouth from being written into a piece of military history – when it was the victim of the first ever aerial attack on the UK on January 19, 1915 – because the aircraft could not match the airship’s cruising height. But on November 27, 1916 they shot one down over the sea near Lowestoft. Two more were chalked up in 1917 and 1918, credited to Flight Commander Bob Leckie, who also badly damaged a U-boat.

The only physical reminder of the station’s role is a blue plaque on 25 Regent Street, a former office of the Great Yarmouth Mercury, which was the regional headquarters of the Royal Naval Air Service.

Other Great Yarmouth events

From a Strictly star to a Shakespeare play with a twist, there is plenty to keep all the family busy over the next seven days in Norfolk.

Yesterday, 15:37

Christmas is coming and there is no better way to get into the festive mood than visiting a market, with mulled wine in hand of course.

Mon, 14:50

Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year at Potters Resort as the Christmas Spectacular returns for 2018.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A moving Remembrance Day event paid fitting tribute to the fallen - while also providing a spectacular show.

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