LAKENHEATH AND MILDENHALL IN 1960….AND MY FIRST PHOTOGRAPHS.

January 2020.

After returning from a posting in Germany, my father ended up at a pretty boring RAF camp in Norfolk. This was RAF Feltwell, once a wartime bomber base that now had no aircraft, just three enormous Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles.
The Thor’s…just sat there. Well when in ‘firing position’ they did, otherwise they lay down in their enormous concrete housings, masking their fearsome nuclear capabilities.
We moved from an RAF quarter at Feltwell and bought a bungalow at a nearby village, Weeting and I started at Thetford Boys Grammar School, a somewhat long bus ride away.

It was at this time, when I was 12 going on 13, in early 1960 that I fell in love with ‘planes’. Alas with none immediately nearby, I started cycling to visit the US base at Lakenheath and subsequently continued on the few more miles to Mildenhall.

I say that I fell in love with planes. I found a beauty in these machines and therefore begged my father to borrow his pretty old Agfa camera that took 120 film. At Lakenheath the superb Super Sabre jets were often too far away to get decent photos however but very occasionally I’d find one parked up near the boundary fencing.

Here’s the first picture that I took that I seem to have finally managed to get in focus and without camera shake or getting some of the fence in the shot!

48th TFW F-100D Super Sabre 63221 getting some ‘line-maintenance’ on a Lakenheath dispersal.

I’m very partial to some ‘action’ in my aviation images. This one works because there’s a mechanic fixing something and the sky and the sunlight makes the image worthwhile.

Cycling on to Mildenhall in those days meant passing through the USAF housing, bungalows with a mix of large late 50’s American cars and also some European ‘compacts’ parked outside them…this was the great gas guzzling days of the late 50’s and early ’60’s.

I used to arrrive on my bike at the end of Mildenhall’s runway, up near ‘the town’ and then cycle down towards the old RAF hangars which were left over from it’s wartime bomber days. Both bases were pretty big so I could cover a fair distance.

Here’s probably the best shot I managed at Mildenhall:

C-133A Cargomaster 40142 of 1607th Air Transport Wing (Heavy) from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

In the background that’s a giant gantry for lifting one of the big Pratt and Whitney T34 turbo-prop engines off the C-133.
The 1607th Air Transport Wing (Heavy) was the unit that supplied C-133’s to transport into Mildenhall the large American Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles for the RAF. A total of 60 Thors and their equipment were delivered for the RAF which took 60 flights by C-124’s and 77 by C-133’s. The missiles were based at former RAF airfields, each converted to take 3 of the Thor’s in the enormous concrete housings, the first arriving at Feltwell in September 1958 and they lasted until August 1963. The Thors were moved from Mildenhall by road with transporters capable of front and rear steering, quite a sight to see along the East Anglian country roads.

Waiting around the end of Mildenhall’s runway could however produce images like these…if the Agfa camera would let me.

Douglas C-133A Cargomaster 62011 about to touchdown at Mildenhall in mid 1960.

The Lakenheath runway was harder work alas as the Super Sabres were a bit further away and with no long lens they were always pretty small on the negatives.
It was a great day out to visit both American bases at the beginning of the ’60s and set up my enthusiasm for planes which I ‘fully exploited’ in my next few years at RAF Changi in Singapore.

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2 thoughts on “LAKENHEATH AND MILDENHALL IN 1960….AND MY FIRST PHOTOGRAPHS.

  1. Robert Tomlinson

    Hello
    Love your photos! My dad was based at Lakenheath from 1960 to 1965. We were also at Chaumont France in 1959. We lived in a thatched roof house in Mildenhall village at King street and Kingsway beside the WWi monument. Loved it! I was 10 years old in 1960 and used to ride my bike from the village to the BX at RAF Mildenhall. Loved to see the C-124a and C-133s next to the road! Wish I could have taken pictures like you did!
    In 1962 we moved to Site 4 family housing at RAF Lakenheath. It was off of Brandon Road across from the main base area. It is now called Eriswell Lodge, the shooting range. My dad had an Agfa camera as well but he never took pictures of the F-100s on base. He did take pictures that I now have at Wheelus AB Libya.
    Would love to see more of your pictures. Even pictures of Lakenheath and Mildenhall bases and the village!

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Robert,
      really great to hear from someone…another ‘kid’ even…who was at Lakenheath in 1960!
      Many of my photos from then are rather grim and alas no pics of either Lakenheath or Mildenhall villages, or the residential site …that I used to cycle through when going on to Mildenhall.
      I lived at a village the other side of Brandon, so cxycled through that on my way to Lakenheath. I remember Brandon as having rather a lot of those old Norfolk cottages that were faced with the rather dark ‘flint stones’, that had been the local building material for centuries.
      I have tons of photos taken at the 1960 Mildenhall Airshow. Visiting aircraft came from the RAF and also France, but there were lots of US planes, like an B-50 flight refuelling tanker and a B-66, both from Sculthorpe. F-101 Voodoo from Bentwaters, an F-100 from Weathersfield…there where so many US bases in the late 50’s and early 60’s in Europe.
      Your dad must have been with 48th TFW I guess, as they had moved the F-100’s from France in ’59 and Wheelus was an F-100 base wasn’t it.
      The Super Sabres could be seen racing across the East Anglian skys so often then.
      Thanks again…I will hunt out anymore Lakenheath and Mildenhall pics and post them.
      David

      Reply

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