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!
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:
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.
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.