Wendling
Station 118, USAAF

Then and Now

Wendling in the 40's

Wendling Station and platform as they were in 1944. Only a few people can be seen to be waiting for a train, but many a time, this platform was bustling with GI's heading for Norwich or Kings Lynn or London on R&R. This was the closest station to the airfield and gave the field its name, as aposed to naming the field Beeston where most of the sites are located. The station has long since gone along with the track. The main A-47 road follows parts of the path of the former line. Other stretches have been turned into nature paths.

Wendling in the 40's

Wendling is situated in the heart of rural Norfolk, England and sits in an area of intensive farmlands and small villages. Work on building the airfield began in the early 40's. The airfield was specially constructed for USAAF use to house 2,800 men in the Nissen huts surrounding the village of Beeston, which then had a very small population of about 400 people. It wasn't until early August 1943 that its new tenants began to arrive. With the heavy arrival of the 392nd Bombardment Group, this small rural area was suddenly transformed into a hive of activity. Life in the communities suddenly had changed!


Wendling seen from 8,000ft, April 20th 1944. The village of Beeston can be seen in the upper left-hand corner.

The 392nd arrived in early August 1943, and their first mission from Wendling took place on 9 September 1943, so little time was spent getting acquainted with the surrounding areas. When downtime did come for the soldiers, local towns and villages became very popular. The local pubs and lasses were especially popular, and being in such a rural location, the favourite mode of transportation was the bicycle. Although on many occasions, the mixture of blackouts, bicycles and beer resulted in many "mishaps" around Wendling and all of the other bases. Locals quickly became accustomed to having the "Yanks" as part of the communities. Ingenious locals soon latched onto the money these new found friends had and promptly set up various "businesses."

A common business was laundering uniforms for the "Yanks." A classic story from a villager at Beeston tells how the locals would steal the GI's issue bicycles while they were happily drinking a few warm ones in the pubs. These were then sold back to the airmen who were in need of transportation, not realizing they were buying what was theirs in the first place!



Now

The Nissen huts still stand today on Site 8. These were temporary huts that housed four officers, two pilots and two co-pilots from two crews. These were cold and windy places to live with the only heat coming from a small coal stove in the centre of the hut. A latrine and shower building can be seen on the left between two of the huts. This site was home to crewmembers from the 579th Bomb Squadron. This is one of the few sites at Wendling where a large proportion of the original buildings still stand today. The huts now house farm equipment and animals. Although the steel and wood buildings were designed for short-term use of no more than a few years, they have now stood the test of time for over 50 years.