Local Area Information
RAF Mildenhall is locate in the district of East Anglia, a name derived from an ancient Saxon Kingdom ruled by the Angles. Today it is a title to include the counties of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge- shire, the area between the Wash to the North and the River Thames to the south.
The district’s name sums up the character of the countryside within the its 144-square miles; chalk heathland at Newmarket, the Breckland area of sandy soil and heathland around Brandon, the woods of Thetford Chase (one of Britain’s man made forests), and the typical black peat fenlands bordering Cambridgeshire. These flat lands with raised roads provide some of the richest soil in Britain and an abundance of vegetable produce. The two rivers, which run though the district, are the Little Ouse and the Lark.
Located about three miles southwest of RAF Mildenhall, Mildenhall has a nice selection of recreational facilities, including an indoor swimming pool at the Dome Sports Centre. For a small town, there are nice variety of shop, and the modern shopping precinct blends well with the old houses around the original market square. The outstanding landmark here is the market cross, said to date from the 16th century. The parish church of St. Mary’s, across the market place, is one the great churches of Suffolk. The name Mildenhall is said to be derive from the Saxon “Moel-den-hall”, meaning sandy plain or enclosure, which indicates Mildenhall has not been surrounded by woods.
Many interesting antiques have been found in this area, including the famous Mildenhall Treasure. The story of finding the treasure and other interesting local history facts can be seen in the Mildenhall Museum on High Street.
West Row, Beck Row and Hollywell Row, or “the Rows” as they are collectively known, are all within 1.5 miles of RAF Mildenhall. Also in this area are Wilde Street, Burnt Fen, and Kenny hill, from where it is possible to see the towers of Ely Cathedral 15 miles away.
Newcomers often mistake beck Row for Mildenhall Village because it is located so close to the base.
Lakenheath is located in the north of the district, about five miles from RAF Mildenhall. It consists of fenland and, adjacent to the airfield, typical breck heathland. The parish church has a massive chambered tie-beam roof and a wonderful set of 15th century carve benches.
This lovely, quite is set in the forest on the south bank of the river Little Ouse, about one mile from Brandon. The village was built on the shifting Breckland sands, and in the 17th century these sands almost buried much of the surrounding countryside.
Brandon lies in the extreme north of the district of the south bank of the Little Ouse about ten miles from Mildenhall. It is surrounded by heath and fenland. The extremely sandy soil has been contained by planking taken from the woodlands of Thetford Chase in 1920. The extremely sandy soil has been contained by planking taken from the woodlands of Thetford Chase in 1920. The forest covers an area of nearly 80 square miles reaching across Suffolk and Norfolk. Flint has played a significant part in the historic development of Brandon. As well as being used in buildings, it was mined in the early Neolithic days for use as arrowheads and other implements. The prehistoric flint mines, at Grimes Graves, just three miles across the county border of Norfolk, are open to view.
This village is about three miles from Brandon, it is also the site of Center Parcs, a holiday resort-type village, which opened in 1989. Also two miles from the village is a towering Corinthian column. The column was erected as a war memorial after World War I. It stands 113 feet high with an urn at its top.
Icklingham is located on the north bank of the River Lark. This district is noted for many relics left by the previous British, Roman, and Saxon inhabitants of West Suffolk.
With a population of more than 16,000, Newmarket is the largest town in the district. It is a major residential, market, and shopping center. It also has an indoor swimming pool and sports center. Distinctive feature of Newmarket, at the opposite ends of the High Street (same as our Main Street), are the Jubilee Clock Tower and the Cooper Memorial Fountain. Newmarket is the center for horseracing in the United Kingdom. There are two grass tracks on the outskirts of town, the Rowley Mile and the July Course. During the racing season, the National Stud and the National Horseracing Museum on High Street are open for tours.
|To||Miles from Mildenhall Village|
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Local Market Days
|Bury St. Edmunds||Wednesday/Saturday|
The Mildenhall Heritage Trail
The Mildenhall Heritage Trail celebrates the rich history of RAF Mildenhall, with markers at various buildings of historical interest around the installation.
In 1929, the people of Mildenhall learned of the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) decision to use the out-lying area of their town as the site of a new style RAF Bomber base. With the local community suffering through a gripping agricultural depression, the news of the airfield offered local people the hope of relief in terms of new employment. Actual construction work on the base began in October 1930 as crews from Fred Hal and Sons of Sutton, Ely, began building the base’s first facility, the office for the Resident Engineer. The first phase of construction brought much needed relief to the depression stricken communities in and around Mildenhall. After taking over the building contract in 1931, the London based construction firm employed numerous locals. However, the firm of Redpath Brown, which built the hangars, brought its own special workforce down from Newcastle. Despite this, a common sight of the times saw as many as a hundred men from various towns and villages queuing outside the various contractors’ offices hoping for work. The initial phase of construction remains in existence today. A good example of these is the base’s first hangars which were built during the initial stages. Due to their size and quality of original construction, they continue to serve the needs of the modern U. S. Air Force. With this in mind, the 100 ARW developed RAF Mildenhall's Heritage Trail, highlighting a varied selection of the base's more significant structures.
Stops along the Trail
Building 136: The first building constructed on RAF Mildenhall. Initially, the building housed the station's Resident Engineer and his staff. After construction on the base was complete, the workers remodeled the quarters to serve as a Warrant Officer's married quarters. Today, the building is part of the base's family housing.
Building 427: Built in 1931 to accommodate single airmen, the barracks had four dormitory rooms to accommodate 12 airmen each. A separate room housed a corporal, who was in charge of the floor he was on. The center part of the building served as the bathroom area. This particular building, like the others around it, face onto Washington Square, which was the station's parade square. The station's airmen paraded at the beginning of each day where they were assigned their day's duties. Notice the neoGeorgian style roof, common in pre-war RAF buildings, and compare it with Building 422, a barracks that was built four years later. Today, the building is used as the base’s Education Offices.
Building 424: Built in 1931 as an “Airmen Pilots’ Quarters.” Originally, the building accommodated 14 people. However, during the pre-WWII expansion, workers added a second story to increase the accommodation capacity to 26 single sergeants. Today, the building is used as offices for the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC).
Building 425: Built in 1931 as the original “Sergeant’s Mess.” This facility accommodated 69 members and provided recreational and dining facilities. Workers added the small western wing in the 1939 expansion of the station. Eventually, the station's growth in personnel resulted in the building of a new facility, placing the “Sergeant’s Mess” in to auxiliary status. Today, the building serves as the base's Library.
Building 544: Originally built in 1933 as the Station Armory, this facility contained an “Air Ministry Laboratory Bombing Teacher” where bomb aimers could be taught the use of “Course Setting Bomb Sight.” Additionally, the building hosted a “Photographic Block, Gas Respirator” (a test facility), and a Paint Store. The Gateway Inn Maintenance department is currently using this building.
Building 545: Built in 1931 as the “Main Store and Workshops,” this building housed the logistical heart of the station. Currently, the building is used by the Gateway Inn Resource Management department.
Building 546: Built in 1931 as the “Crew Room and Locker Room,” this was originally part of a two building complex (the second building has since been demolished) designed to provide flight line facilities for crews. During World War II, the RAF used this facility as a chapel for the Protestant Free Churches, a reminder of which is displayed in the present base Chapel (Bldg 574).
Building 554: Constructed in 1933, this facility was the station’s Armory. While functioning as the Station Armory, it would have housed several functions relating to maintaining bombs as well as the bombs themselves. Although it has had a verity of occupants over the years, it currently provides a home for the 100th Force Support Squadron.
Buildings 511 and 512: Constructed in 1931 as “MT Sheds and Yard,” these facilities have been associated with motor transport (MT) storage and maintenance ever since their original construction. The RAF added some of the bays and refueler vehicle garage blocks during the WWII expansion period. Today, the 352d SOG occupies these facilities.
Building 506:This structure is one of the more “modern” buildings on the Heritage Trail, having been built in 1942 and is known as the Astro Building. This “Dome Teacher” is the best- preserved example of only a handful of such wartime buildings that are still standing. Originally intended for astronavigation (celestial) training for RAF bomber crews, it later served to train ground anti-aircraft gunners. Today, the facility is used by the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron.
Building 501:Built in 1931, the original facility, a “Type C Guard House,” included the Fire Tender House, Personal Hygiene Room, and Paint and Repair Shop. The Station Guard, made up of duty personnel drawn from a roster, also doubled as the station's Fire Picquet. All personnel wishing to “book out” from the station before proceeding on a typical weekend’s 48-hour pass came to this building and would come under the eagle-eyed scrutiny of the Station Warrant Officer (SWO), the station’s disciplinarian. The original guardroom cell remains in existence within the building. The USAFE-UK Staff Judge Advocate makes its home in this building.
The historical information regarding the trail is constantly being updated and is thus a “work in progress.” If you see something outdated or incorrect, please notify the 100 ARW History Office.