Martlesham Heath

Photo from Martlesham Heath

1 Real Ale pub

other licensed premises

Useful links

Martlesham Heath is part of Martlesham parish.

Population (2011) of Martlesham parish: 5478.

Local licensing authority for Martlesham Heath is East Suffolk.

Overview | Gallery | Historical info | Map

About Martlesham Heath

First glance suggests that a mass of modern housing and a variety of industrial developments has totally enveloped the former RAF airfield from where Douglas Bader and others flew many WW2 missions. Whilst the modern A12 dramatically cuts the former airfield in half. However in many respects this very modern settlement containing a wide diversity of housing and the popular Douglas Bader pub may have more of a "village feel" than several other nearby and more historic villages which have lost all of their facilities, including the pub, shop and post office. Today some local residents claim that "the heath" is more representative of modern Suffolk than other nearby villages that may now contain a high percentage of second homes (many of which are only used at the weekends).

The modern village is centred on a large green where cricket and football are regularly played. Bus route 66 links the area to Ipswich town centre with a regular service including late night buses. Some remnants of the old heathland still survive and hold a variety of wildlife including the rare Silver Studded Blue butterfly. A group of Bronze Age barrows also lie on the edge of the heathland - some of which have been excavated in recent years.

On July 9th 2017, a commemorative stone (see gallery) was unveiled to mark 100 years since the opening of Martlesham Heath airfield. It can be found alongside the pub.

This stone commemorates 100 years of Martlesham Heath.

On 16 January 1917 Martlesham Heath airfield was officially commissioned and adopted by the Royal Flying Corps, with the Experimental Aircraft Flight taking up residence. It became RAF Martlesham Heath on 1 April 1918, with the formation of the Royal Air Force.

From 1917-1963 the airfield was the RFC and RAF's main aviation research and development establishment, apart from during World War 2 when it became a Battle of Britain fighter station within 11 Group. In the years leading up to WW2 it played an important part in the development of Radar.

During 1941 volunteer pilots from the USA flew with the RAF from Martlesham Heath; they became know as the Eagle Squadrons. From 1943 the USAAF 356th Fighter Group was based here, providing support to American bombers on missions over occupied Europe.

RAF Martlesham Heath closed on 25 April 1963, but not before helping to perfect automated blind landings.

Barrack Square with its war memorials is a reminder to lives lost in the defence of this country by RAF Martlesham Heath personnel. The first memorial was dedicated in June 1946 to the USAAF 356th Fighter Group. The second was dedicated in 1991 to the RAF, Commonwealth and Dominion Air forces. The third memorial recognises the work carried out here by the many experimental units perfecting aviation technology.

In 1968 the General Post Office began to move its Research Station from Dollis Hill in London. The Post Office Research Centre was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 21 November 1975. Known since 1999 as Adastral park, it is home to BT's technologists and numerous independent Innovation Martlesham companies.

Suffolk Constabulary moved its headquarters to Martlesham Heath in 1976.

In 1972 landowners Bradford Property Trust proposed a new village comprising houses, shops, schooling and recreational facilities. From this the award-winning Martlesham Heath village was born and has evolved.

Today's Martlesham Heath has thriving industrial and retail zones and Falcon Park, a large retirement home development.

RAF Martlesham Heath dates back to the Great War and the Royal Flying Corps. Between wars was one of just a handful of airbases that remained open. TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was based here for some of that time as a mechanic. He also spent some time at RAF Felixstowe. During the 1920s & 1930s the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (AAEE) was located here and was responsible for the testing of many prototype aircraft - including the Spitfire and Hurricane - usually undertaken from Hanger B, a site now occupied by a bowling alley.

During WW2 various squadrons and aircraft operated from here including Hurricanes of 151st, 17th, 257th, 504th, 85th Squadrons and the 242nd Squadron (a Canadian group led by Douglas Bader). There were also Defiants of 264th Squadron, Spitfires of 266th Squadron, Blenheims of 25th Squadron and Typhoons of 182nd Squadron. From October 1943 the base was used by P47 (Thunderbolt) aeroplanes of the USAF 356th Fighter Group until May 1945. During operations they claimed 201 enemy aircraft for the loss of 122 fighters. Reverting to RAF use it closed in 1963. The small barrack square still survives with memorials and Martlesham Heath Aviation Society maintain a museum at the old Control Tower.


Some details from "Suffolk Airfields in WW2" by Graham Smith.