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The ghosts of RAF Feltwell

Most haunted airfields are derelict, overgrown and deserted – but the ghosts that walk amongst the living at RAF Feltwell do so on a very active site.

aerial view of RAF Feltwell, Norfolk, seen from the west, looking to the Breckland beyond

RAF Feltwell, 10 miles west of Thetford on the very edge of the Norfolk border, is a former Second World War bomber station which is today used as a housing estate for United States Air Force personnel stationed nearby at RAF Mildenhall. It is also, it seems, a housing estate for ghosts.

There are few sights more unsettling than that of an abandoned airfield or a hangar after dark, after all, these are places that were filled with those who had been witness to trauma and despair, who had lost colleagues, who lived alongside perpetual fear. But in some ways, there is something even more terrifying about a bustling area which remains haunted by the spirits tethered there.

In use during World War One and Two, Feltwell was a training depot from 1918 to 1920 and was reopened as one of the first two Expansion Period bomber stations in 1937. Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum tells a story that a German aircraft landed at Feltwell one night, not realising its mistake until the next morning, at which point it quietly took off before anyone noticed.

After the war, the station was converted to a training station before being turned into one of four Thor Missile bases in the UK in 1958: the 1.44MT warheads stored there were powerful enough to kill everything within an 8km radius (the warhead detonated at Hiroshima was 0.15MT). During World War Two, 51% of aircrew were killed on operations 12% were killed or wounded in non-operational accidents and 13% became prisoners of war or evaders: only 24% survived the war unscathed - it has been estimated that nearly 800 airmen who walked through the gates of RAF Feltwell and Methwold between 1939 to 1945 died in combat. Ed Zizulka recounted this story of a ‘ghost bomber’ on in August 2000. “I was stationed at RAF Mildenhall in 1970 to 1973. One of the men in my unit was housed at RAF Feltwell and one night when he came on duty he told a fantastic story,” he said.

“He was not eager to tell it as he thought I'd think he was crazy. He said that although the airfield was closed to air traffic he had heard a plane land and taxi up near the barracks and that it kept its engines running.

“Suddenly some RAF personnel came into his barracks but he said they wore the flying gear of World War Two. They came in, looked around and then went out as he stood there dumbfounded.

“He then ran outside and there was a shot-up Lancaster Bomber with the crew all running about doing things to the plane. Suddenly they all climbed in and it took off and vanished. I related this story to a local resident and he said that the Sergeant had seen the Ghost Bomber…”

On the message board, there’s another post from member CD: “RAF Feltwell (I lived there) has several ghosts, one of which inhabited my barracks. We called him ‘Herbie’ and he was a poltergeist, constantly plaguing us with his tricks.

“If you got busy, put your beer down to free your hands, turned your back for more than a minute or so, you might find your can or bottle gone when you turned back.

“The empty container would show up in some unusual place in a day or two - in your sock drawer at the back of the clothes locker. He would reset clocks. One young Sergeant showed up two hours early for work, even though I had watched him set his clock – wind-up not electric - the night before.

Three men in front of Ventura at Feltwell. CREDIT: Brock F J (F/O), Royal Air Force official photographer / public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“A check showed that the clock was exactly two hours ahead of time. He loved to slam doors, even when the door was wedged open or had a thick carpet under it that made normal closing difficult.

“He would come into your room at night and sit on your stomach - several of us had it happen - or throw things across the room.”

CD went on to say that a senior ranking officer had told him that Herbie was the spirit of a man who had taken his life at RAF Feltwell and that the base’s team of dogs refused to enter the room where the man had died.

After repeating the story regarding the ‘ghost bomber’ of the Lancaster, CD added: “A third ghost is a set of glowing red eyes that show up in one of the older buildings that is now used as the American High School for that area. “I have never heard what the story was behind that one, but did see it one night while riding with a Security Policeman, we did not investigate!”

On a thread about haunted airfields on Reddit, the following comment was posted: “I work for the USAF at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk and just down the road there is another US base called RAF Feltwell that was one of the 1930s expansion airfields.

“A lot of the buildings on there are either used as storage or empty – there’s a school and some housing on base as well. The story I’ve heard is that one night someone called the duty Security Forces number as they had seen someone in the old (empty) Officer's Mess [building 17].

“One of the duty cops is sent to check it out, he gets upstairs in the building and sees an open door to one of the old bedrooms. As he checks the room he sees someone stood at the window and tells them: ‘stand still! Put your hands up!’

“The person at the window turns around and walks straight through him...leaving one scared shitless USAF cop who ran like Forrest Gump out of the building and locked himself in his car for the rest of the night.”

Master Sergeant Gerald Williams, a 48th Security Forces Squadron member was stationed at the base and was well-acquainted with ‘Feltwell Freddy’ along with a ghost seen on a gibbet near the fence line said to be the spirit of a man caught stealing cattled and executed centuries ago.

Moans and blood-curdling screams have been heard in the foliage near the fence line but, on further investigation, nothing has been discovered: the terrifying rumour is that the perpetrator is a faceless woman. Also in Feltwell:

  • One of the village's most famous apparitions is that of an older lady who appears at night dressed in dark clothing and wearing a shawl. In an old Feltwell pamphlet written by the Rev. Daubeney in 1954 is the following tale: “Some four or it may be five years ago, an account was given in the Thetford and Watton Times of Mary Barley, who died at Feltwell in the year 1875 at the age of 67 years. Few people now remember her, but she is said to be seen at times in the Borough; (the triangular patch of land between the left and right forks in Short Beck) though why she walks, that is if she does walk, was not explained in the account given of her. Possibly there is a hoard of money, buried or hidden somewhere, which she is unable to leave. She lived in a house in Short Beck.”

  • Henry Heading, a farmer, whose farm premises were in Long Lane, Feltwell, almost 100 years ago. Since his death he is said to have been seen at various times in Long Lane.

  • There is said to be a spectral coach and horses which drives down Lodge Road and along High Street at the dead of night. The horses are said to be, pleasingly, headless. Rev. Daubeney wrote: “It is the Death-coach. Inside the coach sits Death - generally in the form of a lady - and the coach stops every here and there to pick up the souls of the dying, who enter at her request.”

  • A further tale linked with this most haunted of villages is that of the witch of Cock Street – now the High Street – who lived in a house there with her son. It was said that she had strange powers: she could raise a storm, particularly to warn her son from afar that he was being watched as he stole corn and flour for her at the mills, and she had power over horses who would refuse to pass her house even if whipped. At this point, she would shout from her window to inform drivers to tap the wheel of their cart with their whip rather than use it on the animals and the horses would magically move again. Could this storm-raising witch actually be Old Roger…?

  • It was also noted that in Feltwell, villagers were averse to eating hares as the belief persisted for many centuries that witches would turn into hares at the point of death and therefore you could be enchanted if you ate one.

  • RAF Feltwell servicemen have claimed there is a tree on the base where no bird will land.

1 Comment

The story of the German plane landing and taking off is recalled in Cyril Kay’s book The Restless Sky he was an officer with 75 New Zealand Sqn RAF based here at that time .

My father was a boy at the time and remembers the machine gun on the water tower firing at it as it turned and took off so he said .

The late Mr Tom Cooper told me the CO had a tannoy on the station and he clearly heard him announce “ the plane that just landed and took off was a Hun “

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