WWI Memorial in Little Dunham Village

The former WWI airfield located near the village of Little Dunham was officially known as Sporle Landing Ground.

It was one mile south of Little Dunham railway station and within the current parish of Little Dunham. It was used by 51 Squadron and part of the 47th Wing of the 6th Brigade, Royal Flying Corps between 1916 and November 1918 as a satellite station to RAF Marham for home defence duties. The airfield covered 43 acres and measured 520 yds by 440 yds. Facilities at a Class 3 night landing ground would have been very basic – a hut for the pilots and ground crew and paraffin lighting for the landing strip.

Little Dunham Parish Council have built a Memorial ready to mark the 100th Anniversary of the former WWI airfield. A Tornado from RAF Marham conducted a flypast at 10am on 11th December 2014. The Memorial was unveiled by Group Captain Harvey Smyth OBE DFC ADC MA RAF, the RAF Marham Station Commander. It was dedicated by the local Vicar, Rev Martin Joyce.

BACKGROUND:
Local military historian, Squadron Leader Richard James visited the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum in 2013 and chatted to the Curator, Mr Huby Fairhead, who told him about Sporle Landing Ground.

Richard James mentioned this to the Little Dunham Parish Council, and suggested a Memorial should be built. By co-incidence, a few weeks later Richard was reading the Breckland Council newsletter when he found an article offering up to £500 for WWI projects in Breckland. This too was passed to the Parish Council and the Chairman, Simon Fowler applied for the grant. The application was successful thanks to Councillor Mark Kiddle-Morris.

Richard James suggested a memorial similar to the existing Little Dunham village sign which stands next to the village hall. Richard then found a thick slate base to an old snooker table in Ipswich and bought it for £10.

Simon Fowler took the slate to Bretts of Watton, who made a superb job of cutting and polishing the slate, then etching the inscription. The cost of this was £609 and thanks to a very generous donation from the current owner of the land, Mrs Griffin and the grant from Breckland Council, the bill was paid.

Simon Fowler applied for, and received approval by Highways. He also discussed the project with Mrs Griffin, who was very supportive.

Retired villagers Ray Brolly and Richard James volunteered to carry out the building works, which they started on 24th November 2014.

The ground was cut by David Harris of Dunham Diggers who donated his time and JCB. Mr David Walker donated over 500 bricks, two tons of sand and 100 flints to the project. Just after the start of the building, Ray and Richard were joined by Chris Heslin, whose expertise throughout the build was invaluable. Chris Heslin also donated 30 blocks for the path to the Memorial from the roadside. Thanks also to Ryan Malin for all his  assistance and for providing fresh water on the site.

To complete the construction works, engineering plinth bricks were required and Chris Heslin suggested specialist builder’s merchant J Medler Ltd of Taverham near Norwich. Richard James wrote to them and told them about the project and they too were very supportive. When Richard went to Taverham to collect the plinth bricks and cement, he was hoping for a discount, but was delighted when J Medler Ltd onated all the bricks and cement free of charge.

The building works were completed on 2nd December 2014. Local farmer Henry Kilvert, who is also the Regional Manager of Countrywide Grounds Maintenance then offered to tidy up the whole site and lay turf around the Memorial.

THE MEMORIAL INSCRIPTION READS:
This memorial is dedicated to the men and women who served in The Royal Flying Corps, The Royal Air Force, The Royal Naval Air Service from the landing ground located in this field during the Great War 1914-1918 “Lest we forget.”

LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS:
J Medler Ltd, Ray Brolly, Simon Fowler, David Harris of Dunham Diggers, Chris Heslin of Norfolk Paving Ltd , Richard James, Henry Kilvert, Regional Manager of Countrywide Grounds Maintenance, Ryan Malin of Malin Landscaping Ltd and David Walker.

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