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Weybourne Camp 1944

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Cambridge MAFVA created a diorama depicting Weybourne Camp, Norfolk, UK as it may have appeared  in early 1944…

 

Period photos of Weybourne Camp taken during WWII

This diorama provides a visual re-creation of Weybourne Camp, Norfolk [Now the Muckleburgh Collection – http://www.muckleburgh.co.uk ] as it would have appeared during the Second World War. It is now on display at the collection, and is used to illustrate to visitors part of the history of the site. As space limitations did not permit a full re-creation of the whole site area the diorama was structured to visually convey the important activities which took place there in a reasonably authentic setting at a visually appreciable scale [1/76th].

The Royal Artillery Camp at Weybourne was the primary location for training anti-aircraft gunnery regiments in Britain. Following their training there, the thousands of young men and women involved were dispersed across the country to serve as anti-aircraft gunners defending towns, cities and industrial areas from bomber attack. They were true ‘citizen soldiers’, recruited from civilian backgrounds to defend their homes, factories, country and way of life…

A visitor to the collection is first presented with views of the entrance area to the camp along with a vehicle park [MT or ‘Motor Transport’ parking area]. Differing types of lorry in use at the time are shown – Bedford, AEC, Thornycroft and Leyland. There is also an Austin YMCA mobile canteen providing refreshments for a group of troops taking a break from unloading and preparing materials for the ongoing construction works which took place on site during the wartime period. The collection of buildings includes a Medical Centre, and a Water Tower for fresh water supply is also visible. Outside the Medical there are parked Austin ‘K2’ Ambulances.

Overhead cabling providing power and telephone connections between the various camp buildings are included. The differing types of anti-aircraft guns in training use can be seen along a cliff top. There are also circular ‘Bell’ Tents. These were used to house many of the troops under training as the camp gradually expanded. In wintertime Weybourne was known as one of the worst postings in Britain… if you were unlucky enough to be billeted in a Bell tent…!

The Camp Entrance with manned security barrier and Guard House is also shown along with the coast road running from Salthouses [to the left]towards Sheringham [to the right]. On the road is passing convoy of the 11th Armoured Division. The Division is in training for the D-Day landings [June 1944] and is equipped with new ‘Cromwell’ Medium Tanks. The Cromwell was an equivalent to the American M4 ‘Sherman’ tank and was powered by one of the best engines ever fitted into a tank – ‘The Meteor’ – a de-rated version of the famous ‘Merlin’ aero-engine produced by Rolls-Royce. It goes to say that what these tanks lacked in firepower was made up for by a healthy turn of speed! The tanks are carried on Scammell ‘Pioneer’ transporters, along with crews ferried in Bedford ‘QL’ Lorries. ‘QL’s’ were produced by the thousand in many versions during the war years. Daimler ‘Dingo’ scout cars and BSA Motorcycles are also in use. The deep anti-tank ditch dug along the camp boundary is also shown. It was created to defend the camp in 1940 when the threat of invasion along the East Coast was at its height. The ditch is also provided with a barbed wire fence to aid security. The gun seen inside the camp fence on the back of a trailer is a 3in anti-aircraft gun of First World War vintage [Then some 30 years old]. It was used as a training aid. A concrete ‘Pill Box’ is sited nearby, used for camp defence – a cold and lonely place to be with your rifle on a winter’s night…

The diorama includes a ‘Mess’ or Canteen, with a group of Gunners outside, unloading provisions and peeling potatoes from sacks…there is also a central parade ground filled with vehicles and troops with more Bedford and Leyland trucks with a very useful Austin ‘Tilly’ [Utility Car] passing more BSA motor cycles parked along the main road though the camp.

There is also a strange catapult device for launching aircraft, complete with a number of ‘staff’ cars parked nearby. The catapult is being inspected by a group of ‘V.I.P.’s’.

There are also fixed anti-aircraft guns housed in permanent concrete embrasures overlooking the cliffs. The Gunners are standing to attention, awaiting inspection by the V.I.P’s.

The VIP’s consist of Winston Churchill [Prime Minister], and some of his chiefs of staff from Army, Air Force and Navy. They are inspecting the camp training facilities, and in particular the ‘Queen Bee’ catapult launcher. The launcher is important as it provides a way of getting a remote-controlled ‘target’ aircraft into the air for the trainee gunners to shoot at. The ‘Queen Bee’ was an un-manned conversion of a De-Havilland ‘Tiger Moth’ Bi-plane training aircraft, fitted with radio-control equipment. The aircraft was able to land at sea on floats, [if it was not shot down first!]to be recovered by a floating barge fitted with a crane. It was then made ready to be flown again on another day…

The diorama also depicts Weybourne cliffs facing the North Sea. Here there is a crashed aircraft on the beach – A German Junkers JU-88 bomber which forced-landed after a night-raid on Liverpool. The crew were captured, and the bomber is being inspected by an RAF officer, accompanied by Army personnel from the camp and a member of the local constabulary…

Along the clifftop there are a number of anti- aircraft guns either in use or being deployed for firing practice. Above is a silver-painted ‘Queen Bee’ target aircraft flying along the cliff top as a target. There are 40mm ‘Bofors’ light anti-aircraft guns. These guns are rapid-fire small-calibre weapons intended for low-level defence – ideal for shooting down fast attacking aircraft approaching at altitudes below 1,500ft – a close-defence weapon which saw use by many armies for decades after WW II. These guns are mobile – they are mounted on wheeled carriages towed behind Bedford ‘QLB’ artillery tractors. There are also ‘Heavy’ A-A Guns. Two are housed in permanent concrete structures, whilst others are deployed from mobile platforms towed behind AEC ‘Matador’ prime-mover Lorries. These are all of 3.7in Calibre and are high-velocity weapons capable of firing shells to a great altitude [15,000ft +]. These guns were an equivalent to the much-vaunted German ‘88mm’ A-A Gun and had similar capabilities. The guns were the primary weapons used for city and industry defence, and were sited to provide ‘Ack-Ack’ barrages against attacking bombers flying at higher altitude. There is also a rectangular concrete structure which contains a ‘gun predictor’ stereo gun sight – a range and altitude finder used to feed information to the gunners about the position, speed and height of the attacking planes [similar equipment to gun-sighting equipment fitted to larger warships].

The diorama was created by Members of the Cambridge Branch of M.A.F.V.A. and was installed on site in 2015.

The creators: Tom Cole, Simon Ward, Dave Blomley, Gary Wenko, Bob Mitchell, Dave Stringer, Paul Middleton, Mark Gilbert, Gareth Jones, John Paulding

 

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