Denton a village in South Norfolk, England

Denton in World War Two

Apart from those Denton residents who saw active war service (details of the one man who, sadly, did not return are recorded in our War Memorial page), there were two specific ways that the war impacted (no pun intended) the village.

The Norfolk Aircraft Carrier

Following the United States' entry into the war late in 1941, East Anglia found itself rapidly covered by a large number of US Army Air Force bases. There were over 20 in Norfolk alone. The nearest to Denton was Hardwick, just across the parish boundary in Topcroft and Hempnall parishes. There, from September 1942, first B25 Mitchell medium bombers and then B24 Liberator heavy bombers conducted daylight bombing missions. But there were other US bases not very far away at Seething, Flixton and Thorpe Abbots.

Hardwick was Station 104 of the US Army Air Force and home to their 93rd Bombing Group. The Group's museum is still located in a group of war-time nissen huts on the site of the airfield in Topcroft. A lot more information about the Group and the airfield can be found on the Museum Website.

First there was the disruption caused by the loss of farming land and the construction of the bases. Then the challenge of supplying and supporting the bases and their personnel. The arrival of thousands of, predominantly young male, US servicemen must have had a considerable impact on the local social scene. Some details of how Denton handled this situation appear on the Brief History page.

Two Near Misses

There is no record of any bombs being dropped in the neighbourhood of Denton during the war. By the time the nearby airfields, which might have attracted enemy interest, had been built the ability of the Luftwaffe to mount bombing raids was much diminished. However, for a very brief period in 1944 a much more terrifying weapon threatened the village.

Very few V1, "Doodlebug", Flying Bombs, were launched against Norfolk, many more fell on Suffolk. But one did land, on 9th October 1944, at Thwaite St Mary, Grid Ref. TM 336-954, causing minor damage to some houses and the church.

In September 1944 NAZI Germany revealed its new "terror" weapon to succeed the V1. Medium range ballistic missiles - V2 rockets - were launched for the first time. Fired from mobile launch sites in Belgium and the Netherlands and carrying a one ton warhead, the initial targets were London and Paris.

The first rockets were launched on September 8th. Later in the month the only other major British towns within range, Norwich and Ipswich, were added to the list. Between 26th September and 12th October 43 V2s, launched from Rijsterbos in the Netherlands, hit Norfolk.

The guidance system for the rockets was very primitive so only three of the rockets aimed at Norwich actually exploded in the city. The rest landed over a wide area of the county including two in this area.

  • On October 1st in the early evening a rocket hit Sycamore Farm at Bedingham just north of Denton, Grid Ref. TM 2785-9090, creating a crater 9 metres wide and 1.5 metres deep. The farm buildings were damaged and four people injured. The site was close to the base hospital of the nearby Hardwick US Airforce base.
  • During the evening of October 3rd a second rocket fell locally, this time just in Denton itself. It landed in a field just west of Darrow Farm right on the boundary with Alburgh and created a large crater. This has since been used as a rubbish pit and is now difficult to spot. It is next to a stile on the footpath between Darrow Green Road and Broad Road at Grid Ref. TM 2585-8925. For some reason it seems there was a delay of about 10 minutes before the warhead exploded; some damage was caused but there were no casualties.
It is hoped to obtain some more information about both these incidents.

A much more impressive V2 crater, created on October 6th, can be see next to a bridleway just South of Shotesham Church, Grid Ref. TM 2465-9899.

Unlike bombing raids or even the earlier V1 attacks, the V2s, travelling faster than the speed of sound, gave no warning of their approach. There was no chance of anyone seeking shelter. They really were terror weapons. Luckily for Norfolk, by the middle of October the advance of the Allied forces from Normandy had forced the German NAZIs to switch targets to the key port of Antwerp, though launches against London continued. Then the NAZIs were forced to retreat into Germany itself and London was out of range. The last V2, of the 3,172 used, was launched on 28th March 1945.

A comprehensive record of the V2 campaign is available from the V2 Rocket Website.

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