Marks Hall at War

In 1941 Marks Hall was requisitioned for use as a Headquarters and utility for Earls Colne Airfield.

The airfield construction started in September 1941, with concrete runways, a station hospital, mess halls, bomb shelters, a control tower and many ancillary buildings being built. Marks Hall mansion was adapted to serve as an Area Headquarters, first briefly by the 4th Bombardment wing, of the 8th Air Force and later by the United States Ninth Air force.

The aircraft that flew from Earls Colne were initially B-17s (F) Flying Fortresses, flown by the 94th Bombardment Group (Heavy). Later the 323rd Bombardment Group (Medium) flew B-26 Marauders up until their departure in July 1944.

The airfield was taken over in September 1944 by RAF 38 Group Transport Command. The 296 and 297 Squadrons had recently taken part in ‘Operation Market Garden’ towing Horsas and CG-4 (Waco’s) to Arnhem. In October the squadrons exchanged their Albemarles for Halifax V and later added the Halifax III.

Operation Varsity

Arguably the greatest airborne operation of the 2nd World War, Varsity was planned to force a crossing of the Rhine at Weisel in Germany and start the final advance on Berlin. The squadrons’ Halifax aircraft towed paratroopers of the 6th Airborne division and their equipment in 60 Horsa Gliders. Flight officer Rosemary Britton flew as a ‘stowaway’ in one of the tug aircraft, which left from Earls Colne and became the only female participant of the ‘crossing of the Rhine’.

Memorial Site

The Thomas Philips Price Trust decided some years ago to create a permanent memorial site in remembrance of all those who served at Earls Colne Airfield. This can be seen on the walk through the northern end of the arboretum. The memorial is in the form of a 1/10-scale replica of the runway layout of the old airfield. Little remains of the airfield except scattered air raid shelters throughout the woods.