Great Yarmouth Air Station in the First World War


The Great Yarmouth Royal Naval Air Station Headquarters were situated in Regent Street, Great Yarmouth during the First World War.


The Royal Navy was tasked with the defence of the United Kingdom from aerial attacks and a series of eight naval air stations were constructed down the east coast to provide convoy protection, protection against bombardment by sea and attack from the air.

In 1912, the Admiralty sought a suitable site in Norfolk for an air station and Great Yarmouth was selected. The site on the South Denes was leased at two pounds and ten shillings per acre per year. The air station was commissioned in 1913 with one officer, five naval ratings and a dog called Bob.


The first task was to build a hangar and the first aircraft to arrive was the Farman Biplane in 1913. War was declared on 4th August 1914. In January 1915, the raid on Great Yarmouth by Zeppelin L3, killed two people.

Although there were aircraft at the Great Yarmouth Naval Air Station, they could not match the altitude of the Zeppelins and their only armaments were rifles. More aircraft were moved to Great Yarmouth and by the end of the year there were 31 aircraft and 100 men.


By 1916, aircraft had improved with the addition of Lewis and Vickers machine guns, and in November, three Be2c aircraft from Great Yarmouth, piloted respectively by Lieutenants Cadbury, Fane and Pulling, shot down Zeppelin L2I, which fell into the sea some ten miles east of Lowestoft. Lieutenant Egbert Cadbury, from the chocolate family (later Sir Egbert) was married to Mary, the daughter of the controversial Vicar of Gorleston, the Revd. Forbes Phillips.


In 1917, flying boats, based at Great Yarmouth attacked U-boats and Zeppelins. On 14th May, flying from Great Yarmouth, a Curtiss HI2 flown by Lieutenant Galpin and Sub Lieutenant Leckie, shot down Zeppelin L22, the first Zeppelin to be destroyed by a flying boat.


In August 1918, Lieutenants Cadbury and Leckie, flying in a DH4, shot down Zeppelin L70, considered to be the finest Zeppelin.


Henry Allingham, one of the last survivors of the First World War, who died in 2009 aged 113 years, trained as an air mechanic at Great Yarmouth Naval Air Station. The Station closed in 1920.

Royal Naval Air Station, South Denes

The unveiling of the plaque