The Dome at the now disused airfield at RAF Langham in North Norfolk is one of the last few remaining structures, of which 43 were built in the UK during WW2, made to house the Dome Trainer - a war winning and essential invention used for anti-aircraft gunnery training. The Langham Dome is the only one which has been “saved” and converted into a visitor centre and museum - with a multitude of exhibits and films telling both the story of the technology and use of the then secret AA trainer and also the history of RAF Langham. This history covers Langham’s use as a busy Coastal Command airfield in WW2 and its post war use during part of the Cold War, where, inter alia, it housed a technical training centre for Dutch Air Force and Navy trainees; UK and US servicemen using the Dome and the ranges at Stiffkey and Weybourne on the North Norfolk Coast and, from 1952 until late 1958, its re-opening as an operational airfield as the home of the No 2 Civilian Anti-Aircraft Cooperation Unit (CAACU) operated by Marshalls of Cambridge. Fuller information can be found at: www.langhamdome.org.
Saving the Dome
RAF Langham Airfield and the Dome Trainer finally closed in 1958. The airfield which had been sold to Bernard Matthews PLC was now, apart from a small vintage aircraft operation, semi-disused and became the home for a variety of uses including agriculture, turkey farming and the use of the broken up runways for road building. The Dome itself, although becoming a listed building, was abandoned and for 50 years fell into decay until in 2010 a local community group called the Friends of Langham Dome (FoLD), decided that it, and the stories it has to tell, had to be saved and be available for the wider public.
The Dome before restoration
Thanks to a great deal of perseverance and hard work by FoLD, and donations of the site and building as well as grants from both national charities such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and local charities, and the work of the North Norfolk Heritage Buildings Trust to whom Bernard Matthews had donated the building, by July 2014 the Dome had been not only fully restored but had also become the home of an iconic museum interpreting both Langham Airfield and the Dome’s wartime and Cold War use and open to the general public and to schools and other groups.
Inside the Dome after Restoration
The Dome has been awarded a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for both 2017 and 2018, and of some 89 reviews no less than 87 are rated Excellent (74) or Very Good (13). Extracts from comments for the 2018 season include:
“This is a fantastic place full of local history and its part in the war effort, with stories of the men and women who served in Langham Airfield and other surrounding facilities.”
“Staff are very friendly and knowledgeable! They can answer all your questions about the dome and its installation and the project to save it from being forgotten.”
“Small but perfectly formed! The Museum provides a fascinating insight to the role of Domes in training during the Second World War, the stories of those who were based on Langham airfield and the technology which has influenced modern day computer games.”
The Spitfire Project
We have been given by the RAF Museum a full size replica of what is perhaps WW2’s most iconic RAF aircraft, the Spitfire. Although not based at Langham in WW2 they were frequent visitors, and they were based with No2 CAACU during its operations from Langham in the 1950’s. Sadly the only casualty during the CAACU’s operations was a Spitfire crash in which the pilot died. Thus the replica Spitfire is seen as an appropriate addition to the Museum’s exhibits, and it is also seen as an added attraction for visitors which will increase footfall and hence enable the museum to prosper and to be able to tell the unique story of the Dome and RAF Langham for future generations. In the RAF Museum the Spitfire was mounted internally, but for the Dome Museum the only option is to strengthen it structurally and securely mount it on a plinth outside the Museum - where it will be subject to the vagaries of the North Norfolk winter weather. Thanks to the skills of our film makers you can see what it will look like when the project is finished in the introductory video. The cost of this work, including ground works for the plinth, will be just over £35,000. We have so far managed to raise some £20,000 and we are now seeking your help in raising the balance to allow us to complete the Spitfire project, and if there is any surplus use it to maintain it and the Dome for future generations to be informed and enjoy.