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MEMORIES OF HOPTON

The following are parts of emails I have been send telling me about their time in the village

RAF HOPTON 1950 to 1952  I was stationed at RAF HOPTON RADAR STATION, as a Radar Operator, for the major part of  my National Service between June 1950 and February 1952. When I was posted to RAF Hopton in June 1950 the establishment of the camp was about 40 personnel. World War 2 in Europe had been over then for some 5 years and the Radar Equipment was of that era. Watches were spasmodic and fatigues (painting stones white) were the order of the day.  Came August 1950 and Service Life changed once more. The period of National Service was increased from 18 months to 2 years and if you happened to be in the Army and The Gloucestershire Regiment you might have been fighting in KOREA. The COLD WAR had started. Radar Stations including HOPTON became Class 1 security camps and the Radar Equipment became operative from dawn to dusk 7 days a week. This of course meant that the personnel increased to around 100 airmen and some of us were billeted in the NFS hut on Beach Approach Holiday Camp which was ideally situated next door to the pub The White Hart. We were also "on guard" on the cliff edge with Lee Enfield Rifles and 5 rounds of live 303 ammunition  in our pockets. Fortunately we did not shoot anyone and the Guard Duties were eventually  taken over by Dog Handlers. Late in 1952 up to date Radar Equipment was installed in an underground site, in the field, which is now called Radar Farm and a new Domestic Living Site was in Beach Approach which I think may have houses built there now?  The holiday camps were by now (5 years after WW2) very busy in the summer but closed in the winter and Hopton was very much a small village with a population explosion in the summer and I well remember all the youngsters earning money by meeting the trains at Hopton Station (very few people came by car) and taking the visitors with their luggage in carts and prams to their respective Holiday Camps. We who were stationed in the RAF at HOPTON have many memories, some of those of our older male and female contemporaries go back to wartime. I am attaching 2 photo's "On the Bike, Brian Sykes and Ted Linzey, Off Duty 1951"   and "A group Outside The Cafe 1951".  I have been returning to HOPTON to attend RAF  reunions at Potters for some 10 years and it is interesting to see how Hopton has developed in over 50 years. I would like to hear from anyone who knew me or my fellow airmen.  TED  (2010)

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RAF HOPTON was opened on the 11th July 1940 as part of the East Coast Radar Stations .in Norfolk and Suffolk amounted to approximately 12 in number. Hopton being the most easterly by reason of its nearness to Lowestoft Ness. It appears to  have been unique in that it had Type 2 (Chain Home ) and Type 54 (Chain Home Extra Low) . It also had a Mobile Type 13 (nodding Heightfinder ) There was also Identification Friend or Foe Transmitter and Receiver But was not operable in the mid to late forties. The aerials were mounted on (200 foot plus ) Towers .Both adjacent their Operations BlocksThe CHL Block contained both transmitter and receiver with two consoles ------One displaying position of Aircraft and its Bearing whilst the other was the heightfinder which could by a remote manual mechanism move to the actual bearing of the aircraft to get a necessary height The CHEL block contained only the receiver the transmitter being at the top of Tower.Access to the same being by a small lift in the centre of the Tower(I believe this tower was a requisitioned  Anglo Iranian Oil Rig as one of the towers bore its name) The Type 13 Aerial was mounted on a Heavy Duty Lorry which was adjacent the CHL blockbut was mobile At different times Another CHL aerial was on site this was on a Gantry at One time on the other side of the Domestic Site later slightly to north of the CHL Tower CHL  was mainly used for Aircraft at various heights whereas CHEL was specifically for very Low Flying Air Craft and had the capability to also seek out Shipping Type 2 CHL was a rectangular Aerial with a wavelength of 1.5 m whereas Type 52 was a circular dish with a Wavelength of 10cm In the Spring of !952 work commenced on constructing an underground Bunker. This was Completed in September but do to a fire the RAF took over in January 1953 a delay of about Six Months. With the Development of radar systems Hopton became Redundant and Closed at the end of the 50's The Domestic Site was situated to the north of the Technical Site with all the provisions needed for a small unit to Operate efficiently In 1950 the complement being only around Forty personnel of all ranks however when the Korean War commenced there was an influx of staff of all trades and as a result a considerable number were moved off Camp to the Beach Approach Holiday Camp (that was like heaven ) the only problem was the walk to the Main Site for Meals and of course to go on duty which in summer meant 3.30am Basically we were all Radar Operators on one of the three Watches in operation (  A Three watch system operated to give a Dawn to Dusk cover)we usually did a  5 hour shift in summer but other seasons obviously lessbut we had every third day off duty and a pass every 3 weeks from noon Friday till 9am Monday that meant weekends were a little bit hectic during the Summer months Leisure Time recollections----------- The White Hart of Course mine hosts being Mr and Mrs Gray .We seldom used the Lounge but another Bar to the left of same . I remember the first time I went in I was in Civvies and the reception was on the cool side from the local regulars.However the next visit i was in uniform and the atmosphere was totally different we initially had been considered Holiday Makers trespassing in their space. from that time on we felt as if we were family. We used to go to the floral hall and roller skating in Gorleston obviously we were attracted to the Local girls at both Venues.  We were also invited to Company Dances ( Marks & Spencers And a department Store in Lowestoft) of course the cinemas and on each Wednesday a trip to the Caister Holiday Camp Wherever we went the White Hart was prominent in a before and after mode We did have a yearly Social and dance which was basically open to all and sundry with transport provided to and from Lowestoft And Yarmouth at Beach Approach The situation developed so much so we made many friends who came to Hopton BUT THE MOST MEMORABLE happening and delight that most will remember were Matthes Cream Doughnuts and the kindness of the two Ladies who ran the TEA SHOP on Station Road which became obligatory when not on Duty  . I believe it was called Culleysand they were so friendly and caring about us.you felt they were family  In Late 1951 and early 1952 as part of the intended upgrading of the Radar and the influx of airmen of all ranks a Domestic Site was built in the Village and eventually only the RAF Police and RAFP Dog handlers were still on the original site.  The site was eventually sold after years of neglect the only evidence it existed are some items of foundation  and the fencing plus some rusty Barbed wire and I believe a WW11 Pillbox I also believe the RAF retained the right to enter and use the land for Mobile Radar Units  It now has a modern bungalow named  Radar Lodge where the old Guard Room and The Camp Entrance was situated as you are probably aware.  Regards  Malcolm

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Groome’s Hopton Holiday Camp We went to Groome’s Holiday Camp many times between about 1950 – 1958. I cannot find a “Groome’s” on the map of camps, but I think it must have been the one labelled simply “Hopton Holiday Camp”. It certainly ran alongside the railway embankment, on which were parked some carriages in which people lived – at least during the earlier years. The proprietor was Lesley Groome, and he was very kind to my mother and I one year, when he gave us a free week at the camp during one of my father’s frequent stays in hospital. At that time, I had no idea that the camp we stayed in was just one of many in the area, although I do remember that my aunt stayed at  the up-market “Golden Sands”.What strikes me, looking back, is the mix of people who enjoyed holidays there. My father was an optician; among my parent’s circle of holiday friends (who tried to coincide their visits each year) were a company director and his family, a builder from Dalston with his wife and two boys, and the Governor of Pentonville Prison and his wife. All thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and kept in touch out of the holiday season. (We once visited the Governor of Pentonville at his home, and my father was given a tour of the prison.)Entertainment was unsophisticated and largely self-made. Most nights there was dancing in the hall, once a week there was a talent show given by the campers, and once a week there was a children’s fancy dress competition (which I frequently won, my parents being very creative with the crepe paper sold by the camp shop). There were the usual sporting competitions – tennis, miniature golf, races, and bowls on the lumpiest pitch in the world.Over the years, the one-room wooden chalets gave place to two-room brick ones, but apart from that nothing much seemed to change. It was a small camp, with chalets built around just one field, with communal washrooms.  I don’t remember blaring public announcements. People simply  appeared to know what time to turn up for the three meals a day which were preceded by a sung grace:Always eat when you are hungryAlways drink when you are dryAlways sleep when you are sleepyDon’t stop breathing or you’ll die. Most mornings were spent on the beach, where it was frequently grey and windy, and in the afternoons visits were made to Yarmouth, Lowestoft and a boat trip on the broads. Was it Gorleston where we used to visit a public swimming pool? Despite the basic conditions in the camp and the blowy weather we had great times there and I remember it with enormous affection.  Gerry.

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RAF HOPTON, 1953-55

It was November 1953 and my introduction to Hopton was not exactly
welcoming; the train from London disgorged me into a deserted square with
snow swirling around and I waited, with my worldly possessions in a kit bag,
for transport to arrive. Things could only get better and they did when I
was shown to my billet and found four others (Brian Low, Graham Gordon,
Geoff Breeze and Del Steel) who had been through Radar School with me at RAF
Yatesbury.

Our camp, and the underground radar station, was almost new but our 'State
of the Art' radar equipment was already obsolete. No point worrying about
such things, it was only a game. It was only some years later that I figured
out that, if we were only operational during daylight hours, either the
Russians (the perceived enemy) were too sporting to invade at night or our
Lords and Master knew full well that the Russians were no threat. As I
said, it was only a game.

For lusty eighteen-year-old to be posted in a camp believed to be designed
to blend in with the half a dozen local holiday camps was too good to be
true. It might have worked had not RAF Hopton living quarters not stood out
like a shining beacon from the mostly down-at-heel camps. Our camp shared a
boundary with Potters Beach Approach and a deal was struck that if we
painted the swimming pool the camp personnel could have use of it... It
worked well enough but have you ever jumped into an unheated swimming pool
on the East Coast? I happily helped with the painting, giving my plimsolls
a nice blue spotty design, but felt no desire to jump into the pool.


had a wonderful summer but a freezing winter. Football was my thing and the
station team played in the Norwich Wednesday league. With only 80 people on
camp there was a good chance of getting in the station side and I shared the
goalkeeping position with Eric Sainsbury, an RAF Policeman. With so few
people on camp just about everyone below the rank of sergeant went by their
Christian name. The CO, Flight Lieutenant Monk, was also keen on football
and it was common for him to call the radar station and ask for me, and
anyone else who could play, to come down to the camp as he fancied a game of
football. We never declined.

We had been issued with old Lee Enfield 303 rifles which we kept padlocked
to our beds; once a month they had to be carried everywhere... It was a bit
of a hike to the radar site and I soon acquired a motorcycle (even in 1954
helmets were compulsory if the bike was ridden on site and I discovered that
it was possible to ride a motorcycle and have warm ears!). There were
bicycles available but most of us also had our own. It was always a bit of
a challenge to ride my motorcycle through a crowded main road without
sideswiping an inattentive holidaymaker with the rifle, which was slung
across my back!

My time at RAF Hopton was idyllic, plenty of entertainment in Yarmouth and
Lowestoft, the latter was my choice. Top name bands at the Lowestoft Palace
and roller skating at an affordable price, three cinemas and, of course the
White Hart. I recall that the owner of the 'Hart had a gleaming white Mark
Seven Jaguar. By the time I became a Senior Aircraftman I had enough money
left over out of my two pounds ten shillings a week to spend a few nights a
week there with occasional boisterous demob parties. Beer was fairly cheap
and I can recall scraping seven old pence together to have half a pint of
mild at the White Hart. One of our watch, Harry Sawkins, didn't drink and
often he would lead the few hundred yards back to camp with the rest of us
following like circus elephants, each holding the man in front. We were
only eighteen or nineteen.
Bruce , RAF Hopton November 1953 to July 1955


My earliest memory of Hopton was traveling by rail from R.A.F. West Raynham in north Norfolk with my family to my dads next posting of R.A.F. Hopton on Sea. I can still picture the sea, which was new to me, from the carriage window. I must have been 4-5 years old so would have been aprox 1953 .It was nearly the end of the school summer holidays as we'd only been there a short time when I had to start school there in the delightful little school next to the White Hart pub. Luckily, I'd had time to make some friends with the local kids and 'raf' brats from the camp, though there was precious few of those!  I can remember one local girl in particular who was older than me, took it upon herself to look after me. Sylvia was her name, which incidentaly I could'nt pronounce and it came out as silvery! So if she still lives in Hopton, and anyone knows her,  she must be in her mid '60's now, could they say thank you.
Those days at that school were the happiest of all my school days.The prefab houses that we lived in, ours was number 5, were small but very cosey, heating etc came from a black 'range' in the living room. I think there might have only been about 7-8 in total. Looking through this site the memories come flooding back, the walk that seemed miles to get to the beach, the pond where I lost a wooden boat that I'd taken without permision that my 11 year old brother made, (he was not happy) and the little shop just outside of the main gate that seemed to sell everything. My brother would get about with the local boys, usualy with me tagging along mostly on the handlebars of his bike, and as he was so tall for his age he and I were nicknamed 'Big and little Samson' He and his mates thought it great fun to swing me over the cliffs from a piece of cloths line! Of course I thought it great fun not realising how close to death I came. l also see there is reference to the old church and kids playing in there, there's mention of a beam that had to be crossed sounded familiar too.  It stopped when someone informed mum! I'm sure there are some people who remember the two old railway carriages that were in a siding by the station that were turned into holiday lets. I believe my brother and a few of his friends were guilty of letting the brakes off one time,  which allowed them to rumble off down the track. my memory does'nt tell me if they were damaged, or if the guilty parties were caught!    If I was'nt with them I would be at a farm where a school pal, whose name is long forgotten, lived, I think this was on the way to Corton. Probably only a short distance, but it seemed a long way to walk for a five year old! My brother had a part time job at the Constitution holiday camp washing up in the evenings and some weekends, well, it kept him out of trouble!There were two or three council houses on the approach road to the camp, Where I remember playing with two girls who lived there, usualy making mud pies. I think they were the same age as me.In the late summer we would play in the fields behind the married quarters. I have a memory of getting a telling off from dad after the irate farmer informed him in no uncertain terms  how I'd been running and jumping on the stooks of corn thus flattening them. Well, it's what kids do is'nt it!  I  think I also used to steal the Gladiolii's from his garden and take them home for my mum which would'nt have endeared me to him either! My father was a Sgt. Chef so I think we probably ate quite well. The camp itself was lovely after the busy West Raynham and everybody knew everyone else. The camp C.O. Flight Lieutenant Monk was very easy going, his wife and my mum were great friends. It was Flt Lt monk who spotted me having to get out of my pedal car to lift it up the kerbs around the camp, so he had the 'Chippy' make wooden ramps to make it easy for me. he would also take us on a sailing boat he kept on the broads. I would also be taken in an Austin truck with my dad to get stores, though I had to be hidden when we went through the gates.There was an R.A.F. policeman at Hopton who, whenever we came by the guard room would fascinate me by jingling his trousers, I did'nt realise at the time he had something on a chain, but it was magic to me! I would also hang around the M.T. section. I liked transport even at that age. Flt. Lt. Monk got the airmen in there to repair and respray my pedal car after I'd given it a bit of a shunt!. It must have been very quiet in there!One airman who has stayed in my memory all these years was a young Italian named Gino Lombardelli, who could forget a name like that! He built lovely flying model aircraft, though I don't remember seeing them actualy fly which apparently seemed to amuse the other chaps in the billet.Opposite the White Hart was small Garage, I imagine now long gone, which concealed, according to my brother, was a Bleriot monoplane. The place fascinated my brother and I, and we'd poke around in there whenever we got the chance, usualy while waiting for the bus to Gt Yarmouth. I believe the proprietor was a bit of a character! I see on here there are photos' of the bikes that two people could ride side by side which were from the holiday caps. Am I correct in thinking that there were two girls killed in a collision with a car on the main road whilst riding one? I can also remember a jet crashing to the West of Hopton after just clearing the bus we were on going to Gorleston, I think it might have been an American and the pilot was killed. I wish I had more photos' from those days, but I've attched a few of the M.Q.'s and my family. one day I'd like to re visit Hopton.. we shall see.  Jeff