View Full Version : Norden Bombsight Store

03-06-2008, 01:20
EXTANT Norden Bomb Sight Stores (2009)
Beccles, Suffolk: Extant, storage.
Bungay, Sufolk: Extant, derelict.
Bury St. Edmunds / Rougham, Suffolk: Extant. Storage.
Chipping Ongar / Willingale, Essex: Extant, derelict.
Debach, Suffolk: Extant, Museum
Deenethorpe, Northamptonshire: Extant, used as scrapyard store.
Framlingham, Suffolk: Extant, modified and converted into a bungalow. Private.
Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire: Extant, derelict.
Matching, Essex: Extant and derelict
North Pickenham, Norfolk: Extant, derelict.
Old Buckenham, Norfolk: Extant (condition?).
Podington, Bedfordshire: Extant, derelict.
Rattlesden, Suffolk: Extant, derelict.
Rivenhall: Extant, derelict.
Seething, Norfolk: Extant, derelict.

Karl H
01-10-2008, 03:59
There is a small lean-to section on the BS Store opposite of the entrance of these buildings. There are no openings from it into the main building, so I wouldn't think there would have been a boiler for heating in there (it appears that the heat A/C unit is above the entryway) and it is too small for a sentry (and the entrance would not be visible from there). So I am curious as to its purpose? TIA, Karl

02-10-2008, 05:03
There is no picture linked to your post Karl. What airfield are you referring to?

Peter H

Karl H
02-10-2008, 12:36
Here are a couple of photos of the Norden Bombsight Store at Bungay. The first image is the side of the building with the entrance to the right. The area I am curious about is the low roofed area to the left. The second photo shows this area a little better. These buildings were on most (I am guessing all?) 8th AF, and probably 9th AF, bomber airfields.



Richard Flagg
02-10-2008, 13:03
I saw this on the Norden Bombsight Building at Beccles,


I thought it was an added on store room, but now that you have mentioned it Karl it is visible on all of the Norden Bombsight Buildings I have seen.

Could it be something as simple as a shed / store room?

Karl H
02-10-2008, 17:11
It appears to be on all of them. If you take a look at your photos of Debach, you will see the one there is missing its roof. As I recall, it had a dirt floor. I guess storage is a possibility. Are there many buildings from this era that had storage facilities? Denis and I had discussed this once and he suggested a possible place for a guard to get out of the weather. To me, the location in relation to the building entrance and the small size would argue against that.

03-10-2008, 23:40
A short but interesting piece of information. It is generally believed that the Norden was a top-secret bit of kit, fitted to the B17s each day under an armed escort, and laden with explosives to keep it from enemy hands at all cost.

This article (http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi1004.htm) suggests it wasn't that simple!

04-10-2008, 06:11
The full and technical history is published in THE LEGENDARY NORDEN BOMBSIGHT by Albert L Pardini, Shiffet Military history Book, ISBN 0-7643-0723-1.

At an early stage, Bombardiers (Bomb Aimers) had to swear an oath to protect the secrets of the device.

Peter H

Paul Francis
05-10-2008, 18:15
Not really sure, only a guess. The small annexe might be a compressor house or battery / acumulator DC supply store. Having said that, I spy a pressure stabiliser on the wall there, I think this building was sealed, had an air-lock entry system and the internal air pressure raised above ambient. The small annexe may have housed the plant to do this.

Karl H
05-10-2008, 19:55
Paul, for what it's worth: there is some kind of a heating/air conditioning unit in the entry corridor (mounted overhead). That grate to the right and above the vertical window is the intake for it. Inside all the duct work is fed from that unit. Also, there are no openings from that small annex into the rest of the building. I think there are a grand total of 6 of those units you refer to as pressure stabilizers (I didn't know what those were called, thank you). And there is another door just inside the entry, so I believe that goes along with your thinking the building was pressurized.

Paul Francis
05-10-2008, 20:33
OK so it is def not connected with the air conditioning plant, and thinking about it, it could not be anyway as the plant would have to be in the main building. I wonder therefore, if it is a switchroom (electric mains and standby changeover). Perhaps not though, it obviously had a minor ancillery function as its only temp brick with a corr asbestos roof whereas the main blg has a 6in concrete slab roof and either 9 or 13.5in solid walls. The air-lock would have had rubber seals on the door jamn and the door ends probably rounded in section to form a gas-tight seal.

Richard Drew
06-10-2008, 13:36

Is this a Noden Bombsite?

www.atlantikwall.co.uk (http://www.atlantikwall.co.uk)

Karl H
06-10-2008, 13:44
Yep, that's it. The building in question had a vault for storing the sights and a work area for repairing them. The sights were stored in the vault when not in actual use.

Technically, the top portion (in your photo) is the sight and the lower portion is the stabilizer. The stabilizer was part of the autopilot. Mechanical links (the metallic colored, parallel rods on top of the stabilizer) from the sight fed inputs into the stabilizer, and thus, the autopilot.

Richard Flagg
06-10-2008, 14:40
There is at the Framlingham Control Tower museum


Karl H
06-10-2008, 17:34


Bury St. Edmunds:


Here is a photo of the one at Bungay:


Also Halesworth although in rather rough shape.

Richard Flagg
30-01-2009, 21:52
Old Buckenham

01-02-2009, 12:41
USAAF Willingale/Chipping Ongar.

P Bellamy
26-09-2009, 21:33
Having had a good look at the one at Bury St Edmunds today, I've only just realised it's two buildings, not one.

What presumably was the Bombsight Store is the slightly wider room at the back (in white below), and the workshop area along with the airlock and plant room is butt-joined to the front of that. The roof slab is also two sections, and only the workshop area is rendered, the "vault" being bare brick with a tar coating.


I wonder if this is why the identical store at Deenethorpe has two AM drawing numbers, Bombsight Store and Repair Building for USA Stations 1906/43 and 3922/43.

All the best,

Able Mabel
16-01-2010, 13:39
Having visited the site at Bury a while ago, i too looked into this building.
I presumed that the visible ceiling ventilation ironwork would have been to allow the right 'climate' in which to work on and store these sentitive pieces of equipment. Bury had the bars at the window for security no doubt and although i measured it up with a view to drawing it, i didnt have the time to do the inside so again, but there was a partition wall in the main larger room as the photo sshow in the 'Operations Block' thread
Nice to see the computer images.

Richard Flagg
13-04-2010, 22:28
The Norden Bombsight Store at Shipdham, Norfolk taken on 11 April 2010. I couldn't get any closer as the guard dog was doing his job so I stood on the car and photographed it from the road!!


P Bellamy
09-01-2011, 02:22
Interior of the workshop section of the bombsight store at Great Dunmow, August 1944:


All the best,

09-01-2011, 07:21
Looks like the lights were turned off for the posed shot! The two officers are at the calibration stand and pretending to refer to the technical data. I suspect that behind the blind conceals wall mounted diagrams of the secret sight and stabiliser. Note too the air-conditioning ducts essential to maintain a constant temperature to enable accurate calibration.

But what is the guy at the far end right listening too? VOA?

P Bellamy
09-01-2011, 11:18
I think it's a blackout blind over a window.

All the best,

10-01-2011, 07:59
Probably is Paul but a bit late in the war to worry about leaking light especially as there are no lights on!

Although I am sure that I have been in a Norden workshop/store in Rattlesden or Ridgewell, I would not then have been aware of its purpose. One feature in the workshop would have been a massive concrete (below floor level) block isolated from the structure by an air gap. This was the anti-vibration mount for the sight calibration pedestal.

Can anyone recall seeing this feature?

The image is captioned as August 1944, by this time several bomb sight specimens had fallen into enemy hand via crashed aircraft and the security classification of the sight had been downgraded to Restricted.

11-01-2011, 11:12
Seems to be same design for them all.

I had a good look around one at Toome. - There is what appears to be a storeroom inside the main building which retains a strong smell of oil.

Richard Flagg
08-02-2014, 11:07
Updated list of known Norden Bombsight Buildings;

Attlebridge, Norfolk
Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire
Beccles, Suffolk
Bentwaters, Suffolk
Bungay, Sufolk
Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk
Chipping Ongar, Essex
Cluntoe, Tyrone
Debach, Suffolk
Deenethorpe, Northamptonshire
Framlingham, Suffolk
Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire
Halesworth, Suffolk
Hethel, Norfolk
Matching, Essex
North Pickenham, Norfolk
Nuthampstead, Hertfordshire
Old Buckenham, Norfolk
Podington, Bedfordshire
Rattlesden, Suffolk
Raydon, Suffolk
Rivenhall, Essex
Seething, Norfolk
Shipdham, Norfolk
Toome, Londonderry
Weathersfield, Essex
Wendling, Norfolk

P Bellamy
08-02-2014, 19:37
Toome, Londonderry - Can anyone provide an exact location of this one please?



Richard Flagg
08-02-2014, 22:16
Thanks Paul.

Are there any others still around?

P Bellamy
08-02-2014, 22:43
This may be one next to the Ops Block at Cluntoe (8AF 4th/2nd CCRC for B-24 crews):

EDIT: Yes it is, but a mirror-image to the usual build.

P Bellamy
08-02-2014, 22:55
Bassingbourn: http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=52.09348&lon=-0.045963&z=19.3&r=0&src=msa
(Much chearer in GE)

P Bellamy
08-02-2014, 23:00
Nuthampstead: http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.993153&lon=0.052247&z=20&r=0&src=msa
(Again, clearer in GE)

Richard Flagg
08-02-2014, 23:14
Thanks for those Paul, amazed I forgot Bassingbourn and Nuthampstead.

Bassingbourn must be unique as its the only Norden Bombsight store on an Expansion Period Airfield. I assume others must have been built but I guess this is the only survivor.

P Bellamy
08-02-2014, 23:15
Attlebridge: http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=52.686844&lon=1.101624&z=19.3&r=0&src=msa

P Bellamy
08-02-2014, 23:39
Wethersfield: http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.969303&lon=0.494982&z=19.8&r=0&src=msa
(Is this the only one still in US hands?)

P Bellamy
08-02-2014, 23:47
Chipping Ongar: http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.731265&lon=0.302258&z=20&r=0&src=msa

P Bellamy
08-02-2014, 23:58
Matching (Still standing according to the OS): http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.780063&lon=0.254023&z=19.6&r=0&src=msa
(Oops, you already had this one... ;))

Richard Flagg
09-02-2014, 14:05
Wethersfield: http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.969303&lon=0.494982&z=19.8&r=0&src=msa
(Is this the only one still in US hands?)

I thought the US had left Weathersfield? Its now MDP.

P Bellamy
14-02-2014, 23:35
Starting to get my head around the construction of these now:



Annoyingly, I can't find my reference photos from Rougham of the intake/filter/pump installation in the airlock. :(

Alex Brown
14-02-2014, 23:59
Very nice Paul.

Was the vault/store room always a later addition to these buildings?

P Bellamy
15-02-2014, 00:35
I would think the vault was the first part constructed, with the workshop added soon afterwards.

Alex Brown
15-02-2014, 00:51
I would think the vault was the first part constructed, with the workshop added soon afterwards.

I didn't think of it that way round but it certainly makes more sense like that!

P Bellamy
15-02-2014, 17:57
Well, that's my take on it, as that was what happened on Stateside AAF bomber training stations.

2AF satellite training stations had Bombsight Vaults.
These were simple two-room concrete structures with steel bank-vault style doors and wooden doors outside those for weather protection, surrounded by a wire security fence. One room would be the store itself, the other was used as a basic workshop and power room.

The parent training stations had the larger Bombsight Maintenence Building.
These consisted of a concrete section containing a row of five cells, each with the same bank vault style doors. A wooden structure was built around these, offset to form a full-length workshop space which the vault doors opened into.

Satellite stations upgraded to parent status would have the larger Maintenence Building added, in addition to their existing Vault.

Back in the UK, there are two AM Drawing Numbers for the Bombsight Store: 1906/43 and 3922/43.
Which actually refers to which section is as-yet unclear, but as the workshop area seems to have a number of different names on RSPs (Workshop/Repair Building/etc.) I get the impression this is the later part. Having said that, I would think the vast majority of them were built as a single unit, with just the very early ones being of two-stage construction. A possible example of this is Rougham, where the vault is externally bare brick but the workshop is rendered. Pencilled graffiti by one of the builders in the entrance porch gives a precise date in 1943 of this part of the building's completion, but I can't find my photos to check what date it actually is...

Alex Brown
15-02-2014, 22:31
Grafton Underwood is two stage construction as far as I remember?

P Bellamy
16-02-2014, 22:24
I'll have to check next time I'm up there Al.

Air intake gubbins added, albeit in a somewhat basic format, thanks to Karl's photos.
Sight head shelving also added in the vault:


18-02-2014, 12:15
The shelving would certainly conform to that which was extant at Rivenhall a few years ago. It may still be there, the building certainly was a couple of years back.

Where is the air 'conditioned' i.e. cooled/heated?

Alex Brown
18-02-2014, 12:47
The shelving would certainly conform to that which was extant at Rivenhall a few years ago. It may still be there, the building certainly was a couple of years back.

Where is the air 'conditioned' i.e. cooled/heated?

Probably filtration and heating to remove dust/moisture that would otherwise cause issues with the optics.

18-02-2014, 14:41
A stable temperature was prerequisite to accurate calibration. So, I would think that it was airconditioning.

P Bellamy
19-02-2014, 21:31
Grafton Underwood is two stage construction as far as I remember?

Yes, the vault section is indeed unrendered.
Ditto Halesworth too.

21-02-2014, 16:17
Probably filtration and heating to remove dust/moisture that would otherwise cause issues with the optics.
My question was not 'why' but 'where'. The illustration shows only an air inlet, but no air conditioning plant.

P Bellamy
21-02-2014, 16:35
The combined filter and blower assembly is over the entry airlock.
Note this is not a full-on anti-gas Porton Filter setup, but from surviving examples appears to be a much smaller unit simply to provide cleaned air at a higher pressure than outside, to keep dust etc. out of the workshop area.
Dust inside optics is a Bad Thing... ;)

P Bellamy
09-07-2015, 01:07
A couple of updates on this subject.

The vault section of the building still stands at Polebrook, behind the collapsed remains of the Ops Block.
While the workshop section seems to have been relatively simple to remove, they soon stopped work on the vault after coming across the substantial rebar within the wall (can just be made out to the lower right of the doorway)


I was recently fortunate enough to be allowed access to the Nuthampstead example, and I have to say it is the most complete one I've ever seen.
Not only are all the original doors, lights, wall lining and ducting in place, but the wooden shelving in the vault is all there too.
Another astounding survival, and one I wasn't expecting, is a pair of timber doors over the inner airlock doorway, allowing access to the ventilation equipment.

The computer model will be amended to reflect this shortly.