There is a sixteenth century saying “He who would Old England win must at Weybourne Hope begin...” reflecting the ease of landing because
of the deep shore water. In 1914 the area became front-line defence with the billeting of troops, and the building of pill-boxes, gun emplacements
and trenches. The site became an anti-aircraft artillery base in 1936 and remained in use until the last of some 1.5 million shells was fired on
2nd October 1958.
Sir Winston Churchill and The Princess Royal, Princess Mary were amongst the many important visitors to the camp during the Second World War.
To-day the RAF still maintains a radar station within the area and some of the gun emplacements remain although they are not open to visitors.
In 1986, work began to demolish nearly 200 old buildings which were beyond repair and 45,000 tons of rubble was removed to make way for
the Collection which was opened in 1988 by Berry and Michael Savory. The heart of the present museum is the NAAFI building which underwent
several years of restoration and enlargement. Across the meadow, in front of the main building, is the storage compound.
This remains virtually as it was in 1948 and is now used as workshops and for storage of equipment awaiting restoration.
The airfield continues to be used by civilian aircraft and the Kelling Model Flying Club.
When first opened the museum consisted of a few exhibits and a small room describing the camp history. The Collection has since grown to over
150 tanks, guns and vehicles in addition to thousands of other items. The vehicles on display have come from far and wide; Russia, Norway, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Holland, Eire, Syria, Kuwait, Israel, the Falkland Islands, the United States and Iraq. Most of The Collection's vehicles
have undergone restoration to ensure they are kept in working order.
Other fine exhibits include historic memorabilia from The Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry, RAF Reconnaissance, Air Sea Rescue and Marine Craft,
and a unique collection of naval and civilian ship models.
There is a Restaurant and Shop and visitors have the opportunity of seeing a tank demonstration and of enjoying a bumpy coastal ride in a military vehicle.
A children’s play area and picnic areas give all members of the family an exciting day out.
Weybourne - A Defensive Focal Point - Mucklebugh Camp pre-history
A sixteenth century Fort as planned here as a defence against the Spanish Armada.
A map dated 1 May 1588 shows 'Waborne Fort' immediately opposite Weybourne Hope with a salt marsh between it and the sea.
There appears to be a moat on the seaward side connecting the Fort to 'Clay Haivon'. An interesting feature and one which appears to support
an earlier reference to the village possessing four ships and seventeen mariners. Further entrenchments are shown to the East, with a cannon prominently displayed, while to the West 'Black Joy Fort' guards the entrance to 'Clay' Haven.
An indication of the military activity that must have been evident in the area comes from an (undated) entry in the Holt Parish Register:
"In this yeare was the town of Wabourne fortified with a continuall garrison of men bothe of horse and foote wh skonces (earthworks) ordinaunce
and all manner of warlike appoynment to defend (prevent) the Spannyards landing theare. Sir William Xper Heydon (residing at Surlingham and Holt) has prime captaine with many other gent in order came in with their companies."
As in the two World Wars of this century, in 1588 the authorities sensed a real threat of invasion along the North Norfolk coast and elaborate
plans were drawn up, both top deter and contain any landing which might be attempted. In the event of local defences being overwhelmed,
troops were to fall back towards Norwich. A scorched-earth policy was to be implemented and the marshes were to be flooded.
These were all measures which were held in reserve between 1939 and 1943, although additional steps such as the mining of cliffs,
beaches and selected sites inland were also taken in the Second World War.
The Military Camp at Muckleburgh - Past and Present
When invasion again threatened the North Norfolk coastline in 19114, the area became a front-line defence zone with the billeting of troops and
building of pill-boxes and trenches along the cliffs and gun emplacements and defensive positions inland. By 1935 the Government was already
quietly implementing plans for mobilisation. Part of the programme of preparation was the earmarking of the area around Carvel Farm
(the original name for Weybourne Camp) as a summer training camp for th eTerritorial Army. This decision brought strong protests from local
residents and businessmen; local fishermen in particular, were incensed, fearing a dramatic effect on their source of income.
The Anti-Aircraft (AA) Training Division of the Territorial Army won the day however. Following severe gales in the winter of 1936 and 1937,
wooden huts began to be erected to replace tented areas, and it became clear that the Camp was to become a permanent feature of the local landscape.
Weybourne 1914 - Shore Defence Photos
Life at the Camp seems to have been predominently a mixture of boredom and routine - one NCO describing it as a 'Servicemen's dream posting',
with virtually no work to do. This may have been true during the winter months; however, the arrival of the 'firing season' proper in Spring was
heralded by a cocktail party in the Officers' Mess and intensified activity on the part of the 200 permanent staff of instructors, technicians, cooks, orderlies, clerks and nurses, whose collective purpose as to train members of AA Batteries (up to three at a time) in the art of good shooting.
The Batteries stayed for about three weeks at a time and fired at either a drogue towed behind a Westlan 'Wallace' biplane from Bircham Newton,
or a catapult launched radio-controlled 'Queen Bee'. The first flight was on 6 June 1939. Perhaps the idea of pilotless aircraft had some merit
when one recalls the plaintive message received on more than one occasion from the luckless pilot of the towing plane 'Begging to remind us we
were supposed to be firing at the Sleeve, not the 'plane!.
An inspector of Artillery who served in the Camp recalls the occasion, on 6 June 1941, when Winston Churchill visited to see a demonstration of
an embyonic anti-aircraft rocket, code-named 'UP' (Unrotated Projectile), which comprised no more than a rack of ordinary drain pipes containing
propellant and 3-inch shells. The Prime Minister declined to attend a wartime lunch in Mucklburgh House, preferring to eat his sandwiches
in the Summer sunshine outside the verandah.
For the 20 or so women of this detachment, as for the men service in such an isolated spot called for provision of a good NAAFI (the home
today of the Muckleburgh Military Collection) and Camp Hall, and it was here that filmshows, ENSA and other concert parties, and twice-weekly
dances were held. Many of those stationed here also walked the two miles into Sheringham to visit the civvy hardresser, shops or go to the pictures,
and then caught the late train back to Camp. In those days Weybourne station was a busy place with a full-time staff of six, necessary to handle the continuous traffic of troop and munitions trains.
The North Norfolk coast endured the frequent passage of enemy aircraft, as well as 'tip and run' raids on Sheringham and Cromer, but Weybourne
itself was only bombed once, on 11 July 1940 at 7:15 am, when one of a string of five bombs (some records stated 15) landed in the street, badly damaging two cottages which were subsequently repaired to form Gasche's Restaurant (now closed).
In the immediate post-war years, the Camp under the title AA permanent Range and Radar Training Wing, offered training facilities to National Servicemen.
The last gun fired on 2 October 1958, and the Camp closed in March the following year. Although no-one knows the exact number of troops who
were trained here, an educated guess puts the figures between 200,000 - 300,000. Another estimate puts the number of shells fired since
1938 at some 1.5 million.
The future of the Camp was the subject of much local speculation; marina, holiday camp, industrial site, oil refinery, ornithological museum, prison
and nuclear power station, were all rumoured to be possibilities at one time or another but Norfolk County Council insisted that the site be
returned to agricultural use.
This has been completed, but the NAAFA building remains, to house, for posterity, the Muckleburgh Military Collection, dedicated to the men
and women who served here and in all theatres of war, together with their vehicles, equipment and supplies.
The Yeomanry Virtual Tour
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