Leiston Airfield, Memorials & Military History

The landscape of Leiston and its villages remembers WWII Leiston Airfield and is dotted with memorials and military history dedicated to those who lost their local – or less than local – lives in the service of their country.

War memorial St Margaret's churchyard Leiston Suffolk

Memorials & more  

On Old Post Office Square, servicemen are remembered on the Town Hall’s war memorial plaque, but these days, it’s hard to imagine the adjacent White Horse Hotel with its popular live music and sports bar as the one-time designated battle HQ for the Home Guard.

Hidden behind St Margaret’s Church and its war memorial, The Cupola (private residence) was another wartime battalion HQ, likewise Theberton House and The Sizewell Tea House in the nearby villages.

The Garrett Works & the war effort

The Garrett works, centred around the Leiston Long Shop, had its own army battalions. In wartime, the assembly line soon swapped from producing boilers and heavy agricultural machinery to providing munitions and naval guns.

In this company town where members of the community and workforce were one, everyone was touched by the human tragedy of war. The Garrett family was no exception. Look for the memorial plaques in St Margaret’s Church. Today, the Leiston Long Shop Museum not only shares wartime stories via displays and exhibits, but regularly brings history back to life through 1940s days and fascinating wartime reenactments.

Find out more
Long Shop Leiston Works Suffolk Wartime reenactment
Remembrance Parade Leiston British Legion Band Suffolk

Acts of remembrance

These play an important part in Leiston’s civic and community calendar and take place at memorials and venues throughout the town, including Leiston Film Theatre. Such events are attended and cherished by both locals and visitors alike, and often accompanied by parades through the streets. What’s more, you’ll usually find the town’s very own, long-established brass band – The Royal British Legion Band Leiston – leading the way at these and other community events.

Events Calendar

Concrete reminders by the coast   

Suffolk’s coast has been strongly defended throughout history, but it is the threat of invasion in the last century which has left behind the most concrete reminders of the past.

From ‘pill box’ gun emplacements on the arable fields and marshlands around Leiston to concrete block anti-tank defences on the heaths and vegetated shingle stretches of the coast at Sizewell, the archaeology is everywhere and easy to spot.

Coast & Heaths
Sizewell beach Suffolk WWII anti-tank blocks
Sizewell wartime memorial to Dutch canoeists Suffolk

Recalling an oar-some escape

Down by the fishermen’s huts on Sizewell beach, there’s an unexpected, yet highly touching touching memorial.

A sculpture of two crossed canoe paddles pays tribute to the Dutch brothers and other brave souls like them, who escaped – or attempted to escape – from occupied Holland during WWII.

They risked the terrifying journey across the North Sea in a simple canoe.

Sizewell Beach

WWI Zeppelin crash at Theberton

On June 17th 1917, the 660 ft long German Zeppelin airship L48 was shot down and crashed in flames in the fields of Holly Tree Farm, Theberton, killing most of its crew. People came in their thousands to view the wreckage of the gigantic airship. Fragments of its framework still survive today, on display in the village church porch, the Long Shop Museum and possibly many a Suffolk home.  The lost German crew are remembered in Theberton churchyard.

Find out more
L48 Zeppelin crash near Leiston 1917 Waddell postcard
Dunwich Heath near Leiston Suffolk wartime memories of the Ground Grocer

Radar stations & training grounds 

Just north of Leiston and Thorpeness, the cliff top area of  Dunwich Heath now owned by the National Trust, was home to towering radar masts and a coastal watch station. 

Inland, the heath (now NT and RSPB) was used for as testing grounds for new weaponry and tactics which served to protect the realm, save lives and change the course of the war.

What role did Leiston play in WWII?

Leiston Airfield, Station F373 – RAF Leiston

In addition to playing its part in coastal defence and manufacturing munitions, Leiston was the wartime home to USAAF 358th ‘Yoxford Boys’ and 357th Fighter Groups, including 362nd, 363rd and 364th Fighter Squadrons.

These images share just some of the poignant reminders of Leiston Airfield, Station F373 – RAF Leiston, put in place by The Friends of Leiston Airfield. 

Leiston Airfield – then… 

American Airforce servicemen came to Leiston in October 1943. The new Class A airfield (built 1942-43) located at nearby Theberton had 3 runways and 62 aircraft dispersals and was originally been intended for RAF Fighter Command. As well as B17 Flying Fortresses which are believed to have landed here whilst the site was under construction, Thunderbolt and Mustang aircraft flew from here on missions across Europe and are the

And now

Evidence of some of the airfield infrastructure still exists along Harrow Lane (runway/perimeter track) where there is also a war memorial. The Cakes & Ale Caravan Park (Abbey Lane) occupies some of the airfield site and has a number of memorials including one by local sculpturer, Paul Richardson near the reception. (Private site, but visitors are welcome to view memorials if report to the Cakes & Ale Park Office or Yoxford Boys Bar.)

Interested in finding out more ? 

Check out these walks and cycle rides  – the ideal way to discover Leiston’s land of wartime heroes, including  its airfield, memorials and military history.  Or why not take a look at our places to visit and local villages pages for more insights into specific locations?