As part of celebrations to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force, Forces TV have been taking a look at how old RAF bases are being used today, after being closed at the end of the Second World War. In Norfolk, we explored the former site of RAF Hethel, which was home to an American bomb group during the 1940s. During World War Two, its runway was the launchpad for a number of vital missions during the conflict. The site is 55 acres, excluding the land taken up by the test track. However, today, the runway launches a different kind of fast-moving technology; it is now part of the test track for Lotus sports cars.
In the 1940s, it was a key hub for the base, but now it has been refurbished and lives on as the company’s driving academy, fondly referred to as the club house. Around 2,000 vehicles are built by hand here each year. The founder of the company, engineer Colin Chapman was an ex-RAF pilot, so it is easy to see why he was so keen to get his hands on the base. He knew there were a number of air bases in East Anglia which were needing to be repurposed for other activities. At the time, Lotus was based in north London, and had outgrown its facilities. So in 1966, we moved here to Hethel.