Nissen Hut

About this Exhibit

To help our patrons understand the realities of life on base in Framlingham, we have a Nissen Hut on display with two bunks inside. Just two bunks would have been a paradise to the men of the 390th; the reality is this Nissen Hut actually housed three crews of six men: imagine 18 people in that space with no privacy! The Nissen Hut filled many roles for the men, acting as a home, game room, story circle, workshop, and kitchen. It was also a sobering reminder of the realities of war as the men who returned from missions were left to stare at the empty bunks of friends who would never come home.

Stationed outside our Nissen Hut are a bicycle and an alert flagpole, just like the ones used with the original squadrons. Different colors had different meanings:

Blue – Stand down because there is no mission scheduled.

White – Stand by because the mission status is undetermined.

Red – ALERT! The mission is on!

Bicycles were the primary mode of transportation around and off base for the men. Many struggled to use them successfully on the muddy roads prompting Parham’s landowner Percy Kindred to quip, “I hope they fly planes better than they ride bikes.”

Exhibit Highlights

Percy Kindred, the owner of the land where Parham Airfield was built, generously donated the Nissen Hut to the 390th Memorial Museum. It was disassembled, shipped to the United States, and then reassembled for display in the museum.

MAJOR NORMAN NISSEN The Nissen Hut was actually invented during World War I by Royal Engineers Major Norman Nissen.

NISSEN OR QUONSET? Many people mistake the Nissen Hut for a Quonset Hut. The Nissen Hut was more commonly found in Great Britain and, unlike the Quonset Hut, they used interior framing made of metal or wood.

THE PLACE TO BE It was always a challenge to keep the stoves in the huts going in the cold. Even so, it was more comfortable inside the Nissen Hut than walking in the cold and rain to other locations. This is part of why the Nissen Hut became the de facto place for every activity, from preparing for missions to just spending time with the guys.
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