24 (Guided Missile) Wing R.A.F. Watton Jim Forbes remembers his time at Watton 

Sometime in September or October 1960, this J/T Armourer was posted from 25 Sqn at Waterbeach, to Watton. Reporting to SHQ, I was informed that I was to be attached to H.Q. 24 (G.M.) Wing.

The wing consisted of the H.Q. and 263 Sqn at Watton, 242 Sqn based at Marham, and 266 Sqn at Rattlesden, but were billeted at Wattisham, (I think). All with Bristol Bloodhound I.

The H.Q. was a bit further down the road towards the village. There I met my boss, the Wing armament officer, Flt. Lt. Burrows, who had worked his way up through the ranks to Warrant Officer, and had then obtained his commission, and was one of the nicest persons I ever met in my time in the RAF. I served with him again in Singapore, on 65 Sqn, by then he was a Sqn. Ldr.

Mr. Burrows took me through the complicated security procedures, where I had to sign the Official Secrets act again! I also had to fill in forms for a security check., and HQ pass.

The block I was in may have been the first on the left, after the gate but I really can’t remember now. I do remember it was the ground floor billet on the left of the block entrance. The first thing I was surprised by was that to get to the mess, one had to cross the main road. But I was pleased that the food compared well with Waterbeach, which was one of the best in 12 Group.

My duty was to look after the Explosive Storage Area, (Bomb dump), and I was issued with an old sit up and beg Phillips bicycle, so I could cycle around the peri-track to the ESA, and back again. I had to collect the keys from the Guardroom every morning, and return them again at the end of the day.

The dump appeared not to have been used since the end of the war. The explosive stores used by the squadrons were in place, but the buildings were filthy, paint peeling off the walls, heaps of dead flies, spiders and old webs all over the place. On the other hand the hoists and rails had been serviced, and were in good condition, and I didn’t have to cut the grass.

The office was the first building on the right, after going through the gate. This had two separate compartments, the farthest was the office, with a table, telephone and very importantly, a black heater. The other compartment was the tool store, and workshop.

Over the next few months I cleaned out every building, tying a damp handkerchief over my mouth, and jamming my beret hard down on my head, I firstly swept the walls, then let the dust settle. Next, using the hoist, I’d move the contents of the first row to clear the floor and gently sweep up the piles of dust and corpses, then put the boxes back, repeat with the middle row and finally the third row. All this time I had to keep an ear open listening either for the gate bell or the telephone.

If either were heard I had to drop everything, leap on my cycle and pedal like mad up to the gate or the office, which was the first building on the right on entering the area. If it was someone at the gate, I had to request them to leave any tobacco products and matches or lighters in the box provided outside the gate. As a smoker at the time I had to leave mine there, and had to go outside for a smoke, usually timed for when the Lincolns were taxying for takeoff.

Over the winter I also had to keep the access roads free from snow, not that there was a lot. More frosts I seem to remember. Especially New Years Eve, when I got quite merry in one of the pubs in Watton, I then walked or staggered back to camp but had no coat with me. The frost was so hard that by the time I got back to the block, I was white with rime, but I burned off all the alcohol, keeping warm as toast, and I was really sober and didn’t have a hangover.

Well into routine now, there was opportunity to ride escort when deliveries of stores were required at Marham or Rattlesden, this was usually an all day event. A bit of excitement occurred at Easter, when a couple of coach loads of us were drafted to RAF Wethersfield, to protect the USAF from the ‘Ban the Bomb’ marchers, or was it the other way round?

As we were not at all pleased at being there for three days, it was felt that it was a good job that the marchers didn’t break through the fence, we would have had our pound of flesh before the Yanks were allowed to get at them.

Then two disappointments, firstly a corporal was posted in over me, I can’t even remember his name. Mr Burrows had attempted to promote me, but I had not been a J/T long enough it seemed. Also I failed my security check. My mother was from Austria, and the part that she was from had been under Russian control, until Austrian independence. This counted against me and I was quickly put on PWR.

Luckily I had time to get married, to the girl that I’d been courting for 4 years. She was from Cambridge. So on January 27th 1962, I was wed, and had two weeks honeymoon in London. Then at the beginning of March I was at the embarkation camp getting my KD etc., and on the 8th of March I arrived in Aden.

Jim Forbes

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