Peter Long’s brief history of Watton – 1945

During the Second World War, one of the major weapons in the armoury of the Allied Powers was Radio Warfare (RW). Great Britain was at the forefront of research, development and operational use of Radio Warfare equipment and techniques. RW had been developed and honed until, by the end of the conflict, led by British expertise, the Allies were able to locate, monitor, measure, record, manipulate and jam enemy radar emissions and wireless transmissions. These procedures became known as Radio Countermeasures or RCM.

As the end of the war approached and with the reduction of the armed forces that would automatically follow, RAF Station Watton was selected as the base for the continuation and furtherance of Radio Warfare within the Royal Air Force. Watton was to become the Radio Warfare Establishment (RWE) within 100 (Countermeasures) Group. 192 Squadron, which had wartime RW pedigree, disbanded at RAF Foulsham and its personnel and Handley Page Halifax aircraft formed what was to be the nucleus of the RWE’s Flying and Servicing Wings. The Headquarters, Technical and Intelligence Wings for the RWE were formed from the disbanding Bomber Support Development Unit (BSDU) at RAF Swanton Morley. The BSDU had been formed during the war as the RAF’s centre for the development of radio warfare countermeasures.

On the 25th September 1945, in two separate ceremonies, RAF Watton (main site) and Neaton Camp (Griston), were handed over by the USAAF to the RAF.

By the 22nd October 1945 the full RAF establishment had arrived at Watton, and Air Commodore J.G.W. Weston OBE assumed command as Commandant RWE. In the same month RWE Watton transferred from 100 Group, Bomber Command to 60 (Signals) Group, Fighter Command.

The RWE’s initial aircraft strength was:

23 Handley Page Halifaxes, 7 Boeing B17 ‘Fortresses, 10 De Havilland Mosquitoes, 3 Avro Ansons, 1 Airspeed Oxford, 1 Percival Proctor.

During the early part of November, in a period of very bad weather, No. 527 Squadron, the first of a number of calibration squadrons arrived at Watton. 527 was equipped with Supermarine Spitfire Vb’s, Airspeed Oxfords, and a Vickers Wellington. The Squadron had been formed in 1943 from a number of calibration flights and had later absorbed No’s 526 and 528 Calibration Squadron’s.

The work with which Watton was tasked was of a highly classified nature and several very sensitive units were formed on the Station. One of these was the Intelligence or ‘Y’ Wing. ‘Y’ Wing was tasked with airborne and ground based signals intelligence gathering and collating, known in the Service as ‘Tactical ‘Y’. Another was the RW research unit, responsible for the development and improvement of RW equipment and was led by Squadron Leader George Baillie an Air Ministry Scientist. Both of these units were initially based on the Griston site.

Peter Long

These and the other ‘snapshots’ of my post-war history of RAF Watton are extracts from

‘In Support Of So Many’
Royal Air Force Station Watton 1945 ~ 2000
A Story of a Peacetime RAF Station

© Peter J. Long 1999