Peter Long’s brief history of Watton – 1947

January, February and early March of 1947 saw very heavy snowfalls all over the country and Norfolk was very badly hit (see this page for pictures). The CSE was required to remain open and operational if at all possible. To ease the fuel situation, some non-essential personnel were sent on compulsory leave.

At the beginning of March in the height of the bad weather, the Naval Air Radio Warfare Unit moved to CSE Watton and was numbered as 751 Naval Air Squadron. This move was to enable the Royal Navy to take advantage of the work being carried out by the CSE. 751 was initially equipped with one Fairy Firefly, one Supermarine Seafire, and one Avro Anson (according to the Station Operations Record Book).

At the same time another unit, the Signals Side Band School moved to Watton from RAF Cardington and it’s title was changed to the Signals Radio Teleprinter School.

Station personnel were put to work on snow clearance in an attempt to clear the Thetford to Watton stretch of the railway (see the pictures below). It was hoped that this might enable more coal and coke supplied to reach the Station. Only in late March was the line successfully opened.

With the improving weather at the end of March, Tech Wing, moved it’s security sensitive units from the Griston site into the Hangars and adjoining buildings on the main site. These units included the Signals Research Section under George Baillie. Only ‘Y’ Wing remained behind on the Griston site. To allow this move to take place the GCA School and Maintenance Sections moved from the main site to take up residence on the Griston Site.

Since the end of the war, all of the armed services had been experiencing manning problems due to the massive programme of demobilisation of Servicemen. The Royal Navy was no exception. No 751 Squadron, having formed at Watton in March ‘Paid Off ‘ by the Admiralty at the end of September because of a shortage of naval manpower. A small detachment of naval personnel were left behind to keep in touch with RW work being carried out at the CSE.

CSE’s Flying wing had, from September 1945, operated as a number of Flights – A to F. Flying wing now reorganised into three individual Squadrons. Development Squadron to test the RW equipment being produced by the Research Section. Calibration Squadron to calibrate radar and nav & landing aids, and GCA Squadron to act as targets for the GCA School. The aircraft that operated with ‘Y’ Wing became ‘Y’ Squadron. Because of the very sensitive nature of its tasking, this squadron was part of Tech Wing and not Flying Wing.

In October, Flying Wing received its first Avro Lincoln. Although it would be operating from the satellite airfield at Shepherds Grove, ‘the Grove’ was not suitable for this type of aircraft.

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