Peter Long’s brief history of Watton – 1950

The CSE’s problems with shortage of aircraft were compounded when the Station’s Mosquitoes were grounded for most of January. The problem concerned their electrical wiring systems which required modifications before the aircraft could fly again.

The third Lincoln to join Watton’s establishment arrived in February. This aircraft was to join Calibration Squadron. It was expected to have all eleven Lancasters replaced by Lincoln aircraft by April 1951. Consideration was being given to the possibility of using Boeing B29 Washington aircraft for some of the CSE’s major tasks.

There was more trouble for the CSE’s aircraft during March. The Anson fleet was grounded by fuel tank faults which necessitated testing and possible component changes.

After the Formation of the CSE in late 1946, a new unit had been formed at 90 (Signals) Group HQ, Medmenham. This was the Inspectorate of Radio Services and Installations, IRIS for short. The IRIS was tasked with the global supervision of all RAF Air Traffic Control and radio communications. It would operate one aircraft only and this would be based at Watton. The aircraft, Lancaster PA477 named appropriately ‘IRIS’, would carry the Inspector, a Group Captain and his crew, sometimes likened to policemen by ATC personnel, to where ever inspections were to be carried out. Often the aircraft would be away from Watton for a number of weeks travelling as far as the Middle East, Africa and the Far East. In May 1950 the Lancaster was phased out and a replacement aircraft, Hastings TG560 ‘ IRIS II’ replaced her.

More unit reshuffling took place during mid-1950. Tech Wing’s RCM Squadron and Monitoring Squadron were merged to form Radio Warfare Squadron based in No.1 Hangar. The new squadron operated two flights, RCM Flight and Monitoring Flight.

The North Korean Invasion of South Korea on 28th June, added impetus to the work of the CSE. Already the first half of the year had seen CSE aircraft fully committed to exercises with most of them being in co-operation with the Royal Navy. Now with the UN becoming committed to police action in Korea it was obvious that the CSE’s work would increase substantially, particularly in the countermeasures development role. Because of events and the heavy cost of keeping the CSE’s Lancasters in service it was necessary to bring forward the date of completion of the replacement programme. A deadline of the end of October this year was set for all Lincolns to be at Watton and all Lancasters to be taken out of service. With the exception of one Lincoln which would arrive shortly this was achieved.

Development work was proceeding on three prototype specialist RCM Lincoln aircraft projects. One was a specialist RCM Lincoln operating within standard electrical power limits. The second was a High Power RCM Lincoln with extra electrical power sources built-in and the third was a ‘Main Force RCM Lincoln to operate with Bomber aircraft.

In the second half of the year Watton’s RCM units took part in three major exercises. The first was a naval co-operation anti submarine exercise. The second was an air defence exercise, which demanded practically the entire RCM resources of the CSE. The exercise involved aircraft from both Fighter and Bomber Commands as well as aircraft from the USAF and Western Union air forces. Finally there was another naval co-operation exercise.

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