Peter Long’s brief history of Watton – 1954

The CSE’s calibration force was being brought up to strength. By the beginning of the year 527 Squadron had taken on strength three Gloster Meteor NF11 aircraft and the first of many Vickers Varsity TMk1 aircraft to be used at Watton during the coming years arrived in January for calibration duties with 116 and 527 Squadrons. By July 116 Squadron was operating ten of these Varsities and 527 had four. With the arrival of the Varsity, both squadrons began to relinquish their Lincoln and Anson aircraft. 527 had already released their last three Mosquitoes for disposal. Some of the Lincolns were transferred into Development Squadron.

In the early part of the year, one of 527 Squadron’s Meteor NF11 aircraft, ostensibly on a calibration sortie in RAF Germany, due to a navigational error strayed over the East German border. Being unaware of their situation and because of fuel shortage, the crew elected to land at the nearest airfield. Unfortunately they landed at an airfield on the wrong side of the border. This resulted in a diplomatic incident. Click here for more information from Ralph Swift.

The constant round of exercises didn’t let up during the year. As well as the requirement for individual aircraft of the CSE to be on detachment to UK bases and bases overseas carrying out the tasks required of the CSE, usually of a clandestine nature, there were also inter-Command exercises. Among these in 1954 were Exercise ‘Dividend’, the annual UK air defence exercise and Operation ‘Happy Valley’, a series of realistic exercises with Fighter Command. Both of these exercises required aircraft of the CSE to provide electronic surveillance (monitoring) of emissions and transmissions and ECM (jamming) against radar and communications.

In October the Station ground defence exercise took place with personnel form the RAF Regiment acting as infiltrators. At the end of the exercise the official version was ‘the Station defences were well tested and many lessons were learnt from the exercise. The Station personnel showed keenness and spirit’. In other words the Rock Apes won.

192 Squadron’s Washington and Canberra aircraft were now fully involved with the continuing ‘Navigation Exercises’ within the British Zone of Germany. These sorties, referred to as Border Flights, were usually under direct Air Ministry control and officially recorded as ‘Air Ministry Operations’.

Three more Canberra aircraft arrived at Watton in December. Two were BMk6’s and would be converted to BMk6(RC) by Watton’s Special Radio Installation Flight. They would be used by 192 Squadron and replace the two BMk2s. 92 had also received a Varsity aircraft which was to be used to train the squadron’s special equipment operators.

The third Canberra was a BMk2 and would be 527 Squadron’s first of type. It was to be used for the high level calibration role.

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