The Surface to Air Guided Weapons (SAGW) Wing Headquarters, to be known forever after by those not closely involved as ‘The Radar Site’ was completed and taken over by No 24 SAGW Wing in April. 24 Wing was a Fighter Command unit belonging to 12 Group and would be responsible for the control of three new operating squadrons, No’s 242, (Marham), 266 (Rattlesden) and 263 (Watton) Surface to Air Missile Squadrons. These squadrons, not yet operational, would be equipped with the Bristol Ferranti Bloodhound Mk1 surface to air missile. The purpose of these and other SAGW units was to protect the RAF’s new ‘Thor’ intermediate range ballistic missiles and the ‘V’ Bomber force from airborne attack.
In June, No. 263 SAM Squadron became operational at Watton. The squadron was based on the Griston site.
At the end of May, Air Commodore S.D. Melvin took over command of the CSE as Commandant from Air Commodore Nicholas.
On the 3rd June, in the early hours of the morning a fire was discovered in No.4 Hangar. One of 51 Squadron’s Comet aircraft was burning and by 0800 hrs, despite the best efforts of the Station Fire Section and a number of outside Fire Services, had been completely destroyed. This left 51 Squadron with only two Comet aircraft to carry out it’s Elint tasking.
From the 23rd to the 25th July, Development Squadron flew all of its Lincolns in support of Exercise ‘Mandate’, the annual UK air defence exercise. The Lincolns were employed in making electronic countermeasures (ECM) attacks on radar installations such as Boulmer, Neatishead and North Coates. For the purposes of this exercise, No.831 Naval Air Squadron was based at Watton. 831 had left Watton in September 1957 as 751 Squadron and was renumbered to 831 at Culdrose. Equipped with Fairey Gannet ECM4 and Sea Venom 21ECM aircraft, 831 Squadron flew in support of the countermeasures task.
Watton provided ‘airhead facilities’ for Transport Command when the Command held an air mobility exercise in August. One Handley Page Hastings and three Blackburn Beverley aircraft airlifted 44 Independent Parachute Brigade TA and its heavy equipment from Watton to be dropped over the Stanford Practical Training Area.
In September three of Dev. Squadron’s Lincolns supported by a Varsity aircraft detached to Nicosia, Cyprus to carry out barrage jamming exercises against various radars on the island. A further five Lincolns detached to Aldergrove in Northern Ireland in November to carry out ECM demonstrations against NATO fleet units.
The year ended with one of Dev. Squadron’s Lincolns, being wrongly identified as a Lancaster suspected of gun running, was forced down onto a French airbase by French fighters. Having realised their error, the French entertained the Lincoln’s crew in style before they continued their journey to Watton.
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