Peter Long’s brief history of Watton – 1963

A year of change

By the 1st January, there were 23 Regular Airwomen on the Station working in various trades.

Due to bad weather, less than half of January’s flying programme was completed.

Exercise ‘Foible’ was a Station defence exercise held in February in which Station defences were pitted against the RAF Regiment as saboteurs. The defenders faired well in that prisoners were taken and only one ‘bomb’ out of several planted, would have caused damage.

Handley Page Hastings ‘Iceni’ was transferred from 151 Squadron to 51 Squadron, its primary task being that of logistic support for the squadron’s detachments. At the beginning of March, 51 Squadron received a new Comet aircraft XK695, bringing its Comet strength back to three aircraft once again. By the end of March, 51 Squadron was to leave Watton to join Bomber Command at its Central Reconnaissance Establishment a RAF Wyton. The squadron was expected to be operational there by April 1st.

With only five Lincoln aircraft remaining with B’Flight 151 Squadron and the airframes giving cause for concern, it was decided to retire them. A flypast of bases and places connected with the Avro Lincoln by three of these aircraft was scheduled for the 12th March but was postponed until the 19th because of bad weather. The flypast got underway but was curtailed due to more bad weather. Exercise ‘Lobergoolin’ was flown by an IB Lincoln on the 27th March to train 2ATAF NIKE SAM operators. This was the last exercise in which a Lincoln aircraft would take part. The Lincoln’s service life finished officially on the 31st March 1963. 151 Squadron would henceforth be operating only Varsity and Canberra aircraft. Although maintained and handled by 151, the Hastings IRIS III was controlled and operated by the Inspectorate of Radio Installations and Services (IRIS).

With no further logistical support coming from the United States, The RAF decided to phase out its Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles. Without its IRBM the RAF had no further need of the SAGW units tasked with protecting them. In early 1963 24 Wing began the process of closing down, but the RAF had plans for the further use of the radar site at RAF Watton.

151 Squadron renumbered to 97 Squadron on 25th May.

By the end of May, 24 Wing had closed down and vacated the radar site and its buildings.

On the 10th June the CSE ceased to be the Station commanding unit and the Commandant with his staff, moved into the front offices of the former 24 wing HQ on the radar site. This became the new HQ of the Central Signals Establishment. The CSE would continue as a unit within Signals Command. RAF Watton became the Station commanding unit with a Station Commander of Group Captain rank. Group Captain P.C. Webb was the first Station Commander of RAF Watton in its new guise.

263 Bloodhound Squadron disbanded on 30th June.

Having renumbered from 751 to 831 Naval Air Squadron whilst at RNAS Culdrose, the squadron returned to RAF Watton on the 26th July to work closely with 97 Squadron. On the 1st October, two other squadrons, 98 Squadron, which had left Watton as 245 and had renumbered, and 115 Squadron returned to operate from Watton.

Peter Long

These and the previous ‘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

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