Peter Long’s brief history of Watton – 1967

Having only recently received its Squadron Standard, 97 Squadron disbanded on the 1st January due to the eternal story of Government defence cuts. On that date 97 Squadron’s Standard was laid up at a ceremony in Norwich Cathedral. The IRIS Hastings aircraft ‘IRIS III’ moved into the care of 115 Squadron.

Also on the 1st January, a further new Squadron, No 361, was raised at RAF Watton. The intended tasking of this squadron was to operate in the Middle and Far East very much as 360 was being used at home. More defence cuts necessitating the run down of overseas commitments meant that the new squadron was disbanded almost as soon as it was formed. Officially disbanded on the 14th July 1967, 361 Squadron actually ceased to exist within weeks of its formation when its crews returned to 360 Squadron.

Eastern Radar had by now received its new badge (left), which featured a pheasant over a mailed gauntlet, open palm up. Eastern’s motto ‘Sine Periculo in Oriente’ read when translated as ‘Without Peril in the East’. The badge also earned Eastern an unofficial motto ‘The Pheasant Pluckers’ ???

In the early part of 1967 a new highly classified facility was set up at Watton as an addition to the Electronic Warfare research section. This unit would be known as the Signals Command Air Radio Laboratory (SCARL) and would come under the control of the EWSW.

On the 14th August Group Capt. J. Hurry DSO DFC assumed command of RAF Watton in the place of Group Capt. Hogan who left to take up a new appointment.

98 Squadron celebrated it’s half century on 2nd September 1967.

The RAF Benevolent Fund held their annual conference at Watton in September.

EWSW’s Special Radio Installations Flight was still heavily involved in the fitting and updating of EW equipment in 51 Squadron’s Comet and Canberra aircraft. These aircraft were flown in to Watton from Wyton for work to be carried out.

The Vickers Varsity, so long a workhorse for the many units at RAF Watton was nearing the end of its days. The Varsity was to be phased out and replaced by nine Armstrong Whitworth Argosy aircraft. These nine aircraft would make a phased arrival as they were going to be converted at Watton to Emk 1 standard before going to 115 Squadron. The first Argosy aircraft arrived from RAF Aldergrove on the 26th October and went immediately to EWSW for its special fit

As well as involvement in Watton’s experimental work and providing ECM training and experience to the British armed services, 360 Squadron’s aircraft took part in a number of air exercises during the year. Among these was NATO Exercise ‘Perfect Play’ held between September 10th and 23rd. Four Canberra TMk17 aircraft took part operating from Gibraltar.

Exercise ‘Mendacity’, held between the 25th October and the 10th November involved four of 360’s Canberra TMk17 aircraft operating from Akrotiri in Cyprus and then shifting to Luqa in Malta for the last phase of the exercise.

The Royal Navy held a fleet air defence exercise in the Atlantic between the 20th and the 24th November. Six of 360 Squadron’s T17’s, based firstly at RAF Ballykelly in N. Ireland and then RAF St. Mawgan in Cornwall, provided ECM cover for units attacking the fleet.

Thoughts were being given to a replacement for 51 Squadron’s Comet aircraft. Proposals for the possible use of the Hawker Siddely Aircraft (HAS) HS801(R) Nimrod were being considered.

At this time it was becoming obvious that Watton was moving toward closure. EWSW was having difficulties recruiting civilian scientific staff because of the uncertainties.

The winter of 1967/68 was not a good one. November was a month of fog, freezing fog, low cloud and rain, resulting in low flying hours, and many delays, cancellations and diversions. December continued to interfere with the flying task with snow and ice for a large part of the month.

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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