This site has the roots of its origins in the Wartime Watton Exhibition – an exhibition devoted to the wartime story of RAF Watton and Bodney and the surrounding area. The exhibition came about as a project started in 1987 by Paul Lincoln, who on recognising the imminent destruction of some of the structures of RAF Watton’s past, decided he must record the buildings of the station on video. He sought the assistance of Nell Horn, who filmed Paul and many of the buildings. It was soon recognised that this was a much bigger task than originally anticipated as people came forward with memories of the “camp” and the pair were joined by Nell’s son Julian (who now manages this site) and a project to record the wartime memories quickly ensued.
An exhibition of pictures was organised for one weekend at Watton in 1988 in the old clock tower – a building just 10 feet square. But it was so successful and so much material was collected both as result of this exhibition and an appeal for information in various veteran’s magazines, that thoughts soon turned to a permanent exhibition.
At this time RAF Watton was on “care and maintenance” and the Commanding Officer offered us the use of one section of a transit block, which was a post war building that had been the education centre. (Block 25 for those of you who knew it). Jan and Ken Godfrey, who had for some years looked after the interests of the Americans who served here from 1943 to 1945 organising re-unions for 3rd SAD and 25BG contributed to and ran their side of the display also.
The exhibition was a tremendous success and with lots of help from RAFA and members of the Aircrew Association we were able to open for 2 days a week during the summers of the years that followed. As the camp slowly closed, we moved to the Guard Room for a couple of years then finally to the Old Officers Mess where spent the remainder of our time.
Re-unions were held every year from 1989 to 2000, for those who served here and in 1990 a Memorial was unveiled to the memory of all those of the Royal Air Force and Commonwealth Air Forces who lost their lives whilst serving at Watton and Bodney. The Memorial is a Propeller from Blenheim R3800 of 82 Squadron, which was shot down on the 13th August 1940 on a raid over Aalborg, Denmark. Originally “mirroring” the existing American Memorial at the entrance to the station both Memorials were moved to the Old Officer’s Mess at the same time as the exhibition.
Sadly, the Exhibition has now closed. Much of RAF Watton has now been razed to the ground to make way for Blenheim Grange, the old Officer’s Mess has been demolished and that area too is likely to be over the next few years.
The airfield has for the most part been returned to agricultural use, the runway has largely gone for hardcore and a cycleway and footpath has restored the connection between Griston and Watton along the path of the old Griston Road originally cur off in the 1943 expansion.
So it is to keep alive the spirit of the Wartime Watton Exhibition and to keep much of the original display as possible available to as many people as we can this site now exists. But it is always work in progress! There is still much to be discovered and added.
The technical site of Watton, including the hangars has now been demolished and is being redeveloped for housing. The site developers, Cofton Ltd., have agreed to re-site the Memorials back at the entrance and we are waiting for this to take place.
It is hoped, and expected, that this site will grow over the years and incorporate the whole history of Watton, but as a spare time occupation . . . well you can guess the rest!
If you were here and can help record the past for the future with your memories, then please, please get in touch via the Contact page.