Wing Commander Peter Meston RAF Retd, served at Watton in 1939/40 with 21 Squadron and was involved in a very strange affair. In a letter to Colin Waugh who has written a history of 21 Squadron, Peter recounted his memories of a strange affair. We will let him take up the story . . .
“One more very interesting incident happened early in 1940 which is worth a mention. David Watson was a New Zealander, a quiet man, but very determined He and I were both Flying Officers but I was acting Flight Commander being two months senior to him. David was my only real friend and we shared quarters in the Officers Mess and did most things together. I knew his wife Ann, and on leave periods would often stay with them.
One day, David came into the Flight Office and asked had I noticed anything unusual about the countryside. I replied I hadn’t and was then accused of losing my faculties and eyesight! He then asked if I would like to take a look, so I authorised a ‘flight-test’ and off we went. After about 15 to 20 minutes which I had spent trying to spot something out of place, David more or less exploded ‘Look at the bloody lime-mounds he shouted.
The whole thing then came into focus, there were piles of lime laid out in straight lines with arrows pointing. These were quite extensive and it was obvious that they had not got there by accident. On landing we tried to make sense out of what we had seen. These markings would have had to have been plotted from the air and in daylight, but by whom? There were only two options, ourselves as a day-bomber unit or the fighter boys. We knew nothing about them and even a dim fighter pilot would not have needed such guidance.
After considerable discussion we decided that Squadron Leader Keens should be told. His initial reaction was that we were imagining things and even if we were correct, it was none of our business. From memory he was told to go and have a look himself and reluctantly, agreed. When he landed the three of us had another recap and we felt we should go to the Station Commander, Group Captain Vincent, Keens was not happy but we insisted.
Vincent, to our annoyance, rounded on Keens for paying attention to two young fools. David and I were not putting up with that and insisted he too, go and have a look for himself. The Group Captain finally agreed on the basis that he had not flown for a while but would take time out to investigate, regardless of what he thought. On landing he had to admit we were right and, as we were one of the squadrons whose area they were in and we knew nothing about them, it was very odd. Let it be said, senior officers are very frightened about making fools of themselves, but he was persuaded that he had nothing to lose by ringing up the local Fighter Group to see if they were involved. Answer, no.
We then became adamant the Air Ministry should be informed and Vincent finally rang through and explained what had been discovered.
Next day, Watton was swarming with Ml5 bods and we were told this was top secret and not to say anything to anybody. Finally, in 1998 I received a letter from a researcher who was aware of my story The following is a quote and helps clear up a bit more of the mystery.:
“Finally, it is not generally known that the Luftwaffe had a clutch of lancing grounds prepared for them in Norfolk during 1939-40. At least that is what I am led to believe from an obscure file in the Public Records Office (Air2/4557). In early 1940 some observant soul noticed that there were seven separate locations, each with one or two distinctive red-painted barns. Hedges had been removed and according to officers from RAF Watton, all had the aspect of specially prepared landing-grounds, being almost bare of crops and rolled hard near the villages of Sporle, Beighnton, Cantley, Halvergate, Paston, Guestwick and South Repps.
Further investigation revealed that all the sites were owned by the same property company, the directors of which were aliens, registered as Dutch. A plan was formulated to take them over simultaneously so that they could be obstructed, camouflaged and the local population questioned. Tantalizingly, I can find no further evidence that the situation was ever resolved” [end quote].
It would appear then, that M15 got its finger out after all”