192 Squadron had been non-operational since mid-December 1957 awaiting its new Comet aircraft. No operational flights were flown during the month of January and the first Washington aircraft WW346 left Watton for Aldergrove and disposal. Comets XK663 and XK659 were delivered to 192 Squadron from Special Radio Installations Flight (SRIF) in early February and began operational flights immediately. By the end of the month both Comets had completed operational ‘Border’ Elint flights. A ceremony was held at Watton to mark the departure of the remaining three RB29 Washingtons. After a flypast of both Watton and 90 Group HQ at Medmenham they flew on to Aldergrove for Disposal.
February 1958 saw heavy snowfalls in Norfolk, particularly on the 25th and 26th of the month. A seriously ill patient in an ambulance was stuck in the snow on the B1108 Watton/Norwich road en route to hospital in Norwich. Personnel from the Station were called out to help with an attempt to clear the road between Watton and Norwich. With the aid of one of the Station’s snowploughs they cleared the road as far as Hingham but due to heavy drifting beyond Hingham they were unable to get any further. The patient was picked up from Hingham by helicopter and flown to Hospital. Back at Watton, a Dev. Squadron Canberra made a wheels-up landing in a snowstorm.
In the latter part of March, 192 Squadron’s third Comet, XK655 arrived at SRIF in 3 Hangar for its Elint fit and was delivered to 192 Squadron during April. At the same time SRIF began work on the first of seven Vickers Valiant aircraft of No.199 Squadron, Bomber Command. The trial ECM fit of an earlier Vickers Valiant carried out by SRIF at Watton was a success and now 199’s Valiants were to be converted for the countermeasures role.
To preserve the RAF’s oldest squadrons, keep them in being, and to enable them to qualify for future presentation of Standards by H.M. the Queen, the RAF began a series of re-numberings of existing squadrons. At Watton a parade was held in August to mark the disbanding of three of its squadrons and the renumbering of those same squadrons. Number 192 squadron became 51 Squadron, No. 116 became 115 Squadron and 527 became 245 Squadron. Within a week both 115 and 245 Squadrons had left Watton, 115 going to RAF Tangmere and 245 to RAF Cottesmore. Both Squadrons would still be under the control of 90 (Signals) Group.
Due to major servicing and modification schedules none of the CSE’s Lincoln aircraft flew during the Month of August. They were available for a number of exercises in September.
On the 1st November 1958 90 (Signals) Group was promoted to Command status and became Signals Command, with its HQ at Medmenham.
Construction began on a site alongside the B1108 between RAF Watton and Watton town. This was to be a Fighter Command surface to air guided weapons (SAGW) Wing Headquarters, comprising an administration and control building as well as an ‘Orange Yeoman’ Type 82 Tactical Control Radar (TCR) unit. At the same time work had commenced on the building of hardstandings and security compound for a SAGW operating unit on the Griston site.
During the latter part of 1958, Watton played host to an American reconnaissance unit operating the Lockheed U2 aircraft. This unit operated out of No.2 Hangar for a period of time amid very high security – American as well as RAF.
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