By June 1970, it was known that facilities for EWSW/SARL would be ready at RAF Wyton during the first quarter of 1971and preparations for the move began in earnest. Watton’s Air Traffic Control would cease operation on the 1st February 1971 as no further flights in or out of the airfield would be required by aircraft using the Installations Flight. The last aircraft movement under Watton’s Air Traffic Control took place on the 1st February when the AOC MATO arrived to carry out his annual inspection of Eastern Radar ATCRU. When his aircraft left RAF Watton, the airfield closed and the Control Tower was locked.
EWSW/SARL moved to RAF Wyton during March 1971 leaving Eastern Radar as the only active RAF unit at RAF Watton. The Sergeants Mess moved over to share the Officers’ Mess building. The remaining Airmen and Airwomen living on base moved into accommodation in former Sergeants Mess building which also became the Airmen’s Mess/Restaurant. This building became known as Watton Lodge. All of the buildings on the north side of the Watton to Norwich road were to be sold into the private sector and so were taken off ‘Care and Maintenance’.
On the 1st June 1971 RAF Watton as the Station Commanding unit ceased to exist and Watton became RAF Honington Administrative Wing Detachment, Watton. The Station would however continue, unofficially or not, to be known and referred to by all and sundry as ‘RAF Watton’.
Eastern Radar ACTRU remained operational at RAF Watton until 1988 when it moved to the London Air Traffic Control Centre (Military) at West Drayton. In the following year, Border Radar, an ACTRU within the air defence radar unit at RAF Boulmer in Northumberland, moved to the radar site at Watton to carry on its tasking from there.
Border Radar closed on 27th November 1992 and with its departure RAF Watton’s operational history ended.
2015 Edit: The airfield has been returned almost completely to agricultural use after its disposal under the Crichell Down rules. The main Station, having been sold into the private sector is presently in a situation whereby practically all of the buildings have been demolished and the building of residential housing is progressing at pace. The only remaining standing buildings are on the north side of Norwich Road including the Airman’s Mess and the four associated H Blocks.
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 1945-2007
A Story of a Peacetime RAF Station
© Peter J. Long 1999 -2007