One day in 1988 a local builder, Paul Lincoln, drove past the upturned concrete base of a Nissen Hut. In the underside he recognised the tyre tracks of an American lorry hat had driven over the ground just before the concrete was poured. This triggered an awareness that we were in danger of losing some of our WWII buildings.
Paul approached my (Julian Horn’s) mother, Nell, because she was a keen videographer and asked her for help in recording the buildings of the RAF Camp before they were lost forever. Having an interest in wartime history, Julian offered to help and together, Paul and Julian embarked on what would become the Wartime Watton project.
We very quickly realised that it was the memories of people which were far more important and at much greater risk than the structures. Very soon after this, our first attempt to record the buildings of the station, the focus moved to a much more volatile record, that of the people who served here.Looking back, I am now sad that we weren’t able to put much more time into making a record of the buildings but all of us had families making other demands!
I have now edited the video and included an aerial picture of RAF Watton to help orientate you on the journey. The red ‘sonar’ indicates the approximate filming position. When we embarked on this project we knew nothing about making documentaries and very little about the history of the station. So please excuse the rather variable quality!
The people you will see and hear are Rod Rumsby, then Station Engineer, Paul Lincoln who narrates the video, the occasional shot of of one of Paul’s friends, Ken Pickering and the voice of Nell Horn.
107 thoughts on “Video: A tour of RAF Watton in 1988”
I arrived at Watton (Eastern Radar) in early 1984 as a newly promoted Cpl AATC. T recall the incident with the airman dressed up prowling around the HAWD guardroom. I think two of the people involved were Steve Card and Paul Whittaker ( I may be wrong). I also know the origin of the ghost story in the same building. I was posted to Wyton in 1990 as a newly qualified air traffic controller. one of the older Flt LT’s in the tower was SNAVO at Watton at some point in the 60’s. He told me of a Canberra that joined the visual circuit with a problem. The crew prepared to eject, in fact the navigator did eject and was decapitated in the process. His body landed in the MT yard by the gymnasium and his head landed on the parade square. The pilot subsequently recovered the aircraft and landed safely. The ghost is, apparently the Nav looking for the pilot. He was genuine about the story and I still believe him now. Whilst at Watton I met and married Kay who worked in the Watton Lodge kitchen. I enjoyed my time at ERD. Sadly Watton isn’t half the place it used to be. The town is a mess – you would struggle to find too many locals there now.
I was at Watton as a brat between 63and 68 moving off to Brize. I eventually joined the RAF and retired in Norfolk in 2008. I picked up a job at Wayland Prison at the back of the Airfield and in a bizarre turn of events I was working with a fellow brat who lived just around the corner from us in the 60’s. There are the odd few still living in the area but as you say it’s rare to find an original local.
Look no more! – I am a local and original at that, born in East Road in the early 1950s 🙂
I must admit, we are getting few and far between as time takes its toll, but there are still plenty of us around.
School in the ’50s and ’60s was a continual flow of children in and out as postings happened so I guess constant change was something we all got used to as youngsters.
Julian – site keeper.
I thought it was Tim Hannis (SAC) who was on Guard Duty with a Cpl from RAF Honnington. ‘Slick’, another SAC (can’t remember his actual name) was wearing his leather flying jacket, and a pair of headphones, and had whitened his face and blackened his eyes. I think Steve Card was scratching a window at the back if the guardroom, which attracted Tims attention, and when he looked iut through the curtains, Slick was walking towards the window moaning and groaning. Tim and the Cpl dud a runner frim the guardroom and wouldnt return until daylight. We were pissing ourselves next day when we found out.. John Gordon (SAC), Eastern Radar 87/88
I turned up at Watton in 1968. I was navy and posted to 360 sqdn. I was supposed to report at 8 am so I reported to the guardroom the night before and spent the night there as they had beds in a section at the rear. I had previously left HMS Eagle on 800 sqdn Buccaneers.
When we left a ship we got the choice of 3 preference drafts/postings. I had heard of this mysterious posting called RAF Watton but no one had heard of it but I put it down on my application anyway.
I didn’t initially get it and went to RNAS Yeovilton and was put on security. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t on aircraft and I eventually changed to station flight.
One day I got the message to report to the Drafting office. Oh hell I thought where am I going now.
It was RAF Watton, yippee thought I lol. They must have had a vacancy coming up and I was just marking time.
It was there I found out how easy going the RAF were lol
We weren’t there long so I can’t say I really got to know the place as 360 went to RAF Cottesmore app 6 mths after I joined.
I left app 2 yrs later as that was the normal Navy time on shore.
When I was there the parade ground was a car park lol I was in one of the H blocks across the road and as a Leading Hand (cpl) I got my own room in charge of one of the messes.
That was a luxury to us lol. As a Leading Hand I was treated as an engine fitter whereas in the Navy I was dual trade A/E (airframes/engines.) Life was easy lol
Hi,I was stationed at Watton,66/67 Mtd Section.I am from Liverpool,A friend of mine also from Liverpool Mike Harrison,Worked at Atc.
Like to hear from any friends from my days at Watton.
Francis Dowse. [Scouse Frank. ]
Great memories from my Raf days.
I moved to Jersey after the Raf.
I was on detached duty at RAF Watton from late 75 till 81. I worked in the PBX within the SHQ building. On arrival I was firstly accommodated in The Watton Lodge (single rooms, oh what luxury!) Airmans dining room and NAAFI bar downstairs. On my marriage in 77 I moved to 59 Akrotiri Sq AMQ’S. I used to frequent The Flying Fish, The Crown and The Jolley Farmers.
Such happy times there. I often remember the Airmen from Eastern Radar doing duty Airman, just down the corridor from me. Upstairs in SHQ was some sort of charity shop and also a room that stored musical instruments, I used to go up there and borrow a trumpet and attempt playing the Last Post! I recall Shirley who worked in the NAAFI bar and she also had a little flat in The Watton Lodge. I used to go out with Sarah Stall, daughter of SQN LDR Stall (much to his dismay!)
Pete I remember you. I was also PBX and travelled in from Barnham to Watton circa 1977.
Hi Martin, I remember you well, You used to have a nice motorbike. About the same time we were there, I remember Ray Scully, Dave Trodden, Ray Kavanagh, Ernie Matthews, Dave Geal. It was a good posting, that lasted almost 6 years for me. Hope you and your family are well?
Hi Peter – Julian, maintainer of the site, here. I emailed you ref the exchanging of emails but not had a reply which could be because of spam filters.Could you email me hornorama [at] gmail [dot] com please?
it’s Dave Troddyn and yes remember you all, enjoyed Watton and the great days and nights we had. What happened to old Jack in the Kitchen mess, boy could he drink. I ended up marring (still am) Wingco admin Honington daughter . Anyway best wishes to you all.
I was an SAC when lived at RAF Watton, aka HAWD (Honington Administrative Wing Detachment) from April 1980 til Apr 1984 when I was posted on promotion to Cpl. My room on the first floor of Watton Lodge overlooked the Med Ctr and I was my accommodation during my tenure as an AATC at Eastern Radar which was a 10 min walk across the sports field and then down the footpath towards Watton. The 2 tours that I remember the most fondly are my time at the old international airport at Nicosia with HQ UNFICYP and the members of the AAC that made up the UNAAC Flt from Jun 88 til Jul 1 and my 4 wonderful years at Watton. It was not without tragedy though when one Fri morning in 1982 I gave Gerry the incumbent RAFP Cpl attached to us from Honington a wave as I drove home for the weekend, just to learn on my return for the following Monday’s shift that he had committed suicide during the weekend… Some of us did wonder if the resident ghost in the HQHAWD building would now have company.
I rolled up at Watton (also as an AATC Eastern Radar) not long after you, 1986-89. Having navigated a fully loaded Mk.1 Escort (just room to change gear) from my first posting at Marham, nearly half a county away!
I recall hearing of an RAFP Cpl who had taken his life not long before. I think two suicides were talked of, as I remember hearing of one which took place on the aerodrome itself and also of an incident within the HQ building.
One of the AATC duties during my posting was to staff the HQ building out of hours (from about 5 until the following morning and weekends). Sitting in the room just to the right of the front entrance. Big wooden desk and a couple of comfy chairs with a large leather bound log and an even larger sliding window to engage with the ‘customers’. Little to do other than security checks around the building, initiate any maintenance issues for the MQs and issue various keys (Army, MOD Police etc using the aerodrome for various activities). For some of us, this made a pleasant change from Eastern Radar duties (video player/couple of bottles/perhaps a couple of friendly faces with a takeaway). Was this ‘duty’ allocated during your time? I ask because there were often overnight occurrences which I found then (and after) very difficult to explain rationally. There were some who were uncomfortable with this duty and would gladly swap. I got to know that building inside-out during those shifts. Very strange, and unique during my 9 years in the RAF.
Have just read your excellent A Story About a Ghost. I was not aware of any of these events, but what you record does not seem at all unusual for Watton. Out of three postings/a few detachments and a war, Watton (Eastern Radar) was the only place were I experienced situations which I still cannot rationally explain. These were specifically around the SHQ building. I lived for a while in Watton Lodge (the ex-Sergeants’ Mess) and later moved for a time into Akrotiri Square MQ; although I did not experience anything in these residences or elsewhere on the aerodrome or at the radar unit. I do recall stories at the time of one of the MQs being haunted/somebody seen at window etc, but nothing substantial.
I never witnessed any form of entity, such as Ian Stapleton. My recollections are of doors/lights changing from how I left them and of sounds (ie. heavy boots passing overhead along corridors). I thought of myself as being ‘scientific’ at the time by having off-duty (sober!) colleagues present with me for night shifts, I recorded times that I switched off lights etc and when married I even took my re-homed dog to work. I recall she would not go up the staircase from the entrance! She also acted strangely behind SHQ on the grass/playing field where I walked her. Temperature changes in the building, ie cold rooms are something else I remember, one of these rooms being linked to a reported suicide in the building (one of two post-war suicides of which I was told).
As fascinating as I found these unexplainable events at the time (as I still do); this did not stop me being given a ‘makeover’ one evening by a couple of ‘wags’ and sent off on the ‘prowl’. Flying suit/boots/leather jacket/leather flying helmet/boot polish around the eyes and talcum powder on face and hands (and probably pipe). I dread to think what I looked like! Knowing who was working overnight at the reception point at SHQ (large window to right of main door), I was made to walk to and fro and peer in, tap the window etc! It appears he saw nothing of this. What he saw was a ‘ghost’ walking around by the Guard Room opposite! It appeared that he didn’t recognise me (no surprise) and by end of shift was a gibbering wreck! A bit of a ‘to-do’ followed the next day! Poor boy was given sick leave, records were consulted (honest!) for crashes/fatalities/dates etc and I kept my head low, quickly disposing of cosmetics and props! I think it was all out in the open after a few days. This was late ’87/early ’88.
I do realise that this was neither big nor clever! Luckily no mobiles/social media in those days or he would have posted me online. I would have been collecting ‘likes’ and trending my own hashtag!
I guess, if there are such things as ghosts or spirits or whatever name one gives them, a WW2 airfield seems a most likely place to find them. For so many men, RAF Watton was the last time they were alive.
Certainly, Watton has many stories, as do all the other airfields around.
Interesting subject, a guy called Bruce Barrymore Halpenny has published a series of 5 books called Ghost Stations and I have a couple of personal experiences published in Ghost Stations IV. The ISBN is 0-907595-76-6 if anyone is interested
I was there in 59 till 60 on Lincolns, Varsitys and Canberras. lived in a caravan in the village, posted to Germany in 60, returned in 63 (they thought I liked it). lived out in a hiring in a local village(cant remember the name) but it was in a big house called the Beeches, later turned into a hotel.posted out in 65 to Malta.
I was t Watton 66/69, spent many great times on 360 Sdn when it formed had many fantastic detachments. Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar Norway and various other boozy destinations.who remembers the rugby team.? Climbing the microwave tower after night in the Shirleyclub.the ace spot night club, greasy lils? The crown. Many woozy memories. Where are you boys????
our paths may have crossed very briefly. I was there for a week in the Summer of 1967 with my schools Cadet Force (Barrack Block 8?) Unfortunately on the first night they let us go down town so myself and another 15 year old got hopelessly drunk in a local pub (just 3 pints I think!!). Staggered back to the Camp and managed to get past the gatehouse where we had to sign in. Got back to the barrack block (up the drive and on the left) where i collapsed on the floor and started throwing up everywhere! Oh the joys of being 15……A guy from the Camp help me out apparently but I never got to thank him. Got banned from any flights although I did sneak one on a Varsity over the North Sea. Never went back and its too late now.
Dave you forgot to mention ‘Grab-a-granny’ nights at the Samson and Hercules in Norwich – now a supermarket I believe
From what I remember as an airframe Fitter you had make trays for the electrical boxes. A lot of the time the drawings were wrong. Didn’t enjoy it at all.
Yes Michael, trays, boxes and the big racks that went down the centre of the Varsitys. It was good fitting experience though even if repetitively boring at times. At least it wasn’t far to go to the drawing office upstairs on the airfield side.
Very enjoyable video. RAF Watton was my first posting from training (Eng Fitt 88th entry Halton) Jan 1961. Was on Dev Sqdn working on Hastings, Varsity and Canberra. Had a very happy time there until I was posted to Changi June 63. Loved Watton village and spent many happy hours in, I think it was, the Rose and Crown. Went back for a look in the 90’s and didn’t recognise it.
Hi Roy, I was 88th too (rigger). I presume what you call Dev Sqdn later became SIF (Special Installation Flight)in 3 hangar where I worked on return from Germany in Jan ’65
Hi Peter. Recognise your name from brat days. I was known as Willy in those days. Dev sqdn became 151 sqdn just before I left Watton in 63. I believe, though not 100% sure, that it then became 365 sqdn and amalgamated with the Navy. Memory not so good these days. Roy.
Willy – yes gotcha now. I think it was 360 Sqdn. I got my 3rd up in ’65 and was i/c one of the teams on Varsity and Canberra T17 mods. Happy days – my memories are fading too!
I used to live at Akrotiri road from 1982 to 1984 whilst forming 9sqn at RAF Honnington, I use to train my golden retriever to the gun (starting pistol) on the airfield. Had a few good parties there.
I really enjoyed the video, my father was a Watton in the 60’s. Over my lifetime, I have seen Watton disappear slowly and all the civil infrastructure build up around it. Having served in the RAF myself, I would have enjoyed Watton I’m sure. Thank you again for sharing video.
In 1965 RAF Watton was my first posting after my training at Halton as an Airframe Fitter(101st entry). Started work in the MOD Bay, then on 361 Squadron, when that finished a short spell in Stalagluft No 3 hanger and finally finished up on 360 Squadron. The mixture of the RAF & Navy FAA was good. Hhad many happy days there only spoilt by my time in 3 hanger. Left for a 2-1/2 year holiday on 56 Squadron at Akrotiri in Cyprus. Left the forces in 73 and worked 33+ years offshore. I have ended up living in Heacham about 37 miles from Watton. Have visited the camp a few times or should I say the housing development. The video brings back some good memories. Thanks.
we have a holiday static near Heacham Michael in Snettisham.. We live on the old RAF West Raynham in the old married quarters there we retired here as i love Norfolk and we popped over to Watton a few mths ago so i could take a pic of the house in Cranwell Road where my eldest son was born so i vould send it to him.. Happy memories 🙂
Two brothers, friends of my son, live in one of the old married quarters.
I think we’ve spoken before about 3 hangar – one of my best jobs but apparently one of your worst :o)
In 1965 RAF Watton was my first posting after my training at Halton as an Airframe Fitter(101st entry). Started work in the MOD Bay, then on 361 Squadron, when that finished a short spell in Stalagluft No 3 hanger and finally finished up on 360 Squadron. The mixture of the RAF & Navy FAA was good. Hhad many happy days there only spoilt by my time in 3 hanger. Left for a 2-1/2 year holiday on 56 Squadron at Akrotiri in Cyprus. Left the forces in 73 and worked 33+ years offshore. I have ended up living in Heacham about 37 miles from Watton. Have visited the camp a few times or should I say the housing development. The video brings back some good memories.
See my reply above – must have pressed wrong key – Admin, can you put my reply in it’s right place on this post
Hi Peter – regret at the minute I can’t – will leave all in place and hopefully people will figure it out. Will look when I get back.
Agree with you Peter, SIF was a great place to work. I was there from 62 68
Lived at RAF Watton (No. 2 Salmond Road)from 1979-81 whilst stationed at RAF Honington. Great little place, and you could walk into town in about 20 minutes. Was there when we had Vietnamese Refugees taking over some of the old MQs. Some trouble there as they tended to spend their money, in Maid Marions shop, on alcohol. A few punch-ups were dominant and loads of calls to the Police to separate them.
Went back a few years later to find my old MQ all boarded up, and Eastern Radar had all but disappeared.
Watton has not changed much, but plenty of new houses. Even Abels of Watton has now moved to Brandon. They use to be the main industry, especially for those, like me, returning from Germany. Spent a lot of time in The Flying Fish!!
Very interesting video.i was stationed at Honington berween 89-94 did some guard duty at Watton as we were parent unit for the station.I sprayed an officers car in the workshops spraybooth once about 93
I was posted to Watton when I came back from Germany in 1964, spent my couple of years there in Special Installation Flight in 3 hangar on Varsitys, Comet and Canberra T17, lived in a hiring in Hingham
I lived at RAF Watton in Cranwell Road AMQs from November 1971 until mid 1974. My eldest son was born in the main bedroom of the quarter. The station was on Care and Maintenece then and my ex husband was actually stationed at honington.. When we were here the watton lodge was used for the balls etc we went to christmas ball there in Dec 72 .. I have great memories of this place i was only 18yrs old when i got here… I actually now live on the Old RAF West Raynham near fakenham with my second husband ( who wasnt RAF lol ) we have retired there as i adore Norfolk… My ex husband was named Alan Wickson if anyone who pops on here know him and i was known as Ann Wickson. ( i used my middle name ) thank you for making me smile watching this video so much of our history has disappeared..
Glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Knowing people do get something positive form the site is a great encouragement.
When i was an RAF wife we were stationed at quite a few stations including Gibraltar. Marham St Athan Saxavord. Cottesmore. Waddington Honington to name but a few but i have always held a deep affection for Watton it was where my journey began at the age of 18 thank you so much for taking the time to post this video. Regards Georgina x
Hi Georgina, we lived at number 7 Cranwell Rd from March 71 to July 72. No doubt our paths must have crossed at some point, I actually worked at Watton in Commcen/PBX. Good to revive memories.
Ray Bailey ex SAC
We got there in November 71 we lived at 3 Cranwell until August 72 then went to live in a married quarter in Thetford ( Hood Way ) and moved back to Watton to 2 hendon in the beginning of 74… We had friends who lived at the top of Cranwell called Steve and Joan Spurrier he was a Petty Officer with fleet air arm and served on the ark royal… Its nice to catch up with someone who was there at the same time
was at RAF Watton for a weeks Summer Camp with my schools (Bristol Grammar School) CCF RAF section in 1967. Never been back but so thrilled to find this video. Thank you so much for saving this- I understand most of it has long gone. As a 15 year old in the “Summer of Love” RAF Watton made a big impression on me. Happy days.
Can anyone remember watton and District karting club? It would have been in the early sixties that a racing circuit was on the base I can’t remember exactly where as I was only about 7-8 years old. I know we used to have a great day out as my dad raced there many times till its closure.
The circuit was on the Griston site
That brought back a few memories for us too! Sue and Bernie Kennedy, married in 1974, we moved into 6 Halton Road as our first home together. Bernie worked on the Buccaneers at Honington.
Our home was the yellow door shown in the video towards the end after the bit about the odd air-raid shelter. The chain-link fence separating the AMQs from the airfield didn’t exist then.
When we were there, the Officers’ Mess housed both the Officers’ and the Sergeants’ Mess (half each) when we lived there. Bernie used to have to spend 2 weeks each year as the Duty Barman in the Sgts’ Mess Bar.
We moved to 47 Teddar Road a few years later when we started a family and left Watton in 1982 when we bought a house in Thetford (that cut down the commuting).
We’ve revisited the old camp several times including cycling through to Griston on the “new” track. It’s changed so much especially when you see the extra houses built on what where pleasant green spaces in between the original blocks of houses.
Well done for making this record for posterity….
A little internet surfing whilst taking a break from some dry online study (PPL Air Law); thinking back to my days at Eastern Radar and hoping to find an image or two of the buildings I knew. Then I find this treasure!
Not only an image or two, but a video, and at the time I was stationed there (1986-late 1988).
As a junior rank AATC, I had a room in the one-time Sergeant’s Mess, renamed Watton Lodge (some good memories!). When was the video shot? I moved into Akrotiri Square MQ in May ’88.
Excellent shots of the SHQ Building, which I can now show to friends after a recent conversation about aerodromes/ghost stories!
One of my duties at Eastern Radar (a perk to some of us) was to staff the reception room/desk (can’t remember its proper title) overnight in the SHQ (window to right of the entrance). A big desk and armchair by the sliding window to greet overnight visitors/issue keys etc.
I recall a few dark stories attached to this building and encountered a few strange/unexplainable experiences in the dark hours (with colleagues present). Does anybody else have such memories of this building?
I still find it hard to think that 28 years have past, watching this, it seems like last week.
Only one criticism of the video, you could have provided some better weather!
Many thanks for making this available.
Hi Phil, re ghostly stories in SHQ, I worked in COMMCEN/PBX located in SHQ and I do recall some strange occurances in the building. For example, the airman that frequently appeared at the very end of the main corridor, wearing WW2 flying clothing, when he was spotted he simply disappeared into the wall! Several of us witnessed this during my posting there from March 1971 to July 1972. Also this was not during the night time, as you would presume, I recall seeing the apparition one Sunday afternoon during one very warm summers day in 1972.
When we had the museum open, over the years we experienced so many odd things it was quite frightening! In particular when the museum was housed in the old Guard Room, the atmosphere changed significantly around 7pm when it felt very hostile.
Even weirder was the Officers Mess. In fact I had one experience so intense, I wrote it up. If you have any interest have a read of this PDF.
Would be very interested to hear of your experiences working in the SHQ building.
‘Ghost stories’ are interesting in themselves, although it is the unexplainable nature of these experiences which has always fascinated me. I am curious as to where in SHQ you worked. When I was at Eastern Radar in the late ’80s, one duty (a jolly really!) was overnight shifts in a room to right of the main entrance, issuing keys/attending to MQ problems etc. Big desk/even bigger armchair/take in video player and couple of beers etc/perhaps a little nap later! Directly behind this room was a small ‘comms’ room with an ancient telephone switchboard and I think some other equipment. I think I recall lines ringing and going to answer then stopping (not part of duty). I do however remember clearly that the light would either switch on or off. For example I would switch it off (making written note) when I went into the kitchen to make a drink/get food, back into the desk room to read/watch videos etc then later back to kitchen or toilet and light would be off (no fancy energy saving device present!)
Like you, some of my experiences were also during daylight hours/early evening. I remember one event as if it was yesterday. I had being doing these overnight SHQ shifts for some time and had experienced a few strange events (see my post to Julian). Friday afternoon, about 5. I went upstairs and had to check a security safe and sign clipboard/form on wall. Did this and turned, in doing so, I sensed that I was being watched! There was a room/or two that had glass doors or partions and were often used for storage (church functions/WI etc). I don’t think I have ever been so startled and may have shouted out. In my peripheral vision I saw a naked woman looking straight at me through the glass! I can feel the hair on my neck now!
There were a couple of racks of clothes (charity event I assume) together with an undressed mannequin! I had started to become attuned to experiences in this building and to feel sometimes as if being watched, or wanting to turn quickly. The only time I was ever frightened in this building was on a sunny Friday afternoon by a ‘plastic’ girl!
I used to work in the telephone exchange, some days and some nights as a WRAF and after hearing lots of strange noises, I was told it was due to an airman who had ejected through the canopy and his body in bits landed on SHQ. It really scared me even though us WRAFs always had an accompanying chaperone with us during night shift but we never used to like waking them up to be with us to use the toilet. We were locked in the building on night duty and had to phone the police in the guardroom to let us out when we had a shift change.
The ‘airman’ that ejected who you may be referring to was probably the RN Nav who ejected through the frangible hatch for the rear seaters in a Canberra in 1966. He became detached from his parachute and landed in the grounds of the Sergeants Mess, the ejection seat landed in the MT section narrowly missing a couple of WAAFS and the parachute fluttered down just outside 3 hangar where I was working at the time. The Canberra was simulating an engine failure on take-off and perhaps remembering a recent accident where the rear crew ejected when the aircraft was banked vertically and ejected into the ground this RN guy ejected and apparently had not strapped in correctly hence parting company with his parachute.
Thank you for your explanation. How very sad.
Remember it well. If I remember correctly it wasn’t a frangible hatch. He should of ejected hatch first. Also I was told that some a the FAA aircrew, used to flying from carriers, didn’t do up their parachutes up so if the aircraft went in the drink they could get out quickly. I worked in the Mod Bay (Modification) Bay) opposite No 4 Hanger and after the accident we did a Mod to the rear ejection seats. When you pulled the seat handle it automatically ejected the hatch.
Michael, you could be right about the hatch and you’re certainly right regarding the FAA and parachutes – at least that’s what I heard too.
I know the hatch was a mess because they stored it in SIF where I was working because it was a high security hangar
I was on 361 Squadron, it only lasted a month. I was then posted into SIF and didn’t enjoy it at all. The guys I worked with were great it was just the work I didn’t enjoy. Managed to escape to 360 Squadron and then in early 69 I was posted to 56 Squadron at Akrotiri. I enjoyed my time at Watton on the whole but my 2-1/2 year holiday in Cyprus was brilliant.
I think we’ve mentioned your hate of SIF (and me loving it) before :o)
I remember that incident I worked in the drawing office as a civilian but our office was on the front of hanger three
i can remember having our yearly camp there when i was in the royal observer corps
Only just found this wonderful video tour of RAF Watton, I was at that ROC camp as well. It was 1989, I was on the Transition to War course we were assigned to the monitoring post overlooking RAF Lakenheath for the finale. That was a good week, happy memories of the big BBQ’s at the Flying Fish. So sad to see the base in various stages of demolition a few years later.
Great video; it’s such a shame to see most of it gone now. Do you recall what that building seen at 25 minutes and 25 seconds was used for? It’s one of the only buildings left there now and I would greatly appreciate any information you could give to me about it.
Hi Tyler – yes that was a gymnasium. Around 1967 I used to go on the camp there for Judo club. I would guess it was built early 1960’s
I forgot to mention in my last post, the video. I was amazed to see my old AMQ still standing. It was the end one with a side door. The old oak tree is still standing, O my goodness. I remeber moving there from a hiring in Mundford and after about 6 months, Works and Bricks wanted to install central heating. They moved us to a house across the street just 2 months before my posting to Singapore. Well I never. Bob
The post by Terry Day got me thinking so I thought I would add a little more to the 1965 Eastern Radar intake. After Shawbury I too was posted to Eastern Radar A watch. The SNCO was Sgt Williams, later WO. The JNCO was Cpl Pete Sinclair who later became SATCO at Cranwell. The OC at the time was Wing Commander Donald “”Noddy Newall”formerly SOO at Ulster Radar posted to MATO then in 1968-71 HQ MATO then posted HQ NATS as DDCP2 and in 1974 back to Uxbridge as OC MATO Southern Region. His number two was Squadron Leader Merriman. These two officers would always buy the lads a drink in the Crown pub Watton. I bumped into both at LATCC and CAA House as a civilian. Two great officers. Other names at Eastern at the time were Mick Lane, Les Buckle, the Rutter twins and so on. Some of the controllers who served as aircrew in WW2 used to tell us youngsters some hair raising & humorous stories about their experiences. Eastern was a good unit to be at.
I was at Eastern Radar from ’66 – ’69 having re-mustered to AATC and a Shawbury course. I remember the Rutter twins and Pat McKenna, but my memory needs to be jogged some more for others. Remember Shirley Grieve and her dog? Who was the F/L had the Alvis? I’m sure it’s the same car that’s been on TV. I got posted to Singapore in ’69 and returned to Marham in ’71. They theatened to send me back to Eastern for a quickie course, but I managed to skive off that. O, the Patel twins too, and Rick who sold me his Morris Minor for a fiver. Sad thing though, I lost my eldest daughter in a RTA whilst there. Memories, Bob
Hi Bob,i am the Rick that sold you the Morris Minor.I too remember the Ruttters.Patels, Shirley [whom taught me to play bridge on nights] also remember the Alvis not the name
Hey Rick, I remember you well. Thanks for the Morris Minor, best deal I ever did, wish I still had it. remember your Dad as well. Shirley yes and the Patels. How’s things with you? I live in BC Canada now, retired and well. Nice to hear from you. If you have in st a g r am I’m smartrobby.
I served at RAF Watton as a National Serviceman during 1951 to 1952 and enjoyed myself . I work on daily servicing Mosquitos and did occasionally fly in them. This. has brought back a few memories . Thanks a lot.
I am glad you enjoyed it George.
Few signs of the a/f left now…progress? I don’t know…visited Watton or passed many times as a civilian working at Colt 76 to closure. Also after Colts demise I had a job working for Severn Trent and had to water sample in the glider hut where all the honours boards now hang….great footage by the the way
In late June 1965 i was given my first posting from trade training in ATC at Shawbury to the soon to be opened Area Radar Unit named Eastern Radar.I along with two other Leading aircraftmen: Joe Bose and John Cossins we arrived on a drab rainy day not very impressed with Watton. We were to be billeted adjacent to the parade ground along with many others that eventually followed in the coming months to swell the camp population. The three of us presented ourselves at the unit that was in the progress of transition from a missile tracking station to an area air traffic control operation. We were met by a florid faced Flt Lt Dando who was temporarily in charge during the refurbishment and shortly to retire. There was nothing for us to do at this point so we were told to clean and polish the floors of the adjacent type 82 radar head.I remember looking out from the floors of the radar head at the camp half a mile distance on bright hot summer days contemplating on our great start to service life! We can safely boast that we were the first oicks to be present and waiting for duty at Eastern Radar. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay both in Norfolk and at Watton in particular; many good memories and friendships. Bizarrely i was on holiday in Norfolk in 1993 and paid a visit to the camp and was quite shocked at its demise i took photos inside the grounds only to lose the film prior to it being developed!!? So very pleased to see this web sight.
Thanks for the memories Terence. I worked at Eastern myself (for Airworks) ’77 – ’82 spent many happy hours there. Great place to work. Julian
Terence,please don’t take this as criticism or nit picking of your interesting entry. As time goes on our memories do need occasional assistance, I know that mine does, so this is really a well meant correction. You refer to the previous incarnation of what was about to become Eastern Radar as “a missile tracking station”, it was not. Fylingdales and similar were, and presumably still are, missile tracking stations as part of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. What used to be 24 Wing Headquarters was the Tactical Control Centre for the three Bloodhound Mark 1 Squadrons in 24 Wing, 242 at Marham, 263 at Watton (Griston) and 266 at Rattlesden. The Early Warning Master Radar Station, in this instance Bawdsey, would pass information on potentially hostile approaching aircraft to the TCC which would then locate the target(s) using the Type 82 “Orange Yeoman” Radar. The TCC target selection officer would then pass the target to the appropriate Bloodhound Fire Unit which would then locate the target using the Type 83 “Yellow River” Target Illuminating Radar (TIR). When the target was within range the TIR would be locked on to it and the selected missiles would be turned on to the same heading. When the target was strong enough, the missile radars would be activated and, if the target had not been identified as friendly by this time, the decision would be taken to launch the missile(s) which would then pass through the sound barrier within seconds of leaving the launcher(s). The Air Defence Operators in the TCC would have no interest in following the track of the missile(s) as they may well have been looking for further incoming targets. If the MRS was disabled the TCC could operate autonomously and if the TCC was disabled so could the respective TIRs, by that time things would really be getting serious. You mention Flt Lt Dando, would that be Fred Dando? If so he was formerly the 263 Sqn A Flight Commander though not mine, I was on B Flight and my Flt Commander was Flt Lt Ron Minette.
I do apologise and stand corrected;however your article was far more interesting than my own and i was ignorant of those facts so thank you.I am slightly embarrassed because my future father in law had been a radar engineer at Staxton Wold and associated units in the late fifties and sixties. Ft Lt Dando would have been in his mid fifties in June 1965.He mentioned he was retiring that year,i didn’t know his Christian name.( I thought i had replied earlier but the web page didn’t respond)
Hi Terry glad you have the same fond memories as myself and a good tour at Laarbruch. Some of us lucky ones were detached to Watton Twr then Lindholme and back to Eastern Radar thereby avoiding the bull.I shared a room with Joe Bose. Do you remember the laughs we had sharing various abodes whilst at LATCC. Hope you are well and retired from NATS.
I wondered if someone from that time at Watton would pick up on my memories and reply! Good to know you are still kicking cant believe i am 70 this year. Yes good memories of Eastern Radar and camp life and our time at Laarbruch and Latcc.Should get in touch and catch up.
Hi Terry: Tried to meet up with you at EGCC when on a training mission but it was your day off!!! Contact me at aufkleve(at)yahoo.co.uk. Was looking at some old photos of us lot the other day and wondering what happened to some of the others.
I remember you Teremce and John Cozzins too. I arrived there somewhat later after re-mustering to AATC. You probably have seen the post from myself and Rick Soar. Remember how we used to build up a “fund” from takings in the crew room for egg banjo’s and cheese and onion buns? Didn’t we all mosy on down to Lakenheath a couple of times to the 21 club there?
I went to Watton in 1949 after getting through an electrical course at Melksham and earning the dizzy rank of AC1, arriving midwinter and having to live in a nissen hut in watton green the dampness put me in the dock for a week, my next visit to a hospital was at the age of 82 with heart failure which shows that the rations slopped out stood me in good stead for a lifetime.
I was billeted in the first block on the left behind the guardhouse, useful for LAC Lake who often spent the night there after a barney with corp callaghan a small irishman with a big ego.
My workplace was in No 4 hanger daily service for a mixed bunch of Lancasters and Lincolns, we worked in the mornings and had rides in the afternoons when the demoted wartime pilots taught the new pilot officer types how to reverse course with a violent jerk of the stick, vertical wings and no loss of height! on one open day I saw a wingtip not ten feet from the ground. the Conningsby boys are green with envy!, the trouble with opendays was that they had a flypast on one engine and guess who had to change boiled over batteries afterwards and wipe up the acid? Happy days,I enjoyed my national service and all for thirty bob a week and I still remember 2437365.
Thanks for the memories Keith – sounds like you had a great time 🙂
In 1993 I was on a cycle tour of norfolk and deviated at Norwich toward Watton to see what 41 years had done to it, as I cycled along I was composing a line of bull- to get into the base but as I passed the married quarters I observed weeds growing on the parade ground – no bull needed but I did have an interesting visit to the guard room museum, were you the curator I met there that day ?
or was it your father ?
I have in front of me my discharge form 1394 dated 29 june 1951 signed by S/L S. Ghibent ? who I had the honour ofbeing let off a fizzer for not locking up No 4 hanger properly, he still noted that I had been a good lad !, his head whip was F S binns who chased us out into the snow to do services and made sure we signed the form 700s and then sent us out to do the test flights in the afternoon, there was always a rush to get into one of the gun turrets or stand behind the co pilot, for a youngster that was heaven now I stand outside supermarkets in Bournemouth collecting for the Poole branch of the RAFA, not so thrilling but still satisfying as we often get widows of battle of Britain bending our ears as we pretend to be trick cyclists
Hi Keith. Yes that would have been me – or possibly dad who died a year later or possibly Slim Trew an ex Wop/AG from 21 Sqdn 1940. If it was me I would have been the youngest of the quoted options:)
I do recall a visitor telling me about having to fly air tests after singing the 700! Good to know you are still going strong.
This has started latent memories,I had a ziese icon camera which I used on camp and built a flash unit for it and required a 12volt meter. Near the tower was a lanc sans engines and an airframe so twisted as to be u/s so I liberated a meter from it, in 1959 it moved into a new morris 1000 which is still in use in Johannesburg and I have told my son that it is the only morris in the world sporting a meter that had seen operations over Germany!,The african sun has faded the AM arrow and 1943 date and he has instructions to risk his life to remove it in case of fire1
One day in December the sqadron leader stuck his nose into the crewroom door just as we were soldering together a row of 12V bulbs for xmas tree lights, hearts dropped,” Ah,make me a set please”, Icould not decipher his name from his signature what was it?One night I was roused out of my pit, given a new fuel tank float and told to fit it to a mosquito for early morning take off so there I was on my own at 2 AM squeezed in the 12 inch space above a full tank of fuel- where oh where was the Elf and safety boys when you want them? at least I was not being shot at as I would have been 5 years earlier, it was all a great game to us youngsters
Hi Julian, without thinking about it Squaron Leader Nisbet came to mind and I still cannot remember what I did yesterday.
It’s funny how the mind and memory work Alan! You are not alone 🙂
The Roya Air Force Boxing Team were based here throughout the 1980’s, the ‘Golden Years’. It was the home of RAF Boxing We spent a fair few months training on and around the camp, the old GEF workshop was kitted out as our boxing gym. Some funny and great times, always remember the locals looking rather bemused by 20 or so puffing and panting blokes running around the village twice a day for no apparent reason.
Brilliant. I lived on Beechtree Park for a few years, in the 90s, and had a few nights out in the NAAFI. My daughter went to Treetops Playgroup on the camp too. Great memories, thank you
Thanks to all involved, especially Julian, Paul and Nell, for preserving this piece of history. I have met a great many people on my travels who have lived in Watton as their husbands were serving at the base and their first question is, “Is it still there”. Really appreciated.
My father was stationed at eastern radar from 1976 to 1981. I grew up on this camp as a kid. We lived a 1 Harris Road till 1979 before being moved to 3 Akrotiri Square. My mother was a cleaner at the lodge for many years with Shirley and Betty. I remember going there on a Sunday morning to watch a kids film.
Simply brilliant footage, it goes to show how utterly important it is to film, photograph and record Airfields as they MAY not always be here and they can change dramatically.
I’ve had a huge interest in Airfields for a few years, the Expansion Period sites (like Watton)are of particular interest to me and i had the foresight to photograph the original Control Tower, A merican version and Hangars in 1996 when the last Breckland Family Show was held.
Just to let you know, later in the video as you filmed the gun butt there were two small green sheds. These were actually very rare Robin Sheds.
Hi Jason – yes indeed they were Robin Sheds and were on site until the mid-90’s. The video is a bit deceptive the butts were actually at the eastern end of the airfield and the Robin Sheds were at the west facing the west doors of Hangar 1.
When we shot the video it was windy so when i digitised and edited I cut he pan across which would have given a better understanding.
The other point is we filmed this right at the start of the project and we were learning too which is why we never identified the for what they were (we didn’t know!)
I so agree about recording places – and given your interest in airfields you will enjoy the record of Bodney when I can get the time to sort it.
Hi Julian. I lived in the old Married quarters on Beech tree park in the 90s (And went to ATC with your daughter Diane at 864 when it was still in the old officers mess. Beautiful building.) I seem to definitely recall 2 big green sheds that where later identified as Robin sheds, placed on the pan outside the fuel silo facing the East doors of Hangar 1 (Closest to Beech Tree) and between Ash Tree Park and Beech Tree Park, the EAST side of the airfield. Aerial photographs from 1988 show them there too, but I do recall some small corrugated sheds on the west side. Long and thin I think behind the communications bunker.
Kiel is absolutely correct, I always get West and East the wrong way round. The Butts were at the Western edges of the wartime field and the Sheds at the East! Sorry.
Very good I thought
Thank you very much for this video. We spent many happy years at Watton. I have shared it with my family strewn around the globe.
We arrived at Watton around 1963 from Cyprus. We had a large family of 7 kids and lived in Cardington Road (7). Spent many a happy day at Watton walking on the Airfield on a Sunday when it was closed and also getting milk cartoons from the NAAFI entrance just off the parade square.My Dad was a cook in the Airmens’ Mess, we left around 1968 for Brize Norton. Would be nice to make contact with anyone who lived in the same road as us.
I lived at 16 Cardington road in 1980 while serving at RAF Honington which was a MQ overspill
I found this extremely interesting. I was stationed at RAF Watton from 1961-’63 on 263 Bloodhound Squadron at Griston so recognised many of the views. I remember the heavy snow of 1963 and coming back from the Airmen’s Mess through the snow covered main entrance, turning left just inside the main gate and passing the post box and telephone box to reach the 263 Squadron Barrack Block which was immediately opposite the NAAFI (I’d forgotten that it was called the Shirley Club). Station Sick Quarters at that time was presided over by the infamous SMO, Sqn Ldr Eastick. With regard to Pay Accounts, said to be downstairs in SHQ, I clearly remember having to go upstairs and occasionally having to queue on the stairs with others who hadn’t received leave pay or credits etc. The Station Warrant Officer would not have had his office in the Guardroom whilst the RAF Police were in occupation, as they were during my time there, as I remember well, having been ambushed by them whilst going to the Airmen’s Mess in mixed dress. The one and only time I went to the SWO’s office, when I was clearing, he was in SHQ which was not unusual, the SWO being required to be near the Station Commander, even when GD Flt. ousted the Police from Guardrooms and ran them as Discip. offices and receptions, the SWO usually remained in SHQ, his Sergeant being i/c Guardroom/Discip. office/Reception. One criticism, in the original written description of this film, the Japanese Nissan company is given the credit for Major Nissen’s famous invention, the NISSEN hut. Overall, though, many thanks for putting this on.
Good spot Martin – have corrected that spelling mistake.
I have no doubt about your going upstairs for pay. I have learned over the 30 years or so of research that many people have different memories about details. In many cases it just seems to be a matter of when in time one was there.
It is good to be able to record your memories and thanks for adding to the archive.
I have only just stumbled onto this most fascinating video.. I was just a young lad at Watton during this period but you may have come across my late father FSGT Norman (Johnnie) Johnson who was very much involved with 263. Mike Johnson
Hello Mike,sorry but unfortunately I cannot recall your late father. His name is not familiar to me as a member of my flight, which was “B”, also known as 7 Fire Unit (7 FU) or 7 Launch Control Post (7 LCP). I may be wrong but I also cannot recall him as a member of A Flight (6 LCP). There was only one Flight Sergeant to each of the two Flights, Downs was B Flight and I am fairly sure that your father was not A Flight although, admittedly, I cannot remember the name of their Flight Sergeant. What trade was he? There were other Squadron personnel other than those on the Flights with whom we had little contact.
Martin, when I went to Watton in Jan ’65 pay accounts was definitely upstairs in SHQ and I had a few dealings with Sqdn. Ldr Eastick or ‘Bostik’ as we used to call him. I was in a billet on the other side of the main road by the airmans mess, one of the 4 barrack blocks that side belonged to the WAAFS. I always volunteered for Guard of Honour duties as 10 mins bull got you off parades – even after I got my 3rd there.
Thanks Peter, so that nice man Sqn Ldr Eastick was still there in 1965. He must have been so good that Watton didn’t want to lose him, or, maybe more to the point, his infamy must have preceded him and nobody else wanted him! Incidentally, it sounds like he must have changed his “glue” by the time you arrived there as, in my time, when he wasn’t known as “Joystick” it was more often “Evostick”, maybe “Bostick” became an alias.
Excellent video especially now that (as I understand) it has all been redeveloped. I was at Watton in early seventies and remember well the Shirley Club and Watton Lodge. Also did duties in the old guard room which I understand held a German prisoner during the war.
I used to live near the base on Norwich Road Carbrooke . Was friends with a number of junior ranks going to dances at the Shirley Club and others at MARHAM , HONINGTON and COLTISHALL ,and SUNDAY Football .i meet my wife at the Shirley Club when the HOLLIES performed there
In the film Paul was talking about people crossing the A/F . My Grandfather got permission for his workers from Caston and Griston to cross even when the Americans were here . They use to cross on the old Carbrooke to Griston road which came out onto the B1108 crossed over into Mill Lane and to Carbrooke Village