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RAF Waterbeach
Waterbeach Barracks

Ensign of the Royal Air ForceFlag of the British Army
RAF Waterbeach 1945.png
1945 aerial photograph
IATA: none – ICAO: none
Airport type Military
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
Royal Engineers
Location Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire
Built 1940 (1940)
In use 1941-2013 (2013)
Elevation AMSL 33 ft / 10 m
Coordinates 52°16′28″N 000°11′24″E / 52.27444°N 0.19°E / 52.27444; 0.19Coordinates: 52°16′28″N 000°11′24″E / 52.27444°N 0.19°E / 52.27444; 0.19
Cambridgeshire UK location map
Airplane silhouette.svg
Waterbeach Barracks
Location in Cambridgeshire
Direction Length Surface
ft m
04/22 6,070 1,850 Asphalt
10/28 4,140 1,262 Asphalt
16/34 4,250 1,296 Asphalt

Royal Air Force Station Waterbeach or more simply RAF Waterbeach is a former Royal Air Force station located in Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire which is 5.5 miles (8.9 km) north of Cambridge. The site was then used by the Royal Engineers, part of the British Army, from 1966 to 2013, as Waterbeach Barracks.[1]


Royal Air ForceEdit

The airfield was built in 1940 on the northern edge of Waterbeach village and operated under the control of RAF Bomber Command.[2] The original control tower and many RAF buildings, including several hangars, are still present.[3]

RAF units and aircraft - Bomber Command, WW2Edit

Years Unit Aircraft Variant Notes
1941-1942 No. 99 Squadron RAF Vickers Wellington Ic, II
1941-1942 26 Conversion Flight RAF Short Stirling I On 2 January 1942 it was upgraded to form 1651 CU
1942–1943 1651 Conversion Unit RAF Short Stirling I, III During 1942 it flew 49 operational sorties, with a loss of five aircraft
1942 214 Squadron Conversion Flight RAF Short Stirling I Two short stays April–May and August–October 1942
1943 1665 Heavy Conversion Unit RAF Short Stirling I
1943 1678 Conversion Unit RAF Avro Lancaster II The training unit for No. 514 Squadron RAF
1943-1945 No. 514 Squadron RAF Avro Lancaster I, II and III

Transport Command, 1945-1949Edit

After the Second World War, Consolidated B-24 Liberators and Douglas Dakotas from RAF Transport Command flew from RAF Waterbeach.[4]

RAF units and aircraft - Transport CommandEdit

Years Unit Aircraft Variant Notes
1945-1946 No. 59 Squadron RAF Consolidated Liberator B, C and GR Carrying troops to and from India and the Far East
1945-1946 No. 220 Squadron RAF Consolidated Liberator C Mk V, VI and VIII
1946 1552 (BABS) Flight RAF Airspeed Oxford Training in Beam Approach Beacon System, March–July
1946-1947 No. 51 Squadron RAF Avro York C
1947–1949 No. 77 Squadron RAF Douglas Dakota Participated in Operation Plainfare, the Berlin Airlift
1947–1949 No. 62 Squadron RAF Douglas Dakota Participated in Operation Plainfare, the Berlin Airlift
1947–1949 No. 53 Squadron RAF Douglas Dakota Participated in Operation Plainfare, the Berlin Airlift
1947-1950 No. 18 Squadron RAF Douglas Dakota Participated in Operation Plainfare, the Berlin Airlift
1949-1950 No. 24 Squadron RAF Avro Lancastrian
Douglas Dakota
Avro York
C Mk I
Participated in Operation Plainfare and then European scheduled services

Fighter Command, 1950-1963Edit

RAF Fighter Command took over the base on 1 March 1950 and used Gloster Meteors, Supermarine Swifts, de Havilland Venoms, de Havilland Vampires and Gloster Javelins. In addition Hawker Hunter fighters arrived in May 1955 and, two years later, the prototype English Electric P1 (Lightning) visited RAF Waterbeach.[citation needed]

RAF units and aircraft - Fighter CommandEdit

Years Unit Aircraft Variant Notes
1950-1959 No. 56 Squadron RAF Gloster Meteor
Supermarine Swift
Hawker Hunter
F4 and F8
F1 and F2
F5 and F8
27 Meteor F4s from RAF Thorney Island arrived on 10 May 1950
1950-1958 No. 63 Squadron RAF Gloster Meteor
Hawker Hunter
F4 and F8
1955-1957 No. 253 Squadron RAF de Havilland Venom
de Havilland Vampire
1957-1958 No. 153 Squadron RAF Gloster Meteor
Gloster Javelin
NF12 and 14
FAW 7 and 9
1958-1961 No. 25 Squadron RAF Gloster Meteor
Gloster Javelin
NF12 and 14
FAW 7 and 9
1959-1961 No. 46 Squadron RAF Gloster Javelin FAW 2
1961-1962 No. 64 Squadron RAF Gloster Javelin FAW 9
1961-1963 No. 1 Squadron RAF Hawker Hunter F6 and FGA9
1961-1963 No. 54 Squadron RAF Hawker Hunter FGA9 Hunter XG264 was the last to leave RAF Waterbeach for RAF West Raynham on 8 August 1963

After the last RAF fixed-wing aircraft (54sqn) left in August 1963,[5] the site was used by the Airfield Construction Branch RAF until 1966.[6]

Royal EngineersEdit

The station and airfield remain property of the Ministry of Defence, but were transferred from the Royal Air Force to the Royal Engineers, part of the British Army, in 1966.[7] The barracks, airfield and surrounding quarters most recently housed 12 (Air Support) Engineer Group. The former airfield was used as a training area for troops, with occasional visits by helicopters and, in the past, by Harriers.[8] 25 Engineer Regiment was disbanded on 19 April 2012. Two of its squadrons (34 Field Squadron and 53 Field Squadron) have become part of 39 Engineer Regiment and will move to RAF Kinloss.[9]

In July 2011 the Ministry of Defence announced that Waterbeach Barracks will close, and the site sold for housing.[10] In November 2011 and March 2012 the Ministry of Defence announced that 39 Engineer Regiment would move to RAF Kinloss in July 2012. A total of 930 Service personnel will move to Kinloss, and 44 Service personnel to Wittering.[11] HQ 12 (Air Support) Engineer Group will move from Waterbeach to RAF Wittering in October 2012, with the compete closure of Waterbeach Barracks by 1 April 2013.[11][12] After that date, the Barracks will be guarded and managed by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation until they dispose of the site.

Waterbeach Forward was set up in 2011 by Cllr James Hockney and Cllr Peter Johnson to ensure that any future development of the barracks site, following its closure, will be of real and lasting benefit to the local community.[13]

First units of 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support) arrived at RAF Kinloss in June 2012, with the majority leaving Waterbeach during July.[14] Their move was complete by September 2012. On 26 July 2012 at 1200 the RAF Ensign was lowered at RAF Kinloss for the last time, to be replaced by the flag of 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support), Royal Engineers.[15]

The barracks closed on 28 March 2013[1] and the vacated site is now in the care of G4S on behalf of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.[citation needed]


In 1985 a Museum was established by the Army to record and preserve items from RAF Waterbeach - in particular from 514 Squadron who held their Reunions at the barracks every year - as well as artefacts from the Army (39 Engineer Regiment). As the Barracks closed in March 2013, the Museum closed to visitors on 30 September 2012.[16]

In December 2012, a group of villagers set up a trust, Waterbeach Military Heritage Museum, and the Army has gifted the collection to this trust. The Barracks Museum contents is being stored outside the barracks, until a new location can be found. The Hon. Curator from the barracks will continue to answer enquiries and carry out research. He has had an assurance from the most likely developers of the MOD-owned airfield and barracks (RLW Estates) that the inclusion of a Museum "will form an important part of the site's heritage".[17][18][19]

See alsoEdit



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Waterbeach Barracks closes to make way for housing". BBC. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  2. Hamlin and Merrington 2011
  3. Waterbeach Military Heritage Museum, displays and unpublished archives.
  4. Hamlin and Merrington & 2011 p.31-35
  5. Jefford 1988, p. 42.
  6. Hamlin & Merrington 2011, p. 21-22.
  7. Planning Application CP88 - Denny St Francis (Waterbeach), Cambridgeshire County Council, accessed 2011-07-20
  8. Waterbeach Barracks, 12 (Air Support) Engineer Group
  9. "First tranche of Army unit moves confirmed". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  10. "Waterbeach military base to close". Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "First tranche of Army unit moves confirmed". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  12. "Waterbeach Forward - March 2012". Waterbeach Forward. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  13. "Waterbeach Forward". BBC. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  14. Moray gets ready to welcome the Army as advance party settles in, 19 June 2012.
  15. RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team, 7 July 2012.
  16. Waterbeach Barracks Museum, March 2013.
  17. "Waterbeach Barracks museum contents saved by villagers". Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  18. "Museum's collection is saved". Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  19. "Waterbeach Military Heritage Museum". Retrieved 6 January 2013. 


  • Hamlin, John F. & Oliver J. Merrington (2011) At the 'Beach: the story of Royal Air Force Waterbeach and Waterbeach Barracks. Peterborough: GMS Enterprises ISBN 1-904514-63-4
  • Jefford MBE, Wg Cdr C G (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6 CITEREFJefford1988. 

External linksEdit

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