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RAF West Raynham
File:RAF West Raynham crest.jpg
Station crest
Active 1939–1994
Country England
Branch Royal Air Force
Type Flying station
Based near Fakenham, Norfolk, England
Royal Air Force Ensign Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
March Royal Air Force March Past
Equipment see article

RAF West Raynham was a Royal Air Force station located 2 miles (3.2 km) west of the village of West Raynham in Norfolk, England, opened in the 1930s. RAF Bomber Command flew missions from RAF West Raynham during the Second World War, with the loss of 86 aircraft.

The station closed in 1994, though the Ministry of Defence (MoD) retained it as a strategic reserve. Having laid derelict since closure, the MoD elected in 2004 that it was surplus to requirements, and the site was sold in 2006. The site is now managed by FW Properties of Norwich, acting for administrators Moore Stevens. A number of the residential properties are now renovated and are either for sale or rental. On the technical site, Norfolk Oak from Anmer Hall, have acquired two of the large C-Type hangars and the old WWII control tower, which are currently being refurbished for use as a full manufacturing facility.

Second World War[edit | edit source]

Bristol Blenheims were used by squadrons 101 and 114, both based at RAF West Raynham during the Second World War.

Two squadrons of de Havilland Mosquito night fighters were based at RAF West Raynham from 1943.

B-25J in 98 RAF Squadron markings.

Built between 1938 and 1939, RAF West Raynham was an expansion scheme airfield. The grass landing area was aligned roughly north-east to south-west. The main camp, with housing and headquarters was located immediately west of the landing area. To the south-east were bomb stores.[1] The airfield was originally equipped with a Watch Office with Tower (Fort Type), of pattern 207/36 (made from concrete), although the tower was later removed and new Control Room built to pattern 4698/43. Later in the war the station was provided with a "Control Tower for Very Heavy Bomber Stations" to pattern 294/45, one of only four such towers to be built.[2]

101 Squadron – a detachment of Bristol Blenheim which was part of 2 Group – was moved to West Raynham in May 1939. The only squadron based at RAF West Raynham, 101 Squadron were held in reserve by 2 Group until they were used as target tugs in February 1940. In 1940, RAF West Raynham also acted as a temporary base for 18 and 139 squadrons after they suffered losses in the Blitzkrieg.[1]

RAF Great Massingham was founded in 1940, just 2 miles (3.2 km) from RAF West Raynham to act as a satellite base. It was originally intended to support West Raynham and provide it with extra space for its Blenheims, but eventually expanded to accommodate a squadron of its own.[3]

On 4 July 1940, 101 Squadron saw action for the first time. Individual aircraft attacked oil tanks in German ports. This went on for over a year, and during this time the squadron lost 15 Blenheims across 610 missions. No. 101 Squadron was transferred to 3 Group and consequently left West Raynham. They were replaced at West Raynham by 114 Squadron, another detachment of Blenheims. They were stationed at West Rayham for over a year before they were despatched to North Africa as part of "Operation Torch". The squadron converted to Blenheim Mk Vs in August 1942, in preparation for combat in Africa. No. 18 Squadron also went to RAF West Raynham to be refitted with Mk Vs. At this time, squadrons 180 and 342 were formed at West Raynham. The 180 Squadron was equipped with North American B-25 Mitchells and based at RAF Great Massingham which was associated with RAF West Raynham. Squadron 342 was provided with Douglas Bostons crewed by Frenchmen in early 1943, and was later relocated to RAF Sculthorpe.[1]

Between May and November 1943, the grass landing area was replaced with two concrete runways, one 04-22 and 2,000 yards (1,800 m) long and the other 10–28 1,400 yards (1,300 m). At the same time, the existing housing on the site was expanded to provide accommodation for 2,456 men and 658 women.[4] In December 1943, the station was taken over by 100 Group, who brought 141 and 239 squadrons to RAF West Raynham. They were equipped with de Havilland Mosquito, fighter aircraft which would provided support to bomber sorties in enemy air space. They were based at West Raynham until the end of the war; their duties involved flying Serrate patrols and "Ranger sorties" (seek and destroy enemy fighters in the air and on the ground). During the war, squadrons stationed at RAF West Raynham lost 56 Blenheims, 29 Mosquitos, and a Bristol Beaufighter.[1]

Postwar[edit | edit source]

Hawker Hunter and Gloster Meteor. Two aircraft types that saw post-WW2 operation from West Raynham.

Bristol Bloodhound surface-to-air missile at the RAF Museum, Hendon, London, formerly of No.85 Squadron

In the mid- to late-1950s RAF West Raynham was Central Fighter Establishment of the Royal Air Force. It still had at least two operational Gloster Meteor jet fighters, a squadron of twin tail-boomed de Havilland Venoms and de Havilland Vampire trainer jets. The very latest arrival in 1957 was a flight of Gloster Javelins, which also appeared at the Farnborough Airshow the same year.

On the morning of Wednesday, 8 February 1956, eight Hawker Hunter aircraft from the Central Fighter Establishment took off on an exercise. The weather closed in, causing them to be diverted to RAF Marham. Two aircraft landed safely, a third ran off the runway, and the fourth crashed into a field killing the pilot. The remaining four pilots ejected, with the aircraft crashing in open country. This incident was raised in the House of Commons.[5]

In 1964 a tripartite squadron, comprising members of the British, United States and German armed forces, was formed at West Raynham to evaluate the Hawker P1127 Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) strike fighter aircraft.[6]

In the mid-1960s, the East side of the airfield was developed as a SAM site, equipped with the Bristol Bloodhound Mk2 and its associated radars. The resident unit was 41 Sqn. Some of the radars, launch control units, and launchers were air portable for deployment elsewhere if required.

Between 28–31 March 1967 Hawker Hunters from West Raynham were involved in Operation Mop Up. This operation saw repeated attacks by Hunters from Raynham and RAF Chivenor, along with aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm, dropping aviation fuel and napalm on an oil slick being released from the wreck of the supertanker Torrey Canyon which had run aground on Seven Stones reef, near Lands End.[7] On 9 June 1967 a Handley Page Hastings C2, registration WD491, was written off at Raynham when a tyre burst during landing.[8]

The former Rapier missile training dome at RAF West Raynham

In 1968 a Hunter from RAF West Raynham was used by Flight Lieutenant Alan Pollock, a flight commander in No. 1 Squadron RAF, to unofficially mark the 50th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force. This event is commonly referred to as the Hawker Hunter Tower Bridge incident.[9]

On 19 December 1975, 85 Squadron, which had been stationed at the base flying the Gloster Javelin and Gloster Meteor in the early 1960s, made their headquarters at West Raynham after being reformed as a Bristol Bloodhound Mark II surface to air missile unit.[10] 85 Squadron remained at West Raynham until it was disbanded on 10 July 1991, with the Standard bearing the squadrons battle honours placed in the safe keeping of Ely Cathedral.

In 1963, 1971, 1980, 1981 and 1982, RAF West Raynham was the location of the Royal Observer Corps annual summer training camps for eight weeks when up to 500 observers attended each week for technical training sessions. Other ranks were accommodated in spare barrack blocks and officers in the officers' mess. In 1980 the start of the camps coincided with a no notice station three-day Tactical Evaluation (TACEVAL) inspection by RAF Strike Command and much consternation was caused when a full-time ROC officer arrived at the main gate in a car loaded with radioactive sources needed for an ROC training session. With the arrival obviously not expected by the TACEVAL directing staff the vehicle was placed under armed guard and the ROC officer bundled into the station guardroom where he remained locked up for several hours until the senior ROC officer was located to vouch for him.

Closure and redevelopment[edit | edit source]

Former Airmen's Married Quarters at RAF West Raynham

In 1994, RAF West Raynham was shut down by the Ministry of Defence. The airfield and technical site remained the property of the MoD but the site was disused and its houses left empty and falling into disrepair.[11] In 2002 Norman Lamb, Member of Parliament for North Norfolk, labelled the situation a "scandal" as at the time there was a shortage of affordable housing in the region.[12] Though empty, the MoD had retained RAF West Raynham as a strategic reserve, however in 2004 it was decided that the base would play no future rôle in the defence of the country.[13] Lamb campaigned for the houses to be turned over for civilian use, and it was announced in October 2004 that 170 homes at RAF West Raynham would be sold.[14] In December 2005 it was announced that the whole site would be sold by tender.

The site was purchased by The Welbeck Estate Group in 2006, then resold it in October 2007, as they had been unable to install the necessary infrastructure. Tamarix Investments bought RAF West Raynham in October 2007; they planned to build new homes on the site and a hotel, as well as renovate the standing houses. The plans included turning the site into an eco-village, with a biomass generator to supply power.[15] The 170 houses at RAF West Raynham will be repaired and 40 more homes added to the site.[16] In 2008, planning permission was granted for the construction of 58 properties and for the conversion of the hangars into twenty loft style holiday apartments.[17]

Heritage[edit | edit source]

The derelict control tower building

A proposal to afford Grade II listed status to the Type C Hangars, Control Tower, Parachute Store, Workshops, Station Sick Quarters & Annex, Station Armoury, Works Dept. and Water Tower, Central Heating Station, Station Headquarters and Operations Block, Guard House, main entrance gates and railings, Officer's Mess, Felbrigg Walk (two NCO married quarters), Nos 3–8 Airmen's Married Quarters, and five blocks of Airmen's Married Quarters under the Thematic Listing Programme was withdrawn by English Heritage.[18]

Gloster Meteor F.8, number WK654, is preserved at the City of Norwich Aviation Museum. This aircraft served with the ‘All Weather Flying Squadron’ and Central Fighter Establishment at RAF West Raynham. Gloster Javelin FAW8 XH992 has been preserved in 85 Squadron markings at the Newark Air Museum.[19] The Bloodhound missile that formerly served as gate guardian outside the station HQ is preserved at RAF Cosford.[20]

On 13 May 2008 Air Commodore Clive Bairsto presented Wing Commander Seb Kendall of No 6 RAF Force Protection Wing HQ with its recently approved badge. This badge includes the sword from the badge of RAF West Raynham, the former home of 6 Wing RAF Regiment.[21]

Television location[edit | edit source]

In 2009, Channel 4 used the former base as a location for a documentary on the contribution of Polish fighter pilots in World War II. West Raynham stood in for both RAF Northolt and RAF Uxbridge, with Air Cadets from Watton being employed in the filming.[22]

Between 9–15 January 2010, RAF West Raynham featured on the LivingTV series Most Haunted Live in a series called "The Silent Town".[23] Shooting took place at a variety of locations on the base, including Hangars 3 and 4, the control towers, Guard Room, Station Headquarters, Sergeant's Mess, Officer's Mess, hospital and chapel, employing a crew of 120 people at the closed base. North American Harvard trainer aircraft 1747, from Duxford,[24] was displayed in the Hangar 4 studio set for the duration of the shoot, becoming the first aircraft to officially use the airfield since closure.

Units[edit | edit source]

Units based at RAF West Raynham included:[25][26]

Dates Squadron Aircraft Notes
9 May 1939 – 6 July 1941 101 Sqn Bristol Blenheim Part of 2 Group
10 May – 13 August 1939, 27 August 3 September 1939, 11 – 14 September 1939 90 Sqn Blenheim Training unit
Oct 1939 – March 1941 No 2 Group Target Towing Flight
30 April – 20 May 1940 76 Sqn Part of 6 Group[27]
30 May – 10 June 1940 139 Sqn Blenheim
12 June – 9 September 1940 18 Sqn Blenheim
15 May – 28 June 1941 90 Sqn Boeing B-17 Fortress I
20–21 June 1941 268 Sqn Curtiss Tomahawk
Tactical reconnaissance unit.
19 July – 15 November 1941 No 1420 Flight
19 July 1941 – 13 November 1942 114 Sqn Blenheim IV and V[28] Part of 2 Group
11 September – 19 October 1942 180 Sqn North American Mitchell II[29]
12 September – 15 October 1942 98 Sqn North American Mitchell II Part of 2 Group[30]
1 April – 15 May 1943 342 Sqn Douglas Boston III Part of 2 Group[31]
1943 – July 1944 2755 Sqn RAF Regiment Light anti-aircraft unit[32]
3 December 1943 – 18 January 1944 HQ, 100 Group No. 100 Group pioneered the use of offensive Electronic Warfare.[33]
4 December 1943 – 3 July 1945 141 Sqn de Havilland Mosquito Night Intruder operations in support of bombers, part of 100 Group[34]
10 December 1943 – 1 July 1945 239 Sqn de Havilland Mosquito Night Intruder operations in support of bombers, part of 100 Group
25 January – 9 February 1944 No 100 Group Communications Flight
24 January – 21 May 1944 No. 1694 Flt
1 October 1945 – 5 October 1962 Central Fighter Establishment Gloster Meteor F8[35]
de Havilland Vampire
de Havilland Venom
Gloster Javelin
Hawker Hunter
  • Day Fighter Leaders School (1 October 1945 – 15 March 1958)[36]
  • All-Weather Wing (3 July 1950 – February 1956)
  • All-Weather Development Sqn (February 1956 – August 1959)
  • All-Weather Fighter Leaders School (July 1950 – 15 March 1958)
  • All-Weather Fighter Combat School (15 March 1958 – 1 July 1962)
  • Day Fighter Combat School (15 March 1958 – 13 November 1962)
20 May 1950 – 1 December 1952 Fighter Command Instrument Training Flt/Sqn
9 September 1960 – 31 March 1963 85 Sqn Gloster Javelin Mk 8 Part of Fighter Command[37]
1 – 25 April 1963 85 Sqn Gloster Meteor Squadron reformed through renaming the Target Facilities Squadron at West Raynham[37]
13 August 1963 – 18 July 1969 1 Sqn Hawker Hunter FGA9 Part of 38 Group[38]
14 August 1963 – 1 September 1969 54 Sqn Hawker Hunter FGA9 Part of 38 Group[39]
15 October 1964 – 30 November 1965 Kestrel Evaluation Sqn Hawker-Siddeley Kestrel The tripartite training and evaluation unit for the forerunner to the Hawker-Siddeley Harrier "Jump Jet".[40]
1 September 1965 – 31 July 1970 41 Sqn Bristol Bloodhound (missile) defence against Soviet bombers
1 February 1966 – 30 June 1967 Fighter Command Trials Unit
1 September 1969 – 13 March 1970 "UK Echelon", 4 Sqn
6 October 1971 – 18 December 1975 Bloodhound Support Unit
1 February 1972 – 5 January 1976 100 Sqn English Electric Canberra Target-towing and specialist electronic warfare training unit[41]
1 August – 29 September 1972 45 Sqn Hawker Hunter Ground-attack unit[42]
1 July 1983 – January 1991 HQ 6 Wing RAF Regiment Rapier missile Short Range Air Defence Missile Unit
19 December 1975 – 1 July 1991 85 Sqn Bloodhound missile Medium-range surface to air missile

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "West Raynham." Ministry of Defence, 6 April 2005." Retrieved: 22 November 2011.
  2. "RAF West Raynham Airfield." controltowers.co.uk. Retrieved: 8 January 2010
  3. "Great Massingham." Ministry of Defence, 6 April 2005. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  4. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/01016/Bomber_command_ope_1016149a.swf "West Raynham Norfolk." Daily Telegraph. Retrieved: 18 January 2010.
  5. "Hunter aircraft (crashes)." House of Commons, 9 February 1956. Retrieved: 21 January 2010.
  6. "British Military Aviation in 1964." Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved: 18 January 2010.
  7. "British Military Aviation in 1967." Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved: 18 January 2010.
  8. "Accident description: Handley Page Hastings C2, 9 June 1967." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 19 January 2010.
  9. "Hawker Hunter’s famous feat!" Aviation Trader, 23 June 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
  10. "History of No. 85 Squadron." Royal Air Force, 22 January 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
  11. "Former MoD homes to be sold off". 26 October 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/3953095.stm. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  12. "'Scandal' of 100 empty RAF homes". 21 October 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/england/2345391.stm. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  13. North Norfolk Local Authority Council 2005, pp. 1, 4.
  14. "Former MoD homes to be sold off". 26 October 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/3953095.stm. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  15. "Former air base sold to developer." BBC News, 30 October 2007. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  16. McGhie, Caroline. "Eco homes: Developing a greener instinct." The Guardian, 19 April 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  17. "Development Control Committee (West)." North Norfolk District Council, 19 June 2008 Retrieved: 23 January 2010.
  18. "English Heritage – Thematic Listing Programme – Page Two." RAF Driffield heritage website. Retrieved: 23 January 2010.
  19. "Surviving Javelins.". Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. http://archive.is/Y2GV.  btinternet.com. Retrieved: 21 January 2010.[dead link]
  20. "Bloodhound Relics." bloodhoundmkii.org.uk. Retrieved: 18 January 2010.
  21. "Force Protection Wing Receives New Badge." RAF News. Retrieved: 18 January 2010.
  22. "Filming the Few." Royal Air Force, 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2010.
  23. "Most Haunted film in Norfolk." Eastern Daily Press, 13 January 2010. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  24. "Canadian Car Foundry Harvard lV 1747/G-BGPB 'TAZ'." \The Aircraft Restoration Company, 5 November 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  25. "RAF History – Bomber Command West Raynham." RAF, 6 April 2005. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  26. "RAF Stations W." RAFweb, 6 April 2005. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  27. "No.76 Squadron RAF." |RAF Commands, March 1999. Retrieved 21 January 2010.
  28. Rickard, J. "No. 114 Squadron (RAF): Second World War." historyofwar.org, 15 April 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  29. "RAF units." historyofwar.org. Retrieved: 22 November 2011.
  30. "No. 98 Squadron (RAF): Second World War." historyofwar.org, 31 January 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  31. "No.342 (Lorraine) Squadron RAF." |rafcommands.com, March 1999. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  32. "RAF Regiment Squadrons." |rafweb, 28 June 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  33. "British Military Aviation in 1943." Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved: 22 November 2011.
  34. During 1944–1945, the Mosquitos of 100 Group claimed 258 Luftwaffe aircraft shot down for 70 losses.
  35. "Gloster Meteor F.8, WK654." City of Norwich Aviation Museum. Retrieved: 22 November 2011.
  36. "Service History – Meteor F8, WH301." meteorflight.com. Retrieved: 22 November 2011.
  37. 37.0 37.1 "RAF Sqn Histories 81–85." RAFweb, 5 October 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  38. "RAF – 1 Squadron." RAF. Retrieved: 22 November 2011.
  39. "RAF – 54 Squadron." RAF. Retrieved: 22 November 2011.
  40. "Chapter 2 – Trials and development." |harrier.co.uk. Retrieved: 22 November 2011.
  41. "RAF – 100 Squadron." RAF. Retrieved: 22 November 2011.
  42. "RAF – 45 Squadron." RAF. Retrieved: 22 November 2011.

External links[edit | edit source]

Coordinates: 52°47′16″N 0°44′12″E / 52.78778°N 0.73667°E / 52.78778; 0.73667

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