Unit History: RN Air Station Martlesham Heath
The station opened in 1917 and the AES moved in to remain for the next 22 years, being successively renamed the Aeroplane and Experimental Establishment and finally the Aeroplane and Armament Experiment Establishment, a name it retained until July 2001 when it became the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. However, it had moved to its current home of Boscombe Down in 1939, owing to its close proximity to the enemy.
During the 1920, the flying element of the Establishment was composed of No 22 and No 15 Squadrons and the station was responsible for all service trials of new aircraft for the RAF. The squadrons carried out competitive testing of competing designs, the pre-service testing of new models accepted for RAF service and the testing of modifications to be introduced on currently serving types.
Its location on the coast, which made it unsuitable as an experimental establishment in wartime, made it highly suitable for an air defence station and it was soon home to various squadrons of Fighter Command on a rotational basis and as such played a major role in the Battle of Britain. The first Americans to operate from Martlesham had been No 71 (Eagle) Squadron in early 1941, but in late 1943, the station was handed over to the USAAF, who constructed runways. This was soon followed by the P-47 Thunderbolts of the 356th Fighter Group, US 8th Air Force, their task being to provide escort to the B-17 and B-24 bombers carrying out daylight raids from East Anglia.
The RAF had retained a presence at Martlesham in the form of an Air-Sea Rescue squadron but with the end of the war, the station was handed back to the RAF and it became home to the Blind Landing Experimental Unit. Also based at Martlesham was the Bomb Ballistic Unit, which merged with BLEU in 1950, becoming the Armament and Instrument Experimental Unit and remained until 1957.
The station has also been home to a Search and Rescue flight of No 22 Squadron and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight for a while, after which, only the gliders of an ATC Gliding School remained until that also left in 1963. In 1968, the station became the Post Office Research Centre and over the subsequent years this has taken over with new building. The site is also the home Suffolk Police HQ.