Unit History: RAF Watton

RAF Watton
The RAF Station Watton is located in Nolfolk, south-southwest of East Dereham and is a former military airfield.  The station was open on the 4th January 1939 under the Command Group Captain F.J Vincent as a station of 2 Group, Bomber Command. It was built as part of the expansion programme of 1935-36.
RAF Watton was given USAAF designation Station 376 (WN).
July 1944 the American 25th Bomber Group (reconnaissance) commenced operations these were mainly to do with weather and photo recon., but also some O.S.S. (secret service) missions supporting the resistance organisations in Europe. Sharing the runway were also the 3rd Strategic Air Depot, operating on the South side of the Airfield at a site they called Neaton, their purpose was to provide engineering support for the 8th Air Force and many crippled aircraft landed at Watton to be repaired by them. The Americans remained until August 1945 when the camp was returned to the Royal Air Force on September 1945.  It was used by various flying units of RAF Signals Command, No. 199 Squadron, for example being based at Watton in the early 1950s with Mosquito NF36s operating with the Central Signals Establishment, and in 1953 116 Squadron operated with Avro Lincolns, a Hasting and a number of MkII Avro Ansons. The last three Lincolns serving with No. 151 Squadron on signals duties were withdrawn in March 1963.
Part of the camp put up for sale in 1995 was sold to a developer for the creation of a new housing estate. Three of the type C hangars were used for grain stores for some years, prior to their demolition, which now leaves only one partially remaining.

RAF Watton during WW2


The first two Squadrons to be based here were Nos. 21 and 34 flying mainly training flights until in August of 1939 No. 34 Squadron was posted to Egypt and replaced by No. 82 Squadron, who with 21 Squadron formed No. 79 Wing. These two Squadrons remained until mid 1942.

Twice during the summer of 1940 No.82 Squadron lost eleven out of twelve Blenheims dispatched on raids in daylight and it was not until the middle of 1941 that the fighter escorts were available for operations.
In 1942 No.21 Squadron exchanged their Blenheims for Mitchell’s although they did not fly any operations with these aircraft and in October of that year the Squadron moved to Methwold. At the same time No.82 Squadron transferred to the Middle East and Watton was occupied by No.17 Advanced Flying Unit. They were equipped with Miles Masters and performed advanced flying training. In July 1943 No.17 A.F.U. left and the Americans moved in.

In 1943 Watton was turned over to the United States Army Air Force Eighth Air Force for use as an air depot. The airfield was originally grass surfaced but, during the American tenure a long concrete runway was constructed. Additional hangars were added and three blister hangars at dispersals. The construction of the airfield necessitated the closure of two public roads.

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