RAF Wildenrath

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Coordinates: 51°6′54.3″N 6°12′49.4″E / 51.115083°N 6.213722°E / 51.115083; 6.213722

Royal Air Force Station Wildenrath
Active 15 January 1952 – ?? 1992
Country Germany
Allegiance UK: British Armed Forces
Branch Royal Air Force
Type Flying station
Role Fighter attack and air defence
Part of RAF Second Tactical Air Force,
then Royal Air Force Germany
Based near Wildenrath, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Nickname "Wildenrath", "Wilders"
Motto Immer Bereit
Royal Air Force Ensign Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
March Royal Air Force March Past
Equipment English Electric Canberra,
Phantom FGR.2,
Harrier,
Bloodhound Missiles
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Gp Capt JE "Johnnie" Johnson
RAF Wildenrath
IATA: WIDICAO: EDUW.OLD
Summary
Airport type Military (Airport no longer in operation)
Owner formerly: Ministry of Defence
Operator formerly: Royal Air Force
Location Wildenrath, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
was Asphalt, now removed

Royal Air Force Station Wildenrath, commonly known as RAF Wildenrath, was a Royal Air Force military airbase near Wildenrath in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany that operated from 1952 to 1992. Wildenrath was the first of four 'Clutch' stations built for the RAF in Germany during the early 1950s. It opened on 15 January 1952, and was followed by RAF Geilenkirchen on 24 May 1953, RAF Brüggen in July 1953 and RAF Laarbruch that opened on 15 October 1954. RAF Wildenrath, RAF Bruggen and RAF Laarbruch were close to each other and came under the auspices of NATO's Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2ATAF).

RAF service[edit]

Visiting SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1 of No. 2 Squadron RAF parked on the flight line during "Tactical Air Meet '78" at RAF Wildenrath, on 15 May 1978

In 1953, the station Commanding Officer was Group Captain JE "Johnnie" Johnson - a top-scoring British "Ace" fighter pilot of the Second World War. There were two North American F-86E Sabre squadrons [67 and 71], and a Sabre conversion flight. Also on site were 724 Signals Unit (Fighter control radar) 402 Air Stores Park, a unit of the RAF Regiment and an Army detachment that maintained land lines (AFS).

In the late 1950s to 1970, Wildenrath was home to Nos. 14 and 17 Squadrons; the former flew B(I)8 Canberras, and was part of the 2nd ATAF tactical nuclear strike force. The locations of their quick-readiness dispersals can still be seen to the south of the former main gate. No. 17 Squadron flew the PR7 Canberra, and the two squadrons' "in house" T4 training aircraft were combined into the so-called "T4 Flight" as a separate sub-unit, forming a useful additional resource for 2ATAF senior officers to use to maintain their flying hours. In the early 1960s, 88 Squadron Canberras were also based at Wildenrath. The base was also used for 'CasEvac' (emergency casualty evacuations) usually to the UK.

In 1960, the Station Commander was Group Captain "Bats" Barthold and 17 Squadron was commanded by Wing Commander Dugald "Buster" Lumsden, who accepted the squadron's colours presented by Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Dermot Boyle. At this time, the CO of 2ATAF (former Battle of Britain fighter pilot, Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris) had a Vickers Valetta aircraft as his personal transport, its lower fuselage and wings kept highly polished by the ground-crew of the RAF Germany Communication Flight (who later took the colour of ex-Singapore Gloster Javelin No. 60 Squadron RAF). The aircraft was eventually declared un-airworthy due to many of its rivet-heads having been polished off. It can be seen today in the RAF Museum at Hendon, London.

In the 1970s, Wildenrath became the home to the RAF "Harrier Force" which included Numbers 3 4 and 20 Squadrons as well as 21(AS) Signal Regiment. The Harrier squadrons moved on to RAF Gütersloh in 1977.

RAF Wildenrath housed numbers 19 Sqn, which re-formed at Wildenrath in October 1976, and 92 Sqn which formed there in April 1977. Both units flew F-4 Phantom II's, providing air defence for RAF Germany (RAFG) and its allies until 1991.

A communications flight was provided by 60 Sqn, initially with Hunting Percival Pembrokes which were replaced by Hawker Siddeley Andovers in the mid-to-late 1980s. The Pembrokes had a second, more covert, role of taking photographs of Russian and East German armed forces while flying along the Berlin air corridors. RAF Germany Communications Squadron also operated dH Devon and dH Heron aircraft. In addition to its other overt and covert functions, 60 Squadron also acted as visiting aircraft flight for Wildenrath, hosting almost every type of RAF and NATO aircraft and civilian "trooper" BAC-111s and Boeing 747s.

Wildenrath was also home to an army flight operating light helicopters and fixed wing aircraft such as the Westland Scout and De Havilland Beaver. The flight had its own hangar facilities on the base and various flight designations throughout its tenancy. Known initially as 12 Independent Liaison Flight it then was renamed to 31 flight, then 131 Flight Royal Corps of Transport (ex RASC), 669 Squadron Army Air Corps and then in its last colours with a return to the 12 Flight title. The flight was manned by members of the corps under which the flight was named with the REME providing the technical servicing and maintenance of the aircraft.

Wildenrath had five dispersals around the single runway. Alpha and Echo were not used in the normal flying operations of the station. No 19 Squadron operated from one of the 3 dispersals on the far side of the airfield designated 'Bravo Dispersal'. It also housed the two operational 'Battle Flights' for both fighter squadrons. No 92 Squadron flew from 'Delta Dispersal' with both squadrons using the hardened shelters in 'Charlie Dispersal' for spare space to house Phantoms when necessary. Charlie Dispersal was also used by cross trained 60 Squadron ground crew to turn around visiting aircraft during station exercises. The taxiway that ran parallel to the main runway and linked the three dispersals was used as the alternate runway for emergencies if the main runway was compromised. Alpha Dispersal was the site used for the Bloodhounds launchers and Echo Dispersal housed the POL storage section. 60 Sqn operated from the hangar close to the main Squadron Servicing hangar on the 'Soft Side' of the airbase.

Wildenrath closed as a flying base on 1 April 1992. The last flying squadron still present at that time, No 60 Squadron, moved to the nearby RAF Brüggen.

Wildenrath squadrons[edit]

Wildenrath today[edit]

The former RAF Wildenrath is now much reduced in size. It is now an amalgamation with the nearby former RAF Bruggen, now Javelin Barracks/Elmpt Station. The domestic site is now predominantly military. It is a community housing estate for both the Joint Headquarters for NATO, and Javelin Barracks/Elmpt Station. A very small part of the runway still exists, however, much of it is overgrown. Unlike other former RAF airbases in Germany (such as Airport Weeze, previously named Niederrhein), it was not turned into a civilian commercial airport. Of the technical site, virtually all but one of the bigger buildings are now knocked down. The station itself still has a NAAFI but more reduced in size; and now moved to where the YWCA had previously been. The Astra cinema was knocked down in late 2005. The community has a youth club, hair dressers, pub/club/bar venue and library. A YWCA shop and cafe existed closed in 2006.

The original airfield site and immediate environs are now used by Siemens AG under their transportation and automotive business arm (Siemens Mobility), as their railway testing centre; known as the Test and validation centre, Wegberg-Wildenrath.[1] By 2007, the railway test tracks have taken over considerable areas of the airfield. All but the western threshold and overrun of the runway has been obliterated, and the eastern runway threshold is now a Golf course, rather than the site of Bloodhound surface to air missiles. The north-east dispersal is completely taken over by sidings, workshops and shunting loops. Of the southern dispersals, the central and eastern are bisected by the main railway oval test track. As of January 2008, only the south western dispersal and Hardened Aircraft Shelters remain, but these have now since all been removed, with the surviving taxiways being used for recreational purposes by the local civilian residents.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Test- and Validationcenter Wegberg-Wildenrath". Siemens Mobility. Retrieved 5 March 2010. 

External links[edit]