RAF Watchfield

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RAF Watchfield
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
Summary
Airport type Military
Operator Royal Air Force
Location Watchfield
Coordinates 51°37′14″N 001°38′52″W / 51.62056°N 1.64778°W / 51.62056; -1.64778
Map
RAF Watchfield is located in Oxfordshire
RAF Watchfield
RAF Watchfield
Location in Oxfordshire
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
00/00 0 0 Concrete
00/00 0 0 Concrete
00/00 0 0 Concrete

RAF Watchfield is a former Royal Air Force station which was located 7.2 miles (11.6 km) north east of Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, England.

The airfield opened in 1940 using grass runways and operated by the RAF until 1950,[1] after which it was used by the army for parachute training and development of vehicle air drop with planes flying from RAF Abingdon and using the former airfield as a drop zone. In 1961 16 Parachute Heavy Drop company (RAOC) was formed there. This company moved to RAF Hullavington in February 1971 and the site was closed in 1972.[2]

Based units[edit]

The airfield was used by a large amount of units like No. 4 Air Observers Navigation School RAF (which came from RAF Ansty) between 20 July 1940 and 30 August 1941 flying the de Havilland Tiger Moth. No. 11 Air Observers Navigation School RAF also joined on 20 July 1940 but left slightly earlier on 19 July 1941 moving to another airfield.[1]

A small group of maintenance units used the airfield for temporary use like No. 5 Maintenance Unit RAF and a Sub-site of No. 7 Maintenance Unit RAF between September and November 1940. No. 50 Group Pool RAF were also present during 1940.[1]

No. 3 Elementary Flying Training School RAF from RAF Hamble were present for a short time arriving 20 July 1940.[3]

Beam approach[edit]

RAF Watchfield was used as one of the first airfields which taught Blind/Beam Approach which meant that when no other aircraft were flying the in country due to the weather, aircraft from Watchfield flew constantly teaching pilots how to land in dangerous conditions. The first unit to use the station for this purpose was the Blind Approach School RAF between 28 September 1940 and 1941 which turned into No. 1 Blind Approach School RAF between 1941 and 31 October 1941 which then turned into No. 1 Beam Approach School RAF which operated between 31 October 1941 and 31 December 1946.[1]

Smaller beam approach units also used the airfield like Blind Approach Calibration Flight RAF between 12 July and October 1941 before turning into Beam Approach Calibration Flight RAF which operated between October 1941 and 3 July 1942 and then No. 1 Beam Approach School RAF which helped to create a Beam Approach Technical Training School RAF which operated between October 1942 and 4 December 1943 and the Beam Approach Development Unit RAF which operated between 4 October 1942 and 12 April 1943.[1]

Other units[edit]

Air traffic control[edit]

Watchfield was also involved in Air Traffic Control as the School of Air Traffic Control used Watchfield between 1 November 1946 and 10 February 1950 before moving to RAF Shawbury.[4]

Army Use[edit]

After closure by the RAF in 1950, the site became renamed Arnhem Camp. It was used for parachute training with jumps from tethered balloons, and it was used for the development of the 'medium stressed platform' (MSP) which was the basis for air dropping a military Land Rover and Trailer, and later other military vehicles. The site was also used for packing items for air despatch and air drop, which were then transported by truck to RAF airfields, such as RAF Abingdon.

The units at Watchfield in the 1950s included 47 Company RASC, and an air despatch training unit. In 1960 1 Army Air Support Organisation (1 AASO) was formed with HQ at Watchfield, and 47 Company and 22 Company joined it.[5] Also at Arnhem Camp in the 1950s was 2nd Air Maintenance Company RAOC which became the 2nd Airborne Company RAOC. On 16 December 1961 16 Parachute Heavy Drop Company of the RAOC was formed, and Watchfield remained their base until 1971.

Current use[edit]

The airfield is currently used for a wind farm called Westmill Wind Farm which is owned by Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "RAF Watchfield". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "RAF Watchfield". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "HAMBLE'S AIRFIELDS". HAMBLE LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY. Retrieved 6 April 2012. 
  4. ^ "RAF Shawbury". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  5. ^ Wait for the Waggon, D.J. Sutton, Publ Leo Cooper, 1998, p261

External links[edit]