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RAF Wittering

RAF Wittering

RAF Wittering Main Gate

RAF Wittering began life as two airfields, sharing roughly the same footprint as the current airfield does today. The first was Stamford Airfield, established in 1916 on Wittering Heath, as a base for the RFC's No 38 Home Defense Squadron. In 1917 it became a training depot, alongside another set up on the airfield at Easton on the Hill, to the west. With the formation of the Royal Air Force on April 1 1916 the airifelds were renamed RAF Wittering, and RAF Collyweston respectively.

In 1924 the Central Flying School moved to Wittering, staying until 1935, when replaced by No 11 Flying Training School. In 1938 Wittering became a fighter station, supporting two squadrons of Hawker Demons and Hurricanes. The following year Collyweston was absorbed as a satellite station of Wittering, and in 1941 the two airfields were finally joined with a 2 mile long grass strip. Wittering's squadrons, operating from forward bases, were heavily involved in the Battle of Britain. The base itself was bombed five times during the course of the war.

Following the war, RAF Wittering reverted to Flying Training Command and became home to No 1 Initial Training School in 1948. In 1952 the installation of the 200' wide, 9,050' long concrete runway began, work which would last until 1954 and allow the station to re-role as a Bomber Command station. To support this new role, in 1953 the Bomber Command Armament School was established to support the RAF's nuclear role. This school was eventually re-titled the RAF Armament Support Unit (ASU) and elements of it remain at Wittering today.

Vickers Valiant

As part of the Nuclear Deterrent Force, RAF Wittering operated the Vickers Valiant throughout the 1950's and 1960's, with aircraft from 49 Sqn dropping Atomic and Hydrogen bombs on the Pacific ranges during 1956-7. As the V-Bomber force became redundant in 1968, the station once more re-roled as "The Home of the Harrier", welcoming No 1 (Fighter) Sqn as the first to operate Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing (VSTOL) aircraft in 1969. This squadron served with distinction in the Falklands, the Balkans, Serbia and Kosovo, before their departure in 2000.

In October 1970 No 233 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) was formed to train Harrier pilots, and assumed the title No 20 (Reserve) Sqn in September 1992. This unit continues to serve at Wittering, training all UK pilots to fly the Harrier under the command of Joint Force Harrier, based at RAF Cottesmore.

This brief history was derived from the article featured here.

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RAF Wittering