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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

RAF Wittering

Throughout its long and varied history Wittering has been an interesting station. The site of that name was first used during the First World War as Stamford Airfield, when the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) began looking for suitable sites to provide for the air defence of eastern England against German Zeppelin and Schutte-Lanz airships. Wittering's existence started under the direction of no lesser person than Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, when as Major Harris, RFC, he was tasked with forming 38 Squadron at Castle Bromwich and selecting sites for its operating bases. Between December 1916 and November 1917 the aerodrome housed a mixture of BE types and RE7s and from July 1917, the FE2b aircraft of A Flight, 38 (Home Defence) Squadron.

The 1st August 1953 saw the creation of one of Wittering's most famous residents. The Bomber Command Armament School (BCAS) was formed, and still occupies the same site as it did then - even if it is now known as the Royal Air Force Armament Support Unit (RAFASUPU). The original role of BCAS was to provide armament training and technical support for the then new "V bombers" (Valiant, Vulcan and Victor). V-bombers first appeared at Wittering in July 1955 when 138 Squadron arrived with its Valiants to replace No 61 Squadron. The first of the new V-Bombers, the Vickers Valiant, entered service with No. 138 Sqn at RAF Gaydon, Warwickshire in January 1955. 138 moved to RAF Wittering and became fully operational in July 1955. Wittering had been home to the RAF's slowly increasing stockpile of nuclear weapons since 1953 and now finally the RAF had bombers and bombs in the same place. During the Autumn of 1956, 138 Squadron was detached to Malta where they took part in attacks on targets in Egypt during Operation Musketeer.

The initial period after the war saw little in the way of flying activity, but this situation changed in April 1946, when the station rejoined Fighter Command and five Squadrons were posted in. Two of these, No 23 Squadron and No 141 Squadron had been previous residents and were now equipped with Mosquitoes. This burst of activity was short lived, however as all the squadrons had moved out by 1947.

Many trials and test were still undertaken by Wittering aircraft, and in 1955 No 49 Squadron was formed with Valiant aircraft. During Operation Buffalo in October 1956, two 49 Squadron Valiants dropped Britain's first Atomic bombs on Maralinga range, Australia. During 1957 and 1958, the squadron was detached to Christmas Island in the Pacific to carry out test with Hydrogen bombs. September 1959 saw 49 Squadron depart on an extended tour of the Middle East, the Far East and Australasia. During the same month No 100 Squadron was disbanded at Wittering. In 1961 the Freedom of Stamford was conferred on the station in the Borough's quincentenery year and a parade was held to mark the occasion.

The following year metal fatigue brought a premature end to the Valiant's service career. Their place at Wittering was taken by No 139 (Jamaica) Squadron, which formed the first Victor B2 squadron in the RAF, and the reformed 100 Squadron, also with Victors. These Squadrons were equipped with the Blue Steel stand-off missile and formed part of Britain's nuclear deterrent force of the 1960s. Many overseas visits were undertaken by both squadrons including Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand and Canada. No 139 Squadron also flew Strike Command's first mission when, at 0001 hours on the 30th April 1968, a Victor was launched from Wittering. During that year, the Victors left Wittering when the Royal Navy assumed the nuclear deterrent role. In February 1969 the station became part of Air Support Command, and Wittering began to take its present form.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:50:41 ZULU