The last day of 2012 marked the end of over 70 years of the RAF’s direct association with Lyneham and surrounding communities.
The final Hercules aircraft to leave the base flew out on 1 July 2011 and since then much work has been undertaken to move out the final non-flying operational elements and support personnel.
Air Commodore Jon Ager, who is responsible for Air Mobility within the RAF, handed over formal ownership of the site to the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), the Ministry of Defence’s property and services provider, on 31 Dec 2012.
Air Cdre Ager said:
“I am very grateful for the support the local community has given to RAF Lyneham over the past 73 years. They have celebrated our successes, shared in our sorrows, and supported our families through thick and thin. However, leaving this unit is made easier knowing that it has a secure future with the plans to develop a Defence College of Technical Training, and I am confident that this support will be maintained for many more years. We also know that the future Defence presence at Lyneham will include Royal Air Force personnel, so our Service will continue to play a role in its future.”
The Defence site at Lyneham in Wiltshire will not be closed, as it is to be remodelled into a training establishment as the Defence College of Technical Training. The first occupants will be the Army Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) who will relocate from Arborfield in Berkshire and Bordon in Hamphire. This is programmed to move to Lyneham by the end of 2015.
Before then, the infrastructure and facilities will need to be adapted and this planned building work will be carried out over the next three years by DIO, represented today by Brigadier Mark Armstrong, whose team will head up the establishment at Lyneham until 2015.
Brig Armstrong said:
“DIO’s priority is to support our Armed Forces as they prepare for operations. Our work at Lyneham requires a comprehensive plan of work in order to adapt the current airfield facilities to those required by this new Defence College of Technical Training, and we intend to do so to the highest environmental and building standards. We look forward to engaging with the local community and maintaining the great friendship between the Service personnel and the local population.”
The photograph shows Air Cdre Ager handing over formal ownership of the base to Brig Armstrong.
BRIEF OPERATIONAL HISTORY OF RAF LYNEHAM
The first facilities at RAF Lyneham were built in 1939 and the Station officially opened on 18 May 1940 as No 33 Maintenance Unit, with the concrete runways being constructed between 1940 and 1943. Its role has always been one of transport, ferrying troops and equipment from Lyneham out to Gibraltar, Malta and India during WWII, taking part in the Berlin airlift and ferry flights to North Africa, and then supporting the war in Korea by operating to Japan and the Middle East.
During the 1960s Lyneham personnel deployed to the Middle East to support the troops dealing with Iraq’s claim on Kuwait, and delivered 3,500,000 gallons of fuel for Zambia after the oil pipeline through Southern Rhodesia was cut off.
In 1973 the Hercules aircraft delivered aid to famine-hit countries such as Sudan, and several West African countries, winning its first Wilkinson Sword of Peace. Further famine relief operations were carried out in Ethiopia during 1984, resulting in the award of a second Sword of Peace.
During 1982 refuelling probes were fitted to the aircraft and 6 ac converted into tanker ac in order for the Hercules ac to fly to the Falkland Islands non-stop, refuelling en route during the 24hr sortie. Since then, there has been a Hercules detachment continuously based in the Falkland Islands.
In 1991 Gulf War I saw 50,000 tons of stores carried into the Middle East, immediately followed by the dropping of supplies to Kurdish people who had been displaced to mountainous regions due to the fighting.
Immediately following operations in the Middle East, the Station was heavily involved in the Balkans, flying into Sarajevo continuously from 1992 to 1998, and the Hercules have been detached into the Middle East again since peace-keeping operations in Afghanistan began in 2001 and the second Gulf War started in 2003.
BRIEF INFRASTRUCTURE HISTORY OF RAF LYNEHAM
In May 1949 the first barrack block was built, and some married quarters. An Air Traffic Control Tower and fire station were opened in the 1950s, as were the Messes and the remaining barrack blocks. In 1956 the main runway was extended to 7,830ft, and since the mid-eighties there has been a continuous programme of updating the existing buildings which were clearly not designed to last for so long when they were initially built during WWII.
On 1 Aug 1967 the Hercules C130K aircraft were introduced to the RAF at RAF Lyneham, operating alongside the de Havilland Comet. During the 1970s the base was the largest operational base in the RAF, accommodating 7 aircraft squadrons.
In Nov 1999 the first of 25 brand new C130J aircraft arrived to work alongside the existing 29 refurbished C130K models.
The decision to close RAF Lyneham as an airbase was announced on 4 July 2003, and the final 4 aircraft departed RAF Lyneham for RAF Brize Norton on 1 July 2011. All functions and aircraft will have relocated to RAF Brize Norton by Dec 2012.
In July 2011 the MOD announced that Lyneham was the preferred location for the future defence technical training. The Defence Technical Training Change Programme (DTTCP) team, headed up by Air Commodore Richard Gammage, relocated to Lyneham on 1 October 2012. The DTTCP’s primary focus is the move of the Army’s Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers technical training from the Arborfield and Bordon Garrisons, which are due to move to Lyneham by 2015.
THE DEFENCE INFRASTRUCTURE ORGANISATION
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) is part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). It is responsible for managing and maintaining land and properties to meet the current and future needs of the MOD and personnel at home and abroad, and to support current operations.
Our work includes providing, supporting and improving: operational units; single living and service family accommodation; training areas and historic military sites. DIO actively manages these to ensure the needs of Defence are met, value for money is achieved, our heritage is protected and to achieve our environmental goals.