Badges of station, squadrons and units on RAF Wittering

About Us

Founded in 1916 for the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Air Force Wittering is one of the oldest established military flying stations in the country. It has a rich and diverse history and many of the RAF’s most iconic aircraft have flown from this site.

Around 1300 military, MoD civilian and industry personnel are based here. Like any other Royal Air Force Station, RAF Wittering also supports a number of lodger units. Principally, however, Royal Air Force Wittering embodies two distinct roles.

It is the main operating base and headquarters for the RAF A4 Force. Modern air power requires expert engineering and logistic support. Explosive ordnance disposal, deployed catering, in-situ structural aircraft repair, transport and specialist vehicles are just some of the capabilities the A4 Force deploys to support the Royal Air Force. Wherever the RAF is in the world, on operations or exercises, power in the air requires the right elements on the ground and this is the role of the A4 Force.

Flying training is the second of Royal Air Force Wittering’s two roles. Five flying units are resident at the Station. 16 (Reserve) Squadron provides elementary flying training to the next generation of RAF pilots and 115 (Reserve) Squadron trains qualified pilots to become flying instructors on the Grob Tutor aircraft. Two University Air Squadrons are based here, Cambridge and London. They provide undergraduates with basic flying training, force development and adventurous training. No 5 Air Experience Flight gives Air Cadets their first experiences of aviation and flying.

Military flying at this site began in 1916 when Major Arthur Harris of the Royal Flying Corps identified Wittering Heath as one of several suitable sites for No 38 Home Defence (HD) Squadron. The Home Defence Squadrons were formed to protect Britain against enemy aircraft and zeppelin airships. During World War One the Station served as training facility for pilots (a role to which it has now returned) and a prisoner of war camp. The Sopwith Camel and Avro 504K were among the most famous aircraft to have flown from Wittering during World War One. It was in 1918 the Station was officially named Royal Air Force Wittering.

World War Two is one of the most interesting periods in Wittering’s history. Most notably, it is the period during which Group Captain Basil Embry (later Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embry GCB KBE DSO) joined the runways of RAF Wittering and RAF Collyweston. Although the Station did not participate directly in the Battle of Britain, Hurricanes and Spitfires from here were deployed south and saw action. Uniquely, the Station was home to No 1426 Captured Enemy Aircraft Flight and flew German aircraft with British markings. In addition to USAF and RNZAF aircraft, RAF Wittering was also an operating base for Mosquito, Typhoon and Beaufighter Fighter & Night Fighter Interception Units.

During the early 1950’s the airfield at RAF Wittering was redeveloped to accommodate the arrival of the jet age. English Electric Canberras arrived in March 1954 and Valiant B1s, the first V-Bomber, arrived in July 1955. Valiant bombers from RAF Wittering were detached to Operation GRAPPLE, a series of British nuclear weapons tests of early atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs carried out in 1957 and 1958 in the Pacific Ocean. During the 50’s and 60’s all three V-Force bombers operated from RAF Wittering; Valiant, Victor and the Vulcan.

In 1969 the Harrier arrived. It was an association that lasted for over forty years. The Harriers were involved in almost every major UK conflict including the Falklands, Gulf War II, the Balkans and Afghanistan. In 2006 the Station became the Royal Air Force Expeditionary Logistics Hub, with the arrival of No 85 Expeditionary Logistics (EL) Wing. No 42 Expeditionary Support (ES) Wing stood up in 2007, providing a command structure for the engineering units of the A4 Force. In 2010 the airfield fell silent with the retirement of the Harriers, but was reactivated in 2014.

Today Wittering is one of the busiest and most diverse stations in the Royal Air Force, contributing hugely to Royal Air Force operations abroad through our deployable engineering and logistics squadrons. The future of the Royal Air Force is also invested here; our flying squadrons introduce cadets and undergraduates to the RAF, prepare the frontline pilots of the future and give qualified pilots the skills they need to teach the next generation.

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