Memory of time spent at RAF West Raynham, as told by those of us who served there, worked there, or now have made their homes there
Many many memories of WR. My dad was Sergeant at the Fire Station early 80's. Hiding behind the cricket screen and turning hoses on other teams in a fun race. Finding out the arsonist was one of the fireman sleepwalking. The guy constantly training to be in the SAS. Making the numbers up in the Wives volleyball team when I was in the gym and them using their assets to distract when goal guard. Watching the planes fly over when testing the Station's bloodhounds. The hidden horse track in the woods opposite officers quarters. The fire station's pitch n putt. Being left solo on the dance floor at the kids xmas party doing the Prince Charming. I was a pretty self centered obnoxious brat as far as I can remember. I remember Stuart Guy, Heather? Whose rabbits I looked after and had a teenage crush on and that's it. Well also the CO's son who came round to play once or twice and was suitably unimpressed when I wouldn't go to his house, it was the CO's, and I was scared in case I f***ed up and got my dad in trouble, and the daughter who chatted to me after the Prince Charming fiasco. And I was again scared sh*tless, a teenager with raging hormones who just embarrassed himself being chatted to by the bosses attractive daughter., Conrad Grevatt
When I was NCO I/C small arms servicing in the early 80s, the station master, Group Captain Malanaphy, called me to get one of the ACTs .22 riles and meet him at the fire section, being used to his strange requests( and anyway as he was a Grp. Cpt. and I was only a Cpl) I took it and a box of ammo to the fire section only to see him charging down the runway on a fire truck with his 12 bore chasing a fox,. One morning in the early 80s i was waiting for my brand new stores issued LAC to turn up for work at the EFD, I saw a long lanky LAC bent over and hobbling up the road from the gate, the poor guy was in a lot of pain and could not stand straight, when asked he said " I was martial arts training last night and a guys high kick went a bit low and got me in the nether regions" (name withheld to protect his dignity) Peter Baldock
Jankers, I worked on POL (Petrols Oils Lubricants) for a while. I was Duty POL and was unloading Aviation Fuel (AVTUR) into No2 Bulk Fuel Installation. Started to offload on a freezing Norfolk winter morning, the Tanker Driver and I nipped into No100 Squadron tea room for a brew. We watched the offload through the window. When OC Tech Stores, PO Thompson stormed in and I got a rocket, absent from place of duty, failing to comply with a Supply Squadron Order. Later cap off in front of OC Supply, I got 7 days restrictions and a £10 fine. Most expensive brew ever.
I also remember one night on Guard duty a lad turned up at the Guardroom, he looked like a hippy. Showed his battered RAF F1250 and said he was a deserter and came to give himself up. He had deserted some years before and was getting on with life. But he had met an Australian girl and wanted to emigrate, but he needed a passport, he couldn't get one whilst he was a deserter. So he was taken into custody and he received a sentence after a Courts Martial, then freed to presumably emigrate.. Paul Lloyd
Think it was winter 78. CO volunteered us to dig through snow to clear roads to get to camp as we were sealed off. Apparently local council wouldn't do it. We were walking level with top of the hedges. Seem to remember someone using pick axe to break up snow and putting said pick axe through the roof of a car hidden under the snow. Also remember this as the only time in service that I had a tot of rum issued Paul Heal
I vaguely remember that, and the story went that the big old American snow blower was used and mangled a mini. The only time I got a tot was on crash crew, taking a Hunter out of the muck in the middle of a winter night. Maybe not relevant but a couple of memories that might be a starter for ten. Back in the day, the only person who could land the Kestrel flight simulator was an A.S.F. engine corporal and for the life of me I can't remember his name. Even the test pilot crashed it every time.
Second memory. Watching that same corporal doing a tie down. Awesome! Neal Swayze
Three months before I was demobbed, 20/09/58, on my rare stint of “guard duty”, I was sent to protect the crash site of Javelin FAW5 XA648 belonging to AWDS which had lost control trying to do aerobatics. It dropped into a sugarbeet field in Dunton near Sculthorpe. My duties were to prevent any souvenir hunters and photographers gaining access. Good job done don’t you agree? Toni Walker (photo below)
Nothing too exciting, but I was tasked with fitting the SAPPHO on the roof of one of the fire engines in the bay below the tower. There I was, hatch open, SAPPHO horn sitting on the roof, me half out the top, trying to line the unit up with the holes I had just drilled. Just had started the first screw when the alarm went off! Fire crew racing to get wagons rolling, me sliding down and out the engine as fast as I could. The engine started all crew on board, racing out of the bay! Ooooops, the horn was hanging on the roof, held on be one screw, only partially screwed in, bouncing around and swing with the motion of the engine. Didn't last too long, as they turned quickly on to the access strip, the horn must said it had enough and jumped of the roof and crashed to the ground! It didn't survive and I never finished the job. Apparently, a Canberra on approach had called in that the landing gear hadn't shown as locked down in the cockpit. It landed safely. Archie Dundas
When I was posted from Malta I wanted to carry on with my water skiing so I joined the WR group. We used a stretch or the Gt Ouse near Watlington which unlike the med was long, narrow an straight. On my first run all was fine until the tight u turn at the end. As the boat turned I, forgetting I was not at sea, swung outside the wake to gain speed. Suddenly realisation dawned that there was not enough width! I let go the tow line but still ploughed into the muddy bank very fast. According to those in the boat I took off like a cartoon character leaving the skis embedded in the bank, flew several feet landing in a rusty bed frame!. I came to being lifted out of the boat with a perforated ear drum, broken upper arm and bitten through tongue. I spent several days In Ely R A F Hospital!
Another little story, whilst at W R I was given an excused shaving chit by the M O. This lasted several weeks I think. The SWO wanted to see my chitty and so I popped to the guardroom to show him it was genuine. He promptly added the expiry date to a board on his office wall. I went away and kept out of his way for many weeks. However on the very day my chit expired he called my section to ensure I was now clean shaven!! He obviously did not have a lot else on! Richard Tree
Sandringham Crescent in 1988/1989 we lived here. It was our first marital home & my first time away from my family but it was the best years of my life.
I missed my family so much but the friends I made really looked after me, and I became part of a great new family we used to have Tupperware parties & Ann Summers parties, we used to go the mother & toddler groups which is where the nursery is now at West Raynham & coffee mornings with fabulous cheese on toast.
I used to love cooking & baking for the young lads in MT, when Tim had to go away with the RAF those young lads would come around & check up on me so I always had company.
I used to love pottering around the house, decorating, gardening & spending time sat at front door with other friends, I loved this house. Donna Cunningham Photo below
In the distant past ,one evening carrying out my Orderly Sgt. duties I was lowering the flag. Well it refused to move. On giving it a good tug the whole flag pole came down the Orderly Officer had to leap out of the way smartish. On inspection it was found to be totally rotten. I never lived that one down for ages the bar gang in the Sergeants' Mess ribbed me every time I went for a pint . Michael Connolly
When I was on station guard duty one evening a remember a pilot and several of his mates came past the guard room pushing a piano and having a good old sing song,the piano was well alight and the fire section took some convincing.
Remember Ch/Tech Ron Croxford retired and we had a retirement party in El-Adem on the patio.Well the later it got the more we drank and it was decided to play footy with a beer can, all was going well until Ron Croxford he would head the high ball into the net and his forehead started bleeding heavily.We never let him forget it, his head was like he was wearing a turban but but but he got over it. Ronald Burrows
The Station obtained an English Electric Lightning (XM994) it flew to WR from nearby RAF Coltishall, after being stripped of spares it was assigned to the fire-dump for the firefighters to use as practice - Stephen Howell sent this story
There was some junior officers that thought it would be funny after dining in night in the officers mess to try and move it they got the car stuck came round to MT at 2:30 in the morning and asked politely if we could come and tow their car away before the station commander found out but they’ve been seen by the snowdrops hooked up in front of the station commander The following day. See photo below
While I was atWest Raynham (80-85)I was given a job of taking the CO from West Raynham down to London and then up to Bawdsey ￼.
On the way from London to Bawdsey we broke down and the CO was in a panic because he had to be at Bawdsey for a certain time. So I walked to the nearest phone, at that time it was the army that did recovery, they told me it would take five hours for them to get to us,so I went back and reported this to him. He was in an even bigger flap then, on about getting a taxi and all sorts, so I said to him would you leave it with me. So I walk to the nearest phone again phoned the RAC which I was a member of told them the number of my registration where I was and that I was wearing an RAF uniform.
I walked back to the car and removed the registration plates from the car of which the CO was a bit suspicious. The breakdown truck arrived and asked about the registration number so I just said we had to remove them because we were in uniform.￼
The driver of the breakdown truck had to stop for a bite to eat, so the CO got to a phone and phoned Bawdsey to say we would be a little bit late and came back with fish and chips for me￼.When we arrived at Bawdsey there were a lot of people out with cameras taking photographs of the station commander arriving on the back of an RAC truck.
I got a very good report that year saying that I was good at using my initiative.
When the CO left I was the only person from MT that got invited to his leaving do￼￼￼. Mike Davis
W Raynham was my first posting as a J/T Engine Fitter in 1956. I was employed in Aircraft Servicing Flight (ASF).
This was a very interesting and challenging job as many of the aircraft were being trialled before entering the service. In addition I was very fortunate that being a "Norfolk Dumpling" I was able to visit my family and friends who lived locally. At the time ASF was administered by WO Ted Saunders, who was a cockney character and a stern disciplinarian. The day started with a working parade and a role call. Woe betide anyone who was late. I can recall one particular morning when I had been staying with my family and travelling to work through East Rudham when I encountered a large herd of cows in the road. Needless to say that I was very late for work. On arrival I was greeted by Ted saying "Whats the meaning of this young Stearne you are late" I replied " Cows on the road Sir" He replied "Right don't let it happen again ! " I have never forgotten that embarrassing moment. Richard Stearne
I was posted to 85 Squadron no.2 Fuel Bay in May 79. A lot of us were smokers then and John Player and Sons were running a scratch card completion in the packets of their King Size Blue. Of course everyone used to avidly watch as the packet (bought in the MSF tea bar I should explain) was opened and the card was duly 'scratched'. It was in September 79 when my card, scratched in the company of the other Fuel Bay 'sooties' (or 'fuelies' as we were called at WR) revealed I'd won the £5000 top prize out of the last packet of JP king size blues in the tea bar. I drove over to the WR Post Office to claim my winnings by sending the card by registered post. The post mistress already knew I'd won! The jungle drums were strong at WR. Players put on a presentation at the Crown hotel in Fakenham and the Station Commander, Wing Commander Masterson, offered me his car and driver so I didn't have to worry about drinking and driving. Over 20 years later, someone who worked in the fuel bays after this event got a job at the adjoining oil refinery to the one I was working at and revealed my good fortune to my partners ex husband who was paying her maintenance. The money was long gone by then! I have really fond memories of West Raynham, a really old fashioned camp where just about everyone knew each other. Gary Waters
Working with Wg Cdr Denis Eastick SMO who in his past had been one of the first doctors into Dachau which probably explained his strange behaviour.
He asked a patient what's wrong and when patient said flu, he took his coat off gave it to the patient and said so you are a doctor, another patient who was six foot tall to look down his throat he climbed on a chair. If there was a problem with his Mini I had to go to his quarters to carry his Dr bag to SMC and if that wasn't bad enough he used to make me walk at least two places behind him. Roland Adcock
I will always remember my 18th Birthday at RAF West Raynham. It was Sunday 26th January 1975. I had been on 100 Squadron (Canberras) since July when I was a newly qualified LAC rigger (Airframe Mechanic). As a young airman I was put on several duties and this weekend I was put on Royal Flight duties. Late Saturday night, early Sunday morning (my birthday!) we had an Andover from the Royal Flight bringing Princess Margaret to Sandringham. The only information we had was that we were to 'handle' the Royal Flight, which was to arrive sometime after 22:00 on 25/1/75. As the Saturday was "Burns Night" our Engineering Officer decided to pay "his chaps on duty, a visit". I do not recall the time, however he was rather worse for wear and it took all the ability of our SNCO I/C to persuade him that the "Chaps were ok and we knew what we were doing and that he should go back to the Officers Mess". Happily he did. Thankfully all went well and I was release from duty at breakfast time. That evening I went to the 'Kestrel Club' (NAAFI) and I was surprised at the number of squadron personnel that were there to buy me a (legal) beer. At that time Sunday nights in the NAAFI had the Bingo so there were even more people there. Needless to say I was well looked after even though I do not remember the final outcome (by all accounts I lived up to the Squadrons reputation!). Good old Sid Chester's stood in for me the following day at work and also went on to do his own night shift. I've never really thanked him for that. Graham Lowe
From Roy Briggs National Service 1958 - 1960
I was in GCA (Ground Controlled Approach) when it was a mobile unit and as it was wheeled we changed sides of the runway when planes landed in the opposite direction. We often had night flying and often were on duty until very late. Therefore dark and cold, as such we were issued cold weather jackets with hoods. One night after duty, J/T Albert Wilbourne, a radar fitter, was walking across the airfield with his hood up. As luck would have it, an RAF Policeman with his dog, saw Albert walking away from site. He called Albert to stop, but due to the hood, Albert could not hear him. So the Policeman released the dog, which bounded after Albert, jumped at his back and bought him to the ground. We kidded the dog tried to bury him like a bone. But Albert didn't forget or forgive. Being a radar fitter, he was very knowledgable in electronics. What he did was to connect a low voltage cable to the chassis of the workshop. which we didn't notice, but a dog would. One night the same Policeman and same dog came around as usual, the dog was sniffing the chassis and completed the circuit, the dog and handler vanished into the night, neither came to the unit again. Albert was chuffed to get his own back. Albert was also a National Serviceman.
I arrived at RAF West Raynham fresh from RAF Cosford as a shiny new JT in October 1973. I was sent to 85 Sqn as an Air Radar Technician but quickly got to support Air Comms as well. As a young 18 year old, who was crazy about aircraft, I thought this posting was fantastic. The Canberra was a great aircraft and we had lots of them on the Sqn. Morning routines comprised taking a portable Nitrogen walk-round kit and performing Before Flight inspections on every serviceable aircraft. Then we towed them out to the flight line and waited for the aircrew to arrive. When all of the locks and covers were removed, and the pilot was happy, we manned the fire bottles and got them started up and away. On some days we walked a few brooms around the hangar, cleaning up spillages etc., on other days we would clean the shiny aircraft with Wadpol and polishing rags. On the best days we would play badminton in the hangar, fitness training without pressure from the PT staff. Then we rushed out to see the aircraft in and turn them around ready for the afternoon sorties. The number of hose-refuels we carried out on individual fuel tanks on these Canberra’s would make a fascinating study, no single point refuelling there. I recall that we had Canberra B.2, T.4 and T.19 aircraft, the ‘fun’ ones were the T.4s with their swing seat. We even got to fix things when they broke, which wasn’t very often really (in comparison to Tornados). My days at RAF West Raynham were the happiest of my service career, especially being part of a Banner crew when on detachments. Being so close to Lightnings and Phantoms in full reheat a stone’s throw away from you is the ultimate thrill for an aircraft nut. I was part of the West Raynham Modelling Club and we had a nice little group of modellers there. Time moved on and sadly West Raynham closed its airfield to the Canberras. 85 Sqn ceased to be a flying unit and converted to Bloodhound missiles. Fortunately for me I moved to RAF Marham as part of an even larger 100 Sqn. Lots of 85 Sqn became 100 Sqn personnel but despite the rivalry we had at West Raynham it was a very smooth process. The Canberra fun continued and I was promoted to Cpl soon after. We received some Canberra E.15 aircraft but otherwise life went on the same. Peter Looper
There were four squadrons of aircraft at RAF West Raynham when I arrived in 1957 - a newly qualified, wet-behind-the-ears Air Radio J/T. Two units flew Hunters, the Day Fighter Combat School (DFCS) & the Day Fighter Leader School (DFLS) plus two equivalent night/all weather units equipped with Javelins – The All Weather Fighter Combat School (AWFCS) and the All Weather Fighter Leader School (AWFLS). The Hunters occupied the two middle hangars, 2 & 3; the Javelins were at each end in 1 & 4.
Always plenty of incidents on RAF Stations and West Raynham certainly had its fair share – one that has just come to mind involved one of the AWFLS Javelins. From time to time air to air firing took place, a sort of moving target practice against a large “flag” towed by a tug aircraft. After one such sortie an aircraft landed with a fundamental problem, the guns would not fire. It was towed onto the D at the end of no.1 hangar dispersal and an electrician plus armourer were despatched to sort it out – the armourer to make the guns safe, the sparks to test the gun firing circuits. Don’t ask how it happened, or how it could happen but after being assured all was safe the sparks guy sitting in the cockpit pulled the trigger, upon which the guns fired: at least 10 rounds were let loose before the poor guy could get his finger off it. The noise was unbelievable and bodies appeared from every corner of the hangar in a effort to see what the hell was going on. Main thing, was anyone hurt? Fortunately no casualties but the Javelin sits on the ground with a distinct nose up attitude - it was rumoured the shells had reached Weasenham three miles away and killed two chickens….but that may just have been a little speculation. John Curtis
As requested by admin for our memories of West Raynham, here's just one of my stories from my time at the Med Centre..
It was 1988, just outside the gates a biker came off his bike, he was a big guy picture a 1970s biker and that was him.. he was relatively unscathed apart from a 1 inch laceration to the palm of his hand... he was bought to the SMC and Dr Cox a local GP (Remember him?) Took a look and asked me to suture it.. Ok no problem... I put in a local anaesthetic, cleaned the wound and started to suture, his hands were like leather, and I was struggling to get the sutures in so to help I put my thumb next to the wound so I could support his hand and push harder... that's when it went pear shaped, the needle pierced his palm perfectly but then my thumb, going in just below my nail and coming out the other side... oh how we laughed ! Andy Creswell
Well the mention of DFLS brought back memories - this one perhaps should best be forgotten....but it was a long time ago! (1958 I think) At one stage radio & radar resources at CFE became so stretched that it was decided to create a Central Radio Service Unit to support all aircraft, which kind of made sense and made best use of the people available. We were housed in a small building just across from the control tower, between hangars 2 & 3. It was no surprise therefore when I found myself allocated to carry out Radar Ranging calibration on a Hunter at the Day Fighter Leader School (DFLS). Hadn’t done one before but I knew the system, knew how it worked and what to expect in the way of a gun sight display. What could possibly go wrong?
The aircraft in was in the DFLS hangar up on jacks having wheel retraction tests, powered up by a Houchin PE generator. I got my test kit set up and connected to the Radar Ranging unit and while waiting for the cockpit to become free ran through the calibration sequence – set a range on the test set to say 500 yards, get in the cockpit, switch on the Radar Ranging, raise the gun sight glass screen to view the ranging ‘dots’ etc…etc. I got as far as reaching forward to raise the gun sight screen with my left hand, which was still clutching an instrument screwdriver - it was at this point I saw a button with a black and yellow striped surround marked with the words ‘CLEAR AIRCRAFT’. At the same time as wondering “what does that do”, the handle of my screwdriver touched the button. I was very soon to find out! The aircraft gave a lurch, followed by a loud bang accompanied by a sound not unlike that of waterfall. The smell of jet fuel filled the air as 100 gallons of AVTUR gushed from a shattered drop tank lying on the hangar floor - I now fully understood what ‘CLEAR AIRCRAFT’ meant.
The hanger, which until that time had been pretty empty suddenly filled as bodies appeared from every door. I couldn’t have got out of the cockpit faster unless I had ejected – my first reaction was to wish for a hole to open up and swallow me but no such luck so first I shut down the Houchin to remove power, then got my test kit switched off and off the floor. Almost immediately the repercussions began….who, how, why, what, when and so on and so on. It wouldn’t have happened at all normally but the aircraft was on jacks so the “wheels on ground” switches were not working.
There was a pretty extensive clean up exercise and a few days later I was on a charge. “Causing damage to RAF property to the value of £517.17s.6d” – (£500 for the drop tank, £17.17. 6d for the fuel) In my defence I said I couldn’t recall touching the button, which although clearly marked was unguarded and in any case both drop tanks should have fallen off…a kindly rigger had told me that! Perhaps the tank just became detached? I think it just put an element of doubt in the C.O’s mind and although I received a reprimand it could have been worse. Not long afterwards a modification was introduced to fit a hinged guard over the ‘Clear Aircraft’ buttons and on the plus side, DFLS did end up with a wonderfully clean hangar floor, even though it did stink of kerosene for a long time afterwards