RAF Wittering
RAF Wittering is a Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 station within the unitary authority
Unitary authority
A unitary authority is a type of local authority that has a single tier and is responsible for all local government functions within its area or performs additional functions which elsewhere in the relevant country are usually performed by national government or a higher level of sub-national...

 area of Peterborough
Peterborough is a cathedral city and unitary authority area in the East of England, with an estimated population of in June 2007. For ceremonial purposes it is in the county of Cambridgeshire. Situated north of London, the city stands on the River Nene which flows into the North Sea...

, Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire is a county in England, bordering Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the northeast, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west...

. Although Stamford
Stamford, Lincolnshire
Stamford is a town and civil parish within the South Kesteven district of the county of Lincolnshire, England. It is approximately to the north of London, on the east side of the A1 road to York and Edinburgh and on the River Welland...

 in Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

 is the nearest town, the runways of RAF Wittering cross the boundary between Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire is a landlocked county in the English East Midlands, with a population of 629,676 as at the 2001 census. It has boundaries with the ceremonial counties of Warwickshire to the west, Leicestershire and Rutland to the north, Cambridgeshire to the east, Bedfordshire to the south-east,...


RFC Stamford

Wittering's use as a military airfield dates back to 1916 when it began as RFC
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...



RAF Wittering officially opened in 1924. The Central Flying School
Central Flying School
The Central Flying School is the Royal Air Force's primary institution for the training of military flying instructors. Established in 1912 it is the longest existing flying training school.-History:...

 was at Wittering from 1926 until 1935, when it became a fighter base, and the CFS moved to RAF Upavon
RAF Upavon
The former Royal Air Force Station Upavon, more commonly known as RAF Upavon, was a grass airfield, military flight training school, and administrative headquarters of the Royal Air Force....


Second World War

During the Second World War, the station was very active during the Blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

 in 1940/1 in No. 12 Group
No. 12 Group RAF
No. 12 Group of the Royal Air Force was a command organization that exisited over two separate periods, namely the end of World War I when it had a training function and from just prior to World War II until the early 1960s when it was tasked with an air defence role.No. 12 Group was first formed...

 (controlled from RAF Watnall
RAF Watnall
RAF Watnall was the Operational Headquarters of No. 12 Group, Fighter Command.-History:It opened in 1940 and closed in 1961.The station is now the Nottingham Weather Centre.-RAF units and aircraft:-See also:* Battle of Britain...

 in Nottingham
Nottingham is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England. It is located in the ceremonial county of Nottinghamshire and represents one of eight members of the English Core Cities Group...

) as it was the main fighter station
RAF Fighter Command Order of Battle 1940
This article lists the RAF Fighter Command order of battle at 15 September 1940, during the Battle of Britain.-Fighter Command:RAF Fighter Command Headquarters was located at RAF Bentley Priory, near Stanmore in North London. The Commanding Officer was Air Marshal Hugh C.T...

 for a lot of the southern East Midlands, and fighters from the station would often patrol as far as Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

. RAF Collyweston
RAF Collyweston
RAF Collyweston was a satellite station of RAF Wittering used by Enemy Aircraft Flight during World War II.-History:Founded in 1917 as Easton on the Hill, becoming the home of No. 5 Training Depot. Re-named RAF Collyweston following formation of the Royal Air Force, via merger of the RFC and RNAS...

, a satellite station, was next door until 1941, although the next main fighter station further north was RAF Coleby Grange
RAF Coleby Grange
RAF Coleby Grange was a Royal Air Force station situated alongside the western edge of the A15 on open heathland between the villages of Coleby and Nocton Heath and lying due south of the county town Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England....

. The airfield was bombed five times, with seventeen people being killed on March 14, 1941. Aircraft from the station downed 151 Luftwaffe planes and 89 V-1 flying bomb
V-1 flying bomb
The V-1 flying bomb, also known as the Buzz Bomb or Doodlebug, was an early pulse-jet-powered predecessor of the cruise missile....

s. Hugh Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Putney served at the station, as did Andrew Humphrey
Andrew Humphrey
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Andrew Henry Humphrey GCB, OBE, DFC, AFC, RAF was a senior commander in the British Royal Air Force...

 (later Chief of the Defence Staff
Chief of the Defence Staff (United Kingdom)
The Chief of the Defence Staff is the professional head of the British Armed Forces, a senior official within the Ministry of Defence, and the most senior uniformed military adviser to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister...

 from 1976 to 1977, who flew Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...

s with 266 Sqn
No. 266 Squadron RAF
-World War I:The squadron was formed from No's 437 and 438 Flights at Mudros, Greece on 27 September 1918 to carry out anti-submarine patrols in that area, flying Short 184s and 320s along with Felixtowe F.3s. In February 1919 it was transferred to the Caucasus on HMS Engadine. It operated from...


Post-war use

The current airfield was created by the merging of RAF Wittering and nearby RAF Collyweston, by the construction of a 1.7-mile runway between them in 1941.

During the cold war RAF Wittering was a vital part of the strategic nuclear deterrent, with a runway built in 1954 long enough for the 'V' bombers
V bomber
The term V bomber was used for the Royal Air Force aircraft during the 1950s and 1960s that comprised the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear strike force known officially as the V-force or Bomber Command Main Force...

 (Avro Vulcan
Avro Vulcan
The Avro Vulcan, sometimes referred to as the Hawker Siddeley Vulcan, was a jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber, operated by the Royal Air Force from 1956 until 1984. Aircraft manufacturer A V Roe & Co designed the Vulcan in response to Specification B.35/46. Of the three V bombers produced,...

, Handley Page Victor
Handley Page Victor
The Handley Page Victor was a British jet bomber aircraft produced by the Handley Page Aircraft Company during the Cold War. It was the third and final of the V-bombers that provided Britain's nuclear deterrent. The other two V-bombers were the Avro Vulcan and the Vickers Valiant. Some aircraft...

 and Vickers Valiant
Vickers Valiant
The Vickers-Armstrongs Valiant was a British four-jet bomber, once part of the Royal Air Force's V bomber nuclear force in the 1950s and 1960s...

). Until January 1969 two squadrons (100 and 139) of Victor B.2 bombers equipped with Blue Steel
Blue Steel missile
The Avro Blue Steel was a British air-launched, rocket-propelled nuclear stand-off missile, built to arm the V bomber force. It was the primary British nuclear deterrent weapon until the Royal Navy started operating Polaris missile armed nuclear submarines....

 stand-off missiles were part of the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) force of the RAF. Two nuclear armed aircraft were permanently on 15 minutes readiness to take off. They were parked within 100 m (328.1 ft) of the westerly runway threshold. In times of higher tension, four bombers could be stationed beside the runway on the ORP (Operational Readiness Platform). If the aircraft were manned they could all be airborne within 30 seconds, a feat often demonstrated at V force stations across the country. Since the incoming missile warning from RAF Fylingdales
RAF Fylingdales
RAF Fylingdales is a Royal Air Force station on Snod Hill in the North York Moors, England. Its motto is "Vigilamus" . It is a radar base and part of the United States-controlled Ballistic Missile Early Warning System...

 BMEWS was only four minutes before impact this ensured if the country came under attack, the bombers would be scrambled and able to retaliate.

In 1968, the base became part of Strike Command
RAF Strike Command
The Royal Air Force's Strike Command was the military formation which controlled the majority of the United Kingdom's bomber and fighter aircraft from 1968 until 2007: it was merged with Personnel and Training Command to form the single Air Command. It latterly consisted of two formations - No. 1...

. From October 1972 until August 1976, there were two squadrons flying the Hawker Hunter
Hawker Hunter
The Hawker Hunter is a subsonic British jet aircraft developed in the 1950s. The single-seat Hunter entered service as a manoeuvrable fighter aircraft, and later operated in fighter-bomber and reconnaissance roles in numerous conflicts. Two-seat variants remained in use for training and secondary...

, which then moved to RAF Brawdy
RAF Brawdy
RAF Brawdy was a Royal Air Force station in South West Wales near to St David's.The Pembrokeshire base was officially opened on 2 February 1944 as a satellite station for the nearby RAF St. David's. On 1 January 1946 the station was handed over to the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy and was...

 in south Wales.


Since 1968, the station has been known as the Home of the Harrier, although the first Harriers arrived for No. 1 Sqn
No. 1 Squadron RAF
No. 1 Squadron is a squadron of the Royal Air Force. It operated the Harrier GR9 from RAF Cottesmore until 28 January 2011.The squadron motto is In omnibus princeps , appropriate for the RAF's oldest squadron and one that has been involved in almost every major British military operation since...

 in August 1969: the first squadron to have a vertical take off aircraft. The squadron left the base in August 2000. No. 4 (R) Sqn, formerly 233OCU, is currently at the base, having been at the base since October 1970.

In May 1971, four aircraft from 1 Sqn operated from HMS Ark Royal
HMS Ark Royal (R09)
HMS Ark Royal was an Audacious-class aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy and, when she was decommissioned in 1978, was the Royal Navy's last remaining conventional catapult and arrested-landing aircraft carrier...

, the first time the Harrier had operated from an aircraft carrier, under Wing Commander
Wing Commander (rank)
Wing commander is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries...

 (later Sir) Ken Hayr (later killed at the Biggin Hill airshow on 2 June 2001 in a de Havilland Vampire
De Havilland Vampire
The de Havilland DH.100 Vampire was a British jet-engine fighter commissioned by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Following the Gloster Meteor, it was the second jet fighter to enter service with the RAF. Although it arrived too late to see combat during the war, the Vampire served...

In 1982, six Harrier GR3 aircraft were taken down to the Falklands on SS Atlantic Conveyor, and survived the Exocet
The Exocet is a French-built anti-ship missile whose various versions can be launched from surface vessels, submarines, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Hundreds were fired in combat during the 1980s.-Etymology:...

 attack, later to board HMS Hermes
HMS Hermes (R12)
HMS Hermes was a Centaur-class British aircraft carrier, the last of the postwar conventional aircraft carriers commissioned into the Royal Navy.-Construction and modifications:...

 in May 1982. In June 1982, 12 GR3 aircraft were flown from Wittering, via RAF Ascension Island and mid-air refuelling with Victor tankers, on an 8,000 mile journey to the Falklands in 17 hours, which set an RAF record. The Harriers were from 1(F) Sqn. On 27 May 1982, Sqn Ldr (later Gp Capt) Bob Iveson was hit by anti-aircraft fire from GADA 601
GADA 601
The 601st Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group , historically known as GADA 601 is the main anti-aircraft artillery unit of the Argentine Army. Its headquarters are based just north of Mar del Plata. Its name was changed to GAA 601 Teniente General Pablo Ricchieri in 1999...

's 35mm cannon
Oerlikon 35 mm twin cannon
The Oerlikon 35 mm twin cannon is a towed anti-aircraft gun made by Oerlikon Contraves . The system was originally designated as 2 ZLA/353 ML but this was later changed to GDF-001...

, and he ejected seconds before his aircraft exploded in mid-air near Goose Green
Goose Green
Goose Green is a settlement in Lafonia on East Falkland in the Falkland Islands. It lies on Choiseul Sound, on the east side of the island's central isthmus, south-southwest of Darwin. With a population of about 70, it is the second largest settlement of the Falkland Islands.Goose Green has a shop...

. He evaded capture for two and a half days before being rescued by helicopter.

In January 1983, Sqn Ldr Brenda Palmer became the Senior Air Traffic Controller at the base, the first woman in the RAF to hold that title.

Towards the end of October 2010 parliament announced that the Harrier would be retired and on 15 December 2010 they were to fly over RAF Wittering amongst other RAF stations, from RAF Cottesmore
RAF Cottesmore
RAF Cottesmore was a Royal Air Force station in Rutland, England, situated between Cottesmore and Market Overton. The station housed all the operational Harrier GR9 squadrons in the Royal Air Force, and No 122 Expeditionary Air Wing...

. Due to the freezing conditions and low-cloud cover, the Wittering flypast could not take place.

RAF Regiment

From 1970 to 1983 the station was also home to No. 5 Wing RAF Regiment
RAF Regiment
The Royal Air Force Regiment is a specialist airfield defence corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. After a 32 week trainee gunner course, its members are trained and equipped to prevent a successful enemy attack in the first instance; minimise the damage caused by a successful attack; and...

 consisting of No.15 and No.51 Squadrons RAF Regiment. On 21 June 1982, the Queen visited the station, as part of celebrations of the RAF Regiment's 40th anniversary.

In October 2001 No.37 Squadron GBAD RAF Regiment arrived from RAF Bruggen
RAF Bruggen
The former Royal Air Force Station Brüggen, more commonly known as RAF Brüggen, in Germany was a major station of the Royal Air Force until 15 June 2001. It was situated next to the village of Elmpt, approximately west of Düsseldorf near the German-Netherlands border. The base was named after...

 but was later disbanded in March 2006.

Current use

It was announced in December 2009 that RAF Wittering was to become the sole operational base for the RAF/RN Harriers of Joint Force Harrier after the announcement that RAF Cottesmore was to close. However as a result of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review
Strategic Defence and Security Review
The Strategic Defence and Security Review was announced by the newly formed Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of the United Kingdom in May 2010, and published on 19 October 2010...

, the Harrier fleet was withdrawn in December 2010 with all of Wittering's Harriers being stored at RAF Cottesmore.
The station has re-roled to be the home of the 'A4 Force' (the Royal Air Force's Air Combat Service Support Units (ACSSUs)), with No 85 Expeditionary Logistics Wing and its subordinate ACSSUs, 2 MT Squadron and 3 Mobile Catering Squadron (formerly the Mobile Catering Support Unit (MCSU)) moving in from RAF Stafford. Elements of the Armament Support Unit (ASU) also returned to RAF Wittering from RAF Marham
RAF Marham
Royal Air Force Station Marham, more commonly known as RAF Marham, is a Royal Air Force station; a military airbase, near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia....

 in Norfolk to be part of the newly formed No 42 (Expeditionary Support) Wing, which also took 5001 Squadron under command from 85 Wing when that unit also relocated from RAF Stafford. The Ministry of Defence Hospital Unit (MDHU) based in Peterborough, continues to be attached to and parented by the Station. The station is also home to 3 Sqn RAF Regiment who moved to Wittering from RAF Aldergrove in 2006 after a 7 month tour in Iraq. 3 Sqn are part of No 1 Force Protection Wing, also based at Wittering, 1 FP Wing also consists of 504 Sqn Royal Auxiliary Air Force based at nearby RAF Cottesmore
RAF Cottesmore
RAF Cottesmore was a Royal Air Force station in Rutland, England, situated between Cottesmore and Market Overton. The station housed all the operational Harrier GR9 squadrons in the Royal Air Force, and No 122 Expeditionary Air Wing...


In November 2011 the Ministry of Defence announced that 44 Service personnel from HQ 12 (Air Support) Engineer Group, part of the Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

, will move from Waterbeach
Waterbeach is a large fen-edge village located 6 miles north of Cambridge in Cambridgeshire in England, and belongs to the administrative district of South Cambridgeshire. The parish covers an area of 23.26 km².- Village :...

 Barracks to RAF Wittering in the summer of 2013.


The station commander of RAF Wittering is currently Group Captain
Group Captain
Group captain is a senior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries. It ranks above wing commander and immediately below air commodore...

 Richard Knighton


RAF Wittering is also the birth place of the Royal Air Force Gliding & Soaring Association
Royal Air Force Gliding & Soaring Association
The Royal Air Force Gliding & Soaring Association is a British organisation which provides recreational flying to RAF personnel.-Purpose:The Royal Air Force Gliding & Soaring Association is a voluntary organisation which exists to provide recreational flying to all RAF servicemen and women, in...

's Four Counties Gliding Club, originally set up in March 1955. Following several relocations, the club returned to Wittering in late 2005. The RAFGSA East-Midlands Gliding Club was also based at Wittering during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

RAF Wittering is also HQ of the Air Training Corps
Air Training Corps
The Air Training Corps , commonly known as the Air Cadets, is a cadet organisation based in the United Kingdom. It is a voluntary youth group which is part of the Air Cadet Organisation and the Royal Air Force . It is supported by the Ministry of Defence, with a regular RAF Officer, currently Air...

 South East Midlands Wing.

Subordinate and lodger units

  • No. 42 (Expeditionary Support) Wing
    • No 71 (Inspection and Repair) Sqn
    • No 5001 Squadron
    • No 5131 (Bomb Disposal) Squadron
    • No 93 (Expeditionary Armaments) Sqn based at RAF Marham
      RAF Marham
      Royal Air Force Station Marham, more commonly known as RAF Marham, is a Royal Air Force station; a military airbase, near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia....

  • No 85 (Expeditionary Logistics (EL)) Wing
    • No 1 Expeditionary Logistics Sqn
    • No 2 Mechanical Transport Sqn
    • No 3 Mobile Catering Sqn
    • Joint Aircraft Recovery & Transportation Squadron (JARTS) [based at RAF St Athan]

  • No. 4 (Reserve) Squadron
  • Headquarters No 1 RAF Force Protection Wing
  • No. 3 Squadron RAF Regiment
    No. 3 Squadron RAF Regiment
    No. 3 Squadron RAF Regiment is a field squadron of the RAF Regiment in the Royal Air Force. Its mission is protection of RAF bases from ground attack.-Early history:...

  • Harrier Aerosystems Squadron
  • Low Flying Operations Squadron

Station Commanders

The Station Commander ordinariily holds the rank of Group Captain
Group Captain
Group captain is a senior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries. It ranks above wing commander and immediately below air commodore...

. The ranks shown below, where above Group Captain, indicates higher ranks the former station commanders achieved.

  • Air Cdre
    Air Commodore
    Air commodore is an air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

     Dudley Radford CB
    Order of the Bath
    The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

  • AVM
    Air Vice-Marshal
    Air vice-marshal is a two-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force. The rank is also used by the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence and it is sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in...

     Sir Alan Boxer
    Alan Boxer
    Air Vice-Marshal Sir Alan Boxer, KCVO CB DSO DFC was a senior Royal Air Force officer.A New Zealander, he took a series of short-term jobs in order to help the family finances, his father having died when he was nine, whilst managing to take flying lessons in his spare time...

  • Gp Capt
    Group Captain
    Group captain is a senior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries. It ranks above wing commander and immediately below air commodore...

     Leonard Trent
    Leonard Henry Trent
    Group Captain Leonard Henry Trent VC DFC was a New Zealander recipient of the Victoria Cross, the most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces....

    Victoria Cross
    The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

    Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom)
    The Distinguished Flying Cross is a military decoration awarded to personnel of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and other services, and formerly to officers of other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against...

  • AVM John Lawrence CB 1962-4
  • AVM Paul Mallorie CB 1967-8
  • AVM Peter Williamson CB CBE
    Order of the British Empire
    The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

     DFC 1969-70
  • AVM Alan Merriman CB CBE 1970-2
  • Gp Capt IH Kepple 1972-
  • Air Mshl
    Air Marshal
    Air marshal is a three-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

     Sir Laurence Jones
    Laurence Jones
    Air Marshal Sir Laurence Alfred Jones KCB AFC RAF was a senior Royal Air Force commander.-RAF career:Educated at Trinity School, Jones joined the Royal Air Force in 1951. He was made Officer Commanding No. 8 Squadron in 1961 and Officer Commanding No. 92 Squadron in 1967...

  • AVM David Brook CBE 1976-8
  • AVM Peter Dodworth CB OBE March 1983- February 1985
  • AVM Peter Millar CB February 1985- 1986
  • AVM John Feesey 1986-8
  • Gp Capt JH Thompson 1988-
  • Gp Capt J Connolly 1995-7
  • Air Chief Marshal
    Air Chief Marshal
    Air chief marshal is a senior 4-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

     Chris Moran
    Chris Moran
    Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Hugh "Chris" Moran, KCB, OBE, MVO, ADC, FRAeS , was a fast jet pilot and later a senior commander in the Royal Air Force...

  • Gp Capt AFP Dezonie 1999-2001
  • Gp Capt A Kirkpatrick 2001-3
  • Gp Capt M Jenkins 2003-5
  • Air Commodore
    Air Commodore
    Air commodore is an air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

     Ashley Stevenson
    Ashley Stevenson
    Air Commodore Ashley David Stevenson OBE ADC RAF is a senior serving Royal Air Force Officer and is currently Commandant Royal Air Force College Cranwell.- Military career :...

     2005 - November 2006
  • Gp Capt Ro Atherton
    Ro Atherton
    Group Captain Ro Atherton MA RAF is a serving Royal Air Force Officer.With a logistics background, Atherton joined the RAF at 17 in 1979 and completed training at RAF Henlow....

    November 2006 - June 2008 (Wittering's first female commander)
  • Gp Capt Paul Higgins June 2008 - December 2009
  • Gp Captain Richard Knighton December 2009 -

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