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Military site : airfield

Built in 1939 as a medium bomber station with a grass airfield, Watton was occupied by the RAF until handed over to the Eighth Air Force in mid-1943. Improved initially with a single steel mat runway in 1943, plus 41 loop and 12 pan hardstandings, a single concrete runway was laid in 1944. The original four C hangars were supplemented by two B1, three T2 and three blister hangars. Expanded to become the 3rd Strategic Air Depot, responsible for overhaul and repair of the B-24s operated by the 2nd Air Division, the Air Depot complex was built in the village of Griston on the southern edge of Watton airfield, although was named officially Neaton. The 802nd Reconnaissance Group (Provisional), later the 25th Bomb Group (Reconnaissance), equipped with B-17s, B-24s and Mosquito XVIs, shared the airfield with the Air Depot from April 1944 to July 1945. Its three component squadrons conducted weather reconnaissance, weather scouting, photographic reconnaissance and other special duty missions in enemy air space. The Air Depot closed in July 1945 and the station was handed back to the RAF in September 1945. It became home to the Radio Warfare Establishment, later the Central Signals Establishment, and then one of the five units in the joint military/civil National Air Traffic Services Organisation. The airfield closed in the 1970s and the station was handed over to the British Army in the 1990s. The northern part of the site was sold in 1995 for development of a new housing estate, and most of the airfield was sold in 2012 to new private owners for return to agriculture and other development.

Detailed history

Not yet known

English Heritage's record description

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  • Raymond Armstrong

    Military | Master Sergeant | Radar Technician | 25th Bomb Group
    KIFA aircraft de Havilland DH98 Mosquito NS538 exploded mid-air near Newmarket/Kennet during test flight.

  • James Birch

    Military | Sergeant | Aircraft Mechanic

  • Warren Borges

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 306th Bomb Group The Reich Wreckers
    He flew 35 missions from May/June to December 1944 in the 306th BG. Then flew Mosquitos Mark XVI from December 1944 to August 1945 for photo and Weather Recon in the 25th BG, 653/654 BS.

  • Rolland Bushner

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 25th Bomb Group
    Missions: 1944 - Aug 9 Saarbrucken; 12 Mourmelon sur Marne; 14 Dole/Tauaux/ 16 Madgeburg; 24 Hanover; 26 Dulmen; 30 Mainz; Sep 9 Mainz; 10 Ulm; 11 Madgeburg; Oct 5 Lippstadt; 7 Madgeburg; 9 Koblenz; 22 Hamm; 26 Bottrop; 30 Hamburg; Nov 5 Karlsruhe; 10...

  • John Carter

    Military | Pilot | 25th Bomb Group

  • Vance Chipman

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Pilot | 25th Bomb Group
    On 1 November 1944, Chipman took part in an H2X (Mickey) mission to Schweinfurt, Germany. His Mosquito aircraft was downed by fighters and he was taken as a Prisoner of War. After the war he said he tried to escape by stealing an ME109.

  • William Clark

    Military | Repair and maintenance engineer
    WILLIAM CLARK, AMES, IOWA, graduated from Iowa State College at Ames, Iowa, and was employed as an engineer with a company in Moline, Illinois, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 casting America into World War II....

  • Keith Clinton

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Gunner | 25th Bomb Group
    Assigned to 652BS, 25BG, 8AF USAAF. On 9-May-44 the mission to the Azores was routine until the last leg. Just out from Land's End when all hell broke loose. There was a terrible metal ripping sound and some explosions. Bullets and 20mm shells ripped...

  • Richard Clounch

    Military | Captain | Pilot | 25th Bomb Group
    KIFA struck barrage balloon cable during landing at Grave's End, piloting Mosquito NS558.

  • Troy Crawford

    Military | Colonel | Pilot | 446th Bomb Group
    Attached to Mountbatten's staff, June to August 1942. POW on 4 Apr 1945. Mosquito NS635 command pilot flight over Germany. A/C shot down when mistaken by B-24 gunners as enemy A/C. his own 446th BG shot him down.

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  • 42-30212 Quarterback

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 29/4/43; Sioux City 14/5/43; Smoky Hill 11/6/43; Dow Fd 16/6/43; Assigned 562BS/388BG Knettishall 17/6/43; transferred Aphrodite project, Missing in Action V-sites, Watten 6/8/44 with Lt Joeseph P Andrecheck & T/Sgt Raymond Healy (2...

  • 42-3095 'Peggy Ann'

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 26-Jan-43; Pueblo 1-Feb-43; Dow Field, Bangor, Maine 10-Jun-43; Assigned 412BS/95BG [QW-Z] Horham 2-Jul-43; 14m, (force landed Eye AF 22/2/44), transferred SAD 1-Mar-44; 94BG Rougham 25-Jul-43; 25BG Watton 1-Apr-44; 2 BAD 19-Jun-44;...

  • 42-31674

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 6/12/43; Kearney 8/1/44; Detroit 26/1/44; Grenier 30/1/44; Assigned 652BS/25BG Watton 31/1/44; Salvaged n/battle damaged 29/5/45.

  • 42-31736

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 11/12/43; Gr Island 24/12/43; Detroit 25/1/44; Presque Is 30/1/44; Assigned 652BS/25BG Watton 325Photo Wing 5/2/44; crashed on take off for weather recon to Azores 6/6/44 with Clarry Stephenson, Co-pilot: Joe Ward, Navigator: Gene...

  • 42-3259 Snafu, Alabama Whirlwind

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Denver 13/4/43; Cheyenne 16/4/43; Dow Fd 30/4/43; Assigned 332BS/94BG [XM-D] SNAFU Earls Colne 10/5/43; Rougham 13/6/43; transferred 546BS/384BG [BK-N] Grafton Underwood 16/7/43; 545BS [JD-T]; 2 SAD Lt Staughton 31/12/43; Shipdam Afd 1/3/44;...

  • 42-3465 'Wee Bonnie'

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Denver 28/6/43; Presque Is 17/8/43; Assigned 412BS/95BG [QW-N] Horham 30/8/43; force landed Bassingbourn Afd 16/10/43; force landed RAF Friston 30/11/43 with James W Conley (7 Returned to Duty), Navigator: Robert J Fogarty, Bombardier: Royal...

  • 42-39906 Squat ‘N Droppit

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Long Beach 5/10/43; Gr Island 31/10/43; Assigned 535BS/381BG [MS-X] Ridgewell 20/12/43; 9m after a training mission 15/4/44 was taxying on base, pilot cut #1 and #2, fire crews arrived but ship burst into flames on #1 and #2 engines and wing;...

  • NS-311

    On August 7, 1944, Mosquito NS311 was on H2X photography (MICKEY) mission to Salzburgen, Germany. Crashed at Wycombe Marsh just outside High Wycombe after returning from Normandy beaches. Pilot and navigator initially listed as Missing in Action (MIA)...

  • NS509

    Shot down over Emkendorf, northen Germany, during a blue stocking, weather mission. 21st Jan 45. Friendly fire, from P-51 Mustang, port engine knocked, Observer was wounded and rendered unconscious, whist A/C in spin, pilot managed to hook on the...

  • NS533

    Misidentified and shot down by a USAAF P-51 of the 357th Fighter Group at about 11:45 hrs. The Mustang pilot and his wingman climbed to engage from 23,000 feet and the Mosquito spun in from 29,000 feet. In the after action reports, both P-51 pilots...

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Date Contributor Update
04 January 2015 12:53:57 Al_Skiff Changes to aircraft associations

USAAF Photo.

Date Contributor Update
02 January 2015 13:08:40 Al_Skiff Changes to aircraft associations

USAAF Photo.

Date Contributor Update
30 December 2014 07:25:59 Al_Skiff Changes to aircraft associations

Date Contributor Update
30 December 2014 07:08:09 Al_Skiff Changes to aircraft associations

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:02:18 AAM AAM ingest

Barry Anderson, Army Air Forces Stations (Alabama, 1985) / Roger Freeman, Airfields of the Eighth Then And Now (London, 1978)

Roger Freeman, Mighty Eighth War Manual (2nd edn, London, 2001)

Michael Bowyer, Action Stations 1: Wartime Military Airfields of East Anglia 1939-1945 (Cambridge, 1979)