RAF Wyton

In times of heightened international tension, the V-force, already loaded with their nuclear weapons, could be flown from their main base to a further 26 dispersal bases, where they could be kept at a few minutes readiness to take-off. The bases were situated around the United Kingdom in such a way that a nuclear strike by an attacking state could not completely knock out Britain’s ability to retaliate. Thankfully the dispersal bases were only used during exercises.

The station’s badge and motto “Verum Exquiro” – “Seek Out the Truth”

Approved by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1956

RAF Wyton is a Royal Air Force Station based near St. Ives in Cambridgeshire. It is a Joint Force Command Station and home to the Joint Force Intelligence Group and the National Centre for Geospatial Intelligence, which provide intelligence support to the Armed Forces deployed on operations around the globe.

The area around Wyton has been associated with aviation since 1912, a period that embraces almost the entire history of aviation…

The Airfield at Wyton first became associated with the Armed Forces in 1916, when the Royal Flying Corps began training pilots at the Station. On 1 April 1918 the Royal Air Force was formed and Wyton continued to train units for overseas operations.

The first sortie of World War Two took off from RAF Wyton on 3 September 1939 and Wyton aircraft took part in the last Bomber Command raid on Germany in April 1945. The legendary Pathfinder Force was created on 15 August 1942 and RAF Wyton was chosen to be the Headquarters as well as one of the Flying Stations. The Pathfinders were target-marking squadrons in RAF Bomber Command during World War II. They located and marked targets with flares, which a main bomber force could aim at, increasing the accuracy of their bombing. In August 1945 the Pathfinder Force disbanded.

After the war Wyton became home to the Strategic Reconnaissance Force, adding English Electric Canberra to the aircraft flown. Vickers Valiants, modified for reconnaissance, moved there in 1955 and a Handley Page Victor in 1959. Provision was made to store nuclear weapons if necessary.

The Victor belonged to a separate Radar Reconnaissance Flight to supplement the work of the Vickers Valiants of 543 Sqn. The Canberras of 58 Sqn were a mix of PR7 and PR 9s. The Canberras were specially equipped for vertical and oblique photography by day and night, as were the Valiants, which had additional facilities for Radar Reconnaissance.

Also based at RAF Wyton were the T17 and T17A Canberras of 360 Sqn, which were the only joint RAF and Royal Navy Squadron specialising in electronic countermeasure (ECM) training.

In April 1975 the last of the Victor aircraft departed. Throughout the next two decades Canberra units came and went with the final squadron, No 39 (1 Photo Reconnaissance Unit), leaving in November 1993.

Other residents at RAF Wyton were 100 Sqn with a mixture of Canberra types in the Targeting Role. Also resident but “never officially present” were the three Nimrod R1s belonging to 51 Sqn used in the Elint and Sigint role – Signals intelligence (SIGINT) is intelligence-gathering by interception of signals, whether communications between people or from electronic signals not directly used in communication (electronic intelligence – ELINT).

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