A VISIT TO WATTISHAM
A PARTY of boys and two Masters visited the R.A.F. fighter base at Wattisham on November 24th, 1955. The day was bright although occasional showers persisted. We left the School at 1.45 p.m. and, although the ride was not as long as expected, we did not arrive until 2.30 p.m. The entrance was recognised at once by a souvenir of the Battle of Britain - a Spitfire S.M.411.
We were welcomed at the Headquarters by a flying-officer, who showed us various places of interest. After a short meeting in the briefing room of 257 Burma Squadron, we made our way out of the building. To our delight, a camouflaged Hunter F.2 of 263 Squadron taxied past. The pilot waved to us as the cockpit canopy had been pushed back. A few moments later there was a roar, and the next thing we knew, the plane had left the runway. Turning round, we noticed a long line of Meteor night fighters, Marks 11 and 14, of 152 Squadron.
Our attention was then attracted by the officer who accompanied us to the Meteorological Office and Control Tower. We went upstairs and found ourselves in a room littered with maps and pictures. We were first shown the weather forecast sheet with expected weather conditions. Then the officer introduced us to the system of communicating with, and finding out the location of, pilots. I am not quite sure whether we understood everything, but we got the general idea.
After this lecture on Meteorology, we went up on to the roof of the Control Tower. Hunters and Meteors were continually taking off and landing. There were also Radar machines at the ends of the runway. To our right we noticed a large area of stone with the recognition letters WT (Wattisham) and a T-shaped figure denoting in which direction the runway was being used at the time. The letters WT are to enable the pilot to know the name of the station from the air. These signs are visible from a great height.
Leaving the roof, we went into the Control Room. Here we stayed for a few minutes watching the operator communicating with pilots. We went straight from here to the hangar of No. 257 Squadron. We saw a Hunter F.2 being repaired in three parts; the tailplane, the engine (Armstrong-Siddley Sapphire) and the remaining part, namely the nose and wings. The planel had the ejection seat removed and it was parked against the wall (with the cartridge removed). The flying officer told us stories of the seat and how it works. It is the best in the world, made by Martin-Baker, and the Americans are quite envious of it. Then we moved over to another Hunter of the same squadron, this time in one part, on the other side of the hangar. We took it in turns to look inside the cockpit, where the flying officer sat explaining the instruments. While this was going on, some of us went outside the hangar where a Meteor F.8 was turning round after coming in after a landing. It was pleasant to feel the blast of hot air in our faces on this wintry afternoon. When we had all looked inside the cockpit, we moved to another hangar, where numerous Meteors were being repaired. Noses, tanks and engines had been removed and showed many of the complicated electrical components of the aircraft.
A quarter of an hour having elapsed, Mr. Richardson informed us that it was time to leave. Reluctantly we departed in the School van, carefully eyeing the Spitfire as we went out. We arrived back at school about 5.20 p.m., feeling what a good afternoon we had had, thanks to Mr. Richardson and Mr. Rowland.
I. SUTER and N. O'LOUGHLIN (IIIA)