Wattisham Station Heritage Museum

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Wattisham was completed in 1939 for use by the Royal Air Force and became home to 107 Sqn and 110 Sqn equipped with the Bristol Blenheim light bombers. It was from Wattisham that on the 4th September 1939, just 29 hours after the outbreak of the Second World War, Blenheim’s flew the first offensive sorties against shipping at Wilhelmshaven Harbour.

Wattisham was a temporary home to various RAF units and detachments throughout the early part of the war, however with the entry of America into the war Wattisham was assigned to the USAAF as AAF Station 377 with the first American personnel arriving in May 1942. Further construction work began to bring the station up to the typical Class A standard for use as a heavy bomber station, however it was apparent there were already enough bomber stations so work ceased, leaving one main runway while the other two remained incomplete, and it would be used as an air depot and fighter station. Wattisham was formally handed over to the USAAF on 8th May 1943 and became home to the  4th Strategic Air Depot tasked with the maintenance of all 8th Air Force fighter aircraft.

Wattisham P-38J

On the 15th May the 479th Fighter Group (nicknamed “Riddles Raiders” after their CO Lt Col Kyle Riddle) also arrived at Wattisham equipped with the P-38 Lightning and flew their first mission 26th May 1944, a fighter sweep off the Dutch coast. The 479th were primarily assigned to escort and fighter sweeps missions, however they patrolled the beach heads during the D-Day landings and continued to provide support during the Normandy breakout, as well as other major ground offensives such as operation Market Garden in Holland. After converting to the P-51 Mustang in December 1944 they flew escort and offensive missions in support of the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes and area patrols to support the airborne attack across the Rhine in March 1945.

The 479th received a Distinguished Unit Citation for the destruction of numerous aircraft on airfields in France on 18th August and another on 5th September during a major aerial battle near Munster on 26th September.  By the cessation of hostilities, the 479th had flown a total of 200 missions with the loss of 76 aircraft.



After World War Two the station was returned to the RAF where it played a vital role in the air defence of the United Kingdom throughout the Cold War equipped with Meteors, Hunters, Javelins, Lightnings, and finally the F-4 Phantom. With the Cold War over, the station was handed over to the British Army for use as a helicopter base in 1993 and today flies the WAH-64 Apache its squadrons providing and essential component of No. 16 Air Assault Brigade.

Despite being an operation airfield, Wattisham has a museum that was established in the 1990’s in the former station church. As well as a wealth of information and British artefacts there are a number of USAAF artefacts displayed within the museum as part of a wider collection that tells the story of Wattisham from its earliest days through to its current use as an Army helicopter base.

Please note that this museum is located on an active military base so if you wish to visit the museum you MUST book 3 days in advance via the museum website.

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Wattisham Flying Station
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