Open main menu

Royal Air Force Wildenrath, commonly known as RAF Wildenrath, was a Royal Air Force military airbase near Wildenrath in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany that operated from 1952 to 1992. Wildenrath was the first of four 'Clutch' stations built for the RAF in Germany during the early 1950s. It opened on 15 January 1952, and was followed by RAF Geilenkirchen on 24 May 1953, RAF Brüggen in July 1953 and RAF Laarbruch that opened on 15 October 1954. RAF Wildenrath, RAF Brüggen and RAF Laarbruch were close to each other and came under the auspices of NATO's Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2ATAF).

RAF Wildenrath
Active15 January 1952 – 1 April 1992
CountryGermany
AllegianceUK: British Armed Forces
BranchRoyal Air Force
TypeFlying station
RoleFighter attack and air defence
Part ofRAF Second Tactical Air Force,
then Royal Air Force Germany
Garrison/HQWildenrath, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Motto(s)Immer Bereit ([German] Always ready /ever prepared)
Royal Air Force EnsignAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
MarchRoyal Air Force March Past
EquipmentEnglish Electric Canberra,
Phantom FGR.2,
Harrier,
Bloodhound missiles
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Gp Capt JE "Johnnie" Johnson
RAF Wildenrath
Summary
Airport typeMilitary (Airport no longer in operation)
Ownerformerly: Ministry of Defence
Operatorformerly: Royal Air Force
LocationWildenrath, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Coordinates51°06′52″N 006°13′18″E / 51.11444°N 6.22167°E / 51.11444; 6.22167Coordinates: 51°06′52″N 006°13′18″E / 51.11444°N 6.22167°E / 51.11444; 6.22167
Map
RAF Wildenrath is located in Germany
RAF Wildenrath
RAF Wildenrath
Location in Germany
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
was asphalt, now removed

Contents

RAF serviceEdit

 
Visiting SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1 of No. 2 Squadron RAF parked on the flight line during "Tactical Air Meet '78" at RAF Wildenrath, on 15 May 1978

In 1953, the Station Commander was Group Captain JE "Johnnie" Johnson – a top-scoring British "Ace" fighter pilot of the Second World War. There were two Canadair Sabre F.4 squadrons (Nos 67 and 71 Squadrons RAF), and a Sabre conversion flight. Also on site were 724 Signals Unit (Fighter control radar) 402 Air Stores Park, a unit of the RAF Regiment and an Army detachment that maintained land lines (AFS).

On 15 Jan 1956 88 Sqdn reformed with B(I).8 Canberras at Wildenrath and was renumbered 14 Sqdn on 17 Dec 1962. (Reference 88 Sqdn history)

In the late 1950s to 1970, Wildenrath was home to Nos. 14 and 17 Squadrons; the former flew B(I).8 Canberras, and was part of the 2nd ATAF tactical nuclear strike force. The locations of their quick-readiness dispersals can still be seen to the south of the former main gate. No. 17 Squadron flew the PR.7 Canberra, and the two squadrons' "in house" T.4 training aircraft were combined into the so-called "T4 Flight" as a separate sub-unit, forming a useful additional resource for 2ATAF senior officers to use to maintain their flying hours. In the early 1960s, 88 Squadron Canberras were also based at Wildenrath. The base was also used for 'CasEvac' (emergency casualty evacuations) usually to the UK. In November 1956 the RAF operated a three day airlift to fly over 100 tons of humanitarian relief supplies from Wildenrath to Vienna for the Red Cross to distribute in Hungary during the Hungarian uprising, before the revolt was ended with Soviet military intervention.[1]

In 1960, the Station Commander was Group Captain "Bats" Barthold and 17 Squadron was commanded by Wing Commander Dugald "Buster" Lumsden, who accepted the squadron's colours presented by Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Dermot Boyle. At this time, the commanding officer of 2ATAF (former Battle of Britain fighter pilot, Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris) had a Vickers Valetta aircraft as his personal transport, its lower fuselage and wings kept highly polished by the ground-crew of the RAF Germany Communication Flight. The aircraft was eventually declared un-airworthy due to many of its rivet-heads having been polished off. It can be seen today in the RAF Museum at Hendon, London. The RAFG Communications Flight later in 1969 adopted the identity of 60 Squadron, which had disbanded as a Gloster Javelin squadron at RAF Tengah in Singapore the previous year.

In the 1970s, Wildenrath served as the initial home of the RAF "Harrier Force" which included Numbers 3, 4 and 20 Squadrons as well as 21(AS) Signal Regiment. In 1974-5 the Wildenrath station commander was Group Captain Patrick "Paddy" Hine, who later rose to Air Chief Marshal and Joint Commander of all British forces during the Gulf War.[2]

1976-77 saw Wildenrath's role within RAF Germany change as it became home to the command's air defence squadrons with 19 Sqn and 92 Sqn's moving in from Gutersloh, having converted from the English Electric Lightning to the F-4 Phantom and taking advantage of the Phantom's longer range. 3 and 4 squadrons went the other way, moving to Gutersloh, while 20 Squadron stood down from the Harrier, reforming at RAF Bruggen with the SEPECAT Jaguar.

While nominally a communication and light transport squadron, 60 Sqn also had a secondary, covert, role. Initially using the Hunting Percival Pembrokes and later the Hawker Siddeley Andover from the mid-to-late 1980s, they were employed to take photographs of Soviet and East German armed forces while flying along the Berlin air corridors. It also operated DH Devon and DH Heron aircraft. In addition to its other overt and covert functions, 60 Squadron also acted as visiting aircraft flight for Wildenrath, hosting almost every type of RAF and NATO aircraft and civilian "trooper" BAC-111s and Boeing 737s.

Wildenrath was also home to an Army Air Corps flight operating light helicopters and fixed wing aircraft such as the Westland Scout and De Havilland Beaver. The flight had its own hangar facilities on the base and various flight designations throughout its tenancy. Known initially as 12 Independent Liaison Flight it then was renamed to 31 flight, then 131 Flight Royal Corps of Transport (ex RASC), No. 669 Squadron AAC, and then in its last colours with a return to the 12 Flight title. The flight was manned by members of the corps under which the flight was named with the REME providing the technical servicing and maintenance of the aircraft.

On 1 May 1988 two airmen from the RAF Regiment squadron based at RAF Wildenrath were attacked by armed assailants whilst sitting in a car in the nearby Dutch town of Roermond. One of the airmen died from gunshot wounds, the other was seriously injured.

In October 1989 an RAF corporal and his infant daughter were shot dead at the petrol station in Wildenrath village, outside the RAF base. The IRA claimed that it was responsible for the murders.[3]

Wildenrath had five dispersals around the single runway. Alpha and Echo were not used in the normal flying operations of the station. No 19 Squadron operated from one of the 3 dispersals on the far side of the airfield designated 'Bravo Dispersal'. It also housed the two operational 'Battle Flights' for both fighter squadrons. No 92 Squadron flew from 'Delta Dispersal' with both squadrons using the hardened shelters in 'Charlie Dispersal' for spare space to house Phantoms when necessary. Charlie Dispersal was also used by cross-trained 60 Squadron ground crew to turn around visiting aircraft during station exercises. The taxiway that ran parallel to the main runway and linked the three dispersals was used as the alternate runway for emergencies if the main runway was compromised. Alpha Dispersal was the site used for the Bloodhound launchers and Echo Dispersal housed the fuel and lubricants storage section. 60 Sqn operated from the hangar close to the main Squadron Servicing hangar on the 'Soft Side' of the airbase.

Wildenrath closed as a flying base on 1 April 1992. The last flying squadron still present at that time, No 60 Squadron, moved to the nearby RAF Brüggen.

Wildenrath squadronsEdit

RAF Wildenrath todayEdit

Since 1997 the original airfield and immediate environs comprise the Test and validation centre, Wegberg-Wildenrath, a facility for testing railway vehicles operated by Siemens AG.[4] By 2007, the railway test tracks had taken over considerable areas of the airfield. All but the western threshold and overrun of the runway has been obliterated, and the eastern runway threshold is now a golf course, rather than the site of Bloodhound surface to air missiles. The north-east dispersal is completely taken over by sidings, workshops and shunting loops. Of the southern dispersals, the central and eastern are bisected by the main railway oval test track. The south western dispersal and Hardened Aircraft Shelters have been removed, with the surviving taxiways being used for recreational purposes by local residents.

The housing areas of the former RAF Wildenrath were used to accommodate UK military personnel until the end of September 2012, when the land was formally handed back to German local authorities. Since 2015 the former married quarters have been used as temporary accommodation for refugees, under the name 'Siedlung Petersholz' (Petersholz Estate) within the 'Zentrale Unterbringseinrichtung Wegberg' (Wegberg Central Accommodation Facility).[5][6]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Service Aviation: Airlift to Hungary" (PDF). Flight. Reed Business Information Limited: 836. 23 November 1956. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Air Chief Marshal Sir Patrick Hine" (PDF). The Journal of the Royal Air Force Historical Society (16): 99. 1996. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  3. ^ "Gunmen Slay British Soldier and 6-Month-Old Daughter". AP News. The Associated Press. 27 October 1989. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Test- and Validationcenter Wegberg-Wildenrath". Siemens Mobility. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  5. ^ Wichlatz, Helmut (18 September 2015). "Wegberg-Petersholz: Die ersten Flüchtlinge haben Quartier bezogen". Aachener Zeitung (in German). Zeitungsverlag Aachen GmbH. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  6. ^ Backhaus, Anke (4 December 2015). "Bis zu 1200 Menschen sollen in Petersholz unterkommen". Rheinische Post (in German). RP Digital GmbH. Retrieved 20 May 2019.