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WSH Documentary Updates - Wattisham Station Heritage Airfield Museum

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WSH Documentary Updates

Documentary History
The Documentary is nearing completion...
Documentary Update
Its been some time since we reported on the progress of the documentary 
"Wattisham from Both Sides of the Fence" but we are very pleased to report that we are nearly there!

Many more interviews have been carried out covering a wide variety of topics which will help us bring the documentary to a conclusion. Viewpoint Production are now starting the complex process of editing all the many hours of film which have been taken over the last two and a half years since we started this mamouth project.

We are aiming to have the documentary finished and ready for release by the end of September 2017. This date was chosen because it will be exactly 80 years since the base then known as RAF Wattisham started being constructed in 1937 since then the base has undergone many changes all of which have been documented all the way up to the present time with the base now being occupied by the Army and is now refered to as Wattisham Flying Station and is the home of the Apache Helicopter Attack Force.

The base continues to evolve and we have been privileged to have been allowed to document and film events which represent the ever changing face of Wattisham Flying Station such as the last Sea King SAR Squadron to be based here also we been able to film and interview the National Police Air Service which is leaving Wattisham at the end of March 2017.

To give you a flavour of the range of topics covered, below is a small sample of the stories which we have recently filmed for the production.
  • We interviewed – Tim Smith from the USA whose grandfather Maryon served as an aircraft technician at the 4th Strategic Air Depot, and was befriended by a local family who treated them as their ‘son’. Maryon also met a local lady who became a ‘war bride’, and spent the rest of her life happily married in the USA.

  • Wing Cdr Mark Manwaring, navigator of Phantom XT914, Wattisham’s display Phantom ahead decommission of the aircraft type nationwide in 1992.

  • A lady who was the wife of a Gloster Meteor pilot at Wattisham in the 1950’s who eloquently described life and times of post war Wattisham from a female perspective. Very sadly this lady passed away shortly after being filmed.

  • The very last RAF station commander at Wattisham, historically handing the station over to the army.

  • The last flying RAF unit to leave Wattisham, B Flt SAR.

  • United States Army Air force former pilots and ground crew reminisce about their aircraft and missions from Wattisham during the second world war.

  • Jack Johnson, a local boy who during the war years observed tragic events on and around the airfield during the war, and post war years.

  • Steve Taylor Snr, whose father lost his life close to the airfield in the late 1950’s whilst carrying out a demonstration flying a Gloster Javelin, he was a USAF exchange pilot

  • Recollections of the many Royal visits and ‘tales from the Mess’

  • The present AHF Commander, and the Station Staff Officer give unique interviews.

  • Life as groundcrew with an English Electric Lightning engineer, during the 1960’s.

  • Mike Bettell, flew both the Lightning and the Phantom at Wattisham, and settled in Suffolk.
  • Interviews with the National Police Air Service.
  • Aviation artist Geoff Pleasance and Dave Eade recall their teenage years attending the magnificent air shows put on by RAF Wattisham in the 50’s 60’s and 70’s

We have a few areas we would like cover in a little more depth and would like to appeal to our followers to come forward in order that we may interview anyone who worked at
  • Anglia Radar in the 1950’/60’s,
  • Female civilians who worked at Wattisham in the 50’s 60s and 70’s, equally any WAAF’s surviving who were stationed at RAF Wattisham.

If you would like to contribute to this documentary with any of the above then please contact us via our contact page.
A Trip down Memory Lane....
Wattisham Station Heritage had a visit from Tim Smith who is the grandson of the late Technical Sergeant Maryon Smith who was based at the 4th Strategic Air Depot, at Wattisham during World War 2.
Tim and his family wanted to take this journey down memory lane to get a better understanding of where his grandfather lived and worked during his service during the war.
Tim was interviewed for our upcoming documentary and you can listen to an audio extract by clicking on the picture on the right.
Click on a picture to enlarge
On this page our followers will be able to update themselves with the progress being made during the documentarys production.  Viewpoint Productions came to Wattisham on the 3rd of May 2015 to start fillming the first interviewees.

Why not Bookmark this page in your web browser and follow the progress of this facinating production.
31st August... New Documentary Updates
A great deal has been happening with the making of the Wattisham documentary since we last updated this page in May this year with many more interviews being carried out with fascinating people who served or worked on Wattisham airfield reliving their memories and experiences.    We have also taken some unique video of Beating Retreat at Wattisham Flying Station a ceremony which has never been filmed here at Wattisham before.

Another scoop was being the only civilian camera crew allowed to film the very last Sea Kings leaving Wattisham thus ending 75 years of the RAF on station and interviews with the air crew, we are in fact amassing a number of firsts whilst making this unique documentary.  

In addition to filming the above we are filming some exciting re-enactment scenes which illustrate some interesting stories which will go into this production, take a look at some pictures depicting some of the recent interviews and events since our last update.

Click on the pictures to enlarge
22nd May 2015...Interviews with Ian Neilson and Ken Hayward
Click on the pictures to enlarge
Ian Neilson is a 95 year old former Leading Aircraftsmen Ian Neilson BEM, was an engine fitter on Blenheim Bombers at RAF Wattisham the very week the Second World War was declared. Ian maintained the Bristol Mercury engines on Mk 1V Blenheims, of 107 sqn, and recalled the day when ten Blenheims took off for the first bombing raid of the war, and the fact that only half the aircraft returned, the remainder having been shot down over the target. After serving at RAF Wattisham, Ian went with his sqn to serve in the Far East. For his outstanding service Ian was awarded the British Empire Medal, and was mentioned twice in Dispatches.

Ken Hayward was a crash fireman at Wattisham for seven years starting in 1963 and has some facinating stories to tell about what life was like on a front line RAF base during the cold war period.
7th May 2015... Filming the Bristol Blenheim
Click on the pictures to enlarge
We can not tell the Wattisham story without including the Bristol Blenheim Bomber which is why we are here at The Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford Airfield who have just completed the restoration of a Mk 1 Blenheim to airworthy status and have allowed us to bring the professional film crew from Viewpoint Productions to film the aircraft in flight and interview the Managing Director and Chief Pilot, John Romain who will fly the Blenheim for us today and also interview a 95 year old veteran retired Squadron Leader Ian Blair who has some remarkable stories to tell.

On the 6th April 1939 Wing Commander O R Gayford DFC AFC took command of the station and on the 11th May 1939 Bristol Blenheim Mk 1 bombers of 107 and 110 squadrons arrived under No. 2 Group Bomber Command. Within a few months both squadrons had replaced their Blenheim Mk1’s for Mk IV’s. 
Germany invaded Poland on 1st September 1939.     At noon a signal was received directing RAF Wattisham so assume complete war readiness. No 2 Group had implemented a 'Scatter Plan', which involved dispersal of half the squadron's aircraft. 110 Sqn deployed to Ipswich Airport, while 107 sqn remained at Wattisham.    War was declared on 3rd September. The following day Blenheims of 107  and 110 sqn delivered the very
first Bomber Command mission  of the second world war,  delivering bombs on enemy shipping at Wilhelmshaven.

Wattisham Airfield played a pivotal roll in the first bombing operations during World War II and we tell this and many more stories in this documentary.
Video of the Blenheim Flying
Blenheim Bomber Slide Show
This slide show is automatic, but you can click on the chevrons either side of the large picture to go forward or backwards.
3rd May... Filming begins for the Wattisham Documentary
The 3rd of May 2015 was a very special day for Wattisham Station Heritage, for it marked the start of filming for the broadcast quality documentary being produced and filmed by Viewpoint Productions entitled "Wattisham From Both Sides Of The Fence" 

The day was taken up by filming two interviews, one was with Peter Botwright who piloted the very first jet aircraft to be stationed at Wattisham in 1952, during his time at Wattisham Peter flew mainly the Gloster Meteor and the Gloster Javelin aircraft.

Peter was met at the museum by Maggie Aggiss the museums curator who gave Peter a guided tour of the museum and listened to the fascinating stories which Peter recalled from his memories during his time stationed at Wattisham such as the Coronation Flypast.

The main interview was carried out in the Officers Mess where Maggie asked the questions.

The day concluded with the second interview with Fred Pratt of Brickhouse Farm Naughton who shared his thoughts and experiences with regards to the arrival of the Americans in 1943. He told how the family were forced to hand over land for the construction of the Air Depot for servicing aircraft and also a hospital.

Click on the pictures to enlarge
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