Royal Air Force Coltishall, more commonly known as RAF Coltishall (IATA: CLF, ICAO: EGYC), is a former Royal Air Force station located 10 miles (16 km) North-North-East of Norwich, in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia, which operated from 1938 to 2006.
|Royal Air Force Coltishall|
|Near Coltishall, Norfolk in England|
A Sepecat Jaguar GR1A of No. 41 Squadron at RAF Coltishall.
Location within Norfolk
|Type||Royal Air Force station|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence (MOD)|
|Operator||Royal Air Force|
|In use||29 May 1940 - 30 November 2006|
|Identifiers||IATA: CLF, ICAO: EGYC, WMO: 03495|
|Elevation||20 metres (66 ft) AMSL|
It was a fighter airfield in the Second World War and afterwards, a station for night fighters then ground attack aircraft until closure.
After longstanding speculation, the future of the station was sealed once the Ministry of Defence announced that the Eurofighter Typhoon, a rolling replacement aircraft, displacing the ageing SEPECAT Jaguar, would not be posted there. The last of the Jaguar squadrons left on 1 April 2006 and the station finally closed, one month early and £10 million under budget, on 30 November 2006.
The station motto was Aggressive in Defence. The station badge was a stone tower surmounted by a mailed fist grasping three bird-bolts (blunt arrows), which symbolised a position of strength in defence of the homeland, indicative of the aggressive spirit which Coltishall fighter aircraft were prepared to shoot down the enemy.
Second World War
Work on RAF Coltishall was started in February 1939. The airfield, then known as Scottow Aerodrome, was initially built as a bomber station, on land near Scottow Hall. Following the established tradition, the station would have been named after the nearest railway station, which would have made it "RAF Buxton", but to avoid possible confusion with the town of Buxton in Derbyshire, it was named after the local village of Coltishall instead. The airfield was completed and entered service in May 1940 as a fighter base. The first aircraft movement at Coltishall was a Bristol Blenheim IV L7835 flown by Sergeant RG Bales and Sergeant Barnes.
During the Second World War, Coltishall operated the Hawker Hurricane, and a notable Coltishall fighter pilot was Douglas Bader. It later became home to night fighters. At the same time, the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm operated aircraft from RAF Coltishall over the North Sea. From 10 February to 7 April 1945 it was the airfield for No. 124 Squadron RAF, at that time a fighter-bomber squadron flying Supermarine Spitfire IX.HF's, whilst the squadron was bombing V2 launch sites in the Netherlands. At the end of the war, Coltishall was briefly given over to Polish squadrons until they returned home.
In the 1950s, RAF Coltishall was a designated a "V-Bomber dispersal airfield", which V bombers (the British nuclear deterrent) - the Avro Vulcan, Handley Page Victor and Vickers Valiant - could use in the event of their home station being damaged by enemy action.
Postwar, the station was home to a variety of units and aircraft including de Havilland Mosquitos, Gloster Javelins, English Electric Lightnings and - from 1963 - the "Historic Aircraft Flight" (now known as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight). The last Lightnings left Coltishall in 1974, and were replaced by the Anglo-French SEPECAT Jaguar. The first Jaguar squadron, No. 54 Squadron RAF, arrived at Coltishall on 8 August 1974.
In terms of fixed-wing aircraft, the station was exclusively a Jaguar station from then on, and some of the station's pink-painted Jaguars participated in the 1991 Gulf War Operation GRANBY and Operation Warden, without sustaining a single loss of man or machine, and in subsequent operations over Balkans (Operation Deny Flight)) and then later Iraq once more. Coltishall was also home to the yellow Search And Rescue (SAR) helicopters of 202 Sqn conducting air-sea rescue operations (Sea King) and latterly 22 Sqn (Wessex), but under subsequent reorganisation, the SAR operations were moved to RAF Wattisham, in Suffolk where they remained until 15 July 2015.
Coltishall eventually became the last surviving operational RAF airfield involved in the Battle of Britain other than RAF Northolt, and a visible remnant in the form of a Second World War revetment still stands on the North-West taxiway and, together with one of the two sets of 1950s blast walls, is now a scheduled monument.
Earmarked for closure
With the anticipated arrival of the Eurofighter Typhoon in the RAF, the gradual retirement of the Jaguar force began. Coltishall was not chosen as a future Typhoon airfield for a number of reasons, and so, with no future RAF role for Coltishall, the station was earmarked for closure.
The UK's Ministry of Defence, in the Delivering Security in a Changing World review, announced that the station would close by December 2006. The first two Jaguar squadrons to disband, No. 16 Squadron RAF and No. 54 Squadron RAF, did so on 11 March 2005. The final Jaquar squadrons departed on 1 April 2006, when No. 6 Squadron RAF transferred to RAF Coningsby, but was subsequently disbanded on 31 May 2007 (to await delivery of the Eurofighter Typhoon at RAF Leuchars in Scotland), and No. 41 Squadron RAF transferred to RAF Coningsby in OCU role. The final front line RAF movement from the station was by Jaguar XZ112, piloted by Jim Luke, on 3 April 2006.
Of the final gate guardians, the replica Hawker Hurricane was transferred to RAF High Wycombe, and the Jaguar was formally named the Spirit of Coltishall, and was subsequently transferred to the grounds of Norfolk County Council where she is dedicated to the memory of all those who served at Coltishall. The airfield is commemorated at the RAF Air Defence Radar Museum.
Some limited flying from light aircraft including those of the Coltishall Flying Club did continue after the end of RAF flying operations, until October 2006. While 1 April 2006 saw the disbandment parade for the station, it did not actually disband and finally close until 30 November 2006. Associated facilities such as the Douglas Bader Primary School were also closed. On the final day of the station the gates were opened to the public - anybody with photographic ID was welcomed onto the station to have a look around and view the final closing ceremony, which saw a flypast by four RAF Jaguars, and a solitary Hawker Hurricane from the Imperial War Museum Duxford.
On 30 November 2006, RAF Coltishall was officially handed over to Defence Estates (the MoD agency responsible for all UK Military sites) who are to handle the disposal of the site and will be formally known as MoD Coltishall until its ultimate disposal.
The site was sold to Norfolk County Council for £4 million.
- Note: The ranks shown are the ranks held at the time of holding the appointment of Commanding Officer, Royal Air Force Coltishall.
|date from||date to||Rank||Name|
|15 May 1940||9 January 1941||Wing Commander||W K Beisiegal|
|9 January 1941||11 September 1942||Group Captain||Ronald Lees|
|11 September 1942||20 April 1943||Group Captain||George D Harvey|
|20 April 1943||10 December 1943||Group Captain||Arthur V Harvey|
|10 December 1943||25 May 1945||Group Captain||A H Donaldson|
|25 May 1945||9 August 1945||Group Captain||A H Dunn|
|9 August 1945||27 February 1946||Group Captain||T H Rolski|
|27 February 1946||13 February 1947||Group Captain||Aleksander Gabszewicz|
|13 February 1947||22 January 1948||Wing Commander||Robert Stanford Tuck|
|22 January 1948||6 March 1950||Wing Commander||Denis Spotswood|
|6 March 1950||1 February 1951||Wing Commander||E L Colbeck-Welch|
|1 February 1951||8 May 1953||Group Captain||A H Smythe|
|8 May 1953||12 December 1955||Group Captain||P P Hanks|
|12 December 1955||25 November 1958||Group Captain||John Clayton Sisson CBE DFC|
|25 November 1958||1 June 1959||Wing Commander||W Laing|
|1 June 1959||15 November 1961||Group Captain||Harold A C Bird-Wilson|
|15 November 1961||1 November 1963||Group Captain||L H Malins|
|1 December 1963||3 June 1966||Group Captain||R L Topp|
|4 June 1966||3 January 1969||Group Captain||M E Hobson|
|3 January 1969||20 November 1969||Group Captain||W J Stacey|
|20 November 1969||18 November 1971||Group Captain||J T Jennings|
|18 November 1971||28 December 1973||Group Captain||J A Gilbert|
|28 December 1973||6 August 1976||Group Captain||L Swart|
|6 August 1976||6 September 1978||Group Captain||J H Honey|
|6 September 1978||15 October 1980||Group Captain||T H Stonor|
|15 October 1980||3 December 1982||Group Captain||T J Nash|
|3 December 1982||8 February 1985||Group Captain||G R Profit|
|8 February 1985||4 June 1987||Group Captain||M R French|
|4 June 1987||2 August 1989||Group Captain||F J Hoare|
|3 August 1989||16 August 1991||Group Captain||M J Abbott|
|16 August 1991||5 July 1993||Group Captain||J P Dacre|
|5 July 1993||28 July 1995||Group Captain||N C Rusling|
|28 July 1999||5 September 1997||Group Captain||T C Hewlett|
|5 September 1997||5 September 1999||Group Captain||Stephen G G Dalton|
|6 September 1999||5 October 2001||Group Captain||Chris N Harper|
|6 October 2001||28 November 2003||Group Captain||R D Cobelli|
|28 November 2003||2006||Group Captain||Graham A Wright, OBE|
|2006||13 October 2006||Wing Commander||Paul Robins|
|13 October 2006||30 November 2006||Squadron Leader||Jason Hughes|
Some 40-plus different types of aircraft have operated out of Coltishall at various points in its history, among these:
Resident squadron aircraft
Westland Wessex Search and Rescue Helicopter
- Supermarine Spitfire
- Hawker Hurricane
- Bell P-39 Airacobra I
- Supermarine Walrus
- Westland Whirlwind I
- Westland Lysander III
- Bristol Blenheim IVf
- Hawker Typhoon Ia
- Avro Anson
- Hawker Tempest V
- de Havilland Mosquito NF30 & NF36
- North American Mustang III
- Gloster Meteor NF11
- de Havilland Vampire NF10
- de Havilland Venom NF2
- Hawker Hunter F6
- English Electric Canberra PR9
- Gloster Javelin FAW9(R)
- English Electric Lightning
- SEPECAT Jaguar
- Operated by detachments from other squadrons
- Bristol Beaufighter If (604 Sqn AuxAF Det)
- Douglas A-20 Havoc I (93 Sqn Det)
- Bristol Beaufort I (22 Sqn Det)
- Boulton Paul Defiant I (151 Sqn Det)
- SAR Air/Sea Rescue squadron detachments
- Operated by the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm
- Albacore I (841 NAS)
- Fairey Swordfish (841 NAS)
- de Havilland Sea Hornet NF21 (809 NAS)
- Fairey Gannet AEW3 (849 NAS)
- No. 1 Squadron RAF; Spitfire LFIXb,F21
- No. 3 Squadron RAF
- No. 6 Squadron RAF; Jaguar GR1/1A/1B, T2/T2A, GR3/3A, T4/T4A (November 1974 - April 2006)
- No. 16 Squadron RAF (? - March 2005) (Squadron Standard now laid up in Notre-Dame Cathedral Saint-Omer, France)
- No. 22 Squadron RAF; Beaufort I,II, Whirlwind HAR2,HAR10, Wessex HAR2
- No. 23 Squadron RAF; Mosquito NF36, Vampire NF10, Venom NF2,NF3, Javelin FAW4,FAW7,FAW9R
- No. 25 Squadron RAF; Mosquito VI,XVII,NFXXX
- No. 29 Squadron RAF; Beaufighter IF,VIF
- No. 39 Squadron RAF; Canberra T4, PR7, PR9
- No. 41 Squadron RAF; Javelin FAW4, Jaguar GR1/1A/1B, T2/T2A, GR3/3A, T4/T4A (1976 - April 2006)
- No. 42 Squadron RAF; Beaufort I,II
- No. 54 Squadron RAF; Jaguar GR1/1A/1B, T2/T2A, GR3/3A, T4/T4A (August 1974 - March 2005) (Squadron Standard now laid up in Norwich Cathedral)
- No. 56 Squadron RAF; Typhoon Ia, Ib
- No. 64 Squadron RAF; Spitfire I,Vb, LEVc
- No. 66 Squadron RAF; Spitfire I
- No. 68 Squadron RAF; Beaufighter IF, VI, Mosquito XVII, XIX, XXX
- No. 72 Squadron RAF; Spitfire I
- No. 74 Squadron RAF "Tigers"; Spitfire IIa, Hunter F6, Lightning F1, F3 (1940, 1960–1966)
- No. 80 Squadron RAF; Tempest V
- No. 85 Squadron RAF; Meteor NF11
- No. 93 Squadron RAF; Havoc I
- No. 118 Squadron RAF; Spitfire Vb
- No. 124 Squadron RAF; Spitfire XI
- No. 125 Squadron RAF; Mosquito XIV, XXX
- No. 133 Squadron RAF; one of the American-piloted Eagle Squadrons formed 1941, Hurricane IIb
- No. 137 Squadron RAF; Whirlwind I
- No. 141 Squadron RAF; Mosquito NF36, Meteor NF11, Venom NF3, Javelin FAW4
- No. 151 Squadron RAF; Hurricane I,IIb,IIc, Defiant I
- No. 152 Squadron RAF; Spitfire IIa
- No. 154 Squadron RAF; Spitfire Va,Vb
- No. 167 Squadron RAF; Spitfire Vb,Vc
- No. 195 Squadron RAF; Typhoon Ib
- No. 202 Squadron RAF; Whirlwind HAR10, Sea King HAR3
- No. 222 Squadron RAF; Spitfire Ia,IIa,IIb
- No. 226 Squadron RAF OCU; Lightning F1,F1A,F3,T4,T5,T55
- No. 228 Squadron RAF; Whirlwind HAR10
- No. 228 Squadron RAF OCU; Mosquito (various), Meteor (various)
- No. 229 Squadron RAF; Spitfire XI,XVI
- No. 234 Squadron RAF; Spitfire Vb,Vc
- No. 266 Squadron RAF; Typhoon Ia,Ib
- No. 242 Squadron RAF; Hurricane I
- No. 255 Squadron RAF; Beaufighter IIF
- No. 257 Squadron RAF; Hurricane I,IIa,IIb,IIc
- No. 264 Squadron RAF; Mosquito NF36
- No. 274 Squadron RAF; Tempest V
- No. 275 Squadron RAF; Sycamore HR13,HR14
- No. 278 Squadron RAF; Lysander IIa, Walrus I,II, Anson I
- No. 288 Squadron RAF; Hurricane I, Defiant TT II/III
- No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron; Spitfire IX, Mustang IV (1944, 1945)
- No. 306 Polish Fighter Squadron; Mustang III
- No. 307 (Polish) Squadron RAF; Mosquito XXX
- No. 309 (Polish) Squadron; Mustang III,IV
- No. 312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF; Spitfire XI
- No. 315 (Polish) Squadron; Mustang III
- No. 316 (Polish) Squadron; Mustang III
- No. 318 (Polish) Squadron RAF; Spitfire IX
- No. 409 Squadron RCAF; Beaufighter VI
- No. 453 Squadron RAAF; Spitfire IX
- No. 488 Squadron RNZAF; Beaufighter II
- No. 601 Squadron RAF; ??
- No. 602 Squadron RAF; Spitfire IX,XVI
- No. 603 Squadron RAF; Spitfire XVI (1945)
- No. 604 Squadron RAF; Beaufighter I
- No. 610 Squadron RAF; Spitfire Vb,Vc
- No. 611 Squadron RAF; Spitfire IX
- No. 616 Squadron RAF; Spitfire I
- No. 659 Squadron RAF;
- No. 809 Squadron FAA; Sea Hornet F20,NF21
- No. 841 Squadron FAA; Albacore I, Swordfish I,II
- No. 849 Squadron FAA; Gannett AEW3,COD4,T5
- No. 1489 Flight RAF; Lysander II,III, Henley III
- Battle of Britain Memorial Flight; Hurricane IIc, Spitfire IIa,Va,PRXIX, Lancaster B1
- Air Fighter Development Squadron; Javelin (various), Hunter (various), Lightning (various)
- US 346th Fighter Group; Spitfire Vb, Bell Airacobra
- Mandrel Screen Unit; Defiant II
- Fighter Interception Unit; Mosquito (various)
- Night Fighter Development Unit; Mosquito (various), Firefly I
The former married quarters were transferred to the MoD's preferred property agents, Annington Homes, who started the lengthy process of upgrading the former military housing into civilian houses for sale on the open market.
During January 2007, the Home Office expressed an interest in the site, and in early February earmarked it for potential use as an immigration detention facility, but this was subsequently ruled out.
In July 2007, a petition was set up on the 10 Downing St website to campaign for Coltishall to be reopened as a civil airfield.
In December 2007, fresh reports in the media suggested the site would be used as a prison, but this angered local residents who had not been informed of the disposal progress.
In January 2009, a plan to build a Category C prison at the site was approved by North Norfolk District Council. The entire site is now under the temporary control of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and, as of October 2009, building works on converting all of the former H-blocks is near completion, along with the completion of the dual perimeter fences, and a new access road. The new establishment will be known as HMP Bure, named after a nearby river, and will house 500 male sex offenders.
In 2013, Scottow Enterprise Park was opened on part of the site, taking up approximately 600 acres of the former RAF base. Its repurposed military buildings are now home to tenants in industries from construction to film.
In June 2019, A British aircraft manufacturer is now based at the airfield. Swift Aircraft have been allowed to produce up to 98 planes a year and use the runway for 8 flights a day by the local government. This will employ roughly 100 local people and greatly benefit the local economy.
- Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 7. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
- Official Commemorative Magazine: Royal Air Force Coltishall, 65th Anniversary, 'Aggressive in Defence' 1940-2005
- Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 7. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
- Historic England. "World War II fighter pen, Cold War blast walls and associated remains at the airfield formerly known as RAF Coltishall (1021425)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
- Norwich.gov.uk Norwich City Council news release - A final farewell to RAF Coltishall Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 12 October 2006
- AirSceneUK.org.uk Spirit of Coltishall Archived 21 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 30 November 2006
- BBC.co.uk Prison at old RAF base approved
- "Norfolk ex-airbase jail to house sex offenders". Archant Regional Ltd. EDP24.co.uk. 11 August 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
- Archived 18 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Jennings, Mick MBE. Royal Air Force Coltishall, Fighter Station. A Station History. Cowbit, Spalding, Lincolnshire, UK: Old Forge Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-906183-01-1.
- Sullivan, Wing Commander John MBE, MSc, RAF. Big Cat Diary: The Last Year of the Jaguar with 6 Squadron RAF. Published by the author, 2008. ISBN 0-9557247-0-8.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to RAF Coltishall.|