RAF Wethersfield was officially opened in January 1944 as an RAF station under 9th Bomber Command, US Army Air Corps. The 416th Bomber Group's first operation was on 3 1 st March 1944 and in the lead up to D Day they attacked airfields and railways. These missions resulted in the award to the 41 6th of the Distinguished Unit Citation. At this time there were 2,200 airmen and 62 Havoc A-20 aircraft stationed at Wethersfield. The 41 6th left for France in September 1944 and were replaced in November of that year by two Royal Air Force Squadrons under Fighter Command, equipped with Stirlings, flying special missions over the Continent. In late 1944, during Operation Varsity (the crossing of the Rhine), 81 American Dakota aircraft took off from RAF Wethersfield with paratroopers of the 6th Airborne Division.

In April 1946 a Royal Air Force Heavy Transport Conversion Unit was based at Wethersfield and remained until July of that year when the station was closed and placed in a care and maintenance status. During this period it was used as a winter camping ground for Chipperfield's Circus. Elephants were housed in the maintenance hangers and nissen (quonset) huts, formerly used as offices, became homes for lions, tigers, snakes and monkeys.

RAF Wethersfield was reopened in May 1952 and the base then became part of 3rd Air Force under the United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE). It was assigned the mission of providing support for NATO Forces. In February 1955 the Group was upgraded to Wing status and the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) earned the Outstanding Unit Award on four separate occasions while at Wethersfield. Many improvements were made during the time they occupied the base including the extension to and complete resurfacing of the runway. The F-84 was the primary aircraft used until 1957 when the the F-100D Super Sabre was put into service and remained the primary aircraft until 1970.

The 20th TFW was converted to the new F- I I I s and moved to a new location at RAF Upper Heyford in July 1970. On Ist April 1970 RAF Wethersfield became a Dispersed Operations Base (DOB) until September 1970 when the base mission was changed to that of Standby Deployment Base, ready to support augmentation forces if directed. In October the 66th Combat Support Group was redesignated 66th Combat Support Squadron (CSS).

In August 1976 the 66th CSS became a detachment of the I Oth Tactical Reconnaissance Wing (TRW), based at RAF Alconbury, and became Detachment I (Det. 1) 1Oth TRW. Det. I supported a number of units including the 819th Civil Engineering Squadron Heavy Repair (CESHR) and Det. I 2166th Information Systems Squadron (later to become 21 66th Communications Squadron).

In 1978 the British and American Governments agreed to establish a Rapid Emergency Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineering (RED HORSE) unit in England. The 819th was selected in December of that year and on I st April 1979 an advance party of 40 men arrived. 819th CESHR, along with 7119th Air Base Flight, a supporting unit, and Det. 12166th CS remained at Wethersfield until February 1990 when it was announced by the United States government that, as part of a budget cutting exercise, RAF Wethersfield would be closed. The base was handed back to the Royal Air Force at an official ceremony held on 3 July 1990 and, at the end of September, Wethersfield was once again placed under care and maintenance status.

In April 1991 the Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence Po1ice assumed responsibility for the base and a small joint civilian/uniformed team moved in to organise the relocation of the Ministry of Defence Police Training School and Firearms Training Wing from Medmenham, Buckinghamshire and the Headquarters from Earl's Court in London. The Operational Support Unit moved to Wethersfield from RAF Wittering and has been permanently based there since May 1992. In addition, Wethersfield was to be the home for the MOD Guard Service (MGS) Training School.

In October 1994 the joint location of MDP training and HQ, along with the MGS Training Wing, was completed, giving the Force the first combined HQ and Training Centre in its history.



Below is an interesting follow up emailed to me by Ken Moyce

Hi Robert

I enjoyed my visit to your RAF Wethersfield web Site

I worked on the base for the Post Office maintaining telecommunications from 1968 to 1973

Below is a copy from the local newspaper which may be of interest to you

WHEN PanAm Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie in 1988, the emergency services were strapped for a place big enough to take all the bodies.There were too many. They ended up laid out on the ice of the local skating rink. It provided ideal cold conditions. The trouble was that afterwards the ice rink suffered a dramatic fall in business. Skaters did not take to skating on what had become hallowed ice Partly as a result of this, the Home Office later issued guidelines to county authorities, asking them to designate more appropriate sites to serve as temporary mortuaries in the event of similar disasters occurring within their borders.

Essex was swift to respond by identifying part of the former RAF air base at Wethersfield near Braintree for the purpose. One of the old air force buildings capable of handling hundreds of casualties has now been up and running for two years. So far it has yet to be tried and tested. Officers belonging to Essex County Council's Emergency Planning Services are keeping their fingers crossed it will never be needed. They cannot, however, rule out the possibility. "We are ready for any eventuality," says emergency planning officer Rosanna Briggs. She and her colleagues have been involved from the start in ensuring that the mortuary is ready to be activated within five hours of an emergency occurring. She says: "This is all part of an overall and co-ordinated strategy; involving us and the other emergency services so that everyone knows what the others are doing and action is taken swiftly and efficiently." One thing they prefer not to talk about out is at the back of the minds at the moment is the millennium bug.

Despite repeated assurances that the bug has been eradicated from the computer systems that govern airliners and railways nobody will know for sure what might happen until the crucial two-day period marking the end of this year and the beginning of next. A worst case scenario could see an air crash over Stansted or a train pileup at Shenfield if the computers should fail.

The Essex emergency planners play down the likelihood of such an occurrence. But some airlines are still checking safety procedures and delaying decisions on whether to fly over the two-day crisis period. Should the worst occur, the Wethersfield mortuary will be ready to receive. mass casualties. A disaster would immediately trigger a military style operation. Wethersfield is already occupied by Ministry of Defence police and is used by the emergency services for exercises and is the base for a search and rescue charity that recently carried out relief work among Turkish earthquake victims. In the event of a disaster, the base would be tightly secured and access allowed only to authorised personnel. Such equipment as refrigeration units to store bodies would be rushed to the emergency mortuary from others around the county. Next of kin would he admitted to identify bodies and post mortem examinations carried out where necessary. While the Wethersfield centre is intended primarily for casualties occurring from a disaster within Essex, the emergency planners have not ruled out its use by neighbouring counties. Says Rosanna: "We are more fortunate than some in having such a big and ideal site as Wethersfield and it could be that if there was a major accident in a county close by, we could well activate its use for that, too." A team of volunteers has been trained as "accredited befrienders" who would give practical help to relatives and next of kin of victims.

The disaster mortuary has received little publicity up until now. Rosanna Briggs says: "There has been no need to say much about it. There is no question of secrecy. People just need to know that such a facility is available and ready if it becomes necessary. We hope it won't be." Nevertheless, those set to activate the Wethersfield mortuary will be on standby as the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

Ken Moyce






The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) is MOD's own dedicated civil Police Force of around 3,800 officers, all of them having full Constabulary powers. They operate at MOD establishments and units throughout the United Kingdom, wherever their services are required, and are the UK's only truly national police force. As a condition of service every officer is weapons trained and at any one time 70% of MDP officers on duty carry arms, either pistols or rifles. They are deployed at around 120 MOD sites requiring officers with constabulary powers and an armed guarding capability.

The MDP is responsible for the waterborne security of all Her Majesty's Dockyards and its marine units have the largest number of craft, both rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and launches, of any police force in the UK. MDP marine officers hold depositions from HM Customs & Excise which enable them to stop and search sea going vessels for drugs and contraband.The Force also has around 400 dog handlers using police, arms/explosive/search (AES) and drugs dogs.

MDP's CID and Fraud Squad are respected throughout the UK and have had some notable successes including the arrest and conviction of Gordon Foxley, former MOD Director of Ammunition Procurement, who was imprisoned for his activities in one of the largest corruption cases in British legal history.

The Operational Support Unit (OSU) of 50 personnel is the MDPs own multi-capability response unit. Its specialist skills may be deployed anywhere in the UK at short notice.These include public order duties, anti-terrorist search teams and personnel protection duties forVIPs.

The Special Escort Group provides protection for the passage of nuclear material between MOD establishments.

As well as policing MOD sites, the Force is deployed on repayment at USAF bases in the UK, Defence Research Establishments, some Royal Ordnance Factories and at the Royal Mint. MDP officers also police public functions on MOD property such as the Farnborough International Air Show, the Army Equipment Exhibition at Aldershot and the Fairford Air Tattoo, as well as safeguarding MOD property and interests around Stonehenge at the time of the Suymmer Solstice. MDP Marine Units have policed many historic and public events including the anniversary commemorations of the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ at Liverpool and the D Day landings at HMNB Portsmouth, the start of the Cutty SarkTall Ships race and the 1998 International Festival of the Sea.

The MDP’s Headquarters site at Wethersfield, opened by HRH The Princess Royal in September 1995, covers 825 acres with a perimeter fence of nine miles. A former United States Air Force base, it has a runway approximately two miles long, one of the longest in East Anglia. Facilities left behind by the Americans include an almost self-contained village comprising 150 houses and a school which has been converted into the MDP Police Training Centre. There are also a church, a 230 seat cinema/theatre, numerous indoor recreational facilities and many hangars and other storage facilities, some of which are rented out to other interests, and an extensive area of ammunition bunkers. The site is home to an abundance of flora and fauna and has a preservation area within the perimeter fence.

On I st April 1996 the MDP became an Agency under the Government’s ‘Next Steps’ initiative. The vesting ceremony took place at MOD Main Building, Whitehall and was attended by the Hon. Nicholas Soames, Minister of State for the Armed Forces. Amongst other things the acquisition of Agency Status enables the Chief Constable, as Chief Executive, to develop efficient use of the facilities at the Headquarters site and marketing them allows him to generate income for MOD.

In common with the rest of the Ministry, the MDP is undergoing a period of change, but the Force’s future is assured and, with a self-contained and independent Headquarters site such as Wethersfield, they will be able to build securely on a firm base. The transition to Agency Status is a logical metamorphosis of the Force, from its formation as the MDP in 1971 as an amalgamation of the three Service Constabularies, to its present highly qualified multi-functional national structure.