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AIR 29/2631, 271 Signals Unit Operations Record Book
RAF Neatishead 1956

Dave Clarke & Paul Fuller

Wing Commander John Seldon was Station Commander.

Logbook entries record that 'Exercise Fabulous' (air defence exercise involving the interception of 'friendly' aircraft posing as Soviet bloc intruders) was rotated between radar stations and QRA squadrons.

In January 1956 USAF F-86D Sabres from the 512 Fighter Wing, RAF Bentwaters, took part in Fabulous "and there were 30 scrambles but 18 X-raids were not intercepted." These were attributed to R/T failure, 2 targets disappeared from the General Situation Map and radars, 2 targets entered the area of permanent echoes around the station and never emerged.

On 3 February 1956 Neatishead handed over Exercise Fabulous to RAF Trimingham [Type 80 radar station at Cromer on Norfolk coast] and returned to be a normal GCI station. In February there were more problems with targets fading from radar, disappearing into permanent echoes and "one target was too fast to result in a scramble."

From 24 April 1956 "the radars were running continuously except for daily maintenance periods." Airmen from the station were posted to Trimingham to gain experience on the experimental FPS-3 [Type 80] radar there and one NCO was sent to Germany for a specialised course on the use of this radar.

In June 1956 work began on the installation of the Type 80 aerials at Neatishead. The log records visits from ATC Coltishall by F.H.C.Wimbledon for most of the first six months of 1956 (but not August!). More interceptions involving USAF F-86D fighters.

AUGUST 1956. Wing Commander Seldon: "A very good month. Reports from the Squadrons show a great improvement on the control of fighters." Staff totals are 392 officers and other ranks.

'Technical': "Work was continuing on the erection of the AN/FPS-3 radar gear. Installation of the new VHF/UHF equipment was completed, and only the aerials are not outstanding."

'Operations': "More practice interceptions were carried out during August than for many previous months - a total of 1864. This figure includes 737 interceptions performed by the 512 and 514 Squadrons [USAF F-86D's from Manston and Woodbridge], many embodying the 'Wold Pack' technique, and 22 sessions of control with the live 'Rocketry Team' from the 406th USAF Wing RAF Manston in the Smith's Knoll Rocket Range. Of the remaining interceptions, approximately two thirds were carried out during daylight and one third at night."

'Exercise Fabulous': "Continuous watch was kept during the month while carrying out the control commitment for the Exercise, except for short maintenance periods. The high number of 42 scrambles were called for, of this total 13 were identified on the General Situation Map as 'Allied'. Of the remaining 29, 5 included targets that went into cloud or their responses faded.

SEPTEMBER 1956: Eastern C.F.P. Centre [Filter Centre] ceased to exist at 1130Z on 1 September 1956 and on 3 September a Direct Reporting Organisation came into effect.. Squadron Leader E.L. Horsfall was Operations Commander.

OCTOBER 1956: "Progress has slowed down on the installation of the NS FPS 3 and new VHF site due to delays in supplies. Work has begun on the erection of an FPS6. A console type 4476 (21 inch PPI tube) has now been brought into use."

Wing Commander J.R. Ranshaw DFM took command of RAF Neatishead from 8 October 1956.

NOVEMBER 1956: "Radar performance remained good throughout the month, the Type 13 height finder being particularly noted for consistent heights being obtained at a range of 170 miles at 60,000 feet over Holland."

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