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AIR 28/1370
RAF Horsham St Faith, Operations Record Book (form 540) Jan 1956 to Jul 1963

Notes by Paul Fuller

74 Squadron's ORB report for August 1956 states:

"August has been a much better month for the squadron, there being more fine weather than in July and the month was good for flying throughout. 532.40 flying hours were achieved."

"The month's flying consisted mainly of high level tactical formation flying plus cine gun and dog fighting exercises and one week was devoted to air to air firing producing the following daily averages, 18.7 %, 24.7 %, 26 %, 26.7 %, 29 % and 14.6 % giving an overall monthly average of 23.8 %. Attempts to use the high level range were unsuccessful due to the lack of radar cover."

[Later on I found evidence of how much cine footage each pilot was expected to collect in a month. There was an awful lot.]

The Officer Commanding was Group Captain J.H. Iremonger

"D" Flight 275 Squadron [flying helicopters] carried out "Dawn to Dusk" exercises from 10th to 17th August, inclusive. This is important (see below).

74 Squadron also flew "Dawn to Dusk" operations on 31st and also took part in "three Rat and Terrier exercises and two Ciano exercises during the month and night flying was also done".

In September 1956 the ORB gives the following important information (which I have photocopied):-

"Non-Operational Flights

Two flights were made in conjunction with Atomic Research to find research balloons, both were successful with the aid of SARAH."

There was no mention of rogue research balloons in the August entries but SARAH is mentioned again in the September entries :-

"Aircraft Serviceability

XG521 serviceability has not been as good as in previous months, SARAH being completely unserviceable twice, requiring replacement sets. The cyclic pitch stick caused a 24 hour unserviceability and replacing contact breaker a further half day."

SARAH was a Search And Rescue And Homing device. D Flight consisted of air sea rescue helicopters whose job was to respond to emergencies, e.g. with injured seamen on ships, or missing swimmers. Strangely 275 Squadron was not just located at Horsham St Faiths - there were Search and Rescue helicopters at Leuchars (in Scotland)

In June 1956 the ORB comments on lectures being given on Atomic Power by lecturers from Cambridge Unviersity.

In March 1956 the whole of 74 and 275 Squadrons moved personnel to Coltishall and everyone had to be bussed in. Things returned to normal from March 21st. Whilst at Coltishall GCA exercises took place. 16 radar operators were trained at Neatishead during this period.

In October 1956 Horsham St Faiths experienced severe problems with their radar systems . . .

"Following further complaints by this Section on the behaviour of the CR/DF [Cathode Ray Direction Finder] on 153.72 mcs. calibration was carried out by No. 90 Group with a Varsity aircraft flying at 15,000 feet between 2nd and 9th October. Plots completed showed an average error of 12 and a half degrees, with a mximum of 30 degrees, inconsistent with range, whilst several 'overhead' indications were plotted at some 15 miles range. Further action now rests with No. 90 Group who consider that anaprop [anomalous propagation] and Sporadic 'E' [???] are contributory factors in these errors."

All RAF radar systems of this period had to be regularly recalibrated and Colin Latham tells me that it was not always possible for engineers to be found. It is possible that these problems affected the identification of the target in the Lakenheath case, but I think it more important that this establishes that anomalous propagation effects were problems the unit had to cope with.