RAF Digby - RCAF Digby : A history : 1955 -
Updated: 6 Mar 08
CHAPTER 5 - THE SIGNALS ERA
a. Jan 1955 - Dec 1961
No 399 Signals Unit arrived in January 1955 and on 15 February 1955 announced itself to be fully operational in what later became the Station Gymnasium (No 2 Hangar). Work was still going on, both on the technical and domestic sites, not only for No 399 but also in anticipation of the arrival of No 591 Signals Unit. This Unit moved into North Hangar in July, and the Station now had 2 units working independently.
In February 1956, the situation was rationalised and the Station became RAF Digby again, with No 399 and 591 SUs as units established on the Station. No 399 SU was then jointly manned by civilians and Service Personnel. These units operated and expanded for the next 2 years. The Station also grew and more married quarters were started.
On 5 January 1957, No 399 SU moved from its temporary accommodation in Building 51 to its present, purpose built, located in Building 177. The first formal. record of the close ties between Digby and our neighbours, British Crop Driers Ltd, was made in August, when South Hangar was handed over to them for use as a storage area.
The MF/DF site at nearby RAF Mere Branston was reduced to inactive status in Oct 1957, with parenting and admin control transfered to RAF Digby. No 661 Signals Unit at Mere was also disbanded with effect from this date. This occurred 2 1/2 years after the signals era began at Digby with the arrival and declaration of operational status of 399 Signals Unit.
Work began and went on in late 1958 in anticipation of the move here of the Wireless Operators’ School and the Aerial Erectors’ School. These 2 units subsequently arrived in September 1959 to begin training their respective students.
The Aerial Erector School remains to this day, and a few words on it
may prove interesting.
Direct entrants from civilian life choose the trade of Aerial Erector for the opportunity to combine three ambitions: to be a technical tradesman; the opportunity to frequently travel world-wide; the outdoor life - one week working on a bleak moor, the next working on a sun drenched atoll in the Indian Ocean.
Trainees complete the course and pass out as fully qualified Senior Aircraftman earning a high rate of pay, for the Aerial Erector School is one of the very few who recognise the final course examination as a promotion examination Another function of the school, in addition to training, is the setting and marking of all promotion examinations for the trade and responsibility for trade standards world-wide.
In the early 1970s the school had two display teams which provided exciting displays of aerial mast erecting at many exhibitions in the UK, including the Newcastle upon Tyne Battle of Britain week. The two teams competed against each other and their display precision teamwork has thrilled many thousands of people the length and breadth of the country. Since then, the school has trained not only soldiers and sailors, but many civilians from the PSA.
Further information can be obtained from the Strike Command Public Relations and with the GPO.
In 1961 a close link was forged with the local people. At a guest night in the Officers’ Mess on 15 May 1961 the then Station Commander, Wing Commander Seymour, presented a Station badge to the Chairman of the Sleaford Urban District Council, Councillor Eric Smeeton. The latter presented to the Commanding Officer a plaque of Sleaford Coat of Arms and stated his appreciation of the good feelings and relationship between the town and RAF Digby. This plaque still hangs in the Officers’ Mess. On 8 January 1962, two stained glass windows were dedicated in the Church of St Michael within the Aerodrome.
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