Exploring Royal Air Force (RAF) West Raynham

Author sophos9 - Last updated: 01.10.2010

After project RAF Coltishall and visiting Krampnitz in Germany, I had a bit of a taste for more military exploration so took a trip to RAF West Raynham with theflyinghaggis. We left around 4am and took a drive, everything was going well until we hit the shit roads, trying to swig Monster Ripper whilst coming to 90 degree left hand bends is not cool. We arrived and found a place to park, with hindsight we could have tried a bit better at being inconspicuous however thats the way it goes.

RAF West Raynham was a Royal Air Force station located 2 miles (3.2 km) west of the village of West Raynham in Norfolk, England. It opened in the 1930s and closed in 1994. During the Second World War, RAF Bomber Command operations from RAF West Raynham claimed 86 aircraft. The site was sold by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2006. Tamarix Investments, which now owns the site, plans to renovate the 170 houses at RAF West Raynham and build more homes and a hotel.

We made the walk in the dark up through the main entrance, it was pitch black so our night vision adjusted and we were able to make out some buildings – all locked. We wanted to see two parts of the site, the control tower and the BAC Rapier anti-aircraft missile simulator.

We carried on walking, saw the control tower and headed towards it – scoping it out, locked down – damn. We circled, then found a way into a building, unlucky for us that the building was not attached. Even if we could have climbed, the tower was locked down significantly – we moved on to find the other key part of the trip.

Scanning the horizon we saw the simulator, we moved over to it.

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Waiting for the sunrise by sophos9, on Flickr

The sun was just creeping up when we setup for a shot, the airfield was silent we packed our gear and headed into the simulator. Once inside, memories of the NSA radar station in Germany came flooding back, RomanyWG and myself inside the radar dome at the dizzying heights playing with the acoustics. We setup and done some light painting inside…

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Inside the missile training simulator by sophos9, on Flickr

Today was also for equipment testing. I wanted to test the Nikon 14mm f/2.8 on the Nikon D700 – but today would be single shot work for two reasons, 1 we had to be light footed due to security, 2 I wanted to test raw work with the equipment.

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BAC Rapier anti-aircraft missile simulator by sophos9, on Flickr

Back out towards the hangers, all hangers are locked up so we moved on and found the sports and social club, through the open window and into the darkness

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Sports and social club by sophos9, on Flickr

Inside, we grabbed some food and started to check it out. We walked into the main social area, saw the bar and the decals drawn on the walls by the many airmen celebrating their regiments. Lay out was typical defence, reminds me of the various NAAFI’s I’ve been in around the country. We took a few minutes to think about things, the many airmen. Squadrons based here are the 101, 114, No. 18, 180, 342. Later taken over by the 100 group housing squadrons 141 and 239. Later years saw many training teams – the floor that we were standing on has seen all this history, we are privileged

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The RAF Social Bar by sophos9, on Flickr

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Social Bar – RAF Decals by sophos9, on Flickr

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Leading down to the underground section by sophos9, on Flickr

In this building there was also an underground section, I guess this was a gym or something similar.

We then moved out, into the boilerhouse and saw the industrial side of the plant – 3 large boilers powered a significant proportion of the site

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RAF – 3 large boilers by sophos9, on Flickr

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RAF Boiler #3 by sophos9, on Flickr

Everything was intact in this place – amazing to see an testament to the security that are always on site

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RAF Boiler House Gauges by sophos9, on Flickr

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RAF Boiler House – Gallons Gauge by sophos9, on Flickr

From the boilerhouse, we mooched for a while, playing cat and mouse with the security van that was constantly driving about. We saw the electrical sub station, no luck on getting inside it but part of me, seeing the bare terminals inside did not want to. We saw lots of other buildings, many now in use as work shops, holding areas for cars, small businesses etc. We also saw temporary power supplies running from the substation – many things are still live.

Hangers – there are 4 main hangers, these things are huge and cool. We made plans to climb to the top of them, the view from there would have been amazing. We went inside the rubber doors….

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Entrance into Hanger 3 by sophos9, on Flickr

We stopped for some food – about 5 minutes in, we heard a truck. Peering through the doors, a car came very slowly around the front, eyeballing the entire hanger. We waited, the car went around corner and stopped, engine still running… we waited. Next thing, we heard someone opening the hanger. The security truck came around and stopped. We could see inside in hanger, 2 Polish dudes were in there… we waited, then decided to move and see what happened.

We wanted to go and shoot the control tower so made our way across the hangers and waited in the bushes. More cars, a van more people – WTF, this place had suddenly come to life

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Overgrown – Hanger 2 by sophos9, on Flickr

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RAF Base – Hanger 1 by sophos9, on Flickr

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Hanger 1 – Hiding… again by sophos9, on Flickr

We could not pass so had to accept that we would not make the tower today. So we move back into the complex, grabbing some shots on the way.

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Hanger No. 2 by sophos9, on Flickr

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The Iron Wall by sophos9, on Flickr

We had to duck back inside a hanger when security went past again, this time we made our way upstairs then into the hanger

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Inside Hanger 3 by sophos9, on Flickr

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The dead room… by sophos9, on Flickr

Back into the complex and we grabbed some more shots before the inevitable happened, we got busted by security – they were ok, as were we. We gave no problems and they were fine but said we had to leave. So on the way out, we grabbed some more shots

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RAF Motor Cycle Club by sophos9, on Flickr

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RAF Building 114 by sophos9, on Flickr

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Living quarters for the airmen by sophos9, on Flickr

Was a good day, realised that there was another part of the site that housed the chapel, sports hall, mess and living quarters… that will be saved for another day

Hope you enjoy

18 comments

#1Viveca KohOctober 1, 2010, 2:14 pm

Interesting-looking place, you got some great shots, and it’s good to hear about relatively cool security guards too!

#2sophos9October 1, 2010, 2:16 pm

Thanks for viewing – glad you enjoyed it. The security were fine, I guess some of it comes down to how you treat them but it was all good, found out some great info about plans for the place and more of the history :)

#3RuleOctober 2, 2010, 8:59 pm

Great stuff and report man!

    #4sophos9October 3, 2010, 3:37 pm

    Thanks man, glad you liked it…

#5the explorerkidOctober 11, 2010, 10:42 am

hey dude nice pics i hant been in the dome yet!! my father has but i think i was at my mums :-(

#6Infrastruture_opsOctober 23, 2010, 7:03 pm

Wow…
Sounds like fun, but no room for clumsiness if security’s tight.

This is a definite site on my hitlist…

#7steve hurtMarch 17, 2011, 4:49 pm

great to see photo, was stationed there in 1957 on dfls as a air wireless mech

#8Beav185September 7, 2011, 9:50 pm

I drive bye this place loads and only live about 4 miles away and have a massive interest in stuff like this!! never really had the gumption to have a look around! really should try have a peep sometime!

great pics!

#9IntgytiaSeptember 16, 2011, 1:55 pm

I used to live there as a kid, sad to see it as it is now but many happy nights in the social club!

#10Julia SkidmoreJanuary 2, 2012, 5:50 pm

Hi I actually live on the site, in one of the refurb’d officers houses, the reason for security is that it is a private site, occupied by people like me, my family and small businesses. It is a lovely site and if you want a look round I’m sure that if you made contact with the management they would be happy to assist, there are a number of no go areas because they are dangerous and the ground is likely to give way in some cases.

All the best

#11HodgeJanuary 30, 2012, 7:05 pm

I was posted there over 30 years ago and it brought back memories

    #12sophos9January 31, 2012, 10:19 am

    I bet it must be difficult to look back at the work, relationships and experiences in this place then see it in its condition today. We thought the same when we visited RAF Sculthorpe…

#13TaffAugust 15, 2012, 10:48 pm

I was stationed at RAF West Raynham in 1970 to 1973, worked in the PBX
I also visited the place about five years ago but security wouldn’t let me on the place. Strange I used to be stationed there once and now i cant even visit it. I will visit again soon so hopefully I can have a look around then.

The place was a bit out of the way quite isolated, not much to do in your free time but I do have some good memories.

    #14sophos9August 16, 2012, 12:19 am

    Great to hear from you and a real shame they would not let you on there to relive some memories. Hope you enjoyed seeing some of the images from this place – must be tough to have worked here and now see it sitting abandoned…

#15ShuggyOctober 3, 2012, 3:15 pm

Taff,

I also used to work at Raynham in the PBX (Weasenham St Peter 281) between 1987 to disestablishment in 1989. I can remember some of the names of old. There was Ted Bulman the BT engineer, Joe one of the civvie operators and what was the name of the other guy “Partner” an old fellow Vic?? Many a good time remembered from there, especially in the S & S. I can remember twofers being 20p a double shot.

#16pipOctober 26, 2012, 6:44 pm

Hi, I lived there 1962/3 dad was a navigator 85 Sqdn. Javelins
Big memories social club/Mignight in Moscow No1. Kenny Ball
that place must echo with it!!!!

#17pipOctober 26, 2012, 9:17 pm

Just small correction on previous comment. It was the YMCA not the social club!
Rgrds to all WR connections.

#18sophos9October 26, 2012, 9:31 pm

Really great that you guys have worked at this place. Do you fancy sharing any of the stories of things that used to happen? Things like your most memorable stories etc?

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