A SHORT HISTORY OF RAF STATION LOCKING.
The Station was opened in January 1939 as No: 5 School of Technical Training to cater for RAF and Fleet Air Arm training in the fields of Flight Mechanics Airframe, Engines and Rigging, Parachute Packing and Fabric Working. Also trained were Marine Craft Fitters and Carpenters. The Station trained literally thousands of service personnel in support of the war effort.
At the end of WW2 Boy Entrant training continued at Locking until late 1951. All BE’s received their GST at Locking. Most were then sent off to other units to complete their training. Training for a few specialist trades remained at Locking until 1951. Adult training was progressively reduced in line with the reduction of numbers in the armed forces until in 1950 No; 5 S of TT was closed. In 1948 year RAF Locking had been transferred to No: 27 Group Technical Training Command and had became the home of No: 1 Radio School. Training National Service and Regular Air Force personnel in the Radio and Radar Trades.
RAF (Radio trades) Apprentice training which had started in 1922 at RAF Cranwell was moved to RAF Locking in 1952. Apprentice and Regular personnel continued to be trained in both Ground and Airborne Communications and Radar equipments and Systems. Additional specialisations were introduced in the mid 50’s to accommodate the new types of communications systems being introduced .
National Service finished in 1960 and as a result the numbers of airman trainees passing through Locking dropped as a consequence. Members of ‘other’ Air Forces (including Pakistani, Burmese, Ceylonese, Rhodesian, German, Iranian and Jordanian airmen) were trained in the various electronics specialisations available at Locking during this period.
In 1964 the RAF Trade skills structure was changed to reflect changes in maintenance policy, (the change from ‘maintenance by repair’ to ‘maintenance by replacement’). This affected apprentice training. The last entry of ‘Aircraft Apprentices’ and the first entries of ‘Technician’ (3 year) and ‘Craft’ Apprentices (2 years) commenced training. Regular personnel were also trained but in ever-decreasing numbers.
In 1965 all Aircraft Radio/Radar trade training moved to RAF Cosford leaving only Ground Electronics specialisations at RAF Locking.
In 1966 the last Aircraft Apprentice entry graduated and in 1970 the first entry of Mechanic Apprentices commenced training. 1976 saw the end of all ground electronics specialisation Apprentice training at RAF Locking. No 1 Radio School assumed responsibility for training regular personnel as Electronic Technician Synthetic Trainer (L Tech STs) to work on Synthetic Aircraft Trainers (Simulators).
In 1977 Training and Support Commands merged and RAF Locking came under the control of Support Command.
1978 was the year that the Ground Electronics Trade Group was reorganised into Airfields, Air-defence and Telecommunications sub specialisations. Training continued in these specialisations until the early 90’s when training for the new multi-skilled specialist Ground electronics tradesman was introduced
1985 Simulator training moved to RAF Cosford. YTS training commenced at Locking and in 1987 Trade Management training for TG 3 personnel started at Locking.
During 1988/9 TG 11 transferred from No 2 S of TT to No: 1 RS..
From 1990 various parts of No: 1 RS were moved to No 1 S off TT (as Cosford had now become) until the eventual shut down of RAF Locking as a training facility in 1998.
RAF Locking had its share of visits by royalty. Among the most prestigious included visits by the Duke of Kent in 1940, HRH Princess Margaret in 1953 and in 1955, the Duchess of Gloucester in 1959, HRH Princess Margaret (as Countess of Snowdon) in 1994, Her Majesty the Queen in 1986 and Diana Princess of Wales in 1991 at the time of the first Gulf conflict and lastly by the Duke of Gloucester at the final close down..
In 1956 the Station was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Weston Super Mare. The first ‘Freedom Parade was in the same year. The final parade was held in 1998 and was reviewed by the Duke of Gloucester.
Between 1999 and 2000 the Station was closed down and the married quarters sold off.
The rest of the 81hectare site was sold to English Partnership and the SW Regional Development Board for £10 million.
The original plan for the site was for it to be used for Housing and Employment (businesses) on a 50/50 basis. This has caused consternation in the local council who wanted a 25/75 split.
In June 2003 the contract to demolish the site was let. The only buildings saved (in the short term) were the Guard room, the Church, the Medical Centre, the Gymnasium and several small offices. One of the major problems with the demolition was the amount of asbestos used in some of the buildings.
In 2004 the site demolition was substantially completed. Most of the recoverable material from the demolition has been stockpiled around the site for future use? Much of it on the old parade ground, a vision of ‘Percy Parks’ (Apprentice Wing WO in the 50’s and 60’s) turning in his grave comes to mind!
At the time of writing no further action seems to have taken place; with the North Somerset Council, SWRDA and English Heritage squabbling over the Weston Vision Exercise objectives. There are great plans afoot for the site; so we are told!!!
In June 2004 SWRDA and the other organisations involved are at odds with the local community as plans are afoot to demolish the Church! The Gymnasium has been demolished as have the various ‘small offices’ used by the demolition crews. The Guardroom still remains!