The Worshipful Company of Turners

Supporting the Craft, City and Charity for over four hundred years

With the transfer of ownership of the St Athan site to Welsh Assembly Government, the introduction of commercial businesses and arrival of the Special Forces Support Group, the Royal Air Force St Athan title was given up on 1 July 2006 in favour of naming the site MOD St Athan. This title more accurately represents the diversity of the personnel based here. No4 School of Technical Training (SofTT), which is part of the Defence College of Electro-Mechanical Engineering, also assumed responsibility for the RAF Support Unit role. The decision in July 2011 to co-locate all military technical training at Lyneham, rather than St Athan as originally planned, resulted in CO 4SoTT assuming the wider role of CO MOD St Athan. The RAF at St Athan has a long tradition of friendship and co-operation with the local community and the honour to exercise the freedom of entry to many local boroughs reflects the close relationship between the RAF and Civil Community.

The History of St Athan

The Station opened in September 1938 and was built on a site known locally, since the time of Henry I, as the East and West Orchards.  The site was purchased by the Air Ministry in 1936, with the intention of establishing a permanent RAF station; however, the urgent requirement for new training accommodation necessitated the construction of a hutted camp as an interim measure.  Those ‘interim measures’ were still standing on the East Camp until the end of the 1990’s.  The erection of permanent buildings began in 1939 and these included a cinema, a heated swimming pool (the first in Wales), a huge gymnasium and an indoor drill hall.  The airfield, initially with a grassed landing area, was situated in the middle of the site, the hard runway system being laid down in 1942.

Station Headquarters opened on 1 September 1938, under the command of Group Captain E B Brice, the Station being administered by No 24 Group Training Command.  The first unit to take up residence was No 4 School of Technical Training (4SofTT), which was responsible for the training of flight mechanics, riggers and MT drivers.  The School is still situated on the East Camp.  In 1939, the scope of the Station’s activities began to expand with the arrival of other units, including a fighter group pool, a maintenance unit (MU) and a school of air navigation.  The increase in the size and importance of the Station led to the position of Commanding Officer being upgraded to air rank, and Air Commodore the Honourable J D Boyle was the first air officer to fill the position.

In 1940, RAF St Athan was subjected to air attack several times, sustaining casualties and damage; during one air raid, the large and well-equipped Station Hospital was bombed.  As the war progressed, many more units, of diverse nature, were transferred to and from St Athan.  Among those were various training units, which were responsible for turning out 22,000 flight engineers and thousands of other trained personnel, including ground mechanics, wireless and radar operators, physical training instructors and navigators.  Nos 19 and 32 MUs handled a great variety of stores and undertook repairs to vast numbers of aircraft and other equipment.  For a time, the Czechoslovak Air Force Depot was also situated at RAF St Athan.  At its wartime peak, the Station’s working population totaled over 14,000 men and women.

With the transfer of ownership of the St Athan site to Welsh Assembly Government, the introduction of commercial businesses and arrival of the Special Forces Support Group, the Royal Air Force St Athan title was given up on 1 July 2006 in favour of naming the site MOD St Athan.  This title more accurately represents the diversity of the personnel based here.  No4 SofTT, which is part of the Defence College of Electro-Mechanical Engineering, also assumed responsibility for the RAF Support Unit role.  The decision in July 2011 to co-locate all military technical training at Lyneham, rather than St Athan as originally planned, resulted in CO 4SoTT assuming the wider role of CO MOD St Athan.  The RAF at St Athan has a long tradition of friendship and co-operation with the local community and the honour to exercise the freedom of entry to many local boroughs reflects the close relationship between the RAF and Civil Community.

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