View Full Version : TSR2 bases and squadrons

Tim McLelland
10th Oct 2009, 17:54
Here's one I've been looking into - any thoughts?

Coningsby was well-known as the selected base for the OCU but I've also heard some mutterings about Hemswell (no really!) being used as a base for flight trials. Anyone else heard anything serious about this?

After that, things get very cloudy. It does seem clear that two (perhaps three) squadrons would have been based at Akrotiri, and UK/RAFG squadrons would be detached to Hal far for low flying training. There doesn't seem to be any documentation to clarify anything more though.

One assumes that the RAFG units would have been based at Laarburch, on the basis that the Canberra strike aircraft were based there and their replacement (the Buccaneer) was also based there. But a TSR2 brochure shows an estimated range map based on Geilenkirchen, which suggests that maybe the latter base had been earmarked at some stage? Likewise, there seems to be no evidence of any projected second UK base so maybe this would have been Honington, given that the Buccaneers went there?

As for squadrons, this seems to be even more unclear as much would have depended on whether the units were seen as direct successors to the Canberra tactical strike squadrons, or the strategic Vulcan squadrons. Officially-speaking, it ought to have been the former, in which case the best guess ought to be the units which eventually got the Buccaneer (15, 16 and maybe 12 and 208?), but then there's the Akrotiri squadrons too (presumably 9 and 35 given the eventual outcome)? There's also the recce units to consider - 2 Sqn must have been pretty certain but what about 41? And what would the OCU have been? 237 (as eventually appeared with Buccaneers) or 228?

Answers (or speculations at least!) on a postcard...:p

10th Oct 2009, 18:13
As Hemswell's runway was too short for a V Bomber, it closed to flying. Wasn't it the TSR school that was going to be based at Hemswell rather than the OCU or flight trials?

Tim McLelland
10th Oct 2009, 22:37
Don't know - that's what I was wondering as I've only ever heard Hemswell mentioned a few times but nothing "official" anywhere. I guess some sort of ground school might have been more likely although I would imagine the available runway would have been more than enough for the TSR2 as it was (must have been at least 6,000ft?). The OCU was certainly destined for Coningsby though, but I've never seen any indication as to what the number plate would have been.

Tim McLelland
12th Jan 2010, 01:33
It seems clear now that the OCU would indeed have been 237. The only mystery which remains is what the unit's badge would have looked like. The one we're familiar with is of course relevant to the Buccaneer (crossed cutlasses and a mortar board) so one wonders what the earlier incarnation might have looked like?

Tim McLelland
12th Jan 2010, 01:42
As for the wider question of TSR2 bases, my investigations suggest the following:-

The OCU (237 OCU) would have been based at Coningsby. This would have been joined by a trials unit (40 Squadron) which would have operated the first aircraft before moving to Honington to become operational.

The operational squadrons would then have formed at Honington and Marham, two bases being necessary as the aircraft originally scheduled for Germany (Bruggen possibly although some sources suggest Geilenkirchen) were to have been based in the UK instead, only operating on deployment to Germany when necessary.

Hemswell was indeed home of the Ground School but I haven't found any evidence one way or the other on whether the runway would have remained available either for communications aircraft or (perhaps) an occasional TSR2 visitor! It seems that Bassingbourne was also considered as a potential TSR2 base in the recce role and although Wyton was originally proposed as a base for a TSR2 recce squadron, the plan was dropped.

No further evidence of any proposed squadrons other than 40 and 13 Squadrons. One assumes that 617 Squadron would have been amongst the line-up but anything else is still speculation!

12th Jan 2010, 09:56
I was once told Boscombe Down, hence the HAS everywhere. May have been made up though....

12th Jan 2010, 10:14
Plan P in March 1964 stated that the total TSR2 requirement was 193 aircraft.

Bomber Command

2 sqquadrons operating in the lightbomber/strike role each with 12 aircraft
1 recce squadron with 8 aircraft

RAF Germany

2 suadrons operating in the light bomber/strike roles each having 12 aircraft
2 squadrons operating in the recce role each having 8 aircraft


2 squadrons operating the light bomber/strike roles each having 8 aircraft
1 squadron operating the recce role with 8 aircraft


1 squadron in both strike and recce roles with 10 aircraft

Frontline strength was planned as 106 aircraft with up to 18 on the OCU plus the remainder with secondline units like Boscombe. First overseas deployment to RAFG.

Then came the dreaded Spotswood Report and things changed.

All info obtained from 'Lost Tomorrow of an Eagle' by Paul Lucas. A great read and fantastic insight into what might have been!:ugh:

12th Jan 2010, 14:43
You beat me to it newt, I was going to check out 'Lost Tomorrow of an Eagle' as soon as I got home from work.

I second your comment about it being a great read and full of 'what might have been'.


Tim McLelland
12th Jan 2010, 15:32
Yes it's an interesting book and even if (like me) you're not interested in endless "what if" scenarios and speculative paint schemes, the exploration of the many weapons fit proposals are certainly interesting. The afore-mentioned book also seems to follow the same path as I've outlined above, as regards confirmed units and bases and it doesn't look as if there was ever any documentation to suggest that anything beyond this was ever established before the project was cancelled. Having said that, if anybody spots anything, do let us know as it would be nice to get as much factual information clarified as possible. There's a huge amount of material out there on the TSR2 but when you start wading through it all, the facts are heavily outweighed by the fiction so it's pretty difficult to weed-out the emotion from the reality!

12th Jan 2010, 18:06
wonderboysteve; your informant is totally wrong. The HAS' at Boscombe were intended for USAF F111 deployments and weren't built until the 80s with US D of D money, long after TSR 2 was recklessly destroyed by a Labour government almost as bad (ie starving the MOD of money and total lack of foresight) as the present one.

Tim McLelland
12th Jan 2010, 23:58
Raises a question which I've pondered over before though - assuming that the HAS complexes would have still been built, would the shelters have been big enough to accommodate a TSR2 (particularly in terms of height)? I'm assuming that the first-generation shelters in RAFG would definitely have been far too snug - not that they would have been required of course if the basing options for TSR2 had been carried-out!

13th Jan 2010, 09:39

Many thanks! I will have words with my informant....

13th Jan 2010, 10:51
I was at Honington from 1962 until 1966 and I never heard anything about it becoming a TSR 2 base. When the Valiants were withdrawn it was Marham that was bereft of aircraft, there being only one Valiant squadron at Honington. Nos 55 & 57 Victor Squadrons subsequently moved to Marham to fill a void and also because tanker operations were established there. Honington then went on to C&M and eventually, in the early 70s, became a Buccaneer base for no other reason than it was empty. The Buccs went and then the Regiment moved in from Catterick.

13th Jan 2010, 16:03
The Boscombe Hardened Facilities were actually used for a period when the remnants of the former RAE air-fleet moved west. Most of the kit in the accommodation facilities, lighting, comms, power, ventilation etc failed after a few days regular use. Obviously built to the usual exacting standards practised by Defence Project Contractors.

Just as well the F111s never had to deploy for real!

Never did find the McDonalds or the BX :)


13th Jan 2010, 16:43
At least 4 Dets of F111's at Boscombe Down in the 80's, sometimes
18 acft at a time....

14th Jan 2010, 10:45
TSR 2 was recklessly destroyed by a Labour government almost as bad (ie starving the MOD of money and total lack of foresight) as the present one.TSR2: cancelled by the reds who were in the bed in those days, never mind under them. :hmm: These days GB, AD and EB are better disguised but they still have dubious pasts.

1st Apr 2010, 16:29
re. TSR.2 RAF. Hemswell as mentioned was to have been the ground school, it was noted that there would be 2 instructional TSR airframes sited there (im assuming one being the systems mockup as built by BAC.?)
RAF. Coningsby was to have been the initial service base with No.237 OCU. and No.40 Sqdn based there. I have a note that No.13 Sqdn. was to have recieved the aircraft at Wyton.

re. the types cancellation, the programme was extremely over budget, agreed due in part to service as well as company mishandling, indeed the goverment of the day just weeks prior to the cancellation decision was finalised asked BAC. how much a total of 30 aircraft would cost, note not the ordered run just 30, the company couldnt respond with a figure and cited that there were too many variables involved to derive such a sum. I know from industry BAC. were somewhat correct in their response but all involved knew full well the aircraft was at risk of cancellation, surely BAC. should have been somewhat more forthcoming.

not well known by the time of cancellation the RAF. had already moved its sights to the F.111 as the type it wanted, BAC. (Vickers) had been promised civil orders from BOAC. altho the airline again wanted to buy American and not the VC.10's the goverment wanted them to, leaving BAC. (EE.) to bear the brunt of the orders cancellation scrapping the production lines at Samlesbury leaving Canberra refurbishment their main income for a number of years til Jaguar came on stream

in hindsight the TSR.2 should have been cancelled sooner, indeed there are documents at the PRO./TNA. from the outgoing goverment stating that they should defer such a decision in order to derive some political gain from the next goverments handling of the project

one major issue that is not usually cited is the aircrafts unsuitability for its intended role, notwithstanding the favourable test crew reports, other contempory material notes the design being overweight, of limited growth potential (admittedly due to a tight specification) frangiable and unsuitable materials used in its construction (again due to weight) some aspects requiring redesign (again noted at design stages but lost due to mishandling of the project) the list goes on and on, again all familiar in a modern context, eg. Typhoon, but remember the UK. was trying to jump a generation in design capability with this aircraft and again in hindsight one could foresee such issues arising

cheers, Joe