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Baton relay celebrating 100 years of the RAF reaches Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 18:14 23 June 2018 | UPDATED: 18:14 23 June 2018

Orford Ness Picture: NATIONAL TRUST

Orford Ness Picture: NATIONAL TRUST

Archant

A special baton relay will arrive on the Suffolk coast on Monday as part of celebrations to mark the centenary of the formation of the RAF.

View of Black Beacon at Orford Ness National Nature Reserve Picture: NATIONAL TRUST/RICHARD SCOTTView of Black Beacon at Orford Ness National Nature Reserve Picture: NATIONAL TRUST/RICHARD SCOTT

The RAF 100 Baton Relay will see volunteers ranging from air force personnel, cadets, and veterans spend 100 days travelling the country to visit sites associated with the RAF.

On Monday, the baton will arrive at Orford Ness, which was once a top secret RAF base.

At 9.30am, cadets from 1379 (Leiston) Squadron RAF Air Cadets will leave the site of a First World War Officers Mess at the eastern end of the Orford Ness airfield carrying the RAF 100 baton.

They will carry it past a First World War accommodation block and the Second World War station headquarters building to the jetty, where the Orford Ness ferry will then take them back across the River Alde to Orford Quay.

They will then hand over to cyclists from RAF Honington to continue the relay.

The day will then see the team visiting a number of Suffolk places with historic RAF connections before this leg of the cycle ride completes at Ness Point in Lowestoft.

David Mason, lead ranger for the National Trust on Orford Ness, said: “Being chosen as one of the sites for the baton relay really shows what an affinity with the RAF this remote part of the Suffolk coast has had over many years.

“We also like to think that having to travel partially by boat makes Orford Ness one of the more unusual stops along the way for the RAF team.”

The military history of Orford Ness may be best known for its use as a testing site for nuclear weapons by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment from 1950s to the 1970s, but in 1916 the Royal Flying Corps Station Orfordness was opened and commissioned on Orford Ness.

Its role was to enable the RFC to develop methods of using the recently invented aeroplanes for warfare.

On April 1, 1918, the RAF was created as an independent air force and RAF Orfordness became a top secret aerial warfare research and development facility testing weapons.

In the mid-1930s, a scientist called Robert Watson Watt led a team based on the Ness. They proved that radio direction finding could work to track aircraft.

This later became known as radar, which was developed for operational use at Bawdsey Manor just in time for the Battle of Britain.

RAF Orfordness continued as a top secret research and development and front-line gun battery defending against aerial attack during World War Two.

The National Trust took on the care of Orford Ness from the Ministry of Defence in 1993 and opened it to visitors in 1995.

Mr Mason added: “The work that happened here was very secretive by necessity then, but we do know now what a huge contribution was made by people who lived and worked in this area, so we’re honoured to be a part of the centenary celebrations in this way.”

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