Army Aviation Centre containing 2 (Training) Regt. 7 (Flying) Regiment School of Army Avn and attached units.
throughout the World as the Home of Army Flying The Army Air Corps at Middle
Wallop Stockbridge Hampshire had a name change in 2009 to reflect its current
and on-going missions. From now on it is called the Army Aviation Centre,
containing 2 (Training) Regt. 7 (Flying) Regt. School of Army Aviation and
attached Units. Middle Wallop airfield is located in the Hampshire countryside
near to the
The Royal Air Force were the first to train pilots at Middle Wallop when a pilot training school opened in 1940. The base was initially going to be used to for Blenheim Bombers but in the summer of 1940 when the Battle of Britain was being fought number 609 Squadron Royal Air Force flying the Supermarine Spitfire was moved to Middle Wallop. During the same year No. 604 Squadron Royal Air Force moved in with their Blenheim Bombers.
the Second World War in 1943 the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) moved
their 9th Air Force to Middle Wallop as the 9th Fighter
Command Headquarters. The airfield also hosted the 67th Group
another USAAF Group. The 67th were tasked with reconnaissance using
the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and North American P-51 Mustang both in the
recognisance versions. Post D-Day the 9th AF HQ’s and the 67th
Reconnaissance Group moved away in 1944 from Middle Wallop to
Wallop was handed back to the Royal Air Force (RAF) in July 1944 when No. 418
Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) arrived with its de Havilland Mosquito
nightfighter aircraft. They stayed at Middle Wallop until the arrival in
January 1945 of the Royal Navy (The Senior Service!). Over night RAF Middle
Wallop became Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Middle Wallop. HMS Flycatcher her
five units of aircraft moved in from RNAS Ludham which following their move
once again became an RAF Station. Four of the five RNAS Units were deployed
abroad one as far as
the Royal Air Force once again returned and took ownership of Middle Wallop the
Supermarine Spitfires of No. 164 Squadron RAF taking the number plate of 63
Squadron. In 1947 No. 227 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) RAF moved to Middle
Wallop. 227 OCU was an Army Air Observation Training Unit. Having moved to the
airfield the Unit was renamed in 1950 as Air Observation Post School and later
in 1952 it became the
During 1954 a Development Flight of the Central Flying School (CFS) using helicopters was formed at RAF Middle Wallop, the Development Flight led in 1955 to the establishment of the Joint Experimental Helicopter Unit. As the name implies it was a joint service Unit and remained so until 1957 when British Army Aviation became independent of the Royal Air Force. The Army Air Corps was born and Middle Wallop became the home of Army Flying and the RAF title dropped from the stations name. Middle Wallop remained as the Home of Army Flying until 2009 when it became the Army Aviation Centre.
During the 1980’s Middle Wallop was host to numerous Air Shows set up by the Royal International Air Tattoo committee. The shows would be in the intervening years when RIAT held first at North Weald in 1972, then RAF Greenham Common (under USAF control) latterly and to date at RAF Fairford. The finale of the shows at Middle Wallop would be a mass lift of helicopters predominately Lynx and Gazelles who would seem to appear from nowhere over the hill at the southern most point of the airfield. It was not unusual to see fifty or more helicopters in the air at the same time.
Wallop was home to the Blue Eagles helicopter display team flying their
Westland Gazelle and Lynx helicopters. When formed in 1968 all the pilots of
the Blue Eagles were Qualified Helicopter Instructors (QHI) and gave their free
time to attend air shows throughout the length and breadth of the
Air Corps Historic Flight has its home here the AAC Historic Flight comprises a
Westland Scout, de Havilland Canada Beaver (fixed wing) Aerospatiale Alouette
2, de Havilland Canada Chipmunk T.10, Westland Sioux, an Auster (fixed wing)
and a SARO Skeeter. All the aircraft are flown by volunteers (QHI/IP’s) in
their spare time some times when duties and commitments permit at air shows
Today young men and women join the Army and have a passion for flying. After a rigorous interview and selection process the lucky few are chosen to become pilots and spend their first few weeks learning to fly fixed winged aircraft. Once they have their “wings” they come back to Middle Wallop where they are trained in the art of rotary winged flying (helicopter). Initially they will be trained on the Aerospatiale AS.350BB Squirrel a single engine helicopter operated by No. 670 Squadron AAC (Army Air Corps). 670 Squadron is part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) who are based at Royal Air Force Shawbury Shropshire. The Army keep their contingent (No.670 Sqn) of helicopters and Instructor Pilots (IP’s) at Middle Wallop.
From the AS.350BB and once qualified rotary wing pilots they have the opportunity to be selected for the Lynx or Apache Squadrons. Further training will be completed on the Westland Lynx AH.7 (has skids not wheels) before the new pilots will be assigned to a Squadron. The training will take the best part of two years from ab-initio to fully qualified but as one “mature” pilot told me “then the learning really begins”.
chosen to fly the
In theory a young man or woman who joined the Army aged 18 could by the time they qualify be flying an Apache helicopter in a theatre of conflict/war by the time they reached 20 years old. Under their command would be one of the world’s most expensive lethal flying weapons. To purchase an “off the shelf” ready for use WAH-64D today (2009) would cost you a mere £38.2 million.
The Army Air Corps have 66 of these aircraft on their charge. Twelve WAH-64D’s are based at Middle Wallop for training purposes the others are either in theatre or based at Wattisham Camp in Suffolk. Local servicing of the twelve assigned to 673 (AH) Training Squadron is carried out on the aircraft at Middle Wallop. 7 Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) based at Wattisham cater for the remainder of the fleet and for all the major work needed by the Apache fleet.
From left to right: AS.350BB Squirrel, Westland Lynx AH.7 & WAH-64D Apache
Middle Wallop Instructors not only teach pilots they teach those on the ground how to support and sustain the on-going conflicts world wide that the UK Forces are involved in. Soldiers returning from the theatre of operations impart their knowledge to those about to depart to the current theatre(s) only in this way can the information be kept current and up to date.
In any “spare” time that the Instructors and students at Middle Wallop have they can join the Army’s Ice Hockey Team (www.ice-hawks.com) Under the leadership of WO2 S M Girdler the Ice Hawks recently reached the Inter-Service finals only to be beaten by their arch rivals the Royal Air Force.
No article would be complete with acknowledgement to those that helped produce it; my thanks therefore to the various AAC Officers, other ranks and their staff. Special thanks go to WO2 S M Girdler for his comprehensive tours of Middle Wallop during which much of the information for this article was gathered.
Army – Be the best; of that there is no doubt.
All photographs are Copyright © of the Crown/author unless otherwise stated