RAF St Mawgan


Royal Air Force St Mawgan or more simply RAF St Mawgan is a Royal Air Force station near St Mawgan and Newquay in Cornwall, England.[2] In 2008 the runway part of the site was handed over to Newquay Airport.[3] The remainder of the station continues to operate under the command of the RAF. RAF St Mawgan used to have the widest military runway in the UK (300 ft)[4] and was the home of the Cornwall Air Ambulance[5] service and more recently 505 (Wessex) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF).[6]

RAF St Mawgan
Near St Mawgan, Cornwall, England
Shackleton Aircraft as gate guardian
(Latin for 'Be watchful')[1]
RAF St Mawgan is located in Cornwall
RAF St Mawgan
RAF St Mawgan
Shown within Cornwall
Coordinates50°26′05″N 005°00′47″W / 50.43472°N 5.01306°W / 50.43472; -5.01306
TypeRoyal Air Force station
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 2 Group
Websitewww.raf.mod.uk/our-organisation/stations/raf-st-mawgan/ Edit this at Wikidata
Site history
Built1939 (1939)/40
In use1940-Present
Garrison information
Wing Commander H. R. Simpson
  • Defence Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Extraction Training Organisation
  • Defence Infrastructure Organisation SD Training
  • No. 505 Squadron (RAuxAF)



Second World War


Opened as a civilian airfield in 1933, it was requisitioned at the outbreak of the Second World War and named RAF Trebelzue, initially as a satellite of nearby RAF St Eval,[7] but was expanded with twin concrete runways. In February 1943 it was renamed RAF St. Mawgan[7] and in June 1943, the United States Army Air Forces took over and carried out a number of major improvements, including a new control tower and a further extension of the main runway. The airfield was put under care and maintenance on 1 July 1947.[8]

Cold War


In 1951, it reopened as an RAF Coastal Command air base for the Air-Sea Warfare Development Unit RAF (ASWDU) where trials of new electronic equipment were carried out, to ascertain the suitability of the equipment for general use in Coastal Command, and for maritime reconnaissance, flying mainly Avro Shackleton aircraft, with support from a few Avro Lancaster aircraft. In 1956, No 220 and 228 Long Range Reconnaissance Squadrons were renumbered Nos 201 and 206 Squadrons[9] and joined by 42 Squadron in 1958.[10] RAF St Mawgan also became the Headquarters of 22 (Helicopter) Squadron. In 1965, 201 Squadron and 206 Squadron moved to RAF Kinloss and were replaced by the Maritime Operational Training Unit.[7]

In 1956, the last Lancaster in RAF operational service left RAF St Mawgan after a brief ceremony conducted by the then Commander-in-Chief of Coastal Command, Air Marshal Sir Bryan Reynolds. The Lancaster was an MR3 variant from the School of Maritime Reconnaissance.[11]

7 Sqn, flying English Electric Canberras, operated at RAF St Mawgan as target tugs from 1970 until 1982, with 22 Squadron moving out in 1974. 42 Squadron and 236 Operational Conversion Unit moved to RAF Kinloss in 1992, taking away RAF St Mawgan's fixed-wing station-based aircraft, the Hawker-Siddeley Nimrods which had been at the station since 1969. In 1976 some scenes in the film The Eagle Has Landed were filmed on the camp.[12] Nuclear depth charges intended for anti-submarine use by the US Navy P-3 Orion, Royal Air Force Nimrod and former Dutch Navy P-3 Orion aircraft, were stored at the United States Navy Atomic Weapons Department, situated at the west end of the airbase.[13]

The Joint Maritime Facility (JMF) (50°26′17.0″N 5°00′22.7″W / 50.438056°N 5.006306°W / 50.438056; -5.006306) at St Mawgan was commissioned 18 August 1995 after equipment from United States Naval Facility, Brawdy, Wales, a Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) shore terminal commissioned 5 April 1974, had been transferred and the sea systems had been remoted to the new JMF.[14][15][16] The SOSUS fixed bottom surveillance system had been augmented by mobile, towed arrays and the combined system renamed Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS) in 1984.[14] The JMF was an IUSS facility jointly operated by the Royal Navy and United States Navy. It was announced in early 2009 that the JMF would close in order to save the US Navy £6.5 million per year, losing 22 jobs in the process.[17][18] RAF St Mawgan was the last remaining US Navy installation in the U.K.[19] The systems at the JMF were remoted to the Naval Ocean Processing Facility (NOPF), Dam Neck, Virginia with the remaining personnel from JMF at RAF St Mawgan moved to the Virginia facility. The NOPF is a joint United States and United Kingdom, forces operation (the largest such contingent in the U.S.) under Commander, Undersea Surveillance.[14][20][21]

21st century


In 2005, RAF St Mawgan was one of the airfields shortlisted to house the new Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) in 2013, but in November 2005 it was announced by Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, that it would be going to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.[22]

In November 2006, No. 1 Squadron RAF Regiment moved to[23] RAF Honington and No. 2625 (County of Cornwall) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF) was disbanded.[24] Helicopter maintenance (HMF) also ceased here in that year. Until May 2008, RAF St Mawgan was primarily used as a Search and Rescue training camp and was home to 203(R) Squadron, equipped with Sea King helicopters. The SAR Force HQ was also located here. Both 203(R) Squadron and the SAR Force HQ moved to RAF Valley.[25]

On 1 December 2008 the airfield part of the camp (including the civilian side) closed but the RAF still remain on a reduced area. This was to allow full control of the airport to be handed to Cornwall County Council, with work including a new ATC tower and runway lights. The airport received a full CAA licence to operate in December 2008.[26][27]

In February 2013, £11 million was invested in the base to develop a new survival training facility providing key training areas for visiting task groups.[28]

In March 2015 the former airfield of the base became a strong contender to be the first UK spaceport for horizontal take off and landing after being shortlisted by the government. The plans subsequently led to the establishment of Spaceport Cornwall at Newquay Airport. The first orbital launch took place on 9 January 2023 (launch ended in failure, with satellites not reaching orbit) as the result of a partnership with Virgin Orbit.[29][30][31]

March 2016, RAF St Mawgan completed a brand new guardroom block, built by Babcock adjacent to the old guardroom but much larger with: car parking, office facilities and accommodation.[32]



The following units were also here at some point:[33]

Role and operations


Defence Survival Training Organisation


RAF St Mawgan is currently home to Defence Survival Training Organisation (DSTO),[49] which is a tri-service unit that teaches 'Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract' (SERE) methods for the Armed Forces in support of operations and training. They also conduct trials and equipment development.[49] It was formerly known as the School of Combat Survival and Rescue and moved to St Mawgan from RAF Mount Batten in 1992.[50]

Other operations


The Royal Air Force maintains a small workshop on the station, enabling construction of components for the upgrading of aircraft for all three services. Accommodation on the airfield is often used by students of Agusta Westland's training facility at Newquay Airport.[51]

Other units located here at St Mawgan are 505 (Wessex) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF). The gate guard was an Avro Shackleton aircraft which was sold and moved in December 2015.[52]

From February 2016, 120 Royal Military Police (RMP) officers of the 1st Military Police Brigade, British Army, were being hosted by the base in a new police investigation unit that will be capable of managing complex police investigations. The main investigation will look at British troops' conduct in Afghanistan.[53] Their facility, known as major incident room (MIR), will replicate the benefits of major incident rooms used by Home Office police forces when conducting complex investigations. It will use the same Home Office Large Major Enquiry System (HOLMES) for analysing and linking evidence. The RMP will come under the command of the Provost Marshal (Army). RAF St Mawgan was chosen over other locations for its availability of office and living accommodation. Married personnel and their families will be accommodated in the married quarters sites at Treloggan, St Eval (Officers) and St Columb Minor (Sergeants), which were recently renovated. Single accommodation will be provided on base in spare capacity blocks.[54]

Based units


Notable units based at RAF St Mawgan.[55][56][57]

Royal Air Force


No. 2 Group (Air Combat Support) RAF

No. 22 Group (Training) RAF

British Army


Adjutant General's Corps (Military Provost Guard Service)

  • MPGS Military Provost Guard Service

See also



  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 251. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ "RAF - Home Page". raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  3. ^ "History | Newquay Cornwall Airport". newquaycornwallairport.com. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  4. ^ "RAF St Mawgan airfield". controltowers.co.uk. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Contact Us | Cornwall Air Ambulance". cornwallairambulancetrust.org. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  6. ^ "RAF - 505 (Wessex) Squadron". raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Laming 1994, p. 127.
  8. ^ "RAF St Mawgan". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 25 November 2021.
  9. ^ Halley 1980, pp. 204–209.
  10. ^ Halley 1980, p. 76.
  11. ^ Pitchfork, Graham (2008). The Royal Air Force day by day. Stroud: History Press. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-7509-4309-3.
  12. ^ "RAF - History of RAF St Mawgan". raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  13. ^ "Behind the scenes at RAF St Mawgan where nuclear weapons were once hidden". Cornwall Live. 10 August 2019. Retrieved 25 November 2021.
  14. ^ a b c "Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS) History 1950 - 2010". IUSS/CAESAR Alumni Association. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  15. ^ Commander Undersea Surveillance. "Naval Facility Brawdy April 1974 - October 1995". United States Navy. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  16. ^ "JMF St. Mawgan, UK Installation Guide - Military.com". benefits.military.com. Archived from the original on 25 March 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  17. ^ "A fond farewell to maritime crew". West Briton. Retrieved 17 March 2016.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ "Base staff lose jobs in US switch". BBC News. 21 January 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  19. ^ "Navy to close last facility in U.K. by May". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  20. ^ Commander Undersea Surveillance. "Naval Ocean Processing Facility (NOPF) Dam Neck". United States Navy. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  21. ^ Europe, This story was written by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW) Chris Henry, Navy Public Affairs Support Element East Detachment. "Navy Takes First Step in Disestablishment of JMF St. Mawgan". United States Navy. Retrieved 17 March 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ "RAF base loses fighter decision". BBC News. 17 November 2005. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  23. ^ "RAF St Mawgan 'safe for 25 years'". BBC News. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  24. ^ "2625 History". 2625.co.uk. Archived from the original on 24 March 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  25. ^ here, RAF Details. "RAF - RAF Helicopters in Search and Rescue". raf.mod.uk. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  26. ^ "Newquay Cornwall Airport". Archived from the original on 4 December 2008.
  27. ^ Oliver Smith. "Newquay Airport decision to be made this week". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  28. ^ "£11m RAF St Mawgan air base investment". Cornish Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2016.[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ Correspondents, Rebecca Morelle and Jonathan Amos (9 January 2023). "UK space launch: Historic Cornwall rocket mission set to blast off". BBC News. Retrieved 9 January 2023.
  30. ^ "UK space mission fails after rocket 'anomaly'". BBC News. 9 January 2023. Retrieved 10 January 2023.
  31. ^ "UK space launch: Historic Cornwall rocket launch ends in failure". BBC News. 10 January 2023. Retrieved 10 January 2023.
  32. ^ "RAF - News". raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  33. ^ "St. Mawgan (including Trebelzue) (Newquay Cornwall)". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 15 September 2023.
  34. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 62.
  35. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 208.
  36. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 112.
  37. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 148.
  38. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 119.
  39. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 126.
  40. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 127.
  41. ^ a b Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 128.
  42. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 66.
  43. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 94.
  44. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 206.
  45. ^ a b c March 1993, p. 87.
  46. ^ a b c Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 232.
  47. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 273.
  48. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 59.
  49. ^ a b "Defence SERE Training". RAF St Mawgan. Royal Air Force. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  50. ^ Laming 1994, p. 128.
  51. ^ "Flight and Search & Rescue Training at Aerohub in Cornwall". aerohub.co.uk. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  52. ^ "Shackleton aircraft stripped for move from RAF St Mawgan". BBC News. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  53. ^ "Police investigate claims that UK soldiers abused Afghan civilians". BBC News. 25 October 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  54. ^ "Military police in airbase move". newquayvoice.co.uk. 3 February 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  55. ^ "RAF St Mawgan - Who's Based Here". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  56. ^ "Military police in airbase move | Newquay Voice". Newquay Voice. 3 February 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  57. ^ "Reserve units in the South West - British Army". Army – Be The Best. Retrieved 29 July 2018.


  • Halley, J. J. (1980). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force. Tonbridge, UK: Air-Britain. ISBN 0-85130-083-9.
  • Jefford, C. G. (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Laming, T. (1994). The Royal Air Force Manual. London, UK: Cassell. ISBN 1-85409-190-5.
  • March, P. (1993). Royal Air Force Yearbook 1993. Fairford, UK: Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.
  • Sturtivant, R.; Hamlin, J. (2007). Royal Air Force flying training and support units since 1912. UK: Air-Britain (Historians). ISBN 978-0851-3036-59.

Further reading

  • Saunders, Keith A. (1995) RAF St Mawgan (Britain in old photographs series), 126 pp. Stroud: Sutton (reissued by Universal Books 1998) ISBN 1-84013-195-0
  • Official website