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By Julian Nettlefold

The fourth feature in the BATTLESPACE series of DSG site visits

Located just inside the Welsh border, within the confines of the former RAF Sealand site is the 80 acre complex of the Electronics and Components Business Unit (ECBU) of the Defence Support Group (DSG). The business unit is responsible for the repair and maintenance of Avionic equipment and operates as part of a Trading Fund of the Ministry of Defence. It functions as a third line repair base for avionics and other key electronics equipment for all three services. As a major in-service electronics and components support facility, DSG offers a comprehensive solution to all of DSG customers in the test, repair and calibration of tri-service avionic and electronics equipment.

Sealand’s capabilities support a diverse range of electronic, avionic and mechanical equipment for the MoD and Industry customers. This includes Automated Test Solutions, Calibration, Design and Manufacture, Maintenance, Modification and Test and Repair, and Medical and Dental Services. Utilising purpose-built electronic workshops, Class 7 cleanrooms and secure Class 4 facilities housing comprehensive manual, automated test facilities and general purpose and special to type test equipment, they are able to support products ranging from cables, communications equipment, microwave technologies and power systems to module and component levels.

History of Sealand

Sealand is a former Royal Air Force station in Flintshire, north Wales. Under defence cuts announced in 2004 RAF Sealand was completely closed in April 2006. All remaining units were moved to RAF Leeming.

The story of RAF Sealand began in 1917 when a local mechanic and entrepreneur, Tom Dutton, began a private flying school on fields rented from the John Summers Steelworks but it was soon sequestered by the Royal Flying Corps to train the pilots to face the likes of The Red Baron on the Western Front – Tom was given a rank and became one of the trainers.

Two twin hangars, which were built in 1917, were used by the newly-formed Royal Flying Corps. No 30 Maintenance unit was formed there in 1939. Two years later No 19 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) equipped with Tiger Moths was based at RAF Sealand.

In 1918, the RFC became the Royal Air Force and RAF Shotwick, as it was then known, began its long service history – Tom never did get his airfield back but he ran successful motoring businesses in the Chester area until the 1960s.

Later known as Sealand, it continued to train pilots but the action stepped up in the mid-1930s when it became clear that another war was looming. Though never a fighter base, Sealand did train many of “the few”, the men who went on to fly in the Battle of Britain – it was safer to do so away from the crowded and dangerous skies of Southern and Eastern England.

They flew mainly the Miles Master aircraft, very similar to the Hurricanes and Spitfires and even with the same Rolls Royce Merlin engines, with dual controls. Many of the men who trained the fledgling pilots were aces from the Battle of Britain who were attached to a battle group at nearby Hawarden which would be scrambled to intercept German bombers headed for Liverpool.

In 1951 the base was taken over by the United States Air Force. It was handed back to the RAF in 1957.

RAF Sealand has now fully closed leaving just DSG at the site. The MOD have contemplated using the site for several different purposes, one of the most controversial was the idea to turn Sealand into an Emergency Prison to cope with overcrowded prisons in England and Wales. Sealand’s ranges are still used for shooting, where cadets from different services come to either compete or practice shooting.

One side of the A550 which divides the base has already been taken over for an industrial estate and DSG told us that the Welsh Government is looking at the other 250 a

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