A Short History of Carver Barracks – Wimbish
Print E-mail
Posted by Gau Gurung, on Monday, 05 July 2010 10:59   

The wartime period was very busy for Bomb Disposal personnel, which expanded to some 20,000 Royal Engineers on active service with a life expectancy of 16 weeks by 1945. Post war, the Regiment reduced to a Field Troop on Bomb Disposal.  The Regiment’s expansion started in 1969 when 49 Bomb Disposal Squadron RE was formed to take under command operational troops and on 16 May 1973 HQ Bomb Disposal Unit RE (or HQ EOD Unit RE as it had been known since 1969) was re-designated 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD).  Under command were 49 EOD Squadron and 71 EOD Squadron, the latter only existing from July 1972 to April 1974.  By 1980 the Regiment, based at Lodge Hill Camp at Chattenden, Kent consisted of an RHQ, 49 EOD Squadron and two Territorial Army Squadrons, 590 and 591.  The Reserve component had been a significant part of Sapper bomb disposal since the War, particularly from 1950 to 1967 when at its peak there were three Army Emergency Reserve (AER) Bomb Disposal Regiments (137, 142 and 144).  Since 1980 two further regular squadrons have been formed, in 1983 and 1991 (58 and 21 Squadrons, the latter having been a BD Company in London during the War), to meet increased commitments in both peace and war.  Two more TA Squadrons were also formed in the 1980s, bringing the total to four, and in 1988 the TA component left 33 Engineer Regiment to form 101 (London) Engineer Regiment (EOD).

 At the end of the Gulf War, 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) consisted of three EOD Squadrons (49, 58 & 21) but relied on the Royal School of Military Engineering for all its administrative support.  The Regiment had outgrown Lodge Hill Camp and the Gulf War had exposed the difficulty of deploying a field force unit without its own administrative and logistic element.  Options for Change provided the opportunity to correct this anomaly and in Autumn 1993, its new establishment and equipment tables approved, the Regiment moved to Carver Barracks, Wimbish.  In common with other Sapper Regiments, a Headquarters Squadron was formed, 22 Headquarters Squadron (EOD), which as well as supporting the Regiment, took over all responsibility for Battlefield Area Clearance.

From 1st April 1999 the Regiment has been assigned to 1 (UK) Armd Div and 3 (UK) Div 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando Brigade to provide explosive ordnance disposal expertise, in war.  Recent squadron operations included Bosnia 1995-96, Kosovo in 1999, Macedonia in 2001 and Afghanistan in 2002.  It continues to carry out its traditional tasks of Explosive Ordnance Clearance and disposal of air delivered weapons on the UK mainland, as well as deploying detachments to the Falkland Islands, Bosnia and Kosovo.  Commitments to JRRF and Counter Terrorist Operations continue to develop, particularly in the specialist area of High Risk Search.  The Regiment has expanded by 72 all ranks as a result of the Strategic Defence Review.

One of Debden’s early and most bizarre experiences was when the airfield was chosen as location for the film “It’s in the Air” in which George Formby was a pilot of a Hawker Fury.  During the Battle of Britain, the airfield was a sector station for No. 11 Group being occupied by eight RAF fighter squadrons at different times.  The first air raid occurred June 18th 1940, although the first bombs weren’t dropped until seven days later.

On February 14th 1941, a German HeIII landed and taxied to the control tower at which point the German pilot must have realised his mistake as he took off in a hurry!

From 1941, American pilots flew from Debden with No. 52 OTU that was established in February and later in 1942, No. 71 Eagle Squadron equipped with Spitfires flew cross channel operations from the airfield.  Both Squadrons formed the 4th Fighter Group in September 1942.  On April 11th 1944, Debden was visited by General Eisenhower eager to inspect for himself the growing might of the American fighter force.

In October 1944, No. 616 Squadron, the first RAF jet unit had a detachment of Meteors at Debden to practice affiliation tactics with the 4th Fighter Group.  The Americans left Debden in September 1945 and control reverted back to the RAF.  Debden became a unit of the Technical Training Commission, firstly, as the Empire Radio School then, in 1949, a Signals Division and later the Debden Division of the RAF Technical College.  In May 1960, it became the RAF Police Depot later being joined by a Bomb Disposal Unit and a Motor Transport Repair Unit.

On Sunday the 19th June 1966, at the Gala of Motor Sport event held at Debden, Donald Campbell demonstrated his Proteus-engined Bluebird on the main 1,600-yard runway.  The RAF Dog Unit was withdrawn from Debden in 1974 and the station officially closed on August 21st 1975.  It was recommended that Debden be disposed of in the Nugent Report.  In 1978 the airfield was renamed to Carver Barracks after Field-Marshall Lord Carver, the first unit to occupy the new barracks was the 13th/18th Hussars (Queen Mary’s Own).  Armoured Reconnaissance Regiments of the Cavalry Division have occupied the barracks up until 1993 when 33 Engr Regt (EOD) moved in.

In April 2010 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment (EOD)(V) converted to a regular EOD regiment being renamed as 101 Engineer Regiment (EOD) and relocated their headquarters to Carver Barracks.  This resulted in elements of 101 Engineer Regiment (EOD) being co-located with 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) at Wimbish and the Regiments comprising of 5 Sqns and 4 Sqns respectively.