RAF Wyton Photographic Factory

RAF Wyton was home to the Strategic Reconnaissance Force after WW2. More information about the base’s history can be found on Wikipedia

The recon role of the base wound down in the 1990s and is now used for logistic purposes. This change in purpose meant that the photographic facilites were no longer needed.

The “photographic factory” now lies derelict outside of the base. It was sold in 2002 for redevelopment, but nothing seems to have happened since then.


The photographic factory at Wyton is a relatively simple one storey building. I say “one storey” – it is built on a slope so it’s about 1.5 stories. It is nearly the shape of a T, but a huge boiler/plant room adorns the west wing.

  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory


The last 10 years have not been kind on the building’s interior. The paint on the walls is peeling. The floors are sketchy in places. Ceilings are collapsing. Windows & toilets smashed. This amount of destruction is quite surprising considering the remote location!

  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory

Development areas

The main development room is, as per the rest of the building, pretty smashed up. There was evidence that sinks used to grace this room, but they’ve long-since gone. Six processing rooms were attached to the main room, each via a small blacked-out corridor (the doors have been smashed off – they now lie on the floor of the main room).

  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory

Random signage

A few signs remain, one would imply that the building was used for the last time during 1995. I’m not sure why there was a mattress store there either.

  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
  • Thumbnail of RAF Wyton Photographic Factory
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57 Responses to RAF Wyton Photographic Factory

  1. paul evans says:

    I am sure I spent some time working in this building when i served at RAF Wyton between 1984 and 1987. I was a Cpl supplier attached to the Air Movs Section which was “transferred” across the road and into the “Old Photo Factory”

  2. Sean Edwards says:

    Does anyone know if this building was used during the War??
    I went up there in January 2008 and took a few pictures, great site!

  3. Paul Evans says:

    Sad to see the place looking so run down

  4. James Mulcahy says:

    Ah, the factory! Hundreds of photographers slaved over hot developer and cooled their drinks in cold fixer. We marched from the airmens mess after breakfast, in column of threes, and halted outside the ‘servants’ entrance for a roll call and inspection. We worked feverishly in darkrooms – the lucky ones had little red safelights the others in panchormatic green or….utter darkness….then the blessed Sally van arrived and the factory emptied for tea and marmite buns. Eyes squinting the moleys sat on the grass supped tea and smoked fags for fifteen minutes then back into processing or printing or chemy mix or polishing the corridors. GS and BP’s under the gentle hand of Chiefy Snow or the glare of Flight ‘Bag’o buns’ Buckley. Then detatchments to the four corners of the globe with 58 squadron – Kenya, Cyprus, Lybia, Australia, Canada, Singapore. I’ve been everywhere, man. Air surveys, secret missions, maps, new air forces, whingeing national servicemen, institutionalised long term regulars. We were the best and saw it all.
    They probably can’t redevelop the site because the ground is saturated with sodium hypochlorite and blue-grey ghosts. Walk away from it. Let it tumble. It is holy ground.

  5. J Y Kelly says:

    I worked in this building in 1979. About half of it was given over to the RAF (UK) Mapstore, supplying maps and charts. Although there was some photo processing equipment in the building, it was no longer in used. Over on the other side of the building was the Ground Photo Section and the Police Dog Section was in the same compound. The RAF (UK) Mapstore closed in 1981

  6. Allen Jackson says:

    This looks a very interesting location for a shoot. Like Will asked in his post of 1 April, I would be most grateful if you could let me have via email more information on access and exact location relative to the airfield. Thanks

  7. Robert Pilcher says:

    I was stationed at RAF Wyton from Arpil 1962 to Jan 1963 and worked in the Photographic Processing Building. I worked in the film developtment room as part of a 3 person team on a CPU, Continuous Processing Unit. Processing aerial films of over 250 feet long, each negative 8.5x7inch. A most important period of this year was during the Cuban missile crisis in October when we all were put on x3 shifts in a 24 hour period. The aircraft at the time were 543 Squadron Valiants and 58 Squadron Canberras I am not sure when the building was built and opened.

    Rob Pilcher
    South Australia

  8. sy says:

    I’m from the local town of st ives and back in the early 80’s i attended a evening at the local air cadets which was held at the old Photographic Processing Building. Back in the 60’s my father was an air force fireman on the base. I have cycled past there a lot of late and they have built a new junction for the Photographic Processing Building area as though they are going to do something with it but nothing has happened as yet.

  9. james Blackwwod says:

    In reply to Sean Edwards question posted on 09 Feb 08. The Photo Factory was not used during the war (I’m assuming you meant WW II). I am looking at two WW II aerial photographs of Wyton. One was taken in October 1942 and the area where the Photo Factory stands is a field. However, ground scarring was noticed and an access road was under construction. The second image taken in March 1944 shows an area containing a number of accommodation type Nissen huts and larger group of huts which may be a dining facility or canteen/NAAFI. Sean, this should answer your question.


  10. sam says:

    great photos, is there any one who can advise me on the location of this as i live about 5 mile away from wyton and would love to have a look around without going to the wrong place and end up with a bullet in my ass

  11. Bob (Jock) Webb says:

    I Worked in the Photo Factory in 1961/62 and was i/c of the discip office,Flt lt Grimshaw and W/O Ball were there at this time. Also Bill Taylor (we are still in touch)was in the Film Library. Does anyone remember our two civilian cleaners one was called Eb? Does anyone remember me or Bill?

  12. Robert Pilcher says:

    Hello, Bob [Jock] Webb.
    Please check out my post 24 June 2008 I was in the Photo Factory from April 1962 to Jan 1963. I remember Flt lt Grimshaw and P/O Butler-Davis. I think I remember a W/O Ball. Some names when I was there.
    John Plimmer, Alan Bryant, Taff Povey, C/T Rocket,
    Dave Gorman, Reg Poore, Pete Cook and Jock Ross.
    I am not sure if I remember you.
    Rob Pilcher
    South Australia

    • Yvonne (Riley) says:

      Hi! I was stationed at RAF Wyton Photographic Unit from February to October 1962. I have a couple of photos of everyone sitting out on the grass enjoying snacks from the Sally Ann van! Do you remember Sue Lovejoy? I would love to hear from her.


    • Tom O'Byrne says:

      Bob, I was at the factory from 60-61. The factory was built in the early 50’s just in time for the PR Mosquitos to do an aerial survey of the UK. The two civvy cleaners were there in 1939 and saw the first recce plane take off at mid-day on 3 Sep 39. I met John Plimmer a few times in Rheindahlen and he was at my wedding in June 64. Also worked with C/T Rocket at RAE Farnborough on the Type 12. Kept involved with photography when I left the RAF and did aerial survey. Still keep in touch with a few mates.

  13. Bob (Jock) Webb says:

    Hi Rob Pilcher,
    Your name rings a bell but can’t put a face to it. Thanks for the names,I remember P/O Butler-Davis also Reg Poore who was billeted with me in what I remember as A block,Allan Bryant also rings a bell. The other civilian cleaner was called Jim. I can’t believe it is almost 50 years ago, thanks Rob you have brought back some memories.Bob.

  14. Robert Pilcher says:

    Dear Bob,
    Thanks for your reply. At the time I was there I was called Bob, a photographic assistant AC2, until I left to complete my Photo 2 Course at Wellesbourne Mountford. I was on the very last course there. After graduating I was posted to West Raynham. I was also in A block, opposite the NAAFI and Corporals Club. Yes 48 years ago. I had a good time there, The Three Jolly Butchers in Houghton, Brampton, St Ives etc. Some more names. Wally Stevens, Walter McGrath and Brenton Horst. Do you remember Sqn Ldr Follis. I think he was i/c of all the Photographic areas/sections at Wyton.

  15. Kevin Stowe says:

    I was there from 1972 to 1976 when I went to Cosford on my PPA Course (PPA 39).It looks really sad now, especially when I remember the cleaning effort that i put into the place.

  16. TONY STORY says:

    What an awful mess ! I ran the Ground Section around 1975, but “lived out” for most of the 18 months I was there. I wish I had taken a few pix then, before it ended up like it is. I do not think many of us thought the photographic trade would be hit quite so hard by the computer age. I think there were around 1800 photographers of one sort and another when I left the service in 1980 – I understand it is down to 200 in total now, as we have lost all the Air photography side.

  17. TONY STORY says:

    What an awful mess ! I ran the Ground Section around 1975, but “lived out” for most of the 18 months I was there. I wish I had taken a few pix then, before it ended up like it is. I cannot even recognise the ground section unless the entrance pic is the back/side one shown. I do not think many of us thought the photographic trade would be hit quite so hard by the computer age. I think there were around 1800 photographers of one sort and another when I left the service in 1980 – I understand it is down to 200 in total now, as we have lost all the Air photography side.

  18. Dave Kent says:

    Hi – This is a long shot for me but I served on %$£ Sqn just over the road from the Photo Factory a between 1970 – 1975 and I am trying to contact a guy with the surname Freeman – he came from Laarbruch I guess around 1973 – any infowould be grateful

  19. Charlotte says:

    Hey, I’m looking into doing some photos here for part of my photography project.
    Could anyone tell me how I get access, how to get there and what not?
    I don’t fancy getting shot down

  20. Derek Gare says:

    I drove past the old factory a couple of months ago and the wreckers were in, so a large part of of my early service memories are all thats left. I worked there in the early sixties for a couple of years. I worked at Wyton from 97 to 05 as a civil servant and watched the factory deteriorate slowly,but then thats the story of the RAF too

  21. Dave Proud says:

    Dave Proud Jnr Doing some delving for his dad based at Wyton 63 68 fire fighter / ground crew not expecting much, he was known as Geordie, if any boby can help or give some names please

  22. Clare says:

    This looks an amazing place!
    Are there any security guards or anything that patrol the area? Or is permission needed?
    Many thanks 🙂

  23. I have sad news, this site has recently been demolished according to a model who lives nearby, we did a shoot in nov 2009, and i did another shoot with another model as recently as 4 weeks ago, sadly just over a week ago it was all demolished, a real shame because its yet another part of our history that is now lost forever.

    Although i have been twice, i had no idea it was a photographic factory, now it kinda makes sense with all those dark rooms around that large room in the middle.

  24. Robert Pilcher says:

    Rob Alexander,
    Thank you very much for your last posting. I worked in that large room in the middle of the Photographic Factory. See my posting on 24 June 2008.
    Rob Pilcher
    South Australia

  25. Joe Fisk says:

    I served In Wyton, around 1963-4 Flt/sgt young (dr NO) was there as well as Fl/Lt Butler Davis and W.O JocK Bryant. The thing I remember Most Is sitting on the end of the cpu watching the film wind onto spools, feeding the RAF police dogs at the back of photo factory and making silver pennies in the fix baths. I left when posted to RAF Seletar Singapore. Sadly have lost all my service photos due to one to many moves as a civilian

  26. Robert Pilcher says:

    Dear Joe,
    I had the same position on the CPU. See see my post 24 June 2008.
    Robert Pilcher

  27. Pete Plumbley says:

    I was stationed at R.A.F. Wyton in the 70s and 80s and moled away in the factory like most of the people above. Later when the factory closed we then moved across the road and operated out of A.T.R.E.Ls. When I look back I had a fantastic time there,and I am sure that my bike ride home each day blew away the dreaded smell of exprol and amfix! Today,being the 8th. of August 2010, on my way home to north Norfolk from dropping of my grand children in the Midlands, I stopped off at the photo factory on a nostalgia trip. It is still their but totally derelict. The road leading to it off the main road is now a dirt track and for the most part the building is shuttered up, but I did find a way in but could see very little as it was so dark. I had a really strange feeling of sadness and thought back to guys like Chalie Mott, Ray Gay, Mick Windle and Eugene Spree and all the others I shared good times with. Where are they all now I wonder? My e-mail address is Plumtre2@yahoo.co.uk. Regards to all ex Photogs!

  28. Mike Windle says:

    I was first posted in to Wyton at the end of 1962 and worked in the ground section, upstairs in the armoury. After about six months I was moved to the factory where I worked in recirc. with C/T Rex Tingey. I made many good friends at that time but have lost contact with them all (Jim Masters, Jim Edwards-Hayes, Ned McCormick, Walter McGrath, Nick Harmer, John Plimmer, Sandi Lerner, Phil Money, Dave Kerridge, Brian Smith et al). In 1965 I did a singly tour at Rheindahlen and returned to Wyton in 68 when I married Sue (a receptionist from The Golden Lion in St Ives); I also got in a PPA course before being posted to Malta in 1971. I worked in the factory for the whole of this tour, in APFRAS. I returned to Wyton for my last tour of duty in 1979 but sadly, the factory had closed and we were working in ATRELS outside the Ops block. Eventually the MAREL opened and I finished my service there. I was actually working with a couple of bods with whom I had been in training at Wellesbourne.

    • Yvonne (Riley) says:

      Hello Mike,

      If you manage to find Jim Masters, would you let me know please! He was a good friend of mine, RAF Wyton, along with Keith Jerrome, and I have a book of his that he loaned me but that I would like to return to him as it will be more important to him than to me.
      Many thanks, Yvonne

      • John Lloyd-Hughes says:

        I was at Wyton at the same time as you, and recall quite a few names above. Have you any photos? Lost all mine moving!
        Please feel free to e-mail at beezageeza at btopenworld.com
        Jim Masters and I were going to build a sailing dinghy when we were at 1MFPU project drowned in a sea of Amstel!!!

  29. Mike Windle says:

    Another civilian worker who failed to get a mention was Albert Kemp, who maintained the boiler and the pumps in recirc. Eb Chapman and Jim ? were cleaners although they seemed to spend most of their time in their little room whilst the erks did the bumpering of the corridors.


    I worked in the factory from Feb 62 for about 18 months before going to Wildenrath.
    I used to be in hand printing with Dave Gorman, Tony Jones,Barry Parr and numerous others .I remember Brent Horst (I took him to London on the back of my Bianchi motorbike a couple of times) What a character! A number of bods mentioned above I knew well but not necessarily at Wyton. I remember Wally Magrath lying Wegberg Hospital having had a varicose vein removed from a place where if he laughed………….!
    Nitrate film burning was quite exciting as was riding my motorbike passed the marching to work brigade.
    I enjoyed many a evening down the Butchers ,Black Bull and not forgetting the NAAFI or the dances at the Corn Exchange in St Ives!
    Shame it is being demolished,or unused for that matter,thats our young years going down the tubes!
    Anyone seen a preserved Canberra flying come to think of it.
    Ah well enough of this waffle
    Happy Xmas and a Merry New year!

  31. Alan Brittan SAC 2706889 says:

    Gosh, what a surprise to see the old photographic buildings at Wyton, I clearly remember visiting them on many occasions .On call , PR section 1954/5 having returned to the UK from RAF Deversoir ,Suez Canal zone. I can recall seeing the first Valiants arriving one evening and clearing the runway of snow . Happy days at Wyton.

  32. Paul (Jess) Wiseman says:

    I was in the factory as an SAC between late 1968 and my posting to Episkopi in early 1970. My first job was in the Titling section, then a spell in Hand Enlarging before being transferred to 543 sqn. and 58 sqn.
    The runway at Wyton decided to disintegrate in late ’69/early’70, and both squadrons were detached to Honington while repairs were made, and I had to get transport back to Wyton to clear before my posting.
    In early 1973 I was posted back to the factory, and I was demobbed from there later that year.
    Happy days – in a funny sort of way!

  33. Bugs Berry says:

    Yes remember it. I was stationed at Brampton at JARIK. We used to be sent over
    during exercises to help out. But used to spend Days just playing uckers with nothing to do. This was late 60’s early 70’s. Then posted to 2 MFPU in Germany at Gutersloh and then Laarbruch for 3 years. My time in Germany was thebest years of my life without a doubt. Weekends at RheinD. The nurses parties at Wegburg ( spelling ? )
    Oh happy days!

  34. Robert Pilcher says:

    Hello Yvonne Riley,
    I was in the Factory from April 1962 to Jan 1963, re my posts 24 June 2008 and 25 Sept 2009. I think that I worked with Sue Lovejoy in the CPU room. Also I feel that I knew you.
    Robert Pilcher
    Adelaide SA

  35. Yvonne (Riley) says:

    Hello Bob,
    Yes, I think I remember you too! I have a couple of silly photos of Sue and myself but I can’t see anywhere on this site that I can place them. Do you remember Cpl Phillips (WRAF)? The cleaners used to buff the corridors and the top step leading down to the Officers’ offices were like glass. One day I slipped on the step and landed outside of F/Lt Butler-Davis’s office. He came out of his office, jumped over me and shouted , “Corporal Phillips, one of your WRAF’s is lying outside of my office!!”. I had a sprained ankle and was carted off to Sick Bay.
    I married a chap from 543 Squadron – been married 48 years next month!! How about you? Yvonne

  36. Robert Pilcher says:

    Hi Yvonne,
    Thanks for your reply. I am not sure if I remember Cpl Phillips, where did she work in The Factory. Also where did you work. I left there in Jan 1963 to commence my 6 month Photo 2 course at Wellesbourne Mountford. I was on the very last course and had a wonderful time there. After passing the course I was posted to West Raynham in Norfolk where I remained until my discharge in Dec 1966. I got married in Cambridge Oct 1972 and have lived in Australia since Dec 1972. 543 Squadron was detatched to Townsville Queensland Australia in 1962.
    Kind regards,
    Robert Pilcher

    • Yvonne (Riley) says:

      Hi Bob,

      Greetings from England (from Devon)!! It’s been a beautiful day here – hope all is well in Oz!!

      As far as the Factory is concerned, I have no idea where I worked – CPU? Do you have any photos? Irene Phillips was in charge of the WRAF’s so I’m not sure that she “worked” at all!! I was posted to RAF Akrotiri in October 1962 and didn’t keep in touch with any RAF Wyton pals.

      Are you a member of RAFPA?

      Best wishes, Yvonne

  37. Robert Pilcher says:

    Thanks Yvonne,
    My email is robbie007@adam.com.au
    Robert Pilcher

  38. Mike Windle says:

    Irene Phillips worked in control and used to keep the workflow board detailing sorties in and out.
    I remember the name Sue Lovejoy, didn’t she marry Danny McVicar?

    Yvonne, I haven’t seen Jim Masters since 1969 when I was on my PPA course (No 3). He was working as an instructor on the Air Photography Operator courses, as were Rick Guttery and Dave Edwards.


  39. Tom Bletsoe says:

    It’s not been demolished, I was there this morning (24th October 2011). Me and three friends drove down the new junction and decided to have a look around, it’s tricky to get in, but when you’re in there its amazing.
    There is a lot of interior damage, and graffiti everywhere – some quite sick stuff – but I was considering contacting the MoD to see if they (a) still own the site, and (b) if I could have permission to take groups of people around on hallowe’en tours.
    It’s great to know what it was actually used for, and such a shame that it’s all run down.

  40. Eric Dobson says:

    I was at Wyton from 1957 to 1959. I was a Photo GS but we often worked on the film magazines from 543Sqd. I must have worked in the ‘factory’ but I don’t remember if it was called that. I remember the fire was quite an event at the time.

  41. Malcolm Evans says:

    I was RAF Police stationed at Wyton from 59 to 61 – On one occasion whilst on patrol I found ‘Photographic Block’ insecure – builders had been working there around the main door and had ‘propped’ timbers against the door to make it secure. A couple of hard shoves and the ‘security’ fell apart. I entered with my colleague and seized 32 photographs marked ‘secret’ as proof of my visit leaving a receipt for these on the OIC desk. – All hell broke forth the following morning when the OIC went to work, and my report landed on the Provost Officer’s desk.
    Wyton – a fantastic station – even for Snowdrops.
    I have recently paid a vist to the area – and was most surprised as to how Photo Block had fallen into disrepair – Of course the Dog Section was on this side of the roaf as well.

  42. sidney turner says:

    Just for your info, its possibly being knocked down very soon. They have built around it using rubble,mud and fencing. I knew someone who was thinking of buying the site but never did. It was bought in 2001 I believe but guessing the fact its made of Asbestos and saturated with chemicals they havnt really bothered doing anything to it. When I go back the to check it out (dont live very far away from it) I will give proper details on it.

  43. Jimmy says:

    Building has not been knocked down. Went their last night. Climbed through window at the back. Has had all the copper etc removed by the travellers that were their. Holes in the floor every where.

  44. Paul Herbert says:

    Hello, does anyone know who owns this building now? Or if not how I could find out.

  45. Mike Gerrard says:

    Hi, i was based at Wyton as an SAC from jan 1970 – Apr 74 with short detachments to Honnington, Singapore, Gib and the 1992 phot rec. Competition at Stravanger, Norway. I worked occasionally in the ‘Factory’ but mainly in the photo ops section in Operations. We processed film and set Cameras for 9, 543, and 58 Sqadrons flying Pr9s, Pr7s and Victor rec. aircraft. The photo section were known as moles or ‘mollies’ due to the fact they worked in Darkrooms processing film. We were detached to Singapore RAF Tangeh to photograph Malasia for the Malay government proir to Raf Tangah being handed over the the Singapore Armed Forces. Whilst at Wyton and living in married quarters at nearby Upwood i remember The Victor crashing on landing, killing all the crew. The Vulcan Nukes only flew in on exercises or ‘situations’ and parked on the edge of the runway ready to go if needed. (best mate Sam (Gary) Connoly, who I’ve never seen since 1973)

    • John Phillips says:

      Are you the same Mike Gerrard who came from Clayton-Le-Moor, in Lancashire and was on APO12 in 1969.

      • mike gerrard says:

        hi John, only just read this post. Yeh the same MG, i remember traveling from Cosford to Wyton with you in 1969/70. Stopped off in London, met your ‘posh’ girlfriend and later she came upto Wyton for the weekend lol was her father a canadian diplomat or something? (I ‘moved rooms for a couple of nights to give you ‘space’) lol good times, good mates

  46. Andrew Bailey says:

    Hallo! My name is Andrew Bailey and I served from 1961 to 1970 as a photog. Never went to the factory at RAF Wyton but spent three rather good years at JARIC (FE) on RAF Seletar in Singapore from 66 until 68. The Girls I knew out there were Yvonne WIlkinson and Kate Tansey. Andrew I have a feeling Yvonne Riley that I knew you at WBM and have an idea that your boyfriend at that that time was a cahp whose surname was (is) Austin. He and I were together atb RAF Gutersloh from 62 – 65.
    I am approaching my 70th birthday in August and have been living peacefully in north Devon for over 10 years now.

  47. Robin Ellwood (SAC) says:

    I was based at RAF Wyton 73-74 as an Air Photography Operator working in The Factory.
    The photographs brought back some great memories but it is bloody sad to see the state of it and especially if it has been demolished.

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