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RAF in Lincolnshire K-N

Continuing our series on RAF Stations in Lincolnshire with Stations K-N

Closed

RAF Kelstern

Opened: 1917

Closed: 1945

There were two RAF Kelsterns, both located in the Lincolnshire village five miles north west of Louth. The first opened as RFC Kelstern, serving towards the end of WWI, operating as a Home Landing Ground for No. 33 Squadron’s Royal Aircraft Factory FE2bs, the aircraft succeeded by Avro 504Ks.

The first site closed in 1919, a new station opening in 1943 north east of the original, now utilised for heavy bombers: Nos. 170 and 625 Squadrons operating Lancasters from Kelstern.

RAF Kirmington

Opened: 1942

Closed: 1946; reopened in 1970 as Humberside Airport

Taking its name from the nearby village 11 miles south west of Grimsby, Kirmington was most notably home to No. 166 Squadron flying first Wellingtons, then Lancasters, before disbanding at the site in November 1945 – the station put under care and maintenance in 1946. Other units based at the site included Nos. 142, 150 and 153 Squadrons.

In 1970, the area was chosen as the best location for a new regional airport, now known as Humberside International.

RAF Kirton in Lindsey

Opened: 1916

Closed: 2012

Two sites at the market town 15 miles north of Lincoln served the RAF and its precursor, the Royal Flying Corps, the first airfield opening in 1916 and used by B Flight of 33 Squadron, a home defence unit equipped with Bristol Fighters and Avro 504s.

The area returned to agricultural use at the end of WWI, with a site nearby chosen at the start of WW2 for use by Fighter Command. Opening in May 1940, the station was used as a resting point for Boulton Paul Defiants and Spitfires during the Battle of Britain.

Aerial photograph of RAF Kirton in Lindsey showing, the technical site with three C-Type hangars to the top (north), 27 July 1948.

(Aerial photograph of RAF Kirton in Lindsey showing, the technical site with three C-Type hangars to the top (north), 27 July 1948)

A notable unit based at Kirton was No. 71 Squadron, made up of mostly US pilots who were part of the ‘Eagle Squadrons’: American volunteers who fought on the side of the Allies prior to the US officially entering hostilities. They arrived in November 1940 and flew as convoy escorts over the North Sea before moving on to Martlesham Heath in Suffolk. Kirton later became a fully-fledged US station, in June 1942 it was assigned station number 349, before returning to RAF control in May 1943.

Continuing as a RAF station post war, predominantly as a training centre, control was passed to the Army in 1966, before returning to the RAF in 2004, becoming home of No. 1 Air Control Centre (No. 1 ACC) which relocated from Boulmer in Northumberland. When No. 1 ACC was incorporated into RAF Scampton, the station was closed.

RAF Leadenham

Opened: 1916

Closed: 1919

A WWI airfield located ten miles east of Newark, Leadenham was used by detachments of No. 38 Squadron as part of the east of England’s defence against Zeppelin attacks – FE2b fighters operating. When No. 38 moved to France, the area was used by No. 90 Squadron who arrived in August 1918 flying Avro 504K night fighters; sheds were constructed to protect the planes along with accommodation for air crews, the station closing in June 1919 when No. 90 disbanded.

RAF Ludford Magna

Opened: 1943

Closed: 1963

Around six miles east of Market Rasen, Ludford Magna was the highest airfield in England when it opened in 1943, operated by Bomber Command with the Lancasters of No. 101 Squadron among the first to conduct missions over mainland Europe from the Lincolnshire site in the latter part of WW2. It was the first airfield equipped with the Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation (FIDO) system: in basic terms, petrol was burnt along the three runways which helped disperse the fog allowing aircraft to take-off and land.

Lancaster NG128 of 101 Sqn from Ludford Magna dropping a Cookie cluster bomb over Duisburg on 14 October 1944

(Lancaster NG128 of 101 Sqn from Ludford Magna dropping a Cookie cluster bomb over Duisburg on 14 October 1944)

Post war, the station became one of several in Lincolnshire to house Thor nuclear missiles, Ludford Magna becoming synonymous with the dangers that came with the maintenance of weapons of mass destruction. On December 7, 1960, a spill of fuel from one of the missiles required the services of local firefighters and on their arrival, they found one of the launch pads shrouded in a cloud of evaporating liquid oxygen: a fire or explosion would have likely resulted in a large area, estimated at between 100 and 300 square miles, being contaminated with radiation. The departure of the missiles signalled the end of the RAF station.

RAF Manby

Opened: 1938

Closed: 1974

Opening during the late 1930s as part of the airfield expansion, Manby became No. 1 Air Armament School, responsible for training armament officers, bomb aimers and air gunners, utilising the coastal area near RAF Donna Nook for practice.

Post war, the RAF Flying College and the RAF Handling Squadron were among units formed at the site five miles east of Louth, the latter to assess the qualities of new aircraft including the English Electric Canberra; the Flying College was later split between Manby and the nearby RAF Strubby, Manby taking care of piston-engined aircraft while Strubby handled jets. In July 1962, the College of Air Warfare was formed at Manby, and when that moved to Cranwell a decade later, the station closed.

RAF Market Deeping

Opened: 1918

Closed: 1919

An emergency landing ground was established at the site on the border between Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, used by No. 90 Squadron who were operational at Buckminster.

RAF Metheringham

Opened: 1943

Closed: 1951

A bomber airfield was created at Metheringham, 12 miles south east of Lincoln, home to Nos. 106 and 110 Squadrons, the latter soon departing for Waddington. At the end of European hostilities, Australian No. 467 Squadron RAAF arrived for training with No. 106 ahead of planned operations in the Far East, but Japan’s surrender occurred before they left the Lincolnshire site. The station closed when 106 Squadron disbanded.

RAF North Coates

Opened: 1916

Closed: 1990

A camp was established by the army in 1914 six miles south east of Cleethorpes, the area then used in 1916 as a landing ground for the Royal Flying Corps No. 33 Squadron, before No. 248 Squadron arrived in October 1918.

Aircrew of No. 22 Squadron RAF walking away from their Bristol Beaufort Mark Is after a mission, at RAF North Coates during WWII

(Aircrew of No. 22 Squadron RAF walking away from their Bristol Beaufort Mark Is after a mission, at RAF North Coates during WWII)

Closing in March 1919, the site was reacquired in 1926 for aircraft using the bombing range at Donna Nook, and pre-WW2 it was used for training air gunners. In 1939, No. 2 Recruit Training Pool was formed at North Coates with the station transferred to No. 16 Group, Coastal Command, with Nos. 235, 236 and 248 Squadrons flying Blenheims. In September ’42, No. 236 along with Nos. 143 and 254 Squadrons formed North Coates Strike Wing, attacking enemy shipping in the North Sea.

In the 1950s, it became the first UK station to house Bloodhound Missiles, No. 17 Joint Services Trials Unit formed to carry out operational trials, the missiles remaining on site until 1990.

 

RAF North Killingholme

Opened: 1943

Closed: 1950

The bomber station came under the umbrella of No. 1 Group RAF, welcoming its first squadron in January 1944, No. 550 arriving at the site 11 miles north west of Grimsby from Waltham, flying numerous operations in their Lancaster bombers.

RAF North Witham

Opened: 1943

Closed: 1956

Opening as a supply and maintenance base for the USAF, the station is remembered for its role during D-Day after becoming home to the Pathfinder School of the 9th Air Force Troop Carrier Command, arriving in March 1944 from Cottesmore. Operating radar-equipped Douglas C-47s, the unit dropped the first American soldiers to land in France shortly after midnight on June 6 after departing the Lincolnshire station a couple of hours earlier, troops able to set up radio beacons to guide the main airborne forces.

RAF North Witham 19 March 1944

(RAF North Witham 19 March 1944)

Post war, the station was handed over to No. 40 Group, RAF Maintenance Command, becoming a munitions store, a role that continued into the 1950s with the station closing when No. 93 Maintenance Unit left.

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