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RAF in Lincolnshire S

Continuing our series on RAF Stations in Lincolnshire with Stations beginning with S.

Closed

RAF Sandtoft

Opened: 1944

Closed: 1957

Utilised as a satellite airfield for Lindholme, the station 11 miles west of Scunthorpe was used by Bomber Command to base a range of aircraft from No. 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit, HCU, including Handley Page Halifaxes and Avro Lancasters. At the end of hostilities, Sandtoft was placed under care and maintenance and remained inactive until 1953 when it was handed over to the USAF. However, the USAF never used the site and it returned to RAF hands in 1955, officially closing 18 months later.

RAF Scampton

Opened: 1916

Closed: 2022

One of the most famous of RAF stations, the closure of Scampton at the end of 2022 was greeted with dismay amongst many in the RAF, the home of both the Dambusters and the Red Arrows seen as surplus to requirements.

Beginning life during WWI as Home Defence Station Brattleby, in response to the threat of Zeppelin attacks, the first unit arriving was ‘A’ Flight No. 33 Squadron of the RFC, operating Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2bs. Developed into a training aerodrome it was renamed Scampton in 1917, before closing in 1919.
An 83 Squadron Handley Page Hampden and crew, pictured at Scampton, October 1940

(An 83 Squadron Handley Page Hampden and crew, pictured at Scampton, October 1940)

Reopening in the mid-1930s at a location five miles north of Lincoln, its fame was made during WWII, the station housing what was named Squadron X in 1943, the iconic 617 Squadron. Led by Guy Gibson and utilising Barnes Wallis’s bouncing bomb, the Dambusters played a crucial role in helping turn the war in the Allies’ favour, their daring raid, Operation Chastise, launched on May 16, 1943 from the Lincolnshire station: the Möhne and Eder dams breached causing devastating flooding of the Ruhr and Eder valleys.

Post war, Scampton was taken over by the USAF for a time before returning to RAF control in 1949, home to squadrons flying Canberras then Vulcans, with the first nuclear weapons arriving in 1958. In 1983 the Red Arrows moved to Scampton when it became home to the Central Flying School, and stayed for around four decades, with a five-year spell at Cranwell when Scampton was temporarily mothballed as a cost-saving measure.

There were several attempts to close the station over the last 30 years which were always met with stern opposition, however, the most recent announced in 2018 saw the MoD follow through on their plans, the Red Arrows moving to Waddington last year and No. 1 Air Control Centre heading to Boulmer.

RAF Skellingthorpe

Opened: 1941

Closed: 1954

Located four miles west of Lincoln, Skellingthorpe was opened under the control of Bomber Command, No. 50 Squadron the first arrivals operating Handley Page Hampdens. When No. 50 converted to Lancasters, the station was closed to extend its runways, and post war Skellingthorpe was home to No. 58 Maintenance Unit RAF, salvaged crashed aircraft stored at the site before its closure in the mid-1950s.

RAF South Carlton

Opened: 1916

Closed: 1920

A WWI airfield two miles north of Lincoln, South Carlton consisted of seven hangars, living quarters and offices, designated as No. 46 Training Depot Station, aircraft operating included Camels and Dolphins.

RAF Spilsby

Opened: 1943

Closed: 1958

The station opened in September 1943 as an overflow satellite airfield to RAF East Kirkby, No. 207 Squadron the first operational unit moving in from RAF Langar, soon joined by No. 44 Squadron – Spilsby forming 55 Base RAF with East Kirkby and Strubby.

Present day RAF Spilsby hanger

(Present day RAF Spilsby hanger)

In 1944, Flying Officer Denys Street from 207 Squadron was part of the mass escape from Stalag Luft III, one of the 50 executed after being caught, the event turned into the film, The Great Escape. The station was also the scene of a number of accidents, among the most severe was a collision between two returning Lancaster bombers, the aircraft from No. 44 and No. 207 receiving identical landing instructions at around 9.30pm on November 11, 1944, colliding over the village of Bratoft near Skegness, seven airmen killed.

Post war, Spilsby was used as a storage site, before it reopened as an active RAF station in 1955, one runway extended in anticipation of hosting USAF units, a role that never materialised. No USAF squadrons were ever based there, and the US military departed for Mildenhall in 1958 with the airfield closing. The station did, however, remain on standby for around 20 years as a dedicated emergency landing site for the Vulcans at Scampton, the runways eventually torn up in the late 1970s with the aggregate recycled in the construction of the Humber Bridge.

RAF Stenigot

Opened: 1938

Closed: 1990

One of the country’s earliest radar sites, Stenigot was part of the original Chain Home early-warning network, the ring of 20 stations built at coastal locations with the aim of detecting aircraft approaching UK airspace. Located 24 miles north west of Skegness in the Lincolnshire Wolds, one of the four original radar towers is Grade II listed, the best preserved such tower in Britain.
Chain Home tower at RAF Stenigot

(Chain Home tower at RAF Stenigot)

Upgraded in the late 1950s during the height of the Cold War, four radar dishes were installed as part of NATO’s ACE communications system, operated by the Royal Corps of Signals, their use deemed obsolete when the Cold War ‘ended’ following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

RAF Strubby

Opened: 1944

Closed: 1972

Along with East Kirkby and Spilsby, Strubby formed 55 Base RAF, with the first recorded aircraft at the station an unscheduled arrival before it was even complete: a USAAF Republic P-47 Thunderbolt making an emergency landing shortly before the official opening on April 13, 1944. The first squadron there was No. 280 of Coastal Command with Air Sea Rescue Vickers Warwicks; despite Strubby being under Bomber Command, its location eight miles south east of Louth, close to the North Sea, explained the initial residents.

The bomber squadrons arrived soon after, with No. 619’s last mission before the end of WWII to bomb Hitler’s Bavarian retreat at Berchtesgaden in the Alps, five days before the dictator killed himself in his Berlin bunker.

Present day remaining buildings from RAF Strubby

(Present day remaining buildings from RAF Strubby)

Placed under care and maintenance at the end of hostilities, Strubby became a RLG for a variety of traffic flying at Manby in the early 1950s, the sister stations sharing Flying College duties with Strubby more suited to handling jet aircraft. By the end of 1955 the station was back running at full capacity operating Canberras, Hunters and Meteors, a role it maintained until the early 1970s when part of the site was purchased by Conoco to operate helicopters to their gas platforms in the North Sea.

RAF Sturgate

Opened: 1944

Closed: 1964

The airfield opened in the latter part of WWII, initially for training Lancaster air crews before No. 50 and No. 61 Squadrons arrived at the station ten miles north of Lincoln in 1945, both moving on to Waddington in 1946.

After closing to flying until 1953, the station was allocated to USAAF, used to house its bombers, and from 1959 it was home to the logistical support facilities for 99th Munitions Maintenance Squadron (USAF) located at the Thor missile site at Hemswell. The airfield closed around the same time as the Thor missile programme ended.

RAF Sutton Bridge

Opened: 1926

Closed: 1958

Initially, Sutton Bridge was used as a RAF aircraft gunnery practice camp, utilising its proximity close to The Wash and associated marshland for testing aircraft armoury. WWII saw No. 266 Squadron reform at the station 30 miles north east of Peterborough as a fighter unit, later becoming the second to operate Spitfires after No. 19 Squadron at Duxford.

No. 3 Armament Training Camp RAF Sutton Bridge 1930

(No. 3 Armament Training Camp, RAF Sutton Bridge 1930s)

Extensive training of fighter pilots took place at Sutton Bridge, the station becoming the home of the RAF’s Central Gunnery School from April 1942 to March 1944. The importance of Sutton Bridge was seen by the extensive defences installed including cannons and machine guns, a searchlight battery operated by ten Royal Engineers and a number of pillboxes around the airfield – two still stand to this day. A number of decoy Q-sites sought to divert potential Luftwaffe attacks including one at the nearby Terrington Marsh, complete with a fully lit dummy runway, an area that was regularly hit mistakenly by German aircrews.

The station was placed under care and maintenance from 1946 to 1954, No. 58 Maintenance Unit moving in for several years before the station closed in 1958.

RAF Swinderby

Opened: 1940

Closed: 1993

Located equidistant between Lincoln and Newark, Swinderby opened under Bomber Command with Nos. 300 and 301 (Polish) Squadrons arriving in August 1940 operating Fairey Battles. Nos. 50 and 455 Squadrons arrived the following year, 455 Bomber Command’s first Australian unit, the station soon closing for a time while hard runways were laid. When it reopened it was mainly a training centre using Manchesters and then Lancasters to train crews ready for mission over mainland Europe.

Passing out parade in November 1971

(Passing out parade in November 1971)

Post war, No. 201 Advanced Flying School was formed at Swinderby in March 1947, the first of a number of Flying Schools operating from the station utilising a range of aircraft, before Swinderby changed roles becoming a centre for recruit training in 1964. In 1993, No. 1 Squadron 6 Flight was the final pass out parade at the station before its closure in December 1993.

RAF Swinstead

Opened: 1916

Closed: 1919

No. 38 Squadron’s Royal Aircraft Factory FE2bs used the station as a Home Defence Landing Ground during WWI before they transferred across the Channel in May 1918. Those left behind at the location 15 miles south east of Grantham helped form No. 90 Squadron with its Avro 505K fighters in service until 1919. A decoy ‘Q’ airfield was located near the original site during WWII.

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