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RAF in Lincolnshire T-W

Continuing our series on RAF Stations in Lincolnshire with Stations T-W.

Active

RAF Waddington

Opened: 1916

The RAF’s Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) hub, Waddington is home to a fleet of aircraft including RC-135W Rivet Joint and MQ-9 Reapers, and last year it inherited the Red Arrows following the decision to close Scampton.

Opening as an RFC training station midway through WWI, it was mothballed in 1920, a site near the original landing ground developed in March 1937 as a fully-equipped bomber station, No. 50 Squadron arriving on day one with Hawker Hinds. The station’s squadrons were crucial in repelling a potential German invasion during the summer of 1940, flying over Channel ports under heavy fire to attack hundreds of barges expected to be used to transport German troops to the shores of south east England.

An Avro Lancaster of No. 463 Squadron RAAF at RAF Waddington in 1944

(An Avro Lancaster of No. 463 Squadron RAAF at RAF Waddington in 1944)

The station was also used to test fly the ‘new’ Lancaster bomber in September 1941, with numerous bombing missions involving the iconic bomber starting out from Waddington.

Avro Vulcan bombers from RAF Waddington flying in formation in 1957.

(Avro Vulcan bombers from RAF Waddington flying in formation in 1957)

Post war, Waddington became a Vulcan bomber station, No. 83 Squadron based at the site the first to receive the aircraft. Its association with the Vulcan continued through to 1984 when the last Vulcan squadron, No. 50, disbanded – three Vulcans from Waddington taking part in Operation Black Buck in 1982, the longest bombing mission ever undertaken from Ascension Island to Port Stanley with the aim of destroying the only runway on the Falkland Islands.

Closed

RAF Theddlethorpe

Opened: 1935

Closed: 1973

While not a traditional RAF station, Theddlethorpe opened in 1935 as a bombing and gunnery range, with an associated small landing strip for emergency use, located 20 miles north of Skegness. It continued its work throughout WWII and in the decades following, closing in the early 1970s; the decision to end operations was believed to be associated with the opening of a gas terminal nearby.

RAF Tydd St Mary

Opened: 1916

Closed: 1919

A landing ground was established 15 miles west of Kings Lynn to house No. 51 Squadron, later upgraded to full aerodrome status, FE2bs operating to defend the area from Zeppelin attacks, their aircraft later upgraded to Avro 504Ns before the Squadron moved out in May 1919.

RAF Wainfleet

Opened: 1938

Closed: 2010

The military origins of the site a couple of miles south west of Skegness date back to the early 1800s, its official RAF life beginning in 1938 when it was administered by Coningsby as an air weapons range within RAF Strike Command. It was utilised throughout WWII and continued in use by British and then NATO aircraft, with control transferring to Defence Estates in 2006, defence cuts eventually seeing it close for good in 2010.

RAF Wainfleet, the targets in the background are old ships.

(RAF Wainfleet, the targets in the background are old ships)

RAF Wellingore

Opened: 1917

Closed: 1947

Beginning life as a Royal Naval Air Service, RNAS, station, it was used as a RLG for Cranwell during WWI before closing at the end of hostilities. It was expanded in the mid-1930s, the location 10 miles south of Lincoln again used as a RLG for Cranwell, its role upgraded when Nos. 29 and 46 Squadrons arrived from Digby in the summer of 1940, operating throughout the Battle of Britain from Wellingore’s grass runways. A number of fighter squadrons were rotated through the airfield until April 1944, reverting back to a RLG for Cranwell late in 1945, before its closure shortly after.

A couple of buildings remain of RAF Wellingore

(A couple of buildings remain of RAF Wellingore)

RAF Wickenby

Opened: 1942

Closed: 1964

Among the first units at the station nine miles north east of Lincoln was No. 12 Squadron, initially flying Vickers Wellingtons before converting to Lancasters. Wickenby played a crucial role in the Allies’ bombing offensive taking part in many of the major raids including on Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg.

At the end of the war, Wickenby was taken over by No. 93 Maintenance Unit, MU, subsequently No. 92 MU, using the runways to dismantle ordnance until the station closed. Aircraft still operate from the site with one company based at Wickenby making microlights.

RFC Willoughby Hills

Opened: 1916

Closed: 1918

While there is some debate whether the landing ground located on the outskirts of Boston closed before the RAF was formed on April 1, 1918, and whether it was ever officially an RAF station, it was used by No. 38 Squadron’s FE2b fighters during WWI.

RAF Woodhall Spa

Opened: 1941

Closed: 1967

One of the most famous bomber airfields of WWII, Woodhall opened as a satellite to Coningsby, No. 97 Squadron transferring to the station located 16 miles south east of Lincoln in March 1942. The squadron was one of the first to be equipped with the Lancaster, taking part in early operations including the low-level mission to bomb the MAN diesel engine factory in Augsburg in April 1942. It became home to 617 (Dambusters) Squadron in 1944, flying precision and daring operations in their Lancasters using ultra-heavy 12,000lb Tallboy and 22,000lb Grand Slam bombs against U-boat pens and viaducts.

Avro Lancaster B Mk I (Special) of No. 617 Squadron, loaded with a 'Grand Slam' 22,000-lb deep-penetration bomb, running up its engines at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, 1944.

(Avro Lancaster B Mk I (Special) of No. 617 Squadron, loaded with a 'Grand Slam' 22,000-lb deep-penetration bomb, running up its engines at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, 1944.)

It was placed under care and maintenance at the end of 1946, reopening in the early 1950s for use by Nos. 92 and 93 MU as a bomb store, before becoming a base for Bristol Bloodhound missiles in 1960, operated by 222 Squadron. An upgrade to Bloodhound Mk2 saw 112 Squadron take over the role from 222, their exit to Cyprus in 1967 and removal of the missiles signalling the end of front-line operations for Woodhall Spa. The RAF did maintain a section of Woodhall to assist Coningsby-based aircraft with engine maintenance and testing until the early 2000s.

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1 comment

  • It would be good to see RAF Stations in Cambridgeshire. Wyton; Warboys; Upwood; Alconbury; Wittering Ect. Thank you.

    Jonathan Land

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