Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage
Lincolnshire's well-established agricultural manufacturing industry soon converted to aircraft production, becoming one of the world's largest aircraft manufacturing centres: the county produced over 3,700 aircraft by the war's end. Strikingly, large numbers of women played a vital role in aircraft and munitions production, as well as in other areas of the war effort.
Nationally, the public demanded better air defences and these were dramatically improved by mid-1916. In Lincolnshire, RFC home defence aircraft flew regular anti-airship patrols, and RNAS and US Navy aircraft escorted convoys and flew anti-submarine patrols.
In 1917, the Germans introduced large bomber aircraft for short-range attacks on southern England, and they continued airships attacks throughout 1917 and 1918. British defences did score some successes against the attackers.
On 1 April 1918, the RFC and RNAS were amalgamated into the Royal Air Force (RAF) to rationalize British airpower. When hostilities ceased on 11 November 1918, the RAF had become one of the world's most powerful air forces.
Although the German bombing campaign forced Britain to withdraw 14 flying squadrons from the Western Front for home defence, British morale had not crumbled. Furthermore, the new British air defence organization matured well and proved highly successful against German air attacks in the Second World War.
A group of women in Robeys factory, Canwick Road, Lincoln, cover aircraft wings with fabric. The factory is used today as Jacksons Buildbase, Lincoln. (Photo courtesy of the Lincolnshire Archives.)
RAF base information for the Lincolnshire Wolds
RAF Ludford Magna
RAF Ludford Magna was opened in June 1943, having been constructed in the unbelievable time of just ninety days. Such were the pressures on Bomber Command at that time, that they required new bases virtually overnight (compare this gestation period with that of nearby RAF Binbrook, which was not fully completed with concrete runways until May 1943 - some four years after it was begun). The technical site and runways were situated to the south of the A631, in Ludford Magna, whence the airfield derives its name, but the living accommodation was to be found to the north of the road, in the village of Ludford Parva.
The site of RAF Kelstern has been connected with aviation since the days of the first World War, when it was used as an emergency landing ground by the Home Defence Squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps. This association lasted until just after the War, when the fledgling RAF decided to terminate their usage of the site, which was then returned to agriculture. Kelstern remained under the plough until the winter of 1942 - 43, when Bomber Command's rapid expansion necessitated the acquisition of more airfields. In September 1943, RAF Kelstern opened, and it received its first operational unit on October 1st when No.625 Squadron, RAF formed there.
Work began on RAF Binbrook in the late 1930s, but the station was not ready for use at the outbreak of hostilities. It finally opened in June 1940, although it was still not complete. The next month saw its first inhabitants, No.12 and No.142 Squadrons, arrive with their Fairey Battles. Both squadrons had seen service in France before and during the German invasion. On August 13th of that year, both squadrons departed for RAF Eastchurch in Kent in order to allow building work to be completed, and they returned in September. November 1940 saw No.12 Squadron reequip with Vickers Wellingtons, and they flew their first raid against Emden on April 10th 1941. Another new shape was temporarily to be seen on the airfield in September of that year, when the Lysander's of No.1 Group Target Towing Flight arrived for air to air firing practice over the North Sea.
The all grass airfield at Caistor opened in September 1940 as a satellite to Kirton in Lindsey, a fighter airfield within 12 Group Fighter Command. A Flight of 264 Sqn, equipped with Defiants in the night fighter role operated at the site for a few weeks before being replaced by A Flight of 85 Sqn who spent some time undergoing further training from Caistor. From May until December 1942 the airfield was used by 15 (Pilot) AFU, at that time based at Kirmington. Control of the airfield was then passed to RAF Manby who in turn loaned Caistor to Cranwell for night flying training. A flight of Harvards operated from the airfield from March to November 1944 after which time flying ceased. Part of the airfield site was returned to Air Ministry control in 1958 for the construction of a site for Thor IRBMs. 269 Sqn reformed with 3 missiles as part of the Hemswell Wing and occupied the site until 1963 when the missiles were withdrawn. The airfield site was finally sold back for agricultural use in 1964. Some significant parts of the Thor missile launch areas remain intact at Caistor but these are on private land.
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The first Sopwith Gunbus being prepared for a test flight in 1915. The location is the racecourse at West Common, Lincoln, which had been requisitioned for use as an aircraft acceptance park by the RFC and RNAS. (Photo courtesy of the Lincolnshire Archives.)