Lincolnshire has long played a central role in military aviation and this year there is something extra special to celebrate as 2018 marks the centenary of the formation of the Royal Air Force. There are many events and exhibitions planned throughout the county to commemorate this, including a small exhibit in our own little museum at the Manor House Stables. We are commemorating some of our own local heroes and heroines during both the First and Second World Wars.
Lincolnshire attracts thousands of aviation tourists every year and this year will be no exception as there will be a wealth of things to see and do. The history of aviation in the County is a rich one and includes an important role in the production of early aircraft in the First World War; Lincolnshire based firms (Ruston Proctor & Co. Ltd, Robey & Co Ltd and Clayton & Shuttleworth Ltd), which had been involved in producing agricultural machinery, now produced aircraft. Statistics show that these companies produced more aircraft for the RFC, RNAS and RAF than any other county. Known as ‘Bomber County’ in the SEcond World War, many people do not realise the important role it played in the First World War. Few people realise how many airfields existed in Lincolnshire in the First World War. Before the war the companies were primarily involved in building agricultural machinery.
Lincolnshire is also well-known for its training school at RAF College Cranwell which has been training officers and aircrew since 1920 (Prince Charles and Prince William included!), home to the ‘Dambusters’ (we have our own Dambuster’s Memorial in Woodhall Spa, the Petwood Hotel in Woodhall Spa served as the Officer’s Mess for the 617 Squadron during WW2 and you can visit the office of Guy Gibson, first Commanding Officer of the Royal Air Force’s No. 617 Squadron, at Scampton, just north of Lincoln), the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in Coningsby (which includes the only flying UK Lancaster Avro along with Spitfires, Hurricanes and more), the home of the Red Arrows, the list goes on! Only just down the road from here is the small lovely little village of Scopwick – but for many people around the world it is a site of pilgrimage. In the cemetery is the grave of John Gillespie Magee, who wrote the poem ‘High Flight’ shortly before being killed in a World War II flying accident, but his poem lived on.
There are many excellent museums including the Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby where you can book a taxy ride on the Lancaster ‘Just Jane’, RAF Scampton where the annual air show is now held and where you can take a tour around the Heritage Centre), Newark Air Museum (about half an hour or so from here), Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum which if full of local interest exhibits including information on ‘Wartime Woodhall’, Thorpe Camp, just outside of Woodhall which is full of interesting exhibits and information cited in huts, and Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre, home to the 106 Squadron in the Second World War – there is now a small museum, shop and events including lectures, wartime weekends and more – and it is just down the road from here! And then there’s our own little exhibition space in one room in the stables where the horses were once stabled. A small room packed full of information!
There are also many special events happening throughout the county including the 1940’s weekend in Woodhall Spa (this year on the 7th & 8th July), the 1940’s weekend on the 11th & 12th August in Lincoln, the Air show at the Aviation Heritage Centre in East Kirkby on the 4th August and the Air Show at Scampton in September.
And there is even more! Some really special events are taking place this spring and summer and I will try and get them on to this page as I find out about them. The events will be updated on a regular basis so you can see what will be happening in Lincolnshire during your stay.
1st April 2018 to 30th September 2018 – Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre, near Sleaford will be hosting an exhibition commemorating the RAF air crews who were decorated for their bravery entitled Gallantry in the Air. There are other exhibits too – “Discover the history of RAF Cranwell/RAF College Cranwell through artefacts, story boards, displays and exhibits. Try your hand on our interactive exhibits including a flight simulator where you can attempt to land a Jet Provost on the runway at RAF Cranwell before your fuel runs out!”
5th April 2018 to 31st August 2018 – RAF Scampton near Lincoln is famous for the role it played during the Second World War when it was home to the 617 Squadron – the Dambusters. More recently it has been the home to the Red Arrows which display throughout the country, but for this spring and summer you can visit an exhibition entitled Bastion in the Air which is to commemorate the 100 years of the RAF. A First World War Royal Flying Corps Airfield has been re-created in the historic Dambusters’ Hangar and you will be able to see artefacts and aircraft and even be able to watch the building of a replica British Sopwith Camel Aircraft during the course of the exhibition. Although the exhibition is predominantly about the role that aviation played in the First World War, there are many other attractions to see while you are visiting. For example, as part of the Heritage Tour, it is still possible to visit Guy Gibson’s office just as it was in 1943. This is a working RAF base so there is security to consider. Entry is free but visitors must book in advance. and complete an online application form and approval following security checks – see their website for more detail.
12th April 2018 – the International Bomber Command Centre will officially be opened on this date. The Centre will then be open from 9.30 to 5.00 six days a week (closed on Mondays and last entry at 4pm). A total of 125,000 aircrew served during the Second World War and a large number were never to return. The Centre commemorates all those who lost their lives whilst serving or supporting Bomber Command during WWII and their names, nearly 58,000 of them, are inscribed on the Walls of Names which surround the Memorial Spire. The men came from 62 nations with an average age of just 23. From the Spire you can look across to Lincoln Cathedral which served as a landmark for crews leaving from or returning to Lincolnshire. For many of the men the Cathedral provided their very last sight of Britain.
5th & 6th May – Museum of Lincolnshire Life – Guy Martin’s tank will be there – Not strictly aviation of course, but you must go and see it!!
5th May to September – Walking and Cycling trails have been set up across Lincoln city centre and the Greater Lincoln area. Called 100 Voices it is a collection of historical stories from around Lincolnshire commemorating the RAF. Each ‘Voice’ is presented on a wing and are placed on trails similar to the Knights and Barons of previous years.
17 May 2018 – ‘The Dam Busters with Dan Snow’ will commemorate the iconic raid itself – 75 years to the day. Dan Snow will reflect on the work of the mastermind behind the operation, Sir Barnes Wallis, whose ‘bouncing bomb’ was carried by 19 Lancasters for the attack on the dams of Germany’s Ruhr valley. The event will also pay tribute to Wing Commander Guy Gibson and his comrades of 617 Squadron. The first half of the evening will be simulcast to cinemas nationwide including the Kinema in the Woods in Woodhall Spa and the Odeon in Lincoln between 7.15pm and 8.15pm, before a screening of the The Dam Busters starring Sir Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd in stunning 4K.
19th May 2018 – 8th September 2018 – New Exhibition at the Manor House Stables in Martin. Lincolnshire has always been an important county for the RAF and it played a key role throughout both World Wars. To help commemorate the centenary of the RAF we are housing an exhibition in our little museum from the 19th May through to September called Local Heroes and Heroines in the two World Wars. We have been researching stories of local heroes who served in the RAF, but we have also looked at the women who worked on the land and those who cared for the sick and wounded. Their tales will be told along with artefacts to bring the stories to life.
24th May – RAF Centenary Concert at Lincoln Cathedral, with the Band of the Roayl Air Force College compered by Carol Vorderman.
26th May 2018 – 9th September 2018 – The Collection in Lincoln will be hosting its own Bastion in the Air Exhibition looking at the development of aviation and defence in the First World War and the part Lincoln played in it. Amongst many artefacts will be a large model of a Zeppelin!
30th June – Armed Forces Day in Lincoln City Centre.
7th & 8th July – Woodhall Spa 1940’s Festival – there is so much I could say about this weekend, but to sum it up I’d say it is just incredible! It gets better and better every year!! See their Facebook page for up-to-date information. Book early for any of the events, tea dances etc – they all get booked up very quickly!
29th July – Harlaxton Manor Open Day with old aircrafts, exhibitions, vintage singers and a remembrance service (at Harlaxton Manor).
28th & 29th July – Heckington Show. My favourite Show in Lincolnshire! I will be one of the judges in the cookery displays and also helping out in the World War One Heritage tent! Heckington is just about 25 minutes from here and well worth the journey!
4th August – East Kirkby Air Show.
11th & 12th August – RAF100 Weekend in Lincoln, incorporating the annual 1940s weekend.
It’s everywhere! Lincolnshire isn’t called Bomber County for nothing! Here’s a list to start with;
- Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre – just up the road less than a mile
- Dambuster Memorial – Woodhall Spa
- Petwood Hotel – Woodhall Spa
- Thorpe Camp, Tattershall Thorpe. Informative displays about the base’s role in the 2nd World War.
- Scopwick Commonwealth War Graves cemetery has many airman buried there including 21 year old Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, remembered for his poignant poem ‘High Flight’
- RAF Digby Camp – small Operations Room museum.
- Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitor Centre at Coningsby – where the Lancaster hangs out. Book a tour – it’s really worth it! Also home to Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Dakota.
- RAF Cranwell – a training base existing since the 1st World War. Now training Officers including our young Prince William. Small museum nearby with an exhibition relating to the history of the airfield and college.
- Scampton – the home of the Red Arrows – if you’re lucky you’ll see them practicing their air displays over Lincoln. The new home for the Air Show which used to be held at Waddington.
- The Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby. Amazing place. A restored control tower and loads of exhibits and information. ‘Just Jane’ is the Lancaster there and you can book a ride on it taxying around the airfield.
- The International Bomber Command Centre just outside Lincoln on Canick Hill. It consists of a spire, walls and centre that mark the sacrifice of World War II aircrew that lost their lives whilst serving with Bomber Command. The view through the memorial spire leads directly to Lincoln Cathedral, reflecting the view that let those of Bomber Command know they were almost home from their missions…or provided their last view of home.
- Newark Air Museum –
- There are also many other memorials around Lincolnshire including those specifically for the RFC and RAF.
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