aviation history and heritage
home of the
Flying began in Lincolnshire with balloon ascents in the 19th century.
Today the county is home to many of the front-line and support elements of the
modern Royal Air Force.
Lincolnshire's links with naval and military aviation go back
to the early years of the last century and to the Royal Naval Air Service
and the Royal Flying Corps, which were
the forerunners of today's Royal Air Force,
but it is the events of 60 years ago for which it is best known.
In the Great War of 1914-1919 Lincoln was a major centre of
(1 in 14 British aircraft were built in the City)
and the county had 37 airfields, but Lincolnshire is perhaps
more widely known for the key part it played in the Second World War of 1939-1945.
Lincolnshire's links with naval and military aviation go back to the early years of the last century and to the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps, which were the forerunners of today's Royal Air Force, but it is the events of 60 years ago for which it is best known.
In the Great War of 1914-1919 Lincoln was a major centre of aircraft production (1 in 14 British aircraft were built in the City) and the county had 37 airfields, but Lincolnshire is perhaps more widely known for the key part it played in the Second World War of 1939-1945.
As Bomber County Lincolnshire was in the forefront of the allied air offensive and stood at the western edge of the largest battlefield the world has ever seen, stretching almost 1,000 miles to the east.
The county was primarily home to 1 Group (HQ: Bawtry Hall) and 5 Group (HQ: St Vincent's Grantham, and later Morton Hall) of Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force.
1 Group's stations were in the area mainly to the north of Lincoln, and 5 Group's stations to the south. Both Groups were equipped with the Avro Lancaster.
The Stations and Squadrons of 1 Group and 5 Group established a fine record of endeavour, and almost half of Bomber Command's 19 Victoria Crosses were awarded to airmen operating from Lincolnshire.
By 1945 there were 49 airfields in Lincolnshire, more than any other county. The mean distance between each was only 7.5 miles, and a typical bomber station took up something like 700 acres. The total area occupied by airfields in 1945 was 29,000 acres - 2% of the county. Even today only 5% is occupied by towns and villages, and 80% of the county is under cultivation.
The story is not simply one of Bomber Command, and the county saw much other activity - day fighters, night fighters, anti-shipping strike, transport, and flying training also took place, together less obvious aspects such as radar stations and the work of the RAF's air-sea rescue launches.
During the Second World War the Royal Air Force developed its links with the allied air forces as well as those of the Commonwealth, notably Australia, Canada, Poland, and the United States of America.
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Post-war, Bomber Command's role in the county included the Thor missiles and the delta-winged Avro Vulcan strategic bomber (which took part in the Falklands War of 1982). Lightning supersonic interceptors were based at Binbrook.
Lincolnshire's long association with the Royal Air Force continues, and nowhere in the UK is this link stronger.
The county now has the distinction of selecting all officers and aircrew (at the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre, RAF Cranwell) and of carrying out the initial training of all officers (at the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell).
Until 1993 the initial training of all other ranks was also carried out in Lincolnshire (at the Royal Air Force School of Recruit Training, RAF Swinderby). RAF Cranwell houses the Headquarters of the University Air Squadrons and of the Air Cadets.
Frontline commitments include elements of the UK air defence forces flying Sentry airborne early warning aircraft from RAF Waddington, together with the radar-equipped Sentinels and twin-engined Shadows. The RAF’s latest strike aircraft, the Eurofighter Typhoon, is based at RAF Coningsby.
The county is the location of the Royal Air Force Central Flying School, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team The Red Arrows, and of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. For many years legend had it that Lincolnshire also held the distinction of being the only place where members of the armed forces were still trained in the use of crossbows, at the Aerial Erector School at RAF Digby.
Polish Air Force
During the Second World War the Polish Air Force was the largest allied air force after the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). A substantial part of the Polish Air Force was based in Lincolnshire between 1940 and 1947, primarily bomber and fighter Squadrons.
United States Air Forces
The county's links with the air forces of the United States were forged during both the world wars, and extended into the Cold War to the present day. Aircraft operated have included flying-boats of the United States Navy, transports which flew paratroops on the D-Day landings and later to Arnhem, fighters and strategic bombers.
Royal Observer Corps
The volunteers of the Royal Observer Corps played a key role in the defence of the country in war and in peace, both as the "eyes and ears of the Royal Air Force" and later supporting the UK Warning and Monitoring Organisation.
Air Training Corps
From its formation in 1941 the Air Training Corps (ATC) has maintained a strong link with the Royal Air Force, and today is the country's leading youth organisation. Its aims are to encourage and develop a practical interest in aviation, provide training which will be useful in any walk of life, foster the spirit of adventure, and to develop qualities of leadership and good citizenship. The ATC is organised on a local basis, with Lincolnshire forming part of the Trent Wing.
Stations in Lincolnshire together with Squadrons past and present are represented by individual Badges, which illustrate in heraldic form their various histories.
Some of the Badges of current operational Stations and Squadrons are illustrated on a separate page. These show the range of detail to be seen within the basic design of the Badge, together with a note on the King's Crown and Queen's Crown (compare the Badge of 626 Squadron with the others shown below).
Badges of a number of the Squadrons which operated Lancasters are shown below, and Polish Air Force Squadron Badges are illustrated elsewhere on this website.
The greatest construction of war memorials took place in the years following the Great War, and form part of a wider commemoration and remembrance of people and events.
By far the greatest number of memorials for the second world war are those commemorating personnel of the Commonwealth and Allied Air Forces, with Lincolnshire having almost 500 air force memorials marking the bravery and sacrifice of young men and women of many nations.
Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire
The history of aviation in Lincolnshire is covered by a wide range of books, and key works are listed in the recommended reading section.
As well as those which can be purchased through booksellers, copies of out of print works can be obtained through local and academic library services.
all RAF Badges are © Crown Copyright
and are shown here for information purposes only
artwork by RAF Marham Graphics Office
see the small print section
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this page last updated 15 July 2011
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