Planes, Trails and Adventures … 100 Years of the RAF in Lincolnshire
I’s been called the spiritual home of the RAF, was at the centre of the UK’s fledgling aviation industry, home to the world’s first military air academy and known as Bomber County during the Second World War.
Lincolnshire was also Dambusters country, while today its skies are home to one of the world’s greatest air display teams – the RAF Red Arrows – as well as The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
So, it’s no surprise that the county will be at the centre of national RAF centenary celebrations in 2018.
New trails and tours include a digital trail ‘100 voices over 100 years’ offering an insight into a century of aviation history revealed through the voices of those involved with aviation. Stories will include those of an aircraft factory worker, a firefighter and aircrew.
Visitors to Lincolnshire will also be able to experience the earliest days of air warfare when RAF Scampton – the former Dambusters airbase and current home to the Red Arrows – transforms a former hangar into a re-creation of a WWI Royal Flying Corps Airfield (April – August 2018),
Lincoln’s The Collection museum will tell the story of thousands of women, known as ‘munitionettes’, employed in previously male-only engineering jobs to build Britain’s first fighter aircraft. At its peak, Lincoln was one of the largest aircraft production areas in the world, producing over 3,500 aircraft.
Reflecting the city’s key role in production, summer 2018 will see a full size model of a 1916 Sopwith biplane on display outside Lincoln railway station, while in August a Hawk jet, the aircraft used by the Red Arrows, will be displayed in the city, recognising Lincolnshire’s continuing links with the RAF.
The spirit of 1940s Britain will be celebrated with two days of period and vintage activities and displays at the annual Lincoln 1940s Weekend (11-12 August, 2018), part of the citywide commemorations of the RAF centenary.
Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter will be full of atmosphere at the biggest 1940s event yet. Spanning over the whole weekend there will be vintage displays, live entertainment, markets, family activities and vintage vehicles.
Elsewhere in the county, learn about one of the most famous landmarks in RAF history at the Cranwell Aviation Heritage Museum, which tells the story of Royal Air Force College Cranwell – the world’s first military air academy and where both Prince Charles and Prince William learned to fly.
As well as revealing the college’s history from its days as a Royal Naval Air Service base, when it provided training in ballooning and airships, to today’s elite cadet training base, the museum also offers visitors hands-on experience – by having a go at becoming a pilot on the Jet Provost flight simulator.
Spring 2018 sees another first for Lincolnshire, the official opening of the International Bomber Command Centre visitor centre, the world’s most comprehensive record of Bomber Command, which will use state-of-the-art technology and interactive displays to tell its story.
Within the grounds of the centre, high on a hill overlooking Lincoln, stands a 31 metre tall memorial spire, the UK’s tallest war memorial, surrounded by the Walls of Names, bearing the names of men and women who lost their lives serving or supporting Bomber Command.
Falling towards the end of the RAF100 year, the second annual Scampton Airshow (8-9 September), a family friendly airshow with five hours of flying displays and more than 100 aircraft on show, is set it be bigger and better for 2018.
Lincolnshire’s rich aviation heritage is still very much alive at a host of other museums and living memorials across the county.
At the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre based on a 1940s RAF Lancaster Bomber airfield, experience the vibrations, sounds and smells of a Lancaster as you taxi across a real Bomber Command airfield in front of an original control tower – the only place in Europe where you can do this (pre-booking required), As well as the Avro Lancaster Bomber, this family owned museum’s collection features many other wartime vehicles, including a Ford WOT1 Crew Bus, the only one of its kind known in existence.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitor Centre at RAF Coninsgby is a living tribute to all RAF aircrew and ground crew who lost their lives during World War II. It offers a glimpse behind the scenes of remarkable aircraft that continue to fly today – and often seen at major national events.
To turn the clock back to the days when Lincolnshire was home to around 100 military airfields during World War II, head to the remarkable Kinema in the Woods. Known as the “Flicks in the Sticks” by hundreds of servicemen who used it during wartime, it still screens top movie releases as well as nostalgic movie nights. Tucked away in the Edwardian spa town of Woodhall Spa, where 617 Squadron, The Dambusters, was based from January 1944 to May 1945, it is believed to be the UK’s only full-time cinema still using rear projection.
The nearby Petwood Hotel, which once served as the 617’s Officers’ Mess, today boasts the Squadron Bar, packed with Dambusters memorabilia commemorating Wing Commander Guy Gibson and his squadron.
For downloadable aviation heritage trails as well as more details of Lincolnshire’s aviation heritage and attractions, visit www.aviationheritagelincolnshire.com
Mark Bibby Jackson
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