Wolds World: County pride in association with Royal Air Force

A Lancaster leads the flypast at Elsham Wold.
A Lancaster leads the flypast at Elsham Wold.

The road signs welcoming visitors to Aldershot in Hampshire name it as the ‘Home of the British Army.’

Similar mention of the Royal Navy links it to Portsmouth and Plymouth. But of course much closer to home, Lincolnshire is known as the ‘Home of the RAF.’

Next April, a ceremony will take place in Lincoln to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force.

In World War Two, Lincolnshire had 42 airfields, more than any other county.

And the landscape of the Wolds today tells many a tale of airfields long gone if not forgotten - Binbrook, Elsham Wold, Caistor, Faldingworth and Louth to name but a few.

There were also, of course, famous names based at our airfields.

In October 1940, to 29 Squadron based at Digby came Flt Lt Guy Gibson - the rest, as they say, is history!

Gibson led the famous Dambusters Raid, however despite a lengthy period in our county, he seemingly never fell in love with our finer points.

He wrote: “On the aerodrome not a soul was in sight-the windsock hung waterlogged and motionless.

“Lincolnshire is at its worst. Hardly a tree breaks the horizon, hardly a bird sings!”

Bob Braham, based at Louth in 1940, describes in his book ‘Scramble’ how he shot down a German Dornier over the sea near Skegness. He finished the war as the RAF’s top night fighter ace.

The airfields of the Wolds though are best remembered as bomber bases.

Night after night the roar of the engines from Lancasters could be heard across the darkening sky.

Elsham Wolds was the home of 103 squadron, while Binbrook to 460 Squadron of the Royal Australian Airforce.

Squadrons of the Air Forces of the Commonwealth suffered a huge loss of men to the war effort, as did the Polish Air Force similarly based here.

Elsham was the largest bomber airfield in 1 Group Bomber Command, the base of 103 Squadron, for four years, from where 1,300 men flew and never returned.

The base was the home also of 103’s ‘M-Mother’, perhaps the most famous of all the 8,000 Lancasters built.

When finally retired in 1945, it had a record 140 operations to its credit.

‘No Moon Tonight’ by the Australian airman Don Charlwood stationed at Elsham became one of the best read books of the war and 1960s guitarist Cy Grant was also based there.

There are many memorials scattered across the Wolds, with crashes continuing after the end of the war.

A simple cross at Normanby Top lies in a hedge where a Polish Air Force plane crash landed after a mercy food mission to Holland in 1947, killing four of the seven crew.

So we remember them this weekend for they gave their lives that we might live in peace and perhaps before too long road signs on entering Lincolnshire will declare ‘Home of the Royal Air Force.’