After a visit to Hever Castle & Brighton Pavilion, the contrast of the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre could not have been greater. Shane from Motorhomefacts had organised a rally here & being ex-RAF, I couldn't resist.
This airfield from World War 2 is a privately owned and run Museum, set up by two farming Brothers, Fred and Harold Panton. It has been built up as a memorial to Bomber Command and primarily as a tribute to their eldest brother Christopher Whitton Panton; who was shot down and killed on a bomber raid over Nuremberg on 30th/31st March 1944. Here is an example of love, pride & hard work that is a memorial to a period of heroism, horror & sacrifice.
The rich & famous have only the same space & emphasis as a lowly erk or an arse-end Charlie. LAC's are side by side with Trenchard, Flight Lieutenants and Flight Sergeants. You only had to have been there, standing against fascism & for freedom to be noted in the three dimensional, sight & sound memorial to real people. Their common connection was Bomber Command & WW2. The whole airfield is dedicated to this memory, the control tower, hangers full of detritus of war. Deeply personal items, donated by veterans & their relatives. Medals, log books, badges & hundreds of photographs. Display upon display of items used in the period, radios, teleprinters, guns and vehicles.
The unique feature of East Kirkby is without doubt, the Lancaster NX611 "Just Jane", one of the only 16 known intact (only 2 are serviceable, and only one can fly) Lancaster bombers in the world. Is there a more fitting tribute to all those men from bomber command, no matter what they flew or what they did, then the sight & sound of those four Merlin engines firing up? The aircraft comes alive as it taxis out, carry the visitors in a real experience, to give a hint of what really happened. (The cost of obtaining an air worthiness certificate, currently around £2,000,000, is currently beyond the owner's resources). The sight of grey haired men trying to reach out & remember those events from over 62 years ago, is most moving. No matter if they are like me, born around the war period and bringing to life the tales that they were told or maybe they are ex-RAF and dreamed of experiencing a real live Lancaster. Younger people with connections through their family, perhaps or maybe the last of the guys who survived the whole dreadful business & are re-living that life changing time. It brings tears to the eye, to see this happen before you. The roar of the engines, the huge size of the aircraft passing so close and it's all staged in it's original setting of a real Lancaster bomber airfield.
In the hanger was also Spitfire MF MK IXc (T9) MJ627 operated as a single seat fighter during WW2 and was converted to two seats by Supermarine in 1950. It wasn't taxing & flying today but is regularly shown to the public. These two magnificent aircraft are a wonderful memorial to all those brave wartime people who joined up to stop Fascism spreading across the world. Some people think that these are the two greatest machines of the war. (Just don't tell the guys from B17s, Mustangs, Mosquitoes or Hurricanes ... this list can go on for a long time!).
Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group have many of their recovered items on display in the hanger. Dedicated to preserve what is now modern history, as a tribute to those who lost their lives during the war, fighting for our freedom, and to remind the young and not so young generations of the aircraft and people that flew during those dark days.
The history of East Kirkby (codenamed Silksheen) is that originally, it functioned as a decoy airfield. Its wooden Whitley bombers were targeted on several occasions. East Kirkby in turn had its own decoy airfield at Sibsey, 7 miles south. Construction of the airfield began in 1942 and the station was operational by Aug 1943. Lancaster-equipped, 57 Sqn moved here from Scampton, staying until the end of the war. 630 Sqn formed here and stayed to end of war, (it's last op 25th April 1945). 630 was formed on 15th November 1943 from 'B' Flight of 57 Squadron at East Kirkby. The Squadron motto was "Nocturna mors" meaning "Death by night". They flew a total of 2,453 sorties with the lost of 59 Lancaster's.
East Kirkby's worst night of aircraft losses was 21 Jun 1944 when 11 aircraft were lost in a single attack.
17/4/45 there was a bombing-up accident which resulted in 4 people killed and
14 injured, 5 Lancaster's destroyed and 14 damaged.
Flying ceased 11/45 and the station was put on care and maintenance.
14/8/54 to 1958 USAF Dakotas of the 3917th Air Base Sqn of 7th Strategic Air Command Air Division based here.
The airfield was sold off in April 1970.
There is no doubt, I shall return to gather more information & absorb this
wonderful place. I know that Shane will be organising another trip in September,
whether I can wait that long .....?
Links for more information: