"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Day Out in Lincolnshire

B's father was based at RAF Scampton for a while during World War 2 and D arranged a surprise trip to the RAF Scampton Heritage Centre for B's birthday.

Scampton airfield was first opened in 1916 and during the 1930's was extended as part of the strategy to deal with the growing threat from Germany. The most famous squadron based at RAF Scampton was of course 617 or the Dambusters. On 21st March, 1943, Wing Commander Guy Gibson arrived at Scampton to form, train and lead a special new squadron flying Lancaster Bombers that would attack 3 dams that provided water and power to the Ruhr Industrial Valley in Germany using the "bouncing bombs" invented by Barnes Wallis. The codename for the operation was "Operation Chastise" and the squadron only had a few weeks to get ready for the raids. The operation was carried out on 17th May, 1943, when the Mohn and Edersee Dams were breached but the Sorpe Dam only sustained minor damage. 133 took part in the mission, 8 crews were lost with 53 being killed and 3 taken prisoner. 80 men survived the operation. Some of you may have watched the 1955 film - "The Dambusters".

After World War 2, Scampton was an important base housing one of the UK's nuclear deterrents and the Blue Steel missile. Today, RAF Scampton is the base for the Red Arrows - the RAF Aerobatic team.

You aren't allowed to take photos of the base itself but we did see where parts of the film were made, the briefing and debriefing building, a listed Water Tower and the building where they make the dye for the Red Arrows' vapour trail.

Personally, I was particularly thrilled with the Red Arrow connection :) They were away displaying at Farnborough last weekend but there were plenty of reminders of the team to see. I've seen the Red Arrows at Farnborough and Cosford Air Shows and they put on a tremendous display.

This is the airfield - I assume little changed since the days of WW2 - although initially the runways were grass rather than concrete.

This is the grave for Guy Gibson's much loved dog and squadron mascot who was run over and killed outside the base on the night of the raid and Gibson asked if ground staff could bury the pet on the grass verge outside his office at midnight when the raids would be taking place.

The museum is located in Hanger 2 which housed the 617 squadron

Guy Gibsons office

The remains of Wing Commander Guy Gibsons's Mosquito plane which crashed in Holland on 19th September 1944 due to engine failure and resulting in the death of WC Gibson.

This plane is known as the "Bridesmaid" - it was originally thought it would be become the plane used by the Red Arrows until it crashed into a car park in RAF Valley during testing.

After the Heritage Centre Visit and tour we visited the pretty little village of Scampton and the church of St John the Baptist.

The churchyard contains the graves of British and Commonwealth servicemen

and the graves of some German pilots whose plane crashed nearby during WW2.

We had lunch at the Dambusters' Inn in the village which is a fairly new pub and didn't exist at the time of the Dambusters. It is however full of WW2 and RAF memorabilia and the food was excellent.

By sheer coincidence there was an excellent programme on BBC 2 on Sunday evening all about Lancaster bombers presented by John Sergeant which was very interesting although it did bring home the sheer horrors of war.

D and B made this model of a Lancaster last year.

The Heritage Centre at RAF Scampton is open to the public but only by appointment.


amanda peters said...

What a stunning day, so much to see..
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much :) Great day out from the history point of view and nice for B to see where his father was based :)

Toffeeapple said...

My brother was posted to RAF Scampton but I didn't know anything about its heritage, so thank you for including all the information. The Red Arrows are amazing, aren't they?

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so much. Its really interesting to hear about your brother and I am so glad the post was of interest to you :) Red Arrows are just incredible - I think they are displaying tonight in Lyme Regis - wish I was back in Dorset!!!