RAF Fiskerton - Lincolnshire
Fiskerton Airfield just north of the village of Fiskerton in the centre of the pic. Not an airfield I know well although I have visited the Memorial and cycled past it a few times.
The Lincolnshire village of Fiskerton, 5 miles east of Lincoln, was chosen as the site for one of many new bomber airfields built in the early part of the war. The airfield was situated north of the village and of a standard bomber base pattern with 3 concrete runways and surrounding perimeter track with 36 hardstands for aircraft. The technical site was at the south east of the airfield with 3 hangers. Living accommodation was provided for a maximum of 2,016 males and 297 females and was dispersed on sites mainly to the south east of the airfield.
The airfield was opened in January 1943 as part of 5 Group, Bomber Command as 52 Sub-Base Station controlled by Scampton, HQ 52 Base.
On the 19th January 1943 49 Squadron of 5 Group moved in with their Lancasters and commenced operations soon after. In January 1944 No 1514 Beam Approach Flight operated Airspeed Oxfords from the airfield until they were disbanded one year later.
Fiskerton was closed to operations from the 10th September 1944 to the 24th October 1944 whilst the runways were resurfaced and the airfield was equipped with FIDO, a fog dispersal system. This worked by burning vaporised petrol which ran along pipes either side of the runway. The flames and heat generated were quite effective in dispersing fog and improving visibility for some distance and height enabling aircraft to land in bad weather conditions. 15 airfields in the UK were fitted with this system and many hundreds of successful landings were made in what would have otherwise been very difficult circumstances.
49 Squadron departed on the 17th October 1944 and Fiskerton was briefly put on a care and maintenance basis and transferred to 1 Group.
On the 31st October 1944 576 Squadron moved from Elsham Wolds to Fiskerton and were joined the next day by 150 Squadron which had been reformed after previous service in Italy. 150 Squadron enjoyed only a short stay moving to Hemswell on the 11th November 1944. 576 Squadron continued to operate from the airfield until the end of the war and were disbanded there in the September 1945.
Fiskerton was reduced to a care and maintenance basis in December 1945. In 1961 a small section of the site was occupied by the Royal Observer Corps. An underground bunker was built and this became the head quarters of 15 Group ROC and it remained in use until the ROC were disbanded in 1991. The remainder of the old airfield returned to agriculture.
Very little remains of the old airfield now. Small parts of the concrete runway can be found and a few buildings survive. There is a memorial to 49 Squadron and 576 Squadron on the side of the road near the old main runway.
576 Squadron D2 of C Flight
576 Squadron Fiskerton Hangars
AVM Bobby Blucke inspects aircrew at 576 Squadron disbandment parade - IWM
Fiskerton - FIDO
Lancaster landing at Fiskerton showing Fido in operation. The feed pipe is just visible.
RAF Fiskerton was opened as a substation to RAF Scampton in January 1943. When the installation of Fido began in August 1943 the airfield benefited from the experience of earlier installations at Graveley and Downham Market and when the system was laid down it needed no further modification.
The east west layout of Runway 26 favoured the construction of a standard system of Hagill Mk IV burners. It was not necessary to uproot trees and hedges for the approach box. The first runway intersection was over 1300 yards down the line avoiding the necessity for intersecting runway burners as at other airfields. The last third of a mile of the runway was covered by a staggered series of burners The pump house and storage tanks were situated south of the touchdown
The Fido contract as Fiskerton was taken by Messrs A Monk and the on site welding by the Strong-Arc Welding Co at Lincoln. Construction was undertaken in sections of about 200 ft together with the anchor blocks and guides and holding down bolts. All this material was delivered and stored in the contractors compound. Laying out on site and lining up the drilled pipework took about 21 x 12 hour working days. The team involved was foreman fitter welder, tractor driver, 4 pipe fitters, labourers and 2 electric arc welders for the welding cutting and fitting under the supervision of George Gillam. As their site HQ they used a small shed near the runaway which served as a drawing office, canteen and drying room.
George Gillam was involved in similar installations at Sturgate, Metheringham and Ludford Magna and was justifiably proud that not one of the welds failed on any of the stations on which his people worked. Sometimes the fierce heat that resulted during the burning distorted the pipes out of alignment and fractured the retaining brackets however.
The first month of the installation went very well but was then delayed due to flying commitments. In the later stages of the work 49 Squadron was transferred to Dunholme Lodge for a short while and operated from there. The Fido installation was completed on time on the 20th October 1943.
On 27 October Denys Fox, Petroleum Warfare Department's resident engineer from Staines, visited Fiskerton to iron out teething troubles in the system, spending hours inspecting progress on the south line of burners which had been giving trouble due to mud in the pipelines.
Flying Control officers had to be trained as well as the RAF crews following their introductory course at Staines. Later in the day Technical Director A.C. Hartley and Bomber Command Liaison Officer W/C John Wooldridge visited Fiskerton to observe the first test burn of the installation. Considerable local flying was in progress and weather conditions were extremely unfavourable. There was a heavy haze, with the sun low behind it with the result that pilots were having to land into a glaring sheet of light.
The aircraft were using one of the shorter runways which was into wind but the crews had nothing on which to line up their aircraft, so that when the runway appeared they were as much as 50° off line. One Lancaster had made no less than seven attempts to land. Although FIDO was not yet complete, the burners on the left-hand side of the main runway were operable and the order to light them was given at 15.15.
Gradually they were coaxed into life until eventually two-thirds were working. The burners gave off thick smoke at first due to wet grass and a strong cross-wind, but on average were burning cleanly within 7 minutes of lighting. As soon as the line was burning strongly the aircraft switched runways and the machine which had been in difficulties landed within three minutes. After that six others put down in quick succession and more were arriving when Mr Hartley and W/C Wooldridge departed. One of the participants was Lancaster E-Easy with J.S. Mason aboard as flight engineer. They had received a recall during an exercise flight from Dunholme Lodge and were directed to Fiskerton:
On arriving, the runway seemed to be in flames from end to end, but instructions over the R/T were to carry out a normal approach and landing. Looking down at the funnel end we could see bars of flame running across the entry, and thought 'this can't be right'; so we made our approach from the other end. When we landed it was quite eerie, as all you could see were flames shooting up on either side. We taxied to dispersal and were met by the CO and some boffins who were keen to get our reactions, as we were the first to land with the new installation. It was also pointed out that we had come in the wrong way round!
Denys Fox recorded two full burns in the presence of A.C. Hartley and Air Ministry officials on 4th November — 'effect was ok'. Even so things were not quite right, for it was discovered that the storage tanks had been built too near the hardstands and a number of the latter had to be re-positioned. No sooner had this been carried out than, on 11th November, the station commander received a complaint from the clerk to the Welton Rural District Council. Apparently, when sections of FIDO were completed they were tested under pressure, and some ingenious soul in the contractor's party decided that it would be extravagant to use petrol for this purpose. He therefore connected the pump to the main water supply and proceeded with the tests. Unfortunately FIDO was a very thirsty creature and householders for miles around found their taps gurgling forth nothing but rusty dregs! FIDO was lit again at Fiskerton, this time for night landing trials, on 21st November. Visibility on the ground was estimated at only 120 yd and advection fog was anything from 50 to 900 ft deep. The first time Fiskerton Fido was lit at night the local populace summoned the fire brigade which arrived en masse just as the burn was switched off !
The system then became operational in late November 43 and was used as required from then on by Fiskerton aircraft and also aircraft from other stations. It proved a very successful system with no record of any mishaps The exact number of Fiskerton Fido landings is impossible to establish as the record keeping was rather haphazard and many landings were never recorded. The Fiskerton total is thought to be around 220 and probably significantly more.
Item compiled by David Fell with photos from my archive and David Briggs and IWM. The Fido info came from the excellent book Flying Through Fire by Geoffrey Williams.