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[RAF Elsham Wolds] [Fighter Command Lincolnshire]

Fighter Command - Lincolnshire - WW2

Hawker Hurricane Mk I V7608 71 Eagle Squadron Kirton-in-Lindsey

Hawker Hurricane Mk I V7608 71 Eagle Squadron Kirton-in-Lindsey

Although mainly known for its Bomber Command connections Lincolnshire had significant fighter presence throughout WW2.

The airfields concerned were :-

RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey

RAF Hibaldstow.

RAF Digby

RAF Coleby Grange

RAF Wellingore

A remarkable number of day and night fighter Squadrons passed through these stations at one time or another for training or operational reasons. Some of these became very well known with distinguished war records in a variety theatres.

RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey.

Many Defiant and Spitfire Squadrons rested here for a short time during the Battle of Britain.

The airfield was home of 71 Squadron of Fighter Command. 71 Squadron was composed of mostly Americans and arrived at the station in November 1940. By January the squadron was declared combat ready and began flying convoy escort over the North Sea. On 9 April 71 Squadron was moved to RAF Martlesham Heath. For the next year they flew fighter sweeps and bomber escort missions over occupied Europe with some success. When America declared war on Japan in the wake of the Pearl Harbour attack 71 Squadron together with the other two Eagle squadrons were transferred to the USAAF, becoming the 334th Fighter Squadron of the 4th Fighter Group.

For the next 3 years the airfield was also home to a large number of Fighter Command Squadrons who were resting or working up to combat readiness. Hawker Hurricanes, Supermarine Spitfires and North American Mustangs regularly operated from the airfield during this period.

In addition Boulton Paul Defiants, Hawker Hurricanes and Bristol Beaufighters of 264 and 85 Sqns operated from Kirton in Lindsey in the night fighting role.

71 Squadron

85 Squadron

264 Squadron

85 Squadron RAF Fighter Command

264 Squadron RAF Fighter Command

….......

RAF Hibaldstow

255 Squadron was the first unit posted to the new airfield with Boulton Paul Defiant night fighters from RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey. In June 1941 the Defiant's were replaced by Bristol Beaufighter II's.

255 Sqn was replaced by 253 (Hyderabad) Squadron from RAF Skeabrea, Orkney, which arrived on 23 September 1941 with Hawker Hurricanes.

Douglas A-20 Bostons of 1459 Flt from RAF Hunsdon, Hertfordshire also operated from the airfield and interestingly 253 Sqn and 1459 Flt took part in the experimental Turbinlite tests. 1459 Flight's Boston Havocs were fitted with the Turbinlite 2,700 million candle search light in the nose and early Airborne Interception radar. Hurricanes from the 253 Sqn would accompany these aircraft to search for incoming German bombers.

In November 1942 253 Sqn departed for service in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations and 1459 Flt was renumbered to 538 Sqn flying Hurricanes and disbanded in January 1943

On 9 May 1943 Hibaldstow became the base for 53 Operational Training Unit from South Wales and they flew from the airfield for two years. Hibaldstow also became a satellite of RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey when that station became a training station instead of a fighter base. 53 OTU remained at the base until the end of the war.

The final unit to arrive at Hibaldstow was the 5 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit who carried out a similar role to 53 OTU, training newly qualified pilots in more advanced flying. The group flew Hurricanes, Spitfires, Ansons and Harvards until being disbanded on 6 August 1947. The last plane to fly from Hibaldstow was a Harvard on 6 August 1947.

253 Squadron

255 Squadron

538 Squadron

255 Squadron RAF Fighter Command

….......

RAF Digby

This airfield was established during WW1 and used as a base for Flight Training Squadrons up until

Late 1937 when it came under the control of 12 Group Fighter Command in November 1937 46 Squadron arrived with their Gloster Gauntlet aircraft and 73 Squadron with their Gloster Gladiators.

During 1938 these Squadrons were re-equipped with Hawker Hurricanes. In August 1939 they were augmented by No 504 ( County of Nottingham ) Squadron and all were engaged in fighter defence and convoy patrols.

 The Digby Fighter Sector stretched from the Midlands to the coast and beyond and operations were generally mounted by 2 day fighter squadrons and a night fighter squadron coordinated by a fighter controller. Later Digby day and night fighters also operated from nearby satellite airfields at RAF Wellingore and RAF Coleby Grange.

During 1940 a number of fighter squadrons based in the south of England were transferred to Digby for a few weeks to rest, to assimilate new personnel, re-train and re-equip

The airfield came under the control of the RCAF in 1941 and was home to a large number of RCAF fighter Squadrons which were formed and trained there and also established RAF Squadrons who stayed for a few weeks only. By D Day all these Squadrons had left.

Main Digby Operational Fighter Squadrons

73 Squadron

46 Squadron

504 Squadron

611 Squadron

229 Squadron

29 Squadron

401 Squadron

402 Squadron

411 Squadron

412 Squadron

409 Squadron

….......

RAF Coleby Grange

Coleby Grange opened in the spring of 1940 as a Relief Landing Ground ( RLG ) for RAF Cranwell. It was a grass airfield with no concrete runways.

The facilities in early 1940 were basic but by May the airfield hosted a detachment of Hurricanes from 253 Squadron, Kirton-in-Lindsey. These were followed at the beginning of August by the Defiants of B Flight of 264 Squadron, also based at Kirton-in-Lindsey. This unit moved out three weeks later and Coleby Grange reverted to being a RLG for Cranwell and also received occasional use by RAF Waddington a couple of miles to the north.

In May 1941 the airfield became a satellite of RAF Digby the nearby 12 Group Fighter Station. The first to occupy the airfield with Hurricane Is was a unit of the. Royal Canadian Air Force 402 Squadron, on 16 May 1941.

The pilots were housed at Coleby Lodge a fine old country house near the airfield. After 402 Squadron had moved out on 23 June 1941 they were replaced on 25 July by 409 Squadron, another unit of the Royal Canadian Air Force that had formed at Digby the previous month. Initially 409 Squadron was equipped with Defiant Mark I night fighters and it operated these and the subsequent Beaufighters Marks IIF and VIF from Coleby until 27 February 1943 when they moved to Acklington, Northumberland.

410 Squadron RCAF squadron, equipped with the excellent Mosquito NF Mark II arrived from Acklington six days previously to replace the outgoing 402 unit. With the closure of Hibaldstow, Coleby Grange became the major base for night fighters in Lincolnshire in 1943.

The role of 410 Squadron was not solely the night air defence as the unit also took part in 'Ranger' operations. These involved individual aircraft strafing road and rail targets in occupied Europe. This unit remained until 19 October 1943 when it then moved to West Malling.

It was replaced on 7 November by 264 Squadron, also with Mosquito II aircraft, but they remained only a few weeks and departed on 18 December 1943.

During February 1944 68 Squadron arrived with Beaufighters but the following month they departed and were replaced by 68 Squadron equipped with Mosquito XIIs. This was to be the last operational squadron to be housed at Coleby and gave Lincolnshire the final night cover of the war.

Coleby's operational role came to an end when the unit moved out on 6 May 1945.

Main Coleby Grange Operational Fighter Squadrons

253 Squadron

264 Squadron

402 Squadron

409 Squadron

410 Squadron

68 Squadron

….......

RAF Wellingore

The Wellingore site was used by Cranwell until June 1940 when it then became a Relief Landing Ground for the fighter station at RAF Digby.

The first arrivals at Wellingore were the Hawker Hurricanes of No 46 Squadron detachment. The airfield was also used by fighters of No 29 Squadron with Bristol Blenheims and Bristol Beaufighters.

During December 1940 the Hurricanes of No 402 Squadron which were based at Digby used Wellingore until June 1941.

Various other Canadian units continued to use Wellingore mostly staying only a few weeks for working up and operational training before moving on.

On the 12 February 1944 No 402 returned but this time with Spitfire Mk Vcs. They were the last fighter squadron to be based at Wellingore and after No 402 Squadron had left on 29 April 1944 the airfield ceased fighter operations and reverted to being a Relief Landing Ground for Cranwell up to its closure in 1945.

Main Wellingore Operational Fighter Squadrons

46 Squadron

29 Squadron

Compiled by David Fell with photos courtesy of WWP

 

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Bomber Command interest are the

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