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[RAF Elsham Wolds] [Other Local Airfields] [West Common]

West Common – Lincolnshire

West Common

The site of the old West Common airfield today which is outlined in blue. The A67 road runs top left to bottom middle with the golf course in on left side opposite the airfield

At the start of WW1 Lincoln was one of the major centres of aircraft production in the world and during WW1 one in fourteen of all British aircraft were built in Lincoln.

During WW1 around 6,000 people were engaged in aircraft production in Lincoln between 1915 and 1916 and more than 3,500 aircraft were produced in the city. The residents and workers in Lincoln were rightfully proud of this achievement and aircraft was often put on display outside the railway station for visitors to admire.

The aircraft manufacturing companies in Lincoln were :-

Ruston Aircraft Factory later known as Ruston Proctor and Co Ltd,

Robey and Co Ltd

Clayton Shuttleworth


Ruston, Proctor & Co Ltd produced many BE2cs; Sopwith 1.5 Strutters; Sopwith Camels; and Sopwith Snipes. This company was also the country’s largest producer of aircraft engines during WW1 and produced over 2,000 aircraft in total.

Sopwith 1.5 Strutter -

Sopwith 1.5 Strutter

Robey and Co Ltd was the second Lincoln company to turn to aircraft manufacturing during WW1 at their Globe Works. They also designed and built prototypes of their own aircraft which were flown from their airfield at Bracebridge Heath. Types built by Robeys included: Sopwith Gunbus, Robey Scout, Short 184 Seaplane, Maurice Farman Longhorn and Robey Peters.

Maurice Farman Longhorn -

Maurice Farman Longhorn

Clayton and Shuttleworth built SS Airships, Sopwith Triplanes; Sopwith Camels; HP 0/400 Bombers; and Vickers Vimys.

Sopwith Triplane -

Sopwith Triplane


These manufacturers needed an aerodrome near Lincoln for test flying prior to delivery of their aircraft to the RFC.

A convenient site was found on the local Lincoln racecourse on the West Common which like many other racecourses was pressed into military use. Part of the common was prepared as a landing area and two triangular-roofed, camouflaged sheds were erected as hangars at the clubhouse corner of the common for the unit which became No 4 Aircraft Acceptance Park opened in 1915.

Two more sheds were erected on the eastern side alongside Alderman's Walk. These were later being converted into one large hangar when the gap between them was roofed in. At a later stage in the war five wood-framed, canvas-covered Bessonneau hangars were added to the site.

Bessonneau Hangar

Bessonneau Hangar

No 4 Air Acceptance Park received Bristol F2b aircraft built at Gainsborough by Marshalls in addition to a number of different Lincoln-built designs such as the Sopwith Gunbus from Robey, the Handley Page 0/400 built by Clayton & Shuttleworth and the BE2c from Ruston Proctor.

Other aeroplanes from outside the county that were tested at No 4 AAP included the DH5, DH6, DH9, Sopwith Cuckoo and Blackburn Kangaroo.

The facilities were never very satisfactory, particularly when the HP O/400 bombers started to fly in from a make-shift airstrip adjoining the Clayton & Shuttleworth works in east Lincoln so an alternative site was sought.

Eventually it was decided to develop Robey's own aerodrome at Bracebridge Heath just south-east of Lincoln and new permanent brick-built hangars were constructed there. However the transfer was not completed until 1919.

The sheds were dismantled after the war and the West Common site was soon cleared of all buildings. The two of the original sheds were sold to local garage owners in Lincoln, Gilberts in Pelham Street and Stocks in Lucy Tower Street. Both survived as motor workshops until the 1970s. Apart from the old offices for the Air Acceptance Park which have been put to community use nothing exists on the West Common site to reveal Lincoln's aviation past and even the racecourse was closed in the 1960s.

West Common old offices of AAP

West Common old offices of 4 AAP

West Common Grandstand

West Common Lincoln Racecourse Grandstand which overlooked the airfield and still exists in good order today

Compiled by David Fell. Photos from my archive



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