Lincolnshire will be paying tribute to an iconic moment of aviation history when it marks a milestone anniversary of the Dambusters’ ‘Bouncing Bomb’ raids this May.
The 80th anniversary of the raid that took off from 617 Squadron’s Lincolnshire base to target the dams surrounding the Ruhr Valley in 1943, will be marked with commemorations, including a historic one-off event – a Lancaster bomber flying a two-hour sortie over Lincolnshire. For the full story see here.
For aviation enthusiasts, Lincolnshire – as well as some of our other destinations – provide a treasure trove of RAF and flying history, offering living tributes to the men and women who pioneered aviation as well as those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Chocks away in Lincolnshire…
It’s been called the spiritual home of the RAF, was at the centre of the UK’s fledgling aviation industry, home to the world’s first military air academy and known as Bomber County during the Second World War. Today its skies are home to one of the world’s greatest air display teams – the RAF Red Arrows – and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF). Based at RAF Coningsby the BBMF fleet of “national treasure” aircraft can be regularly seen at major national celebrations – including the coronation of King Charles III. For a glimpse behind the scenes, The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitor Centre offers guided tours.
Learn about one of the most famous landmarks in RAF history, Royal Air Force College Cranwell – the world’s first military air academy and where both Prince Charles and Prince William learned to fly – at Cranwell Aviation Heritage Museum. Explore its history – and become a pilot on the Jet Provost flight simulator.
At the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, a museum based on a 1940s RAF airfield, experience the vibrations, sounds and smells of a Lancaster as you taxi across a real Bomber Command airfield in front of an original control tower – the only place in Europe where you can do this (pre-booking essential for taxi).
For holiday accommodation with a difference stay in a former RAF weapons range, once used to train the Dambusters squadron. Historic RAF Wainfleet has been transformed into The Tower, featuring unusual self-catering units, including in the iconic control tower with the living room boasting 360° views across the surrounding countryside. Or how about staying in the former Officers’ Mess for the 617 Dambusters? Country house hotel The Petwood in the Edwardian spa town of Woodhall Spa, features the Squadron Bar with memorabilia and tributes to Guy Gibson and his squadron.
Time to reflect in Staffordshire…
Staffordshire is home to the National Memorial Arboretum the UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance, where among around 30,000 maturing trees and more than 300 significant memorials are 10 commemorating the RAF, including a Remembrance Garden. Staffordshire is also handy for visiting RAF Museum Midlands at Cosford, just over the border in Shropshire, a family attraction next to an active airfield with a world-class collection and display of aircraft along with special exhibitions and films.
Take a Spitfire stop in Stoke-on-Trent…
The Potteries might seem a curious place to find one of the world’s most instantly recognisable fighter planes, but the city is forever linked with the Spitfire thanks to one of its most famous sons – the aircraft designer Reginald Mitchell, who was born and educated locally.
Now the city is home to the striking £6m Spitfire Gallery at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, where the famous fighter takes pride of place after undergoing a three year restoration. While the Spitfire is the star exhibit at the 3,800 sq ft gallery – which features glass walls at the front and back, so the public can see the plane lit up at night – the free-to-visit attraction also reveals more about the story of the plane and its designer.
More hidden history is revealed in the Gallery’s refurbished café, named in honour of a pioneering Canadian woman pilot. Violet’s Café tells the less-well known tale of women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), known as the ‘ATA-girls’ – in particular, the amazing story of Canadian aviator Violet Milstead.
FAST track to Hampshire…
Hampshire can stake a very strong claim to have been at the very forefront of the formation of the RAF, in 1918. Farnborough, in the northeast of the county, is where the Army established its balloon workshops at the start of the 20th century. It’s where the pioneer pilot Samuel Franklin Cody made the first successful flight in Britain; and where the Father of the RAF, Hugh Montague Trenchard set up his HQ in August 1914.
The earliest building on the site of the Royal Aircraft Factory, now called Trenchard House, is where he formed the Royal Flying Corps – later to be merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to become The RAF in 1918. FAST (Farnborough Air Sciences Trust) in Farnborough commemorates all of this – and more – in its eclectic Museum.
And at the Army Flying Museum, which sits next to the busy Army Air Corps Airfield at Middle Wallop near Stockbridge, more than 35 aircraft, and imaginative displays, tell the story of army aviation. Two large hangars house the journey of British soldiers in the air, from the pioneering days of balloons and kites in the late 1800s to the modern chapter of helicopter operations. The Museum’s Apache Café, overlooking the active airfield, is also open daily with no need for museum admission, offering the chance to have a bite to eat and watch the aircraft fly past.
For accommodation with an aviation spin, luxury glamping pod, The Farley Hangar, has stunning hilltop views – and sits next to a private airstrip in the Test Valley. The secluded retreat has a king size bed with south-facing views, a bathroom with rainshower, TV with Netflix, Wi-Fi and a kitchenette. It takes its name from its location set beside the airfield on the Farley Farm Estate, which welcomes the occasional light aircraft.
Spitfire Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent
Battle of Britain memorial Flight, Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire historic aircraft flypast
Army Flying Museum, Hampshire
Avro Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’, Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre
The Farley Hangar, Hampshire