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What is RAF Skellingthorpe?
Before the Second World War, the land which became RAF Skellingthorpe was pasture land called Black Moor and was surrounded by plantation trees. It sat on the edge of Lord Liverpool's Hartsholme estate and the small village of Skellingthorpe. It was very close to the city of Lincoln.
The Birchwood housing estate now sits on the land which was previously RAF Skellingthorpe. Not many traces of the aerodrome remain but in the play park (Birchwood Avenue) there is still a portion of the airfield perimeter road which is marked out with a timeline for the airbase. It includes 208 painted poppies, one for each of the airplanes which flew out of RAF Skellingthorpe on operations and failed to return. A memorial for 50 and 61 Squadron is also in a prominent position on Birchwood Avenue.
What was it like living in RAF Skellingthorpe?
Most of the buildings at RAF Skellingthorpe were pre-fabricated temporary buildings. All the teams that lived on the site lived in Nissen huts or long wooden huts. 14-20 people would live in one hut. The huts had very little insulation if any and just one or two cast iron stoves for heating the room. The floors were either concrete or rough brick. All the accommodation was scattered around the edges of the aerodrome and it was a big site.
There was some motor transport to get around the site – a Morris commercial van, but most people used bicycles to get around.
Metal framed beds were lined up along each inside wall of the hut. Each person was issued with a set of sheets and four blankets. They were given three thin straw mattresses known as biscuits. Each day everything had to be extremely tidy, "Before you could go on parade at 6 am you had to strip your bed and pile up your kit in a neat pile at the foot. Blankets, sheets, greatcoat, gas mask container etc. had to be absolutely square, achieved by inserting sheets of cardboard in the front".
When people were lucky enough to get a day’s leave they would get on the train at the nearby station and travel to either Lincoln or Nottingham.
What evidence is left of RAF Skellingthorpe?
There is an impressive memorial beside the leisure centre. It comprises of an inscribed granite column adorned with the squadron badges. A nearby section of the perimeter track has been resurfaced as part of a children's play area, decorated with the station's timeline. In Skellingthorpe village is another inscribed granite memorial within a small garden, next to the Skellingthorpe Heritage room.
The newly refurbished community centre café at Birchwood has a display with some memorabilia from RAF Skellingthorpe. Two of the schools are named in remembrance Lancaster school and Leslie Manser School. One of the local pubs is called Black Swan after the code name for RAF Skellingthorpe. In the woods around the perimeter of the estate, there are remnants of the bomb stores and the shape of one of the frying pans can be seen on the ground.
Flying Officer Leslie Manser
Leslie Manser School is named after a very brave pilot who saved the lives of his crew by trying to keep control of the damaged aircraft they were in so that they could bail out. There was not sufficient time for Leslie to bail out before the plane crashed.
The Lancaster school is named after the Lancaster Bombers that flew from RAF Skellingthorpe. In the nature park (accessed from Elvington Road) one of the ‘frying pans’ or aircraft service areas has been preserved. In the woodland around the estate, there are also the remains of buildings and evidence of the bomb stores that surrounded the site.