A wake-up call – RAF Swinderby turned to dust!

RAF Swinderby
Photo of RAF Swinderby taken on 22 February 2018 - 'a sea of brick'

This blog is about the amazing people stories and rich heritage of RAF North Luffenham and Woolfox Lodge. It is at risk.

I was recently doing some work near Lincoln and called in to what was RAF Swinderby. The airbase was a pre-war station of substantial brick buildings. Not much remains and I was greeted with a view of a ‘familiar’ RAF station tree lined road, but with just a moonscape!  It was just an endless vista of processed brick. I was in shock.

This has made me appreciate what could happen at North Luffenham/St Georges Barracks. It could be reduced to brick dust. I have mixed feelings – as development seems inevitable, unless an alternate campus use is found.  Woolfox Lodge is also a proposed site for a town.

So facing brutal destruction I have a strong sense of loss for some reason, perhaps it is a feeling of no control.  For me it is hard to explain, but I know that brave people did amazing things here and at Woolfox – particularly in 1941 and 1942 – flying day bombers at night without the right meteorological information or night flying training or radio aids. Young men sent off 600 miles to the east with just a compass, stopwatch, map and airspeed indicator to fight. No wonder many failed to return.

In an 8 month period in late 41 to spring 42 over 180 allied airmen were lost and a significant proportion have no known grave.

I will be doing more thinking and feel we need to work harder to define what our heritage at North Luffenham and Woolfox Lodge is? What we can do before, during and after development, should it occur, to respect the deeds done from and at this battlefield? In the back of my mind is also the precedent for a new town to be built at Cottesmore should the MOD leave that as well.

The Luffenham Thor site is now Grade 2 listed but the rest of the station – which is a very well preserved bomber station, due to the it usage post war, is not much changed from when it was built. What is it’s significance?  What are we suggesting we destroy and how should we view this? How do we ensure ‘heritage’ is recognised and in particular, the amazing things that the people did to add to the war effort.  Therefore, this blog focusses on the ‘people’ stories that I can find.

More to follow – if you have a story to add – or would like to help – please contact me. I am in need of the help of a medals expert to uncover the citations – do you know one? – please connect me. Many thanks.

6 thoughts on “A wake-up call – RAF Swinderby turned to dust!”

  1. Hi i wonder if you can help me
    I am on the commitee at seething control tower museum
    as seething airfield was being built in 1943 a wellington x3882 from 29 OTU North Luffenham
    was returning from france and landed at seething the pilot Sgt RSteer
    the aircraft hit some heavy plant equipment and also a cottage
    i wonder if you could tell me the fate of the crew and any other information please
    Regards Andy

    1. apologies for long delay in answering your question. The only source I have is Bomber Command losses Volume 7 and I cant fnd a loss. Do you have a date of the accident. The only other source of information will be the 29 OTU operations log – which will be available at the National Archives.If it was landing from France it must have been on Ops – perhaps Nickelling – leaflets. best rgds G

  2. Not related to the comment posted but this is the only location I could find on the page to comment . I do hope that the Officers Club survived and was not torn down .
    If my memory is serving me correctly, I believe I was there every day for two weeks in September 1986 for a UK/AUS/NZ/CA/US treaty ( actually it was called ASCC ) technical meeting . I remember a beautiful building, delicious lunches and teas. And most fondly , I remember standing with my tea cup , looking out those windows at a fenced field with sheep looking back at me .
    That is where I had my first, and maybe my only , Shandy .
    This was my only time in the UK , and now retired , my husband and I are hoping to get back there ( he was once at a meeting in London ) for a visit .
    I was fortunate enough to tour Burleigh house when there and would love to see it again with the perspective of a 63 versus 26 year old .

    1. Joyce, thank you for your comment. I was a UK rep for the ASCC in the 90s – the NBC group so also had some great collaborative meetings in nice surroundings. G

  3. Hello
    I am looking for some information as a newbie to tracing my family tree
    I’m looking to get some info and possibly photos of the 1941 144 squadron
    Reserve. Edgar Walter Hawkins 1375393 bomber command on Hampsen 1 was killed in action 13th October 1941
    I feel very humble that he was killed only aged 26 like so many. Never forget

    1. Andrea, firtsly please accept my sympathy for your families loss and I also feel humbled by the loss of so many. Your relative Sgt Edgar Walter Hawkins is listed in Bomber Command Losses for 1941 He was part of major raids that night – one of the largest to date in 1941 on Nuremberg, Bremen and Huls. On that night 373 aircraft were dipatched and 13 failed to return, including Hampden AD965 dispatched to Huls. They were shot down by a night fighter. The aircraft crashed into the Ijsselmeer in Holland. Only 1 airman Sgt Chamberlain (the Captain) has a grave and he is buried in Makkum churchyard. The rest of the crew have no known grave and are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. I hope this information helps. I will send the losses entry to your email.

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