RAF WICKENBY
MEMORIAL COLLECTION

THE HISTORY OF WICKENBY

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HISTORY OF WICKENBY

 


The history of the airfield goes back to 1941 when the ever increasing demand for heavy bomber airfields in Lincolnshire meant that large rural areas had to be found to build on. One morning in 1941 farm owner Mr Bowser was told by surveyors that his land was suitable and by 3pm that same day contractors McAlpine began to clear the site.

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RAF Wickenby under Construction

The airfield followed the standard Bomber Command layout, having three concrete runways and a perimeter track. The main runway 09/27 ran east/west along the southern side with the other two runways 03/21 & 16/34, crossing towards the north of the site with thirty six aircraft dispersals around the perimeter track. Two hangars of the steel T2 type were erected one to the north of the airfield and one to the south of the main runway, a third hangar of the B1 type was built later in 1943 and this was located at the north end of the technical and domestic site which was situated on the eastern side extending towards the village of Holton cum Beckering. The bomb storage area was constructed in a slight depression at the south west corner of the airfield. Building was completed in September 1942 and the airfield came under the control of No 1 Group Bomber Command and initially opened as a satellite station to RAF Binbrook. Later in December 1943 RAF Wickenby became No 14 Base substation to RAF Ludford Magna. Unlike most other RAF Stations, RAF Wickenby never had its own Station Badge.

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12 Squadron Wellington Bomber PH-C

During September 1942 under the Station Commander W/Cdr Dabinett, 12 Squadron moved to RAF Wickenby from their base at RAF Binbrook, bringing with them their Wellington Bombers in which they flew a number of missions. In November 1943, 12 Squadron became the second Squadron in 1 Group to be equiped with the AVRO Lancaster and on 12 January 1942 they were able to put nine Lancasters in the air as part of a force of 72 medium and heavy bombers which attacked an oil refinery in Essen.

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12 Squadron Air & Ground Crews

On 7 November 1943 626 Squadron was formed by the expansion of 12 Squadron's C Flight. To accommodate the extra personnel generated by the formation of the new Squadron, a new dispersed site was built to the south of the airfield. This site would accommodate both air and ground crew and it covered a large area between the villages of Fulnetby and Rand.

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626 Squadron personnel outside Hut 5

The two Squadrons took part in many major raids on enemy targets such as Mailey le Camp, Nuremburg and also Bomber Commands last main operation of the war on 25 April 1945 when 14 Lancasters from Wickenby were part of the force which attacked the SS Barracks in Berchtesgaden. Following this final mission the two Squadrons took part in Operations Manna & Exodus when they dropped food to the Dutch and helped with the repatriation of POWs.

Wickenby suffered its last losses on 12 April 1945 when three aircraft failed to return from an attack on an oil refinery in the Luzendorf area of Germany, the total number of men who died whilst serving at Wickenby during the conflict was 1147.

In September 1945 12 Squadron moved to Binbrook and in October 1945 626 Squadron was disbanded. Following the departure of the Lancasters 109 Squadron Mosquitos moved in but they left only a few weeks later in November 1945 when all flying ceased.

The next occupant, No 93 Maintenance Unit, collected ordnance from other disused airfields and stored it on the runways awaiting disposal. They remained until 1952 when 92 MU took over, staying until 1956.

During 1964-66 the airfield was cleared, and where possible returned to agricultural use. At the same time the road from Snelland to Holton-cum-Beckering, which had been closed to construct the airfield, was reopened.

After the RAF left Wickenby most of the land reverted to farming but the northern part of runways 03/21 & 16/34 became Wickenby Aerodrome and are still used today for private flying, along with the Watch Office which serves as a cafe, a club room for the flying schools, aerodrome air traffic control and is also the home of the RAF Wickenby Collection. Flying at Wickenby includes General Aviation, Microlighting, Gyrocopters, Vintage Aircraft and Aerobatics.

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A selection of aircraft at Wickenby today

The Wickenby Register (The 12 & 626 Squadron Association) was formed in 1979 by a small group of aircrew who had served with 12 and 626 Squadron's at Wickenby from 1942-45. Over the next few years founder members Jim MacDonald and Denzil Ede researched the history of the two Squadrons and collected together Operational Record Books, a considerable collection of photographs and a number of Flying Log Books and other documents for safe keeping. These documents form the basis of the Wickenby Archive which will continue to be looked after and added to by the RAF Wickenby Memorial Collection. The Wickenby Register was responsible for the building of the Memorial at the gates to Wickenby Aerodrome and its refurbishment in 2010 and also for the printing of the Book of Remembrance which is housed in the Museum at Wickenby. Over the years a large number of Members, Associate Members and Friends were built up and 32 Reunion Dinners and Memorial Services were held. The Wickenby Register held their final AGM in September 2011 when their members agreed that it would be disbanded and a new committee be set up called "Friends of the Wickenby Archive", the five members of this committee represent the Airfield, the Wickenby Register and the RAF Wickenby Memorial Collection and their responsibilities are to maintain the memory and heritage of 12 & 626 Squadrons, the safekeeping of the Archive and Book of Remembrance, the maintenance of the Memorial and the organisation of an Annual Memorial Service and to maintain contact with the current 12 Squadron and the ATC.

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Veterans at the Memorial Service

The Wickenby Museum was originally set up by Julia Mills & Philip Swan during the 1990s when as owners of the airfield at that time they noticed a great deal of interest being shown in its history. After they left the airfield the current volunteers Tim Brett and Anne Law took over the day to day running of the Museum and changed the name to the RAF Wickenby Collection, changing the layout of the Museum, adding informative displays, answering enquiries from the public and digitising the archive. The Collection which has increased quite considerably over the last five years is made up of memorabilia relating to WWII and post-war Wickenby and can be found in the upstairs of the Watch Office overlooking the two remaining runways.

 

theicarusmemorial
The Icarus Memorial at the gate of Wickenby Aerodrome

 

 

Wickenby
Timeline

1941 The landowner Mr Bowser is told that some of his land is required to build an airfield and construction of RAF Wickenby begins
19 Sep 1942 Advance party arrive at Wickenby under command of F/L HC Cotterill
25 Sep 1942 12 Squadron move to Wickenby
26 Sep 1942 First Op flown from Wickenby
28 Sep 1942 Announced that 12 Squadron would be equipped with Lancasters
4 Nov 1942 First Lancaster delivered
10 Nov 1942 "B" Flight stood down for conversion to Lancasters
  All Wellington Mk3 transferred to 199 Squadron
11 Nov 1942 "A" Flight stood down for conversion to Lancasters
13 Nov 1942 2 dual control Lancasters arrived from 1656 CU with crews and instructors
14 Nov 1942 10 Air Gunners posted in for duties as Mid Upper Gunnners
  6 complete crews posted to 199 Squadron as surplus to requirements
16 Nov 1942 25 Flight Engineers posted in for duties on Lancasters
21 Nov 1942 Last Wellington Op from Wickenby
27 Dec 1942 12 Squadron now ready for operations with 24 crews converted to Lancasters
6 Jan 1943 All available personnel were engaged in clearing snow from runways
11 Feb 1942 Carrier pigeons were carried for the first time, 2 per aircraft, supplied from a loft at Binbrook
18 Feb 1943

Link Trainer now available for use

17 Mar 1943 The Squadron's last remaining Wellington Z8501 having been made servicable was collected by ATA for ferrying to 33 MU. It crashed after take off when the port engine cut, the aircraft was wrecked and two of the ATA crew were injured
1 Apr 1943 A dance was held to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the RAF
1 May 1943 The town of Market Rasen was allotted to Wickenby in the "Wings for Victory" campaign which raised £59,000
14 May 1943 No 6 Site at Fulnetby was taken over from the Contractors.
24 Jul 1943 Window used for the first time
26 Aug 1943 Station Cinema was opened in the new Gymnasium
30 Aug 1943 The Station concert party "The Ad Astras" gave their first variety show
1 Sep 1943 A hostile aircraft was in the vicinity at 0320
18 Sep 1943 Instructions that the Squadron is to be partially equipped with H2S
22 Sep 1943

New buildings handed over from contractors

1 Oct 1943 No 4810 Squadron Airfield Construction flight and No 2842 Squadron RAF Regiment were transferred from Wickenby to Kelstern
3 Nov 1943 No 9012 Servicing Echelon was formed from 12 Squadron
7 Nov 1943 626 Squadron was formed under the command of W/C P Haynes comprising 2 flights (16 + 4 aircraft)
10 Nov 1943 First operation carried out by 626 Squadron to Modane
19 Nov 1943 Information received that Sgt PJ Bemrose missing since 9 Oct 1943 is POW
2 Feb 1944 The number of crews for each Squadron was 28
28 Feb 1944 All available personnel snow clearing from runways
Mar 1944 Fishing kit ws introduced consisting of 40 yards of line, a lead weight and 6 assorted hooks and a waterproof instruction booklet for ditching crews
13 Mar 1944 Aircrew detailed to help local farmers
19 Apr 1944 Intruder in Wickenby circuit
1 May 1944 Announced that the duration of an operational tour would be 30 sorties
24 Jun 1944 F/L Thomas & crew picked up in the sea off the Devon coast
7 Jul 1944 New cigarette ration cards to be issued
13 Jan 1945 Explosion in the Station Bomb Dump Fusing Shed 3 or 4 personnel killed
30 Jan 1945 No flying possible due to snow, all aircrew on snow clearing duties
28 Feb 1945 White paint to be removed from fins and rudders immediately
Mar 1945 626 Squadron achieved three months without an incident
3 Mar 1945 Two aircraft shot down by intruders on return from cross country details
25 Mar 1945 Lancaster ME758 PH-N completed its 100th operational sortie
14 Apr 1945 The last raid of the war by a major Bomber Command Force on a German city
24 Sep 1945 12 Squadron leaves Wickenby
9 Oct 1945 626 Squadron disbanded
19 Oct 1945 109 Squadron Mosquitos arrive at Wickenby
13 Dec 1945 Last Mosquito leaves Wickenby
1949 93MU take up residence at Wickenby
1952 93MU leave Wickenby
1956 92MU leave Wickenby
1964-1966 The RAF clearance of Wickenby and the reopening of the road between Holton-cum-Beckering and Snelland
1966 Private flying begins at Wickenby
1979 The Wickenby Register (12/626 Squadron Association) is formed
6 Sep 1981 The Icarus Memorial is unveilled
late 1990s The Wickenby Museum opens
  The Wickenby Register Archive moves to the Wickenby Museum
2007 The Wickenby Museum is renamed the RAF Wickenby Memorial Collection
Sep 2009 The Book of Remembrance is located at Wickenby
5 Sep 2010 The refurbished Icarus Memorial is unveilled
Sep 2011 The Wickenby Register closes
  The Friends of the Wickenby Archive is formed

 

 

 

 

 
The RAF Wickenby Memorial Collection, The Control Tower, Wickenby Aerodrome, Langworth, Nr Lincoln, LN3 5AX.
Tel:
01673 885000. Email: wickenbymuseum@outlook.com