Great news for world war two buffs and local wildlife lovers – Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust announced recently that it has concluded the final phase of its purchase of the former RAF base at Woodhall Spa Airfield. The Trust will now begin developing the former airfield into a picturesque nature reserve rich in wildlife.
The Trust has thanked the many supporters who donated funds to help purchase the airfield. £450,000 was donated by WREN’s Biodiversity Action Fund Land Purchase Programme and a further £100,000 came as a legacy donation from Robert Thomas Pearson. The Trust also received substantial public donations.
“Around the nature reserve the air will fill with the songs of skylarks and the open skies will see birds of prey soaring where military aircraft once flew” We believe that the creation of a new nature reserve will be fitting tribute to the many servicemen and women who gave their lives to preserve and protect our ‘green and pleasant land’.”
The airfield was formerly the home of four RAF squadrons, including 617 ‘the Dambusters’ Squadron, but more recently was used as a sand and gravel quarry. The new nature reserve will retain the outline of the airfield landing strip whilst restoring the landscape to its earlier nature-rich condition, allowing future generations to appreciate both the heritage and natural beauty of this special place. The airfield will be closed for the foreseeable future as machinery from the quarry is removed and development work begins to create the new nature reserve. If you would like to donate funds to aid the development and management of the nature reserve please click here.
Before the final amount was raised to buy the airfield, it was featured recently on a Lincolnshire episode of BBC1’s “Countryfile”, in which members of the Wildlife Trust explained the ambitious project and its challenges. Together with the recent announcement that the Spa is to be revived, this is indeed a welcome development for residents and visitors alike.
RAF Woodhall Spa was a standard bomber airfield for 5 Group and opened in February 1942. Two T2s and a B1 hangar were provided, and the bomb stores were in woodland to the north. The first unit based there was No.97 Squadron which arrived from Coningsby on the 2nd March 1942, equipped with Lancasters. The squadron provided six aircraft for the M.A.N diesel engine factory raid at Augsburg. They remained at the airfield until the 18th April 1943, when they moved to Bourn, Cambridgeshire. Three crews from No.97 Squadron remained at Woodhall Spa forming the nucleus of No.619 Squadron, which came into being on the 18th April 1943.
Having built up to full squadron strength, No.619 Squadron remained until the 9th January 1944, when it moved to Coningsby, exchanging places with No.617 Squadron. Joining No.617 Squadron on the 15th April was No.627 Squadron, a pathfinder unit from Oakington, Cambridgeshire, equipped with Mosquitoes. In November 1944, the squadron joined those from No.9 Squadron, Bardney and Lossiemouth to take part in Operation Catechism, the successful attack on the German battleship, Tirpitz.
On the 17th June 1945, No.617 Squadron moved to Waddington and No.627 Squadron was disbanded at Woodhall Spa on the 30th September 1945. The day after, it was renumbered No.109 Squadron, and remained at the airfield until the 19th October 1945, when it moved to Wickenby. Following the departure of No.109 Squadron, flying at the airfield ceased and the site was retained for use as storage. During the 1960s, No.222 Squadron and No.112 Squadron served at Woodhall Spa with Bloodhound surface-to-air missiles.
[Thanks to Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and Bomber County Aviation Resource]