Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre

Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, founded by two local farmers, the Panton Brothers, Fred and Harold Panton, on the site of RAF East Kirkby, as a memorial to their elder brother Pilot Officer Christopher Panton, who along with 55,000 other aircrew of Bomber Command lost their lives during WWII.

Lancaster Lancaster Spitfire

The Centre has both a Spitfire and a Lancaster from WWII and a large number of interesting exhibits, making it probably the most important aviation heritage centre in the country.

East Kirkby memorial The entrance to the centre is marked by two large propellers and a memorial to the dead of 57 Squadron and 630 Squadron. The memorial stands on the site of the Guard Room.

From this base, over 1,000 aircrew 'went missing'.

Nissen huts Near the entrance gate are two Nissen Huts used by the Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group (LARG).

Inside the main gate is a large hanger housing the two prize exhibits, the Lancaster and the Spitfire. The Hanger also houses recovered crashed aircraft, details of bombing raids, communication equipment, crew lists, including details of all the Lancasters lost operating out of RAF East Kirkby during WWII, brief histories of all the RAF bomber squadrons that operated out of Lincolnshire during WWII, vintage vehicles etc. Hidden away in a far corner are some very old farm carts.

Naafi Exhibition sites hand out concessions, the captive audience is then sold awful food at exorbitant prices. Not so at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre. The Naafi serves food and drink and locally sourced quality ice cream at reasonable prices, as does the Burger Bar. Part of the Naafi also sells memorabilia and books.

The Station Chapel has a roll of honour naming all 848 aircrew of 57 and 630 Squadrons who sacrificed their lives. The altar has two books of remembrance listing the location of all those who have known graves. The Chapel is a place for quiet reflection.

The Control Tower has been restored to its operational status, with recreated sounds of a night operation against Berlin.

Control Tower Control Tower Control Tower

Elsewhere are further exhibits including life on the home front, escapes, and a communications room which now also houses a live amateur radio station.

The star of the centre is Lancaster Mk VII NX611, Just Jane. One of only four remaining Lancasters in the UK out of the 7,000 built, 5,000 of which were lost in active service during WWII. Of the 22 Lancasters remaining in the world, Just Jane is one of only three that can be powered up and able to move under its own steam.

Lancaster vintage vehicle Lancaster, inside bomb bay

Watching the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines being fired up each in turn is an impressive sight, even more impressive during the night runs. Just Jane then taxis up and down.

Spitfire Spitfire Spitfire

The other star, the Spitfire, gives a brief aerobatic display. Of the 20,350 Sptitfires constructed, only a few now remain.

Greenwich Meridian The Greenwich Meridian passes through the centre.

Richard Todd Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre is often host to special events. Richard Todd (as Wing Commander Guy Gibson), who co-starred with Sir Michael Redgrave (as Barnes Wallis) in the film The Dam Busters, pilot and crew of the Lancasters used in the film, members of 617 Squadron, were brought together to sign copies of the book of the making of the film.

Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre is located at East Kirkby in Lincolnshire, roughly halfway between Coningsby and Spilsby.

inside Lancaster Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre is not far from Petwood Hotel and Woodhall Spa. Requisitioned during WWII, Petwood was the Officers Mess for the Dambusters, 617 Squadron. The Squadron Bar at Petwood, has Dambusters memorabilia, including a copy of The Daily Telegraph of Tuesday 18 May 1943 reporting the successful Dambusters raid.

Dambusters Memorial, Woodhall Spa Woodhall Spa, a former spa town, has a very impressive memorial to the Dambusters.

Thorpe Camp, near Tattershall Thorpe, looks not much from outside, but it is worth going in and having a good look round as its exhibits are well worth looking at.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is located at RAF Coningsby. RAF Coningsby is still an active RAF base and has Tornadoes and the Eurofighter. Now named 'Micky the Moocher', the Lancaster in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was originally named 'City of Lincoln', reflecting the importance of Lincoln and Lincolnshire to Bomber Command during WWII.

Other active bases are Waddington, formerly used for the Vulcan V Bomber and now has Tornadoes and half a dozen AWACs and other reconnaissance aircraft. On the edge of the base and near the perimeter fence is a Vulcan V Bomber. Waddington has since the end of WWII acted as host for the annual two-day Waddington International Airshow.

RAF Scampton is the base for the world famous Red Arrows.

The Blue Bell Inn, a very old roadside inn at Tattershall Thorpe, serves excellent food and a good choice of real ales. Apart being an interesting old inn and serving excellent food, another reason for visiting the Blue Bell Inn, is that on the ceiling of the old bar are signatures of members of the 617 Squadron.

Dedicated to Harry Parkins who having survived 36 ops, volunteered for a second tour of duty, including dropping food parcels to the Dutch, bringing the total to 45, and with special thanks to Fred Panton for sparing the time to talk to us on a very busy day and treating us as special honoured guests, Don Watson and his wife Beverley for taking us and Martin for all his useful information. On average Lancaster aircrew survived six ops.
Lincolnshire ~ RAF East Kirkby ~ 630 Squadron ~ Battle of Britain Memorial Flight ~ Dambusters
(c) Keith Parkins 2005-2006 -- January 2006 rev 3