Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The RAF in Lincolnshire in the 1930s

When war came to Lincolnshire in September 1939, it was already a bomber county so far as the RAF was concerned. And a bomber county it was to remain throughout the six long years of conflict. But it was never intended that the county would serve as the base for a massive bombing campaign, as in fact happened. The RAF had very different ideas about what should happen. To understand what happened in Lincolnshire and why, it is necessary to understand what was expected of the men who would fly from the county.

In 1934 the British government had decided to end its policy of defence cut backs that had seen the RAF shrink from 188 operational and 194 training squadrons in 1919 to just 16 front line squadrons. Prompted by the rapid growth of the German Luftwaffe, and the equally impressive Japanese and Italian air forces, the government began to build up the air force, with the aim of reaching 75 squadrons by March 1939, a target later uprated to 112 squadrons, of which 53 were to be bomber squadrons.

It was unfortunate for the crews of Bomber Command based in Lincolnshire, and elsewhere, that the rapid expansion of the force was based on a number of assumptions that turned out to be completely mistaken.


Buy your copy HERE

At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, such was the build-up of men and materials in the R A F that Lincolnshire was already known as 'Bomber Country'. Its four main airfields - Hemswell, Scampton, Waddington and Cottesmore - were home to eight squadrons of Bomber Command under the legendary Arthur 'Bomber' Harris. Night after night the skies of Lincolnshire reverberated with the sound of aircraft taking off and landing. For the aircrews the missions were very dangerous and physically exhausting. The chances of surviving a full tour of 30 operations were only 50/50, less in the first five sorties while aircrews gained valuable experience. Their targets were roads, railways, bridges, harbours, dams, factories and oil installations. Many medals were won - some of them posthumously. On the Dambusters Raid alone, 36 were awarded; a VC for the leader Guy Gibson, five DSOs, 14 DFCs, 12 DFMs and three Conspicuous Gallantry Medals. In this well researched and excellently written book, Rupert Matthews - himself the son of a Bomber Command sergeant who fought in the Second World War - describes many of the operations in detail and tells the story of courageous individuals who, despite the odds, flew mission after mission - heroes every one of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment