Friday, 1 July 2011

Article - When bombers took to the skies over Hatfield

THE base that was eventually to become Lindholme Aerodrome was built on Hatfield Moor, a mile south of the small village of Hatfield Woodhouse, whose name the airfield was originally destined to take.

Work began in the spring of 1938 and it was officially opened in June 1940 under No.5 Group, No.50 Squadron, and its Hampden aircraft arrived in July. Two and a half months after its official opening the station name was to be changed to Lindholme to avoid any possible confusion with Hatfield airfield which was in Hertfordshire. Lindholme was actually a country house and hamlet on the eastern boundary of the airfield.

During the first two years of war, a bomb store was constructed on the far side of the A614 along with many extra hardstandings for aircraft. A perimeter track and over 30 pan hardstandings had also been built during this period. By 1942 Lindholme was upgraded with the construction of concrete runways. A few additional campsites were added to the south of the main area giving the station maximum accommodation for 2,192 men and 365 women. There was a large contingent of Polish airmen, including 304 Squadron, who were honoured by a visit from wartime leader General Sikorski, who is seen in our photograph as he examines crashed Wellington bomber “Sonia” on the airfield in April 1942.

It was re-opened for flying in late October 1942 just in time to take part in the increased bombing campaign of Germany. No.1656 Heavy Conversion Unit moved in with a few Lancasters and Manchesters which flew in from Breighton to serve No. 1 Group’s conversion to Lancasters. It then became an operational unit with both Lancaster and Halifax crews training there with No.1667 HCU (Heavy Convsersion Unit) being established there in June 1943.

In November the same year, No.1 Lancaster Finishing School was activated using existing flights with a similar mission.

On November 3, 1944, the station became No.71 Base under the new training organisation - No.7 Group. Meanwhile, No.1656 HCU remained at Lindholme until November 1945 when many Bomber Command units were disbanded.

During World War II, a total of 76 bombers flying from Lindhome were lost in operations, 40 Hampdens, 35 Wellingtons and a single Lancaster.

The immediate post-war years found Nos.57 and 100 Squadrons with their Lincolns in residence at Lindholme from May to September 1946. Afterwards the station went back to a training role, the longest resident being the Bomber Command Bombing School which had become the Strike Command Bombing School by the time it moved out in 1972.

Hangars were used for storage by the USAF during the height of the Cold War and later various RAF ground units, including Northern Radar, also moved in.

In 1985 the whole camp was sold and turned into a prison. Obviously lots of new building took place but many of the original permanent camp buildings still survive.

Another reminder of Doncaster’s sometimes overlooked but vital contribution to World War II began to be gradually forgotten by many, but certainly not those involved in those dark days.

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