103 Squadron pilot Geoff Maddern and WAAF Intelligence Officer Lucette Edwards pictured in a Lancaster cockpit in 1943. (Pic: David Fell).
Drivers heading to or from the Humber Bridge on the A15 may notice a large curved-roofed building as they pass alongside the Elsham Wolds Industrial Estate. The building is a ‘J’ Type aircraft hangar, one of the few indicators that the area was a large Bomber Command airfield in World War II.
Work began at Elsham Wolds in the winter of 1939-40. The station was originally planned as a grass airfield but during construction the decision was made to lay hard runways which were then extended, delaying the opening further.
The runways were standard Class ‘A’ lengths with the exception of one of its subsidiaries which was 1,600 yards long. Initially, 27 aircraft dispersals were provided. This was later increased to 36 and comprised 30 ‘frying-pan’ type and three ‘loop’ types, each loop accommodating two aircraft.
The technical site was to the east and contained three hangars; a ‘J’ Type and two T2s. Communal and accommodation sites for up to 3,101 personnel, all ranks were dispersed in adjoining farmland to the south-east. Bomb stores were located to the north-east side of the airfield.
The station opening under 1 Group on 3 July 1941. The first unit based there was 103 Squadron which arrived from Newton, Nottinghamshire, 11 July 1941. The squadron was initially equipped with Wellington bombers until July 1942 when they converted to Halifax bombers.
A group photo of 103 Squadron RAF Bomber Command aircrew taken at Elsham Wolds in the winter of 1941/42. The aircraft is a Vickers Wellington. (Pic: David Fell).
As 1 Group was intended to be an all-Lancaster group, 103 Squadron converted to the type the following October.In November 1945, the squadron was disbanded and reformed as the 57 Squadron.On 25 November 1943, 575 Squadron was formed from ‘C’ Flight 103 Squadron. They left 31st October 1944 for Fiskerton.
Apart from the ‘J’ Type hangar and deteriorating sections of runway, very little else remains. The Elsham Wolds Association memorial room is located inside the Anglia Water treatment plant, on the north-western end of the main runway. Access is by prior arrangement.
Outside the museum is the memorial garden and just outside the compound gates, a Northern Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage information board.
Map: Elsham Wolds Museum