Statue on Cleethorpes seafront commemorating RAF North Coates Strike Wing. (Pic: Phil Bonner).
North Coates site is approximately six miles south east of Cleethorpes on the North Lincolnshire coast. In WWI North Coates was used as a landing ground and in 1927 the site was reacquired and once again established as a coastal airfield. It was used by various bomber squadrons using the nearby Donna Nook bombing and gunnery range, during annual summer camps.
By 1935, the airfield had permanent buildings, becoming home to No. 2 Armament Training Camp. A variety of training units used the facilities until the outbreak of WWII, when all training units were relocated to stations on the west coast.
On 26 February 1940, the aerodrome was renamed Royal Air Force Station North Coates and transferred to Coastal Command as a base for torpedo bomber squadrons.
A number of different units were based at the airfield for differing lengths of time including, from May 1942, the Swordfish aircraft of 812 Squadron Fleet Air Arm.
On 27 August 1942, 143 Squadron equipped with Beaufighters arrived at the airfield. The squadron would be the first of three which would form the North Coates Strike Wing, all equipped with Beaufighters.
The Strike Wing was one of a number created at Coastal Command airfields, the idea being that large numbers of fast moving, heavily armed aircraft could attack shipping and defend themselves against fighters and flak.
On 18 September 1942, 236 Squadron arrived from Oulton, Norfolk and on 7 November, the Strike Wing was complete with the addition of 254 Squadron from RAF Docking, Norfolk.
The first North Coates Strike Wing mission took place on 20 November 1942 but was unsuccessful. A re-think on tactics led to the addition of a fighter escort, after which things improved. On 28 August 1943, the Strike Wing was reduced to two squadrons when 143 Squadron moved to St Eval, Cornwall, although they made a couple of brief returns. The North Coates Strike Wing operated until the end of the war in Europe and accounted for the loss of 117 enemy ships at the cost of 120 aircraft.
North Coates was retained by the RAF following WWII and saw a variety of units come and go including a squadron of Bloohound anti-aircraft missiles. The RAF finally vacated the site in 1991.
The airfield is still active today as a general aviation airfield, operated by North Coates Flying Club. Many of the original buildings remain, although the technical and accommodation buildings are privately owned. A memorial to Strike Wing can be seen near the flying club entrance and a larger memorial statue is located on the sea-front at Cleethorpes. (Pic: Phil Bonner).