The casual bystander on Lincoln’s Birchwood Estate would be hard pressed to recognise that they were standing in what was once a major bomber station. Situated 2 miles to the south-west of Lincoln, Skellingthorpe was a bomber airfield within 5 Group which opened in late 1941.
It was provided with three runways, the main being 1,650 yards with two subsidiaries at 1,400 yards. There were three hangars, two T2s and a B1. The technical site was unusual at Skellingthorpe, as it was almost two sites, with the north-east end of the main runway dividing the two.
Both sites had a T2 hangar, whilst the B1 hangar was located south of the airfield, near to the administration site. The bomb stires were in woodland to the west, now bisected by the A46, and the communal and accommodation sites were dispersed both north and south of the airfield.
On 26 November 1941, 50 Squadron arrived with their Hampdens from Swinderby, whilst its runways were being relaid. It was whilst at Skellingthorpe that they re-equipped with Manchesters. Joining them, also from Swinderby, was 455 Squadron RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) although their personnel remained at Swinderby.
The squadron moved to RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire, 30-31 May 1942. It was during this period that Flying Officer Leslie Manser of 50 Squadron was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on the Thousand Bomber raid on Cologne on the night of 30-31 May 1942.
On 20 June 1942, 50 Squadron returned to Swinderby, having converted to Lancasters. Skellingthorpe then closed for upgrading to Class ‘A’ standard, with the extension of the main runway north-east by 350 yards and the addition of further accommodation sites.
On 16 October 1942, 50 Squadron again returned to Skellingthorpe from Swinderby and were joined by 61 Squadron from Syerston exactly one year later on 16 November 1943.
Skellingthorpe became a satellite to Waddington, part of 53 Base. Both squadrons saw out the war in Europe whilst based at Skellingthorpe, with 61 Squadron having a brief spell at Coningsby from 12 January – 15 April 1944. Both squadrons moved to Sturgate on 16 June 1945.
Post-war, the site was used by 58 MU (Maintenance Unit), 91 MU and 93 MU and was finally disposed of in 1952. There was a proposal in 1948 to convert the airfield into a civil airport for Lincoln but this came to nothing.
There is an impressive memorial by the leisure centre. It comprises an inscribed granite column adorned with squadron badges. A nearby section of the perimeter track has been resurfaced and part of a children’s play area, decorated with the station’s timeline.
In Skellingthorpe village is another inscribed granite memorial within a small garden, next to the Skellingthorpe Heritage Room.