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RAF Digby - RCAF Digby
A history : 1918


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> RAF Bases

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Alma Park
Anwick
Bardney
Barkston Heath
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Boston Wyberton Fen
Bottesford
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Braceby
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Swinstead
Theddlethorpe
Tydd St Mary
Waddington
Wainfleet
Waltham (Grimsby)
Wellingore
Wickenby
Wigsley
Winterton
Woodhall Spa

Updated: 26 Jan 12

1918

On 12 January 1918 the War Office issued the authority notice for the site to be taken over under the Defence of the Realm Regulations. On the same day, formal notice was served on the former owners that the department would enter upon the land at an early date. On 14 January 1918, the Officer Commanding the Training Division was informed that the site had been taken over and could be occupied under camping conditions as soon as adequate provisions had been made for the personnel to be sent there.

On 3 May 1976, Sqn Ldr J I Gilson of Admin Wing, RAF Digby, visited the sons of the late Henry Wright, who was the tenant farmer of this land in 1917-1918. Their widowed mother — then 92 years old, and bedridden — jotted down the notes that follow of her memories of that time. -

"500 Acres let with 300 Kirkby Green.

1917 New Year Henry Wright Kirkby Green.

Telegram from Air Ministry — to cease cultivation of Scopwick Heath Farm. Workers detrained at Scopwick Station to walk to work on the site of what was to be the Air Force Station. Trench dug (manpower) to take effluent to Scopwick Beck — Council intervened so filled in again.

Tomlinson, Foreman Heath, moved to Scopwick (Firs Farm) leaving Sampson to small acreage on Heath.

Laughton Milson giving up tenancy of Firs Farm, it was offered to H Wright in place of Heath’s.’

The reference to 1917 is most likely an erroneous recollection, as the events of 1918 tie in directly. Nor was there in fact an Air Ministry as such in 1917.

We have also learned from the Air Historical Branch that the original owner of the land was Lord Chaplin, who, we believe, was the first Minister of Agriculture. The property then passed to Hugo William Cecil, Earl of Londesborough, from whom the then Air Ministry purchased some 280 acres in 1923.
.
Neither the Lincoln County Archivist nor his opposite number in the new Humberside County have any relevant papers covering the period 1885 to 1918. They have suggested, no doubt quite accurately that ‘the missing papers are languishing in some county solicitor’s office, and will come to light one day!”

We do know for certain, however, that construction work was far enough advanced to allow the airfield to operate as a separate station by March 1918 and, on 28 March 1918, a group of officers and men under the command of Major J H D’Albiac, DSO FRC RNAS left Portholm Meadows aerodrome in Huntingdonshire and moved to Scopwick, bringing Handley Page bombers with them, with Scopwick Aerodrome opening officially with their arrival. The station opened as Royal Air Force Station Scopwick. (Major d’Albiac had been a Royal Marine officer, hence his joining the RNAS rather than the RFC. He later became Squadron Leader D’Albiac and, later still, Air Marshal Sir John D’Albiac KCVO, KBE CE DSO and gained fame in Greece in World War II - see Digby personalities for a summary service record.) Early accommodation for personnel was under canvas.

With him came a Warrant Officer J Hiatt, who for the next 7 years served on and off at Digby. He retired from uniformed service in 1925 and became Station Warden. When he retired again in 1961, he had spent 43 years almost continuously at the station.

Three days after the arrival of Maj d'Albiac's party on 28 March 1918, the Royal Air Force came into existence.

Regrettably, we enter another grey area. Training units of the First World War are not well documented; only skeleton records exist for some, and nothing at all for others. No 59 Training Depot Station, Scopwick is one of the latter. Things are further complicated by the use of the abbreviation ‘TDS’ to mean both Training Depot Station and Squadron! What we do know is that No 59 TDS moved to Scopwick and came under 59th Wing in September 1918, having been under 26th Wing (which controlled Wyton and some other units in Huntingdonshire and Norfolk) until then. 59th Wing also looked after Cranwell. Presumably this is where the idea of Scopwick’s having been a satellite of Cranwell’s stems from. However, by the end of October 1918, Scopwick was controlled by 27th Wing in No 12 Group. An establishment of 10 Handly Page 0/100s, 18 FE2Eb or ds and 30 AVRO 504 Ks supports use as a night bomber training unit. By the end of the war, the Station covered 250 acres, had seven 170’ by 100’ hangars and a landing area of 1400 by 1000 yards. According to a contemporary works report the buildings had all been completed by November 1918.

Scopwick does not seem to have been operational in the First World War. However, it does seem to have seen some action. Apparently, a Zeppelin loosed some bombs one night which fell in a field just north of Scopwick Lodge. To this day, the field is called ‘Bomb Field’.

Whether the Station ever achieved its full establishment or simply became a squadron is not clear. Certainly, Scopwick was affected by the run down after the First World War.

< 1917 | index | 1919 >

location of RAF Digbyin relation to Lincolnshire - click here for full-size map showing all station locations

Digby Squadrons

Blankney

Ashby de la Launde

Scopwick War Graves

Sector Ops Room Museum

Digby crashes

Digby Oral Histories:


Digby - A History
" A history 1917 - 1978"
Foreword
Introduction
1917
1918
Inter-War Years
1919
1920
1922-23
1924
1925
1926

1927-1929
1930-1932
1933
1934-1936
1937
1938
World War II

1939
1939-1940
1941
Jan - Aug 1942
Sep 1942 - 1944
1945
Return to Training
1945 - Jan 1948
Feb - Mar 1948
Mar 1948 - 1953
A cadet remembers
The Signals Era
Jan 1955 - Dec 1961
Dec 1963 - 1978
Curent Day

1955 - the Signals Era


Digby Ops Room Museum
A brief history on Airops website

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