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  RAF Hemswell (Harpswell Aerodrome)

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> RAF Bases

Interactive map
Full list of locations

Alma Park
Anwick
Bardney
Barkston Heath
Belton Park
Binbrook
Blankney Hall
Blyton
Boston Wyberton Fen
Bottesford
Bracebridge Heath
Braceby
Buckminster
Bucknall
Caistor
Cockthorne
Coleby Grange
Coningsby
Cranwell
Cuxwold
Digby
Donna Nook
Dunholme Lodge
East Halton
East Kirkby
Elsham Wolds
Faldingworth
Fiskerton
Folkingham
Freiston
Fulbeck
Gosberton
Goxhill
Grantham
Greenland Top
Grimsby
Grimsthorpe Park
Harlaxton
Hemswell
Hibaldstow
Holbeach
Humberston
Immingham
Ingham
Ingoldmels
Kelstern
Killingholme
Kirmington
Kirton in Lindsey
Langtoft
Leadenham
Lincoln West Common
Ludford Magna
Manby
Market Deeping
Market Stainton
Mere
Metheringham
Moorby
Morton Hall
New Holland
Nocton Hall
Normanby
North Coates
North Killingholme
North Witham
Norton Disney
Orby
Rauceby
Saltby
Sandtoft
Scampton
Skegness
Skellingthorpe
Skendleby
South Carlton
South Elkington
South Witham
Spilsby
Spitalgate
Stenigot
Strubby
Sturgate
Sutton Bridge
Swinderby
Swinstead
Theddlethorpe
Tydd St Mary
Waddington
Wainfleet
Waltham (Grimsby)
Wellingore
Wickenby
Wigsley
Winterton
Woodhall Spa

Updated : 16 Dec 12

Opened: late 1916

Closed: 1919

Opened: Jan 1937

Closed: 1967

Airfield code :: HS > HL

ICAO Code :: MWXH

Airfield call sign :: DELUXE

Squadrons based here:

199 TS :: ?Apr 1918 - Jun 1919 (disbanded)

200 (Night) TS :: 1918

61 Sqn :: Feb 1937

144 Sqn :: Feb 1937

click here for a full list of Polish squadrons in the Royal Air Force

300 (Polish) Sqn :: Jun 1941 - Jun 1943

301 (Polish) Sqn :: Jun 1941 - Apr 1943

305 (Polish) Sqn :: Jul 1942 - Jun 1943

83 Sqn :: 1946 -

150 Sqn :: 1944 -

170 Sqn :: 1944 - 1945

1 LFS (Lancaster Finishing School) :: late 1943 - Nov 1944

1687 BDT Flt :: Mar 1945 - ??

109 Sqn :: 1946; 1950 - Jan 1956

139 Sqn :: 1946; 1950 - Jan 1956

97 Sqn :: 1946 -

100 Sqn :: 1946 -

97 (SM) Sqn :: Dec 1959 - May 1963

7 School of Recruit Training :: 1963 - 1966

In 1916 Hemswell opened as a night landing ground for the RFC and was known as Harpswell. During 1918, 199 and 200 Training Sqns were based here but the airfield was soon returned to pasture by 1919.

In 1935 construction began on the compulsory repurchased land. RAF Hemswell opened in Jan 1937 as a 5 Gp station, transfering to 1 Gp in Jun 1941.

61 Sqn's Hemswell-based Hampdens were the first Bomber Command aircraft to drop bombs on German soil, on 19 Mar 1940. The target was the Hornum seaplane base.

In Jun 1943 the active sqns departed in preparation for the airfield to close for upgrading to concrete runways. It was reopened in Jan 1944 with 1 LFS which disbanded in Nov 1944. The site was used by 150 Sqn and 170 Sqn until Apr 1945 they were joined by 1687 Bomber Defence Training Flight. It was then a Scampton satellite.

RAF Hemswell was protected by Q decoy sites at Caenby, Glentham and Toft Grange. The latter was also a K site.

During the war a 122 bomber aircraft were lost on operations from Hemswell. These totalled 38 Hampden, 62 Wellington and 22 Lancaster.

FJ Whitehead was stationed as a wireless fitter at RAF Conningsby in 1949/50 and the two squadrons (109 and 139) equipped with B35 Mosquitos were there together with either an Operational Conversion Unit. 109 and 139 moved to Hemswell in March 1950 along with all personnel at which time Coningsby was put on a 'care and maintenance' basis. Responsibility for Wainfleet Bombing Range, at which he also worked occasionally, was transferred to Hemswell at the same time.

Ray Ballard sent the following information in 2011: "In the final year of air operations I was stationed at Hemswell. 83 and 97 Sqdns were both flying Lincolns all year and 139(Jamaica) sqdn was flying Canberras. The Lincolns were Radio Counter Measure squadrons and the Canberras photo rec sqdn. I was lucky enough to get a 3 hour trip in one of the Lincolns. The Lincolns were still there when I was posted to Malta in Feb 1957."

542 Squadron was another specialised reconnaisance squadron. They moved to Hemswell from RAF Weston Zoyland in Apr 1957, replacing the disbanding Lincoln squadron. 542 Sqn left Hemswell sometime after July 1958.

83 & 97 Squadrons remained at Hemswell after 1956 albeit as Antler & Arrow Sqns.!

The last flying squadrons departed in Jan 1956 but RAF Hemswell then became a missile unit with 3 Thor IRBM launchers of 97(SM) Sqn RAF present here from Dec 1959 to May 1963. Each missile was armed with a one-megaton nuclear warhead, controlled by the US Air Force under so-called dual-key arrangements. RAF Hemswell was the headquarters for the 5 Lincolnshire dispersal sites at RAF Hemswell, RAF Bardney, RAF Caistor, RAF Coleby Grange and RAF Ludford Magna.

The long-surviving hangars here have on occasion been pressed into service for EU Common Agricultural Policy intervention stores for Lincolnshire's contribution to the grain mountain.

Bomber County Aviation Museum

The former Bomber County Aviation Museum based at Hemswell has now closed and its exhibits have been dispersed.

RAF Hemswell Association

RAF Hemswell Association membership is open to all ranks and trades who served at Hemswell any time between 1937 and 1967. There is an nnnual reunion at Hemswell and the assocation also publishes a bi-annual magazine, annual subs £5.

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

RAF Hemswell photos

RAF Hemswell aerial photograph, 1941

RAF Hemswell memorials

Buy the local map:
click to buy on Amazon.co.uk1:25 000 (detail)
click to buy on Amazon.co.uk1:50 000 (area)

RAF Hemswell Association

RAF Hemswell page on Royal Air Force website

RAF Hemswell memories on the Wartime Memories Project

RAF Hemswell on ControlTowers.co.uk

Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire
(Tourism)

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