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  RAF Manby - memories of Steve Ripley

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Updated: 15 Sep 10

I received the detail below in Jul 07 from Steve Ripley. His father was with the Met Office at RAF Manby for a long time, from pre 1951 until the base shut down and he moved to Finningley after 1974.

I can distinctly remember, as a primary school boy a large squadron on either Lancasters or Lincolns stationed at RAF Manby in the early 50s. The primary school at Grimoldby was the place for all the services children and village children, and was located almost directly in line with the SE/NW runway. We were treated to a weekly or so it seemed squadron scramble of all the "Lancs" often directly over the school which used to stop lessons completely.

There was certainly a large number there as I can remember cycling out with my father to see them parked all over the airfield including a large number of dispersal points. In those days there was no security fear and as a local you were welcomed and shown around aircraft parked with crew at remote points. What a contrast to today.

Grimoldby primary school was and still is the first building on the westerly road to the NW of the crossroads off the end of the the SE/NW runway, so they were on full throttle with nothing held back as they came over about 800yds out. Just look at the map. The noise stopped everything at minute intervals ie lessons off just look out of the window.

The main repair facility for both Manby and Strubby was at Manby and I can remember being shown around the hangers as a smallboy with Lancasters in bits with a line outside all correctly dressed with props nicely lined up vertically etc. This continued until the pair of bases were shut, essentially Strubby in this time was a slave satellite of Manby. One of my best friends at grammar school in the local town of Louth was the son of the squadron leader, possibly wing commander, in charge of repairs. There was a joke at the time that there were no workers on the base only officers, so junior ranks sellotaped their saluting arm in place.

Another regular feature at Manby was once a week night flying which basically kept everyone in the villages up until at least midnight. With the bombers this seemed to involve assembling the whole squadron in a large holding pattern they before all disappeared and landed much later.

I can also add that from my bedroom window I used to have a good view of the then four masts at Stenigot. They were clearly visible on the skyline over a large area of that part of Lincolnshire.

In the following years the night and day flying was to those watching mainly training circuits and bumps with touch and go landings every few minutes. The night flying kept to the regular once a week pattern.

Later on by a few years but probably around 1957/58 all the old bombers disappeared and in their place was possibly three squadrons worth of aircaft although they may have all belonged to the training school. This was piston Provosts, Varsitys, and Valettas although the transports had been in and out for some time.

The smallest was a number of of piston engined Provosts, then there was a fair number of Valettas and Varsitys. I can remember talk from my father that the latter were used for navigational training.

Later on as a teenager I can remember the change over from the piston engined Provosts to the then brand new Jet Provosts. The piston engined Varsitys and Valettas soldiered on unchanged until the base was closed down.

This was followed guess around 1967 by the Dominee arriving. This was the jet powered Hawker Siddley HS125 executive jet and was again used in navigational training. I heard talk of of the poor students being enclosed in blacked out compartments and being told to take the aircraft to a destination and back blind. Talk in the pub later was that these missions had a lighter side in that there was an essential and vital to career Gibraltar run at least once a week to bring in supplies of duty free for all the messes, so it had to be a success. Perhaps the blindfolds were removed for this one?

The Jet Provosts were formed into a four up acrobatic demonstration team "The Macaws" in the 1966/1972 approx era. I used to have twice daily views of their repertoire as they practiced over the airfield area.

Apart from that there was a steady stream of visiting aircraft from all over. We saw Shackletons, Vulcans, Victors, Gannets, Spitfires, crop sprayers, De Havilland Rapides, Ansons phantoms etc etc on a one at a time basis buzz the place, land, then go the next day. I believe that Strubby was used as a main emergency runway at the time but obviously Manby had the Officers mess and other better facilities for a visitor.

Finally Donna Nook. I often used to cycle up ther as a schoolboy to look at the Bloodhounds. That sort of thing is really impressive. They were pitched on mounts which came within about 50/100 yds of the civilian viewing boundary fence. They were guarded by men with dogs but no obvious guns and true to form in those more relaxed days (at least within the UK) the guards would come up and ask you what you were doing then when you were seen as no threat chat on a friendly basis. They never gave anything away it was just where do you live, and oh I live just down the road etc. I can remember on one occasion all the alarms going off and the launch platforms all being slewed around into position and being told politely "run". (Steve thinks that this may have been North Coates, as both were close to Manby and did have Bloodhound deployments at some point)

The thing to watch is memory fading. I can not remember if the rockets were at Great Coates or Donna Nook. To get to them we used to cycle along the tracks from the villages rather than use real roads. Also just in case I get into trouble the person in charge of repairs may well have been a full Wing Commander so care please, and maybe remove exact ranks.

Steve asks "Can anyone else provide better recollections and even correct and update this information, not just for Manby but any base?"

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

RAF Manby on ControlTowers.co.uk

Buy an aerial photo of RAF Manby on GetMapping.com

RAF Manby memories on the Wartime Memories Project

Ghost stories of RAF Manby

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