Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum, Coll Serge Van Heertum & Coll Denis Eusicom
Translation: Marc Arys   © sbap 2017
 
RAF Scampton today with the location of the Heritage Centre (Google Earth)
 

First World War
During the First World War, Home Defence Flight Station Brattleby (also known as Brattleby Cliff) was opened on the site of the current RAF Scampton in late 1916. The first operational unit was A Flight of 33 RFC Squadron, which flew FE2b's defending UK against the Zeppelin attacks. The site then developed into a training airfield, supporting No. 60 Training Squadron, followed by No. 81 and No. 11 Training Squadrons, flying the Sopwith Camel, Sopwith Pup and Sopwith Dolphin. The station was renamed as Scampton in 1917 following which it was designated as 34 Training Depot Station and continued with its operational program until it was closed in April 1919. By 1920 all the buildings, including the hangars, had been removed.

 Aerial view of Scampton airfield in 1916

In between the wars
With the expansion of the RAF to meet developments in Germany during the 1930's, the Air Ministry turned first to abandoned First World War landing grounds when looking to build the required new airfields. The Scampton aerodrome site proved suitable although a larger acreage was required taking in farmland to the south in the parish of Scampton, a village to the west of the B 1398. Compulsorily purchased in 1935, work took the best part of two years and the RAF appeared on site before completion. The camp area was placed in the south-east corner and accessed from the A15 which formed the eastern border of the station. Substantial flat-roofed, brick buildings predominated and four Type C hangars were erected. By October 1936, No. 9 Squadron and its Handley-Page Heyfords and No. 214 with Vickers Virginias arrived from Northern Ireland. No. 214 converted to Handley-Page Harrows in early 1937 only to be transferred south to Feltwell in April. In June, "C" Flight of No. 9 Squadron became the reformed No. 148 Squadron, flying Hawker Audax biplanes for two months while awaiting Vickers Wellesley monoplanes. In March 1938, the recently formed No. 5 Group was given bomber stations in Lincolnshire and so Nos. 9 and 148 Squadrons moved south to No. 3 Group's new station at Stradishall. Their place was taken by Nos. 49 and 83 Squadrons, ex-Worthy Down and Turnhouse respectively. Both surrendered their Hawker Hinds for Handley Page Hampdens later in the year.

 
 Handley-Page Heyford from 9 Squadron 49 Squadron Hawker Hind in formation over Scampton area
 

World war II
At the outbreak of the Second World War Scampton transferred to No. 5 Group RAF in Bomber Command, playing host to the Hampdens of 49 Squadron and 83 Squadron. On September 3rd, 1939, six hours after the declaration of war, RAF Scampton launched the first offensive by the Royal Air Force when six Hampdens of 83 Squadron, led by Flying Officer Guy Gibson and three 49 Squadron Hampdens, one piloted by Flying Officer Roderick Learoyd, were dispatched to conduct a sweep on Wilhelmshaven. Further operations involving Scampton's squadrons concerned them with the hazardous task of low level mine laying and ship bombing. Scampton squadrons were also involved during the critical stages of the late summer and early autumn of 1940, attacking barges in the channel ports which were being assembled as part of the German invasion fleet.
For a short time the station was home to the Avro Manchester with 49 Squadron and 83 Squadron operating the type. This was a brief liaison with the squadrons subsequently converting to the Avro Lancaster. Forming 83 Conversion Flight (CF) on April 11th, 1942, which in turn was followed by 49 Conversion Flight on May 16th, both squadrons were fully equipped with the Lancaster by the end of June. It was during this period that 83 Squadron took delivery of Lancaster Mk I (R5868) which would one day become the station's gate guardian.
In turn, both resident squadrons were then replaced at Scampton by 57 Squadron. The first departure was that of 83 Squadron which left in August 1942, transferring to RAF Wyton in order to become part of the fledgling Pathfinder Force. On January 2nd, 1943, 49 Squadron departed for RAF Fiskerton. By early January 1943 57 Squadron was left as the sole occupier of the base.
Following the development of the Upkeep bouncing bomb, 617 Squadron, originally referred to as "Squadron X", was formed at Scampton in order to carry out the proposed raid, codenamed "Operation Chastise". More commonly known as the "Dambusters Raid". This raid would go down as the most famous and widely remembered in the history of the Royal Air Force.

 
 Servicing on a 49 Squadron Handley-Page Hampden 49 Squadron Avro Manchester
 

On the night of 16 to 17 May 1943, 617 Squadron dispatched 19 Lancasters from Scampton. Led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the main bulk of the squadron attacked the Sorpe, Eder and Möhne dams with an additional aircraft tasked to perform an attack on the Schwelm Dam. Both the Eder and Möhne dams were breached, however eight of the Lancasters dispatched failed to return and 53 aircrew were lost. Following the raid Wing Commander Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross, becoming Scampton's third recipient of the award. On the day of the raid, Wing Commander Gibson's dog, Nigger, was run over by a car and killed on the A15 outside of the base and was burried later that night. His grave still remains situated outside Gibson's office at No. 3 Hangar.
In July 1943, 617 Squadron was again involved in a precision operation, when twelve aircraft of the squadron took off from Scampton to attack targets in Northern Italy, following which the aircraft continued on to North Africa. The operation met little opposition but the targets were obscured by valley haze and they were not destroyed. The 12 crews returned to Scampton on July 25th from North Africa after bombing Leghorn docks on the return journey. Later in the month nine aircraft took off from Scampton to drop leaflets on Milan, Bologna, Genoa and Turin in Italy. All aircraft completed the mission and again continued onwards to North Africa, where they all landed safely. Seven of the aircraft returned to Scampton on August 1st, one on August 5th and the last on August 8th.
At the end of August 1943, 57 Squadron and 617 Squadron moved to RAF East Kirkby and RAF Coningsby respectively, so that Scampton's runways could be upgraded. With the increased all up weight of the Lancaster, it was apparent that the load bearing of hardened runways would be required. The airfield closed at the end of August 1943 for the work to take place re-opening in October 1944.
Following the work, control of the station passed from 5 Group to 1 Group with a new arrival following the upgrade, being 1690 Bomber Defence Training Flight (BDTF) which arrived on July 13th, 1944. The BDTF consisted of Spitfires, Hurricanes and Martinets undertaking fighter affiliation against bombers. This unit stayed at the station until September 1944, when it moved to RAF Metheringham. It was replaced by 1687 BDTF which arrived in early December 1944, and departed for RAF Hemswell in April 1945. Two Lancaster squadrons, 153 Squadron, and later 625 Squadron also arrived at Scampton following the re-opening of the airfield. The last bombing mission of the Second World War launched from RAF Scampton was on April 25th, 1945, when aircraft from 153 Squadron and 625 Squadron were dispatched as part of a raid on the Obersalzberg.
During the war RAF Scampton lost a total of 551 aircrew and 266 aircraft. Of these, 155 were Hampden aircraft and 15 Manchestersaircraft. Some 96 Lancasters were lost in operations and accidents from April 1942 to May 1945. The highest losses were those of 57 Squadron, which lost 53 aircraft with 284 aircrew killed, 12 injured and 19 taken prisoner of war.
In percentage terms "Operation Chastise" was the costliest single raid of the war.

 
 57 Squadron Avro Lancaster Avro Lincoln of the 57 Squadron in the late 1940's

Post WWII
After the end of the hostilities, 153 Squadron was disbanded on September 28th, 1945, followed by 625 Squadron on October 7th. The station continued to operate the Avro Lancaster when 100 Squadron arrived in December 1945. They were to be the last Lancaster squadron on the station, departing for RAF Lindholme in May 1946. Returning to their former home in December 1945, 57 Squadron introduced the Avro Lincoln to the station. In time 57 Squadron also joined 100 Squadron at RAF Lindholme.
From July 1948, Scampton housed Boeing Washingtons of the USAF 28th Bomber Group, as part of a network of Emergency War Plan Airfields. With its main runway less than 6,000 ft in length and a chronic shortage of suitable hardstandings, Scampton was far from ideal as a base for the thirty Washingtons. In January 1949 as circumstances changed, the USAF Squadrons were withdrawn and Scampton was handed back to the Royal Air Force.

The Cold War
Post war, Scampton became host to training organizations. Bomber Command Instructors' School appearing in January 1947 and remaining there for the next six years. From July 1947 to April 1948 runway strengthening and other upgradings were carried out.
In 1953 the station once again supported regular bomber squadrons, Nos. 10, 18, 21 and 27, all Canberra equipped, but by June 1955 all had been moved elsewhere so that Scampton could be redeveloped for heavy jet bomber use. The main runway was re-laid to Class 1 standard and extended to 3,000 yards necessitating a diversion of the A15. On completion of this work, No. 617 Squadron was re-formed at Scampton in May 1958 to fly Avro Vulcans, joined in 1960 by another former resident, No. 83 Squadron, also on Vulcans. This latter squadron was disbanded in 1969. No. 230 OCU appeared again that year, being tasked with the preparation of Vulcan crews, and in 1973 a second regular Vulcan squadron was again added to the station complement when No. 27 was re-formed. Two years later a third Vulcan squadron appeared-No. 35.
The V-bomber force remained until 1982 from when Scampton again reverted to a training role, the Central Flying School (CFS) taking up the station in September 1984 and remaining until 1996 when the station was closed.

 
 English Electric Canberra B Mk 2 from 10 Squadron Avro Vulcan B.2A of 617 Squadron during technical preparation

Post Cold War
In the mid-1990's, the CFS moved to RAF Cranwell. This decision was initially taken to close the base completely along with RAF Finningley. A group was formed called "Save our Scampton" (SOS), backed by the Lincolnshire Echo, the County Council and the MP for Gainsborough and Horncastle, Edward Leigh. One plan put forward for the base following its proposed redundancy, involved turning the site into a prison, but this plan was discontinued.
The Red Arrows,continued to train in the restricted airspace surrounding the airfield and accommodation at Scampton continued to be used as an overflow from RAF Waddington. In early 2000 following a revaluation of the logistics of the Red Arrows' operations as well as the lack of available space at RAF Cranwell, it was decided to relocate the Red Arrows at Scampton.
In 2005 Scampton was again placed under the control of RAF Strike Command, becoming home to the UK Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS) Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) and Mobile Meteorological Unit (MMU). The No 1 Air Control Centre deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 as part of Operation Herrick, lasting until 2009.
By 2008 the future once again looked uncertain for RAF Scampton. A decision was taken by the then Labour Government that the base would be "down sized". The Red Arrows were to move to RAF Waddington by July 2011 and the Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS) would also be relocated from the base taking up residence at RAF Coningsby by 2014. However the Strategic Defence Spending Review and operations in Libya meant the plan was suspended with the decision put on hold, pending a further review in 2011. The review concluded that keeping the Red Arrows at RAF Scampton was the best way for them to operate, without affecting other operational flying bases. As a consequence of this decision work was undertaken to reharden the runway, ensuring Scampton would be retained as an operational flying base.

Present day
RAF Scampton is now the home to the Red Arrows, the Control and Reporting Centre Scampton and the Mobile Meteorological Unit. As of 2017 the Red Arrows are the only permanent aircraft based on the station, although it is not uncommon to see RAF aircraft from other stations using Scampton for training operations. The current residents therefore provide a mix of fighter controllers, reservists and aircrew.
The Red Arrows fall under No. 22 Group, although RAF Scampton is actually administered by No. 1 Group. The reason for this being that No. 1 Air Control Centre is a No. 1 Group air defence radar unit, with its permanent operations room, Control and Reporting Centre Scampton, providing assistance to the coverage at RAF Boulmer. RAF Scampton's primary responsibility is training, but it can also provide defence coverage following any technical disruptions at RAF Boulmer. Another responsibility of the station is the provision of deployable command and control capability using containerized equipment that can be delivered worldwide, thereby delivering similar capability to that of the permanent Control and Reporting Centers. No. 1 Air Control Centre provides the main operational unit for fighter controllers and aerospace systems operators in the RAF. Operators usually train at the Control and Reporting Centers of Boulmer and Scampton before putting their training into practice at 1ACC or on E3 Sentry Aircraft. The Mobile Meteorological Unit is staffed by full-time Reserve officers as part of the civilian Meteorological Office. The unit maintains and repairs equipment for the support of out of area flying operations.
In 2015 part of the accommodation facilities at RAF Scampton underwent significant refurbishments, particularly those of Gibson Barracks. Thanks to the realization by the English Heritage regarding the importance of the structure and its association with the Dams' Raid, it was decided to restore the structures situated within a site showing a significant heritage value due to its links to "Operation Chastise".

 

Scampton Heritage Centre
The Heritage Centre is run by volunteers. It's home is in the former 1943 617 Squadron Hangar, famous for the Dambusters Raid carried out against the Rhur dams on the night of the 16/17 May 1943.
It was officially opened on June 22nd, 2012 by the Station Commander of RAF Scampton following a two and a half month renovation project, including the office of Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the Officer Commanding 617 Squadron in 1943. The Heritage Centre, detailed the Station's history, displaying several hundred of artifacts including a Blue Steel Missile. The visit started with the fall of Nigger, the black Labrador, mascot of the 617 squadron. The grave is situated underneat Commander Guy Gibson office, so he could look at his friend tragically disappeared the night before the famous raid. Then the tour proposes a view within the restored Commander office. The various rooms propose a complete overview of the base history including a special room for the Victoria Cross owners, the First World War era at Scampton, the in between wars period and the growing bomber aircraft. Of course the most important part is dedicated to the Second World War, followed by the Cold War and Nuclear Deterrent and finally a room dedicated to the Red Arrows' History.
The building has also a chapel, a coffee room and of course the needed shopping corner.
The visit continues into the hangar showing some Red Arrows aircraft, but also historic items such as a safety training Vulcan cockpit section or the remains of the Handley Page Hampden P1206 of the 49 Squadron shot down in Holland on November 8th, 1941. The Heritage Centre is really interesting looking onto a bright future.

Indeed, more ambitious plans were put forward in 2013 to turn part of RAF Scampton into a major tourist attraction. This project is being driven by the Lincolnshire County Council. It has been estimated that the total investment required for the entire plan would be around £80 million, of which some £40 million would be required to complete the first phase, concerning two hangars and the exhibition hall. Such huge amounts will therefore require substantial monetary grants from the UK National Lottery in order for it to succeed. The plans will also convert two of the Station's four hangars into exhibition halls and the Officer's Mess into a hotel. An independent study commissioned by Lincolnshire County Council in October 2013 concluded that the proposal is viable and that it has the potential to succeed. Exhibitions would focus on the Red Arrows, aviation in the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War as well as Lincolnshire's aviation engineering heritage and the Dambusters Raid. It is hoped the project will secure the future of the base and complement the proposals to establish an air show at Scampton. It is hoped that the facility will be open by 2018 in order to mark the centenary of the creation of the Royal Air Force, but it this could appear somewhat ambitious. The council's current idea is to operate the facility together with the military activity at the base.

By these pages, we would like to thank all the volunteers present during our visit for their warm welcome and particularly Mister Tom Evans, our guide of the day who shared his passion for this mythical base and all the historical events that happened at Scampton with us.

 
 Up Keep anti-Dam mine  The Barnes Wallis creation against the German dams
 The two giant bombs: Tall Boy in front and the Grand Slam at the back
"Nigger"'s grave erected at the foot of his master's desk Wing Commander Guy Gibson's office with "Nigger" like it was in 1943
 The desk Mission planning board
Another view in the office The famous "Gibson gloves"
 
 The Dam raid aircraft board Some other famous raid items
 Drawing and painting: Guy Gibson and Nigger Relaxing before the next mission
One of the bombsights made for the Dams Raid helping to evaluate the
correct distance to the dam for the Up Keep release
Another distance evaluation system with a simple rope and markings installed
in the Lanscaster's nose
 The Rhur map with the targets indication Meteo map of the targets
Guy Gibson crew preparing for the mission The Eder Dam on May 17th,  1943
 Painting of Guy Gibson's last flight with a Mosquito B XX (KB267)
from 627 Squadron. Guy Gibson's mission of the day was the marking of
targets for a large attack on Bremen
One of the two remaining parts of KB267 is visible at Scampton.
The aircraft crashed at Steenbergen in the Netherlands at around 22:30
on September 19th, 1944
Commemorative painting of the 617 Squadron "Dambusters"
Victoria Cross recipients…
During the station's history, three personnel based at RAF Scampton have been recipients of this reconnaissance award.
 
 Wing Commander Roderick "Babe" Learoyd
On 12 August 1940, 83 Squadron's aircraft were part of a raid against the Dortmund-Ems Canal. Two aircraft had been lost due to anti-aircraft fire prior to Learoyd making his attack, which would involve an attack at low level. During his attack, Learoyd's aircraft was caught in the searchlights, taking two hits in one wing. Despite this, Learoyd was still able to provide his bomb aimer with a steady platform in order to deliver his bombs. Learoyd then nursed the Hampden back to England, arriving in the vicinity of Scampton at 02:00hrs. Although the aircraft was flyable, the hydraulic systems had been damaged and the wing flaps were inoperable. The undercarriage indicators had also failed and rather than risking a landing in the dark, Learoyd circled for three hours before making a landing at first light. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage, skill and determination.
  
 Flight Sergeant John Hannah
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner John Hannah was also a member of 83 Squadron. On 15 September 1940 his aircraft was involved in a raid on a target near Antwerp during which the Hampden received a hit in the bomb bay, leading to an explosion and serious fire. Both Sgt. Hannah's position and that of the rear gunner were engulfed in fire, and although the rear gunner had bailed out, Hannah elected to remain at his post, fighting the fire with extinguishers. He successfully prevented the fire from reaching the aircraft's ruptured fuel tanks, despite ammunition exploding and the floor beneath him melting. Although severely burned, Sgt. Hannah forced his way forward to the navigator's station, only to find the navigator had also bailed out. He then passed the navigation logs and charts to the pilot and assisted him in navigating the Hampden back to Scampton.
 
 Wing Commander Guy Gibson
On the night of 16/17 May 1943, Wing Commander Gibson led 617 Squadron during the raids against the Rhur Dams, called Operation Chastise. The task was fraught with danger and difficulty. Wing Commander Gibson personally made the initial attack on the Möhne Dam. Descending to within a few feet of the water and taking the full brunt of the anti-aircraft defences, he delivered his bomb with great accuracy. Afterwards he circled very low for 30 minutes, drawing the enemy fire on himself in order to leave as free a run as possible to the following aircraft which were attacking the dam in turn. Wing Commander Gibson then led the remainder of his force to the Eder Dam where, with complete disregard for his own safety, he repeated his tactics and once more drew on himself the enemy fire so that the attack could be successfully developed.
 
First World War
 
 First World War barracks Not much comfort...
 William Henry Driscoll technical notes and portrait. Driscoll served at Scampton but never went to France as the war was over when he completed his training.
Observers wrist compass and map holder dated from 1916
 
Inter War and Second World War
 
 Hampden crew back from mission at Scampton Astro computer Mk IIa
 The Second World War era A big model showing the Lancaster interior fittings
  
 
 Sqn Leader Maurice Smith playing a major role in the OBOE bombing aid Maurice Smith logbook and medals
 "C" type flying helmet from 1941  -  Marconi type R 1155A radio receiver/transmitter  -  "B" type flying helmet from 1939
 
The chapel 
 
 
Red Arrows historical room
 
 Flt Lt Kirsty Moore flying suit 2010 season  Sqn Ldr Gary Waterfall flying suit 1997 - 1999
 
Cold War era
 
 Cold War and Nuclear Deterrent era
 Souvenir of the 230 OCU Vulcan flying suit from 617 Squadron
 V Bomber flying suit RAF Mk 1 "Bone Dome" helmet
 Engligh Electric Canberra Type 1C Ejection Seat Avro Vulcan Type 3KS Ejection Seat
 Scampton Canberra era  -  The base during the nuclear deterrent era  -  A royal visit and flight at Scampton
 
The Heritage Centre hangar
 
 
 Folland Gnat T.1  (XR571) XR571 and mini XR499
 British Aerospace Hawk T.1  (XX227) British Aerospace Hawk T.1  (XX266)
 Hawk T.1 canopy The XX266 used for technical training
 Training ejection seats Red Arrows office in the XX227
 Panavia Tornado GR.4 special Dambusters tail The ZA412 during the presentation of the commemorating tail
(Courtesy RAF)
 Slingsby T.21 Sedburgh  (XN185) Front view of the XN185
 Slingsby T.45 Swallow The Vulcan safety training cockpit section and the Blue Steel nuclear missile
 English Electric Canberra B.2 Nose Section The Canberra B.2 cockpit
 The remains of the Handley Page Hampden P1206
  One of the engines
 Remain of the tail wheel
 Up Keep Mine... Another one with the original 617 Sqn pictures (Right) and 
some of the famous movie in comparation (Left)
More information about a visit to the Heritage Centre can be found by a simple click on the "Blue Steel"
 

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