RAF Woodhall Spa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

RAF Woodhall Spa

Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Avro Lancaster B Mk I (Special) of No. 617 Squadron, loaded with a 'Grand Slam' 22,000-lb deep-penetration bomb, running up its engines at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, 1944. MH4263.jpg
Avro Lancaster of 617 Squadron at Woodhall Spa
Airport typeMilitary
OwnerAir Ministry
OperatorRoyal Air Force
LocationTattershall Thorpe, Lincolnshire
Built1941 (1941)
In use1942-1965 (1965)
Elevation AMSL33 ft / 10 m
Coordinates53°07′54″N 0°11′04″W / 53.13167°N 0.18444°W / 53.13167; -0.18444Coordinates: 53°07′54″N 0°11′04″W / 53.13167°N 0.18444°W / 53.13167; -0.18444
RAF Woodhall Spa is located in Lincolnshire
RAF Woodhall Spa
RAF Woodhall Spa
Location in Lincolnshire

Royal Air Force station Woodhall Spa or more simply RAF Woodhall Spa is a former Royal Air Force station located 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Coningsby, Lincolnshire and 16 miles (26 km) south east of Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England.[1]


Constructed on farmland 1.2 miles (1.9 km) south of Woodhall Spa, the station opened in February 1942 as a satellite station to RAF Coningsby. In August 1943 it became No. 54 Base Substation. After victory in Europe (May 1945) the airfield was used as an assembly and kitting out point for Tiger Force (a proposed heavy bomber force for the far east). After the end of the Second World War and with the move of No. 617 Squadron RAF to RAF Waddington the airfield was closed and the site used by No. 92 Maintenance Unit for the storage of bombs. From the late 1950s it was used as a base for Bristol Bloodhound Missiles until 1964 when most of the site was sold off for agriculture or mineral extraction. The former missile site used to be under the control of RAF Coningsby having been used for the servicing of McDonnell Douglas Phantom and Panavia Tornado aircraft engines until finally being mothballed in 2003.[1][2]


97 Squadron transferred to Woodhall Spa on 1 March 1942. As one of the earliest squadrons to be equipped they were heavily involved with the early operations with this aircraft, including the low level mission to bomb the MAN diesel engine factory in Augsburg on 17 April 1942. New Zealander Les Munro (as of 2013 the last surviving pilot who flew on 617 Squadron's Dambuster raid), served with 97 Squadron at Woodhall Spa before being posted to Scampton to join 617 in early 1943. He came back to Woodhall Spa in January 1944 when 617 moved there for the rest of the war.[3] 97 Squadron moved to RAF Bourn in 1943 leaving behind 3 crews.

619 Squadron were formed here on 18 April 1943. They moved to RAF Coningsby on 1 January 1944.

617 Squadron who arrived with 34 Avro Lancasters and 2 de Havilland Mosquitoes, the latter being used for low level target marking. 617 Squadron remained here until the end of hostilities and pioneered the use of the Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs from the airfield.[4]

627 Squadron The low level target marking that had been developed by 617 Squadron was so successful that 627 Squadron, a Mosquito unit in No. 8 (PFF) Group, was "loaned" to 5 Group to operate in this role. The squadron arrived at Woodhall Spa on 14 April 1944 and stayed until the end of the war.[1]

Interesting facts[edit]

Wing Commander Tait, (fifth from left), standing with his crew by the tail of their Lancaster at Woodhall Spa, on returning from Lossiemouth, the day after the successful raid on the German battleship Tirpitz

Aircraft from this RAF Station:

Petwood Hotel[edit]

Petwood was used as the Officer's Mess for the station throughout the war

Sir Archibald Weigall, 1st Baronet and his wife Grace Emily built a country house called Petwood at Woodhall Spa. Petwood was so called because Lady Weigall had it constructed of her favourite wood, her "pet wood". Lady Weigall turned her former home into a hotel in 1933 when the Weigalls moved to Ascot.

Requisitioned at the start of the war the Petwood Hotel became the Officers' mess for the station, from the days of 97 Squadron through to the end of the war. The house with its panelled rooms and extensive grounds provided a comfortable haven for the officers who were billeted there. The mess hosted a number of parties, including the initial anniversary celebration of the Dam Buster raids. After the war Petwood reverted to its former use as a hotel, but preserved the small squadron bar as it was in wartime.[3][4][10]

Post-war Operations[edit]

In 1960 RAF Woodhall Spa became a base for the Bristol Bloodhound, Surface-to-air missiles operated by 222 Squadron.[1]

112 Squadron took over this role in late 1964 concurrent with an on-site upgrade to bloodhound Mk2. The squadron moved to Cyprus on 1 October 1967 and remained there until it was disbanded on 1 July 1975.

1967 saw the end of front line operations at RAF Woodhall Spa. The RAF did continue to occupy a small site on the north western edge of the airfield which they used as an engine maintenance and testing facility; this was known as RAF Woodhall and operated as a satellite unit of near by RAF Coningsby.[1]

The Tornado Propulsion Facility was for the RB199 (Tornado) Engine. [11]

Current use[edit]

Thorpe Camp - display of Lancaster propellor

Whilst little evidence remains of the extent of the activities at RAF Woodhall Spa, part of one of the accommodation blocks is now occupied by the Thorpe Camp Visitor Centre and commemorates the sacrifice made by those who fought in the Second World War and has an array of exhibits that portray both RAF Woodhall Spa and many aspects of life both within the forces and civilian life during that period.[12]

Much of the site had been used as a gravel quarry until it was purchased by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust in 2015 to secure the heritage and create a new nature reserve.[13] The new wildlife reserve will be continuous with the Trust's existing reserve at Kirkby Moor.[14][15]

In October 2017, two people were injured by mustard gas found in canisters buried in Roughton Moor Wood, which was once part of the temporary Army camp adjacent to RAF Woodhall.[16]



  1. ^ a b c d e Historic England. "RAF Woodhall Spa, Tattershall Thorpe (1432038)". PastScape. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  2. ^ "Thorpe Camp". Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b Les Munro, "Deceiving the Enemy: Operation Taxable," Aeroplane Monthly, March 2011,pp. 16-20
  4. ^ a b Bishop 2012, pp. 328
  5. ^ "Saumur Railway Tunnel". The Dambusters. dambusters.org.uk. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
  6. ^ a b c "No5 Group". Bomber Command - Group Histories. raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d Bateman 2009, pp. 117, 118
  8. ^ Rohwer 2005, pp. 409
  9. ^ Bishop 2012, pp. 348
  10. ^ Bateman 2009, pp. 68
  11. ^ Posted
  12. ^ "Thorpe Camp". Thorpe Camp Visitor Centre. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  13. ^ "Dambuster airfield: Wildlife trust hopes to open to public next year". BBC News. 29 November 2015. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  14. ^ "Kirkby Moor". List of all reserves. Lincolnshire wildlife trust. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  15. ^ Shaw, Rachel (10 May 2013). "A Land Fit for Heroes - appeal to buy Woodhall Spa Airfield". Press Releases 2013. Lincolnshire wildlife trust. Retrieved 21 August 2013. The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has launched an appeal to raise half a million pounds to buy Woodhall Spa Airfield, home of the 617 ‘Dambuster’ Squadron during the last years of World War 2. The charity needs to raise half a million pounds to secure the site. The charity currently owns over half of the airfield and an adjacent nature reserve, Kirkby Moor. By securing the rest of the site, the runway can be saved and a new nature reserve created. It will be a pastoral landscape with skylarks singing overhead, farmland birds such as linnet and yellowhammer, and birds of prey soaring in the open skies.
  16. ^ Lizzie Dearden. "Man and woman arrested after stockpile of mustard gas discovered in Lincolnshire". The Independent. Retrieved 5 October 2017.


External links[edit]

Media related to RAF Woodhall Spa at Wikimedia Commons