RAF Woodhall Spa
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RAF Woodhall Spa
Avro Lancaster of 617 Squadron at Woodhall Spa
|Operator||Royal Air Force|
|Location||Tattershall Thorpe, Lincolnshire|
|Elevation AMSL||33 ft / 10 m|
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Aircraft from this RAF Station:
- dropped the first operational 12,000 lb Tallboy bombs and blocking the Saumur railway Tunnel a key point through which passed the direct rail lines from the south of France to Normandy, and the active front .
- attacked coastal targets, such as the U-boat bases at La Pallice and Lorient also destroying the E-boat pens at Le Havre.
- a raid on Brest saw the sinking of the cruiser Gueydon. Other attacks directed on Swinemünde culminated in the sinking of the heavy German cruiser Lützow (albeit in shallow water) with a single Tallboy bomb.
- The Tirpitz was sunk in Tromsø fjord on 12 November by aircraft from Woodhall Spa and Bardney as part of Operation Catechism.
- The last raid from Woodhall was an attack on Hitler's Berghof near Berchtesgaden.
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.
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.
The Tornado Propulsion Facility was for the RB199 (Tornado) Engine. 
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.
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. The new wildlife reserve will be continuous with the Trust's existing reserve at Kirkby Moor.
- Historic England. "RAF Woodhall Spa, Tattershall Thorpe (1432038)". PastScape. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
- "Thorpe Camp". Retrieved 28 May 2013.
- Les Munro, "Deceiving the Enemy: Operation Taxable," Aeroplane Monthly, March 2011,pp. 16-20
- Bishop 2012, pp. 328
- "Saumur Railway Tunnel". The Dambusters. dambusters.org.uk. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- "No5 Group". Bomber Command - Group Histories. raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- Bateman 2009, pp. 117, 118
- Rohwer 2005, pp. 409
- Bishop 2012, pp. 348
- Bateman 2009, pp. 68
- "Thorpe Camp". Thorpe Camp Visitor Centre. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
- "Dambuster airfield: Wildlife trust hopes to open to public next year". BBC News. 29 November 2015. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
- "Kirkby Moor". List of all reserves. Lincolnshire wildlife trust. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
- 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.
- Lizzie Dearden. "Man and woman arrested after stockpile of mustard gas discovered in Lincolnshire". The Independent. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
- Bruce Barrymore Halpenny Action Stations: Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands v. 2 (ISBN 978-0850594843)
- Bishop, Patrick (2012). Target Tirpitz. HarperPress. ISBN 978-0-00-731924-4.
- Bateman, Alex (2009). No 617 'Dambuster' Sqn. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781846034299.
- Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two. Annapolis: US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-119-8.
Media related to RAF Woodhall Spa at Wikimedia Commons