Elsham Wolds

Validation date: 09 12 2013
Updated on: Never
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53°36'28"N 000°25'34"W

runway: 02/20 - 1400x..yds - concrete
runway: 08/26 - 1600x..yds - concrete
runway: 14/32 - 2000x..yds - concrete

Elsham Wolds air field (RAF Elsham Wolds) was an airfield 235 kilometers north of London.
The airfield was was first used as an airfield in 1916 by 33 Sqn of the (then) Royal Flying Corps. Their FE2b and FE2d biplanes were defend against German Zeppelins which were coming in over the Lincolnshire coast during their nighttime raids on the Midlands. Elsham Wolds served 'C' Flight from December 1916 until June 1918. They flew many unsuccessful sorties to try to counter the Zeppelin raids. The facilities consisted of some wooden huts and a small aircraft shed, but those were demolished when the wold was returned to cattle and sheep after the war.

In the late 1930s, when the threat of another war became appearant, there was a requirement to find new airfield sites for the expansion of the RAF. Obviously, the 1914-1918 locations were some of the first reviewed and Elsham Wolds was found to be suitable. Building preparations did not begin until the winter of 1939-1940, when the war with Germany already had begun. It took until the summer of 1941 for the airfield to be completed, because of a very late decision to lay down hardened runways before the station opened. Over the course of the war, the airfield received 6 hangars and 36 aircraft parkings.

No photos of the airfield prior to 1942 have been located
After opening in July '41, Wellington bombers of 103 Sqn arrived and they flew their first sortiesfollowon the night of the 24th. The next spring the squadron began to convert to Halifaxes. However, as soon as their conversion was completed, their parent unit 1 Group began re-equipping as an all-Lancaster unit and so by October all Halifaxes had been withdrawn. Soon after, 103 Sqn's 'C'-Flight was enlarged to become a new squadron; 576 Sqn. The new squadron and its Lancaster's remained until October 1944 when they moved out. 100 Sqn's Lancasters were moved in from RAF Grimsby during the last month of the war, supposedly due to deterioration of the latter airfield's runways.

Avro Lancaster B Mark III, ED724 'PM-M', of No. 103 Squadron RAF pauses on the flarepath at Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire, before taking off for a raid on Duisburg, Germany, during the Battle of the Ruhr. Three searchlights (called 'Sandra' lights) form a cone to indicate the height of the cloud base for the departing aircraft. ROYAL AIR FORCE BOMBER COMMAND, 1942-1945. © IWM (CH 9029)

103 Sqn remained at RAF Elsham Wolds until six months after VE-Day, one of the longest associations with one airfield during wartime of a Bomber Command squadron. 103 Sqn flew more operational sorties than any other 1 Group squadron, but it suffered the group's highest losses as a result. Of the 248 bombers lost on operations while flying from Elsham Wolds, about 80% were from 103 Sqn. One of the airfields Lancasters, serial ED888, served with both squadrons and held the Bomber Command record for operational sorties (140, flown between May 1943 and December 1944).
Both squadrons departed for RAF Scampton in December 1945, by which time 103 had been renumbered to 57 Sqn. They were replaced by 21 Heavy Glider Conversion Unit of Transport Command. They exercised with Halifax and Albemarle tugs and Horsa gliders for nearly a year, before being moved to RAF North Luffenham. This marked the end of Elsham Wolds as a military airfield.

RAF Elsham Wolds in 1945 (AirfieldInformationExchange)

Shortly after Elsham Wolds closed in 1947, Displaced Persons (DP's, mainly Poles and Ukrainians) started to squat in the buildings whilst working at the Scunthorpe Steelworks. By late 1952-early '53, the DP's had moved on and the site reverted to agricultural use first, and later as the site of an industrial estate. The history of the site is reflected in the road names on the estate which include Halifax Approach and Wellington Way.
Since the 1970s the A15 motorway crosses the airfield on the east side, splitting the logistics site from the runways. A water treatment works has been built on the west side of the former airfield. The logistics site now serves as an industrial site, although the J-Type hangar is still standing. The former control tower was demolished in the first half of the 1980s. A large radio and telephone mast has been placed at the NW-end of Elsham Wolds main runway.

Mid 1970s looking east (AirfieldInformationExchange).

The large radio and telephone mast on top of Elsham hill, on land that once was the war time air base of RAF Elsham Wold (Wikimedia).

The A15 motorway is seen bisecting the airfield in this May 1991 photo (AirfieldInformationExchange).

2009 overview of the former airfield (Google Earth).