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RAF Woodhallspa in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

The Wartime Memories Project

- RAF Woodhallspa during the Second World War -

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RAF Woodhallspa

   RAF Woodhall Spa was constructed with a three standard runway pattern and dispersed accommodation sites, it became operational in February 1942 as a heavy bomber airfield of 5 Group, Bomber Command, a satellite to RAF Coningsby. No 97 Squadron transfered from Coningsby on 1 March 1942, becoming operational flying Avro Lancasters. No 97 moved to Bourne, Cambridgeshire, on 17 April 1943 leaving behind three crews as a nucleus for No 619 Squadron, which formed at Woodhall Spa on 18 April 1943. 619 Squadron flew Avro Lancasters from the airfield until moving to RAF Coningsby on 1 January 1944 to be replaced at Woodhall Spa by No 617 Squadron. The "Dambusters" brought 34 Lancasters and two Mosquitoes to the airfield, the latter being used for low level target marking.

No 617 Squadron operated from Woodhall Spa until the end of hostilities, pioneering the use of ultra-heavy bombs; the 12,000lb "Tallboy" and the 22,000lb "Grand Slam", both of which were used on special targets in operations from the airfield. With the end of the War in Europe the airfield was used as an assembly and kitting-out point for ground personnel for Tiger Force, the planned heavy bomber force for the Far East and between six and seven thousand men began to arrive, housed in over 300 bell tents erected on and around the airfield.

The airfield was closed for flying in December 1945. In the years that followed, the site was used by 92 MSU for the storage of bombs. In the late 50s, Woodhall Spa was selected as a base for Bloodhound SAM missiles and was operational until 1965. With the rest of the airfield sold off for agriculture or mineral extraction, the former missile site has remained under the control of RAF Coningsby and is now used as a servicing facility for Tornado engines from that station and elsewhere. Today the remaining wartime buildings have been converted into a visitor centre, with displays of wartime life.


31st Aug 1943 9 Squadron Lancaster lost

13th Feb 1944 

If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have served at

RAF Woodhallspa

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

  • Cook Charles Smith. F/Sgt. (d.27th Nov 1943)
  • Gibson VC, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar. Guy Penrose. Wing Cdr. (d.19th Sep 1944)
  • Homewood Ronald.
  • Kilburn Herbert Edward. Sgt. (d.31st Aug 1943)
  • Knell Les.
  • Ramey G. H.. WO2 (d.10th December 1942)
  • Stephenson George.
  • Stephenson George.
  • Unwin Ronald. Sgt. (d.2nd March 1943)
  • Westgate Robert John. PO. (d.11th July 1942)

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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Sgt. Herbert Edward Kilburn 619 Squadron (d.31st Aug 1943)

Herbert Edward Kilburn was my 1st Cousin once removed. He joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve which accounted for 95% of Lancaster Bomber crews by 1943. He was a Sergeant in 619 Squadron stationed at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire. This Squadron was formed in 1943 by merging several other squadrons, and was in No. 5 Group of Bomber Command. In 23 months Squadron 619 lost 85 aircraft and 600 men. Sadly Herbert's Lancaster Bomber was shot down above Hanover in Germany on 31st August 1943. He is buried in a War Graves Cemetery in Hanover, Germany.

Susan Stone

PO. Robert John "Jackie" Westgate 97th Sqd. Squadron (d.11th July 1942)

My Uncle Jackie, RCAF Pilot Officer Robert John Westgate, tailgunner served with RAF Woodhall Spa and was killed in action July 11, 1942. I have a great deal of information about him from my Mom, his sister. He came from a very small town named East Angus, Quebec, in the Eastern Townships southeast of Montreal. He was one of six children of my grandparents and one of four sons. He also had two sisters, my Mom and her sister Carolyn. For a boy from a small town, signing up for the air force was an adventure, a chance to see the world and help the Allied Forces win the war.

He did all of his training first in Canada and further courses once he arrived in Lincolnshire. He was first stationed at Bourne and then his Squadron moved to RAF Woodhall Spa. He and his buddy, Nicky Nickerson, lived with a Mrs. Dowes on the street behind the centre of town where the memorial is. He used to play tennis on his days off and go to the Kinema theatre as well as the Petwood Hotel.

My Mom knows a lot about his flying experiences as he wrote many letters home to his brother, my Mom and his parents. I am primarily interested in finding out (for my Mom) what other things the boys would have done between ops. Would they have gone on day trips to other towns or did they have to stay close to the base in case they were needed? I would assume they did. The night Jackie was killed, he was not supposed to have been on that plane. He subbed for another crew member who was not able to go that night. Not sure of the exact reasons. Nonetheless, he jumped at the chance as that mission was a daring daylight raid over the port of Danzig, Poland. The idea was to avoid the searchlights from the UBoats below by flying low under the cloud cover and surprise them as they were used to the Lancs flying under the cover of darkness. It was a very dangerous mission and unfortunately, my Uncle's Lanc and another Lanc were caught by the flak and crashed in a forest south of the port. His plane was found two years later and he and his crew were buried in the Malbork Commonwealth Cemetery.

I am interested in making contact with the families of two of the crew members, Englishmen Eslick and Forsyth.

Lynn Berry

George Stephenson 619 Sqdn.

George Stephenson was a navigator who survived the war. He may have been with 619, 617 or 83 Squadrons. We know he was at Woodhall and at Wyton. He completed his service, we believe, as a navigator instructor, possibly in Canada. If you have any information about George please contact me.

Des Evans

WO2 G. H. Ramey 57 Squadron RAF (d.10th December 1942)

My father, WO2 G. H. Ramey, was a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, serving in 57 Squadron, based at RAF Scampton. He was killed on 10th December 1942 when his damaged Lancaster W4250 crashed while attempting to land at Woodhall Spa after returning from a sortie to Turin. I would like to contact anyone who was in 57 Squadron at that time.

Gord H Ramey

Ronald Homewood RAF Woodhall Spa

My grandad, Ronald Homewood, served at Woodhall Spa in 1944 as a member of the maintenance crew on a Lancaster bomber.

Carrie Russell

Les Knell RAF Woodhall Spa

Does anyone remember Les Knell who served at RAF Woodhall Spa during WWII?


George Stephenson RAF Wyton

We are trying to locate any one who knew a RAF Navigator named George Stephenson. We know he was stationed at Wyton in Huntingdonshire and also at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire. It's possible he was with either 619, 617 or 83 Squadron. He finished his tour of ops and we believe he finished up as a instructor of navigation in Canada before being demobbed.

Des Evans

F/Sgt. Charles Smith Cook 619 Squadron (d.27th Nov 1943)

My uncle Charles Smith Cook served with 619 Squadron as a mid upper gunner and was shot down over Berlin in 1943. I am looking for any information

Update: 619 Squadron lost four Lancasters on the night of the 26th/27th November 1943 on a raid to Berlin. One of these was Lancaster DV381, aircraft code PG-B. This aircraft left Woodhall Spa at 17.22hrs on the evening of 26th November 1943 for Berlin. It is believed to have come down in the sea. Two bodies were recovered - those of F/Lt R.D. Rayment and Sgt M.J. Lynch, who were buried in Becklingen War Cemetery, the rest of the crew are commemorated on the Air Force Memorial at Runnymede (details from BC.Losses (Chorley)). The crew were:

  • F/Lt R.D. Rayment.
  • Sgt M.J. Lynch.
  • F/O J. Kellett.
  • Sgt W. Archibald.
  • F/Sgt J.T. Richards.
  • F/Sgt C.S. Cook.
  • F/Sgt J.A. Fowler.

  • Tricia Cook-Bosnell

    Sgt. Ronald Unwin 97 Sqdn. (d.2nd March 1943)

    My great uncle Sgt Ronald Unwin, a Flight Engineer, was in 97 squadron, based at Woodhall Spa during WW2. I know he died over Berlin in 1943, but any other information would be much welcomed.


    The following is from the War Graves Commission: 642206 Sgt (Flt Engr.) Ronald Unwin RAF 97 Sqn. Died 02/03/1943 age 21. He is buried in Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery.

    T. Unwin

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