The History of Winthorpe Airfield



SEPTEMBER 1940 - RAF Station Winthorpe, No. 51 Base, was opened as a satellite station for RAF Swinderby. Early operations were mainly centred on the Polish squadrons 300 and 301, who usually flew Fairey Battles, operating from Winthorpe when Swinderby was water logged.

Fairey 'Battle' bomber.JUNE 23rd 1941 - A 301 squadron Wellington was returning from Bremen crashed in a barley field at Roewood Farm, Winkburn near Southwell, Nottinghamshire. Two aircrew were killed and are buried in the Polish cemetery at Newark. Farmers Mr. and Mrs. Broadberry pulled the remainder of the crew from the burning aircraft. They were awarded British Empire Medals.

NOVEMBER 1941 - Control of Winthorpe was passed to RAF Ossington and was used for a period as a Relief Landing Ground by No. 14 Pilots Advanced Flying Unit (PAFU) who had arrived at Ossington in January 1942.

FEBRUARY 7th 1942 - Control of the station passed to RAF Syerston. During this period the airfield's concrete runways were laid, albeit in a poorly thought out way, due to close proximity of the Ransome and Marles ball bearing factory, located just over a mile away from the main runway.

Avro 'Manchester' bomber.


OCTOBER 7th 1942 - No. 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) was formed as part of No. 5 Group, under the command of Squadron Leader  John Nettleton VC. No. 1661 took over from No.'s 9, 44 and 49 Squadron Bomber Conversion Flights, operating initially with A and B Flights at Waddington and C Flight at Scampton. The unit's task was to convert crews from No. 5 Group's Operational Training Unit (OTU) squadrons onto flying Manchesters and Lancasters, turning them out ready for operational duty.

DECEMBER 29th 1942 - All three flights were noted as being ready for transfer to RAF Winthorpe. HCU courses were split into two sections for crews to receive flying and ground training on alternate days. Courses were normally set at six weeks, typically first half on Manchesters and second half on Lancasters. Other aircraft operated by HCU included Halifaxes and Stirlings.

Vickers Armstromg 'Wellington' bomber, commonly known as the 'Wimpy'.March 15th 1943 - No. 51 Conversion Base was born with Swinderby as the Base Station and Winthorpe and Wigsley as the Sub. Stations. The Conversion Units located within the base were, No. 1660 at Swinderby, No. 1654 at Wigsley and No. 1661 at Winthorpe.

May 14th 1944 - Start of ‘Salute the Soldier Week.' A contingent of Winthorpe RAF and WAAF personnel took part in a Parade, Church Service and a March Pass in Newark.

NOVEMBER 3rd 1944 - Control of No. 51 Base was transferred to the newly formed No. 7 Group, and the Station was numbered No. 75 Base, although training was still to No. 5 Group's standards and format. Later that month Lancasters started to replace Stirlings. Two aircraft, a Spitfire and a Hurricane, arrived on the Station for Fighter Affiliation Training although not fully effective until early 1945.

JANUARY 31st 1945 - The Station was selected to investigate improvements to bombing techniques. A Bombing Officer was appointed to each flight and an all round effort from Flying Staff, Armament and Electrical Officers helped with the eventual achievement of worthwhile improvements.

FEBRUARY 4th 1945 - Last of the 42 Stirlings left the base. No. 1661 HCU is now all Lancaster's, 32 in total.

MAY 8th 1945 - This was declared ‘VICTORY IN EUROPE DAY' and there was a Station Parade at 10.00hrs and a short service of Thanksgiving.

MAY 18th 1945 - A Special 48 hour "V.E." Day pass was granted to all personnel and a Station dance was held.

MAY 24th 1945 - Communication from HQ Bomber Command advising date of disbanding No. 1661 HCU as August 24th 1945. All flight training ceased. Most Lancasters started to be dispatched to other units and shut down moved on as planned with the target date of October 10th 1945. Sections of the Station started to close, with No. 1 site being first, followed by No. 4 site. By September 26th 1945 No. 1661 HCU had closed, ahead of schedule. Control of the Station passed to Transport Command.

OCTOBER 20th 1945 - The Station again became satellite Station to RAF Syerston No. 4 Group Transport Command. Halifaxes, Dakotas, Oxfords and Horsa gliders used Winthorpe as a dropping zone until July 1947.

JULY 1947 - Winthorpe became part of Maintenance Command and in February 1953 the Central Servicing Development Establishment arrived from RAF Wittering, but with no aircraft.

1956 - Winthorpe transferred to Home Command an event that was marked by a marching out ceremony. The Station was allocated to the USAF as a hospital, although it was never occupied and eventually reverted back to M.O.D. control.

JUNE 30th 1959 - Winthorpe became inactive. Although the accommodation quarters from the Station continued in RAF use until the 1960s they were eventually incorporated into the village of Coddington.

1964 - Two hundred acres of the former Winthorpe RAF Station were purchased by the Newark and Nottinghamshire Agricultural Society.

1965 - The present Showground site was formally established and started its operations.

RAF Winthorpe Memorial - 2005.JULY 8th 1967 - With the approval of the Agricultural Society the museum's first aircraft was flown into the Showground in the shape of the former RAF Cranwell trainer Percival Prentice.

1968 - Newark (Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire) Air Museum formally incorporated as a limited company and registered as a charity. The museum officially opened to the public on April 14th 1973.

SEPTEMBER 24th 2000 - Newark Air Museum formally dedicated the RAF Winthorpe Memorial on the 60th Anniversary of the RAF Station. The memorial features part of  a propeller hub of a MK 111 Short Stirling, EF186 from No. 1661 HCU, which was then based at RAF Winthorpe. The aircraft crashed out of control at Breeder Hills near Grantham, Lincolnshire on December 4th 1944, after entering cumulonimbus cloud while practicing recovery from unusual flight attitudes. The Stirling was carrying a crew of nine and there were no survivors.

2005 - The former RAF Station is home to:-

Newark and Nottinghamshire Agricultural Society - Newark and Nottinghamshire Gliding Club Ltd. - Newark Indoor Bowls Centre - Newark Golf Centre, Driving Range - Newark Motor Auctions - Newark Air Museum Ltd. - Safe Start Driving Centre - Go Kart Express - Master Care Warehouse - Some is still farmed.

March 2005. 



Further readings can be found in  

         Winthorpe at War in Volume 2.

         Winthorpe Airfield in Volume 3.

Avro 'Lancaster' bomber.
Hadley-Page 'Halifax' bomber.
Short 'Stirling' bomber.