Local legend has it that Winthorpe airfield was built in error and never used operationally because the main runway was aligned such that a fully laden bomber taking off for a mission would pass over the town and more importantly the Ransome and Marles ball bearing factory. This would lead to a fairly high risk of an ‘own goal' doing something that Göering failed to do, that is destroy bearing production and the factory skilled workforce. History supports this theory. The airfield was not used for operational flying.
It was built in 1940 as a satellite field for RAF Swinderby and later Syerston. It has the distinction of being one of the few airfields in the area to be attacked, a parachute mine falling on the 14th of November 1940. This was seen coming down by some of the ground personnel. Thinking it was a parachutist they began firing. When they realised that it was a parachute mine they ran for their lives. It landed on the south side of the airfield leaving a large hole and fortunately no loss of life or aircraft.
The airfield was then used as a base for a Heavy (bomber) Conversion Unit, i e training. A brief period around D-Day it was used as a storage site for gliders and then reverted to its HCU role until the end of the war. So whilst there is no official admission of a mistake, it does indeed seem that the airfield was not used for operational flying.
Various aircraft have used the airfield:-
Fairey Battles, Wellingtons, Manchesters, Lancasters, Stirlings, Spitfires and Hurricanes.
Flying ceased in 1945 and the airfield became inactive in 1959.
Ransome and Marles changed its name to R.H.P. (Ransome, Hoffmann and Pollard) and is now called N.S.K. (Nippon Seiko K.K.)
The airfield site is now used by:-
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.
On the night of the 14th of November 1940 farmer Charles Wright was talking to the local policeman, outside his home Two Mile House Farm (now the site of Winthorpe roundabout on the A46) when an aeroplane was heard circling overhead. They thought he was going to land onto the grass runway. (Later it became a concrete runway.) Suddenly a bright light, the aeroplane having dropped a flare, lighted up the sky. A mighty explosion blowing them off their feet into a nearby hedge shortly followed this. After picking themselves up with no injuries they realised that the aeroplane was an enemy bomber and had dropped a bomb onto the airfield. (This was a parachute mine.) Bits of aluminium casings were found around the whole area. This occurred on the south side of the airfield on what is now the A17 road near to where Master Care Warehouse now stands.
On Friday, 7th March 1941, the most well known of all raids on Newark took place, the Ransome and Marles factory was bombed at 1.40pm. A single German Heinkell 111 bomber, flying so low that those on the ground could see its markings, approached from the south following the railway line. It dropped four high explosive bombs. Two of these landed on the works causing considerably damage, one on the road at the side of the factory and the other on an air raid shelter adjacent to Stanley Street. The plane machined gunned the site before circling, passing over the factory again and dropping another bomb. This did not explode.
At 2.24pm another enemy aircraft approached dropped five more bombs but only one exploded, causing more damage and casualties, mainly rescue workers. As a result 30 men and 10 women were killed, 65 treated in hospital and 100+ treated at the works own underground hospital.
This day became known as "Black Friday."
Pat Finn. February 2005.
Further readings can be found in
Winthorpe at War in Volume 2.
The History of Winthorpe Airfield in Volume 3.