Royal Air Force Stations in Lincolnshire

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Creative Commons License Text by Adrian S Pye, August 2019 ; This work is dedicated to the Public Domain.
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.

Expansion of RAF Airfields in the 1930s

After the First World War many of the flying fields and landing grounds that supported those early pioneers of manned flight either went back to agriculture or evolved into flying clubs. But some were retained by the Royal Air Force who saw that the control of the skies was the way to win wars, and evolved into flying schools, or bombing practice ranges. But with the change of power and rhetoric coming out of Germany and the real threat of war once again on the horizon a period of expansion began in earnest.
The expansion period, as it became known, began in 1934 with the standardisation of airfields. At the beginning of 1934 the Royal Air Force had a total of fifty two airfields and authorisation was given to increase this number to one hundred and thirty eight, with the majority in the eastward facing counties, facing Germany.

The existing airfields were first brought up to the same standard as the new airfields yet to be built. Buildings were to be built of brick and concrete with designs even being approved by the Royal Fine Arts commission and the Society for the Preservation of Rural England.
Architects of the time such as Lutyens and Archibald were employed to design and plan the buildings and layout so a uniformity would have an apparent familiarity upon whichever station you happen to find yourself.
On a typical station of this period the layout would be a grass airfield with three large, usually "C" type aeroplane sheds or hangars which dwarfed the other buildings on the station. TG2622 : Hangars 2 and 3 as seen from hangar 1 by Evelyn Simak They were much larger than the previous Type A and B sheds, being specially designed to house future large aircraft such as heavy bombers. The initial 1934 design giving great consideration to ensuring the hangars blend in as far as possible with the surrounding landscape and by 1936 reinforced concrete was used to provide better protection from enemy bombing. The basic structure was an all steel shell, with stanchions supporting steel-framed roof girders forming a ridge-and-valley roof. Large glazing panels are inserted in the upper walls to provide plenty of natural daylight. Built with a width of 150ft, and length of 300ft with a clearance of 35ft in height. The huge sliding doors consisted of six leaves, each constructed of two steel panels with a gravel filling to a height of 20ft to protect against bomb splinters. So heavy, they had to wound along their tracks with a handle. Workshops, stores, offices and crew-rooms were built into the forward face.

The location of all buildings were to a standard and were adhered to as closely as possible within the overall layout.
On the airfield side the buildings included the control tower, Fire tender sheds and hangars, TG2622 : The Watch office as seen from the west by Evelyn Simak behind the hangars other airfield site buildings included petrol bowser sheds in various guises, a short distance away were the technical and instructional site buildings, parachute stores, workshops, engine repair shop and an airframe shop, welding, blacksmiths and machine shop and general stores and station hospital. TG2623 : The Station hospital by Evelyn Simak The design was easily adapted and changed to meet an individual stations needs. Motor Transport (MT) was an increasingly important part of the RAF's equipment; as a result the provision of MT Sheds and yards which were as much a requirement at the expansion period airfields as the aircraft themselves. The armoury was usually well away from all thus on the opposite side of the airfield and not under a flight-path as was the bomb dump and fuel tanks.

Near the main gate was the guardroom and within easy reach was Station Headquarters (SHQ). There were two designs, a smaller version with five windows across the first floor frontage TF3987 : Guy Gibson Hall, Manby by John Readman or the more common with seven windows. TG2523 : The front of the Station headquarters by Evelyn Simak.

Away from the flying field and behind the technical site can be found the Administration, Communal and Living quarters, usually ‘H’ blocks. These and the mess hall, and NAAFI were usually arranged around a parade ground.

Behind Station Headquarters one would usually find the Officer’s mess, Sergeant’s mess, Squash courts, Gymnasium and grocery shops and probably the Chapel wasn’t too far away. Officers messes were two or sometimes three storeys, Sergeant’s messes were similar in terms of style.
Supplying the hot water for all of these was the brick built water tower TF3987 : The water tower at ex RAF Manby by Adrian S Pye and often the tallest and most noticeable structure to be seen on approaching an airfield. The expansion period airfield were all central heated.
The expansion period airfield were virtually self contained villages.


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