|RAF Hemswell (Harpswell Aerodrome)|
Updated : 16 Dec 12
Opened: late 1916
Opened: Jan 1937
Airfield code :: HS > HL
ICAO Code :: MWXH
Airfield call sign :: DELUXE
Squadrons based here:
199 TS :: ?Apr 1918 - Jun 1919 (disbanded)
200 (Night) TS :: 1918
61 Sqn :: Feb 1937
144 Sqn :: Feb 1937
83 Sqn :: 1946 -
150 Sqn :: 1944 -
170 Sqn :: 1944 - 1945
1 LFS (Lancaster Finishing School) :: late 1943 - Nov 1944
1687 BDT Flt :: Mar 1945 - ??
109 Sqn :: 1946; 1950 - Jan 1956
139 Sqn :: 1946; 1950 - Jan 1956
97 Sqn :: 1946 -
100 Sqn :: 1946 -
97 (SM) Sqn :: Dec 1959 - May 1963
7 School of Recruit Training :: 1963 - 1966
In 1916 Hemswell opened as a night landing ground for the RFC and was known as Harpswell. During 1918, 199 and 200 Training Sqns were based here but the airfield was soon returned to pasture by 1919.
61 Sqn's Hemswell-based Hampdens were the first Bomber Command aircraft to drop bombs on German soil, on 19 Mar 1940. The target was the Hornum seaplane base.
In Jun 1943 the active sqns departed in preparation for the airfield to close for upgrading to concrete runways. It was reopened in Jan 1944 with 1 LFS which disbanded in Nov 1944. The site was used by 150 Sqn and 170 Sqn until Apr 1945 they were joined by 1687 Bomber Defence Training Flight. It was then a Scampton satellite.
During the war a 122 bomber aircraft were lost on operations from Hemswell. These totalled 38 Hampden, 62 Wellington and 22 Lancaster.
FJ Whitehead was stationed as a wireless fitter at RAF Conningsby in 1949/50 and the two squadrons (109 and 139) equipped with B35 Mosquitos were there together with either an Operational Conversion Unit. 109 and 139 moved to Hemswell in March 1950 along with all personnel at which time Coningsby was put on a 'care and maintenance' basis. Responsibility for Wainfleet Bombing Range, at which he also worked occasionally, was transferred to Hemswell at the same time.
Ray Ballard sent the following information in 2011: "In the final year of air operations I was stationed at Hemswell. 83 and 97 Sqdns were both flying Lincolns all year and 139(Jamaica) sqdn was flying Canberras. The Lincolns were Radio Counter Measure squadrons and the Canberras photo rec sqdn. I was lucky enough to get a 3 hour trip in one of the Lincolns. The Lincolns were still there when I was posted to Malta in Feb 1957."
542 Squadron was another specialised reconnaisance squadron. They moved to Hemswell from RAF Weston Zoyland in Apr 1957, replacing the disbanding Lincoln squadron. 542 Sqn left Hemswell sometime after July 1958.
83 & 97 Squadrons remained at Hemswell after 1956 albeit as Antler & Arrow Sqns.!
The last flying squadrons departed in Jan 1956 but RAF Hemswell then became a missile unit with 3 Thor IRBM launchers of 97(SM) Sqn RAF present here from Dec 1959 to May 1963. Each missile was armed with a one-megaton nuclear warhead, controlled by the US Air Force under so-called dual-key arrangements. RAF Hemswell was the headquarters for the 5 Lincolnshire dispersal sites at RAF Hemswell, RAF Bardney, RAF Caistor, RAF Coleby Grange and RAF Ludford Magna.
The long-surviving hangars here have on occasion been pressed into service for EU Common Agricultural Policy intervention stores for Lincolnshire's contribution to the grain mountain.
Bomber County Aviation MuseumThe former Bomber County Aviation Museum based at Hemswell has now closed and its exhibits have been dispersed.
RAF Hemswell Association
RAF Hemswell Association membership is open to all ranks and trades who served at Hemswell any time between 1937 and 1967. There is an nnnual reunion at Hemswell and the assocation also publishes a bi-annual magazine, annual subs £5.
Buy the local map:
RAF Hemswell page on Royal Air Force website
RAF Hemswell on ControlTowers.co.uk
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