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  History :: A generic airfield layout

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> Units and Formations

Flying Squadrons
5 Sqn
6 Sqn
8 Sqn
9 Sqn
10 Sqn
11 Sqn
12 Sqn
15 Sqn
18 Sqn
21 Sqn
22 Sqn
23 Sqn
25 Sqn
27 Sqn
29 Sqn
33 Sqn
35 Sqn
39 Sqn
41 Sqn
43 Sqn
44 Sqn
46 Sqn
49 Sqn
50 Sqn
51 Sqn
54 Sqn
56 Sqn
57 Sqn
61 Sqn
64 Sqn
65 Sqn
68 Sqn
69 Sqn
70 Sqn
71 Sqn
73 Sqn
75 Sqn
81 Sqn
83 Sqn
85 Sqn
88 Sqn
90 Sqn
92 Sqn
97 Sqn
100 Sqn
101 Sqn
103 Sqn
104 Sqn
106 Sqn
109 Sqn
110 Sqn
111 Sqn
112 Sqn
113 Sqn
116 Sqn
121 Sqn
133 Sqn
136 Sqn
139 Sqn
141 Sqn
142 Sqn
143 Sqn
144 Sqn
148 Sqn
149 Sqn
150 Sqn
151 Sqn
153 Sqn
154 Sqn
166 Sqn
170 Sqn
189 Sqn
198 Sqn
199 Sqn
203 Sqn
206 Sqn
207 Sqn
209 Sqn
210 Sqn
211 Sqn
214 Sqn
222 Sqn
227 Sqn
228 Sqn
229 Sqn
235 Sqn
236 Sqn
248 Sqn
249 Sqn
251 Sqn
253 Sqn
254 Sqn
255 Sqn
256 Sqn
264 Sqn
266 Sqn
280 Sqn
288 Sqn
300 Sqn
301 Sqn
302 Sqn
303 Sqn
305 Sqn
307 Sqn
309 Sqn
310 Sqn
349 Sqn
350 Sqn
401 Sqn
402 Sqn
404 Sqn
407 Sqn
409 Sqn
410 Sqn
411 Sqn
412 Sqn
415 Sqn
416 Sqn
420 Sqn
421 Sqn
430 Sqn
438 Sqn
439 Sqn
441 Sqn
442 Sqn
443 Sqn
452 Sqn
455 Sqn
460 Sqn
463 Sqn
467 Sqn
486 Sqn
503 Sqn
504 Sqn
527 Sqn
528 Sqn
532 Sqn
538 Sqn
542 Sqn
550 Sqn
576 Sqn
601 Sqn
609 Sqn
613 Sqn
616 Sqn
617 Sqn
619 Sqn
625 Sqn
626 Sqn
627 Sqn
630 Sqn

Heavy Conversion Units
1654 HCU
1656 HCU
1660 HCU
1661 HCU
1662 HCU
1665 HCU
1667 HCU
1668 HCU

Advanced Flying Schools
201 AFS

Advanced Flying Units
12 AFU
15 AFU

Flying Training Schools
12 FTS
1 Lancaster Finishing School
Central Flying School

Operational Training/
Conversion Units
53 OTU

56 OTU

228 OCU
230 OCU

Air Armament Schools
Empire Central AS

Other schools
1 Gp Aircrew School
1 Ground Defence School
1 Air Observers School
Central Gunnery School
5 Gp Anti Air School

Other units
Bomber Command
Coastal Command
Fighter Command
HQ No 5 Group
HQ No 23 Group
1485 Gunnery Flight
2782 Defence Sqn
178 Support Unit
399 Signals Unit
Nationality based Sqns

Updated: 10 Sep 06

The early days - the Great War

Typically the training airfields of the Great War consisted of a 2 000 ft x 2 000 ft grass square. There were three pairs plus one single hangar, constructed of wood or brick, 180 ft x 100 ft in size. There were up to 12 canvas Bessoneaux hangars as the aircraft of the era were constructed from wood and fabric and liable to weather damage. Other airfield buildings were typically wooden huts.

RFC Landing Grounds during the Great War were L-shpaed, usually arrived at by removing a hedge boundary between two fields, and causing landing runs in two directions of 400-500 metres. Typically they would be manned by only 2 or 3 airmen whose job was to guard the fuel stores and assist any aircraft which had occasion to land.

In 1916 there were 14 Landing Grounds in Lincolnshire, in addition to the Sqn home bases. These were categorised according to their lighting and day or night capabilities.

1930s and the RAF Expansion Scheme

A typical airfield required only grass runways as aircraft weights had not yet reached the heavy bomber proportions of the early 1940s.

RAF Expansion Scheme airfields, built in the rush to re-arm against the looming German threat which became unavoidable in the early 1930s, were well constructed and built to a standard design. In spite of the urgency the Royal Fine Arts Commission was consulted as to the aesthetics of the proposed building designs and layout. This included a standard airfield and domestic site layout including neo-classical red-brick residential blocks, standard mess layouts still evident at many airfields today, office space and hangars.

The main runway was conventionally constructed on a north-east south-west orientation, with notable exceptions such as RAF Ludford Magna (due to local terrain) and Spitalgate.

World War Two

The onset of war called for a massive expansion in the construction programme to meet the needs of the expanding air force. These war-time airfields were austere in comparison to the 1930s Expansion Scheme RAF stations and had many less permanent structures, not being intended for permanent use. Accommodation would have generally consisted of Nissen Huts, with more permanent hangars, brick operations block and perhaps Station HQ. The "standard" layout may include Expansion Phase buildings but would certainly have the components laid out below.


Early World War II runways showed few differences to those before the war, when the airfield symbol had simply been a landing circle marked in white. The hardstanding, pan or waterfront in front of the hangars was required due to the heavy traffic in these areas. Taxying around the airfield to and from appropriate start and finish points depended on the wind direction and this led to traffic on the perimeter causing ruts. To tackle this problem, perimiter tracks (peritrack) were built before concrete runways were required. The peritrack then defined the edge of the useable field.

Extensive concrete runways (3 for bomber stations) each between 1260 and 1800 metres long came later. In Dec 1940 the scale laid down for the standard bomber airfield was for a main runway measuring 4200 ft (1280 m) and two subsidiaries of 3300 ft (1006 m). In Feb 1941 the increasing bomber weights led to the the standard being increased to main runways of 4800 ft (1453 m). However in Oct 1941 the heavy bomber standard was established at main runway of 6000 ft (1829 ft) and subsidiaries of 4200 (1280 m).

An average base required over one million cubic yards of excavation, 603 000 square yards of surfacing, 242 000 cubic yards of concrete, 34 miles of drainage, 10 miles of cable ducts and 7 miles of water mains.


Peritrack. The peritrack ("perimiter track") encircled the interlocking A-shape of the three runways with a concrete surface of approximately 50 ft width.

Dispersals / Hardstandings

On Class A Bomber Command stations, there were 34 frying pan dispersals 125 feet in diameter. Spectacle type (loops) dispersals were 370 feet between the outside two flat sides and there were usually 2 of these.

Hangars. Up to 5 large hangars for servicing and repairs. The shallow crescent layout impeded attacking bombers' aiming. More information on hangar types can be found on the hangar page.

Control tower. Sometimes called the 'watch office'. The wartime standard for the control tower was standard 343/43, an update from 12779/41. Plenty of detail on control towers at sites all across the UK can be found on the ControlTowers.co.uk website.

Beam Approach Equipment. For instrumented landing when visibility was not sufficient for an unaided approach.

FIDO. This fog dispersal is described on the FIDO page.

Ammunition dumps



Storage, training, eating and sleeping facilities

Water tower. These are still highly visible in many parts of Lincolnshire long after all other traces of former airfields have vanished. These water towers contained approximately 80 000 gallons of water.

Cost of construction. In 1942 a bomber station could be built for approximately £500 000; by 1944 the increased demands on infrastructure by the heavy bombers meant that the price had increased to around £1 million.

Heavy Bomber Command bases included Waddington, Coningsby, Hemswell, East Kirkby and Scampton.

Fighter Command bases included Dibgy and Kirton in Lindsey.

Coastal Command bases included North Coates.

Training bases included RAFC Cranwell and Spitalgate.

USAAF bases included Goxhill fighter base (8th US Air Force) and Barkston Heath, Folkingham, Fulbeck and North Witham troop transport bases (9th US Air Force).

Gunnery training was carried out, amongst others, at Sutton Bridge.



> RAF history in Lincolnshire

The early years up to 1918
Early days in Saint Omer
The Inter-war years

World War TwoRAF
Cold War to the present

> The command structure

Bomber Command
Fighter Command
Coastal Command
Training Command
Balloon Command

> Airfield information

Generic airfield layout
Emergency landing grounds
Hangar types
FIDO fog dispersal
Airfield defences
Airfield call signs
Pundit codes
ICAO Codes

> Decoy airfields and deception

Q Sites
K sites
Starfish sites

> Other historical pages

Key dates of bomber offensives

Mission types

The secret, electronic war

Aircraft manufacturers in Lincolnshire

The US Air Forces in Lincolnshire

Selected books about Lincolnshire aviation history

The 'RAFwaffe'

History of the RNAS on the Fleet Air Arm Archive

The Architectural context -

> Sources

Official Records
Crashes and Oral History

Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire

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