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Part Two : The inter-war years (1918 - 1938)

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Updated: 9 Sep 06

The End of the War to End All Wars and the Training Review

In Aug 1914 at the outbreak of conflict, the RFC could call on 50 aircraft and 1,600 service personnel. The RNAS had only 25 aircraft and 800 officers and men. By the Armistice in Nov 1918 the RAF had over 10 000 aircraft in service, with over 292 000 serving officers and men and 25 000 women.

In 1918, some 37 military airfields were in use in Lincolnshire. Most, however, were little more than cleared fields that had been grassed to provide a runway. One example of the small scale was RFC Leadenham, at only 86 acres. As a result of a re-organisation in the summer of 1918 the stations where training was conducted by the Training Squadrons were re-designated Training Depot Stations (TDS) and their role extended into airframe-specific conversion. This lead to the new designations of 34 TDS Scampton, 39 TDS Spitalgate, 40 TDS Harlaxton, 46 TDS South Carlton and 48 TDS Waddington, 59 TDS Scopwick joining them in Sep 1918. After the end of the war only 7 aerodromes could be described as operational with a further 13 retained as emergency Landing grounds. Only 3 flying bases were retained in the long term for the post-Armistice Royal Air Force, at RAF Scopwick (the later RAF Digby), RAFC Cranwell and RAF Grantham (the later Spitalgate).

At the end of the war the number of aerodromes was quickly reduced, so that by the beginning of 1920 there was just a handful. The most important function of these bases in the inter-war period was training. This centred on Royal Air Force College Cranwell for both flying training and apprentice training, until the Apprentice School was moved to Halton, Buckinghamshire in 1926. A sparsely populated county with large areas of flat land, with coastal sites such as Donna Nook and Holbeach bombing ranges, Lincolnshire was ideal for flying training. Pilots were also trained at Digby and Grantham, while North Coates and Sutton Bridge were used for armaments training.

Early Inter-War Years

In the early post-war period RAFC Cranwell was the main centre for officer and aircrew training, while RAF Digby and RAF Grantham were also key training location as Flying Training Schools, 2 FTS and 3 FTS respectively. Lincolnshire was utilised for training during the 1920s and up to 1935 when the expansion of the RAF took hold here.

In the early years after the war, the shape of the RAF was dictated by the constraints of the international political landscape which limited severely the development and growth of an effective air force.

The RAF Expansion Scheme

By the mid-1930s the British government were finally propelled to action and embarked on what is termed the Royal Air Force Expansion Scheme. Lincolnshire's strategic location on the East coast meant that the airfields built there were generally designed for bomber operations in any future possible offensive. Sites were chosen for their
flat location, generally a height of 50-600 ft above sea level, and generally on suitable soil and drainage. This was not always true, as seen in Ludford (Mudford) Magna's case!

The training schools were moved inland, away from the Germany threat, RAF Waddington was modernised, RAF Hemswell and RAF Brattleby (later RAF Scampton) were taken back into service, and work begun on airfields at Kirton in Lindsey, Swinderby, Digby, Coningsby, Manby and Binbrook. Then Bomber Command was established in 1936.

Key contractors in this expansion were Richard Costain Ltd, John Laing & Son Ltd and Taylor-Woodrow Ltd.

==> on to the history of the Royal Air Force in Lincolnshire from 1938

> 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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