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  RAF North Coates

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> RAF Bases

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Full list of locations

Alma Park
Barkston Heath
Belton Park
Blankney Hall
Boston Wyberton Fen
Bracebridge Heath
Coleby Grange
Donna Nook
Dunholme Lodge
East Halton
East Kirkby
Elsham Wolds
Greenland Top
Grimsthorpe Park
Kirton in Lindsey
Lincoln West Common
Ludford Magna
Market Deeping
Market Stainton
Morton Hall
New Holland
Nocton Hall
North Coates
North Killingholme
North Witham
Norton Disney
South Carlton
South Elkington
South Witham
Sutton Bridge
Tydd St Mary
Waltham (Grimsby)
Woodhall Spa

Updated: 1 Jan 13

Opened: First World War (as North Coates Fitties) by mid-1918

Closed: Jun 1919

Reopened: 1927 as Armament Practice Camp

Redesignated: 1 Jan 1932 as No 2 Armament Training Camp

Redesignated: 6 Oct 1936 as Temporary Armament Training Camp

Redesignated: 22 Feb 1940 RAF North Coates

Closed: 15 Oct 1947 Care and maintenance

Reopened: May 1948

Closed: 1945 care and maintenance

54 MU stationed here at least 1954-56

Reopened: 1 Oct 1963 as Bloodhound SAM site

Airfield code :: NC


Airfield call sign ::

Squadrons based here:

404 Flt, 248 Sqn :: Aug 1918 - Mar 1919

Station Flt :: 1927 -

Air Observers' School :: 1 Jan 1936 -

235 Sqn :: 27 Feb 1940 - 25 Apr 1940; 9 Aug 1940 - Sep 1940 (detachment only)

236 Sqn :: 29 Feb 1940 - 23 Apr 1940; Sep 1942 - 25 May 1945

248 Sqn :: 24 Feb 1940 -

22 Sqn :: 8 Apr 1940 - 10 Jun 1941

86 Sqn :: 12 May 1941 - 1 Jun 1941 (detachment only); 1 Jun 1941 - 10 Jan 1942

407 Sqn :: Jul 1941 - Feb 1942

143 Sqn :: Aug 1942 - Aug 1943

415 Sqn :: Jun 1942 - Aug 1942; Nov 1943 - May 1944 (detachment)

254 Sqn :: Nov 1942 - Jun 1945

812 Sqn FAA ::

816 Sqn FAA ::

No 2 Air Armament School :: 1940

No 1 Air Observers School :: 1940

No 1 Ground Defence School :: 1940

25 MU sub site :: 1945 - Oct 1945

61 MU sub site :: Oct 1945 - Dec 1946

No 1 Initial Training School :: 1 Jan 1947 - Oct 1947

54 MU :: <= 1954 - >= 1956

5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron :: ?Aug 1953

25 Sqn :: 1 Oct 1963 - 7 Aug 1971

85 Sqn ::

North Coates Fitties opened in 1914 as an army camp although its association with military flying followed shortly after. A BE2c landed here on 4 Aug 1914, the first recorded landing.

The Great War

North Coates airfield did not formally open, possible until mid-1918, as one of 14 RFC landing grounds in Lincolnshire. In May 1915 the successful attacks by raiding German Zeppelins against Humberside and Teeside led to some land being requisitioned at North Cotes village. Whilst the village name has varied in spelling the airfield has retained the "a" in Coates. Fitties is a Lincolnshire word which means foreshore saltings. The requirement for local air defence was reinforced by the Mar 1916 Zeppelin attack which killed 29 soldiers of the 3rd Bn Manchester Regt at nearby Cleethorpes. The airfield's purpose was to save BE12 aircraft wasting time returning to their flight stations to refuel after conducting Zeppelin intercepts. North Coates was the most easterly airfield occupying an important refuelling position.

[research on the role of RFC and RNAS patrols at North Coates during the Great War to be concluded]

Permanent residents were here from at least mid-1918, as recorded in the 1918 Air Force list dated 1 Dec. 404 Flt, 248 Sqn RAF had arrived from Killingholme by 1 Dec 1918 having re-equipped from seaplanes to the DH6. It was tasked to deliver anti-submarine patrols in support of coastal convoys.

After the Armistice

RAF North Coates Fitties was used to concentrate some coastal land plane units of 18 Group, Coastal Command, prior to their disbandment in Jun 1919. With the aircraft gone there was no requirement for the 88 acre landing ground next to the army camp and it reverted to agricultural use by the end of 1919.

Armament Practice Camp

The 'North Coates Fitties' airfield was established in 1926 to accompany the formation of an Armament Practice Camp (APC) but not ready for aircraft use until Feb 1927. Initial tented accommodation and the four wooden huts inherited from the army were used as messes, HQ and armoury. They were gradually replaced in the 1930s by Bessoneau and then permanent hangars, admin buildings and also hosted an air observers' school. From 1927, two bomber sqns would deploy to the airfield for 4 weeks at a time for range practice on nearby Theddlethorpe Range and Donna Nook Range.

The Station Flt was equipped with 3 Gordon and a Moth used for towing flags or drogue targets for air to air gunnery.

On 1 Jan 1932 RAF North Coates Fitties became No 2 Armament Training Camp (ATC). No 1 was at Catfoss and No 3 at Sutton Bridge. A Station HQ was stood up on 1 Oct 1935 to command the increasing activity on Station and its now subordinate units at Theddlethorpe and Donna Nook. By now many RAuxAF and Fleet Air Arm units were among the many visitors as the prospect of war in Europe loomed. The Air Observers' School set up in Jan 1936 began to train sqn personnel selected for part-time observer duties in the disciplines of bomb aiming and gunnery.

Confusion of names!

In Oct 1936 a new No 2 ATC was stoop up at RAF Aldergrove and North Coates was redesignated a Temporary ATC. Within the year, on 1 Nov 1937, No 2 Air Armament School (AAS) was formed to incorporate all the resident units except the Temporary ATC. 2 AAS was soon renamed 1 AOS.

World War Two

On the outbreak of World War II all flying units were evacuated from RAF North Coates as part of the general invasion scare. In Feb 1940 Coastal Command reoccupied the station, dropping the Fitties part of the name, with three Blenheim-equipped squadrons (248 Sqn, 235 Sqn and 236 Sqn) conducting long range North Sea patrolling and low-altitude shipping attacks. These departed in May 1940 and RAF North Coates assumed the anti surface unit / shipping warfare role which it maintained until the end of the war. Strike power was originally provided by the Fleet Air Arm from May 1940 with ageing Swordfish while a Hudson-equipped Canadian formation arrived in 1941 for anti-submarine and anti-surface unit warfare. Coastal Command sqns 42 Sqn, 53 Sqn, 224 Sqn, 233 Sqn and 248 Sqn also formed here, passed through here or sent detachments.

Overcrowding of North Coates was heightened through the Strike Wing and consequently RAF Donna Nook, home to a decoy airfield and bombing range, was pressed into service to provide an an overspill runway. At the end of 1941 it became necessary to build a concrete runway to guarantee the generation of air sorties during wet weather and Donna Nook's relief landing ground was very busy during this period.

In additional to Coastal Command duties, North Coates also served as a forward landing ground for Digby-based fighter sqns including 611 Sqn.

278 Sqn sent a detached flight to RAF North Coates in Nov 1941 to carry our air-sea rescue operations; equipped with Lysander it operated in conjunction with 22 MCU at Grimsby Dock.

At the end of 1942 143 Sqn arrived and converted to Blenheim, the start of the formation of Coastal Command's first Strike Wing (described below). The obsolesence of Beafort and Hampden prompted the planning of several Strike wings of up to 3 Beaufighter sqns. North Coates Strike Wing made its first combat sortie on 20 Nov 1942; its failure let to the Wing being withdrawn for more intensive training. It went on to prove the Strike Wing concept on 18 Apr 1943 when it attacked a convoy with 21 aircraft without loss. By Aug 1943 the Strike Wing had a strength of 60 aircraft but lacked organic air defence; this was to limit the number of sorties flown.

query: By 1942 there was also a Fleet Air Arm presence: 812 Sqn with Swordfish biplanes, later 816 Sqn.

Preparations for D-Day in 1944 and the requirements of OVERLORD led to many detachments for anti-shipping operations in the south and this was perhaps the start of the reduction in the North Coates Strike Wing. 236 and 256 Sqns flew their Beaufighter in the anti-shpping role under 16 Group as part of the Coastal Command effort in Op NEPTUNE (supporting the D Day landings). By Oct 1944 the North Coates Wg was the only still at its original home and had been reduced to 2 Sqns (236 and 254 Sqns). The Wg flew its last combat sortie into the Kattegat on 3 May 1945.

The North Coates site spanned 450 acres at its peak.


After the cessation of hostilities North Coates was placed on Care and Maintenance, transfered to Maintenance Command as a sub-site for 25 MU. 25 MU was succeded by 61 MU in Oct 1945. This was not to last and in Dec 1946 Flying Training Command took over the site in preparation for the establishment of No 1 Initial Training School on 1 Jan 1947. This too did not stay long and departed for South Cerney in Oct 1947. A few months later the Stn had another phase of life as a technical training centre; this ended abruptly following the 1953 January floods.

Between 1945 and RAF withdrawal in 1990 it hosted maintenance units, a Sycamore helicopter sqn and Britain's first Bloodhound surface-to-air missile site.

Bloodhound at North Coates

View a Pathe Newsreel item from 3 Nov 1958 entitled 'North Coates. RAF Get 'Bloodhound' Missiles' and footage of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh's visit in 1958.

On 1 Oct 1963, 25 Sqn reformed at North Coates as the first operational Bloodhound unit in the RAF, responsible for the defence of the V-bomber bases and for the training of all personnel employed on the missile.

Brin Hawkins was an SAC during the Bloodhound era and remembers

I was an SAC Registry clerk, and when 85 Sqn was transferred from Canberras to Bloodhounds, a detachment from RAF West Raynham went to RAF Binbrook, called B Flight. then they had Lightnings, and stayed there, but every day left by coach for RAF North Coates.

There were about 30 of us, 2 officers, 3 policemen, a SAC cook, a TAG, Trade assistant General, an MT Driver, and me the clerk, and about 20 techs. We used to have lunch in the old Station Commanders house, this still had a separate scullery, and servants quarters.

The Mark 87 radar were just dumped on the old runway, and the first job was for the tech to unpack them. They were previously packed up by the same techs when they were in Cyprus, and the techs were pissed off, because had they known they could have filled them up with cigarettes and other things and made a fortune.

I remember the manuals, they were all new, printed in about 1964, but the real pain was that they had amendments 1 to 84 loose, this meant that for about a week, all the techs, and me had to sit at benches, just doing amendments, a right proper production line.

The airfield when we got there was deserted and had been moth balled for about 10 years. All the barrack blocks were sealed up, there were rumours that there was live ordinance left over from the army using it as a training ground, but think that was put about by people not wanting us to go exploring too much.

It was bitterly cold, and one of the things we did was put out snow stakes so we knew where the camp roads were.

The radar came in great wooden crates, and because of the cold, they used these as sheds to keep warm in, and there used to be regular coffee urns trafficked out to these refuges.

North Coates Today

North Coates is now operated by the North Coates Flying Club:: click here

RAF North Coates and its flying squadrons are now commemorated in a statue on Cleethorpes seafront. See "A Brief History of the RAF in Lincolnshire" :: website. The relevant page is linked directly in the column to the right of this page.

The RAF North Coates Strike Wing

The Coastal Command RAF North Coates Strike Wing operated as the largest anti-shipping force of World War II accounting for 150,000 tons of shipping and 117 vessels for a loss of 120 Beaufighter and 241 aircrew. This was half the total tonnage sunk by all strike wings from 1942-45. Missions covered almost the entire European littoral from Norway to the Bay of Biscay and sqns were therefore detached to airfields from Tain to Thorney Island.

143 Sqn, 236 Sqn and 254 Sqn, which formed the Strike Wing, comprised on average 20 aircraft per sqn with a pilot and navigator to each, with 9-15 aircraft serviceable at one time.

Find out more about Coastal Command Strike Wings on the Coastal Command pages.

location of RAF North Coatesin relation to Lincolnshire - click here for full-size map showing all station locations

Books about RAF North Coates

North Coates Memorial

Buy an aerial photo of RAF North Coates on GetMapping.com

North Coates Flying Club

Coastal Command Strike Wings on chaseit-now.co.uk

About the Bloodhound system

Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire

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