East Kirkby Airfield History

RAF East Kirkby Airfield
(Map edited to show the airfield and runways between 1940-52)
Bomber Command Crest
© Crown Copyright/MOD 2010
Airfield Code:EKGoogle Earth Co-ordinates:
53° 8'14.88"N 0° 0'26.83"E
02/20 6000ft x 150ft - 08/26 & 13-31 4200ft x 150ft
Station History

A small site at Hagnaby was first used as a 'K'-type decoy, designed to attract enemy aircraft away from nearby Coningsby and Manby. The decoy ceased operation on 27th June 1941 and approval was given in August for the construction of a Class 'A' bomber airfield with work being carried out in 1942-1943. This became RAF East Kirkby.

East Kirkby opened in August 1943 as an airfield in 5 Group. It had the usual three intersecting runways all linked by a perimeter track. The technical site was located to the north, just off the A155 and contained two of the three hangars - a T2 and a later B1. The second T2 was located off the eastern perimeter track. A further four T2 hangars were constructed on the technical site when East Kirkby became the parent station of 55 Base, responsible for the administration and aircraft maintenance of Spilsby and Strubby. The communal and accommodation sites were located in fields north-west of the A155, whilst the bomb stores were located to the north-east, at the site of the former decoy.

The Lancasters of 57 Squadron arrived from Scampton on 29th August 1943. On 15th November 1943, 'B' Flight 57 Squadron was expanded to form 630 Squadron. A major accident occurred at the airfield on 17th April 1945. Whilst loading bombs in preparation for a raid on the marshalling yards at Chem, south-west Germany, a 1000Ib bomb exploded, causing a chain reaction resulting in six Lancasters from 57 Squadron being destroyed, and fourteen suffering damage. There were seventeen casualties, four of which were fatal.

Following Victory in Europe on 8th May 1945, East Kirkby became a work-up base for aircraft destined for Tiger Force. The force was created as part of the proposed Allied invasion of mainland Japan. Both 57 Squadron and 460 Squadron were to contribute aircraft which would form 533 Wing. However, the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced the Japanese to surrender and the need for Tiger Force ceased. On 18th July, 630 Squadron was disbanded as it was not required for the force, its place being taken by 460 Squadron RAAF.

After the surrender of Japan, East Kirkby was retained by the RAF on Care and Maintenance. In between 1951-1958, the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command took over the airfield, redeveloping it. Existing facilities were refurbished and a large aircraft parking area was laid near the four T2 hangars. The east-west runway was extended eastwards by 1226 yards making its overall length 2626 yards. East Kirkby was finally closed in 1958.

East Kirkby is well known today as the home of Just Jane, the Lancaster bomber restored to taxiing condition. Today part of the former airfield forms part of the excellent Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre.

Aircraft and Squadrons
1940 Opened as a decoy site for RAF Manby.
1943 Fully opened as an RAF Airfield.
August 1943No.57 SqnOperating Avro Lancaster/Lincoln. The squadron disbanded at the airfield on the 25th November 1945.
November 1943No.630 SqnOperating Avro Lancaster's. Disbanded at the station on the 18th July 1945.
July 1945No.460 Sqn RAAFOperating Lancaster's. The squadron disbanded at the airfield on the 10th October 1945.
November 1945Station put on Care and Maintenance.
August 1947No.139 SqnOperating the de Haviland Mosquito. Left the station in February 1948.
August 1947No.231 OCUOperating the de Haviland Mosquito. The Operational Conversion Unit left the airfield in February 1948.
February 1948  Station placed back on Care and Maintenance.
April 19543931st ABG USAFOperating the Douglas C-47 Skytrain. The Air Base Group left the station in November 1954
November 19543917th ABG USAFOperating Douglas C-47 Skytrain. The Air Base Group left East Kirkby on the 1st August 1958.
December 1958RAF East Kirkby Closed.
1964RAF East Kirkby Sold.