Sturgate Airfield History

RAF Sturgate Airfield
(Map edited to show the airfield and runways between 1940-45)
Bomber Command Crest
© Crown Copyright/MOD 2010
Airfield Code: EGCSGoogle Earth Co-ordinates:
53°22'45.4"N  0°40'49.3"W
Wartime Runways:
03/21 & 14/32 4200ft x 150ft - 08/26 6000ft x 150ft
Current Runways:
09/27 2690ft x 151ft - 14/32 1509ft x 151ft
Station History

Located between the small villages of Upton and Heapham, Sturgate was one of the last batches of airfields to be built during the war. Constructed started during 1943, with the station not opening until the 1st March 1944.

As with the majority of other airfields built during this time period, the airfield was built to the standard Class ‘A’. Three crossing runways were built to the standard length and encased by the peri-track. The standard three hangars were built with two T.2’s being erected in the technical site on the south-west corner of the airfield, and a B1 erected at the northern end. The accommodation and communal sites were located on the western side of the airfield, with the Bomb store being located in the north-east corner.


Upon opening the station was placed under the control of Hemswell and 1 Group, Bomber Command. But despite opening in March, an aircraft did not use the runway until the 22nd April 1944, and that was a Lancaster from No.1 LFS doing circuits practicing touch and goes. The first aircraft to touch down and stay down were those of 1520 BAT Flight on the 18th September 1944, bringing with them the Airspeed Oxford.

The next arrivals was No.1 Group Aircrew School who arrived on the 1st November 1944, but on arrival was immediately renamed No.1 Aircrew School. Exactly a month later on the 1st December 1944, it was all change again, but this time it was control of the station. Sturgate became a sub-station of 71 Base, which turn was controlled by 7 Group, Bomber Command.

The following year was all change at Sturgate, with first 1520 BAT Flight being disbanded in the February, and No.1 Aircrew School leaving the airfield on the 26th May 1945. With the station now empty it was transferred back to No.1 Group, Bomber Command on the 29th May 1945. But no sooner had the station been void of both aircraft and personnel then the first operational squadrons would appear.

First to arrive was No.50 Squadron and their Avro Lancasters on the 15th June 1945. They were followed the very next day by the arrival of No.61 Squadron, also operating the Lancaster. Upon arrival work began on retro fitting the Lancasters with the Rose No.2 Mk.I rear turrets. Bur despite the arrival of both squadrons, no operational sorties were flown from the airfield, only training ones.

Post War

With the war now over and the station only being barely over a year old you would have thought the future looked bright, but it wasn’t to be. Both No.50 and No.61 Squadrons left the airfield on the 25th January 1946, leaving the station completely empty. This in turn led to the station being placed on Care and Maintenance on the 31st March 1946, and this is how the station remained for the next six years.

With the once new station now starting to fall in to disrepair it was transferred for use to the US Air Force on the 30th July 1952. But despite this change of control it was a further year before the station would be in use again. No.3928 Air Base Group was formed during June 1953 at the station, operating under the command of the 7th Air Division of SAC. With their formation back came the aircraft, first of all the Douglas C-47 Skytrain. But they would be the only arrivals that year, and the future of the station still looked far from assured.

1954 would bring the arrival of another unit to Sturgate and the arrival of the stations first ever jet aircraft. 508 SFW would arrive during the year bringing with them the Republic F-84 Thunderstreak aircraft. The purpose of the deployment was to rotate both the personnel and aircraft of the unit from their home base at Turner Air Force Base, Georgia. This would continue until eventually the Americans decided to withdraw from the airfield entirely, and by the end of August 1958 the airfield was once again left empty.

With the Americans now gone from the airfield, it was transferred back to the RAF on 22nd May 1959, although it was still in part-time use a supply depot for the USAF. But this wasn’t enough to keep the station open, and in 1964 RAF Sturgate closed its gates for the final time and was slowly sold-off over the next few years.

Sturgate Airfield

Aircraft would be seen once again at the former WWII airfield, all be it in the form of civilian aircraft. With the runways still being in near perfect condition after being only being relayed 1957, Trent Valley Gliding Club formed at the airfield in 1965. Then in 1969 they were followed to the airfield by Eastern Air Executive Ltd, who began to operate a local charter service using a Piper Aztec. Eastern Air continued to expand over the coming years and is still based at Sturgate to this day.

As for the Gliding Club, they left the airfield 1974, but were quickly replaced by the Lincoln Aero Club in June 1975. Again the Aero Club are still based at the airfield to this day. Both are resident in the north-western corner of the airfield.

As for the buildings and runway, not much is sadly left. Most of the runways and peri-track have been removed, along with the majority of the buildings, but some do still remain. The north-western corner of the airfield still has both its runways and peri-track still intact and in use. The old watch tower is still in use as the club house for the Aero Club, and the old NFE Store still survives.

Overall most of the airfield has gone and been returned to its original use as farmland, but with both the Lincoln Aero Club and Eastern Air still operating from a corner of the airfield, a little part of history remains protected.

Aircraft and Squadrons
March 1944.Station opened.
September 19441520 BAT Flight Operating the Airspeed Oxford. The Beam Approach Training Flight disbanded at Sturgate in February 1945.
November 1944No.1 Group ASThe Aircrew School left the station on 26th May 1945.
June 1945No.50 SqnOperating the Avro Lancaster. The squadron left the airfield on the 25th January 1946.
June 1945No.61 SqnOperating the Avro Lancaster. Left the station on the 25th January 1946.
January 1946Station put on care and maintenance.
July 1952 Station transferred to US Air Force control.
June 19533928 ABS, USAFOperating the Douglas C-47 Skytrain. The Air Base Squadron left Sturgate on the 1st August 1958.
1954508 SFW, USAFOperating the Republic F-84 Thunderstreak. The Strategic Fighter Wing left the airfield in 1958.
1957Runways rebuilt.
May 1959Station transferred back to RAF control.
1964Station closed and sold-off.