Grimsby (Waltham) Airfield History

RAF Waltham (Grimsby) Airfield
(Map edited to show the airfield and runways 1940-45)
Bomber Command Crest
© Crown Copyright/MOD 2010
Airfield Code: GYGoogle Earth Co-ordinates:
53°30'5.6"N  0°4'24.7"W
06/24 4200ft x 150ft - 12/30 3300ft x 150ft - 18/36 6000ft x 150ft
Station History

The airfield at Grimsby began life in June 1933, when it opened as a small civil airport. Built on meadow land three miles from the parish of Waltham, the first residents were the Lincolnshire Aero Club. They built a small clubhouse and two wooden hangars, one of which was replaced in 1937 by a more substantial structure.

With the prospect of war with Germany looming, the airfield caught the eye of the Air Ministry. After further inspections of the airfield by the Air Ministry, they took control of the airfield in June 1938. More inspections followed from 5 Group, Bomber Command officials, and later that month 25 E & RFTS (Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School) moved in to the airfield. The purpose of 25 E &RFTS was to train members of the RAF Volunteer Reserve. The instructors were civilians who were employed by Herts and Essex Aero Club Ltd, the company that managed the airfield at the time. They had at their disposal the Tiger Moth and Magister aircraft. But with the outbreak of war with Germany in 1939, 25 E & RFTS was disbanded.

September 1938 saw the formation of a local branch of the Civil Air Guard, which like 25 E & RFTS, would be administered by the Herts and Essex Aero Club Ltd. But by July 1939 control of the airfield had been taken away from the civil authority, and was being run by the Air Ministry. With the departure of 25 E & RFTS in September 1939 the airfield was left empty, with only the occasional visitor.


In May 1940 the airfield was officially taken over by the RAF, and concrete runways were laid in preparation of the incoming squadrons. Under the control of 1 Group, Bomber Command, RAF Grimsby was officially opened in November 1941, and was initially used as a satellite station for nearby RAF Binbrook. Although named Grimsby, the local people called the station Waltham along with the service personnel on the station. This led to some confusion within the RAF, as there was already an airfield called White Waltham near Maidenhead.

Only days after opening, the airfield received its first visitors in the form of No.142 Sqn on the 15th November, bringing with them their Vickers Wellington aircraft. Their stay was extremely short, and both “A” and “B” flights returned back to Binbrook the following day. Only to be moved back once again to Grimsby on the 26th of the same month. Their stay at the airfield this time was to be much longer, but by late December 1942 they were to be moved on again. But this time half the squadron was going to RAF Killingholme, with the other half going to North Africa.

No.100 Sqn 1944
© RAF Grimsby Exhibition - No.100 Sqn 1944

Just before the departure of No.142 Sqn in December, No.100 Sqn was re-formed at the station on the 15th. With the re-formation on the squadron, came new aircraft in the form of the Avro Lancaster, although the squadron didn't start to receive them until 24th January 1943. The squadron was quickly ramped up, and on the night of 8-9th March 1943, made their first operational sortie. During the same year, the strength of the squadron was dramatically increased, with the addition of a third flight in the April. By the October, the aircraft had also been upgraded, and were now flying with the new H2S radar.

The squadron was to take part in both the Battle of the Ruhr in March 1943, and the Battle of Berlin in April 1945. During their time at the airfield, No.100 Sqn flew a massive 4000 sorties. Their heaviest loss of WWII came on the day that later became known as “Black Thursday” in October 1943, with a loss of four aircraft. In total Bomber Command lost 36 aircraft on this day, thirteen of these were Lancasters from 1 Group.

By the end of 1943 No.100 Sqn had been joined at the airfield, with the re-formation of No.550 Sqn on 25th November. The squadron was made up mainly with the transfer of personnel from No.100 Sqn “C” flight. With the majority personnel already having been operational on the Lancaster with No.100 Sqn, No.550 Sqn flew there first operational sortie the following night on the 26th. There stay at Grimsby was to be short lived, with them departing for North Killingholme early in January 1944.

With the war nearing an end, No.100 Sqn was transferred to Elsham Wolds in April 1945, thus leaving the airfield empty.

During operations from the airfield in WWII, a total of 164 aircraft from the station were lost, 116 Lancasters and 48 Wellingtons.

Post War

With no active squadrons being post to the airfield, it was placed on Care and Maintenance, until the station was placed under the command of 40 Group Maintenance Command on 1st June 1945. The airfield was then used by 35 Maintenance Unit as a storage sub-site. With the departure of all the aircraft from the airfield, the flying facilities were not maintained and fell beyond repair over the coming years.

During the summer of 1949, 22 Gliding School moved in to the station. Their purpose was to give young Air Cadets experience of flying, all be it in gliders. But due to the facilities at the station not being maintained, they left the airfield the following in June. With the departure of 22 GS, the writing was on the wall for the airfield, and in 1952 the station was finally closed.

Grimsby Airfield
B1 hangar and peritrack
© Richard E Flagg - Remaining B1 hangar and peritrack

An attempt was made in the late 1950’s to resurrect flying at the airfield, when a group of local people tried to reform the Grimsby Flying Club, but this never transpired. The sound of aircraft both landing and taking-off from the airfield was rarely to be heard again. 1958 saw the airfield being sold off for use in a variety of roles, including industrial use and bulk storage.

Another attempt was made in the mid 1970’s to bring aviation back to the airfield when the International Auster Pilots Club was granted permission to use the remaining runways. Although a small number of aircraft visited the airfield, there efforts failed, and there was no regular use of the airfield by aircraft.

In later years improvements to the A16, with a bypass for Holton-le-Clay, reclaimed part of the eastern side where a memorial to the men of No.100 Squadron can be seen. At the end of the 1990s, many airfield buildings still survived for commercial use. The most notable surviving buildings include the Control Tower, Crew Locker and Dryer Rooms, the Pre-War, B1 and T2 hangars, however much of the station is in a state of disrepair and is also victim to fly-tipping. Old unused farm equipment also litters the former station along with various weeds and rubble, plus phantoms are also said to dwell there including the body of a headless airman.

Most of the runways have been ripped up and much of it was crashed and used as hardcore to build the A15 that leads up to the Humber Bridge. Out of the 30+ dispersals built, only one remains to this day, but it is still possible to see the outlines of some from the air however the vast majority have gone.

The station W.A.A.F. canteen and kitchen still survive in Waltham to this day, and is now being used as the home of the RAF Grimsby Exhibition at the Museum of Rural Life, situated at the Waltham Windmill Centre.

Aircraft and Squadrons
June 1933Grimsby opens as a civilian airport.
June 1938Airport changes from civil control to Air Ministry.
June 1938No.25 E & RFTSThe Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School operated the de Haviland Tiger Moth, Miles Magister, Hawker Hart and Hawker Hind. They left the airfield on 1st September 1939.
September 1938Civil Air GuardOperating the British Aircraft Swallow and Avro Avian. They were dissolved under the new control of the airfield.
May 1940Grimsby placed under RAF control.
Nov 1941No.142 SqnOperating Vickers Wellingtons. Squadron left the airfield on 20th December 1942.
Dec 1942No.100 SqnOperating Avro Lancasters. Left the station on 2nd April 1945.
Nov 1943No.550 SqnOperating Avro Lancasters. Left the airfield on 3rd January 1944.
Apr 1945No.35 MU Station placed on Care and Maintenance and No.35 Maintenance Unit moved in, and flying ceased. Left the station in June 1950.
194922 GSOperating the Slingsby T31 Cadet. The Gliding School left the airfield in June 1950.
1950RAF Grimsby (Waltham) closed.
1958RAF Grimsby (Waltham) sold-off.