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Aviation: Lincolnshire at the forefront of aerial combat

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: April 30, 2014

The Ruston Camel

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Prior to the start of the First World War, there was little or no military aviation within Lincolnshire.

The Royal Flying Corps began to make cross country flights during 1913 and established staging posts throughout England where ground crew would refuel aircraft.

Once the aircraft had taken off the ground crew would move on by road to the next site.

The staging posts were not permanent but by all accounts there was at least one such staging post close to the city of Lincoln.

Yet by the end of the war, Lincolnshire was home to 38 landing grounds.

Some of these were just fields with rudimentary buildings to support flying operations, while others were more permanent establishments such as those at Waddington and Cranwell.

The bases were a mix of Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Flying Corps sites and in many respects one could trace the formation of the Royal Air Force through a study of the evolution of military aviation in Lincolnshire.

Yet it is not just the story of the development of airfields in the county which needs to be told but also the aircraft engineering industry which began in 1915.

Rustons, Clayton and Shuttleworth, Robeys and Marshal all produced aircraft under license which led to the establishment of Number 4 Aircraft Acceptance Park (AAP) at the West Common on the site of the racecourse. It was from here that pilots from the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service first flew aircraft produced in the county.

If the flight was satisfactory then the aircraft was accepted.

There are still remnants of No 4 AAP at the West Common.

Following the signing of the Armistice and the cessation of hostilities there was a considerable downsizing of the Royal Air Force in Lincolnshire but a handful of sites continued to exist.

Lord Trenchard, a former member of the Royal Flying Corps, who was the head of the Royal Air Force at the end of the war chose Cranwell, a former Royal Naval Air Service station, to be the site for the service’s Officer Training College; thus establishing the world’s oldest air force academy.

Similarly there was a reduction in the manufacture of aircraft in Lincolnshire, though with the exception of Clayton and Shuttleworth, the companies continued to prosper in the field of engineering.

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