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Aviation historians in bid to turn land at former RAF Binbrook into heritage centre

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: February 15, 2013

Pride: Ray Whiteley with the Lightning fighter at the former RAF Binbrook site. Picture: John Jenkins

Pride: Ray Whiteley with the Lightning fighter at the former RAF Binbrook site. Picture: John Jenkins

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Aviation history buffs have secured a plot of land at the former RAF Binbrook in the hope they can turn it into a heritage centre.

Ray Whiteley and Charles Ross have struck a deal with Winchester Marine for a small corner of the Binbrook site, which is already home to a small museum.

Mr Whiteley, 61, who lives in Binbrook and is a former computer engineer, said: "I've long made it my goal to turn the site into the RAF Binbrook Heritage Centre.

"We've built the 460 Squadron Identification Square Memorial and the Hughie Edwards VC Memorial.

"Also, we've carried out extensive tree planting to form the Bomber Command Memorial Park.

"There are Fairey Battle, Wellington and Lancaster Avenues – with each tree representing a crew member of those particular aircraft types who failed to return."

Binbrook was opened in 1940 and operated as an airfield in the Second World War. It was home to the Royal Australian Air Force 460 Squadron operating Lancaster missions over Germany from which many crew never returned.

Before it closed in 1989, the runway on the Lincolnshire Wolds also played host to the jet-engined Lightning fighter which was stationed at Binbrook throughout the Cold War.

Mr Ross is founder, chairman and secretary of the Lightning Association, which stores its English Electric Lightning F6 XR724 aircraft at the site. Another Lightning, T5 XS457, also stored at Binbrook in component parts, is awaiting reassembly.

Mr Ross, who also lives in Binbrook, said: "There has always been the possibility that a new owner – and there have been quite a few of them in 20 years – might not be prepared to tolerate the aeroplane on their land and order us off.

"Assuming that there would probably be a time limit for this, that would have meant cutting the wings and fin and the end of her as a functioning jet.

"We have been very fortunate that we have always been able to establish good relations with new owners, but with Winchester Marine pulling out of Binbrook and new owners on the horizon, our luck had to run out at some point.

"We have now completed the acquisition of just over two acres of land where XR724 and the 460 Squadron memorial lie and so for the first time since she flew in we are in a position where nobody can tell us what to do.

"Ray hopes one day to be able to build an RAF Binbrook Heritage Centre on the land, although that's a long way off at present."

The museum already on the site is home to a number of aircraft artefacts found during exploration of the site and a display of photos of former RAF Binbrook aircraft and personnel.

Mr Whiteley welcomes "a steady stream" of UK and overseas visitors who visit the place from where their relatives flew operational missions.

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