Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Museum (RAF Coningsby)

Watch it in Video format: https://youtu.be/TV1WxRpQHMk

“Never was so much owed by so many to so few”

(Churchill)

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From 10 July until 31 October 1940, pilots from Czechoslovakia, Poland, South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand joined the British RAF in the fight against the German Luftwaffe which has been describe as  the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces.

The British memorial flight is housed at RAF Coningsby, situated in the heart of Lincolnshire which during WWII was known as (Bomber County) due to the twenty plus airfields dotted around this east coast county of the UK.

The museum is situated on the still fully active RAF base, Dogdyke Rd, Coningsby, Lincoln LN4 4SY .  As you travel out of the village you will see the base on your left, look out for the car park on the right, park your car, you CANNOT take any form of bag onto the base.

There is a cafe, gift shop and a small but informative display immediately upon entering the visitors centre.

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Hours

Thursday 10am–5pm
Friday 10am–5pm
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed
Monday 10am–5pm
Tuesday 10am–5pm
Wednesday 10am–5pm

cost: £8.00

The tour guide we had certainly knows his stuff,  he guides you through the hanger sharing his knowledge and sometimes funny stories.  Many of the planes actually flew during WWII in combat.

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Above is a picture of the aircraft machine guns.  As well as taking in what is going on in this operational hanger, keep on eye on the right hand wall has you progress.

Progressing down the hanger you will see many planes in some state of repair or general maintenance, on our visit most planes were going through their annual maintenance as you can see from the pictures.

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Of course the Lancaster dominates the hanger and if you see one flying around the UK at any time then this is the one in the sky.

Everyone knows about the Lancaster and its exploits during the war but I will give you brief recap.

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1942 British engineer Barnes Wallis had the idea for a bouncing bomb, the development of this weapon started out in a water tub in his back garden.  bouncing_bomb3-removebg-preview

These bombs were developed to take out three German dams, The Möhne, Edersee and Sorpe dams of the Ruhr valley which were vital to German Industry.  This is how they work:

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And this is the result once successfully deployed:

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Breached Mohne Dam

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617 Squadron was retained by RAF Bomber Command for specialist precision bombing operations. It experimented with new bomb sights, target marking techniques and colossal new ‘earthquake’ bombs developed by Barnes Wallis,

In the run-up to D-Day, 617 Squadron attacked factories, V-weapon sites and communication targets in France. Its commander, Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire, pioneered a controversial new low-level target-marking technique. The improved accuracy minimised civilian casualties when attacking targets in occupied territory

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In the autumn of 1944, 617 Squadron joined 9 Squadron in attacks with 12,000 lb ‘Tallboy’ bombs (pictured above) on the German battleship Tirpitz, 12 November was sunk by two direct hits.

Due to the squadron requiring more space they moved to RAF Woodhall Spa where there is a memorial to the squadron.  Woodhall Spa is only a short drive north of Coningsby so we nipped up there, directly across the road from the memorial site is a couple of great cafe’s, perfect for a little bite to eat and a coffee.

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This was our day out last week, packed with great history and company……

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WWII (ALG’s) Advance Landing Grounds

Watch this in video format: https://youtu.be/3Nd5V7sit3g

 

Following in the footsteps of both British and American Air force engineers and the construction of these vital temporary air-strips during WWII.

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The Background Stuff

ALG’s were temporary advance landing strips which were constructed by allied forces before and after the D Day landings,  Initially in the UK and then in Europe from the 6th June 1944 and continued to be used right up to 7th May 1945.

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The RAF Airfield Construction Service Engineers were some of the first to land at Normandy on D Day.  Their mission was to construct forward operating airfields (ALG’s) which resulted in several hundred been built or rehabilitated by them between 1944 to 1945.

These temporary airstrips were used by the air force to support the advancing ground armies.  As soon as the front line moved out of reach for the aircraft they simply built new ALG’s closer to the ground forces leaving other ones in the rear for support use such as casualty evacuation, supply and personnel drops and many other supplies.

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None of these temporary airstrips were given names, instead they used coded letters and numbers to identify there locations.

In the UK prior to D Day they used (AAF) and then numbers from AAF-101 to AAF-925 to identify airstrips around the country.

Then after D Day in Europe American airstrips used A-, Y- or R- prefix’s and numbers from 1 to 99.  “A” & “Y” airstrips were mainly in France, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany whilst “R” coded airstrips were usually found or located in occupied Germany.

British airstrips in Europe used “B” with numbers ranging from 1 to 99.

Construction Materials

Sommerfeld Tracking

ALG’s built in the UK were built using somerfeld tracking which is a form of stiffed steel wire mesh.

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Square- Mesh Track (SMT)

SMT was used in the first few weeks after the Normandy landings.  It was developed by the British and composed of heavy wire joined in three inch squares, it was lightweight and easy to work with, a landing strip for fighter planes could be laid like a carpet in under seven days.

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Shortly after the first airstrips were completed using (SMT) the army aviation engineers started using (PBS) which again was light weight and easy to transport and use.  It also didn’t produce dust clouds unlike that of (SMT) airstrips.  It consisted of an asphalt-impregnated jute which came in 300 foot rolls and was between 36 to 43 inches wide.  It was laid by overlapping layers and sometimes even laid on top of (SMT’s).

Pierced Steel Plank (PSP)

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This material provided an all weather airstrip and could be used by light bombers.  This material came in ten (10) foot long (3m) by 15 inch wide (380mm) steel planks which were joined together and laid perpendicular to the line of flight.  It was heavy though which limited its use and as it was steel there was a limited supply during the cause of the war, construction of an airstrip in this material could take up to a month.

Airstrip Types

In Europe during WWII they used five different types of airstrips.

Emergency Landing Strip (ELS)

A rough graded strip approximately 2000 feet long and was used for emergency belly landing’s of damaged aircraft.

Supply & Evacuation Strip (S&E)

A rough graded strip close to the front lines and used by C-47’s to transport casualties to the rear as well as supplying munitions and supplies to the front line.

Re-fuelling & Re-arming Strip (R&R)

Used to re-fuel and re-arm aircraft instead of them having to fly back to home base.  These strips would when possible be sited so that they could be expanded into an ALG at a later date if required.

Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG)

These strips were constructed from scratch and usually with a view to developing them into long period use for many different aircraft and use.

Tactical Air Depots (TAD)

Several ALG’s were expanded into this type of strip with the addition of hangers, shops, dispersal hard stands, roads and other facilities.

Below is a silent film from IWM archives showing the ALG in Newchurch being used.

 

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