is a former World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
Royal Air Force flying station in Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...
. The airfield is located south west of Folkingham
Folkingham is a village and civil parish at the northern edge of the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England. It lies on the A15 road of north of Bourne. The civil parish and ecclesiastical parish have the same boundaries. The 2001 census recorded a population of 729.-Village:The village...
and due east of Lenton
Lenton is a small hamlet in the district of South Kesteven, in Lincolnshire, England. It is situated roughly 9.5 miles south east of Grantham, and is part of the Lenton, Keisby and Osgodby parish.-Village:...
village, approximately 29 miles (46.7 km) due south of county town Lincoln and 112 miles (180.2 km) north of London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...
Opened in 1940, it was used by both the Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...
and United States Army Air Force. During the war it was used primarily as a troop carrier airfield for airborne units and as a subsidiary training depot of the newly formed Royal Air Force Regiment. After the war it was placed on care and maintenance during 1947 when the RAF Regiment relocated to RAF Catterick
RAF Catterick is a former Royal Air Force airfield located near Catterick, North Yorkshire in England.-History:Catterick airfield first opened in 1914 as a Royal Flying Corps aerodrome with the role of training pilots and to assist in the defence of the North East of England...
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the RAF Bomber Command used Folkingham as a PGM-17 Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) base.
Today the remains of the airfield are located on private property being used as agricultural fields, with the main north-south runway acting as hardstanding for hundreds of scrapped vehicles.
Although surveyed and approved as suitable for the construction of a bomber airfield, the initial Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...
use of the site began in 1940 when it was set up as a decoy
A decoy is usually a person, device or event meant as a distraction, to conceal what an individual or a group might be looking for. Decoys have been used for centuries most notably in game hunting, but also in wartime and in the committing or resolving of crimes.-Duck decoy:The term duck decoy may...
for RAF Grantham. The intention was to make it look like a real airfield so that it would draw aerial attacks which might otherwise be made on active stations. As such it attracted the attention of the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....
on at least three occasions. The terrain of Folkingham, however, was not optimum for a large airfield.
Not until early 1943 did Messrs Lehane. MacKenzies & Shand arrive with directions to build an airfield to the Class A airfield
Class A airfields were military installations originally built for the Royal Air Force in the Second World War. Several were transferred to the U.S...
specification by the Air Ministry, the main feature of which was a set of three converging runways each containing a concrete runway for takeoffs and landings, optimally placed at 60 degree angles to each other in a triangular pattern.
The airfield's main runway was 6,000 ft in length with two 4,200 ft auxiliaries, aligned 01/19, 07/25 and 13/31 respectively. The 50 hardstands were all loop type connecting to an enclosing perimeter track, of a standard width of 50 feet.
The ground support station was constructed largely of Nissen hut
A Nissen hut is a prefabricated steel structure made from a half-cylindrical skin of corrugated steel, a variant of which was used extensively during World War II.-Description:...
s of various sizes. The support station was where the group and ground station commanders and squadron headquarters and orderly rooms were located. Also on the ground station were where the mess facilities; chapel; hospital; mission briefing and debriefing; armory; life support; parachute rigging; supply warehouses; station and airfield security; motor pool and the other ground support functions necessary to support the air operations of the group. These facilities were all connected by a network of single path support roads.
The technical site, connected to the ground station and airfield consisted of at least two T-2 type hangars and various organizational, component and field maintenance shops along with the crew chiefs and other personnel necessary to keep the aircraft airworthy and to quickly repair light and moderate battle damage. Aircraft severely damaged in combat were sent to repair depots for major structural repair. The Ammunition dump was located on the southeast side of the airfield, outside of the perimeter track surrounded by large dirt mounds and concrete storage pens.
Various domestic accommodation sites were constructed dispersed away from the airfield, but within a mile or so of the technical support site, also using clusters of Maycrete or Nissen huts built by Bovis Ltd. The Huts were either connected, set up end-to-end or built singly and made of prefabricated corrugated iron with a door and two small windows at the front and back. They provided accommodation for 2,189 personnel, including communal and a sick quarters.
During airborne operations, when large numbers of airborne parachutists were moved to the airfield, tents would be pitched on the interior grass regions of the airfield, or wherever space could be found to accommodate the airborne forces for the short time they would be bivouacked at the station prior to the operation.
The work took most of the year, during which time the new station had been allocated to the United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....
Ninth Air Force
The Ninth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force's Air Combat Command . It is headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina....
Troop Carrier Command.
Folkingham was known as USAAF Station AAF-484
for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. It's USAAF Station Code was "FK".
313th Troop Carrier Group
US personnel started to arrive in January 1944 to prepare for the 313th Troop Carrier Group
The 313th Tactical Airlift Wing is an inactive United States Air Force organization. Its last assignment was with Tactical Air Command, assigned to the 834th Air Division, being stationed at Forbes Air Force Base, Kansas...
scheduled to transfer from Trapani/Milo Airfield, Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...
. On 5 February it opened as a USAAF IX Troop Carrier Command
The IX Troop Carrier Command is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with the Ninth Air Force, based at Greenville Army Air Base, South Carolina. It was inactivated on 31 March 1946...
station flying four squadrons of C-47
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota is a military transport aircraft that was developed from the Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War II and remained in front line operations through the 1950s with a few remaining in operation to this day.-Design and...
s. Operational squadrons and fuselage codes were:
- 29th Troop Carrier Squadron (Z7)
- 47th Troop Carrier Squadron (N3)
- 48th Troop Carrier Squadron
The 48th Airlift Squadron is part of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. It operates C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, conducting pilot and loadmaster training for airlift and airdrop operations.-History:...
- 49th Troop Carrier Squadron (H2)
The 313th TCG was part of the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing.
The first of its squadrons, the 29th TCS, did not fly in until the 24th. The 47th TCS followed on March 1 and the 48th and 49th TCSs on March 3 and 5 respectively. At this time, the squadrons had an authorised strength of 18 C-47s, although during the spring and early summer this was increased to 24.
In the early hours of 6 June, seventy-two C-47s and C-53s of the 313th were sent to drop paratroops of the 82nd Airborne Division 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment near Picauville France and they carried out a re-supply mission next day. From these operations, four C-47s were missing and many damaged by light flak.
In between training with paratroops, the group `trucked' supplies and fuel to Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...
but in September it was alerted for another airborne operation. The 313th was selected to make the first drop in Holland
after the Pathfinders, the first serial to arrive (it had overtaken the lead one) consisting of 43 C-47s and two C-53s dropping some 740 American paratroops of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and 260 parapacks at Groesbeck, while the second serial of 45 aircraft, some five minutes behind, dropped some 756 paratroops and 226 parapacks. Two C-47s with the first serial were shot down by flak and 11 damaged but the second serial escaped with only light damage to three aircraft.
Next day the 313th launched 79 C-47s and three C-53s carrying the British Parachute Regiment from Folkingham, all towing CG-4A gliders. They had been billeted in Bourne
Bourne is a market town and civil parish on the western edge of the Fens, in the District of South Kesteven in southern Lincolnshire, England.-The town:...
and at Grimsthorpe Castle
Grimsthorpe Castle is a country house in Lincolnshire, England four miles north-west of Bourne on the A151. It lies within a 3,000 acre park of rolling pastures, lakes, and woodland landscaped by Capability Brown...
, ten and seven kilometres away respectively. Again plenty of ground fire was encountered and one C-47 failed to return.
The 313th's final combat mission for Operation "Market" was on the 23rd when, again towing gliders, two serials of 49 aircraft each carried in reinforcements. Only one C-47 was lost and two of the gliders were shot down. Then, on 26 September, thirty-six C-47s carried in troops and supplies to the landing strip Si Keent, near Grave.
The group was scheduled to receive 200 of the roomy Curtiss C-46 Commando transports in the autumn of 1944, although the first did not arrive until late December. The 313th began conversion at the end of January 1945 and had 90 on hand by March. The group also conducted trials with the heavy CO-13A assault glider which arrived at Folkingham.
However, at the end of February, the group began its move to a new base in France at Achiet (Advanced Landing Ground
Advanced Landing Ground was the term given to the temporary advance airfields constructed by the Allies during World War II in support of the invasion of Europe...
B-54), although the last elements did not leave until well into March. It appears there was some apprehension in the group about conditions they would encounter in France as furniture and many base fittings - even coal - were shipped across the Channel in its aircraft!
RAF Maintenance Command
Folkingham was retained by the USAAF although most personnel had departed by mid-April. The base was then turned over to RAF Maintenance Command
RAF Maintenance Command was the Royal Air Force command which was responsible for controlling maintenance for all the United Kingdom-based units from formation on 1 April 1938 until being renamed RAF Support Command on 31 August 1973.- History :...
and little flying took place thereafter. RAF Technical training was carried out until 1946 and the station was closed in 1947.
With the facility released from military control, the runway was used for development testing of the new BRM 16 cylinder 1.5 litre racing car which was presented before the press for the first time on 15 December 1949, at Folkingham airfield. A BRM engine test house and other facilities were later built there.
Thor Missile use by RAF Bomber Command
RAF Folkingham later served as a post-war PGM-17 Thor
Thor was the first operational ballistic missile of the U.S. Air Force . Named after the Norse god of thunder, it was deployed in the United Kingdom between 1959 and September 1963 as an intermediate range ballistic missile with thermonuclear warheads. Thor was in height and in diameter. It was...
Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) base with 3 IRBM launchers operated by No. 223 (Strategic Missile) Squadron RAF
No. 223 Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Air Force. Originally formed as part of the Royal Naval Air Service , the Squadron flew in both World Wars.-History:...
. With the reactivation of the site in late 1958, BRM was relocated to RAF North Witham
RAF Station North Witham is a former World War II airfield in Lincolnshire, England. The airfield is located in Twyford Wood, approximately east-southeast of Cotgrave; about north-northwest of London...
. Construction began on three Thor launch pads that became operational on 1 December 1959. The three Thor missiles at Folkingham were placed on 15 minute readiness for firing, fuelled and ready for launch, during the Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War...
in November 1962.
The Thor IRBM deployment in the United Kingdom was nothing more than an interim measure and was scheduled to terminate in November 1964. However it was actually terminated in 1963, when the USAF had deployed its first ICBM (Inter continental ballistic missile), the Atlas. At the same time, the RAF's V Force of Valiant, Victor and Vulcan bombers had reached a new peak of effectiveness with its own deployment of the Blue Steel stand off weapon, which equipped several squadrons, and the Thor squadrons were disbanded, with 223 disbanding on 23 August 1963.
On the closure of the Thor site, British Racing Motors
British Racing Motors was a British Formula One motor racing team. Founded in 1945, it raced from 1950 to 1977, competing in 197 Grands Prix and winning 17. In 1962, BRM won the Constructors' Title. At the same time, its driver, Graham Hill became World Champion...
(BRM) moved back and its later cars were tested at Folkingham, but only remained for a few years. In the mid 1960s the testing track closed and the airfield was sold off to agricultural interests.
Today the airfield is largely used by agriculture. Most of the runways and perimeter track were removed after the sale of the airfield by BRM for hardcore aggregate, with some single-lane agricultural roads remaining that generally outlines the former concreted area. No evidence of the technical site located to the northeast of the airfield remains. Evidence of some dispersed personnel sites appear to the north and northeast of the airfield, with some abandoned concrete roads now in abandoned, overgrown areas.
The southern half of the airfield partially remains containing several single and double-loop hardstands, along with a full-width length of the 00-18 north-south main runway. The runway is now used for storage of uncounted numbers of abandoned vehicles, lorries and other construction or other equipment that in aerial photography appear to be generally rusted hulks. The abandoned hulks also line the sides of the remaining perimeter track along with several of the old dispersal loops. The wartime bomb dump exists, although it is now a forested area still containing concrete disused bomb stores, evidence of which can be seen by the pattern of vegetation that has overgrown and reclaimed the facility.
The remains of the three postwar Thor missile pads are the most prominent military features remaining on the airfield, their heavily reinforced concrete areas making them difficult and uneconomical to remove for the small amount of aggregate that can be reclaimed from them.