Lancaster Bomber

RAF Scampton Heritage Centre: At War

Scampton at War

With the outbreak of war, the most frequent operational commitment was mine-laying the approaches to the enemy's ports. The first two Bomber Command VCs went to men from the Scampton squadrons.

On August 12, 1940, Flight Lieutenant Roderick Learoyd's No. 49 Squadron Hampden was badly damaged by ground fire when he pressed home a low-level attack on the Dortmund-Ems canal. The award was made for his conduct in this action and bringing the badly mauled bomber safely back to base.

Sergeant Hannah was a wireless operator/ air gunner in a No. 83 Squadron Hampden, which was set on fire from a direct flak hit in the bomb-bay while attacking invasion barges on September 15, 1940. Sergeant Hannah could have baled out but he stayed and fought the fire, which enabled his Canadian pilot to fly the crippled machine back to Scampton. Sergeant Hannah was the youngest recipient of the VC for aerial operations during the war.

On March 15, 1943, a bomb accidentally released from a No. 57 Squadron Lancaster, detonated and destroyed this and four visiting No. 50 Squadron aircraft parked nearby. Six days later No. 617 Squadron was formed at Scampton for the task of attacking Ruhr dams with the Barnes Wallis's rotating mine. The raid, carried out on the night of May 16/17, 1943, brought No. 617's leader, the legendary Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the station's third Victoria Cross.

At the end of August 1943, No. 57 Squadron moved to East Kirkby and No. 617 to Coningsby so that Scampton could be upgraded with concrete runways. In the early war years, 36 asphalt hard standings had been built round the airfield and several of these were lost when the hard runways were added. These were 05-23 at 2,000 yards, O119 at 1,500 yards and 11-29 at 1,400 yards. A total of 11 loop hard standings were laid down along the perimeter track to replace those lost or isolated by the construction. New bomb stores were fashioned on land north of the north-west corner of the airfield and a T2 erected nearby. Total accommodation available at Scampton at this time was given as 1,844 males and 268 females.

Work was not completed until the summer when a fighter affiliation unit, No. 1690 Flight, moved in to conduct exercises for bomber defence training. As of October 1944, Scampton passed to No. 1 Group which immediately moved in the newly re-formed No. 153 Squadron with its Lancasters. No. 1687 Bomber Defence Training Flight took up station in December 1944 to perform much the same duties for No. 1 Group as No. 1690 BDT Flt had done for No. 5 Group. At the end of March this unit moved to Hemswell and Scampton once again had two operational bomber squadrons when No. 625 arrived from Kelstern. The two Lancaster squadrons undertook their last bombing raids from Scampton on April 25, 1945 when they mounted an attack on Hitler's mountain retreat at Obersalzberg. During the war the total losses of all squadrons operating from Scampton was 266 aircraft. Of these 155 were Hampdens, 15 Manchesters and 95 Lancasters.

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