RAF Scampton, just north of Lincoln, in the heart of Lincolnshire, plays an important role in the protection of British skies as the home of No 1 Air Control Centre.
Originally named Home Defence Flight Station Brattleby, an airbase was opened on the site of the current RAF Scampton in late 1916 to support the British armed forces in the First World War.
Since that point RAF Scampton has had a rich and varied history. It was the base for 617 Squadron during the Second World War, who were more famously known as the Dam Busters, inspiration for the 1955 film of the same name. The airbase is also home to one of the United Kingdom’s post-war nuclear deterrents, known as the Blue Steel Missile.
As well as being an active RAF base, Scampton also plays host to The RAF Scampton Heritage Centre, a small museum that shows the story of the station throughout the years. Key exhibitions include the famous Dam Buster raids, heritage from both world wars, as well as covering aspects of service life on the base from the 1960’s onwards.
Scampton’s Heritage Centre is run by a small team of volunteers and is open throughout the year, trying to be accessible most weekdays. There are guided tours which usually run between 11am and 3pm although other times and occasional weekend visits are possible by special arrangement. Visitors are escorted throughout their time on the base, and it is the case that the tours can last for a couple of hours.
A highlight of the tour is the original office of Guy Gibson, Commanding Officer of the Dam Busters, which has been made to look exactly as it was back in 1943, as well as the grave of Gibson’s dog, who fans will also remember plays a key role in the film.
Originally referred to as “Squadron X”, 617 Squadron was formed at Scampton in order to carry out Operation Chastise, which looked to bomb key German dams that caused havoc in the Ruhr valley. The subsequent raids would go down as some of the most famous and widely remembered in the history of the Royal Air Force.
Since the temporary closure of RAF Scampton in 1996, the base has provided a home for the RAF Aerobatic Team (RAFAT) more commonly known as the Red Arrows. Some private aviation companies, such as Hawker Hunter Aviation, have a temporary presence on site, for the maintenance and storage of aircraft.
Roughly 600 personnel work at RAF Scampton, including service personnel, contractors and civil servants.
The location of the base is located roughly on the Roman Road known as Ermine Street. The use of the historic route through Lincolnshire was useful for Pilot Training purposes in WWI. The views along the road to Lincoln Cathedral also helped as a way marker for pilots returning to the base to locate the airfield. The relationship between Ermine Street and RAF Scampton has been immortalised in the Station’s badge. It features a longbow bowstring, bent to show how the lengthened runway affected the shape of Ermine Street, with the arrow representing the runway itself.
The main role of the base is now primarily training, but it can also provide defence coverage following any technical disruptions at the sister site of RAF Boulmer in Northumberland. Another responsibility of the station is the provision of deployable command and control capability, with specialised equipment available to be distributed worldwide at a moment’s notice, thereby delivering similar capability to that of the permanent Control and Reporting Centres.
Although currently active, the base is scheduled for closure in 2022, with the Red Arrows being rehomed in nearby RAF Waddington, just the other side of Lincoln, to the city’s south.