History of Birchwood Nature Park
RAF Skellingthorpe (1941 - 1945)
As part of 5 Group Bomber command, RAF Skellingthorpe played a major part in the Second World War. The two main squadrons based there were:
50 Squadron (Motto: From Defense to Attack)
61 Squadron (Motto: Thundering through the clear air)
Story of the Airfield
The airfield was newly built in 1941. The first squadron to arrive in November 1941 was 50 squadron flying Handley Page Hamden’s.
They were accompanied by 455 squadron Royal Australian Air force also flying Hamden’s. This squadron then moves to RAF Wigsley after a short stay.
In April 1942, the Hamden’s were replaced by Avro Manchester’s; these were not a popular aircraft as they had a tendency to catch fire!
RAF Skellingthorpe was closed in June 1942 to allow for runway extensions and repairs, with 50 Squadron returning in September 1942, equipped with Avro Lancaster’s. They were joined by No 97 and 106 Conversion Flights, but these soon moved to RAF Swinderby.
No 1485 Bomber Gunnery Flight also came and stayed until November 1943. They operated Miles Martinet and Vickers Wellington aircraft. As they left, they were replaced by 61 Squadron operating Avro Lancaster’s. 61 Squadron moved to RAF Coningsby in February 1944, so that accommodation could be built on the Doddington Road side of the airfield.
50 and 61 Squadrons operated together until the end of the hostilities.
Whilst the ground crews of both squadrons worked hard to keep their aircraft flying, a detachment of 58 Maintenance Unit worked in the hangars carrying out major repairs and maintenance on the Lancaster’s.
In mid 1945, two new squadrons arrived; no's 463 and 619. They were training for operations with Tiger Force in the Far East, but with the end of hostilities, these squadrons were disbanded.
50 & 61 Squadrons
50 Squadron took part in the first 1000 bomber raid on Cologne on 30/31 May 1942.
One plane was piloted by Flying Office Leslie Manser. His Manchester was hit but he remained at the controls to allow his crew to escape by parachute. Three of his crew evaded the enemy and escaped to Britain to fly and fight again. For this act of courage, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
The Leslie Manser School has been built on part of the airfield and his name will not be forgotten.
50 Squadron completed the most overall sorties in Bomber Command and dropped the greatest tonnage of bombs (approx. 21000 tonnes). This squadron lost 1002 aircrew and ground staff during the war.
61 Squadron carried out more raids than any other Lancaster Squadron and completed the second highest number of bombing raids in Bomber Command "heavy" squadron. 974 aircrew and ground staff from this squadron were lost during the war.
Casualties were high as there was only a 1 in 3 chance of aircrew completing a tour of 30 operations over enemy territory, but all these young men were still very keen to fight for us to hasten the end of the war.
There is a lasting bond between the surviving members of these two squadrons and a memorial has been erected at Birchwood Leisure Centre. A service is held there each June and on Remembrance Sunday to remember their lost colleagues.
Other reminders of the airfield are the Lancaster County Infant School and in the Church of St. Luke and St. Martin, there is a wooden bookcase presented by the 50 and 61 Squadrons Associates.
As you walk through Birchwood Nature Park, which occupies a small part of the airfield, just give a thought to all those young men who flew from this airfield - some of them "Failed to return".
The Black Swan public house was named after the R/T call sign of the airfield.
History of the Site written by Gerry Collins
Hello! To all the visitors of
Birchwood Wood Nature Park!
Let me introduce myself,
I am Dave Walker
Volunteer Coordination Officer
T 01522 873458
City Of Lincoln Council.
Hartsholme Country Park,
My first article...
Established in 1994 Birchwood Nature Park is located on
the former site of the second world war Bomber Command base, RAF
site is quite small for a valuable nature park however It contains several
notable plant and animal species. Being linked to hospital plantation and also
the roadside habitat of the Lincoln bypass increases the parks foot print
considerably, these corridors allow animals and plants the opportunity to
spread and recolonise into areas which would otherwise be devoid of life.
site has had little intervention during its time as a nature park which has
resulted in the formation of a lot of successional changes. These changes are
purely natural but have the disadvantage of returning open grassland into
scrubland and then eventually into climax vegetation, which in this case would
be pure woodland.
of the trees in the woodland parcels have naturally regenerated and thus many areas comprise of trees that are
of the same age and size, this reduces the biodiversity value of these areas as
in effect it becomes a monoculture) with little habitat variation; a good
metaphor to use is that they appear as a field of corn.
It is important to retain a
mosaic of habitats on site; thus an updated management plan ensures that the
range of vegetation on site remains varied and is managed to allow for maximum
you would like to be involved in the management of this site we are currently
looking for volunteers who would act as wildlife custodians by undertaking
is carefully organised to avoid disturbing wildlife on site, and the work isn’t
aimed purely at the physical side of conservation management as there is also a
large emphasis placed on the value of education. Individuals who volunteer for
positions within Lincolns Green Spaces therefore have the opportunity to learn
up to date practical techniques as well as the ability to gain deeper insights
into the methodology used to influence management.
Below are images of before and
after volunteer involvement in grassland management at the site...