RAF East Kirkby opened on the 20th August 1943 as a Bomber command Station and is situated in Lincolnshire (not far from RAF Coningsby).
The station closed in 1958 and is now home to an air museum (see Links page) whose prize exhibit is the Lancaster Bomber "Just Jane". The aircraft was purchased by the Panton brothers from a museum in Blackpool where it had been a static exhibit. Now fully restored, in memory of their brother who was killed on a Bomber Command mission, the Lancaster has been given a taxi licence and frequently makes runs for visitors.
East Kirkby consisted of 3 concrete runways and 7 hangars and was the home of :-
- 57 squadron (5 Group) 27 August 1943 - 27 November 1945
- 630 Squadron (5 Group) 15 November 1943 - 18 July 1945
The dispersed camp north of East Kirkby village consisted of six domestic, two WAAF, two communal and a sick quarters site, providing for a maximum of 1,965 males and 486 females.
Shortly before the end of the war - on April 17 - a major accident occurred at East Kirkby when a l,OOO lb bomb exploded during “bombing-up” in the darkness. This set off the remainder of the 57 Squadron Lancaster's load. There were 17 casualties, which included including four dead and 6 Lancasters were declared Category E (beyond repair), another 14 suffered some form of damage. The nearby hangar was also badly damaged.
The last raid from East Kirkby was flown on April 25, 1945. In total, 212 operations were carried out from this airfield from which 121 Lancasters failed to return. Another 29 were lost in operational crashes/accidents. No. 630 Squadron disbanded in July that year and its place was taken by No. 460 Squadron (Australian) from Binbrook. This squadron joined No. 57 for transfer to the Far East as part of Tiger Force but the dropping of the atomic bombs expedited Japan's surrender.
Placed at East Kirkby, visitors will find a memorial stone for those who served in both 630 and 57 squadrons during the war. The whole of the old airfield is aimed at remembering those who unselfishly put their lives on the line for all that we have today. Not a trivial thing!!
Many thanks to Amanda Burrows (daughter of Len "Barney" Barnes of ND530) for the photograph!