Initially a flying training base of the Royal Flying Corps in 1916, the Station closed in 1920, re-opening in 1926 as a bomber base, a role that continued until 1984 with the withdrawal from service of the last Vulcan aircraft.
The Vulcan aircraft was sent to 1 Group at Scampton and Waddington in Lincolnshire. Both bases were re-constructed between 1954-56 to accept them, including just one runway as opposed to the wartime triangle. Vulcans were designed to deliver Britain's 'H' bombs and so required local storage facilities. 92MU moved to Faldingworth from Wickenby in 1956-57 and resembled a high security prison.
During World War II Lincolnshire was the home to most of the faces of the RAF - bombing, day/night fighting, coastal patrol, training and transport. A total of 45 airfileds were utilised roughly 30,000 acres of land, which is 1.5% of the total area of the county. Around 80,000 personel were stationed there, which had a great impact upon a previously rural county.
RAF Waddington is located atop the Lincolnshire heights, five miles south of the city of Lincoln. The first military flying took place at Waddington In November 1916 when the Station opened as a flying training unit, a role it continued until the end of the First World War.
The inter-war years saw many changes at the Station and many different aircraft types. In December 1937 No 44 Squadron became the first Waddington Squadron to re-equip with the Bristol Blenheim Mk1, which were in turn superceded by the Handley Pace Hampden bomber. During the Battle of Britain, Hampdens from Waddington assisted in bombing the invasion barges anchored in the English Channel ports. As a result of heavy losses on daylight operations, the Waddington squadrons reverted to night bombing; a task that was to occupy them for the next four years. The Hampden was replaced by the Avro Manchester which was in turn superceded by the vastly superior Avro Lancaster. These aircraft first equipped No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron on Christmas Eve 1941. It was this Squadron that Sqn Ldr John Nettleton earned the Victoria Cross while leading an operation to attack a U-Boat engine factory.
The post-war years once more reduced Waddington to a "care and maintenance" basis. The purpose of this was to bring the Station up to Class 1 status in readiness for the entry into service of the V bombers. The runway was extended from 6000 feet to just over 9000 feet and many specialist buildings were added. In June 1954 Her Majesty the Queen gave her approval for the RAF Waddington station badge, which incorporates the towers of Lincoln Cathedral rising through the early morning mist - a sight never to be forgotten by the returning bomber crews of the Second World War. Following the granting of the Freedom of the City of Lincoln, all Waddington aircraft display the City's coat of arms. On 1 June 1955 the Station re-opened as a Master Diversion Airfield and No's 21 and 27 Sqns moved in with their Canberra bombers. In May 1957 No 83 Sqn became the first operational Vulcan Sqn at Waddington. The Waddington Vulcan Force was completed in August 1961 and comprised of numbers 44, 50 and 101Sqns.
With the advent of the Tornado bomber, the Vulcan squadrons were gradually phased out, the Waddington squadrons being the last to go. This whole plan was completely disrupted by the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982. By this time Waddington was the only remaining Vulcan base and on 9 April the order was received to prepare for operations against the invading Argentinian forces. Crews were detailed to commence training for possible conventional bombing attacks, something that they had not trained for in many years. As well as carrying out the longest bombing missions in the history of air warfare, the Vulcans were quickly modified to carry anti-radar missiles, with which they carried out attacks against Argentinian land-based radars in and around the capital, Port Stanley. When the Falklands war ended, the RAF found that it needed all its available tanker aircraft to support the air bridge between Ascension island and the Falklands. It was decided therefore to modify 6 Vulcans for the in-flight refueling role and use them to augment the tanker support of the UK based air defence fighters. This was duly achieved in record time and No 50 Squadron continued in this role until its long postponed disbandment took place at Waddington on 31 March 1984.
At the same time as the Station was planning the disbandment ceremony a small unit which had only recently arrived at the base was planning the introduction of Waddington's new mount, the Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Nimrod. As is now a matter of history, the project was eventually discontinued after many trials and tribulations and the RAF elected to purchase the Boeing E-3 AWACS aircraft to meet it's airborne early warning requirements. This type has been operating from Waddington since 1985 when the NATO squadrons based in Germany commenced operational deployments to the Lincoln base.
RAF Waddington has had a long and distinguished history and this looks set to continue. With the closure of RAF Wyton in 1995, RAF Waddington also became home to the assets previously based at Wyton. These include No 51 Squadron, operating the Nimrod Reconnaissance aircraft, EWAD (The Electronic Warfare Analytical Department) and EWOSE (The Electronic Warfare operational Support Establishment). The addition of these units, together with British Aerospace's ACMI (Air Combat Maneuvering Installation) hosted also at Waddington, undoubtedly makes it one of the busiest and most diverse stations around.
Waddington now fulfills two main roles in the RAF, that of electronic reconnaissance, carried out by the 3 Nimrod R1s of 51 Squadron, and Airborne Early Warning, provided by the 6 Sentry AEW1s of Nos 8 Squadron and 23 Squadrons. Ground and Air Defence of the airfield is provided by No 26 Squadron RAF Regiment with its Rapier FSC Surface-to-Air missiles, and No 2503 (County of Lincoln) RAuxAF Field Squadron. NATO aircraft of many nations use Waddington as a temporary base during exercises in the North Sea air combat range.
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