An ambitious new education site is to be built at RAF Barkston Heath to commemorate the human sacrifice demanded by World War II and the pivotal role played by South Lincolnshire airfields.
With the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June, the site will provide a permanent reminder of the two major airborne offensives of 1944 - Operation Overlord (D-Day) and Operation Market Garden (Arnhem).
Both saw Grantham and its surrounding airfields buzzing with allied forces’ activity in preparation to repel the German threat, all to be celebrated in a new ‘Heritage of Flight’ wartime aviation publication from South Kesteven District Council.
Barkston Heath’s new education site, which will be accessible to the public by prior arrangement, will commemorate the airfield’s involvement with both the Parachute Regiment, 507th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Division Pathfinders and the United States Army Air Force 61st Troop Carrier Group who flew troops to Europe in their C47 aircraft.
It’s a proud heritage that Squadron Sergeant Major Ben Wildblood of 674 Sqn Army Air Corps, RAF Barkston Heath, is determined to see recognised. The former paratrooper turned pilot has enlisted local business support, including supply of a 2.5 tonne central stone pillar but faces a £10,000 fund-raising challenge within a tight timetable to cover engraving and construction.
Ben applying to Lincolnshire’s Military Community Covenant Fund, but is also appealing for businesses and individuals to donate. He said: “We have set a date to unveil the site on Saturday, May 31. We have a Dakota from the Battle of Britain flight booked for a flypast and one way or another we will have everything ready.
“Although Lincolnshire is well known as Bomber County, it also played a huge part in the two most significant Airborne Operations during the Second World War. There is currently no physical representation of RAF Barkston Heath and its airborne involvement in 1944.
“Our site will contribute to this year’s commemorations, particularly for local veterans who cannot make it to Europe, and serve as a poignant educational reminder of the part both serving and non-serving personnel contributed to the war effort.”
Although within the airfield site, it will be accessible to visitors by arrangement. Any funds raised over and above the memorial target will be donated to the associations of the Airborne Forces and Airborne Assault at Duxford.
The 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division flew from RAF Barkston Heath on June 6, 1944, aboard C47 aircraft from 3,14,15 and 59 Squadrons of the 61st Troop Carrying Group USAAF.
Over 1,100 paratroops climbed aboard the 72 aircraft and headed to Drop Zone Tango to take part in the D Day assault.
On the morning of September 17, 1944, Headquarters 1st Airborne Division and 1st Para Batallion deployed from RAF Barkston Heath, also in C47 aircraft of the 61st Troop Carrying Group of the USAAF.
The airfield is still used today to train Army Air Corps Pilots, who, through the Glider Pilot Regiment, share some of the Battle Honours of the Parachute Regiment from World War Two.