Grantham to celebrate 100 years of the RAF by commemorating D-Day, Arnhem and Dambusters

Airmen in World War One
Airmen in World War One
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Aviation milestones from the Second World War will be commemorated in the Grantham area this year.

D-Day, Arnhem and the Dambusters Raid are part of a summer programme co-ordinated by South Kesteven District Council to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Air Force.

The former Bomber Command HQ at St Vincent’s Hall in Grantham, now a family home, will be hosting free tours for visitors to see an extensive private collection of wartime memorabilia, including medals, paintings and commendations.

Tours begin on May 16, exactly 75 years since Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron took off on the famous ‘Dams Raid’, a mission that changed the course of the war. It’s the first of four events hosted by the hall’s current owner, Coun Graham Jeal, and the tour will explain the central role the house played and how Sir Arthur Bomber Harris and bouncing bomb inventor Barnes Wallis waited at St Vincent’s to hear the outcome of the raid.

SKDC says the RAF100 programme illustrates its pride in the rich aviation heritage across the district, which also includes the village church at Caythorpe, now a shrine to the airborne forces.

The Leader of the Council, Coun Matthew Lee, described the programme as a fitting tribute to the district’s past and present links to the RAF. He said: “Aviation heritage is an important part of our history and heritage. Our association with the RAF runs from the early days of the Royal Flying Corps training at RAF Harlaxton, through both World Wars to the present day.

“But it is World War II that sealed the county’s association with the RAF and its reputation as ‘Bomber County’. Many stories emanate from our district and we are delighted to join the RAF’s commemorations and help remember the British, Allied and American airman that were based in our district and played such an important part in the war.”

On June 5, a free guided walk around Twyford Wood near Colsterworth, formerly RAF North Witham, will hark back to allied action.

On the eve of D-Day, American pathfinder paratroopers took off for Europe in waves of Dakota aircraft to place and activate radio beacons at drop zones behind enemy lines in advance of the main offensive, cheered by a last-minute visit from General Dwight Eisenhower.

In September, a free countryside walk finishes at St Vincent’s Church in Caythorpe for a talk on how the church and village became the spiritual home for 216 Parachute Signal Squadron.

Grantham Museum is staging three related exhibitions, the first hosting a ‘Heroines of the Home Front’ Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire exhibition, which opens on May 2.

‘Barnes-Wallis - One Man, Many Ideas’ follows, opening on May 24 and in August a third exhibition pays tribute to Captain Albert Ball, a pupil at Grantham’s King’s School before his decorations as a World War One air ace.

Harlaxton Manor’s Open Day on July 29 includes a wartime theme, commemorating its Royal Flying Corps and airborne forces connections and the annual Model Aircraft Flying Championships over August Bank Holiday weekend also has an RAF100 theme.

More details are available on Tickets for St Vincent’s Hall and the aviation walks at Grantham Guildhall Box Office can be booked by calling 01476 406158 or online at

Full programme:

Wednesday, May 16:

Guided Tour of St Vincent’s Hall, Grantham. Former Bomber Command HQ and Ops Centre Dambusters’ Raid of 1943 on 75th anniversary of the raid. 11am for 11.30am. FREE event. Tickets:, 01476 406158.

May 2 - May 21

Heroines of the Home Front. Exhibition Grantham Museum. Open Thursday – Sunday. (Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire).

Thursday, May 24 – Sunday, September 23

‘Barnes-Wallis - One Man, Many Ideas’. Exhibition Grantham Museum. Open Thursday – Sunday.

Tuesday, June 5

D-Day walk. RAF North Witham (Twyford Wood near Colsterworth). 5.30pm. Commemorating USAAF 101st Airborne Pathfinders’ pre D-Day mission. FREE event. Tickets, 01476 406158.

Wednesday, June 13

Guided Tour of St Vincent’s Hall, Grantham. 11am for 11.30am. FREE event. Tickets, 01476 406158.

Monday, July 16

Guided Tour of St Vincent’s Hall, Grantham. 11am for 11.30am. FREE event. Tickets, 01476 406158

Sunday 29 July

Harlaxton Manor Open Day. Includes RAF100 theme.

Tuesday, August 7 – September

Captain Albert Ball VC DSO, WWl flying ace. Attended King’s School Grantham. Exhibition at Grantham Museum. Open Thursday – Sunday.

August 25-27 (Bank Holiday)

National Model Flying Championships, RAF Barkston Heath. RAF100 theme with vintage aircraft.

Saturday, September 8

Caythorpe walk, 9.30am for 10am start. Concludes at St Vincent’s Church, spiritual home of WWll airborne forces and 216 Squadron, for refreshments. Talk at 11.30am. FREE event. Tickets, 01476 406158

Wednesday, Sept 19

Guided Tour of St Vincent’s Hall, Grantham. 11am for 11.30am. FREE event. Tickets, 01476 406158