Big skies of Lincolnshire commemorate aviation heritage for Dam Busters 70th anniversary

Lincolnshire will be paying tribute to an iconic moment of aviation history when it marks the 70th anniversary of the Dam Busters‟ „Bouncing Bomb‟ raids this May. During World War II Lincolnshire was known as “Bomber County‟ due to the number of bases, 49 in total, dotted around the countryside. And amongst the crews stationed under the “Big Skies” of Lincolnshire was 617 Squadron… better known as the Dam Busters. This May sees the 70th anniversary of one of the war‟s most daring missions, the „bouncing bomb‟ raid that took off from the Squadron‟s Lincolnshire base to target the dams surrounding the Ruhr Valley in 1943. Seventy years on, during the week of 13th to 17th May 2013, Lincolnshire will pay tribute to those gallant airmen with events including a service in Lincoln Cathedral and a gala screening of the famous 1955 Dam Busters movie. Lincolnshire is already a top destination for aviation enthusiasts and those who simply want to remember friends and family who served there during wartime. It is a rich heritage still very much alive today at a host of museums and living memorials, while Lincolnshire‟s skies are home to one of the world‟s greatest air display teams – the RAF Red Arrows. In fact, the Red Arrows are based at RAF Scampton, near Lincoln, the bomber base from which the Dam Busters flew their legendary raid in May 1943. Today Scampton Museum covers the history of the base from 1917 up to the present day. The county is also the only place in Europe where visitors can not only hear the roar of all four Mighty Merlin engines of a Lancaster Bomber… but also take a runway taxy ride on a former wartime airfield at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitor Centre at RAF Coninsgby is a living tribute to all RAF aircrew and ground crew who lost their lives during World War II. It offers a glimpse behind the scenes of remarkable aircraft that continue to fly today – often at major national events, such as the Queen‟s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. In May there will be even more aviation heritage to discover to coincide with the anniversary of the raid, which took place overnight 16-17th May 1943. While there will be ticket-only events to commemorate the anniversary - including a red carpet screening of the 1955 Dam Busters movie plus gala dinner on May 15th and a Service of Commemoration at Lincoln Cathedral on May 17 – there will also be plenty of general access to Dambusters locations too. The remarkable Kinema in the Woods – which will host the gala movie screening – is tucked away in the Edwardian spa town of Woodhall Spa, where 617 Squadron was based from January 1944 to May 1945, and still screens top movie releases as well as nostalgic movie nights. Showing films since 1922, it must be one of the most unusual cinemas in the country. Known as the “Flicks in the Sticks” by hundreds of servicemen who used it during wartime, it is believed to be the UK‟s only full-time cinema still using rear projection.

The nearby Petwood Hotel, which served as the 617‟s Officers‟ Mess, today boasts the Squadron Bar, packed with Dam Busters memorabilia commemorating Wing Commander Guy Gibson and his daring squadron. And after the Service of Commemoration on May 17th a Lancaster Bomber will stage a spectacular flypast over the Cathedral, which often served as a „welcome home‟ beacon guiding aircrew back to safety. The Cathedral‟s Airmen’s Chapel also houses two Memorial Books commemorating the names of 25,611 Bomber Command personnel killed in action on missions originating from Lincolnshire airfields. Many of Lincolnshire‟s aviation attractions will also be staging special events or marking the anniversary in some way, including Thorpe Camp Visitor Centre on the former RAF bomber base at Woodhall Spa, which hosts displays dedicated to the squadrons that were based there, including the Dam Busters. But throughout the year Lincolnshire offers a wealth of aviation heritage experiences ranging from Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre, based at the oldest Air Force College in the world, to the restored Operations Room Museum at RAF Digby. For more details of Lincolnshire‟s aviation heritage, events and attractions, visit www.aviationheritagelincolnshire.com For details of more things to do and places to stay in Lincolnshire, log on to www.visitlincolnshire.com

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