Council announces commemoration programme for RAF100

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

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 a private collection of wartime memorabilia, including medals, portraits and commendations.

Tours begin on May 16, exactly 75 years ago since Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron took off on the famous 'Dams' Raid', a mission that changed the course of WWll.

It's the first of four events hosted by the Hall's current owner, Cllr 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.

The RAF100 programme illustrates SKDC's 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, Councillor 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 to place 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 2 May.

'Barnes-Wallis - One Man, Many Ideas' follows, opening on 24 May 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 WWI air ace.

Harlaxton Manor's Open Day on 29 July 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 www.southwestlincs.com. Tickets for St Vincents Hall and the aviation walks at Grantham Guidhall Box Office can be booked by calling 01476 40618 or online at www.guildhallartscentre.co.uk

For media enquiries: Email the SKDC communications team at pr@southkesteven.gov.uk or phone 01476 406498 or 406440.