Military Wiki
RAF Waddington
Airport type Military
Owner Ministry of Defence (MoD)
Operator Royal Air Force
Serves City of Lincoln
Location Waddington, Lincolnshire
Built 1916 (1916)
In use 1916-1920
1937 - present
Commander Group Captain A Gillespie ADC MA BSc (Hons) RAF
Elevation AMSL 230 ft / 70 m
Coordinates 53°10′21″N 000°31′51″W / 53.1725°N 0.53083°W / 53.1725; -0.53083Coordinates: 53°10′21″N 000°31′51″W / 53.1725°N 0.53083°W / 53.1725; -0.53083

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Direction Length Surface
ft m
02/20 9,000 2,743 Asphalt

Royal Air Force Station Waddington or more simply RAF Waddington (IATA: WTN, ICAO: EGXW) is a Royal Air Force station located 4.2 miles (6.8 km) south of Lincoln, Lincolnshire and 13.3 miles (21.4 km) north east of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England.

The station badge depicts Lincoln Cathedral rising through the clouds,[1]



Waddington opened as a Royal Flying Corps flying training station in 1916 and was transferred to the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918 operating until 1920, when the station went into care and maintenance.[2]

Squadrons operating during this time:

  • No. 82 Squadron RFC between 30 March 1917 and 17 November 1917 using the AW FK 8 before moving to St Omer.[3]
  • No. 97 Squadron RFC between 1 December 1917 and 21 January 1918 with no aircraft before moving to Stonehenge.[4]
  • No. 105 Squadron RFC formed at the airfield on 23 September 1917 flying various aircraft and stayed until 3 October 1917 when it moved to Andover.[5]
  • No. 117 Squadron RFC formed at Waddington on 1 January 1918 flying various aircraft and stayed until 3 April 1918 when the squadron moved to Hucknall.[6]
  • No. 123 Squadron RFC formed at the airfield on 1 February 1918 and flew various aircraft before moving to Duxford on 1 March 1918.[7]
  • No. 23 Squadron RAF between 15 March 1919 and 31 December 1919 with no aircraft before being disbanded.[8]
  • No. 203 Squadron RAF between 27 March 1919 and December 1919 with no aircraft as a cadre before moving to Scopwick.[9]
  • No. 204 Squadron RAF from 11 February 1919 as a cadre with no aircraft until 31 December 1919 when the squadron disbanded.[9]

Waddington reopened as a bomber base on 3 March 1937,[citation needed] with 50 Sqn arriving on the same day with their Hawker Hinds and then adding the Handley Page Hampden.[10] 110 Sqn arrived 15 days later initially with the Hind before switching to the Bristol Blenheim I.[11] On 7 June 1937 88 Sqn reformed at Waddington with the Hind before moving to RAF Boscombe Down on 17 July 1937.[12] On 16 June 1937 44 Sqn moved in from RAF Andover flying the Blenheim I before switching to the Avro Anson I and the Hampden in February 1939.[13] In May 1939 110 Sqn left going to RAF Wattisham[11] and 50 Sqn left the following year being moved to RAF Lindholme.[10]

Second World War

Avro Lancaster of 463 Sqn RAAF in 1944

In November 1940 it was the first station to receive the Avro Manchester heavy bomber.[citation needed]

No. 44 Squadron RAF was the first in RAF Bomber Command to fly operationally with the Avro Lancaster on 2 March 1942 from Waddington.[citation needed]

On 17 April 1942 at around 3pm, six Avro Lancasters from 44 Sqn left in daylight for the MAN diesel engine (for U-boats) factory at Augsburg in southern Germany (Bavaria). Four Lancasters were shot down and Squadron Leader John Dering Nettleton received a VC, piloting R5508. He survived due to the German fighters running out of fuel, and lack of daylight.[14] 44 Sqn left on 31 May 1943 going to RAF Dunholme Lodge.[13]

Squadrons operating during this time:

  • 97 Sqn reformed here on 25 February 1941 with the Avro Manchester before moving to RAF Coningsby on 10 March 1941.[4]
  • 9 Sqn joined the airfield on 7 August 1942 initially with the Vickers Wellington III before switching to the Lancaster I and III during September 1942. The squadron moved to RAF Bardney on 14 April 1943.[15]
  • 142 Sqn between 15 June 1940 and 3 July 1940 with the Fairey Battle before moving to RAF Binbrook.[16]
  • 207 Sqn reformed at Waddington on 1 November 1940 with the Manchester adding the Hampden for a month in July 41. The squadron moved to RAF Bottesford on 17 November 1941[17]
  • 420 Sqn formed here on 19 December 1941 with the Hampden before moving to RAF Skipton-on-Swale on 7 August 1942.[18]
  • 463 Sqn formed at the airfield on 25 November 1943 with the Lancaster Mks I and III before moving to RAF Skellingthorpe on 3 July 1945.[19]
  • 467 Sqn between 13 November 1943 and 15 June 1945 with the Lancaster Mks I and III. The squadron then moved to RAF Metheringham.[19]
  • 617 Sqn between 17 June 1945 and 19 January 1946 with the Lancaster Mk VII-FE before moving to RAF Digri.[20]

Cold War

In the Cold War, RAF Waddington became an Avro Vulcan V-bomber bomber base, with 83 Sqn being the first in the RAF to receive the Vulcan in May 1957. It continued in this role until 1984 when the last Vulcan squadron, No. 50, disbanded. From 1968, the UK nuclear deterrent was transferred to Polaris submarines, starting with HMS Resolution.

In August 1960, the station developed the sudsmobile technique to lay a 1,000 yd × 30 yd (914 m × 27 m) carpet of foam in around a half-hour for a wheels-up landing. Previously it had taken around three hours to lay a foam carpet on the runway. A Canberra from RAF Wyton landed wheels-up on 23 August 1960, with a Victor managing the same on 5 December 1960.[21]

The fiftieth anniversary of the RAF was celebrated at the base on 1 April 1968, mainly because the RAF's last flying Lancaster was based at the airfield from the mid-1960s until 1970, when moved temporarily to Hendon.

Squadrons operating during this time:

Falklands War

Operation Black Buck involved aircraft (three) and crews from the base (44 Sqn, 50 Sqn and 101 Sqn). The three Vulcan B2s were twenty-two years old, and were selected for their more powerful Olympus 301 engines. The complicated refuelling plan (14 Victor tankers) was only contemplated due to the belief of Sir Michael Beetham, then Chief of the Air Staff. Spare parts for the operation were requisitioned from scrapyards in Newark-on-Trent and military museums. Navigation came from the Delco Carousel inertial navigation system, never used previously by the RAF.[citation needed] 44 Squadron left on 21 December 1982.[13]

Later during 1982, there was a female peace camp outside the base for five months. At the beginning of 1982, the base had been designated to be closed, when the Vulcans would have left.[citation needed]

Tactical Fighter Meet 86 was held at the base in August 1986, which used RAF Spadeadam as a practice target.[citation needed]

Gate guardian

In 1993 the last RAF Avro Vulcan bomber, serialled XH558, was retired to Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire. This aircraft has returned to display flying following prolonged refurbishment.[citation needed]

Airborne early warning

In the mid-1980s the base became home to a few NATO AWACS aircraft operating from their main base (with eighteen AWACS planes) at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia on the Germany-Dutch border. The RAF used these aircraft until it had bought its own AWACS fleet, which were due to enter service in 1991.[citation needed]

During the 1991 Gulf War, American casualties were ferried through the base to the USAF Nocton Hall military hospital. The Electronic Warfare Operational Support Element (EWOSE - now known as the Air Warfare Centre) moved from RAF Wyton to Waddington in March 1995.[citation needed]

Present day

It is presently home to the RAF's Sentry and Raytheon Sentinel R1 ASTOR (Airborne STand-Off Radar) ground-surveillance/intelligence aircraft. The station is also home to No. 34 Expeditionary Air Wing.

There is an outdoor viewing area east of the A15 road close to the northern end of the long runway which was designed to accommodate V bombers. Short-term visits from different NATO and Swiss fighter squadrons, in the past, used to generate occasional additional noise and interest because the airfield was conveniently placed for offshore practice firing ranges above the North Sea. However with the closure of the aforementioned Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation range these visits have ceased. Waddington also has a very active Force Development ethos, putting emphasis on the development of its busy personnel.

No. 34 Expeditionary Air Wing was formed at Waddington on 1 April 2006 encompassing most of the non-formed unit personnel on station. The EAW does not include the flying units at the station. The station commander is dual-hatted as the commander of the wing.

The Nimrod MRA4 was due to be moved to the base from RAF Kinloss, but the whole fleet was cancelled.

Amateur Radio licensees are not allowed to operate unattended radio beacon transmitters within 50 km of the Waddington airfield, centred on Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SK 985640.[27] The Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance, which began operating in 1994, is based at the airfield.

RAF Waddington Voluntary Band is one of seven voluntary bands within the RAF and is proud to serve the station and the surrounding areas. Members of the band include RAF personnel as a second duty, dependants, civil servants and local civilians. As part of the station's musical heritage, Pink Floyd performed at the station's Raven Club on 20 April 1968.


The RAF Waddington structure as of October 2011 is as follows:[28]

E-3 Sentry (AWACS) of 8 Sqn on active duty in 2003

Raytheon Sentinel of 5 Sqn in 2007

  • Other auxiliary units
    • No. 2503 Sqn - RAuxAF Regiment Force Sustainment
    • Sentry Maintenance Squadron (SMS) - including the Visiting Aircraft Handling Section (VAHS).[30]
    • The E-3D Software Support Team
    • Air Battlespace Training Centre
  • Air Warfare Centre
    • No 7006 (VR) Squadron RAuxAF
    • No 7010 (VR) Squadron RAuxAF
    • No 7630 (VR) Squadron RAuxAF

Squadrons as of 2012

Former Squadrons

Former Station Commanders

F15s (visiting) and Sentry in November 2004

Waddington International Air Show

Inauguration in 1995

Waddington Air Show in 2002 with the Air Warfare Centre in the distance

The first RAF Waddington International Air Show was staged at RAF Waddington in 1995, after the event was moved down from RAF Finningley - an RAF station located east of Doncaster (now Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield) which was closed down in 1995. Since then the RAF Waddington International Air Show has developed into the largest of all Royal Air Force air shows. It regularly takes place on the first weekend in July, attracting over 140,000 visitors and representatives of Air Forces from all round the world. The main purpose of the show is to raise public awareness and understanding of the RAF and its role today. 85% of all proceeds from the event are distributed to the two main Service charities; the RAF Benevolent Fund and the RAF Association; the remaining 15% is donated to local worthy causes. Since the inaugural year 1995 the Air Show has raised over £2,700,000 for Service and local charities.


Wing walking on a Boeing-Stearman Model 75 in July 2005

The 2010 Air Show took place over the weekend of 3 and 4 July. The main themes being 90 years since the first ever RAF air show, at RAF Hendon, 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and 35 years of Airborne Early Warning. The flying display included Vulcan XH558, many regular exhibitors and aircraft but also display teams that had never been to Waddington before, including the Turkish Stars and the Czech Saab JAS 39 Gripen and Alca L-159 display.


The 2011 Air Show took place on 2 and 3 July, with the theme of Air Power - Past, Present and Future. Several indoor and outdoor exhibitions reflected this theme, including a new audio-visual experience in the main exhibition hangar. Visitors learned about the RAF's current operations abroad, the RAF's equipment and the RAF's personnel, devoted to their roles within the Royal Air Force. The USAF Display Team, The Thunderbirds, also took part. Displays included the Red Arrows, Team Viper, Belgian F16 solo, Avro Vulcan XH558 and the Royal Jordanian Falcons as well as many others.

Ground displays included over 100 aircraft, 250 trade stands, two exhibition hangars and the Military Village concept where all services display, the Waddington SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract) School display with its close RNLI association. Many clubs also featured in the Village demonstrating the diversity of hobbies and interests available to RAF personnel today.


The 2012 (30 June/ 1 July 2012) airshow attracted over 130,000 visitors to RAF Waddington from across the UK and beyond. Celebrating 100 years of the Central Flying School, Combat ISTAR and the Year of Lincolnshire Aviation the airshow had over 210 aircraft on display. Twenty countries took part in the event, with the first appearance in the UK by a RAAF Boeing Wedgetail and the debut appearance in Europe by the Republic of Korea Black Eagles display team. The team took the best flying display award.


Saab J-29 Tunnan, Swedish Air Force. RAF Waddington Airshow 2013

The 2013 airshow was held over 6 and 7 July 2013 at RAF Waddington and celebrated the 95th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force. The airshow also commemorated 70yrs since the historic and daring raids on the German Dams of WW2, the 100th Anniversary of RAF Waddington's own 5(AC) Squadron and looked into the secretive world of ISTAR. Over 150,000 visitors attended the show in 2013, making it the biggest and best attended military airshow in the UK. The show featured the only display in the UK by the Turkish Air Forces SOLOTURK F16 demo as well as participation from the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, France, Italy, Jordan, Czech Republic and many more. The show also featured what was described by many as the jewel in the crown of 2013, the return to the UK skies of SAAB's famous JAS37 Viggen.

In popular culture

In 2002, the half-hour ITV programme Airbase documented life at the airfield. Elizabeth Simmonds, the Olympic swimmer, trained at the base's pool.

See also



  1. "RAF Waddington History". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 13 December 2011. 
  2. "RAF Waddington Beginnings". Royal Air Force (RAF). Retrieved 19 October 2008. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jefford 1988, p. 50.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Jefford 1988, p. 53.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jefford 1988, p. 54.
  6. Jefford 1988, p. 57.
  7. Jefford 1988, p. 58.
  8. Jefford 1988, p. 32.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Jefford 1988, p. 68.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Jefford 1988, p. 41.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Jefford 1988, p. 55.
  12. Jefford 1988, p. 51.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Jefford 1988, p. 39.
  14. "Bomber Command - Augsburg, 17th April 1942". RAF. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  15. Jefford 1988, p. 27.
  16. Jefford 1988, p. 61.
  17. Jefford 1988, p. 69.
  18. Jefford 1988, p. 91.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Jefford 1988, p. 94.
  20. Jefford 1988, p. 101.
  21. "Flight - 16 December 1960 - In Brief". Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  22. Jefford 1988, p. 28.
  23. Jefford 1988, p. 31.
  24. Jefford 1988, p. 34.
  25. Jefford 1988, p. 43.
  26. Jefford 1988, p. 44.
  27. "OFCOM Amateur Radio Licence Section 2 - Terms, conditions and limitations (page 23)". OFCOM. p. 22. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  28. Air Forces Monthly, April 2008 issue, pp. 44
  29. "RAF Leuchars Bids Farewell To 56 (R) Sqn". RAF. Retrieved 18 October 2008. [dead link]
  30. "Who Are Sentry Maintenance Squadron?". RAF. Retrieved 18 October 2008. 
  31. Clements, Richard (15 January 2013) UK’s Royal Air Force to support French forces deployed to Mali with airlifters. And drones The Aviationist, Retrieved 5 February 2013


  • Halpenny, B.B. Action Stations: Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands v. 2. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Patrick Stephens Ltd, 1981. ISBN 0-85059-484-7.
  • Jefford, C.G, MBE,BA ,RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.

External links

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