Lincolnshire has a rich heritage in aviation and is home to some of the best aviation attractions in the country. It is also the birthplace for some famous ancestors including Alfred Lord Tennyson and Sir John Franklin.
Lincolnshire is often referred to as Bomber County thanks to the exploits of the Bomber Command crews who flew from the county during the Second World War. The county’s wide open spaces and proximity to the North Sea made it an ideal base for the RAF and 27 of Bomber Command’s 83 stations were located in Lincolnshire.
In 1942 Petwood House in Woodhall Spa was requisitioned by the RAF, originally it was used for the 97 and 619 squadrons. In 1943 it became the officers’ mess for the 617 ‘Dambusters Squadron’. Today, Petwood House is a delightful Edwardian country hotel set in lovely wooded grounds that continues to honour this famous group of men, with a dedicated Squadron Bar packed with artefacts and memorabilia from their epic flights.
Two Avro Lancaster bombers also reside in Lincolnshire, one of which is part of the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight based at RAF Coningsby. The fully operational RAF base at Coningsby – one of five in the county – is also home to five Spitfires, two Hurricanes, and a Dakota. The other Lancaster ‘Just Jane’ is privately owned and on display at the East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre. Based at a former bomber airfield, the centre features a restored control tower and numerous interesting exhibits..
At Thorpe Camp Visitors Centre in Tattershall Thorpe near Woodhall Spa visitors can have a guided tour of the base and find out about the role it played in the Second World War.
East Lincolnshire also has a rich literary history and is the birthplace of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) who was the most successful poet of the Victorian era. The once Poet Laureate was born in the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds, in the idyllic sleepy hamlet of Somersby.
Known as the ‘Father of Australia’, botanist Sir Joseph Banks, (1743 – 1820) was raised in the district at Revesby Abbey, on the edge of the Lincolnshire Fens. Sir Joseph Banks is also known for his journey with Captain Cook on the Endeavour to the South Seas and Australasia.
Another famous explorer Captain John Smith, who became an important leader of the first permanent settlement in the New World at Jamestown, Virginia, was born in the village of Willoughby in 1580. He ensured the colony’s survival by forging a relationship with Virginian Native Americans, one of whom was the legendary Pocahontas, who saved his life when he was due to be executed by her father.
Sir John Franklin (1786 – 1847), also an explorer, was born in Spilsby and went on to fight in two of the most famous sea battles, Copenhagen in 1801 and Trafalgar in 1805. His first expedition to the Arctic took place in 1819 and he charted over 1,000 miles of the Arctic coast.
Franklin is often referred to as ‘the man who ate his boots’ because on his first expedition in 1819 to the Arctic he and his crew suffered incredible hardship and survived by eating the lichen and the leather from their boots.