The Industrial Revolution provided a significant boost to Lincoln’s economy and importance, when several world-renowned companies developed. Clayton’s and Ruston’s both sold products such as steam locomotive engines and agricultural machinery across the globe; in the First World War they became major aircraft producers. Another of Lincoln’s leading companies, William Foster & Co, invented, designed and built the tank at this time. The first prototype was called Little Willie and is to be remembered via a life-size monument on Tritton Road roundabout. There is also an early tank at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life.
During World War I the Royal Flying Corps flew from Lincolnshire to defend against the Zeppelin threat. Airfields were built along the Lincoln Edge to help provide extra lift for the flimsy aircraft. It was during World War II that the area’s association with military aviation developed still further. Now known as Bomber County, Lincolnshire housed ten operational airfields at the start of the war and 49 by the end. The county was home to Bomber Command’s No 1 Group and No 5 Group and it was the latter that was responsible for the famous Dambusters mission in 1943 from RAF Scampton. Just under half of Bomber Command’s 23 Victoria Crosses were earned from Lincolnshire missions, though the most famous of all is undoubtedly the one given to Wing Commander Guy Gibson on the successful completion of the Dambusters mission.
RAF Scampton’s prominence today is mostly due to its status as home of the Red Arrows. The RAF’s aerobatic display team is regarded as one of the best in the world. In the team of nine pilots Reds 1 to 5 perform close formation aerobatics, while Reds 6 to 9 perform dynamic manoeuvres. They have no reserves, as an infrequent pilot would not be able to fly to the standard required.
An aviation trail is available on the Visit Lincoln website.