RAF Waddington

RAF Waddington is located beside the village of Waddington, just south of Lincoln.

The station opened in 1916 as a Royal Flying Corps flying training station. Hundreds of pilots, including members of the US Army, were taught to fly a variety of aircraft types. The station was put into care and maintenance in 1920 and was enlarged when major RAF expansion began. Many of the buildings constructed are still in use today. It reopened as a fully equipped bomber base in March 1937 with squadrons flying the Bristol Blenheim and later Handley Page Hampdens.

In November 1940 it was the first station to receive the Avro Manchester heavy bomber and, in another first, No. 44 Squadron was the first in RAF Bomber Command to fly operationally with the Avro Lancaster in March 1942 from Waddington.

Waddington hosted a variety of Lancaster and Avro Lincoln squadrons. The station was put into care and maintenance again in 1953 to prepare it for the V-bomber force.

In June 1954 the Queen approved the RAF Waddington badge, incorporating the towers of Lincoln cathedral, and on. Since then all Waddington aircraft have carried the City Crest.

The RAF Waddington Station badge depicts Lincoln Cathedral rising through the clouds, with the motto ‘For Faith and Freedom’ emblazoned below

In June 1955 two Canberra squadrons arrived, operating at the base before disbanding in December 1957. The first Avro Vulcans arrived in May 1957. No. 83 Squadron became the first in the RAF to receive the Vulcan.

25th April 1959 the station was granted the Freedom of the City of Lincoln.

To celebrate the RAF station’s centenary in 2016 service personnel marched proudly through Lincoln High Street, exercising their right to the Freedom of the City. This is an honour which dates to Roman times. An ancient honour granted to military organisations giving them the right to enter the city “with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed”.

Vulcans of the Waddington Wing carried the City of Lincoln shield on their tailfins.

By August 1961 three squadrons of Vulcans were based at the station and remained there until March 1984 with the aircraft type’s planned retirement being postponed because of the Falklands conflict in 1982.

At the time of the conflict in 1982 there were only three Vulcan squadrons remaining, Nos 44, 50 and 101 Squadrons, all based at RAF Waddington. Operation Black Buck saw three aircraft and crews from Waddington take part in a long-range bombing raid on Port Stanley airfield in the Falkland Islands. The three Vulcan B2s, XM597, XM598, and Vulcan XM607 captained by Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers (on missions one and seven), were twenty-two years old and were selected because they had the more powerful Olympus 301 engines.

The gate guardian at RAF Waddington is Avro Vulcan XM607.

The last operational Vulcan squadron, No. 50, disbanded for the last time in March 1984.

The Vulcan had been a popular performer at airshows, so it was decided after the disbandment of No. 50 Squadron to set up the Vulcan Display Flight (VDF) to continue display flying, with the aircraft based at RAF Waddington. Prior to the formation of the VDF various Vulcans were displayed by operational RAF squadrons as part of their normal duties. The first VDF display, performed using XL426 (now based at Southend), was at RAF Honington on 23rd May 1984. XL426 went on to complete over 50 displays in the 1984 season. XH558 took over the role of display aircraft in May 1985.

As a result of budget cuts, it was decided by the MoD to discontinue the VDF as it couldn’t justify the cost of maintaining a single aircraft type simply for display purposes. The final display flight, performed using XH558, was at RAF Cranfield on 20 September 1992. The VDF was disbanded in 1993.

Today, Waddington is one of the RAF’s busiest operational airfields and its squadrons and personnel are involved in supporting operations all around the world.

Dear Reader

Thank you for taking an interest in this article.
Did you know that Vulcan to the Sky is a charity? We rely on merchandise sales and donations from you, the supporter, to enable us to look after XH558 and tell her story.
Please help us to keep delivering articles of interest to you by donating below, or alternatively visit our Shop or see what projects we currently have on.

Related Articles

Dr Robert Pleming | 16 April 1951 – 2 February 2021

Robert Pleming was born in north-west London. He was awarded an RAF Flying Scholarship at the age of seventeen that cemented his lifelong love of aviation. After gaining a BA in Physics and Doctorate at the Department of Nuclear Physics…

Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent Development – Part Four

On 8 May 1945, Winston Churchill announced German armed forces had surrendered unconditionally. But, the World War had not completely ended. In his speech announcing VE Day Churchill spoke of Japan, saying “We may allow ourselves a brief period of…

Ramblings from the AEO’s Panel – Part 3

Now that our annual ground training had been completed we turned our attention to the airborne business side of working with 558.  The date of 26th April had been set for some of the aircrew to fly in order to become…

Blog: VTST Volunteer Tony Sykes

An unexpected gift from his wife for his birthday changed ex RAF and Red Arrows engineer, Tony Sykes and his son, Connors lives overnight. The duo were hooked from the moment they went to see Vulcan XH558 at Doncaster Sheffield…

The Last Flight of the Vulcan

On 28 October 2015, over 55 years after her first flight, Avro Vulcan XH558 – the world’s last airworthy Vulcan – flew for the final time.   XH558 is an aircraft of many firsts and lasts. On 1 July 1960, XH558…

Blog: VTST Volunteer Sam Scrimshaw

When Sam Scrimshaw visited Waddington Airshow in 2013 little did he know that one of the aircraft on display would catch his attention in a way that meant that he’d dedicate so much of his free time to supporting it.…


Stay up to date with all of the latest news and updates

Vulcan to the Sky swoosh