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.