RAF Sutton Bridge in 1940

Planes at RAF Sutton Bridge.
Planes at RAF Sutton Bridge.
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Tom Redden of Holbeach came across this image of planes at RAF at Sutton Bridge among his personal effects, but has no idea who gave it to him.

It’s accompanied by a well researched article talking about the “significant part” played by the base in the Battle of Britain as it was where many of the RAF’s Hurricane pilots were trained in 1940 and where many lost their lives.

The unknown author writes: “Sutton Bridge was one of a number of Lincolnshire RAF stations which owed their existence to the East Coast bombing and gunnery ranges. The airfield was established in the mid-1920s as a summer training camp for fighter squadrons from the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm who used the vast open spaces over the Wash to practise their skills.

“Over the years bell tents were replaced with more permanent accommodation, wooden hangars were built and by 1936 RAF Sutton Bridge had been established as an airfield in its own right.

“In March 1940, RAF Sutton Bridge’s role was to be one of training, and the 11 Group Fighter Pool was moved from St Athan and renumbered 6 Operational Training Unit. It was to be the half-way house for the newly trained fighter pilots; 6 OTU quickly grew into one of the biggest RAF units of any kind operating in Lincolnshire. Its equipment included in excess of 100 aircraft, the majority of them Hurricanes.

“Training at Sutton Bridge was intensive and this inevitably led to numerous accidents. Over the next three years the station was to lose in excess of 50 aircraft with many more damaged in less serious and largely unrecorded accidents.

“The first aircraft recorded as lost from Sutton Bridge was a Battle of 264 Squadron which crashed on January 4, 1940. This was followed by many more, including several mid-air collisions, from which there were few survivors.

“The village churchyard in Sutton Bridge bears testament to the price paid by the trainees and their instructors.”