Top Aircraft to have Graced RAF Hemswell

Since its first fully-functioning runway was built in 1918, the now-disestablished RAF Hemswell base that is stationed less than ten miles from Gainsborough, England, was one of the many Royal Air Force Stations that saw a great deal of action during both World Wars, the second in particular.

Though it was largely split and sold during the 1970s leaving only the community centre under RAF ownership, its glory days saw it as a united set of buildings, runways, and military personnel, some of which were lucky enough to pilot some of the most magnificent machines in existence at the time. The writing below details the RAFhemswell.org.uk pick of the top aircraft to fly from this once-magnificent base.

Handley Page Hampden

Handley Page Hampden

It's difficult not to include Hampden in an article of this nature. After all, the Handley Page Hampdens flown by the No. 61 Squadron of the RAF were the very first Bomber Command aircraft to drop bombs on German soil, taking place in 1940. No.61 Squadron also operated out of Hemswell both in 1937 and then ten years later in 1947.

The Handley Page Hampden was an English medium bomber with a twin engine, serving the RAF in the Second World War. The Hampden is to this very day an iconic machine of war since it was part of the first bombing offensive against Germany, taking part in bombing runs across Berlin as well as Cologne in the earlier years of World War II.

The design of the plane leaves much to be desired by today's standards of course, with extremely cramped conditions that led to the plane being known as the "Flying Suitcase". Even with skilful operation, the Hampden simply wasn't quite up to the task of outmanoeuvring or outperforming the planes of the Luftwaffe.

500 of the 1,430 Hampdens that existed were built by Handley Page, with 770 being built by English Electric and the rest by the Canadian Associated Aircraft consortium, as is evident at the Hampden Page at Canadian Flight.

Vickers Wellington

Vickers Wellington

The Wellington was one of the three medium bombers often associated with the period surrounding the Second World War along with the Hampden and the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley. A long-range medium bomber with a twin-engine setup and geodesic frame invented by Barnes Wallis, the Wellington flew out of RAF Hemswell mainly between 1941 and 1943 with No. 305, 301, and 300 Polish Bomber Squadron at the stick as well as No. 199 Squadron RAF in 1943.

The Wellington was designed in response to the demand for a day bomber of greater performance than previous models, but it was actually used as a night bomber for a good part of the war. Its use as an anti-submarine aircraft is also notable, though was eventually replaced when the four-engine aircraft such as the Avro Lancaster were introduced.

Bristol Blenheim

Bristol Blenheim

The Blenheim was one of WWII's memorable light bomber aircraft, used largely in the opening years of the war and manufactured by the Bristol Aeroplane Company. As was the case with many of the aircraft that took to the skies during WWII, the Blenheim's original purpose was stretched to include long-range runs and night runs, at least during the interim period whilst the Beaufighter was being built and readied for flight.

The Blenheim is definitely an iconic aircraft, largely because of it being one of the first in history to adapt a retractable landing gear and flaps as well as sporting a fully powered gun turret. The plane's propellers were also of variable-pitch design. Though the performance of the Blenheim was commendable, the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 (seen here at the Aviation History Online Museum) was considerably more powerful and formidable during daytime flight - night-time use was where the Blenheim really shone.

Avro Lancaster

Avro Lancaster

Pretty much anyone that's into aviation history will recognise the Avro Lancaster. This aircraft is nothing short of legendary in the eyes of many military-history enthusiasts, and is probably one of the aircraft that can be most readily named by those that aren't even that familiar with the aviation particulars of World War II.

The Lancaster was a four-engine aircraft, a heavy bomber that made use of RAF Hemswell's (relatively) recently-paved concrete runways in 1944 where No. 170 Squadron were then based. By the time the allies' bombing offensive over Europe began to gain some serious momentum, the Lancaster was being used as the main heavy bomber by the RAF for such operations, as well as being adopted by the RCAF.

One of the design particulars of the Lancaster (or Lanc' as it became affectionately known as) was that it had an unobstructed bomb bay, allowing for the use of the heaviest bombs that the RAF had available (such as the Blockbuster Bomb) as well as being used by the 617 Squadron in conjunction with the famous Bouncing Bomb.

Final Thoughts

Remember, this was before  advanced flight-training technology even existed - these pilots didn't have access to powerful software such as DCS World, Microsoft Flight Simulator, or even Ace Combat, let alone the hardware necessary to run such powerful simulations. This makes the quantity and indeed quality of the pilots that flew out of Hemswell and of course the rest of the UK's RAF bases all the more incredible. Piloting these relatively new and comparatively dangerous flying machines into situations that were even more dangerous and risky was the norm for the Second World War due to necessity and circumstance, and to these brave men we all owe our lives.