70th Anniversary of Operational Flying
Tuesday 1 March marked the 70th anniversary of operational flying from Royal Air Force Coningsby.The Station began operational flying on the night of 1 March 1941. At fourteen minutes past eight in the evening, Handley Page Hampdens of 106 Squadron began taking off on a mission to Cologne in Germany.
Five aircraft flew in the operation, all of the aircraft returned safely. Hampdens were the first aircraft to be based on the Station, followed by Avro Manchesters, and then Avro Lancasters.
Among the famous personalities to be based on the Station during World War Two were Wing Commander Guy Gibson (in 1942 as Officer Commanding 106 Squadron, flying Manchesters) and Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire, OC of 617 Squadron, “The Dambusters” in late 1943. Four other squadrons flew from the airfield during World War Two.
In the 1950’s the Station was first equipped with the Washington, the British version of the American B29 bomber, and then the Canberra. Until the mid 1960’s RAF Coningsby was a bomber station. As such, squadrons equipped with the Avro Vulcan were based at the Station as part of the “V” Force.
The Station then became a fighter base with the advent of the Phantom, followed by the Tornado F3, and now the Eurofighter Typhoon. The primary role of Typhoon at RAF Coningsby is Quick Reaction Alert, to be ready 24/7, 365 days a year to guard against a potential aerial threat to the UK.
Alongside the jets of the most modern aircraft in RAF service, propeller engines can still be heard at Coningsby. Since 1976 the world famous RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight has been based at the Station. 70 years on, RAF Coningsby is still going strong.
PHOTOS: Lancaster of BBMF with Typhoon behind in 2007. MOD / Crown Copyright.