Just Jane

image courtesy of Andrew Birkitt

There are plenty of things for the whole family to do while in Lincolnshire and one of the top activities involves a trip to the interesting Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre.

This is a family run museum that has been around for more than 2 decades and is still growing in size. It is a lovely memorial to the 55,000 brave men from RAF Bomber Command who lost their lives during the Second World War. It is also one of the best places to experience a genuine WWII atmosphere and to get in a classic WWII plane for a ride.

History of the Museum

The story of the aviation centre can be traced back to when a couple of brothers named Fred and Harold Panton decided to look for a way to honour their brother Christopher Whitton Panton, who died in air service to his Country during WWII. What was originally planned as their private collection of wartime memorabilia ended up becoming a public museum when the centre was opened in 1988.

Location

You can find this fascinating aviation museum at the old wartime airfield called RAF East Kirby. Interestingly, the original control tower from the 1940s is still in place and some people will tell you that it is even haunted! The wartime hangar is also still used as a hangar by the museum. You can get a map of the museum and the surrounding area on their site. If you want to make a spectacular arrival (if you have your own plane that is!) then the site even tells you how to contact them so that you can fly in to the unlicensed RAF East Kirby landing strip on a private plane.

The Main Vehicles on Display

There are some interesting vehicle exhibits on show here. For a start, the star of the show is a very rare Avro Lancaster Bomber NX611 called Just Jane, which is on display in the hangar. Other vehicles in the collection here include a Ford WOT1 Crew Bus. In fact, this is the only known surviving example of this sort of vehicle.

The Lancaster Taxy Rides

Probably the most exciting and memorable way to enjoy this special place is by booking a place on the amazing Lancaster Taxy Ride. This allows you to experience the Lancaster NX611 from the best possible vantage point as it roars along the airstrip. This is the only place in the world where you can do this on an original WWII airfield. The taxy rides are available on a limited basis and are often booked months ahead due to the popularity of this experience. You can choose from a VIP Lancaster Taxy Ride Experience or the basic Lancaster Taxy Experience. The main difference is that the VIP option can be booked for during the week and will last for several hours, while the normal package is just 30 minutes long on Saturdays and some bank holidays.

Bomber Command

As the heroics of the men of Bomber Command are so important to the overall Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre experience you might want to know a little bit about them before you go. This was an air crew made up of young volunteers with an average age of just 22. The harsh realities of war meant that less than a quarter of them survived to complete their first tour, made up of 30 operations.

Events

There are a number of special events held here throughout the year. These cover events such as full air shows and flying displays, model air shows, motorcycle rallies, firework displays, photo events and a much more. There are also dance and music events held from time to time, sometimes with a historic 1940s feel to them.

The Control Tower

As mentioned earlier, some people believe that the original Control Tower here is haunted. Whether you see a ghost or not, you are sure to enjoy seeing this place restored to its former glory. It gives you a glimpse of what it must have really been like to work in a control tower during the war. There is also a special WAAF display here that celebrates the role played by the WAAFs in winning the war.

The RAF Escape Museum

One of the most interesting parts of the whole centre is the RAF Escape Museum, which was refurbished in 2008. It is all about the airmen who crashed while flying over occupied Europe and the brave people who helped them to escape. It is a fascinating and poignant display featuring many personal stories of people trying to get back home and a collection of the items used by airmen to try and help in their evasion.

The Memorial Chapel 

The museum’s Memorial Chapel shows the names of the RAF East Kirby air crew who died while carrying out service during WWII. This is a peaceful place where visitors can reflect on the sacrifices made by the members of Bomber Command and other wartime heroes.

Other Exhibits

While the RAF Bomber Command is the key that brings the museum’s display to life, there are many other aspects of the Second World War and life in wartime Britain for you to check out. For example, you can find out more about the likes of The Home Front. The centre also has one of the biggest private collections of wartime photos for you to look through. Indeed, they report that some visitors even unexpectedly find relatives in the photos while visiting here. There are also different aircraft parts, crew equipment and an original Barnes Wallis Bouncing Bomb. There is also an air raid shelter, where visitors go while a mock air raid is carried out. The newest addition to the museum is the Early Bombers display, where there are fun activities for the whole family.

The Future Plans

While the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre is an impressive place to visit just now, there are plans in place to make it even better in the future. The goal of the people who run the museum is to thoroughly rebuild it as a complete and authentic wartime airfield.

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