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RAF Scampton: home of the Dambusters

RAF Scampton today is the home of the Red ArrowsRAF Scampton, just a few miles north of Lincoln, was already the home of 57 Squadron and then became the home of 617 Squadron as they geared up for the Dambusters raid.

Crews began arriving at the grass runways of Scampton in mid-March with just two months to prepare. 

They mainly arrived as fully formed crews of seven but some crews were flying together for the first time and had to learn to work with one another as well as with the strenuous demands of extreme low-flying that the raid demanded.

Les Munro, who was a pilot for 617 Squadron on the Dambusters raid, spoke in an exclusive recent interview to the RAF Benevolent Fund about his experience of how he came to arrive at Scampton.

"I'd trained as a pilot and reached 97 Squadron in December 1942," said Munro. "By March 1943 myself and my crew had done around 20 trips and we were invited to volunteer for a special operation – we weren't told what it was."

The late Flight Sergeant George Chalmers noted that, "It was more like a Commonwealth squadron with Canadians, Americans, New Zealanders – it was different from any other squadron I’d been on before."

Because of the speed in which the personnel had been assembled, there were a number of different issues at Scampton in the first week or two – when some of the crews turned up, for instance, there was nowhere for some of them to sleep, so they had to be put in the married quarters.

Even Wing Commander Guy Gibson observed that in order for the base to function properly people "had to beg, borrow and sometimes steal from every imaginable source the much required bumph".

After the Dambusters raid, Scampton remained the home of 617 and 57 Squadrons until 1944, when its runways were upgraded. The base is now home to the Red Arrows.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant John Kinnear, flight engineer with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action on May 17, 1943. He was 21 years old.

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