For those who enjoyed the article several days ago about the former RAF base at Binbrook and the associated mystery that surrounds it, here are some photographs of the disused base, taken yesterday! While the base is now a trading estate, most of the buildings remain intact and in a state of utter disrepair. Small businesses may be scattered around the site, but these do not take away from the fact that this is an abandoned military site, which is very much how it feels. Looking around the complex, it is also possible to see some of the buildings that played a part in the mysterious events of 1970.
The nissen huts (above) date back to the base’s establishment during the early years of the Second World War. They are typical of British military bases at that time, and would likely have been built as living accomodation for the enlisted men. Latterly, with the construction of the more modern “H blocks” (see below), they would have been used for other purposes.
The building pictured above is the main guard room adjacent to the main entrance (and currently in use by a business). This is where soldiers guarding the main gate would operate from, and where anyone found contravening the base rules would likely be thrown! The concrete block in front of the building is where an older Lightning F3 used to stand, known as the “gate guardian”, traditionally displayed next to the main entrance. Click here to see how it once looked in the 1980s!
The aircraft above is a decommissioned Sea Harrier, assumedly belonging to the business using the old hangar. It’s clearly seen better days but nevertheless a welcome addition!
The hangar above is one of only two on the base that were not assigned to a specific squadron. Also, situated towards the rear of the base, it is quite likely the location of the crash investigation into the wreck of Captain William Schaffner‘s Lightning F6 in 1970.
Above is a boarded-up barrack block (known as H blocks due to the shape and layout of these buildings). This is where any unmarried non-commissioned officers would have lived while on station. The site has been fenced off from the rest of the complex, with some blocks heavily vandalised while others remain in good condition. The former married quarters behind has now been sold off as private housing and renamed as a new village – Brookenby.
In a secure complex on what used to be the main flightline (where the aircraft operated from; once upon a time dozens would line the tarmac), is the last Lightning at Binbrook, cared for by the Lightning Association. This aircraft was originally housed in the former 5 Squadron hangar, where it was kept during its active life. But unfortunately the hangar was sold off and now the Lightning remains outside, although despite appearances it is in good condition (certainly capable of engine runs, at least until recently).
The former 5 Squadron hangar adjacent to the main dispersal. This was one of the last two fully operation Lightning squadrons, finally dispanding in early 1988. The hangar was also used as a set for the film Memphis Belle, about the American B-17 bomber which flew 25 missions from England during World War Two. The film is still commemorated on the hangar doors, as is the airfield’s time spent under the auspices of Bomber Command.
On the far side of the airfield, across what used to be the main runway, is this old bomb shelter (sometimes listed as “Battle HQ”, although hard to believe) which personel would have jumped into during wartime air raids. It looks rather battered on the outside, although the inside is complete intact and considering it stands in the middle of farm land, is well maintained.
Not far from the bomb shelter, immediately adjacent to the main runway, is the old QRA shed (quick reation alert). While the base was active during the Cold War, two Lightnings and their crew were on permanent readiness 24 hours a day, ready to scramble should incoming Russian aircraft be detected. Here is a picture of the shed in its more active days during the late 1980s. In order to ensure the Lightnings were airborne as quickly as possible, the QRA shed is located immediately next to the end of the main runway, which can still be seen on Google Earth. Moreover, it was here that Captain Schaffner climbed into his Lightning F6 and took off on that fateful night in 1970.
Finally, the picture above was the end of one of the runways at Binbrook. The runway is still discernible today, as the lighter patch in the middle of the brown field. It was also the sight of about a dozen decoy Lightnings – older variants that were surplus to requirements and parked up here to confuse Russian spy satellites into thinking it was an active dispersal. Click here to see how it looked then – the horizon shows that it is the same view. Just below the horizon, on the far left of the photograph (about equidistant between top and bottom) is a light coloured line, which is the remains of the main runway stretching out into the distance. Much of this runway is still visible today, although it is a far cry from just over 20 years ago when that unmistakable sound of jet engines echoed across the wolds. Its incredible what man and nature can do in such a short space of time.
If one picture was to sum up Binbrook and the Lightning during its heyday, this is it!