Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby

Updated: Apr 20

During 2021 I was lucky enough to visit a few museums in the Lincolnshire Area, one of these was the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in East Kirkby.


During my visit I was fortunate enough to catch up with Louise Bush the museums curator whose Grandfather Fred Panton along with his brother Harold set up the Museum in 1987 to commemorate their Brother, Pilot Officer Christopher Panton a Flight Engineer who was sadly killed on 30/31st March 1944 during a raid to Nuremberg whilst serving with 433 RCAF Squadron.



In the 1970s after visiting Christopher’s war grave at Durnbach War Cemetery in Germany they purchased Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’. Initially intending to keep the Aircraft as part of their personal collection they eventually decided that the Aircraft should be shared with the public and so the Centre came to be.


The Heritage Centre stands on part of the land that was RAF East Kirkby, opening in 1943 it was home to 47 Squadron and 630 Squadron of 5 Group Bomber Command during World War II.


The recent TV show ‘Guy Martin’s Lancaster Bomber’ which aired on Channel 4 was mostly filmed at the Centre with ‘Just Jane’ taking centre stage.


NX611 Just Jane is the star attraction, it is not common place these days to see a running World War II Lancaster after all! Over many years the Centre restored the aircraft along with one of the engines before working on the other three, this allowed them to taxy the aircraft along the length of the runway, into and around the adjoining field before returning. The Centre offers Interior Walk Round Tours and Taxy Experience Rides where you can sit in one of the crews positions and experience the sights, sounds, smells and anticipation that crewmen would have during World War II. These would make an amazing gift for that special birthday present and even better these rides help the Centre to raise funds that will further refurbish the Aircraft.


The aim is to get NX611 ‘Just Jane’ flying again, which will require an incredible amount of work and money to do so. The project welcomes donations and produces regular bulletins on the aircrafts progress.


Check out my video of Just Jane starting up and heading out on a taxy ride

The Museum is split over several buildings which each house different collections these include, the Hangar which displays various aircraft including a Mosquito, lots of displays, photographs and even a bouncing bomb.


Another main feature of the Museum is the amazing control tower which has been kitted out inside to look as a working control tower during this period would look.


The home front museum is really interesting as it gives an insight into life at home during the war, it includes make do and mend exhibitions, an Anderson Shelter, Wedding dresses of the period, a wartime kitchen and a range of uniforms and posters.


The Escape Museum houses a wealth of information in relation to escape and evasion which includes artefacts from escape kits, details of POW Camps and stories of some of the resistance members who helped so many men escape capture.


The light bombers building focuses on some of the light bombers used during World War II such as the Blenheim, Wellington, Manchester & Hampden.


A visit to the Memorial Chapel is poignant and within it you will find plaques that commemorate all the men lost out of RAF East Kirkby, there are also rolls of honour and a lovely stained-glass window depicting an airman.


As a researcher myself one of the things I liked about the museum was that most of the buildings contain shelving and folders containing logbooks, rolls of honour, losses etc., so if your relative flew out of or worked at East Kirkby you may find a record pertaining to them.


Outside stand a variety of Wartime Vehicles from tractors, buses and cars to pedal cycles and tractor units, all of which have been restored to an outstanding condition.

Of course, no visit to this type of museum is complete without a visit to the amazing NAAFI (Café) or Gift Shop which is jam packed with lots of Aviation memorabilia including t-shirts, books, prints, mugs etc., the best part is you can visit their shop and purchase items online!


During the year the Centre also houses a lot of events which include Air Shows, Firework Displays, Concerts & Dances check out their program, there is something for everyone.


We paid £9.50 on the day for our Adult Tickets a bargain when there is so much to see and do! Children’s tickets are a snip at £3.50 with under 5-year-olds going free, they also offer a range of options for Seniors, members of the Armed Forces & Family Tickets.

The Centre also welcomes School Groups and offer educational resource packs so that they make the most of their visit.


It was lovely catching up with Louise during my visit and as the sun was shining, we found a lovely spot just outside the NAAFI to sit and discuss our shared passion, I must thank her for making us so welcome! One interesting point I did pick up on was that the Centre would love to obtain a Halifax Bomber. Why you might ask when they have the Lancaster, well Christopher Panton had been a crew member of Halifax III HX272 on that fateful night when it was hit by a night fighter. So, if you know of a Halifax Bomber tucked away anywhere, they would love to hear from you!


Check out my slideshow of images from the Museum.

 

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