Staying at the beautiful Petwood HWoodhall Spa was excellent in that there was an aura of history both for the period of the War and before. The house was built in 1905 for Baroness Grace Von Eckhardstein, in a sad marriage that ended in divorce in 1909. She was Grace Maple, the only surviving daughter of Sir Blundell Maple, the owner of the world famous furniture store. She loved the 40 acres of wooded land which she thought of as her “Pet Wood”.
Extensions followed as did the gardens, designed by Harold Peto, and they opened to the public in 1911. During the First World War the house became a convalescent Hospital and had 50 beds for soldiers with Lady Grace carrying out many of the nursing duties. Requisitioned by the RAF in 1942, it became an officer’s mess and the famous 617 Sqn, the Dambusters, lived here as they trained at Scampton for that special raid. After the war the home was sold and the current owner has been operating the hotel here since 1996.
We said goodbye to Woodhall Spa and made our way to Scampton where we were met at the security gate by our guides from the Museum that has now been given one of the hangers on the base. They boarded our coach and we then proceeded onto the base where we toured the area, visited the hanger where the Red Arrows are kept, visited the grave of Nigger, Guy Gibson’s dog and visited Guy Gibson’s office before moving into their new museum.
Our next visit was some way off so we said goodbye to our guides and headed North again towards York. We stopped at Ludford Magna where 101 Sqn had operated until moving to Binbrook in 1945. In September each year the Sqn has a reunion in Lincoln and over 2 days they have dinners and various receptions including a Church Service in Ludford Magna followed by a march to the 101 Memorial that is located in the centre of the village. We conducted our own service there before moving on to Binbrook, the home of the famous 460 Sqn.
Many on tour had a connection with Binbrook and after viewing the site, we conducted another small service within the memorial square at the edge of the tarmac. Holme on Spalding Moore was our last stop before we moved into York for our 2 night stay. At Holme on Spalding Moore we again conducted a small service for both 76 Sqn and 458 Sqn, both have memorials on the edge of the now industrial estate. Mr Joe Rothingham owns the site where the memorials stand and also has a display of photographs that he retrieved from the old original buildings following his purchase. We are happy that this part of history is being preserved.
Another big day but tomorrow we will visit Elvington Airfield Museum which will be followed by a free afternoon in wonderful York.
Colonel Graham Fleeton.