RAF Hemswell

Is a former Royal Air Force station located 7.8 miles (12.6 km) east of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England.


Located close to the village of Hemswell in Lincolnshire, England the disestablished airfield is now in full use as a civilian industrial and retail trading estate, forming part of the newly created parish of Hemswell Cliff along with the station’s married quarters and RAF built primary school that are now in non-military ownership.

The airfield used by RAF Bomber Command for 20 years between 1937 and 1957 and saw most of its operational life during the Second World War. Later used again by RAF Bomber Command as a nuclear ballistic missile base during the Cold War it closed to military use in 1967.

On 19 March 1940 RAF Hemswell-based Handley Page Hampdens of No. 61 Squadron RAF were the first Bomber Command aircraft to drop bombs on German soil during the Second World War. The target was the Hörnum seaplane base on the northern Germany coast.

RAF Hemswell was immortalised on film when it was used as a substitute for RAF Scampton in all the ground based filming of the 1954 war film The Dambusters.

The Dam Busters (Film)


(1955) is a British Second World War war film starring Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd. It was directed by Michael Anderson. The film recreates the true story of Operation Chastise when in 1943 the RAF’s 617 Squadron attacked the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany with Barnes Wallis’s “bouncing bomb”.


The film was based on the books The Dam Busters (1951) by Paul Brickhill and Enemy Coast Ahead (1946) by Guy Gibson. The film’s reflective last minutes convey the poignant mix of emotions felt by the characters – triumph over striking a successful blow against the enemy’s industrial base is greatly tempered by the sobering knowledge that many died in the process of delivering it. A remake has reportedly been in development since 2008, but has yet to be produced as of 2015.


Hemswell was used as a substitute for RAF Scampton in the ground based filming of the 1954 film The Dam Busters as the wartime layout of both Scampton and Hemswell was similar in many places. The film “Night Bombers” remains the best known filmed record of what RAF Hemswell looked like during and just after the war, which is a colour film of Avro Lancasers at Hemswell in preparation for a raid over Germany which shows briefings, loading of bombs and the raid itself and was the only known colour film of Lancasters at War. Scenes for the Dambusters film were filmed in various offices of the station headquarters; the front entrance, the bedrooms, ante room and dining room of the officers’ mess; hangars and the NAAFI canteen with the latter used for the squadron briefing theatre scenes, as well as on the roadways within the base.


The similarities between Scampton and Hemswell continue to cause confusion. It has been said that, at the end of the film actor Richard Todd can be seen walking up the main driveway at Hemswell past Gibson House in the direction of the hangar line; this scene was in fact shot at Scampton.

At the time of filming R.A.F. Hemswell operated Avro Lincolns, very similar in design to The Lancaster and several of these aircraft appeared in background shots during filming, doubling for additional No 617 Squadron Lancasters, as the filmmakers only had three airworthy and fully flying Lancasters available to them.