Author Topic: RAF BINBROOK AND THE MEMPHIS BELLE  (Read 2591 times)

Offline Andyb

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« on: June 11, 2016, 09:08:14 AM »
I posted this on another forum and hopefully you will enjoy it

A brief history of RAF Binbrook ( Wikipedia and the net  :grin: )

RAF Binbrook was opened as a Bomber Command station in June 1940 during the Second World War home to No. 12 Squadron RAF which operated between 3 July 1940 and 25 September 1942 before moving to RAF Wickenby. The squadron operated the Vickers Wellington Mk II and III. Another squadron to use Binbrook before 1942 was 142 which initially operated between 3 July 1940 and 12 August 1940 with the Fairey Battle and left for a short time before returning on 6 September 1940 and going to RAF Waltham on 26 November 1941. The squadron used the Battle until November 1940 before switching to the Wellington Mk II . It closed in 1942 for the installation of three concrete runways, reopening in 1943 as home to No. 460 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force. Post-war, Binbrook was home to a number of distinguished RAF bomber squadrons, notably IX, 12, 101 and 617, all four of which were there for more than a decade. The airfield saw the start of the RAF's transition to jet bombers with the arrival of the first English Electric Canberras.

After the departure of IX and 12 squadrons in 1959, Binbrook housed Gloster Javelin all-weather fighters belonging to 64 squadron, as well as the Central Fighter Establishment. 85 Squadron also moved to Binbrook with a mixture of Canberras and Gloster Meteors in the target facilities role.

From 1965, Binbrook was the home to the English Electric Lightnings of 5 Squadron, joined by the similarly equipped 11 Squadron in 1972. 5 and 11 were the last two RAF squadrons to employ the Lightning. 5 Squadron re-equipped with the Tornado F3 at RAF Coningsby early in 1988, leaving 11 Squadron to soldier on at Binbrook for a few more months with the remaining few Lightnings in RAF service. When 11 Squadron disbanded (to re-equip with the Tornado F3 at RAF Leeming.
On 8 September 1970, Captain William Schaffner, an American exchange pilot flying BAC Lightnings with 5 Squadron, took off from Binbrook in the plane XS894 at 22:06, armed with two Red Top air-to-air missiles. The plane was lost over the North Sea. Three weeks later it located on the sea bed. Some believe this was an encounter with a UFO.

The station closed as a Main Operating Base in the 1980s, although it continued as a Relief Landing Ground for RAF Scampton into the early 1990s before eventually closing and all military activity ceasing, it was subsequently sold off for development.
The Control Tower and adjacent Fire Section were demolished in 1995.
In the mid 90s, Lincolnshire Police and Humberside Police used the site to teach riot control techniques to its Police Officers.
As of 2012 a majority of the accommodation blocks have been demolished. The hangars and offices are used as an industrial estate housing many businesses. The flight line is fenced off and used for storage of mainly ex-military equipment awaiting resale. The married quarters are private housing, forming the new village of Brookenby.
Popular culture

In 1989 RAF Binbrook alongside RAF Little Rissington served as the USAAF airbase for filming for the 1990 movie Memphis Belle.

And a bit about the making of the film , it's amazing what a copy and paste can do it saves your fingers

Binbrook's Memphis Belle

It's many years since the cameras rolled to produce the latest version of the classic wartime story. Five B-17 Flying Fortresses came together in that glorious summer of '89; 'Sally B' G-BEDF, 'Lucky Lady' F-AZDX, 'Chateau de Verneuil' F-BEEA, N3703G and N17W. Such a sight had not been seen for forty-four years, and possibly won't be in the UK again.

Inspired by her father's wartime film of the actual final mission, Catherine Wyler had succeeded in persuading Warner Bros. to finance a new version of the story, and had also attracted the interest of producer David Puttnam. A cast of relatively new faces was employed, the only 'star' being Matthew Modine, an up and coming actor.

The principal location for much of the film was RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire, recently vacated by the air force in the April of that year. Although a station at the forefront of the defence of the realm since the end of the war, it had never been developed to its true potential and consequently meant little alteration was necessary to return it to a typical mid-forties bomber airfield of East Anglia. The real Memphis Belle had been stationed at Bassingbourne in Cambridgeshire, an expansion period airfield of the late thirties equipped with 'C' type hangars, but today an Army Barracks, the runways having been removed in the sixties. Binbrook's layout was very similar, although the hangars were of a slightly younger type of that at Bassingbourne, having gabled ends. To add to authenticity, a mock church tower was constructed in the valley to the west of the airfield, to hint at the close proximity of the village.

Alterations to the airfield comprised of dismantling the ASP lighting and associated pylons, disguising the sixties style control tower and removing modern-day 'furniture' such as direction boards and aerials. A typical wartime control tower was erected in front of number one hangar, where many of the initial scenes of the film were done.

Filming at Binbrook began on 16 July, after a spell at Duxford. Binbrook was used for most of the aircraft and actor set pieces, with the hangars providing space for internal sets, such as the hangar dance sequence. A chance to star in the film was missed by yours truly as he didn't see the advert in the Grimsby Evening Telegraph asking for willing volunteers to become extras; many locals made their acting debut at Binbrook that summer, whether as drivers, nurses or dancers at the hangar dance.

Production at Binbrook lasted some three weeks, throughout which the sun shone and the evenings were long and warm. many people ventured to the old spotting haunts of the Lightning days to try and catch a glimpse of the action, but security was tight and some minor roads were cordoned off, quite understandable as a Ford Sierra in the background with some anorak sporting binoculars would have dented any authenticity somewhat. Views were afforded from afar, the sight and sound of B-17s landing over the hedge with one prop feathered and smoke billowing from the dead engine is one that will remain in the memory for many years; it was as if you had been transported back in time.

All five Fortresses sported many different identities during the three weeks, often carrying differing schemes on each side of the aircraft. All were fictional, but well in keeping with the spirit and style of the times, with names such as 'Windy City', 'Cloony Baby' and 'My Zita'. With all the changes it was impossible to know which aircraft was which, but generally 'Sally B' stood in for the 'Memphis Belle' for much of the time.

Tragedy for one of the airframes, although fortunately not the crew, struck on 25 July when F-BEEA swung on take-off, struck the ground away from the airfield and was totally destroyed in the ensuing fire. Thankfully all ten crew members evacuated the aircraft swiftly, only receiving minor injuries. It was suspected that a fault had occurred on the number three engine during take-off from runway 21, causing the aircraft to swing off to the right.

With filming completed, Binbrook returned to its role as a relief landing ground for Scampton, its place in cinema history now confirmed. The film was released in the Autumn of 1990 to mixed reviews, but it has many fine flying sequences and captures the mood of the era, even if reality has been stretched somewhat. Only the special effects towards the end of the film let it down slightly, the aircraft obviously being models, but overall it stands as a fine piece of atmospheric nostalgia.

Photos from the movie

These huts were used in the film for the briefings and when they exited the huts they jumped into the jeeps and straight to the B17s , just past the hanger on the left

And RAF BINBROOK today , the runway has been given back to farmland and the remaining buildings are either in decay or used as an industrial site

Offline Andyb

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« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2016, 09:28:59 AM »
And the B17 Flying Fortress  Memphis Belle / Sally B

Hope you enjoyed  :D

Offline Kohima

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« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2016, 09:35:10 AM »
Cool !!!!

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Offline Tom E. Gunn

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« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2016, 09:54:38 AM »
What a terrific selection of photos! Thanks for taking the time to upload them onto the forum.

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Offline F-102

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« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2016, 11:10:58 AM »
Outstanding article! As I have noted before, I went to RAF Binbrook back in the 80's. Great place, and a favorite region of mine. Super pics! Thanks for posting.
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Offline littlebuddy

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« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2016, 01:52:12 PM »
Binbrook, my local RAF base when I lived in Lincolnshire .many a time spent watching Lightnings   :)
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Offline David

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« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2016, 07:18:36 PM »
Great photos Andy ;)
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Offline gldank

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« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2017, 10:44:07 AM »
Soooo Cool! Thank you for the Pictures. James

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