L.H. DAVIES looks to the old airfields of Lincolnshire to discover the haunting presence of phantom airmen
Lincolnshire’s widely regarded as the most haunted British county, understandably so given the thousands of paranormal occurrences reported each year. Many of these are of sightings from old pubs and stately homes, however, the majority come from the many WW2 airfields.
Due to its expanse of agricultural land, Lincolnshire was chosen to home numerous air bases during the Second World War, hence its nickname, ‘Bomber County,’ as the majority of aircraft stationed in Lincolnshire were bombers such as the Lancaster and Halifax.
Needless to say there were great losses at all the airfields and if you see some of them today, they are indeed abandoned, desolate places, full of forgotten memories.
One of these airfields is RAF Waltham. During the war Waltham was home to the Wellington bombers, before they moved out and were replaced by the Lancaster bombers of 100 Squadron.
Throughout the war the bombers of Waltham flew thousands of sorties taking many losses.
Eventually at the end of the war the base closed down to flying and not long after was abandoned by the RAF leaving it to decay. These days hangars are used for storage and what remains of the overgrown airfield itself is often used by driving schools for off road lessons.
The main storage holder’s Nickerson Grains who use the largest hangar situated on the other side of the A16, that runs past the old airfield. It was an employee of this firm who had a frightening experience with a ghostly airman.
It was a night shift. Dark and lonely, he was repairing sacks for storage when the headless figure of an airman appeared before him, in 1940s flying gear.
The employee, ran, screaming out of the hangar, his hair on end as if electrocuted. On recovering from shock in hospital the man’s hair turned white and fell out. He never returned to work.
Other reports from Waltham come from dog walkers, taking their animals for walks on the old airfield they have often seen ghostly figures and heard the distinctive roar of Merlin engines.
Another Lincolnshire story is ‘The Metheringham Lass’, as she became known.
During WW2, Metheringham Airfield was home to Lancaster bombers, however this story relates to a young WAAF who had taken a ride home, pillion on her fiancé’s motorcycle. Unfortunately, the bike skidded from the road, injuring her fiancé and killing her outright. The girl was Catherine Bystock, who was 19. Many people since that day have been flagged down on the main road past Metheringham and locals often refuse to use the road after 21.30 as that is when she is often seen (the time of the accident).
However, whilst this seems to be a harmless enough experience, some who have met with her found a much darker side to their experience. An overwhelming smell of decomposition and a severe irrational cold fear overcome them. One man even reported seeing when he got close enough to the girl, her eye sockets were empty!
There are of course stories outside of Lincolnshire where similarly unusual things occurred. For example at RAF Hereford in Herefordshire. During the war it was a war hospital and the medical centre remained open long after 1945. There are accounts of a ghostly German airman who walked the corridors at night. Staff nicknamed him ‘Fritz’, and he was said to carry his head under his arm. He was believed to be the ghostly memory of a young German airman whose plane crashed during the war. He later died of severe head injuries.
One particular night in 1972 was particularly bad, as recalled by then SAC Vowden who worked there. She recalled sitting in the staff lounge and hearing the storeroom door repeatedly opening and closing, despite her being the only member of staff on duty.
She checked on several occasions to find no one there. The young trainees lying in their beds complained of the radiators clanging and windows opening of their own accord. SAC Vowden’s boyfriend, a Junior Technician was also present that night and though not easily unnerved, certainly found himself uncomfortable that night.
It appears then, that throughout the UK our old airfields are places of activity perhaps not of this world.