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RAF Caistor WW2 Airbase & Lincolnshire Thor IRBM Site

RAF Caistor ~ WW2 Airfield and Cold War Thor Missile Site
I visited another former Royal Air Force base this weekend for a nice dose of the Cold War in Lincolnshire . . .


The site is located off a quiet road which heads out of the former Roman Town of Caistor and was opened in 1941.
It was never intended to be a ‘main’ air base for the RAF and was used initially as a Relief Landing Ground for Kirton-in-Lindsay and it continued in this role of providing a Relief Landing Ground for AFU Leconfield, RAF Manby and RAF Cranwell up until 1945.


RAF Caistor Lincolnshire

RAF Caistor

For 4 months or so in 1943/44 the US army had a presence there although I’m unsure in what capacity

At the end of World War II there was no further use for the base, but the Cold War with Russia changed all that - in July 1959 it re-opened as a Thor IRBM site
It was once again a satellite station and part of a complex of RAF bases linked to RAF Hemswell.
From a photograph I’ve seen I believe the InterContinental Ballistic Missiles came into Lincolnshire at Hemswell and were then transported to the outlying stations such as RAF Caistor.

The Thor IRBM had a considerable range and were capable of housing nuclear warheads - a truly awesome weapon and an indicator of Cold War tension.
At RAF Caistor there were 3 Thor IRBM Launchers and each missile was armed with a one-megaton nuclear warhead !
It’s also worth noting that primary control over these Nuclear Warheads was in the hands of the USA.
The Americans operated the system on the well know 2 Key System and the site stayed in operation up until1963 when it closed once and for all.


Thor ICBM Site in Lincolnshire

Thor IRBM Site in Lincolnshire

After this closure it turned over to agricultural use, which is how I found it today.
Very little remains of the WWII heritage or indeed indeed the Cold War history.
A site visit by English Heritage in 2010 deemed it not worthy of any protection, their reasoning being too much was gone, some other sites had more to offer and, I find this interesting, a discussion on the value of Cold War sites - from that I read they don’t see the Cold War period as historically important as other period - a huge mistake in my opinion - we should preserve history for those to come, not for ourselves.

If anybody out there can add anything about RAF Caistor then I’d love to get it on record here, so please do leave a comment below.
Many thanks in advance,
Rod

8 Comments »

  1. Peter Mullins said,

    March 3, 2013 @ 8:56 pm

    Recently I visted someone who used to work there. ‘Which way did the missiles point?’ I asked. ‘Up,’ he replied.

  2. Rod said,

    March 4, 2013 @ 7:14 am

    Peter,
    that’s Lincolnshire, hard to argue with as well :)
    Best
    Rod

  3. harry said,

    March 6, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

    Hi, some time ago the Telegraph had a story about Ludford Magna Thor site. It stated that in the 60’s the missiles were prepared for launch and that the Market Rasen fire brigade were imprisoned for security reasons.
    Can anyone confirm this story?

  4. Chris Keyworth said,

    March 6, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

    Harry,
    I heard there was an incident but other than that i can’t add anything further….

    regards
    chris…

  5. Al said,

    March 9, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

    Interesting part of our history Rod,

    The launch pads are still there with the blast walls although it’s on private land, there’s still a fair bit of concrete infrastructure left there although it had to be explained to me before I could get it worked out!

    Aviation Heritage did some great cold war events last year - the 50th anniversary of that scary weekend. I can recommend Jim Wilsons “Britain On The Brink” for any body interested.

    Harry, I understand there was an incident one Sunday afternoon which involved the RAF fire crews from Caistor and Hemswell being sent up to Ludford Magna.

    Best wishes
    Al

  6. Gordon Luck said,

    March 9, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

    The Ludford incident was on the 7th December 1960. A bit of ‘finger trouble’ during a practice countdown and 7,000 gallons of liquid oxygen was released.

    Info taken from Project Emily by John Boyes which covers the incident in much greater detail.

  7. LEON WILKIN said,

    October 23, 2014 @ 9:44 am

    Hi
    When i was 14 years old and living with my family at the White House Caistor, my parents had a cafe and residential hotel at the White House. When the Americans came to help construct the thor site for the missiles to be housed in, and comision the
    the rockets, we had 15 American technicians living with us at the White House. At this time I was at the Yarborough school and at dinner time I would come home and help with serving the english and americans with dinner and after school helping with jobs as we had many living at the White House.

  8. Rod said,

    October 23, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

    Leon,
    many thanks for the wonderful comment and welcome to the site
    Regards
    Rod

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