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This grid includes The Birchwood Centre, The Lancaster School, Birchwood Road, Jasmin Road....

This week we visit Birchwood where we ponder the preponderance of churches in the grid, admire the graffiti, and Jonny reveals how he and his family invented Channel 4 property shows.  We also discover the proud aviation past of the Birchwood area and the role it played in the Second World War.  All this, plus another round of A Question of Lincoln... Click the player below to listen or subscribe to us on iTunes using the button on the right.

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The History of D13

by Joanna Hughes of the Lincolnshire Archives

Much of this area was originally known as Birchwood Heath.  As the name suggests, it would have been heathland, moorland and scrub used for wood gathering and animal grazing.  You can see one last remnant of the area’s farming past in the field opposite the junction of Woodfield Drive and Doddington Road.  It’s one of the few fields left amongst the encroaching industrial estate and, when the late sunlight’s right you can still make out the rippled effect on the land caused by the ridges and furrows made by hundreds of years of farmers ox-drawn ploughs working their way up and down the field.  I’m sure it won’t be there for much longer.

Coming forward in time to the early 20th Century, this peaceful area became a hive of activity as Birchwood Heath became an important airfield for heavy bombing aircraft during the Second World War.  In 1941, RAF Skellingthorpe opened on an area previously known as Blackmore.  It’s hard to imagine all the activity of ground crew, engineers and pilots nowadays.  To think how this area must have throbbed with the engines of bombers - the Lancasters, Hampdens and Manchesters taking off from the long runways hastily laid down here.  Unfortunately, many never came back.  The memory of one of those pilots is preserved in the name of the Leslie Manser Primary School….

The Story of Leslie Manser

In the early hours of May 31st 1942, Flying Officer Leslie Manser was returning from a bombing raid on Cologne when he sustained heavy damage from anti-aircraft fire.  Despite the damage, he was determined to bring his crew home and, once over Belgian airspace, he gave them orders to parachute to safety, refusing to bail out himself so he could remain at the controls.  He went down with his Manchester Bomber and died.

His crew survived to give reports of his bravery, and he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.  The citation for the Victoria Cross read: “In pressing home his attack in the face of strong opposition, in striving against heavy odds to bring back his aircraft and crew, and finally, when in extreme peril, thinking only of the safety of his comrades, Flying Officer Manser displayed determination and valour of the highest order. “

He was just 20 years old.

As well as the school, which is built on a fraction of the old runway, there’s a war memorial, a museum in Birchwood and a heritage room in Skellingthorpe which commemorate this area’s contribution to the defence of the country during World War II, and whilst there’s not much left of the original airfield complex, the Black Swan pub is named after the RT call sign of the airfield.

As a postscript, there was a proposal after the war to convert the airfield into a civilian airport, but nothing came of this.  By the 1960s the runway had been broken up, and from the 1970s we’ve seen the housing which has built up Birchwood into the community we see today.