World’s first heritage centre dedicated to the Polish bomber squadrons to open in Lincolnshire

Four flag poles side by side with sky in background and memorials of pilots in front

Lincolnshire is set to open another key visitor attraction highlighting the country’s Polish links during the Second World War.

The brand-new Heritage Centre at RAF Ingham has been a 14-year project by a team of devoted local volunteers; transforming an old farm storage building, formerly the wartime Airmen’s Mess, into a wonderful and fitting location to tell an almost forgotten story.

The Centre is dedicated to remembering and celebrating (through their own personal stories) the remarkable lives and memories of the men and women (both ground and air crews) of the Polish Air Force Bomber Squadrons, who lived, worked and flew alongside the RAF during the Second World War; and will also tell the humanitarian story of their struggles to settle and integrate into ‘post-war’ Britain, whilst retaining their customs, culture and Polish heritage.

RAF Ingham (later known as RAF Cammeringham) was a Royal Air Force station used by RAF Bomber Command between 1942 and 1944 and by training units and the Polish Air Force until 1946.

The first squadron (Sqn) to be based at RAF Ingham was No.300 Polish Bomber Sqn who arrived in May 1942 from RAF Hemswell. They stayed until Jan 1943, when they returned to Hemswell. The next month saw the arrival of No.199 Sqn, who themselves only stayed until Jun 1943. Within a week, No.300 Sqn returned, bringing with them No.305 Polish Bomber Sqn, as the they were constructing concrete runways at Hemswell. No.305 Sqn only stayed through the summer, before leaving to join Second Tactical Air Force (2TAF) in Sep. This left No.300 Sqn as the sole custodians of RAF Ingham, before they also departed for a final time, to RAF Faldingworth in Mar 1944.

At the end of hostilities, many Polish servicemen and women chose not to return to the now communist governed Poland and decided to remain in Britain, making it their new home, under the Polish Resettlement Act of 1947. Formed in 1946 the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC) provided Polish personnel with a trade and language lessons, for integration into British society. Polish Resettlement Units (PRU) were created to accommodate these personnel and their families.

RAF Cammeringham had a PRU, which was built on a former RAF accommodation site, at the southern edge of Ingham Village. Nissen Huts were internally designed to create basic yet austere family dwellings. The site was occupied by Polish and then British families, into the mid 1950s.

In 2023, RAF Ingham's team of volunteers were one of the first groups to be awarded the new King’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.

Chairman of RAF Ingham Heritage Centre, Geoff Burton, expressed his pride for the team of volunteers who have worked hard on this long-standing project. He said: 

"I am delighted and very excited that after so many years of hard work and dedication by our wonderful team of volunteers, we are finally able to open the Centre to the public.

“This project is globally unique, and tells the story of the Polish Bomber Squadrons who fought alongside the RAF during the Second World War;  but we also remember the almost forgotten history of a small Lincolnshire airfield RAF Ingham, that only ever existed through the war years.

“We expect to welcome visitors from not only the local area, but regionally and nationally as well; and due to the global uniqueness of the Centre, we anticipate attracting international visitors from Poland, America, Canada and Australia. This in turn will greatly support and benefit the local and Counties economy. "

The Main Exhibition Centre comprises of two wings, covering over 4602m of exhibition space; an atmospheric Polish Families Nissen Hut; a Mini-Cinema, Shop and Toilets. Around the Site there is also a Memorial Garden, the Remembrance Garden, Volunteer Workshop, Nissen Hut Vegetable Garden, and not forgetting their ‘Airmen’s Rest’ Cafe and Picnic Area.

The site also benefits from free parking and same-level access in almost all areas. Guided tours and group bookings are available by prior arrangement (dependent on staff availability). The entire exhibition is bi-lingual (Polish and English).

The Centre will formally open to the public for their first open weekend on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 April 2024, 10am to 3pm.

Normal Opening times will be from Saturday 20 April 2024:

Thursday, 10am to 3pm

Saturday, 10am to 3pm

Sunday, 10am to 3pm

West Lindsey District Council’s support for this exciting project is demonstrated by their significant contribution to the installation of underfloor heating powered by air source heat pumps through its Community Grants Scheme. Not only does it contribute to its delivery, but it also works towards the council’s goals to achieve Net-Zero Carbon by 2050 and to increase the sustainability of community organisations in the district.

Cllr Roger Patterson, Ward Member for Ingham, said: 

“We’re delighted to be able to support such a significant heritage project. I'd like to pay tribute to the dedication and hard work of the volunteers in establishing this fitting and lasting tribute to heroes we owe so much to, and cementing ties and a special relationship between the people of Poland and West Lindsey.”

Leader of West Lindsey District Council, Cllr Trevor Young, added: 

“Our aviation heritage is an integral part of our county and is something that should be preserved for our residents and visitors. I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the team of dedicated volunteers who have given up their time over the last 14 years to bring this heritage centre to life.”

RAF Ingham Heritage Centre joins a fantastic portfolio of visitor attractions across West Lindsey, which already attracts approximately 2.1 million visitors* and generates approximately £145 million*. The opening of the heritage centre supports the district’s Visitor Economy Strategy which aims to add value and stimulate the growth and development of the district's visitor economy.

For more information about RAF Ingham Heritage Centre visit RAF Ingham. For regular updates follow them on Facebook /RAFInghamHeritageCentre or X @RAFIngham.

The Community Grant Scheme is funded by the UK Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund and Rural England Prosperity Fund.

*STEAM Data 2022

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