What a little gem of a place. At first glance on the internet, it's simply an aircraft hangar with a Lancaster bomber that could fly if they could afford an airworthiness certificate. They take it out and taxi down the runway now and again, and there are some waxworks; exhibits re-creating tableaux of how life probably looked like on a WW2 bomber base. We were fortunate to be there when they started the Lancaster's engines and it moved a few yards in the crisp winter sunshine.
The bouncing bomb story, told in transcribed interview buy Guy Gibson is fascinating, moving and terrible, all at once.
Then, after just a couple of minutes wandering around the rich collection of archive documents and physical exhibits, you wouldn't be human if the gravity of what happened here doesn't humble you into quiet contemplation. 1 in 20 of the young men pictured and featured in the detailed history, with a collective average of age barely 21, never returned from the raids. That's 5% losses per sortie.
The grim reality of the life expectancy of the men in bomber command, and the terrifying way in which they would often meet their end, amidst their salad days of youth, is tangible. Mangled engines, torn parachutes, burned out fuselage sections, leather helmets recovered from wreckage, all speak more than a thousand words.
The photocopies of letters home and telegrams to parents just reek of the fear, uncertainty yet unbelievable courage of these young boys, who very quickly became men. I'm not usually given over to sympathy for war combatants, but somehow the dignity and quiet courage of the young people stationed at East Kirkby is tangible here and deserves admiration.
Trees with plaques have been planted by families, all around the site, in memory of fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers. It's very touching.
Many much better and far far braver men than me passed through those doors at East Kirkby, and their memory commands deep respect.
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