Today marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the day when Britain and Allied forces turned the tide in the war against Nazi barbarism. It is crucial that we commemorate the sacrifice of all those who fought and died to preserve our freedom.
As someone who has lived in Lincoln all my life, I am particularly proud of Lincolnshire’s unique role in World War Two. At the outset of the war, the bulk of all British bombers took off from Lincolnshire – earning us the nickname of Bomber County. There are estimated to have been more than 100 military airfields in Lincolnshire during the war.
The RAF is central to Lincolnshire’s identity, which is why there was such widespread opposition to the government’s decision to close RAF Scampton. The airfield, which celebrated its 100th anniversary along with the RAF last year, was home to the legendary Dambusters during WWII. RAF Scampton has also hosted the iconic Red Arrows since 1983, except between 1995 and 2000 when they were temporarily moved 20 miles to Lincolnshire’s RAF Cranwell.
I have been campaigning with many of my constituents to keep the Red Arrows in Lincolnshire once RAF Scampton closes. My petition received over 5000 signatures, and another organised by Visit Lincoln and the Lincolnite recently reached over 10,000. Following this clear display of local support, earlier this year the Government shortlisted RAF Waddington as one of the three suitable locations for the Red Arrows to be relocated.
I believe that Lincolnshire is uniquely qualified to host the Red Arrows. We have the facilities, the heritage and the people to justify them staying in our county. In fact, in 2011 the Red Arrows were scheduled to be transferred to RAF Waddington, after a Royal Air Force Study concluded that the Lincolnshire base was the most suitable option for “operational effectiveness and value for money”.
To ensure we are making the best possible case to the government that Lincolnshire deserves to keep the Red Arrows, Lord Cormack and myself hosted a lobbying event in the House of Lords yesterday. We are immensely grateful to the excellent delegation that travelled down from Lincoln and made an impassioned case for keeping the Red Arrows. I am especially thankful to The Lincolnite, Visit Lincoln and Streets Chartered Accountants for their key role in organising the visit. It was a fantastic display of the excellent businesses and organisations that Lincoln has to offer.
Lydia Rusling from Visit Lincoln made a very convincing argument that Lincolnshire’s association with the Royal Air Force is key to our Tourism sector, which contributes over £2 billion to our economy and supports 39,000 jobs. We also heard from several businesses, including Siemens and Leonardo UK, about the benefits the Red Arrows provide to Lincoln’s engineering sector. Education specialists from Lincoln, representing the University and Lincoln College amongst others, explained how the Red Arrows are a key source of inspiration for students in our city.
Yesterday’s event underlined the fact that Lincolnshire will not give up the fight to keep the Red Arrows. As we commemorate today’s D-Day anniversary, the best way to recognise the crucial role of Lincolnshire’s RAF in the Second World War would be to ensure that we are able to retain a key part of our identity.