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You are in: South Yorkshire > History > Local History > Finningley history

Vulcan at Finningley, 1968. Photo: Carmel J Attard

Copyright © Carmel J Attard

Finningley history

Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster sits on the former site of RAF Finningley. We take a look at the history of the airbase...

RAF Finningley opened in 1936 and the first planes to land on the base were three Vickers Vimy Biplanes. James Moyser worked on the construction of the base, he remembers it was so windy when the planes arrived that 12 airmen had to hold the biplanes down to prevent them blowing over.

During World War Two and the Cold War, the base was best known as the front line bomber command base. RAF Finningley was also a centre of excellence for training pilots and air crew.

Finningley airfield sign

Finningley airfield sign

V is for Vulcan

Possibly the most memorable aircraft which flew from Finningley were the Vulcan bombers.

The Vulcan was known by many as the "Tin Triangle" due to its massive and imposing delta wing shape. The planes were painted white to protect them from the blast of nuclear bombs but when the V-bombers became secondary to missiles in the 1960's the Vulcan was given a new role as a tactical low-level bomber.

The main airfield buildings consisted of five hangars and the runway is just under two miles, making it the second longest in the North of England, long enough for Concorde to land on it.

Ivy Hill has lived in Finningley all her life.  She remembers the time before the base was built "Finningley was like a little hamle. There were lots of farms around the village," said Ivy.

"There were all very nice people to work for there was a real sense of community on the station"

Catherine Hanson

During its nearly sixty years in service the base provided many local people with jobs; around ten per cent of the workforce were from Doncaster.

Catherine Hanson from Auckley was a steward at the commanding officer's house for 27 years. She remembers her time at Finningley with great fondness: "They were all very nice people to work for - there was a real sense of community on the station. It was very sad when we heard that the base was closing. It had been part of our lives for so long."

RAF Reunited

Derek Frost was also a civilian working on the base for 20 years as a telecommunications engineer, and he set up a RAF Finningley Reunion website which you can visit via the link on the right of the page.

US Aif Force plane 63011 F100D

US Aif Force plane 63011 F100D

:: "People who I talk to in the RAF say one of the most enjoyable tours they did was at Finningley," says Derek. You can listen to more of Derek's memories of working in Finningley by clicking on the link on the right hand side of the page.

From the 1960s onwards, the annual open days were always characterised by massive crowds, bringing Finningley and surround areas to a standstill.

Paul Elliot has lived around Finningley all his life. "The most vivid memories of the airfield are when they used to do the four minute warning scramble, we lived at the bottom of the runway and when they took off the whole house shook, that was noisy and that was something to see."

RAF Finningley was closed in 1996 and in 1999, the company who developed Robin Hood Airport purchased the land.

More Finningley memories

Liz Hawthorne writes:

"I used to live at Blaxton which was next to Finningley village. We used to go to the open days. As local kids we knew which entrances were manned and which weren't so we got in for nothing.

"We also knew some RAF lads as they used to visit my house so that was another way of getting in for nothing. There was one day we had been into the hangers again and decided to visit the perimeter fence as they were sending up their Vulcans.

"They went off at about three second intervals. As they moved to take-off position, the crowd covered their ears and we just stood there laughing at the faces they pulled. This man said to us "Didn't you think it was loud?" "No," we said. He was puzzled and we said, "Do you see that house with the tall roof?" He said he did, and we said, "That's where we live so we're really used to the noise!" 

"When a Vulcan went overhead we used to stop talking and carry on from where we left off when it had passed. So you had to have a good memory to be able to carry on a sentence from when you was interrupted..."

:: Did you work at RAF Finningley or go to one of the open days, perhaps as a child? If you have any photos, email them to south.yorkshire@bbc.co.uk.

last updated: 23/04/2008 at 16:19
created: 27/04/2005

Have Your Say

Did you work at RAF Finningley or live nearby? Maybe you went to one of the open days, perhaps as a child?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Carole Cronfield
My dad George Michael Cronfield was based at RAF Finningley for a while. He met my mum while he was there. He really enjoyed his time there. He worked as an electronics engineer and helped maintain the radar systems. My mum lived in Bentley, Doncaster and when they went out my dad would insist on seeing her home and then would walk back to Finningley from Bentley and then be up early for work the following morning. He never forgot his RAF days and carried his RAF discharge book with him whereever he went until he died in a house fire in Blackpool on 11/10/2008. He was very proud of his days serving in the RAF and in particular RAF Finningley. He was a wrestless soul and loved the travelling that was part of the job. He had fond memories of working in Germany (where I was born), and in Holland, and had many funny stories to tell.

Maisie park
very good

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