top of page
Operation Failed to Return

The men who flew from RAF Skellingthorpe -50 and 61 Squadrons RAF in wartime. UPDATED with news of the lost 61 Sqdn “Lanc in a Dutch canal” plus the memories of farmer Keith Toule, who grew up 150 yards from the base.

As Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham said: “You could hardly build an airfield closer to a city.” 

The wartime flyers and ground crew of RAF Skellingthorpe had a close affinity with the people of Lincoln. Sir Michael – himself a young pilot at Skellingthorpe --- never forgot. Speaking in 1989 he said: “They saw and heard at close quarters the bombers taking off night after night and then returning in the early hours. There were no complaints about aircraft noise in those days and we were sustained by their support and encouragement.”

Filmmaker Andrew Blow worked with the veterans in 1989 as they unveiled a memorial to more than 2000 comrades who died in the war. They presented a copy of the resulting film, “Operation Failed to Return,” to Prince Charles on VHS format.

In this DVD edition, that film - made with Sykes Video Links – is included with two new films looking back at 50 and 61 Squadrons and RAF Skellingthorpe. A fourth item about the 61 Squadron Lancaster being retrieved from the Dutch canal where it crashed in 1942 has been added. Finally, farmer Keith Toule's memories of a boyhood alongside the base provide a fifth item.

50 and 61, although now stood down, did some of the hardest work of Bomber Command.

The site of the base is now within Lincoln's boundary and has become Birchwood, built from the 1960s onwards and home to thousands. Nearby, the village of Skellingthorpe also welcomes back the veterans and their families each year, subject to Covid-19. PRICE INCLUDES P & P.


Operation Failed to Return

  • The wartime story of  the men who flew from the site of Lincoln's Birchwood Estate.


bottom of page