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Wings of Aesculapius - what is the connection...

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Wings of Aesculapius - what is the connection...

Post by Shippo » Mon Mar 21, 2016 12:40 am

The former military hospital that cared for civilians and soldiers from World War I up until the First Gulf War using the grounds of now derelict Victorian Nocton Hall, near Lincoln, has mostly been forgotten. This once was grand building stands abandoned, neglected, and far beyond repair together with the surrounding buildings that made up the hospital. Its history goes back to 1841 when it was rebuilt after a great fire which destroyed the previous building to suit the gentry of Lincolnshire.

During the Great War, the privately owned Nocton Hall was handed over to the USA upon its entry into the war in 1917. It was turned into a convalescent home for American officers wounded in the war, the last whom left in 1919. It then lay vacant until war clouds again began to develop over Europe in the 1930s when the Royal Air Force took an interest in it for usage as a military hospital.

The Air Ministry acquired the Hall and 200 acres of parkland in 1940 and built what is known as RAF Nocton Hall Hospital.

The U.S. Army again took over the complex of buildings during World War Two, turning it into a clearing station. More facilities were added to the east of Nocton Hall and it was formally re-designated and called the United States Army Seventh General Hospital.

At the end of the War in 1945, the RAF selected Nocton Hall to be its permanent general hospital for Lincolnshire, designating it to be RAF Nocton Hall Hospital once again.

Four wards were added in 1946, and the first patient was admitted on 1st November, 1947. In 1954 surgical, opthalmic and dental facilities were added. During 1957 a maternity wing was built, and in 1966, twin operating theatres and a neuro-psychiatric centre were added to the sprawling site which had developed into a 740 bed hospital, used by civilians and forces personnel, and one of the nations undisputed RAF Hospitals.

The decision was taken on 31 March 1983 to close RAF Nocton Hall, but within months, the hospital was leased to America as a United States Air Force wartime contingency hospital for the Gulf War. The Middle East war of 1991 and 1992 resulted in casualties with about 1,300 US medical staff being sent to the site. Once the Gulf War came to an end patients and staff were dispersed leaving only 13 American personnel to keep the hospital serviceable. However, to both the US and the British, the hospital was relinquished to become a residential home once again in the mid 90s but only later on to become abandoned.

The WW2 Dakota is famous for its flying ability and endurance and the aircraft is well known and still in use all over the world. This iconic piston aeroplane is respected by pilots who have flown it and still fly it in the 21st century. Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre has acquired one in mint condition. Dakotas once used Metheringham Airfield to fly in American casualties from the DD landings of WW2 to the nearby United States Army Seventh General Hospital at Nocton Hall, and to fly the soldiers out later. So both RAF Metheringham and Nocton Hall have a connection as well as with the iconic aircraft.

Group Captain (retired) Ian Hindle served in the Royal Air Force for 31 years as a surgical consultant both in the United Kingdom and abroad. His expertise is used by the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust as a Non- Executive Director and is Chairman of the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance Charity Trust. His has researched the history of RAF Nocton Hall Hospital and recently uncovered unique information about the American Army Medical Corp who have used Nocton Hall on a number of occasions.

Paul Stoddard served in the Royal Air Force for 8 years as an aero-systems engineer officer. He knowledgeable about a number of aircraft such as the Hawk, the VC 10. both the Harrier GR5 and Sea Harrier FA2, not to mention the Tornado GR1. His current position is an operational analysis lecturing in the UK. His knowledge and research includes the Dakota aircraft.

Both Ian and Paul will be speaking in turn at the first aviation lecture of the season organised by the Friends of Metheringham Airfield. It will take place on 23rd March 2016, beginning at 7.30pm under the theme of "Wings of Aesculapius’" - Dakotas, RAF Metheringham and Nocton Hall in World War Two. The talk will be held in the WW2 gymnasium and visitors and members alike will be intrigued what lies behind the title - to find out the invitation is to come along before the seats are taken!

Admission is £5.00 to visitors to include refreshments but is free to members of Friends of Metheringham Airfield and veterans of 106 Squadron.

John Shipton
Press Officer
Friends of Metheringham Airfield

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