The view across the reclaimed marsh from The Tower at the former RAF Wainfleet weapons range may almost appear the same, but inside two retired air traffic controllers have been reliving memories in a much more comfortable setting.
At first glance from outside you might not realise it is now holiday accommodation. Wire fencing still encloses the control tower and outuildings, which have also been transformed into holiday let and appropriately named Hurricane, Lancaster and Spitfire,
However, those savvy enough might spot it is an Army Westland Lynx helicopter in the grounds and although the servicemen may have frequented the nearby pub when their shifts ended, they would never have been provided with a hot tub.
I met retired ATC Sgt Ken Williams and his former assistant SAC Phil Taylor in the lounge of The Tower. The room still has stunning 360 degree views of the Wash and countryside, but the controls have been replaced with a Christmas tree, large leather settee and a dining table scattered with the challenge of this day - a 1,000 piece Battle of Britain jigsaw.
There is a telescope but now you are more likely to see a gull in the air than a fighter plane.
I’m told with 78 years service in the Forces between them and as this is the 100th anniversary of the RAF, it seemed a perfect time for a reunion.
There is great camaraderie in the Forces and you build tremendous friendshipsRetired ATC Sgt Ken Williams
Ken now lives in Peterborough but Phil and his wife, Sally, who met at the base, still live in St Mary’s Lane, Wainfleet St Mary.
Phil and Ken first worked together at the former base in 1987 and have become lifelong friends. It was Sally who booked a four-day break at The Tower so they could all take a trip down the very long memory lane that goes past the Barley Mow pub on the A52
The lane tkes you through farmland belonging to William Roughton, who bought the base four years ago after it ceased operations and was responsible for the conversion.
“They’ve done a marvellous job with it,” said Ken, whose bedroom was once his commander’s office and has now been divided to include a luxury ensuite. “It was never good if the boss called you in. You knew you were in trouble.”
“The conversion has been done very sympathetically,” added Phil. “We certainly never imagined all those years ago we would be coming back and having a holiday here.”
Sally said her first job at the base was in the kitchens. “I came for three months and ended up being here just under 25 years,” she said. “We moved when Phil was promoted to London Air Traffic Control.”
Phil - who has many medals for service and campaigns in Bosnia and Iraq to mention a few - and retired as Warrant Officer after 39 years service just a year ago, said he never lost touch with Ken.
“We have always been great friends,“ said Ken, now a widower following the death of his wife, Pat. “There is great camaraderie in the Forces and you build tremendous friendships. We all used to go on holiday together in Phil and Sally’s caravan. But also if anyone needs help, you are there for them.”
The range first opened by the Army in 1891 by the 1st Lincolnshire Artillery and used during the First World War, Aerial bombing did not start until 1938. Until it ceased operation in 2009, it was under the control of RAF Strike Command and was used by aircraft from every NATO country.
This involved low flying across the marshland at Friskney and Ken and Phil could expect to be overseeing the slots for the dropping of 100 bombs day or night.
Two ships used for target practice can still be seen from The Tower, but other targets prepared at the base in one of the outbuildings were also used.
It was Phil’s job to clear the beach when the fighters were coming in. “It wasn’t easy making them hear,” he recalled. “We often had to get the fighters to fly over them low - then they realised.”
“A lot of visitors came to watch the A10, not realising how loud the gun was,” added Ken. “The noise made them jump. It as ever so funny.
“The cows in the field would look up the first time then not even bother.
”We have certainly been enjoying some great memories together.”