Walking back through Twyford Woods airfield and its vital role in D-Day mission

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Historic wartime runways and a control tower that witnessed the start of D-Day drew the largest group yet to attend a South Lincolnshire Walking Festival event in South Kesteven.

The venue was North Witham airfield, now known as Twyford Woods near Colsterworth and owned by the Forestry Commission.

In 1943 it was handed over to American forces and became known as Station 479, responsible for the supply and maintenance of all aircraft within the USAAF 9th Air Force in the build up to D-Day.

Walkers heard how, on the eve of D-Day, C-47 Dakota aircraft took off into the gathering dusk carrying specially trained Pathfinder paratroopers, heading for France.

They crossed the 1,800 metre main runway and visited the run-down control tower that co-ordinated a vital mission to lay radio navigation beacons to guide the next day’s allied airborne invasion.

It was a sufficiently momentous operation to attract General Dwight Eisenhower to the airfield to wish the Pathfinders luck, with a camera crew to film their flight into history – still available on the American aviation heritage website Critical Past.

North Witham is part of South Kesteven District Council’s proposed 9th Air Force Troop Carrier Command trail to include nearby Morkery Woods with its remnants of ammunition stores and airfields at Folkingham, Fulbeck and Barkston Heath.

The walk was one of 11 organised for the festival by South Kesteven District Council, whose portfolio holder for leisure, arts and culture, Coun Linda Wootten, said: “We are delighted to see so many people joining us on the walks we are hosting as part of the festival.

“A lot of people are probably unaware of the wartime history of North Witham. This is a great way to unlock the district’s heritage as well as encouraging people to adopt a healthy lifestyle with walks for more people to enjoy.”

South Lincs Walking Festival is run by Heritage Lincolnshire and runs until October 31, with more than 70 free guided walks across South and North Kesteven, Boston and South Holland.

For more details on the walks visit www.southlincswalking.com