Harlaxton Manor was built in 1837, and was called Grantham Castle when it was owned, during the war, by Mrs. Violet Van Der Elst. She had purchased it two years after it had been abandoned, in 1935, and was scheduled for demolition by a firm from Nottingham. From 1942 until the end of 1943 it was used as an Officers mess by the Royal Air Force that were stationed at nearby R.A.F. Harlaxton. Then in January 1944 the 1st Airborne Division, which had returned from Italy and North Africa, began moving into the area.
One of the first Airborne units to move into Harlaxton Manor was the 253rd Airborne Composite Company, R.A.S.C. They were stationed there from at least February 1944 until April/May 1944. One of the RASC men, Private. Cameron H. Dunn, remembers that their sleeping accommodation “were big rooms with large fireplaces. There were large ‘tubs’ in the basement for hot water”.
The next major event was the billeting of a brand new unit at the Manor, No 1 (Airborne) Forward Observer Unit, Royal Artillery. This took place in July 1944, and was unusual in that No 1 F.O.U., R.A. was not fully established, and completed their organisation and training whilst at Harlaxton Manor. They would leave Harlaxton for Coleby Hall in October 1944.
The last of the 1st Airborne Division units to be billeted at Harlaxton was the 1st (Airborne) Divisional Provost Company, C.M.P. They were there from October 1944 until May 1945. Some of the men remember being billeted in one of the towers, which was called billet room No 5.
At the nearby Gregory Arms one of the smallest units of the 1st Airborne Division were billeted for a few months. This was the 89th (Parachute) Field Security Section, Intelligence Corps, under the command of Captain John Killick. This proved to be impractical as Captain Killick was billeted at one of the Messes at Fulbeck Hall, and the accommodation for his men was rather cramped, so they were moved out to a billet at Leadenham.