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In 1944 (including D-Day), this was the headquarters for the USAAF's Ninth Air Force's IX Troop Carrier Command, being known as Grantham Lodge.RAF Spitalgate trained pilots during both world wars, initially as a Royal Flying Corps establishment.It was the first military airfield in Lincolnshire. The Queen's Royal Lancers (part of the Royal Armoured Corps) have their RHQ on the base.

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Grantham is also notable for having the first female police officers in the United Kingdom, notably Edith Smith in 1914, and producing the first running diesel engine in 1892, and the UK's first tractor in 1896.

The origin of "Grantham" is uncertain, although the name is said probably to be Old English "Granta ham", meaning "Granta's homestead".

Mesolithic flints have also been recovered from the Cherry Orchard Estate as well as from sites to the west of Great Gonerby To the north-east of the town centre a Bronze Age bucket and urn cemetery, with cremation burials and ploughed-out barrows, has been recorded.

Bronze Age flint scatters have also been found in several places, particularly on the higher ground near Barrowby.

The town is best known as the birthplace of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and the place where Isaac Newton went to school, at The King's School.