Newtownards Airfield was a Relief Landing Ground for the Elementary Flying Training School at Sydenham in Belfast.
It was used by the Army Air Corps as well as the Royal Air Force and United States 8th Air Force Composite Command.
The Airfield at Newtownards continues to operate as a Civil Airfield with a considerable amount of aircraft movement so the area of the runway cannot be accessed however many of the structures shown here are easily seen from the coastal path which runs the length of the airfield.
Here is a Type 22 pillbox on which is the rear boom of a Miles Aerovan which in the past was used as a windsock.
The defensive structure shown below is immediately beside the Pillbox.
Newtownards Shooting Range
This structure is the Shooting Range at Newtownards.
The Firing Line would have been a distance away to the left and I expect that what appears to have been a small room would have been where the targets were stored.
On the right are the common supports for Range Butts with the heavy metal doors allowing access to where the targets were positioned.
Frontal view of how the Range Butts look now - This is where the targets would have been positioned.
Here are United States Marines from the U.S.S. Texas taking part in weapon training at the range on Newtownards Airfield which is shown above. - The background of this picture is looking towards the Comber Road. (Picture from "From Belfast Lough To D-Day")
Newtownards "Seagull Trench" Airfield Defence Structures
Near the Shooting Range is a 'Seagull Trench' defence which is shown here being overgrown however I believe this has been listed to be preserved. You can see the 'seagull' shape with the hardened centre sections.
Another Seagull Trench can be found at the water treatment plant on Comber Road.
This is shown below.
With the top photographs showing the entrance to the small incorporated shelters here you can see both the rear of the shelters and what they look like inside.
This photograph shows a view across the Airfield.
The Shooting Range is to the left with the "Seagull Trench" on the right and Scrabo Tower on the hill in the background.
Visitors to Newtownards Airfield
On Friday 29th May 1936 a three engined Junkers Ju 52 aircraft brought the German Ambassador to Britain - Joachim Von Ribbentrop to Newtownards airfield.
He was making a private visit to the Londonderry's at Mount Stewart Estate and the German aircraft remained at Ards for 4 days.
(See http://www.pprune.org/ and http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/ for more details.)
Here is the Plaque which was unveiled by Group Captain Douglas Bader when the Ulster Flying Club building was opened in 1975.
Ten Acres, Newtownards
Shown here are a few of the houses in Ten Acres, Newtownards.
You will see from the design of the buildings that these were originally built as a Dispersed Living Quarters for Personnel based at Ards Airfield however they have been converted into private dwellings.
Millisle and the Unfinished Airfield
Anyone travelling along the Moss Road between Bangor and Millisle may be surprised to see a concrete airfield runway!
This was to be part of an airfield built for the United States Army Air Force as a Combat Crew Replacement Centre.
A selection of the remaining buildings as well as one side of the runway which is split into two sections by the Moss Road.
The small buildings which were constructed as part of the Airfield project and can be located on Killaughey Road between Donaghadee and what is known as "Four Road Ends".
These buildings are used by small industry.
Number 16 Satellite Landing Ground, Ballywalter
This was a grass strip airfield which was opened on 1st June 1941 following a test landing on 25th April by an Anson aircraft and can be accessed via the beach adjacent to the Caravan Site.
On occasions Wellington bombers used this site and the photograph below left shows where concrete blocks have been used to fill gaps which had been created to allow the aircraft to be hidden among trees in the Dunleith Estate.
The airfield was under the control of Wing Commander Abbot and operated until 14th March 1945.
Visitors to the Caravan Site will know the Airfield Defensive Structure which is shown here.
Top right is an overview of the structure with above left showing the wall and access to the incorporated Air raid Shelter, the interior of which can be seen above.
The layout of the airfield was 2 grass strips with one being parallel to the beach.
There are a total of 5 defensive positions, such as the one shown above, which are all on the shore side of the runway.
It is always a bonus to find some evidence of the presence of the personnel who served during the war.
The photograph below left shows a Tractor Shed near which is a concrete ramp.
There are also 2 sturdy red bricked buildings on the road side of the old runway which may have been used as Air raid Shelters as there are no windows.
It is worth noting that the roadside wall reduces in size at entrances to permit the wings of aircraft to pass as they were moved across the road to be hidden under the trees.
The Tractor Shed appears to have been painted grey as shown above and I was very pleased to find this marking on a wooden joist beside a nail saying "Dip Stick For Oil"
Much is left with the Control Tower, Butts, Officers Mess, Petrol Tanker Refuelling Point, original main entrance gate barrier complete with "Crows Foot" logo, speech broadcast building and battle H.Q. all visible and each is shown here. The building with the raised roof (Shown above) is the kitchen area of the Mess.
On one of the concrete taxiways is the marking "T.C. 27 1 40 - 28 Days" but what does this mean?
It can be seen a short distance from Ballyhalbert in the fields between Glastry and Kircubbin.
An ablution Block can also been found in an adjoining field. - It must be remembered that the various Airfield buildings were spread over considerable areas to prevent consolidated damage from any enemy air raids.
Frederick Strutt was 31 years old and a civilian worker involved in working on the drem runway lighting at Ballyhalbert Airfield.
He was killed on 4th November 1942 when a Beaufort aircraft piloted by Sergeant G.B. Swift of 153 Sqn ran off the runway and killed him.
Seven days later on 11th November Sgt Swift (Aus 406552) and his Crewman Sgt D.J. Blanchard were transferred to number 29 Squadron.
Frederick Strutt is buried in Deansgrange Cemetery, Drumcondra, Dublin.
They were constructed by W.F.Graham Electrical Contractors from Linenhall Street in Belfast.
Shown here is a rather overgrown Fighter Dispersal Pen which I suspect will be demolished soon as the area it is located in is subject to considerable housing development.
The top picture shows 2 entrances on this side while there is another one entrance on the opposite side of the construction. This picture was taken from the top of the embankment which would have separated 2 Fighter Aircraft that were parked at this pen.
Looking inside the Shelter which is between the two Fighter dispersals.
B Flight of 26 Squadron, Royal Air Force photographed in one of the Fighter Dispersal Pens at Ballyhalbert in August 1943.
This is the Lockheed 12 aircraft "City of Nairobi" used by General Sosnkowski for his visit to the airmen of 315 (Polish) Squadron R.A.F. at Ballyhalbert on 14th August 1943.
(Thanks very much to Tony Osborne for these photographs)
On the left of General Sosnkowski is Flying Officer Ksawery Wyrozemski, who was known as "Wild Bill" and to his right is Wing Commander Bajan who had injured his left hand during Luftwaffe raid on Deblin on 2/9/1939. He escaped to France in 1940 and after having a hook fitted to replace his hand Bajan took part in some combat flights with 316 Squadron.
The photograph on the right shows aircraft escorting General Sosnkowski's Lockheed 12 on the afternoon of 12th August 1943 after leaving Ballyhalbert. (Thanks very much to Tony Osborne for these pictures.)
This Flying Display was performed by Number 315 Polish Squadron at Ballyhalbert on 14th August 1943.
I am pleased with this one as you can see the positioning of the spitfires in the middle of the picture and even the rise of the small hill in the background.
If you click on the original picture you will be able to read the comment on the door!
(Thanks very much to Tony Osborne for these photographs)
The Flying Display is being filmed. (Tony Osborne)
(Thanks very much to Tony Osborne for these photographs)
Presentation of The Cross of Virtuti Militari to 315 Squadron Pilots at R.A.F. Ballyhalbert
General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, Commander in Chief of Polish Armed forces who makes the Presentations.
Being decorated in Squadron Leader Sawicz followed by Flying Officer Blok, Squadron Leader Popawski and Flying Officer Malczewski.
(Thanks very much to Tony Osborne for these photographs)
(Thanks very much to Tony Osborne for all of these photographs)
This is a group of Seafire Fighter Aircraft crossing the Ards Peninsula.
They are from 885 Naval Air Squadron and the photograph was taken in January 1944. (From asisbiz.com)
Kirkistown was opened in 1941 as a satellite to the larger Ballyhalbert Airfield. - It is interesting to note that in 1939 there were only 3 airfields in all of Northern Ireland however only 6 years later this had increased to an amazing 26!
Kirkistown was used by both the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. A considerable section of the old airfield is now used at a racing circuit for cars, karts and motorcycles.
The top photograph shows a panoramic view of a number of the Kirkistown airfield buildings at Dispersed Living Quarters.There is a Toilet Block centre left with an Air Raid Shelter to the right.
An Air raid shelter is shown above whilst the observation port is in another building which can be used to defend the Airfield if attacked.
The photograph above shows how Kirkistown looked on 26th October 1942.
This aerial photograph shows Kirkistown as it looked in 1944. (Thanks very much to the Motor Club at Kirkistown)
Adolf Hitler at Kirkistown!
This drawing of Hitler would have been made when the cement was wet whilst construction of the runway was taking place.
I have included the yellow directions as to where to see Hitler and where his name has been written.
Kirkistown Fighter Station Satellite Operations Block
These two buildings are at Kirkistown and the one on the left is particularly interesting. From the second picture you will see that rather than windows this side of the building has Pillbox type loopholes through which fire could be directed towards any enemy paratroopers attempting to attack the airfield.
This building was actually a Fighter Station Satellite Operations Block!
Kirkistown Fighter Dispersal Pen
Here is a good looking Fighter Dispersal Pen which can still be seen at Kirkistown. The first picture shows the pen as seen on approach along the taxiway with the second being a view from the top of the incorporated shelter looking towards where one of two fighter aircraft would have been kept.
The third picture shows the shelter from the reverse side with the protected entrance and directly above is the view a pilot would have as he brings his aircraft to a halt.
This is what you find when you go inside the Shelter at these Fighter Pens. A sturdy Air Raid Shelter with protected Entrances.
There remains a considerable section of runway and with much of the old airfield at Kirkistown having been destroyed I would hope that perhaps this small section along with the Fighter dispersals will be retained.
Well worth a look around however please remember to seek permission from the owner before doing so.
In the background, Squadron Leader W.J. Hitchinson, Officer Commanding Royal Air Force and Lt. Colonel J.S. Shaw, United States Army Air Force salute the British and American flags as the RAF flag is taken down and the American flag is raided during a ceremony at which RAF Greencastle was turned over to the U.S.A.A.F. and became United States Army Air Force Station 237.
This photograph on the left (From The Northern Whig) shows "Old Glory" being lowered and the Ensign of the Royal Air Force taking its place at Greencastle in 1945.
The airfield at Greencastle was known by the United States Army Air Force as AAF 237 and was home to 496 Fighter Training Group and 12 Combat Crew Replacement Centre.
The next photograph is the Control Tower as it looks now.
On entering the Control Tower you will find this "Flying Control" sign directing you upstairs.
"Royal Air Force Station Greencastle Xmas Dinner 1942"
This Menu was for the Christmas Dinner served at R.A.F. Greencastle in December 1942.
It is reassuring to see that there appears to have been lots on offer..... Including Cigars which I doubt would not be on any menu today. (Obtained from Ebay)
Greencastle Airfield Machine-gun Firing Stand
This is a great example of knowing that something is interesting but at the same time not knowing exactly what it is.
On finding this piece of concrete with some metal coming out of the top I thought it was possibly a flagstand for the flying of a red flag when firing was taking place at the range.
I was very pleased to find the pictures shown above of U.S. Air Force personel using such an item which is actually a Firing Stand with the individual pintle mount on the top into which a Machine gun would be fitted.
You will notice that the wall is not made up of Mourne stone in the usual way of the construction of dry stone walls but is actually constructed using broken up sections of the old Airfield Runway.
Greencastle Airfield Operations Block
The building shown above is a short distance away from most of the airfield construction and this is the Operations Block. The pictures show both outside and one of the two large rooms inside.
A door (Which is shown here) still has a very interesting marking which clearly dates from the operational days of the Airfield and on close inspection I believe this is a notice saying "P/OFFICE"
To the left is the Royal Air Force Sector Clock from R.A.F. Greencastle
Inspections at Greencastle
Shown above is a still from film footage of General Eisenhower inspecting Soldiers at Greencastle Airfield.
The details of his visit to Northern Ireland can be seen on this document which was not declassified until September 1970.
General Eisenhower arrived in a new B-17 (The first time he had used this particular aircraft) and after Inspecting 10th Infantry and Divisional Artillery at the Airfield he travelled to a number of other locations including Newcastle, Dundrum and Ballykinler Ranges.
One month previous to the arrival of General Eisenhower the troops at Greencastle were inspected on 30th March 1944 by General Patton who is shown addressing the men in the photograph below.
(From the book "Lifeline To Freedom)
Various Greencastle Airfield Buildings
The Building above was an Electricity Generator Building whilst below is a Blast Shelter.
This building was a Squash Court. It remains in great condition and the wall markings are clear to be seen.
Aircraft at Greencastle
B-24 Liberator "Spirit of '46" then "Flying Patch" served with 576 Squadron and was firstly with446th Bomber Group then to the 389th Bomber Group before finally 392nd Bomber Group.
24th February 1944
Being flown by 1st Lieutenant Wittel on Bombing Raid to Gotha, Germany on the crews eighth mission. Radio Operator Technical Sergeant Cletus Jeffcoat wrote “Went to Gotha, Germany. A day of all raids. Under attack about 3 hours. Shot out number 2 engine with flak. Miller and Polovich were killed in waist gunner position. 20 mm exploded in top between them. Both were hit badly, they never knew what happened. Miller died just before we landed. John died in hospital. We had an awful fuel leak in the bomb bays. Candy [engineer T/Sgt Cannada] took his handkerchief and chewing gum and stopped the leak as much as possible, then transferred the fuel out to another tank. Due to the clear weather, not a cloud in sight, we were forced to stick with the formation with 3 engines. That 3 engine plane stuck out like a sore thumb. I took over the top turret while Candy saw to the boys and plane. Our Pilot thought about going to Switzerland but no plane that left the formation that day lasted over 10 minutes. So we came home. The boys were running around in a daze from lack of oxygen. But thank God we made home. There was more with us than just luck. We crash landed, because our hydraulics was shot out. We were lucky again.”
8th March 1944
Went to Berlin today. What a raid. Every plane we had was up there that day. It was very clear and we could see our bombs hit the target. (I mean the Group’s.) We got a 20mm in the leading edge of our left wing. - SEE ABOVE. Thought that the end of our wing was coming off so we had to drop our bombs and as luck would have it, we hit a little town and blowed it all to hell. Berlin looked like it was a pretty nice city. We saw a few bombers and fighters go down, but we made it back ok. We were the second to land. Everyone was looking at our wing. We nearly always get hit, but thank God we have always returned. I had better knock on wood right now.”
"Rapidly building a record as a miracle ship, the B-24 Liberator "Flying Patch" returned from Munich on its 58th mission with two engines out and two more holes punched in it by flak. Two further holes in the flak-battered aircraft meant a total of 2502!
With a record of more holes per mission than any other bomber on the base, the Flying Patch was brought back from Hitler's old headquarters by 1/Lt Ben L. Holliday.
"Flak knocked out number one engine-the outboard engine on the left wing-just as we began our bomb run," reported Holliday. "Shrapnel hit the propeller done and all the oil ran out. I yelled at the Bombardier to drop his bombs. Two minutes later flak came through the right side of the ship beside the co-pilot. It sliced his microphone cord, bounced off the metal handle of the parachute rip cord and slewed off to the left to hit me in the right arm. Stung like a bee sting."
The copilot, Lt Paul U. Daniel, cut in. "When I told the radio operator to see how badly Ben was hurt, he had to slice through his flying clothing to bandage it. Ben told him to be careful and not to cut his shirt as it was his best one. With number one engine out," the copilot continued, "we flew several thousand feet below the formations, hedgehopping from Group to Group. Suddenly something went wrong with the number three engine-inboard on the right wing. We could get only partial power out of it, and it shook as though it were coming right off the wing. We thought nothing more could happen to us but about half way home number two engine quit. The fuel system had broken down, but we didn't know that at the time. There we were flying along with two engines out on the left wing and only one and a half on the right. We must have flown pretty close to 400 miles before we got number two engine back into operation again."
"Fighter cover was swell," resumed Lt Holliday. "Four P-38's picked us up when we left formation and escorted us almost all the way back to the channel, then four P-47's took over. When I saw the P-38's overhead I had the boys throw out everything that was loose. Guns, ammunition, and all excess baggage went overboard. With two engines out and a third acting up, the position was too precarious to keep anything we didn't need. After the engineer found out what was wrong with the fuel lines, we came on in with very little trouble."
"The Flying Patch is the miracle ship of the Group, "commented Lt.Col. Lorin L. Johnson, commanding officer of the unit. "It has flown nearly half of the Group's entire operations, been to Berlin, Friedrichshafen, Politz, Bremen, Kiel, Frankfurt, and other tough targets, taken more than the usual amount of damage and still keeps on flying."
B-24 Liberator 42-100187 "Pallas Athene - The G.I. Jane" was christened on 2nd February 1944 by a "bevy of WACs from Second Air Division Headquarters"
On 30-Jul-44, while on a non-operational training mission, the pilot made an extremely low landing approach and hit the tops of trees. He pulled up in time to maintain flight and landed the plane safely. The right vertical stabilizer, fuselage, and nose were damaged.
The aircraft arrived at Greencastle on 8th December 1944 after being declared "War Weary" on 18th September 1944.
(Many thanks to http://warbird-central.com for Picture and Information)
Number 19 Satellite Landing Ground, Murlough near Newcastle
Located between Dundrum and Newcastle this airfield was known as 19 Satellite Landing Ground and was operated by 23 Maintainance Unit from Aldergrove from 11th March 1941.
The picture here shows the only intact building from the airfield which I could find. It appears to have been a Tractor Shed.
There are some remains of another building as well as a section of concrete at a car park which may date from the S.L.G.
This Aerial Photograph shows Murlough as it looked in 1942.
At that time it was being used by 231 Squadron R.A.F. under 23 Maintenance Unit.
"A" Flight of 88 Squadron R.A.F. were flying Battles from here on Special Training as well as "A" Flight of 651 Squadron from Long Kesh.
The Airfield was guarded by men of the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
The easiest way of finding this building and seeing where the grass strip was located is via the access road from Dundrum village.
(Thanks very much to Skyhawk from the Airfield Research Group for information & picture)
Royal Air Force Bishopscourt
It is only when you visit this site that you can realise how vast it really is! This is now a mixture of housing, farmland and a racing track which is used by both motorcycles and cars.
Here are a selection of buildings in close proximity with the Control Tower including "B C" in concrete in front and a perimeter fence Guardhouse.
I believe the site was constructed initially as a Combat Crew Replacement Centre for the United States Army Air Force however its first use was as home of Number 7 Air Observers School for the R.A.F. between 17th May 1943 and 15th February 1944. On 1st August 1943 airmen arrived for instruction by Number 12 Air Gunnery School with this ending on 31st May 1945.
Number 7 (Observers) Advanced Flying Unit operated between 15th February 1944 and 31st May 1945 with Number 7 Air Navigation School being active from then until 4th June 1947.
Shown here is the end of the runway where you can see the bearing "05" and the tower nearby used ot house the Identification Friend or Foe / Secondary Surveillance Radar.
In June 1943 the 2000 yards long runway was decided to be most suitable as a diversion for Liberator aircraft from Coastal Command.
The 'Action Stations' book records that on one night at Bishopscourt a Liberator from Coastal Command accidentally dropped a depth charge on the surface while taxiing however fortunately it did not detonate!
This is one of the Air Raid Shelters which can be seen at Bishopscourt.
The three buildings shown above date from the Cold War during which Bishopscourt was operational.
An illustration of this is where the remains of a poster showing "Czechoslovakian Ground and Air Force badges of Rank" is still attached to a wall whilst nearby are some armoured shutters which have been disguarded from a Sangar.
Bishopscourt RX Site
The building shown here can be seen at Crew Road. It was used by Royal Air Force personnel who knew this as the "RX" site and operated radio equipment to send and receive messages from aircraft. The "TX" Transmitting Station was at the top of the hill. All of this has been removed however the fence posts remain.
R.A.F. Bishopscourt Shooting Range
These 3 photographs show the Shooting Range at R.A.F. Bishopscourt.
This end of the Range is where the Firing Line would have been however the Butts are long gone.
I do not know the age of this building.
Royal Air Force Long Kesh
The airfield at Long Kesh was opened in November 1941 and was known by the United States 8th Air Force Composite Command as AAF232. The Composite Command was formed in 1942 for training purposes and was known as Combat Crew Replacement Centre Group.
These are two surviving Second World War Hangars which are currently being used by the Ulster Aviation Society.
In close proximity to the Hangars are this Pillbox and a number of Air Raid Shelters.
An old "Store House" inside one of the large Hangars whilst outside is this sign for the "Emergency Water Supply" which consisted of 30,000 Gallons.
R.A.F. Long Kesh Decontamination Block
These are the men of 879 Naval Air Squadron who are shown aboard H.M.S. Attacker in Belfast Lough. They were put ashore to RAF Long Kesh on the 24th February 1944 for Army Co-operation training and rejoined the ship on April 30th 1944 when H.M.S. ATTACKER was allocated to join the Home Fleet for Operation HOOPS; this strike on Norwegian coast shipping with HUNTER and STALKER was scheduled for May 8th but was cancelled and the ships returned to Belfast.
(See http://www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk/ for more details)
R.A.F. Long Kesh Building
This building is close to Eglantine Church and as with many of the old buildings connected to the Second World War nature is slowly reclaiming.
This one has suffered a small amount of vandalism however there are always interesting items to see. - The three pictures above show coat rails in the corridor, marks in the painted wall of a room showing where shelving had been and an extractor fan from the roof which has fallen into the room as the years have passed.
R.A.F. Long Kesh Shooting Range Butts
R.A.F. Long Kesh Operations Block
This is a view along a long corridor in the Operations Block.
To the left is a Trolley which would have been used on the Flight-Line at the old Long Kesh Airfield. It would have held a large Fire Extinguisher and would have been wheeled close to the aircraft which were running their engines.
The Long Kesh Tank.
Following the busy years of the Second World War Long Kesh evolved into “Central Vehicle Park, Northern Ireland Command” in 1948.
After there being a need for huge numbers of all types of machinery and weapons of war over the previous years there was now the problem of where to put it all!
There are photographs of places such as Maghaberry and Langford Lodge being crammed with Aircraft while various Military vehicles were stored at Long Kesh.
With the construction of Long Kesh Prison 3rd Royal Tank Regiment located a Mk IV Valentine Infantry Cruiser Tank which had been pulled out of a bog and partially restored.
The tank had been built by Vickers in 1943 and was transported back to Vickers for a Restoration Project with the assistance of the Tank Museum and the job was completed by 1988.
“Harvey” The Long Kesh Ghost.
Supposedly a Ghost dressed as a WW2 Airman who was stationed at Long Kesh at some stage during the war.
In the days when there was a Prison at Long Kesh he is supposed to have been seen by both Staff and “Residents” walking the corridors.
Stirling Bombers at R.A.F. Long Kesh
A row of Stirling Bombers at R.A.F. Long Kesh. (Thanks to Ernie Cromie for his assistance)
This aerial photograph shows how Long Kesh looked on 11th September 1958.