Second World War in Northern Ireland

County Down Airfields

Insp. General of Polish Armed Forces visits Ballyhalbert

All of the photographs in this set relate to the visit of General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, who was Inspector General of Polish Armed Forces in 1943 - 1944, to Ballyhalbert Airfield on 14th August 1943.

I hope you can see the comparrison in the pictures shown here with the first showing a Spitfire moving around a Fighter dispersal. 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.

This picture shows a selection of guests who had been watching a Flying Display.

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!

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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 Maching gun would be fitted.

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R.A.F. 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.

The top picture shows a selection of buildings in close proximity with the second showing the Control Tower with "B C" in concrete in front, a perimeter fence Guardhouse and a Revo T2 Mk 2 runway light.

 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 taxi-ing however fortunately it did not detonate!

The last three pictures above start with 2 armoured shutters which have been disguarded from an old sangar.

The top of the ripped poster is an interesting reminder of Bishopscourt's days during the Cold-War as it shows the rank badges of Czechoslovakian Ground and Air Forces! The last picture here is of a Stanton Shelter - Of which another can be seen at Nutts Corner.

The building shown here can be seen at Crew Road. It was used by Royal Air Force personnel who operated some Radar equipment which was at the top of the hill. All of this has been removed however the fence posts remain.

Visitors should be aware that, because of the vast size of this complex, it may be necessary to ask permission from a selection of people to look around the site.

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R.A.F. Ballyhalbert Fighter Dispersal Pen

 

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.

There are then a group of three pictures showing one of the entrances and then a walk through the shelter to illustrate conditions for anyone sheltering inside.

The last photograph looks back through the shelter towards the 2 entrances which are the left side of the top photograph. - Second World War photographs show that this shelter was beside an aircraft dispersal however very little remains to be seen of this other than the occasional circle of concrete.

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R.A.F. Ballyhalbert Airfield

 

The old R.A.F. airfield at Ballyhalbert is easy to explore however sadly there is considerable development in the area which has encroached onto the site.

This was a Fighter Command station which was completed in the Spring of 1941 and became operational on 28th June of that year having a considerable role in the defence of Belfast.

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 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?

The building shown here is a Stand By Set House.

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.

 

The two pictures above show what was the Airfield Hospital.

Much of the Ballyhalbert site is now being used as a Caravan Park.

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.

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Ballyhalbert Airfield Runway Lighting

On looking at the Beach at Ballyhalbert visitors will see a line of approx 6 small structures which are best noticed at low tide. These are all in a straight line and were Approach Lighting for one of Ballyhalbert's runways.

They were constructed by W.F.Graham Electrical Contractors from Linenhall Street in Belfast.

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Ballywalter S.L.G.16.

Shown above is a defensive position at Ballywalter which has plenty of these structures to find! Entry to this shelter can be made from the right of this picture with the feature appearing to be perhaps hexagonal in shape.

Here we have a few photographs from what was known as Number 16 Satellite Landing Ground at 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 one of the photographs here shows where concrete blocks have been used to fill gaps which had been created to allow the aircraft to be hidden among trees.

The airfield was under the control of Wing Commander Abbot and operated until 14th March 1945.

The wall through which aircraft were hidden.           Entrance to Ballywalter position.

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 above right 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 Airraid 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"

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Blaris

The Royal Air Force operated a Landing Ground at Blaris near the City of Lisburn. This was a grass strip used by the Air Training Corps and was active from 1943. - Nothing remains of the site.

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U.S.A.A.F. 237 Greencastle

 

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.

It was opened on 30th July 1942 and in February 1945 an amazing 320 aircraft were on the airfield which has a Type 12779 / 41 Control Tower. The butts remain as does much of the concrete work of the standings. - Some of the old airfield is now a caravan site. 

 

There are a number of buildings remaining which were part of the old airfield complex however the Control Tower has now been bricked up to prevent vandalism - Which is probably a good thing in my opinion as it may protect the "Flying Control" directional arrow painted on an internal wall which is shown here.

The Firing Range Butts remain in good condition and are interesting in that they have a light on the top left when facing the range. - This would have been illuminated during night firing as the range is in close proximity to the runways.

Shown directly above are 3 photographs - From left to right they show a Blast Shelter, Electricity Generator Station (Which is very similar to that seen at Toome Airfield) and a Squash Court which still retains its wall markings!

The wall shown above has been constructed from broken up concrete runways and the tall concrete plinth has a metal tube in the centre of the top into which a .50 machine gun would have been fitted for shooting practice - See Above.

 

The following two photographs show a building which 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 on the left side of the background building 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"

It is said that there was enough concrete in the various runways at Greencastle to lay a roadway 9 feet wide between Belfast and Londonderry.

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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.

 

The photographs above show the Stanton Shelter inside looking towards one of the entrances with the next one looking in the opposite direction.

There remains a considerable section of runway which is shown on the left.

With much of the old airfield at Kirkistown having been destroyed I would hope that perhaps this small section will be retained.

Well worth a look around however please remember to seek permission from the owner before doing so.

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KIRKISTOWN AIRFIELD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shown here are some of the remaining buildings at what was Kirkistown Airfield.

Used by the U.S. as a Reciprocal Aid Field this was opened in 1941 as a satellite to the larger Ballyhalbert Airfield. - It is interesting to note that in1939 there were only 3 airfields in all of Northern Ireland however only 6 years later this had increased to an amazing 26!

It 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 as can be seen in the second picture courtesy of SK Photos.

The top photograph shows a panoramic view of a number of the Kirkistown airfield buildings. The picture immediately below shows the Officers Ablution Block which is the second from right in the top photograph.

The aerial photograph above is shown thanks to the Motor Club now based at Kirkistown with the picture below being an Airraid shelter at the site.

 

 

There are two buildings shown directly above which 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!

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R.A.F. 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.

The two pictures above show a Gas Decontamination building and old pillbox at the site.

The Belfast Aircraft factory - Short Brothers also used this site to test their Stirling Bombers.

On 12th September 1942 Headquarters of 8th U.S.A.A.F. moved to Long Kesh which was where the King, Queen and Princess Elizabeth landed in a Dakota aircraft during a Royal Visit to Northern Ireland on 17th July 1945.

The picture here shows Long Kesh from 17,000 feet on 11th September 1958.

Shown here are some pictures from one of the few buildings remaining from W.W.2.

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.

The chimneys from the old stoves remain and to the left is a view through the windows which will soon be enveloped in ivy.

Shown above are two large Bellman Hangars which remain. The large red brick structure is built onto the side of one of these hangars and there are four smaller buildings front left.

The "Emergency Water Supply 30,000 Gallons" sign can still be seen on the side of one of the Hangar buildings which would indicate that there had been a considerable water tank positioned beside the two hangars to be used in the event of fire.

The picture above left includes one of a number of Airraid Shelters which are seen around the hangars. - There are quite a few of these which would show that perhaps a large number of people would have been working in this area.

On the left is a door into one of the rooms off the main hangar and, as can be seen by the picture, this led into a "Store House"

Below are some of the number of Airraid Shelters in the immediate area.

 

On the extreme 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 next picture shows a view along one of the corridors within the old Operations Block.

Below is a view of the Machine gun Range Butts as seen from behind.

The front of this wall would have been the same as the one at Greencastle as shown above.

As part of the plan to disperse production from Belfast Shorts used the large Bellman Hangars for their production of Stirling Bombers.

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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.

The pictures here show 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.

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Murlough

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.

The easiest way of finding this building and seeing where the grass strip was located is via the access road from Dundrum village.

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Newtownards Airfield

 

 

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 pictures here show a Type 22 pillbox on which is the rear boom of a Miles Areovan which in the past was used as a windsock. To the right of this is the large Machine Gun Range butts. The third picture is an airfield defence structure comprisied 3 adjoined pill boxes as laid out in the drawing below. These were used to defend the airfield and doubled as air raid shelters.

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 all of the locations shown here are easily seen from the coastal path which runs the length of the airfield.

On travelling from Newtownards towards Comber the airfield is on your left and it was in this area that the accommodation blocks stood.  

This example is beside the coastal path and additional roofing has been added in recent years as seen in the picture.

Shown above 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.

 

The rather poor drawing above is of an Airfield Defence Structure similar to that on the Lough side which is located on the Southwest side of the airfield. It is very heavily overgrown and difficult to access.

 

Near the Machine Gun 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.

The two pictures above show a view of the Comber Road side Seagull Trench with a view inside one of the 2 incorporated shelters.

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An Interesting Visitor To Newtownards

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, which I believe was marked with the swastika, remained at Ards for 4 days.

 

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