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Ballyhalbert

Major
Also known as: Ballyhalbert Caravan Park / Ballyhalbert Holiday Park / HMS Corncrake / RAF Ballyhalbert / RNAS Ballyhalbert
County: Ards
Current Status: Housing / Leisure activity
Date: 28 June 1941 - 14 February 1946
Current Use: Disused
Used By: RAF / RAF (Polish) / FAA
Landing Surface Types: Paved
Aircraft Roles: Fighter / Naval aviation

The most important airfield on Northern Ireland’s Ards Peninsula, Ballyhalbert served as a major fighter airfield during World War Two. First of a number of RAF squadrons to be present from the summer of 1941 was No 245 with Hawker Hurricanes in order to mount defensive patrols. Subsequent units notably included No 504 Squadron, which stayed both here and at the satellite airfield of Kirkistown with more Hurricanes and later Supermarine Spitfires between August 1941 and October 1942, plus the Spitfires of No 501 Squadron which then remained until going to Westhampnett in April 1943.

Ballyhalbert proved to be one of these more quietly effective but still steadily busy airfields during its RAF career. Apart from day fighter elements carrying out necessary shipping escort patrols, there was a significant night fighter presence here too in order to help protect Northern Ireland. No 153 Squadron reformed at the airfield on 24 October 1941 to fly Boulton Paul Defiants, before switching to Bristol Beaufighters that became operational in May 1942. Their unit left for North Africa the following December but retained a detachment at Ballyhalbert into January 1943.

The Fighter Command commitment at this airfield had to all intents finished by the spring of 1944 with the Spitfires of No 303 Squadron moving to Horne, but this did not leave Ballyhalbert idle. Fleet Air Arm fighter squadrons using especially Supermarine Seafires had already begun to visit, while two RAF Flights held on in place towards the end of World War Two for meteorological reconnaissance and target towing duties. Eventually the airfield officially became a Royal Navy base in July 1945 but no sooner had what was now alternatively known as HMS Corncrake appeared than it was quickly paid off on 13 November of that year. A return to the RAF on 15 January 1946 brought no more flying activity and Ballyhalbert quickly closed, being transferred to the Northern Ireland Government for storage duties. Ejector seat maker Martin-Baker later on in the 1950s briefly considered acquiring the site until deciding to purchase Langford Lodge instead.

Today much of the airfield has disappeared under an ever expanding park homes and caravan site. Sections of the three runways still do survive for the time being, as does the control tower in a rather precarious state.

 

Notable Past Associated Organisations:

  • North Down Model Aero Club

Main unit(s) present:

  • 3rd Naval Fighter Wing

  • No 13 Gp AAC Flight

  • No 25 Sqn

  • No 26 Sqn

  • No 63 Sqn

  • No 81 Gp Comms Flight

  • No 82 Gp TT Flight

  • No 125 Sqn

  • No 130 Sqn

  • No 153 Sqn

  • No 231 Sqn

  • No 245 Sqn
  • No 256 Sqn

  • No 303 Sqn

  • No 315 Sqn

  • No 501 Sqn

  • No 504 Sqn

  • No 718 Sqn

  • No 725 Sqn

  • No 768 Sqn

  • No 784 Sqn

  • No 787 Sqn

  • No 800 Sqn

  • No 808 Sqn

  • No 812 Sqn

  • No 827 Sqn

  • No 880 Sqn

  • No 882 Sqn

  • No 885 Sqn

  • No 887 Sqn

  • No 894 Sqn

  • No 899 Sqn

  • No 1402 Met Flight

  • No 1480 (AAC) Flight

  • No 1493 (Fighter) Gunnery Flight

  • No 1493 (TT) Flight

  • No 1494 (TT) Flight

  • No 1840 Sqn

  • No 1846 Sqn

  • No 2707 Sqn RAF Regiment
Satellite(s):

Kirkistown

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