Greencastle Airfield lay around 2 miles south of Kilkeel, Co. Down. The site took up a large part of Cranfield Bay where the caravan park stands today. Building on the site began on 12th January 1942. As with other airfields in Northern Ireland, the site took up a large part of good agricultural land.
The Royal Air Force offered compensation but many locals felt it was not enough and refused to move. Therefore, the airfield buildings went up with rural residents scattered throughout the site in the townlands of Derryoge, Dunavil, Ballynahatten, Cranfield, and Grange.
Where runways were under construction, an Air Ministry Compulsory Acquisition order gave residents 3 days to leave. Other homeowners had slightly longer to salvage what they could from their houses. In early 1942, most local farmers had already cultivated their land for the early potato crop.
In total, the airfield comprised around 450 buildings. Some foundations were never built upon, while other buildings never saw use during wartime. The site covered 350 acres and had 4 T2 hangars. The main runway was 1.5 miles long and ran parallel to the sea. It was 150 feet wide and in places, the concrete measured between 6 feet and 9 feet in thickness.
USAAF at Greencastle Airfield
In April 1942, the airfield opened as RAF Greencastle, an airfield to train Royal Air Force bomber Operational Training Units. The RAF transferred the site to the United States Army Air Force and the airfield became USAAF Station 237. RAF 2852 Squadron formed there in May 1942 before the transfer to the US Army. On 30th July 1942, the USAAF Station opened with 8th Air Force Composite Command taking over on 3rd August 1943.
From then until February 1944, the airfield was home to 5th Combat Crew Replacement Centre where B-24 Liberator crews trained. Throughout 1944, Greencastle Airfield operated as a satellite to USAAF Station 597 at Langford Lodge, Co. Antrim. These Combat Crew Replacement Centres trained new crews to replace those lost in action. For many airmen from the United States, an airfield such as this in Northern Ireland would be their first step into the conflict in Europe.
From December 1943 until September 1944, air gunners trained at the Greencastle site. 4th Gunnery and Tow Target Flight operated Douglas A-20 Havocs, Westland Lysanders, and Vultee Vengeance A-35B’s. Between May 1944 and August 1944, Greencastle Airfield, Co. Down and Cluntoe Airfield, Co. Tyrone output 330 heavy bomber crews.
Units based at Greencastle Airfield, Co. Down
|Unit||Start Date||End Date|
|4th Replacement and Training Squadron.|
|4th Gunnery and Tow Target Flight.|
|5th Airdrome Squadron.|
|8th Air Force Anti-Aircraft Machine Gunnery School.|
|65th Airdrome Squadron.|
|84th Station Complement Squadron.|
|Detachment A 1262nd Military Police Company (Aviation).|
|Detachment A 1730th Ordnance Squadron Company (Aviation).|
|Detachment D 1056th Quartermaster Company Service Group (Aviation).|
|Detachment 237 18th Weather Squadron.|
On 17th May 1944, General Dwight D Eisenhower visited the airfield to inspect troops. He arrived on a B-17 and met General Stafford LeRoy Irwin and viewed the US Army 10th Infantry Division and Divisional Artillery. General George S Patton was also a visitor to the Co. Down airfield in the run-up to D-Day. Patton visited the site on 30th March 1944.
Towards the end of the war, from February 1945 until May 1945, 5th Airdrome Squadron operated the site before it returned to RAF control on 31st May 1945. The Royal Air Force immediately closed the airfield. During the 1960s, local landowners broke up the runways to build boundary walls. Traces of the runways have gone but many of the Greencastle Airfield buildings still stand in derelict condition. These include the control tower, operations block, shelters, and other outbuildings.