RNAS Eglinton, Derry, Co. Londonderry

RNAS Eglinton operated from 1943 after transfer to the Royal Navy from the Royal Air Force who established RAF Eglinton at the now City of Derry Airport.

RNAS Eglinton / HMS Gannet

Airport Road

Derry

Co. Londonderry

BT47 3GY

United Kingdom

RNAS Eglinton first opened in April 1941 in Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland as RAF Station Eglinton. Located 1.3 miles northeast of the village of Eglinton, it had held many names over the years. The airfield at Eglinton was operational between 1941 and 1959.

The site boasted three tarmac runways surrounded by a hilly landscape. Handbooks from the time warn of the mountainous ranges to the north-west of the airfield. Those based at the airfield had accommodation at camps south by south-west of the site.

RNAS Eglinton offered a base for 211 officers, 1,415 Chiefs, Pilot Officers and ratings, 21 WRNS Officers, and 234 WRNS Chiefs, Pilot Officers, and ratings. The nearby St Canice’s Church of Ireland, Faughanvale, Eglinton doubled up as the station sick quarters.

As a Royal Air Force station in 1941, it was home to RAF 133 Squadron flying Hawker Hurricane fighters. RAF 41 Squadron moved in on 22nd September 1942 with their Supermarine Spitfire VB planes. They then moved on to RAF Llanbedr in late September 1942.

RNAS Eglinton Commissioned

The Royal Air Force transferred the airfield to the Royal Navy on 1st May 1943. It became the Fleet Air Arm airfield RNAS Eglinton, commissioned on 15th May 1943. 1847 Naval Air Squadron flew from the airfield providing air cover during the Battle of the Atlantic. During this time, the airfield was also given the name HMS Gannet.

Grummat Hellcat landing at RNAS Eglinton

Imperial War Museum Photo: A 22288 (Part of the Admiralty Official Collection). Dummy deck landing by a pilot of a Fleet Air Arm Squadron formed of Grumman Hellcats. The Squadron PHT is acting as batsman at RNAS Eglinton, Co. Londonderry. Photo taken by Royal Naval Official Photographer.

It was a parent station of the nearby RNAS Maydown or HMS Shrike from 15th May 1943 to 1st January 1944 and again from 31st September 1945. Fairey Swordfish planes flew from this satellite site. They received battle honours for their role in the Battle of the Atlantic between 1934 and 1945.

RNAS Eglinton closed in April 1959 with the remaining squadrons moving to RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down and RAF Ballykelly, Co. Londonderry.

Since its beginnings in April 1941, the airfield has operated as:

  • RAF Eglinton
  • RNAS Eglinton
  • HMS Gannet
  • HMS Sea Eagle
  • USAAF Station 344
  • Londonderry Eglinton Airport
  • Derry City Airport
  • City of Derry Airport

The married quarters’ estate at RNAS Eglinton comprised some 78 houses. In 1989, Roger Byron-Collins bought the houses on Fraser Avenue and Mill Path in Eglinton. The same company bought the officers married quarters of RAF Ballykelly in 2009.

Squadrons based at RNAS Eglinton

Over the course of its lifespan, RAF or RNAS Eglinton was home to:

  • 5th Naval Fighter Wing
  • 7th Naval Fighter Wing
  • 10th Naval Fighter Wing
  • 13th Carrier Air Group
  • 14th Carrier Air Group
  • 15th Carrier Air Group
  • 17th Carrier Air Group
  • 20th Carrier Air Group
  • 51st Training Air Group
  • 52nd Training Air Group
  • 53rd Training Air Group
  • No. 41 Squadron RAF
  • No. 133 Squadron RAF
  • No. 134 Squadron RAF
  • No. 152 Squadron RAF
  • No. 275 Squadron RAF
  • 706 Naval Air Squadron
  • 718 Naval Air Squadron
  • 719 Naval Air Squadron
  • 725 Naval Air Squadron
  • 737 Naval Air Squadron
  • 744 Naval Air Squadron
  • 745 Naval Air Squadron
  • 768 Naval Air Squadron
  • 782 Naval Air Squadron
  • 794 Naval Air Squadron
  • 795 Naval Air Squadron
  • 800 Naval Air Squadron
  • 802 Naval Air Squadron
  • 803 Naval Air Squadron
  • 804 Naval Air Squadron
  • 805 Naval Air Squadron
  • 806 Naval Air Squadron
  • 807 Naval Air Squadron
  • 808 Naval Air Squadron
  • 810 Naval Air Squadron
  • 811 Naval Air Squadron
  • 812 Naval Air Squadron
  • 813 Naval Air Squadron
  • 814 Naval Air Squadron
  • 815 Naval Air Squadron
  • 816 Naval Air Squadron
  • 819 Naval Air Squadron
  • 820 Naval Air Squadron
  • 821 Naval Air Squadron
  • 824 Naval Air Squadron
  • 825 Naval Air Squadron
  • 827 Naval Air Squadron
  • 833 Naval Air Squadron
  • 834 Naval Air Squadron
  • 835 Naval Air Squadron
  • 837 Naval Air Squadron
  • 838 Naval Air Squadron
  • 845 Naval Air Squadron
  • 847 Naval Air Squadron
  • 848 Naval Air Squadron
  • 849 Naval Air Squadron
  • 849C Flight
  • 849D Flight
  • 850 Naval Air Squadron
  • 852 Naval Air Squadron
  • 853 Naval Air Squadron
  • 856 Naval Air Squadron
  • 878 Naval Air Squadron
  • 881 Naval Air Squadron
  • 882 Naval Air Squadron
  • 886 Naval Air Squadron
  • 887 Naval Air Squadron
  • 890 Naval Air Squadron
  • 891 Naval Air Squadron
  • 892 Naval Air Squadron
  • 894 Naval Air Squadron
  • 896 Naval Air Squadron
  • 898 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1493 (Fighter) Gunnery Flight
  • 1493 (TT) Flight
  • 1830 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1831 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1832 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1835 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1837 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1840 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1841 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1842 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1843 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1844 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1845 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1846 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1847 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1850 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1851 Naval Air Squadron
  • 1852 Naval Air Squadron

City of Derry Airport

City of Derry Airport, Co. Londonderry now occupies the site of the former RNAS Eglinton. The name of HMS Gannet lives on at a Fleet Air Arm base at RNAS Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland.

The City of Derry Airport saw major redevelopment between 1989 and 1993. Grant aid from the European Regional Development Fund saw £10.5 million available for the upgrade. Runways, taxiways, access roads, and equipment saw great improvements with the erection of a new terminal and fire station. The new terminal opened in March 1994.

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