Four memorials were unveiled between Friday 25th and Sunday 27th October 2019 to commemorate Ballykelly, Killadeas, Castle Archdale and Ballyhalbert Airfields, dedicated to all the units and personnel who served at these places.
Ballykelly near Londonderry remains one of Northern Ireland’s most famous individual airfields. Having played a massive part in the fight against Germany’s U-boats during World War Two, this RAF airfield subsequently became best known for accommodating Avro Shackleton maritime patrol squadrons from the early 1950s. After closing in an RAF capacity in 1971, what was afterwards known as Shackleton Barracks acted as a major Army base, also seeing from time to time Army Air Corps helicopter units. Eventually the barracks shut down in 2008 and plans have since emerged for considerable industrial use. One of the United Kingdom’s largest individual hangars still stands among other facilities, while one runway uniquely and somewhat famously crossed a railway line.
Killadeas was one of the two main World War Two flying boat bases on Lower Lough Erne. It primarily served during the conflict as a most important advanced training airfield for Consolidated Catalina crews, and was latterly assisted by a satellite airfield to the north-west at Boa Island. Following military storage use for a while into peacetime, much of this marine airfield was removed but the Lough Erne Yacht Club still employs what remains of the original facilities here.
Castle Archdale will always be recognised as one of this country’s most prominent flying boat bases. One of its early feats was to spot the feared German battleship Bismarck prior to its sinking in the spring of 1941. Afterwards this airfield – also known for a time during World War Two as Lough Erne – like Ballykelly saw heavy action against Germany’s submarine fleet and sank several enemy craft. Finally closed in the late 1950s as the RAF ended its connection with flying boats, the general area has become a popular mixture of a country park and caravanning area, as with Killadeas still retaining certain reminders of its past aviation use.
Ballyhalbert on the Ards peninsula was a major fighter airfield for Northern Ireland after opening in the early summer of 1941. Many RAF fighter units appeared with famous aircraft of the day such as Supermarine Spitfires and Bristol Beaufighters for day and night defence operations. For a short time at the end of World War Two and immediately afterwards, Ballyhalbert also acted as a Fleet Air Arm base before closing in February 1946. Now noted for its more recent role as a holiday park, this facility employs much of the three runways and ensures that – as with the three other airfields - Ballyhalbert is still an evocative and highly relevant place.
Photographs and video available under the 'Marker' tab on each airfield page, click the links below: