Greencastle Airfield

US Combat Crew Replacement Centre

Along with six other airfields in Northern Ireland, Greencastle airfield near Kilkeel, County Down, was acquired on August 3, 1943, by the 8th Air Force Composite Command, a subordinate of the 8th US Army Air Force and opened as Army Air Force Station 237.

Built by the British during 1942, the 350 acre base had four T2 hangars; the main runway ran NE-SW parallel to the sea and was about 1.5 miles in length and 150ft wide. Concrete was no less than 6’’ thick, at places 9’’.

Like the other Combat Crew Replacement Centres, Greencastle was a training base, giving skills to new crews in gunnery and bombing techniques, and making up replacement for crews lost in action. From Greencastle, Cluntoe, Toome and Mullaghmore, crews would leave Ireland and join combat squadrons in East Anglia and Norfolk. For many aircrew straight from the States, a Northern Ireland CCRC would be their first step on European soil.

By December 1943, the primary AAF units at Greencastle were 4th Replacement and Training Sqn. (Bomb); 4th Gunnery and TT Flight (SP); 5th Airdrome Sqn.; 8th Air Force Anti-Aircraft Machine Gunnery School; 65th Airdrome Sqn.; 84th Station Complement Sqn.; Det. A. 1262nd Military Police Company (AVN); Det. A. 1730th Ordnance Sqn. Company (AVN); Det D1056th Q.M. Company Service Group (AVN) and Det. 237, 18th Weather Sqn.

Aircraft stationed at and flying into Greencastle at the time included the B-17, B-24, B-26, P-47, A-20 and A-28. Aircraft carried out gunnery practice near Dundrum Bay, also bombing practice and air to air firing off Annalong and Ballymartin. It was Greencastle that generals Eisenhower and Patton flew into, in the months leading up to D-Day, to inspect troops of the US 5th Infantry Division stationed throughout Co Down with their HQ at Donard Lodge in Newcastle.

After D-Day, Greencastle began a rundown, but joined the other CCRCs in becoming storage and replacement depots for hundreds of aircraft. It finally closed in 1945, and the rumble and rushing air noise of aircraft left Greencastle forever.

Although in the 1960s the runways were all broken up and used by farmers in walls, Greencastle has one of the best preserved instructional sites in Northern Ireland, through usage by private ownership and light industry. The motor pool shed is in very good order, although the tower is fast decaying and no hangars remain. Nevertheless, Greencastle still holds an atmosphere of those past gone days. 

John Quinn

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