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RAF Castle Kennedy

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RAF Castle Kennedy was a World War II airfield located in Dumfries and Galloway. The site lies approximately five miles east of Stranraer, on the north side of the A75.

World War I

The area first saw aviation related activity in August 1913, when a six aircraft from the Panmure Barracks near Montrose made the first recorded landing there. En route to Ireland for manoeuvres, flotation bags were to be fitted before they crossed the Irish Sea. Later, 0nly three remained serviceable for the return trip to Montrose. During World War I, the field was used to provide facilities for aircraft transporting mail and small packages to Ireland, but fell into disuse thereafter.

World War II

The airfield returned to active service during World War II, and like many Scottish locations, become a training establishment, home to facilities displaced from the south as they were within easy reach of German bombers. The west coast of Scotland saw a number of gunnery and bombing ranges being created in its quiet waters and shores, and Castle Kennedy became a Gunnery School

A concrete perimeter road, hangars, and administration facilities were added to the field prior to the arrival in June, 1941, of the Central Gunnery School from Warmell in Dorset, via RAF West Freugh. This marked the beginning of No 3 Air Gunnery School Castle Kennedy, operating Blenheim, Hampden and Wellington aircraft, with Defiant and Lysander aircraft towing target drones.

Gun crews, and those on refresher courses, began training in gun turret operations with ground classes and simulators, then moved on to towed drones. Waterlogging of the runway forced operations to move to West Freugh in the autumn, leaving only the accommodation in use. The field closed in December, allowing two new concrete runways, a hanger, and nine blister hangars to be added over the next four months. Blackburn Bothas were added for operations, with Fairey Battles for towing, and the aircraft tally reached 73 during August. In an unfortunate coincidence, a Botha and Battle collided during an official visit by Lord Trenchard, first Marshal of the Royal Air Force, resulting in a number of serious injuries.

December 1942 saw the Air Gunnery School move to North Wales, with No 2 Torpedo School moving in to take its place. The Torpedo School was responsible for training Coastal Command crews operating in the firth of Clyde, and flew modified Bristol Beaufighters. A number of crashes were recorded, include a neat miss at Lochinch Castle to the north. The Torpedo School soon moved to RAF Turnberry, and No 3 Air Gunnery School returned to Castle Kennedy, now operating Ansons, with Martinets towing the drones. The school continued to operate for a further two years, training crews from around the world until the end of the war.

The school was disbanded in June 1945, when the airfield was taken over by 57 Maintenance Unit (MU) based at Loch Ryan, after which it was used for the storage of surplus aircraft such as Wellingtons and Mosquitos, until they were modified and sold, or scrapped. The airfield was finally closed in November 1946, after which it lay abandoned and unused.

Postwar operations

Silver City Airways moved onto the field in 1955, and operated an air transport service to Ireland, carrying cars in Bristol 170 freighters, and Dakotas. Although the service grew to include flights to the isle of Man, the operation ceased in 1957.

Since 2004, Castle Kennedy has been made available for use General Aviation and commercial use within the applicable regulations.

The airfield is unlicensed, and used at the pilots own risk and discretion. The airfield is strictly PPR (Prior Permission Required), due to agricultural, and other activities, and visitors are requested to complete a Registration Form or telephone using the numbers given on the airfield's web site.

There is no radio frequency for Castle Kennedy, however Scottish Information can give information on Danger area activity.

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