|The area now known
as Castle Kennedy Airfield forms part of Cults Farm about five
miles east of Stranraer. It is in an area of relatively low
lying ground on the gravel outwash deposited by the glaciers
when they retreated up the Firth of Clyde. This flat ground
was the ideal basis for an airfield, and was used for the first
recorded landing by a fixed wing aircraft in Galloway, in August
The aircraft involved were a contingent
of one Maurice Farman MF7, and five BE 2’s, from
2 Squadron Royal Flying Corps based at Panmure Barracks
near Montrose. The
aircraft, were on their way to Ireland to take part in Military
|While at Castle Kennedy they were fitted with flotation
bags to assist them in the event of ditching in the Irish
Sea. At the conclusion of the exercise only three of the
original six aircraft were able to complete the journey from
Castle Kennedy to Montrose, the remainder having suffered
from mechanical or navigational problems.
||The arrival of the
aircraft predictably created much local interest, and schools
were closed, and special trains organised to Castle Kennedy
station to view the new machines.
During the First World War, and in the intervening period,
the airfield was used intermittently for the transport of
mail and small goods across the water to Ireland, but generally
the area returned to agriculture.
However shortly after the outbreak
of hostilities in the Second World War, there was a need
to move training establishments
away from the south coast of England.
|This was not only to allow combat
operations, but because it is difficult to train aircrew
under fire from marauding enemy planes! While all types of
aircrew were required, air gunners needed space for firing
weapons, and the quiet coastal water of west Galloway were
ideal for creating range areas for this activity.
The chosen site for
the new gunnery school was at Castle Kennedy, and in mid 1940,
a concrete perimeter track was created, and three Callender
Hamilton hangars, were built at the West end, with the administration
area behind. In June 1941, the leading elements of the Central
Gunnery School from Warmwell in Dorset arrived at West Freugh
to start the No. 3 Air Gunnery School at Castle Kennedy. By
the end of the month the school was complete with a compliment
of Blenheim, Hampden and Wellington aircraft. Defiant aircraft
and Lysanders were used for target towing. The role was to
train and revise both new and experienced crews in the use
of their turrets, first on the ground in classrooms and simulators,
and then in the air against drogues towed behind aircraft.
a very wet autumn in that year, the ground became waterlogged,
operations had to be transferred to West Freugh, with Castle
Kennedy used only for accommodation. In December of 1941 the
airfield was closed, and two concrete runways, one more Callender
Hamilton Hangar, and nine blister hangars were built. Construction
took only four months, and the airfield reopened in April with
the Air Gunnery School equipped with Blackburn Bothas, and
target towing Fairey Battles. By August there were a total
of seventy-three aircraft based on the airfield. In the same
month the airfield was visited by Marshall of the Royal Air
Force, Lord Trenchard, who arrived in time to witness a collision
between a Botha, and a Battle. Several serious casualties occurred.
December 1942, the Air Gunnery School was moved to North Wales,
and replaced by 2 Torpedo Training School, responsible for
training Coastal Command crews in the Firth of Clyde. The aircraft
used wereBristol Beaufighters adopted for torpedo operations.
Several crashed including one, which narrowly missed Lochinch
Castle about 1 mile north of the airfield. The torpedo school
moved to Turnberry after a short spell, and were replaced by
3 Air Gunnery School returning from Wales, now equipped with
Ansons for gunnery, and Martinets for target towing.
|The gunnery school continued at Castle Kennedy for the next
two years, and records show that in this time aircrews from
France, Turkey, Belgium, Iraq, Iran, Norway, Sweden and China
were trained over and above the normal Commonwealth nations.
As the war in Europe was drawing to a close, the requirement
for aircrews reduced, and in June 1945, 3 Air Gunnery School
disbanded. The airfield was then taken over by 57 Maintenance
unit based in Loch Ryan, and was used as a sub depot for
the storage of aircraft. Wellingtons and Mosquito’s
were stored until modified for resale or scrapped. The airfield
finally closed in November 1946, and lay empty until 1955,
when Silver City Airways used it for a short time for the
transport of cars to Ireland in Bristol 170 freighters, and
Dakotas. This service was expanded to include Isle of Man
for a short time until the service was terminated in 1957.
airfield has since been used occasionally by small aircraft,
and as an exercise base for military helicopters. A kart club
operated for several years at the south end of the airfield,
and it was as a member of this club, that David Coulthard started
his racing career. After a period of disuse, the Kart club
has restarted, and is now thriving.
The future of the airfield is not known. It is an ideal
place for general aviation en route further up the west coast
of Scotland, or crossing to Ireland. At present it is unlicensed
with 600 metres repaired on runway 26/08, but the remainder
of the runway could easily be reused.
Apart from the area used by the kart club, there is approximately
700 metres that could be developed on runway 33/15.