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Royal Air Force Station Headcorn
USAAF Station AAF-412

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Headcorn, Kent, United Kingdom
Headcorn ALG airfield, 11 May 1944
Type Military airfield
Coordinates 51°10′58″N 000°41′16″E / 51.18278°N 0.68778°E / 51.18278; 0.68778
Location code HC
Built 1943
In use 1943-1944
Controlled by Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Garrison RAF Fighter Command
Ninth Air Force
Occupants No. 11 Group
362d Fighter Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Headcorn is located in Kent
RAF Headcorn, shown within Kent

RAF Station Headcorn is a former World War II airfield in Kent, England. The airfield is located approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) east-northeast of Staplehurst; about 38 miles (61 km) southeast of London

Opened in 1943, Ashford was a prototype for the type of temporary Advanced Landing Ground type airfield which would be built in France after D-Day, when the need advanced landing fields would become urgent as the Allied forces moved east across France and Germany. It was used by the Royal Air Force as well as the United States Army Air Force. It was closed in September 1944.

Today the airfield is a mixture of agricultural fields with no recognizable remains.



The USAAF Ninth Air Force required several temporary Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) along the channel coast prior to the June 1944 Normandy invasion to provide tactical air support for the ground forces landing in France. Headcorn airfield was one of the second batch of first ALGs to he constructed in Kent.

Headcorn was a prototype for the type of temporary airfield which would be built in France after D-Day, when the need advanced landing fields would become urgent as the Allied forces moved east across France and Germany. It was originally planned to support light bombers and thereby would need a bomb store near the site. However, in a review of airfield building plans, this original requirement was dropped so Headcorn was of similar specification to other ALGs in the district.

The high water table of the pastureland slowed construction of the work, which started early in 1943. Although the two runways were available for use by the scheduled completion date of 1 June. In common with other ALGs, the two runways were surfaced with a steel wire surface on grass, although some areas were later reinforced with steel Marsden Matting. The main runway was 4,140 ft running east/west at 09/27 and the auxiliary was 3,600 ft at 00/18.

Tents were used for billeting and also for support facilities; an access road was built to the existing road infrastructure; a dump for supplies, ammunition, and gasoline drums, along with a drinkable water and minimal electrical grid for communications and station lighting.

RAF Fighter Command Use

Under RAF No. 11 Group control, the first flying occupants to be based at Headcorn were Nos. 403 and 421 Squadrons, RCAF, which moved in with Supermarine Spitfires around 20 August 1943. The Canadians remained until mid-October, by which time the runway surfaces had started to deteriorate through autumn rains.

An improvement programme was undertaken during the winter as the ALGs were to be made available for use by USAAF fighter units by 1 April 1944. This was undertaken mainly by Nos. 5003 and 5004 Airfield Construction Squadrons with additional work by US aviation engineers. Work involved overlaying the steel wire surface with steel matting at the runway intersection. The main runway was extended to 4,500 ft and the north/south to 3,900 ft as well as the perimeter.

Aircraft hardstands were increased to 80, using Pierced Steel Planking. A steel-frame, canvas-clad, hangar was put up and a few utility buildings plus sheet-metal protective structures for ammunition storage were also erected. Accommodation continued to be in commandeered dwellings and farm buildings but the majority of personnel had to rely on tents to live in during their tenure at Headcorn.


Headcorn was known as USAAF Station AAF-412 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. It's USAAF Station Code was "HC".


362d Fighter Group

The first USAAF aircraft to land on Headcorn's runway was believed to he incidental: a B-24 Liberator of the 448th Bombardment Group based at RAF Seething which put down on 15 February 1944 with engine trouble.

The 362nd Fighter Group with some 75 Republic P-47 Thunderbolts moved in from RAF Wormingford on 13 April as part of the movement of groups of the Ninth Air Force's 100th Fighter Wing from the Colchester area that month. The group consisted of the following squadrons:

  • 377th Fighter Squadron (E4)
  • 378th Fighter Squadron (G8)
  • 379th Fighter Squadron (B8)

The 362nd had been operational since February, chiefly on sweeps and escorts, but increasingly turning to fighter-bombing missions as spring approached. A variety of objectives were briefed, mostly road and rail targets. Close support of ground forces was to be the group's main mission once the invasion of the continent had taken place.

Prior to D-Day the 362nd's losses were a modest nine aircraft missing in action. but, in the weeks following, the attrition rate soared. In June alone, 24 P-47s failed to return. including four on the 14th and five on the 18th, highlighting the dangers of operations at low level.

The 362nd Fighter Group began its move to Normandy on July 2, relocating to Lignerolles, France (ALG A-12) with Headcorn continuing to he used for operations until the 7th. Two days later the last of the group's personnel had departed.


From the continent the 362d FG bombed enemy troops to aid the Allied breakthrough at Saint-Lô later that month. Supported the subsequent advance of ground forces toward theRhine by attacking railroads, trucks, bridges, power stations, fuel dumps, and other facilities.

The 362d Fighter Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission against the harbor at Brest on 25 August 1944 when, in spite of heavy overcast and intense enemy fire, the group attacked at low altitude, hitting naval installations, cruisers, troop transports, merchant vessels, and other objectives.

The group bombed and strafed such targets as flak positions, armored vehicles, and troop concentrations during the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945. The group received second DUC for action over the Moselle-Rhine River triangle: despite the intense antiaircraft fire encountered while flying armed reconnaissance in close cooperation with infantry forces in that area on 16 March 1945, the group hit enemy forces, equipment, and facilities, its targets including motor transports, armored vehicles, railroads, railway cars, and gun emplacements.

The unit continued operations until 1 May 1945, eventually being stationed at Illesheim airfield, Germany (ALG R-10). It returned to the United States during Aug-Sep 1945, being stationed at Seymour Johnson AAF, North Carolina where it trained with P-51's.

The 362d Fighter Group was inactivated on 1 August 1946.

Post Invasion Use

During August, much of the metal runway surface was removed by US engineers and transported from the site for shipment to Normandy. Clearing and restoring the site for agricultural use took several months as metal runway surfaces were considerably more difficult to remove than lay, particularly when matted with vegetation and soil.

The temporary category for which the airfield had been constructed was honored in September when, along with several other ALGs in the area, Headcorn was returned to its civilian owners.

Civil Use

With the facility released from military control, the land was returned to agricultural uses.

In 1983, Headcorn was selected for the erection of a memorial and plaque which was dedicated in September of that year. Confusingly, the former ALG at RAF Lashenden, which continues to he used for private flying, has also been called Headcorn since the 1960s. The airfield today is unrecognizable as a former airfield, fully returned to agriculture. The only way it can be positively located is by aligning the secondary roads in the area with those on aerial photographs of the airfield when it was active.

That said, the land shows the outline of the south end of the 18 runway as a single lane farm road with the edges of what would have been the taxiway visible as a disturbed area of landscape. No buildings or any other evidence of the airfield remains.

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now 1994. After the Battle ISBN 0900913800
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1996) The Ninth Air Force in Colour: UK and the Continent-World War Two. After the Battle ISBN 1854092723
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.

External links


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