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Royal Air Force Station Kingsnorth
USAAF Station AAF-418

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Kingsnorth, Kent, United Kingdom
Kingsnorth-12may44.jpg
Kingsnorth airfield, 12 May 1944, photo oriented to the west (top), taken about three weeks before D-Day. The 36th Fighter Group had just arrived and was billeted in some buildings to the south of the airfield
Type Military airfield
Coordinates 51°06′28″N 000°53′04″E / 51.10778°N 0.88444°E / 51.10778; 0.88444
Location code KN
Built 1944
In use 1944
Controlled by Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Garrison RAF Fighter Command
Ninth Air Force
Occupants Nos. 65, 122 and 602 squadrons
36th Fighter Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Kingsnorth is located in Kent
RAF Kingsnorth, shown within Kent
Block 28 Republic P-47Ds of the 22d Fighter Squadron at Kingsnorth Airfield, England, 1944. Serials 44-20211 and 44-19864 identifiable.

RAF Station Kingsnorth is a former World War II airfield in Kent, England. The airfield is located approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) southeast of Ashford; about 50 miles (80 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 British, Dominion and the United States Army Air Forces. It was closed in September 1944.

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

Contents

Overview

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. Kingsnorth airfield was selected in July 1942 and given the final go-ahead for construction in December with a completion date of 1 March 1943.

Kingsnorth 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 Kingsnorth was of similar specification to other ALGs in the district.

The site required the cutting down of several acres of woodland to give clearance at the north-cast end of the main runway. The main was aligned 04/22 and was 4,725 ft long, with one secondary runway aligned 13/31 of 4,151 ft (1,265 m). Both were surfaced with metal wire Sommerfield Track, as were the perimeter and the aircraft standings. Three minor roads were closed because they were crossed by the runways. The landing ground was ready by mid-March but the airfield was not opened until 1 July 1943, by which time two Blister hangars, a 74,000-gallon fuel store, and other facilities were in place. Two more Blisters were added later.

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

Due to its forward location along the English Channel coast, Kingsnorth was one of the first of the Kent ALGs to be utilised by RAF Fighter Command to extend the radius of action of Supermarine Spitfire squadrons. Nos. 65, 122 and 602 arriving as soon as the station was opened. No. 602 moved out in August 1943 and was replaced by No. 19 squadron. These RAF units departed during the first week of October 1943 by which time the surface had become so waterlogged as to make take-offs and landings tricky.s

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RAF units and aircraft

Unit Dates Aircraft Variant Notes
No. 19 Squadron RAF August-September 1943 Supermarine Spitfire IX
No. 65 Squadron RAF July-October 1943 Supermarine Spitfire IX
No. 122 Squadron RAF July-October 1943 Supermarine Spitfire IX
No. 184 Squadron RAF August 1943 Hawker Hurricane IV
No. 602 Squadron RAF July-August 1943 Supermarine Spitfire VB

USAAF use

The first signs locally that the USAAF would operate from this ALG was when a US engineer battalion arrived to carry out additional work with Pierced Steel Planking, increasing the number of hardstands and erecting an additional combat hangar. A little excitement occurred on 18 March when a 44th Bombardment Group B-24 Liberator from RAF Shipdham landed but the runway was unable to support it and caused the landing gear to collapse. The Liberator was a write-off and after its removal the runway had to be repaired.

Kingsnorth was known as USAAF Station AAF-418 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. Its USAAF Station Code was "KN"

36th Fighter Group

The availability date of 1 April 1944 was achieved and between the 4th and 6th of that month approximately 1,500 men of the 36th Fighter Group arrived at Kingsnorth airfield from Scribner Army Airfield, Nebraska. Operational fighter squadrons and fuselage codes were:

The 36th Fighter Group was part of the 303d Fighter Wing, XIX Tactical Air Command.

As the low group number suggests the 36th was a pre-war USAAF organisation and had spent much of the early 1940s in Puerto Rico. Being returned to the Continental United States and being retrained on P-47s, the group personnel crossed the Atlantic in March 1944, the last of 18 fighter groups of the Ninth Air Force to arrive at its combat base, albeit by only one day. As latecomers, the 36th received mostly aircraft with a natural metal finish which gave Kingsnorth a silver sheen on a sunny day.

The group became operational on 8 May and prior to D-Day flew armed reconnaissance and interdiction missions, plus a few escorts.

Once the invasion was launched, the 36th's primary task was to support the ground forces. There was little opportunity to engage in air combat and during the 36th's two months of operations from Kingsnorth, only one victory was credited—on 13 May when Captain Alex Conner shot down an enemy aircraft. Compared with other P-47 groups engaged in the dangerous task of ground-attack, the 36th fared comparatively well, with only 11 P-47s missing in action during the same period. A few were victims of Luftwaffe 'bounces' but it was ground fire that took the heaviest toll. A bad day was 22 May when three P-47s failed to return. There were also a few crash-landings on the base and on 27 June another 44th BG B-24 ended its days when it 'bellied in'.

Movement to the Continent commenced during the first week of July when the 53rd Fighter Squadron transferred to its Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Brucheville, France (ALG A-16) as a forward base. The other two squadrons continued to operate from Kingsnorth until early August, the main body of the group preparing to move on the 2nd. Within a few days all personnel were gone and the airfield was deserted.

Legacy

From the continent, the 36th FG supported the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July and the thrust of U. S. Third Army toward Germany in August and September.

The group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for operations on 1 September 1944 when, in a series of missions, the group attacked German columns south of the Loire in order to disrupt the enemy's retreat across central France to Dijon. In October, the group moved into Belgium to support U. S. Ninth Army.

The 36th Fighter Group participated in the Battle of the Bulge during December 1944 and January 1945 by flying armed reconnaissance and close-support missions. Aided U. S. First Army's push across the Roer River in February 1945. Supported operations at the Remagen bridgehead and during the airborne assault across the Rhine in March.

The group received a second Distinguished Unit Citation for performance on 12 April 1945 when the group, operating through intense anti-aircraft fire, relentlessly attacked airfields in southern Germany, destroying a large hangar and numerous aircraft.

By V-E Day, the group was based at Kassel/Rothwesten airfield, Germany (ALG R-12), where it remained until February 1946 as part of the United States Air Forces in Europe Army of Occupation. In February, the group was transferred, without personnel or equipment to Bolling Field, Washington, D.C where the groups fighter squadrons were inactivated.

Post invasion use

As with other temporary ALGs in the area, US engineers quickly removed the Pierced Steel Planking for re-use on landing grounds on the Continent. Meanwhile, the War Agricultural Committee were able to exercise their powers and the airfield was de-requisitioned in September 1944, with RAF works unit, No. 5024 Airfield Construction Squadron, dealing with the metal tracking during the following month.

Civil use

With the facility released from military control, the former airfield was returned rapidly to agricultural use and within a very short period there was little to indicate that RAF Kingsnorth had ever been host to nearly a hundred warplanes. Today the only evidence of the airfield's existence is the slight outline of the southeast end of runway 13 in aerial photographs. Its location can only be determined by the local farm roads in the area being evident on aerial photography of the airfield when it was an active military field.

Directions

Kingsnorth Airfield is just south of Ashford, on the left (East) side of the A2070, about 1 mile south of Bad Musterfeld road just after the loop heading southwards. Other than some farm fields, the only evidence of the airfield that may be seen are some PSP panels that could be found on the edge of the field, but they are most likely buried in earth and vegetation.

See also

References

 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.
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present
  • British Automobile Association (AA), (1978), Complete Atlas of Britain, ISBN 0-86145-005-1

External links


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