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16 October 2014
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Northern Ireland in WWII - The Americans in Cranfield.

"I remember as a wee boy how the Americans all arrived and gave us chewing gum."

WW2 bombers

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Northern Ireland in WWII - Wartime Architecture

In response to Bob Crookes' article on WWII architecture, Thomas Newell from Kilkeel contacted the site to tell us how he remembers how the entire rural countryside around him was 'invaded' by the American Air Force during WWII.

"Suddenly the little fishing town of Kilkeel was filled with American uniforms, strange accents and the Glenn Millar sound. Hundreds of acres of farmland were taken over and collectively turned into a huge military complex. Concrete buildings appeared everywhere and runways were built, making up the US air base at Cranfield.

"It must've been a real shock to the tight community around here." says Thomas, "We just weren't ready for that! Things were going on in our very own fields which were top secret and we were kept out. As a child of course this was very exciting." he adds. "The airmen were soon very popular people, easpecially with us youngsters and we used to swap potato farls and eggs for chewing gum." As well as the Air Force there were US10th Infantry Division in Kilkeel and a Welsh Regiment. I remember how they used to test their big guns and tanks by shooting shells into the Mourne mountains from Ballykeel.

If you go to Greencastle and Cranfield today you mightn't even notice the tell-tale signs that that a major military presence had ever been there. If you look a little closer however the evidence is still there in abundance. Although you could walk right past them, there are literally miles of "Mourne Walls" built from the concrete of broken up runways! Tom has submitted some photographs to show what's left of the USAAF in Cranfield.

Mourne Walls made from broken up concrete runways
Mourne Walls made from broken up concrete runways
Two views of walls constructed from broken up runways from Cranfield Aerodrome

Disused runway at Cranfield Aerodrome
Disused runway at Cranfield Aerodrome
Two views of what remains today of the runways at Cranfield Aerodrome

Old WWII buildings now used as farm buildings
Old WWII buildings now used as farm buildings
Two views of WWII buildings now used as farm storage near Cranfield

Do you have any stories or memories of WWII in Northern Ireland? If so, please let us know by using the form below..

Your Responses:

Donald G. Phinney - July '08
As a Sgt. with one of the AAC units stationed at Kilkeel from Nov. 1943 to July 1944 I have many fond memories of the many days of extensive training we provided to the many hundreds of airmen who would be soon flying in the bombers and needed expert abilities at shooting the 50 caliber machine guns in those planes. Of course we had our times to rest and I will never forget the friendly reception we had from the local and big city(Belfast ) Irish people! And, the countryside views were awesome in spite of the rainy days! I still retain many pictures of myself and fellow airmen in my scrapbook of which I expect to review with a resident of my city who I recently found out was raised in N. Ireland as a boy of 9 yrs. old then. We are going to go over those days of the wartime soon. I am at a ripe old age of 83 now and happily married to my wife of 41 yrs. (my first beautiful wife passed on at 38 yrs. due to cancer. We were married for 17 wonderful yrs.) Will close this for now.!
Need more info,reply

CA Murphy - July '08
I used to go on holiday to Cranfield to a beach round the headland from the lighthouse and caravan park in the 60's and 70's. We would cycle over to the airfield and race up and down the crumbling runways. Lots of open space for kids to run wild in - great memories.
Also, my aunt married one of the Americans based there during the war.

Shoshana Coleman - Oct '06
I have a photograph album with many pictures taken by my father, OSTER (mordechai) Weichselbaum, who was on the farm during the war. He was married to my mother Fulje Budeshewski on the farm in August 1944. They are now both deceased. I live in London.

Christine Harte - Oct '06
I remember as a child in the 1950s attending motor racing events on the old runways at Cranfield. I also remember that on the shore below the runways parts of a crashed plane were exposed at low water spring tides. Happy days!

W. Donaldson - April '06
I grew up near here in the late 50s and early 60s. the main runways were still intact and that's where everyone went to learn to drive. A young scoundrel named Jamesie Speers used to open an old wooden gate for visitors with one arm hidden inside his jersey and the coat of his jacket pinned up as if he only had one arm ! Jamesie came home at the end of the day with his pockets bulging with sixpences and threepenny bits ! The blast shelters(we called them"air-raid shelters were still intact, made of red brick...we used to play tig jumping from wall to wall... many a grazed leg there ! The old control tower is still there - you need to climb through a window to get in nowadays...old steel staircase still there, original green and cream paint on the walls - pity it couldnt be restored ...sadly it used to house pigs.
There used to be kart racing in the early 60s out past Dunavil Cottages on the left just past Stevensons blockyard. Used to be hundreds of people turn up for that....A local man then used that particular strip for landing his aeroplane...I still remember its ID mark.... G-ASEB.
Most of the runways have been dug up and used for wall-building...
Up in Mourne Park the foundations of the guard-house and cinema are on the left just inside the entrance to Kilkeel Golf Club on the Newry Road about 2 miles from Kilkeel. There are apple trees in there which grew from the stumps of apples discarded by GIs during the war. These trees arent native to N.Ireland...they say the apples came in red Cross parcels and parcels from relatives in the USA.
The US Officers stayed in Mourne Park House... one of them set fire accidentally to the "Chinese" room in the big house... most of the bedrooms had themes from different nations of the world.
The soldiers used to eat in Mrs Annetts fish and chip shop in Kilkeel... many of them married local girls... many wanted to marry local girls but their mothers wouldnt let them move far away to America.
Theres a stretch of trees between the 2 gate lodges parallel to Newry Road...theres dozens of trees with names and addresses of American soldiers... well worth a look. Most of them never made it back from D-Day landings so its really a sad place to visit.
Just a few of my personal memories...thought I would share...


Gareth Herron - August '04
I have a caravan at Cranfield Caravan Site, there is at least one runway running through our caravan site, so not all the runways have been turned into walls!


Relevant Weblinks:

WWII buildings & architecture

Click here to see a full listing of WWII stories on this site.

Your Responses...

Andy - Dec '05
I also have a caravan and we have a runway through it. Does anyone know of a speed track @ cranfield around 1950??




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