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
"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
"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
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
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.
Two views of walls constructed
from broken up runways from Cranfield Aerodrome
Two views of what remains
today of the runways at Cranfield Aerodrome
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..
Donald G. Phinney -
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 -
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
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
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
Most of the runways have been dug up and used for
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
Gareth Herron - August
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
Andy - Dec '05
I also have a caravan and we have a runway through it.
Does anyone know of a speed track @ cranfield around