A Stirling bomber at Maghaberry 1947
Maghaberry Airfield was an RAF satellite to Long Kesh Airfield. Both were designed by Air Ministry planners to operate light and medium bomber aircraft. However the first pair of hangars to be constructed at each was erected for aircraft manufacturers Short & Harland for the assembly of Stirling heavy bombers.
During 1942, at least two Stirlings were completed and test-flown at Long Kesh before the final assembly process was transferred to Maghaberry, leaving Long Kesh to concentrate on Stirling wing production.
This work continued at both airfields until the early part of 1945.
In December 1942 Maghaberry was taken over by RAF Coastal Command to accommodate No 5 Operational Training Unit, which remained there until August 1943. They taught trainee aircrews the techniques of maritime operations using Beaufort, Hampden, Hudson, Ventura and Oxford aircraft. Sadly, numerous fatal aircraft crashes occurred during that period. Some of the gravestones in nearby Eglantine Cemetery and a memorial window in the Church bear silent and poignant testimony.
On 15th November 1943 Maghaberry was handed over to the USAAF to become AAF Station 239. Four ferrying squadrons of the 8th Air Force were formed there to deliver numerous types of aircraft to and from American airfields in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, including the air depot at Langford Lodge. In addition, it was used by casualty evacuation transports of the 9th Air Force’s Troop Carrier Command — as it was in close proximity to the 79th Station Hospital at Moira.
This very busy period was rather short-lived and Maghaberry was handed back to the RAF on 6th June 1944, by which time Stirling assembly work was diminishing.
Six months later, as 101 Satellite Landing Ground, it was placed under the control of 23 Maintenance Unit at Aldergrove for storage and eventual scrapping of hundreds of redundant aircraft, including Stirlings, which was completed in 1947.
Information from Ernie Cromie at ulsteraviationsociety.org