836 squadron  transfers to Ballykelly, Northern Ireland under Coastal Command (No 15 group) on 27 March 1943

Ballykelly airfield

RAF Ballykelly opened in June 1941 as a base for RAF Coastal Command. In 1943 the main runway was extended and acquired an unusual characteristic in that it crosses an active railway line. Rules were put in place giving trains the right of way over landing aircraft. The base was used to carry out anti-submarine patrols and escort convoys over the Atlantic Ocean. At various times B-24 Liberator aircraft flew from Ballykelly in the fight against the U-boats, ranging from the Bay of Biscay to northern Norway. By the end of the war, Ballykelly-based squadrons had been responsible for sinking twelve U-boats, sharing with other aircraft and surface ships in the destruction of several others, and damaging many more.

Coastal and anti-submarine reconnaissance and patrols carried out in Swordfish aircraft.

There also appears to be considerable flights back & forward to Machrihanish

On  7th May 1943 Lt. R.W.Slater made the first deck landing on the first of a new type of ship, the Merchant Aircraft Carrier. M.V.Macalpine was the forerunner of nineteen such ships which came into service between 1943 and 1945.

The above photo shows a Mk3 Swordfish landing on the Empire McAndrew, a MAC ship. This photograph formed the basis of a model at the FAA museum (donated by Lt Ransford Slater's widow) illustrating the first ever landing on a MAC ship by the Swordfish of Lt Ransford Slater.

During May various members (who were to remain in 836 squadron) practised landing on Empire Macalpine.


Wheel cover photographed at FAA Museum Yeovilton October 2010

GMA transferred to HMS Biter to join 811 squadron on 31 May 1943

The following was probably spawned by the RAF, but GMA is not certain:


(sung to the tune of The Church's One Foundation)

We are the Air-Sea Rescue, no bloody good are we.

The only times you see us are breakfast,dinner and tea.


But when we sight a dinghy we shout with all our might

PER ADUA AD ASTRA f--- you Jack-I'm all right!

(Per adua ad astra is the official motto of the RAF)

The Fleet Air Arm Song Book quotes a slightly different version: 

It had been assumed that Jim Palmer was the author of the 836 squadron linebook: however he moved to 811 squadron with GMA and must therefore have collated the information after June 1943.

A more modern reference to Ballykelly airfield:

March 30 2006

Ryanair flight drops in at wrong airport

Passenger jet lands at old army base after pilot takes a wrong turn

IT WAS Ryanair that pioneered the art of flying passengers to sometimes far-flung airfields and telling them that they had arrived in one of Europe’s loveliest cities.

So it should have come as no surprise yesterday to travellers on board Flight 9884 from Liverpool to City of Derry when they landed not in the Maiden City but Ballykelly Camp instead — an army airfield five miles away.

Ryanair passengers are also accustomed to not having an air-bridge to get them inside the terminal, but in this case they didn’t even have any steps to get them off the jet. Luckily, the flight’s original destination was close enough for ground-staff to bring the steps by road to the army base

“We have informed the authorities both in the UK and in the Republic of Ireland. Never in our 20-year history has an incident like this happened.”

One passenger, Johnny Borrow from Londonderry, said that he knew the flight was landing at the wrong airport. “I tried to tell the crew but it was too late because the descent was almost over. It was hilarious. Soldiers started running towards the aircraft waving at us and laughing.

“We had to stay on the plane because the staircase to use to disembark was in City of Derry airport five miles away and we had to wait for it to arrive.

The Civil Aviation Authority began an investigation last night into how the civilian Airbus carrying 39 passengers and six crew touched down at the virtually disused base, better known as Shackleton Barracks, five miles from City of Derry. The Ballykelly camp was originally named Shackleton camp after a well known explorer who was famous for never getting lost, but our pilot certainly got lost,” he said. Brian Mather, an Australian who lives in Sligo, said that the soldiers treated the passengers very well. “They could see the funny side of it. As we approached to land, the plane banked a couple of times and landed normally, except that we were at the wrong airport.
Ryanair blamed the pilot flying the Eirjet aircraft, a company contracted to fly the route on Ryanair’s behalf. “He mistakenly believed he was on a visual approach to City of Derry airport. The Eirjet pilot was cleared by air traffic control in City of Derry airport but he mistook the nearby Ballykelly Camp for City of Derry airport and landed,” a statement said. Some of the soldiers came on board and laughingly welcomed us to their international airport. There was no panic among the passengers but I think the cockpit crew might be panicking a bit,” he said.