The long-promised training of incoming combat crews eventually commenced in Northern Ireland during the summer of 1943. In September 1942, about 400 personnel of 8th AFCC had arrived at RAF Long Kesh airfield [AAF Stn 232] where temporary facilities had been prepared pending occupation of a more permanent HQ at Kircassock House [AAF Stn 231], a large country mansion near Magheralin. American accents were noting out of the ordinary at Long Kesh at this time as it had been in use as a transit stop by US Naval Air Service communications aircraft since April 1942 carrying military personnel and mail between London and Londonderry.
The organisation created specifically for training purposes was known as a Combat Crew Replacement Center Group [CCRC] which consisted of two elements, a HQ & HQ Squadron and a Replacement & Training Squadron.
Four Groups were activated on paper, the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th, to make use of the airfields at Toome [AAF Stn 236], Cluntoe [AAF Stn 238], Greencastle [AAF Stn 237] and Mullaghmore [AAF Stn 240], respectively, although the 5th and 6th CCRCs did not actually become operational.
The 3rd CCRC at Toome, using B-26 Marauders and A-20 Havocs, provided training for medium bomber crews while the 4th, which initially used B-17s and was re-designated the 2nd CCRC in February 1944 on being re-equipped with B-24s, trained heavy bomber crews, using Cluntoe and Greencastle.
Under this latter arrangement, pilots, co-pilots, bombardiers, navigators and radio operators received their training at Cluntoe while the gunners went to Greencastle, where air-to-air and ground-to-air gunnery schools and the 4th Gunnery & Tow Target Flight were located. According to 8th AFCC records, May through August 1944 proved to be the busiest period, output in July alone being 330 heavy bomber crews from Cluntoe/Greencastle. Toome’s busiest month was August, with an output of 158 medium bomber crews which, it should be noted,
In May, its busiest month, the ground-to-air gunnery school at Greencastle turned out 868 graduates. 8th AF CCRC training activities in Northern Ireland ceased during September, thus bringing to an end a remarkably productive, if considerably curtailed but nonetheless essential aspect of the 8th AF’s strategic bombing programme.
The Shadow 82 scheme referred to earlier was also curtailed soon after being implemented in July 1942 when three squadrons of the 52nd Fighter Group, equipped with Spitfires, arrived at RAF Eglinton [AAF Stn 344] and Maydown to work up to operational standard.
In October though, it was decided to suspend the scheme and the 52nd FG left, to be replaced, ironically, by the 82nd FG, equipped with P-38 Lightnings but without much in the way of service back-up. They remained at Eglinton until December 1942 when, having worked up to operational readiness, they left on transfer to the 12th AF in North Africa.
Gun Turret training taking place at a Northern Ireland USAAF airfield, probably Greencastle, during October 1943.
by Ernie Cromie
(Above): RAF Cluntoe being handed over to the USAAF on 29th August 1943. Squadron Leader W.B. Rawling its former RAF commanding officer congratulates the new USAAF commanding officer Captain K. K.
went to the 9th AF because when that organization was re-born in England in October 1943, it incorporated 8th AF medium bomber units.