Lashenden (Headcorn) Airfield

Lashenden (Headcorn) Airfield

Infobox Airport
name = Lashenden (Headcorn) Airfield
Formerly Royal Air Force Station Lashenden
USAAF Station 410
nativename =
nativename-a =
nativename-r =

image-width = 300
caption = Lashenden ALG airfield, August 1947]
type = Private
owner =
operator = Mr. J.P.A. Freeman
city-served =
location = Ashford
elevation-f = 72
elevation-m = 22
coordinates = Coord|51|09|25|N|000|38|30|E|type:airport
website =
metric-elev =
metric-rwy =
r1-number = 11/29
r1-length-f = 2,756
r1-length-m = 840
r1-surface = Grass
r2-number = 03/21
r2-length-f = N/A
r2-length-m = N/A
r2-surface = N/A
stat-year =
stat1-header =
stat1-data =
stat2-header =
stat2-data =
footnotes =

Lashenden (Headcorn) Airfield Airport codes|N/A|EGKH is located 8 nautical miles (14.8 km) south of Maidstone, Kent, England. During World War II the airfield was known as RAF Lashenden and hosted Royal Air Force as well as the United States Army Air Force Ninth Air Force 354th Fighter Group. It was also known as USAAF station 410.

Lashenden (Headcorn) Aerodrome has a CAA Ordinary Licence (Number P838) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee [ [ Civil Aviation Authority Aerodrome Ordinary Licences] ] .


The USAAF Ninth Air Force required several temporary Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) along the channel coast prior to the June 1944 Normandy invasion to provide tactical air support for the ground forces landing in France. Lashenden airfield was one of the first ALGs to he constructed in Kent, the site chosen being considered sufficiently extensive and stable to be earmarked for use by light bombers. Lashenden was to have bomb storage facilities constructed in an adjacent forested area.

The airfield site was to the east of the A274, about 1 1/2 miles southeast of Headcorn. Although originally scheduled fur completion by 1 March 1943, delays set back construction to the winter and early spring of 1943. The airfield was built by RAF 511013 and 511014 Airfield Construction Squadrons. One runway was approximately 4,200 feet long and aligned 11-29, while the other was of 4.800ft aligned at 01-19.

Runways, perimeter track and the 70 aircraft hardstands were all constructed of a steel wire surface on grass, although some areas were later reinforced with steel Marsden Matting. Several local farmhouses and barns were impressed into wartime duty as offices and warehouses.

Royal Canadian Air Force Use

403 and 421 Squadrons (RCAF) arrived with Supermarine Spitfire IXs in August 1943 but stayed barely two weeks. Their task was to test the runways before transferring three miles for a similar evaluation of RAF Headcorn.


354th Fighter Group

thumb|353d Fighter Group North American P-51B-1-NA Mustang43-12457On 17 April 1944 the 354th Fighter Group arrived at Lashenden from RAF Boxted, from where the group had already achieved fame for introducing the Rolls-Royce Merlin-engined North American P-51 Mustang into combat. Its combat squadrons were:

* 353d Fighter Squadron (FT)
* 355th Fighter Squadron (GQ)
* 356th Fighter Squadron (AJ)

The group was assigned to the XIX Tactical Air Command 100th Fighter Wing. Although assigned to Ninth Air Force, the group was under the operational control of the Eighth Fighter Command and many misisons flown by the by the 354th in April and May were long-range escorts of Eighth Air Force heavy B-17 and B-24 bombers. It was on these occasions that the group displayed its expertise in air fighting.

On 25 April on an escort to Mannheim. the group returned to Lashenden with claims of 18 destroyed, five probably destroyed and 31 damaged. all for the loss of two Mustangs. On 11 May, claims of 11 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed on another long-range escort included the 354th's 100th victory. Yet another high score resulted from an air battle near Magdeburg an 28 May when 19½ enemy aircraft were credited as shot down.

An increasing number of dive-bombing missions were flown during the weeks prior to the invasion, each Mustang carrying two 250 or 500 pound bombs on wing racks, the targets being frequently rail installations.

When D-Day arrived, the 354th's pilots were disappointed to he kept on the ground until 21:00 hours, when they took off to escort Douglas C-47 Skytrains towing gliders for a landing on the Cotentin Peninsula near Cherbourg. Following the invasion. the group's Mustangs found their primary task was to be patrols over the battlefield areas. These were often uneventful as far as contact with enemy aircraft was concerned.

The 354th group headquarters had learned that they would probably be one of the first Ninth Air Force flying units to move to one of the advanced landing strips being prepared in the Normandy bridgehead, and the advance party left Lashenden for Criqueville, France (ALG A-2) on 13 June. The main party moved on 17 June, although the group's P-51s continued to return to Lashenden throughout the following week.

The departure of the Americans to France not only terminated Lashenden's association with Ninth Air Force flying units, but also its use as an airfield.

The facility was returned by the USAAF to the MOD in September, although it had already had its metal matting runways removed by US Engineers who required the materiel for upgrading ALGs in France.


During its stay at Lashenden, the 354th lost 23 aircraft but was credited with destroying 68 of the enemy. The group's operations from France assisted the Allied drive across France by flying close-support, armed-reconnaissance, fighter-sweep, dive-bombing, strafing, and escort missions.

The 354th Fighter Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a series of fighter sweeps in which the group destroyed a large number of enemy aircraft in the air and on the ground on 25 August. The unit flew missions to support the airborne attack on Holland in September, and it attacked and destroyed many enemy barges, locomotives, vehicles, buildings, and troops to assist the Allied assault on the Siegfried Line.

The group participated in the Battle of the Bulge by supporting ground forces and by conducting armed reconnaissance operations to destroy enemy troops, tank artillery, and rail lines. Assisted ground forces in their advance to and across the Rhine and was based at Herzogenaurach, Germany (ALG R-29) when V-E Day arrived.

After hostilities ended, the 354th Fighter Group served with United States Air Forces in Europe army of occupation until February 1946, being returned to the United States and inactivated on 31 March 1946.

Civil Use

With the facility released from military control, farming resumed in 1945 but this was not the end of the land's association with aircraft. In the late 1960s, the landowners started using part of the original site adjacent to the A274, for private flying. This led to the formation of Weald Air Services Limited, a small charter company, and later a flying school was set up and the airfield that became a busy center for light flying in the area.

Additionally, a small museum of aviation relics was established on the site.

The airfield is host to Headcorn Parachute Club, the only skydiving club in Kent. The club operates seven days a week during the summer months - it is closed on Mondays in the winter. The club operates a piston BN Islander and a Cessna Caravan and regularly flies to altitudes between 10,000 and 12,000 ft AGL. The club welcomes experienced parachutists and also offers introductory training (tandem, static line/RAPs and AFF). The club is home to national champions and world-record holders.

ee also

* List of RAF stations
* USAAF Ninth Air Force - World War II
* Myrtle Beach Air Force Base


*United Kingdom AIP
* Freeman, Roger A., "UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now", 1994
* Maurer Maurer, "Air Force Combat Units Of World War II", Office of Air Force History, 1983
* 354th Fighter Group
* [ USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present]

External links

* [ Photographs of Lashenden (Headcorn) Airfield from the Geograph British Isles project]
* [ Aerial Photo of RAF Lashenden from Multimap.Com]

* [ Headcorn Parachute Club]

* [ Heores of the 354th Fighter Group (Video)]

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