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  Naval Air Station Killingholme

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Updated: 11 Dec 12

Opened: Aug 1914

To US Navy control: 20 Jul 1918

To British control: 6 Jan 1919

Closed: Jun 1919

Squadrons based here:

228 Sqn :: Jan 1919 - Jun 1919

404 Flt, 248 Sqn :: > Aug 1918 - < 1 Dec 1918

249 Sqn :: - Oct 1919

Aircraft operated here:

NAS Killingholme was sited on the Humber Estuary. It was established as Naval Air Station operated by the Royal Navy by Aug 1914 although hutted accommodation and a metalled road were not established until Dec 1914. During the early stages of the Great War it was a seaplane station; at the height of the war 46 seaplanes operated from NAS Killingholme. It took over from an earlier Naval Air Station which had been set up at the outbreak of war at Skegness. Naval Air Stations 14 and 15 were based at Killingholme.

A strip of land adjoining the Admiralty Oil Depot at Immingham was authorised as one of several coastal air stations. Originally called RNAS Immingham, it was soon given the name RNAS Killingholme, probably due to the existence of the navy-operated Immingham balloon station. In Sep 1914 at least four aircraft were based at here in order to protect the oil depot. By the end of the year several Sopwith Scout were added to the complement and employed on anti-submarine duties. The U-boot task was also carried out by a small numbre of seaplanes by the end of the year.

As the airfield opened the first Bessoneau hangar was erected for the conventional aircraft which operated off the grass strip. This was augmented by a 177 x 56 ft hangar as the complement of aircraft increased. By Sep 1914 four 68 x 77 ft seaplane sheds had also been completed. The following month the Bessoneau hangar was dismantled and a seaplane slipway constructed, allowing access to the River Humber, and measuring 700 x 60 ft. The increasing size of successive seaplane models led to the construction in 1916 of the largest hanger built in the UK to date, measuring 800 x 200 ft. Late 1916 also saw two further hangars measuring 200 x 100 ft being constructed as well as a further two slipways measuring 850 ft long and 35 ft wide.`

The aircraft operated in 1914 aircraft included a German DFW biplane which was withdrawn due to identification issues, Sopwith Spinning, Sopwith Jenny, Sopwith Schneider, Sopwith Baby, Shorts 827 and White & Thompson Bognor Bloater. During 1916 the aircraft types included Short float seaplanes for maritime patrols and Sopwith Scout for Zeppelin interception. Sopwith Baby were also still present. A converted paddle steamer seaplane carrier, pressed into service as HMS Killingholme, was also based here. In 1917 the Curtis H4 Small America flying boat arrived. It was followed by the H12 Large America. In Sep 1918 sorties were flown by Avro E4133, F2A, F2C, H-16, H-12 and Shorts ac. Other aircraft included the Short 184 (Maori III), Short 320 and Felixstowe F2, a Small America with a redesigned hull.

NAS Killingholme's first operational sortie was generated on 21 Aug 1914, a routine patrol. Local Zeppelin raids from Sep 1914 at Humberstone, Owmby and Gainsborough saw Killingholme-based planes pressed into intercept duties.

Although NAS Killingholme was principally a large operational seaplane station with patrol duties to protect local oil installations, nearby ports and repell Zeppelin attacks it also served as a seaplane pilot training centre and had limited numbers of shore-based aircraft. Amongst types operated was the Sopwith Baby as early as May 1916 for anti-Zeppelin and submarine patrol work in the North Sea. Killingholme was not ideally placed as a seaplane station due to the strong tide in the Humber estuary and the high tidal range which made for difficult slipway work. At this time there were 900 servicemen and occasionally in excess of 100 aircraft on station, making Killingholme one of the leading seaplane bases. To accommodate these aircraft the Station had a massive hardstanding.

Commanded by Cdr A Longmore from 15 Jun 1916, Killingholme became a UN Navy Base from Mar 1918 to operate as a USN Seaplane Station. On 20 Jul (possibly 30 May?) 1918 it was handed over to the command of the United States Navy under Lieutenant Commander Kenneth Whiting, with the main body of US service personnel arrived on 1 Jun 1918 on the USS Jason bringing Curtis flying boats to complement their Short-manufactured seaplanes conducting coastal patrols. The US Navy did not stay long beyond the end of the Great War and NAS Killingholme was handed back to the British in Jan 1919, closing in June.

404 Flt, 248 Sqn moved to RAF North Coates before Dec 1918 and re-rolled from seaplanes to DH6.

American naval aviators flew British Short sea-planes on maritime patrol from this Killingholme. They were also equipped with the Curtiss H-16, a twin-engine tractor biplane seaplane. The first two H-16 were shipped to Killingholme on 2 Apr 1918. Specific duties for the Americans included convoy protection in the North Sea, deterring German sweepers from disturbing mine fields in the approaches to the British coast, anti-submarine warfare and long-range reconnaissance.

In Nov 1918 the coastal flights of land planes (as opposed to seaplanes) of 18 Group were concentrated at RAF Killingholme. Several of these moved to RAF North Coates prior to disbandment in Jun 1919.

The USN handed Killingholme back to the Royal Air Force on 6 Jan 1919 and 228 Sqn moved in before its disbandment, followed by 249 Sqn. RAF Killingholme was closed on 6 Jun 1919. This is a separate station to the nearby RAF North Killingholme.

After the Station was disbanded in 1919 the hangers were taken to Grimsby and used to build the bus depot opposite the Police Station, on Victoria Street. The majority of the hangers still stand behind the brick facade which bears the date 1925.

The Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons - Patrol Squadron Shore Establishments

Extract from "Killingholme Diary: US Naval Air Station Killingholme", Cross and Cockade

AirfieldArchaeology.co.uk

The US Air Forces in Lincolnshire

About USN Naval Aircraft factories

Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire
(Tourism)

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