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BluBear

Touring the Kent USAAF 9th AF Advanced Landing Grounds... by bicycle

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Something I've been meaning to do for a while is visit the sites of all seven (eight including Brenzett) former USAAF Ninth Air Force Advanced Landing Grounds in Kent, by bicycle.
The most well known of course is RAF Lashenden, now Headcorn Aerodrome which is a popular General Aviation, Skydive and Warbird flight experience hub. It's also just down the road from where I live, so naturally that's where I started the ride.
With help from the book 'UK Airfields of the Ninth then and now' by Roger A. Freeman, a healthy dose of Wikipedia and a few drops of Google Streetview, I plotted the most direct route in Strava to easily accomplish all eight sites in an afternoon. 
The weather wasn't perfect; actually quite blustery and hard-going down on the marshes, but considering the minimal elevation overall, it made the ride that bit more rewarding.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find the memorials to a couple of the sites, but I managed to snap pictures of the rough area where the runways would have been back in 1943/44 instead.

Sites visited in order: 
Lashenden 
Headcorn
(actually near Egerton and incidentally the site PapaBear, Fenrir and I used to fly model aircraft from) 
Ashford 
Kingsnorth 
Brenzett
(An honorary entry for the US AAA battery based there, it was an anti-V1 RAF base primarily)
Woodchurch 
High Halden 
Staplehurst

For those of you interested in the stats of the ride, there's a link to my Strava entry at the bottom of the post, it turned out around 58 miles in the saddle.

Here's the route map, with the locations of the airfields:

tour map.jpg

And onto the sites...

 

RAF Lashenden

Aero Legends were operating both of their Spitfires today, the single-seater Mk.IX TD314 was on 'sit-in' experiences and the two-seater T.IX HN341 was performing pleasure flights.
The latter seemed to follow me round the ride for the first 20 miles or so, which made the experience all the more poignant. Quite the soundtrack!

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RAF Headcorn

The memorial is actually located on Bedlam lane which runs along the South East perimeter of the site, the airfield would have been directly behind me taking these pictures:

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RAF Ashford

Looking approximately South West from what would have been the eastern perimeter, the NNW-SSE runway would have run from right to left in this view.

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RAF Kingsnorth

Looking North East, this is where the NE-SW runway intersected the main road. Spitfire NH341 flew overhead just as I took this picture. Marvellous!

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RAF Brenzett

Now a small museum which has a number of interesting artefacts, including an intact Vampire sadly languishing outside (not good for wood), a bouncing bomb recovered from Reculver and the last time I was there a fully operational link trainer.

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RAF Woodchurch

The original ALG was located to the North of the village and South East of Little Engham Farm, which is a private strip owned by the Warbird pilot Rob Davies who famously bailed out of his P-51D Big Beautiful Doll at Flying Legends 2011 (some of us dogz were there to see it).
He used to put on a great little airshow here called Wings n Things back in the early 2000s, sadly rising insurance costs and mounting risk assessments knocked it on the head. He's still active, test flying and transporting Warbirds around Europe and working with Aero Legends as a camera ship pilot in his T6 Texan that he still flies from here.

These pictures are views from what would have been the Southern threshold of the N-S runway, looking North-ish.

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RAF High Halden

Unfortunately, the memorial did not materialise on this one, it may have been moved to the village. This however, is the view roughly looking south at what would have been the northern threshold of the N-S runway.

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RAF Staplehurst

I've been cycling around this site for years without realising the significance of the surrounding fields, for some reason I thought it was located to the west of the town.
This fantastic, well kept memorial was erected back in 2010 with an opening ceremony which included a flypast by Rob Davies in P-51D Big Beautiful Doll along with the wartime pilot of the P-51B etched into the stone in attendance.
Despite the leaden skies and howling wind, I took the time to sit on the grass and sign the visitor book, looking out over the fields and trying to imagine what it was like 74 years ago.

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That's all folks!

For further information, Wikipedia has a decent amount of information on WW2 ALGs in general and goes into some detail for each one I visited today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Landing_Ground#United_Kingdom_(Kent)

 

Here are the stats of the ride:

https://www.strava.com/activities/1645043553

 

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Thanks for the trip thru history!!

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Thanks for an intresting trip report. Nicely done Chris.

Do you or anyone know which airfield that was used in the movie: Twelve o' clock High from 1949 with Gregory peck?

You mentioned Big Beautiful Dog. Here she is one day prior to the crash. Duxford 2011.

P-51 Mustang Big Beautiful Doll

 

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Well done BB, great photos and account. Like it very much, the more these sites are made known the better.

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Excellent read and piccies!!!:goodjob:

Will now be following you on strava BluBear

@Sweper  Most of Twelve O'clock High was filmed in the well known English county of Florida:wacko:

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Thanks Chris - a very interesting read! What's next?

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Thanks chaps.

What next indeed...

Well there are plenty of former Battle of Britain sites around these parts of course.
I just threw together a tentative Strava route that includes West Malling, Rochester, Eastchurch and Detling, about 67 miles with considerably greater elevation what with going up the North Downs and such, could be fun though.

Or I could start at Manston, go through Ramsgate then down to Hawkinge, Lympne and back which is around 64 miles (closer to 100 if I tag on Lydd/Littlestone).

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Nice one Chris well done, great pics and an interesting read. Seem to remember a story about Egerton airfied concerning an oast house having its oast removed thus allowing heavily laden P47's to clear it at the end of the runway ??

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