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Military site : airfield

Built during 1940-41 as an RAF fighter station, Portreath was unusual in having straightaway four tarmac-surface hard runways, with double blast pens dispersed around the perimeter track. After wartime development, it eventually had four T2 and four blister hangars. Used by the RAF during 1941-45 as a fighter, ferry, maritime and ASR base, the station was allocated briefly to the Eighth Air Force as a potential fighter base during August-September 1942, but never had any resident groups or squadrons. However, many USAAF aircraft staged through Portreath en route to North Africa, or diverted to the station on return from operations over enemy-occupied Europe, so Detachment A of of the 519th Service Squadron, Eighth Air Force Service Command, was located there from October 1942 to administer American aircraft movements, working alongside the RAF Overseas Air Despatch Unit. Transient US aircraft types included B-17s, B-24s, C-47s, P-38s and P-39s. In May 1943, P-47s of the 78th Fighter Group, based at Duxford, used Portreath as a forward base to escort bombing raids against Brest and other French western ports. During 1944, USAAF use of the station was reduced to convenience and emergencies only, although it remained operational as a multi-role RAF station until the airfield closed in October 1945. The site was taken over by the Ministry of Supply in May 1950 for use as a sub-station of the Chemical Defence Establishment (CDE), named Nancekuke after the nearby village. The CDE moved out in 1978 and MoD took back the site for operation as a radar station. Re-opened as RAF Portreath in 1980, the station now operates as Remote Radar Head (RRH) Portreath.



  • Harry Barr

    Military | Captain | Fighter Pilot/Squadron Operations Officer/Assistant Group Ops Officer | 31st Fighter Group
    Born in El Dorado, Kansas June 13, 1919. Commissioned as a 2nd Lt and awarded pilots wings on July 11, 1941. First active duty assignment was with the 31st Fighter Group, Selfridge Field Michigan flying P-39's. Participated in the Louisiana...

  • Donald Beals

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Fighter pilot
    On 26-Jan-43 in P-38F 41-7566 78FG/83FS 2nd Lt Donald S Beals was being transferred to Tafaroui, Algeria from Portreath, UK. He was flying with a flight of 9 others. The flight was to make a stop at Gibraltar but only 6 arrived. No traces of Lt Beals'...

  • Harry Holt

    Military | Major | Pilot | 306th Bomb Group The Reich Wreckers
    While serving as Pilot of B-17F #41-24494 on 9 November 1942, he was assigned to bomb the U-Boat pens target at St. Nazaire, France. On return, he overshot the runway while attempting to land at Portreath and crashed into field beyond runway. RTD

  • George Richards

    Military | Captain | Pilot | 14th Fighter Group
    Captain George Edward Richards was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. George C. Richards of Forest Hills, New York. In May 1942, he was one of the first pilots in the newly formed 83rd Pursuit Squadron of the 78th Pursuit Group flying the Lockheed P-38...


  • 41-7576

    P-38 Lightning
    P-38F 41-7566 78FG/83FS was being transferred to Tafaroui, Algeria from Portreath, UK on 26-Jan-43 by 2Lt Donald S. Beals. He was flying with a flight of 8 others. The flight was to make a stop at Gibraltar but only 6 arrived. No traces of Lt. Beals'...


Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:02:17 AAM AAM ingest

Barry Anderson, Army Air Forces Stations (Alabama, 1985) / Chris Ashworth, Action Stations 5: Military Airfields of the South-West (Cambridge, 1982)