Military Wiki
RAF Worthy Down
RNAS Worthy Down (HMS Kestrel)
HMS Ariel

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svgNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.png
IATA: none – ICAO: none
Airport type Military
Owner Air Ministry 1917-1939
Admiralty 1939-1960
Operator Royal Air Force
Royal Navy
Location South Wonston, Hampshire
Built 1917
In use 1917-1960
Elevation AMSL 338 ft / 100 m
Coordinates 51°06′37″N 001°19′08″W / 51.11028°N 1.31889°W / 51.11028; -1.31889Coordinates: 51°06′37″N 001°19′08″W / 51.11028°N 1.31889°W / 51.11028; -1.31889

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Direction Length Surface
ft m
N/S 2,310 704 Grass
E/W 4,200 1,280 Grass

RAF Worthy Down, was a Royal Air Force station built located 3.5 miles (5.6 km) north west of Winchester, Hampshire the airfield was also known as RNAS Worthy Down (HMS Kestrel) and HMS Ariel. The Royal Navy used the airfield from 1939 until 1942. Being completed in 1918, the airfield was first manned by No. 58 Squadron RAF. The airfield remained in use throughout the Second World War and made into an engineering school in 1952. The airfield was in use until 1960. The station is now Worthy Down Barracks.


The site was first used as a military establishment when the War Office acquired the site for a Wireless and Observers School in 1917 before changing to the school of Army Co-operation in 1918 on the site of the Winchester Racecourse. In 1918 an airfield was built for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), but before it was completed the RFC was amalgamated with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force.[1][2]

Royal Air Force

The first squadron to use the airfield was No. 58 Squadron RAF which was reformed there on 1 April 1924. The squadron flew the Vimy and the Virginia before moving to RAF Upper Heyford on 13 January 1936.[3] On 7 April 1927 No. 7 Squadron RAF moved from RAF Bircham Newton and stayed until 3 September 1936 flying the Virginia IX/X and the Heyford II/III before moving to RAF Finningley.[4] During this No. 102 Squadron RAF formed at the airfield flying the Heyford II/III on 1 October 1935 before leaving on 3 September 1936 moving to RAF Finningley.[5] On 1 October 1939 the same day as when 102 Sqn formed No. 215 Squadron RAF also reformed at the airfield but they flew the Virginia X instead and left on 14 March 1936 moving to RAF Upper Heyford.[6]

On 8 August 1936 No. 49 Squadron RAF moved from RAF Bircham Newton flying the Hawker Hind before leaving on 14 March 1938 moving to RAF Scampton.[7] The next squadron to join was No. 35 Squadron RAF. The squadron moved to RAF Worth Down on 26 August 1936 flying the Fairey Gordon, Vickers Wellesley and the Fairey Battle before moving to RAF Cottesmore on 20 April 1938.[8] The last squadron to join RAF Worthy Down was No. 207 Squadron RAF which had moved to the airfield on 29 August 1936 flying the Gordon and Wellesley before leaving on 20 April 1938 to RAF Cottesmore.[9][10]

The only Royal Air Squadron not to use the airfield when it was under RAF control was the Southampton University Air Squadron which joined in 1945 flying the Tiger Moth before leaving during 1946.[11]

Station commanders

Commander Dates
1 Dec 1926 Gp Capt Hon J D Boyle
4 Apr 1929 Gp Capt F K Haskins
6 Aug 1929 Gp Capt C H K Edmonds
7 Aug 1931 Gp Capt J R W Smyth-Pigott
16 Jan 1934 Wg Cdr/Gp Capt A A B Thomson
6 Nov 1936 Wg Cdr C H Keith
22 Aug 1937 Wg Cdr W Underhill

Royal Navy

The site was recommissioned by the Royal Navy in 1939 as HMS Kestrel and used as a flying station by the Fleet Air Arm. During this time the site was featured on the news when Lord Haw-Haw (William Joyce) claimed HMS Kestrel was sunk by the Kriegsmarine.[13] In 1950 it was placed in a state of care and maintenance until 1952 when it was re-established as HMS Ariel II and used as an engineering training school.[2]

The following squadrons were based at Worthy Down at some point:

Additionally Supermarine used the airfield in the development of the Spitfire from December 1940 to March 1944.[2]

Current use

The technical site is now Worthy Down Barracks with the runway area open grassland.[10]

See also



  1. "RAF/RNAS Worthy Down, Hampshire". Atlantik Wall. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Worthy Down". Daveg4otu. Archived from the original on 9 Jan 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  3. Jefford 2001, p. 43.
  4. Jefford 2001, p. 26.
  5. Jefford 2001, p. 54.
  6. Jefford 2001, p. 71.
  7. Jefford 2001, p. 41.
  8. Jefford 2001, p. 37.
  9. Jefford 2001, p. 69.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Worthy Down". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  11. Lake 1999, p. 187.
  12. "RAF Station Commanders - South East England - Worthy Down". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  13. "Worthy Down". Retrieved 24 May 2012. 


  • Jefford, C.G, MBE,BA,RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Lake, A Flying Units of the RAF. Shrewbury, Airlife Publishing Ltd., 1999. ISBN 1-84037-086-6.

External links

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