RAF Eastleigh and Embakasi Airport

Request: Does anyone have a write-up on the history of Eastleigh please?

RAF Eastleigh was the main RAF station for East Africa and was located on the north-eastern outskirts of Nairobi. It came to prominence as a bomber and ground attack base during the Mau Mau campaign of the early 1950s and later performed a major role during the struggle for Kenyan independence a decade later. However, because of its high elevation, 5,317 ft asl, and short runways, the latter being due to its close proximity to the Nairobi suburbs, its use was limited to mainly piston-engined aircraft that were capable of operating from an airfield with these limitations, plus the Vampire, Venom and Canberra. During the period covered by this website, the airfield was host to three units; 21 Squadron equipped with Twin-Pioneers, 30 Squadron with Beverleys and a Comms Flight operating Pembrokes.

With the advent of fast jet fighters such as the Hunter, it was soon realised that Eastleigh’s runway would probably not be long enough for normal operations with this aircraft. After a trial utilising an 8 Squadron T.7 in January 1960 confirmed this to be the case, agreement was reached with the appropriate authorities that, for a peppercorn rent, 208 Squadron could use nearby Embakasi Airport for operational flying. Regardless of an altitude also exceeding 5,000 ft, this brand new airport possessed a 2,000 yard runway, more than adequate for 208’s needs. Hunters that were due primary and minor servicing could be flown in and out of Eastleigh under light fuel-load conditions. The Station continued to provide base facilities for the Squadron’s pilots and airmen, and the buses needed to transport them to and from the airport every day, until the Kuwait crisis of July 1961 when 208 Squadron moved up to Gulf.

Embakasi Airport terminal at the time of the 8 Squadron detachment in 1963, as seen from the apron. The sole aircraft on view in the centre of the image is East African Airways Comet 4, VP-KRK. Visiting RAF and Royal Navy fighter units were allocated a section of tarmac to the immediate right of the control tower.                                                                                                                                                                       (author)

There being no segregation at Embakasi, sights such as this depicting a mixture of military and civilian aircraft on the same line, were an everyday occurrence. Apparent in this July 1963 view are, a 70 Squadron Hastings C.1, 55 Squadron Victor 1A, 120 Squadron Shackleton MR.3, Balair DC-6B and British United Airways Britannia.                                                                                                                     (author)

Many of the images contained in the galleries below were taken during an 8 Squadron detachment to Kenya from 18 July to 6 August, 1963. Further contributions are most welcome.

A 208 Squadron FGA.9, XE647-O, uses the brake-chute to assist retardation during its landing run in the early months of operations at Embakasi in 1960 (Pete McLeland)

The Middle East Aerobatic team consisting of four 208 Squadron FGA.9s was based at Embakasi from June 1960 to July 1961 and is seen performing a loop over the Airport (Pete McLeland)

This is the scene after an aborted take by XE643-K caused the pilot of XE552-D to abort his run too. Mombasa, 09-12-61 (author's collection)

Firemen douse the stricken XE643 with foam in case of fire but the damage had already been done, the aircraft having sustained Cat 5 damage. Mombasa, 09-12-61 (author's collection)

At Embakasi, the Hunters shared shared the apron with various types of aircraft, three Shackletons and a Victor in this instance (Tom Banks)

The FGA.9s in this line-up are XE618-D, XF440-S, XF435-E, XE609-A and XE620-B.

Seen from the far end of the apron, the seven FGA.9s are lined up opposite an RAF Valiant, Britannia and Met Hastings, and Alitalia DC-7C (author)

'Boss' Syme's Hunter FGA.9, XE620-B, being turned-round prior to being pushed to the back of the tarmac area (author)

Left behind with a defect by a previous 208 Squadron detachment, FGA.9, XE647-H, stands forlornly (author) alongside its 8 Squadron brethren

The end of the Kenya detachment sees five 8 Squadron Hunters starting up before taxiing out .....

..... for their return flight to Khormaksar, with Tam Syme leading in XE620-B. The two parked Hunters nearest the camera remained at Embakasi with defects and flew back to Aden a few days later (both, author)

This 208 Squadron detachment to Embakasi in December 1963 was accompanied by a 1417 Flight FR.10 (Peter Lewis)

Beverley XH120-H belongs to Eastleigh-based 30 Squadron.

208 Squadron FGA.9, XJ687-E, taking off from Embakasi on 09-12-63 (Peter Lewis)

A small collection of images from Eastleigh

One of two aircraft dumped on the airfield for fire and rescue practice was this Valetta C.1, VW851, 08-63 (author)

Hastings C.2, WJ342, was the second aircraft provided for the fire and rescue services, 08-63 (author)

End of the working day and Pembroke C.1, WV742, is towed off the line and into the hangar, 08-63 (author)

The aircraft in the background is an 84 Squadron Beverley from Khormaksar.

Shackleton MR.3, WR989-B, was the third of the trio of aircraft to stopover in Kenya en-route to Kinloss after exercises with the SAAF, 07-63 (author)

The 'Boss' of 208 Squadron was not too happy when one of his pilots ditched his beloved Venom FB.4, WR400, in a storm drain while taxiing at night, Eastleigh, 07-08-60 (Mike Halpin)

After withdrawal from service, 208 Squadron Venom FB.4, WR493, was placed on static display outside the Officers' Mess (author's collection)

Having just arrived on a Navex flight from 231 OCU, the crew of Canberra B.2, WJ674, are about to be transported to the Mess, 08-63 (author)

In August 1973, WJ674 yawed on overshoot and rolled into the ground at Cottesmore, killing one person on board.

Another Canberra on a Navex, this time B(I).8, XM269, which carries the snake insignia of 88 Squadron, Wildenrath, on the fin (author's collection)

A prominent feature beside the Eastleigh apron was this International signpost (author)

The colourful flora on airfield at Eastleigh provided an excellent subject for 'Jona' Jones's camera, 08-63 (author)

The author is also caught taking pictures around the airfield ('Jona' Jones)

37 Squadron Shackleton MR.2, WL744-B, takes on fuel following its arrival from Khormaksar in 1964 (Charlie Donaldson)

Two 30 Squadron Beverley C.1 aircraft, XM108 and XB266, on the 30 Squadron pan at Eastleigh in 1964 (Charlie Donaldson)

XM958 (nearest) alongside another 21 Squadron Twin Pioneer on the line at Eastleigh in 1964 (Charlie Donaldson)

Ray Byatt waits patiently in the Embakasi RAF departure lounge for the return Argosy flight to Khormaksar, 06-08-63 (Taff John)

Four more airman snapped in the Embakasi lounge include Geordie Hall, Alan Lowe, Brum Robinson and one other (name?), 06-08-63 (Taff John)

A selection of various military aircraft to be seen at Embakasi Airport in July/August 1963 is depicted in the gallery below.

One of only six Met.Mk.1 Hastings built, TG504 was operated by 202 Squadron at Aldergrove and is seen during a stop-over at Embakasi in August 1963 (author)

At the completion of a series of exercises with Shackletons of the South African Air Force, WR990-F an MR.3 of 120 Squadron, was one of three .....

..... to spend a few days in Kenya at the end of July, 1963, while on their way back to Kinloss. XF704-D is pictured here at Embakasi (both, author)

Having gone unserviceable during an 800 Squadron detachment from HMS Ark Royal, Scimitar F.1, XD215-108, was left behind at Embakasi to await spares together with a team of mechanics and a pilot (author)

73 Squadron Canberra B.15, WH981, made a stop-over at Embakasi while on a Navex from its home base at Akrotiri in early August, 1963 (author)

Receiving attention to its starboard engine at Embakasi in August 1963, WT534 is a 17 Squadron PR.7 on a Navex from Laarbruch in Germany (author)

Luqa in Malta was the home base for 39 Squadron and one of its PR.9s, XH167, is parked in front of the Embakasi Control Tower, August 1963 (author)

Another photographic reconnaissance aircraft seen at Embakasi was Valiant B(PR).1, WZ391, of 543 Squadron, Wyton (author)

On the other hand, Honington-based 90 Squadron Valiant B(K).1, XD820, was configured as a tanker and is seen taxiing in to Embakasi on a lone-ranger (author)

Framed by the fuselage of a Shackleton, 55 Squadron Victor 1A, XH594, stands on the apron at Embakasi in July 1963 .....

..... as another 55 Squadron Victor 1A, XH621, taxies out for take off and return flight to its home base at Honington (both, author)

One of a pair of 216 Squadron Comet C.2s to visit Embakasi during the 1963 detachment was XK699 which had just flown in from Lyneham

XK699 is currently gate guardian at Lyneham.

Pictured here is the second of the two Comet C.2s, XK715 (author)

Army Air Corps Alouette AH.2, XR383, flew Army personnel to Embakasi to finalise plans for an impending exercise with 8 Squadron pilots, August 1963 (author)

Two USAF C-124 Globemasters, 21029 and 21082, parked on the apron at Embakasi in July 1963 (author)

The C-124 was known within USAF as 'Old Shakey',

C-124, 21082, this time alongside Alitalia DC.7C, I-DUVI (Tom Banks)

A selection of civilian registered aircraft seen at Embakasi Airport in July/August 1963 appears in the following gallery.

4X-ABB, Boeing 720B, from El Al Airlines, 08-63 (author)

ET-AAG, Boeing 720-060B, Ethiopian Airlines, 08-63 (author)

In 1968, this aircraft landed nose gear-first at Beirut in heavy rain and wind gusting to 45 knots. The nose gear folded back and a localised fire was quickly extinguished. After 20-30 minutes the fire again erupted and rapidly consumed the cabin and cockpit.

Still bearing its Italian registration, Alitalia DC-6, I-DIMT, was on lease to Central African Airways when photographed at Embakasi, 07-63 (author)

Aircraft leased from Alitalia from 1962-65.

I-DIWR, Douglas DC-8-33, Alitalia, 07-63 (author)

I-DUVI, Douglas DC-7C, Alitalia, 08-63 (author)

Central African Airways Vickers Viscount VP-YNG is loaded up and ready to depart Embakasi, August 1963

OO-SDE, Douglas DC-4, Air Congo, 07-63 (author)

OY-KTA, Douglas DC-8-33, Scandinavian Airlines System, 08-63 (author)

Carried the name 'Dan Viking' and was the first DC-8 in service with SAS.

SE-DBC, Douglas DC-8-33, Scandinavian Airlines Systems, 07-63 (author)

Carried the name 'Visbur Viking'

SU-ANC, Comet 4C, United Arab Airlines, 07-63 (author)

VP-KPJ, Comet 4, East African Airways, 08-63 (author)

VP-KSA, Fokker Friendship F27-200, East African Airways, 07-63 (author)

VT-DJJ, Boeing 707-437, Air India, 07-63 (author)

Deliberate reduction of engine power by the pilot 12 seconds prior to first landing, due to altitude unawareness resulting in a high rate of descent, very heavy landing and the undershooting of the aircraft by 1300 feet at Bombay in 1982. Having lifted off, the 707 descended onto kutcha ground and broke up with the loss of 15 passengers and 2 crew.

ZS-CXI, 707-344B, South African Airways, 08-63 (author)

Brand new Fokker F27, 5Y-AAB, of Sudan Airways at a remote Tanzanian airport in 1963 (Mac McLauchlan)

A snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro can be seen in the background.

To end with, a trip round some of the main attractions in and around Nairobi, comprising images taken over the weekend breaks during an 8 Squadron detachment to Kenya in July/August 1963.

Nairobi City centre with a Woolies in the background (author)

Nairobi - Delamere Avenue (author)

Nairobi - Government Road (author)

A couple of 8 Squadron airmen wander through a Nairobi garden, 07-63 (Tom Banks)

Nairobi - a distinctive church (author)

Nairobi - a picturesque Mosque (author)

Over the weekends the opportunity was taken to drive out to the country and visit the game parks. Here, Bill Sheppard and Brum Robinson visit a village in one of the latter, 07-63 (Tom Banks)

Touring round a Kenyan Game Park - with tail held high, a Warthog crosses in front of the Mercedes taxi (author)

Kenyan Game Park - our guide uses his nouse to tell us in which direction to go (author)

Kenyan Game Park - herd of Wildebeest (author)

Kenyan Game Park - Zebra poses for the camera for a few seconds before heading off to join his friends (author)

Kenyan Game Park - Zebra herd (author)

Kenyan Game Park - the highlight of our two-hour tour was encountering a group of three young Lions resting under the midday sun (author)

Kenyan Game Park - nothing like being urged to move on! (author)

Mount Kilimanjaro as seen in 1962 from the cockpit of an East African Airways DC-3 flight from Silversands to Embakasi (Keith Webster)