Following in the footsteps of both British and American Air force engineers and the construction of these vital temporary air-strips during WWII.
The Background Stuff
ALG’s were temporary advance landing strips which were constructed by allied forces before and after the D Day landings, Initially in the UK and then in Europe from the 6th June 1944 and continued to be used right up to 7th May 1945.
The RAF Airfield Construction Service Engineers were some of the first to land at Normandy on D Day. Their mission was to construct forward operating airfields (ALG’s) which resulted in several hundred been built or rehabilitated by them between 1944 to 1945.
These temporary airstrips were used by the air force to support the advancing ground armies. As soon as the front line moved out of reach for the aircraft they simply built new ALG’s closer to the ground forces leaving other ones in the rear for support use such as casualty evacuation, supply and personnel drops and many other supplies.
None of these temporary airstrips were given names, instead they used coded letters and numbers to identify there locations.
In the UK prior to D Day they used (AAF) and then numbers from AAF-101 to AAF-925 to identify airstrips around the country.
Then after D Day in Europe American airstrips used A-, Y- or R- prefix’s and numbers from 1 to 99. “A” & “Y” airstrips were mainly in France, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany whilst “R” coded airstrips were usually found or located in occupied Germany.
British airstrips in Europe used “B” with numbers ranging from 1 to 99.
ALG’s built in the UK were built using somerfeld tracking which is a form of stiffed steel wire mesh.
Square- Mesh Track (SMT)
SMT was used in the first few weeks after the Normandy landings. It was developed by the British and composed of heavy wire joined in three inch squares, it was lightweight and easy to work with, a landing strip for fighter planes could be laid like a carpet in under seven days.
Prefabricated Hessian (PBS)
Shortly after the first airstrips were completed using (SMT) the army aviation engineers started using (PBS) which again was light weight and easy to transport and use. It also didn’t produce dust clouds unlike that of (SMT) airstrips. It consisted of an asphalt-impregnated jute which came in 300 foot rolls and was between 36 to 43 inches wide. It was laid by overlapping layers and sometimes even laid on top of (SMT’s).
Pierced Steel Plank (PSP)
This material provided an all weather airstrip and could be used by light bombers. This material came in ten (10) foot long (3m) by 15 inch wide (380mm) steel planks which were joined together and laid perpendicular to the line of flight. It was heavy though which limited its use and as it was steel there was a limited supply during the cause of the war, construction of an airstrip in this material could take up to a month.
In Europe during WWII they used five different types of airstrips.
Emergency Landing Strip (ELS)
A rough graded strip approximately 2000 feet long and was used for emergency belly landing’s of damaged aircraft.
Supply & Evacuation Strip (S&E)
A rough graded strip close to the front lines and used by C-47’s to transport casualties to the rear as well as supplying munitions and supplies to the front line.
Re-fuelling & Re-arming Strip (R&R)
Used to re-fuel and re-arm aircraft instead of them having to fly back to home base. These strips would when possible be sited so that they could be expanded into an ALG at a later date if required.
Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG)
These strips were constructed from scratch and usually with a view to developing them into long period use for many different aircraft and use.
Tactical Air Depots (TAD)
Several ALG’s were expanded into this type of strip with the addition of hangers, shops, dispersal hard stands, roads and other facilities.
Below is a silent film from IWM archives showing the ALG in Newchurch being used.