Latitude 03°44' S Longitude 39°3' E

OPENED May 1942


COMMISSIONED 01 June 1942? on Books of KIPANGA.


PAID OFF 15 May1944 to Care & Maintenance On books of H.M.S. 'TANA'


O.I.C. Commander J.D. Harvey June 1942
FUNCTION Facilitates for disembarked units.

[Emergency landing ground only while under Care & Maintenance]


ADDRESS R.N. Air Station.

Mackinnon Road,


East Africa


LOCALITY The airfield lies on a plain of waterless, uninhabited bush, immediately S. of the Mombasa-Nairobi road and railway, at Mackinnon Road station. Kilindini Harbour, Mombasa, lies 41½ miles ESE. Voi lies 36 miles NW. by W.


LANDMARKS The Mombasa-Nairobi road and railway, with Mackinnon Road Station, adjacent NE. of the landing area. The airfield shows as a conspicuous clearing in the surrounding bush, but care should be taken not to confuse with R.A.F. Samburu, which lies 13 miles E. on the north side of the railway, at Samburu railway station


ROAD AND RAIL ACCESS Access to Kilindini by rail and road. The airfield has its own siding, and the journey by rail to Kilindini takes 36 hours for goods, and 3 to 4 hours for passenger traffic. The distance by road is 6o miles (R) ; the road is not very good, and is unsuited to the towing of aircraft.
Kilindini harbour has 5 deep-water berths served by railway tracks. There are several 3- and 5-ton electric mobile cranes, one 10-ton crane and a 60-ton floating crane available.


CONTROL Control Building adjacent S. of the landing strip junction.


ELEVATION 1,200' above M.S.L.


RUNWAYS /LANDING AREA Two converging landing strips grass on sandy soil

12/30 QDM. 120°/300° .... 1950 X 100/200  yds. capable of extension

16/34 QDM. 162°/342° .... 1700 X 100/200  yds.


Strips of cleared, hand packed ground, each about 8oo x 33 yds., extend down the centre of the landing strips from their point of intersection. Note: The plan of Plate No. 39 shows, in open peck, the limits of the cleared area. The actual length of the landing strips is shorter by about 275 yds. at the "12" end of strip 12/3o, and by about 500 yds. at the "34" end of strip 16/34.








APPROACH All sectors safe for approach.


WIND INDICATOR One windsock, S. of landing strip junction.




APPROACH - VISUAL By day - None 

By night - Glim lamps




COMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT W/T station complete. details mot known, but  one channel exists to R.N.A.S. Nairobi, Port Reitz and Tanga.




ACCOMMODATION Living quarters in camp N.  of railway, wooden hutting with concrete floors and thatch roofs.



Officers: 550
Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings: 300
W.R.N.S. Officers: None.
W.R.N.S.  Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings; None.
Native Police: 150

(East African Military Labour Service)

ARMOURIES Armoury, Store and S.A.A.R.U. store building.






HANGARS On N. side of strip 12/30.


Number /Type Size Door Height Door Width
1  Callendar Hamilton

 for A.R.S. and storage

185' x 110' 25'   100'
MEDICAL Sick quarters on N. side of railway, immediately S. of camp. First Aid on airfield.


METEOROLOGICAL Prevalent winds : November to March are NE. April to September are SE.
Rainy seasons : March to May and October and November.
The weather is suitable for flying all the year except for occasional days when the strips are U/S due to rain.

No service while on Care & Maintenance.


FUEL AND OIL Aviation .............. Three 6.000 gallon tanks.
Kerosene .............. Not known.
M/T......................No tank storage.
Oil ....................... Not known.






WORKSHOPS A.R.S., general workshops, wood-workers and battery charging shop.


Information taken from CB 4368 B. Admiralty Handbook of Naval Air Stations Aug. 45



List of first and second line squadrons, station flight and other flying units based at this location

795 Fleet Fighter Pool Squadron

Moved here from RNAS Tanga 19.09.42. Disbanded here 11.08.43

Equipped with Fairey Fulmars and Grumman Martlets

796 B Flt Eastern Fleet Torpedo, Spotter and Reconnaissance Pool.

'B' flight operated here from RNAS Tanga 29.08.42 to 30.09.42.

 Equipped with Fairey Albacores and Fairey Swordfish.

831 Torpedo, Spotter and Reconnaissance squadron

Disembarked from HMS INDOMITABLE 29.05.42. Re-embarked INDOMITABLE 09.07.42

Equipped with 9 Fairey Albacore.

881 Fleet Fighter squadron

Disembarked from HMS ILLUSTRIOUS 19.08.42 Re-embarked  ILLUSTRIOUS 06/09.42

'B' flight disembarked from HMS ILLUSTRIOUS 20.10.42 Re-embarked  ILLUSTRIOUS 07.12.42

Equipped with 9 (later 18?) Grumman Martlet IIs

882 Fleet Fighter squadron

Formed here? 19.08.42, Absorbed into 881 squadron  05.09.32

Equipped with 9? Grumman Martlet IIs




The Mackinnon Road site, 41½ miles NW of Mombasa was one of three locations selected for new naval airfields in Eastern Africa for the support of the Eastern Fleet operations in the Indian Ocean; the other two were at Voi, Kenya, 79 miles NNW from Mombasa, and Tanga, Tanganyika, 72 miles SSW of Mombasa.

Work began to develop the site alongside the Mombasa-Nairobi railway at Mackinnon Road at the start of May 192 The site was little more than a small clearing in the bush which was expanded, and extended to create two landing strips, 200 yards wide by 1950 and 1700 yards in length, The two landing strips formed a dog- leg pattern with the longer strip running parallel to the road and rail track, the shorter strip intersecting South Eastern end. It was to take two months to completely clear the necessary areas but sufficient space had been cleared for the first aircraft to arrive at the end of the month. These were the 9 Albacores of 831 Torpedo, Spotter and Reconnaissance squadron
which flew ashore from the Fleet Carrier HMS INDOMITABLE on the 29th.

Work continued for several months to fully establish the basic airfield, much of the manpower was provided by the East African Military Labour Service (E.A.M.L.S. ), 350 of these native workers were billeted in a camp just North of the landing area on the far side of the road and railway. Other workers were recruited from local tribesmen, especially camp support staff such as cooks, and stewards. The Albacores remained ashore for the next five weeks before re-embarking in INDOMITABLE on July 9th

The next squadron did not arrive until mid-August when 881 Fleet Fighter squadron flew ashore from HMS ILLUSTRIOUS on the 19th, bringing 9 Martlet single seat fighters. On the same date a second Fleet Fighter squadron was formed at Mackinnon Road - 882 squadron assembled with 9 Martlet IIs issued from the storage section at RNARY Nairobi. Ten days later a further unit arrived on the station when the Albacores and Swordfish of B Flt of 796 Eastern Fleet Torpedo, Spotter and Reconnaissance Pool squadron based at RNAS Tanga arrived for a month long detachment on August 29th.

The newly formed 882 squadron was to be short lived, being absorbed into 881 on September 5th 1942 to increase its equipment to 18 Martlet IIs. The new, larger 881 flew out to re-embark in HMS ILLUSTRIOUS the following day. Their place was taken by 795 Fleet Fighter Pool Squadron's Fairey Fulmars and Grumman Martlets which moved here from RNAS Tanga on September 19th.

B Flt of 796 squadron returned to RNAS Tanga on the 30th leaving only 795 squadron flying from the airfield on refresher flying training duties. Half (?)of the new, larger, 881 returned to Mackinnon Road on October 20th when B flight was flown ashore from HMS ILLUSTRIOUS. They stayed until December 7th before rejoining ILLUSTRIOUS; this was the last use by a disembarked carrier squadron, the station's sole occupant was now 795 Squadron which continued its trining role until being disbanded here on August 11th 1943.

After only sixteen months of operations RNAS Mackinnon Road was no longer needed, no father use of the airfield is recorded May 15th 1944 reduced to Care & Maintenance status On books of H.M.S. 'Tana' at three months notice to re-open.



Click here for a list of Primary sources

Additional sources:

Meredith, A. (2011) 'The Pilot and the Commando: The Interlinked Lives of Two Young Christians in the Second World War', Milton Keynes, Authorhouse


Pountney, C. (1986) 'Uncle's War in the Fleet Air Arm', Penzance, United Writers Publications Ltd










View Larger Map



Two naval ratings passing some of 831 Squadron's Albacore aircraft parked on the edge of the landing ground. C. June 1942. © IWM (A 11009)


Two pilots of 881 Squadron, at heir morning absolutions outside their quarters, under canvas at McKinnon Road, East Africa. © IWM (A 13668)


August 1942, Martlet aircraft from No 881 Squadron , warm up for take off at the dusty landing strip at McKinnon Road, East Africa. © IWM (A 13667)


August 1942, A Martlet from No 881 Squadron takes off from the dusty landing strip. © IWM (A 13666)


Medical staff watch as two Martlet fighters of 881 Sqdn taking off at dawn, a windless day in August 1942. © IWM (A 13664)





 © 2013 Tony Drury


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