Text: Serge Van Heertum & Bruno Ghils - Pictures: Bruno Ghils & Archives SBAP © sbap 2014
The past...(by Serge Van Heertum)

It was during WWI, in 1916, when the Germans took possession of the fields located alongside the road Kortrijk – Menen, on the parishes of Wevelgem and Bissegem. During the fitting out of these fields, a new Jasta, the Jasta 6, was created at Sivry (France). At this time, units never stayed long at one location, their moves being dictated by the influences of the batllefront and the moves of the army corps.

Jasta 6 took its quarters on the airfield of Bissegem on June 10, 1917, under the command of Staffelführer Oberleutnant Eduard Dostler. This latter was shot down some days later over Flanders Fields on August 21, 1917. Then the Jasta 6 moved on to Marckebeke a few kilometers further (this field was for some time also the home base of Manfred Von Richthofen) before moving on to fields in French territory.

From october 1918, the airfield of Bissegem passed into the hands of the British and several suqadrons of the Royal Flying Corp (RFC) were deployed:
 

22-10-1918 to 01-11-1918 : 7 Squadron (RE.8)

24-10-1918 to 16-11-1918 : 108 Squadron (DH.9)

22-10-1918 to 06-11-1918 : 82 Squadron (F.K.8)

25-10-1918 to 12-02-1919 : 65 Squadron (Sopwith Camel)

11-12-1918 to 12-02-1919 : 24 Squadron (S.E.5.A)

15-11-1918 to 26-11-1918 : 43 Squadron (Sopwith Snipe)

Bissegem airfield during WWI, German installations at right side of the picture
JASTA 6 Fokker DR.1 aligned Fokker DR.1, note the black and white lines on the stabilizer,
markings of the JASTA 6
A Fokker VIII of the JASTA 6. The JASTA used also Albatros D.III Staffelführer Oberleutnant Eduard Dostler.
SE5A, the same as the 24 Squadron Sopwith Camel also in service at 65 Squadron
A general view of Wevelgem Airfield during the 1920's

After the war, the Belgian military authorities took possession of the airfield and, thanks to the help of German aircraft, taken as war damages, created the well-known aviation school at Wevelgem. Numerous pilots of the Military Aeronautics were trained on this field.
Twenty years later World War II broke out and as the Belgian authorities did not learn from their former errors, they surrendered to the German troops after eight days.

Student pilot of the Flying School on R.S.V.22/180 Another one on Fokker D.VII taken as war damages

From May 1940 on, the Luftwaffe took possession of the facilities and began the enlargements works. Wevelgem – Bissgem became one of the major Luftwaffe base insuring the defence of northern France and Flanders. Various Luftwaffe units were stationed there until June 1944: 

02-07-1940 to 12-07-1940 : KG53 (He 111)

00-08-1940 to 00-08-1940 : I/KG26 (He 111)

20-03-1941 to 00-05-1941 : Erprobungsgruppe 210 (Bf 110)

21-04-1941 to 24-04-1941 : II/JG52 (Bf 109E)

00-06-1941 to 00-08-1941 : EJG26 (Bf 109E)

15-10-1941 to 22-12-1940 : II/JG26 (FW-190A)

07-04-1943 to 14-05-1943 : III/JG26 (FW-190A)

01-10-1943 to 25-11-1943 : I/JG26 (FW-190A)

18-05-1943 to 23-05-1943 : 4&9/JG54 (FW-190A)

01-01-1944 to 07-06-1944 : 4/JG26 (FW-190A) 

The III/JG53 also transitioned through Wevelgem, but dates are doubtful.

 

Following the landing in Normandie and the progress of the allies in occupied territory, the Royal Air Force took over Wevelgem from September 1944 on. Within the structure of the RAF, the airfield of Wevelgem was given the code B-55. During about three months, various British units were stationed here: 

17-09-1944 to 25-11-1944 : 74 Squadron (Spitfire LF IXe)

17-09-1944 to 01-11-2014 : 340 Squadron (Spitfire Mk IXb)

17-09-1944 to 25-11-1944 : 329 Squadron (Spitfire Mk IXb)

19-09-1944 to 25-11-1944 : 341 Squadron (Spitfire Mk IXb)
01-11-1944 to 25-11-1944 : 345 Squadron (Spitfire HF IX)

Insigna from: KG53, KG26, SKG 210, JG52, JG53, JG26, JG54
Heinkel He 111 from KG53 Erprobungsgruppe 210 Messerchmitt Bf 110
Close up of JG52 Messerschmitt Bf 109E Focke Wulf FW-190A-4 from JG26
JG53 Focke Wulf FW-190A-4 340 (French) Squadron  Spitfire Mk IX

WWII had ended and the allies had left the place, the airport was taken over by the military and given back to the civil authorities. 

Little by little the airfield evolved and extended and bit by bit modernization works made this countryside airfield of the Jasta 6 grow into an airport with international class...
and its expansion has still not ended yet.

...the present (by Bruno Ghils)

If one day you feel the need or envy to see some aircraft and visit an active airport, I surely can advise you to head for Wevelgem.

Wevelgem is a very interesting airport where you not only see business aircraft "bizz-jets" but also have a look at older airplanes, privately owned airplanes and most of all at a great variety of transitioning aircraft... it happens frequently to see other than just "OO" registered planes.
Wevelgem is very busy and is not just a little provincial airfield. Throughout the years it expanded to become an international airport, a hub within the Euro-region (Lille – Kortijk)  regional traffic. The airport includes a flying school and leisure activities, but most of all business. In 2013 Wevelgem accounted for 34.204 movements...

As we are commemorating the 100th year of the beginning of World War I, one has to emphasize that Wevelgem is located within the region where bloody battles were fought and called "Flanders Fields" by our British friends. It is also important to know that departing from Wevelgem, one has the possibility to fly over various epochal places of the battlefront 1914-1918 (a one hour tour called FLANDERS FIELDS MEMORIAL FLIGHT proposing an over flight of different historical locations (trenches, cemeteries, Iper, the Yser-tower,...).
Wevelgem will surely see an increase in its traffic and frequentation as it will be a central point in certain historical and cultural commemorations of this centennial.

And while we are speaking of history, let's not forget that Wevelgem was an airfield of the Belgian Military Aeronautics including a major flying school for what later became our Air Force. Remember the Penguins...

Aerial view of Wevelgem Airport today (Google hearth)

Welcome to Kortrijk-Wevelgem The control tower

Modern vehicles for a groing airport

The local flying club for sport aviation
The incontournable security Firebrigade and heavy material
Embraer 121 Xingu OO-SXE little bit abandonned. This is a former Sabena airplane Short Skyvan G-BEOL from Invicta Aviation
Siai Marchetti SF.260D modernized with a 3 blade propeller The cockpit of the SF.260D OO-EEJ
Cessna F172H Skyhawk OO-YAO Funk FK-12 Comet OO-G20
Mooney M20J OO-URS Lambert Mission M106  OO-F97 ultra light aircraft
Avion Robin DR400 G-BSZD
Robin DR400-120 OO-KDI
Piper PA-28 Arrow IV  F-GETG Piper PA-28-161 Warrior II  OO-DAT
Evektor EV-97 Eurostar OO-F40 Grumman American AA-5 Traveller  OO-WAN
Cessna 172N Skyhawk  OO-WVS
Extra 300L  D-EJFG Full aerobatic beauty!
Beechcraft F33A Bonanza  OO-RMC Piper PA-39 Twin Comanche  G-OAJS
Partenavia P-68B  OO-WIK Robin R3000/160  OO-FWA
Bell-Textron 206L  OO-SAM Robinson R22 Beta  OO-EGB
Cessna 551 Citation II  N122SP Dassault Falcon 2000EX black beauty from TAG aviation  G-OJAJ
Cessna Citation CJ2  OO-ACC Bombardier BD-700-1A11 Global 5000 from Comlux Aviation  9H-AFR
Cessna 500 Citation I  I-UUNY Cessna 560XL Citation  OO-SLM
Beech V35B Bonanza  N888DB Mooney M20R  OO-GYL
Stampe & Vertongen SV-4E  OO-SVT
Stampe & Vertongen SV-4C  OO-VSV Back in the past...
A real oldtimer...Wevelgem based, but with Swedish registration Piper J3C-65 Cub  SE-IID

Interested in the battlefront 1914-1918 tour...
click on the folder for more info's

More info's about Wevelgem Airport...click on folder

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