RAF Ballykelly opened as a Coastal Command Base on 1st June 1941 and a Coastal Command Development Unit was based there from December 1941 until June 1942. For the balance of the War various squadrons served at Ballykelly as well as Fleet Air Arm Units flying their Swordfish. With the end of the war the Base became the home of the RN/RAF Anti Submarine School for some six to seven months before lapsing from operational standard.
Operational standard was regained by February 1952 when No 269 Squadron, (later renumbered 210 Sqn) and its Shackleton MK1's flew in. That squadron would remain at RAF Ballykelly until October 1970 when it was redeployed. By that time the base had been absorbed into Strike Command. No. 240 Squadron (subsequently 203 Squadron) was stationed at Ballykelly from the middle of 1952 until redeployment in January 1969. The honour of being the last operational Squadron at RAF Ballykelly went to No 204 which had been reformed in January 1954 and which remained at Ballykelly until its redeployment to Honnington in March 1971. An Air Sea Warfare Development Unit was also based at RAF Ballykelly from September 1958 until April 1970.
The final closure of RAF Ballykelly occurred on 1st June 1971 when the Base was transferred to the Army and renamed Shackleton Barracks. The Philatelic Club, RAF Ballykelly, marked this occasion by the issue of commemorative covers which were carried by train from Limavady Junction to Londonderry on that date. The rear of the covers are date stamped NIR Limavady Junction and NIR Londonderry as well as carrying a "Northern Ireland Railways per Passenger Train," stamp.