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East Fortune Airfield / East Fortune Airship Station, Museum Of Flight
- HER number: MEL877
- Site Name: East Fortune Airfield / East Fortune Airship Station, Museum Of Flight
- Grid Reference: 355429 678849
- Civil Parish:
- Summary: Airfield, WWI and WWII
- Description: NT57NE 72 centred 55565 78829
NT57NE 72.01 5510 7920 Workshop
NT57NE 72.02 5388 7701 Operations Block
East Fortune airship station was established in 1915-16 as a major element of the strategic network protecting the British coastline, and, as such, was intended the accommodate the larger 'Coastal' or 'North Sea' types of non-rigid craft as well as those of the embryo rigid fleet. Accommodation at such stations typically comprised a rigid-airship shed flanked on each side by a smaller 'coastal' shed, these being stepped forward forward to afford a sheltered area in front of the rigid shed. The assemblage was aligned with the direction of the prevailing wind. Typically, the a Coastal shed measured 320 ft (97.54m) by 120 ft (36.58m) by 80 ft (24.38m) while the rigid sheds extended to as much as 700 ft (213.36m) and 110 ft (33.53m) in clear height. That at East Fortune, however, measured 180 ft (54.86m) in width, so as to be able to house two of the larger 33-class rigids. The rigid shed at East Fortune was apparently comparable to the No. 2 shed at Pulham, Norfolk.
After July 1917, the East Fortune shed was also used as the main base for the 'North Sea' class.
G D Hay and G P Stell 1986.
Air photographs (RCAHMSAP 1991) have revealed cropmarks of various features relating to the airship station and airfield. The probable remains of the R34 airship shed and the coastal sheds lie at NT 551 790 with the associated windbreak (shown as parallel pairs of small circular features running to the W of the sheds) running from NT 547 789 to NT 549 790. These are shown on the RNAS East Fortune external mains plan c.1918 (held in the National Museums of Scotland, Museum of Flight). The top of the rigid airship shed was removed c.1926 but the concrete base remained for later use and is visible on RAF Air Photographs taken in 1946 (106G/SCOT/UK14 5363-5364) and 1952 (540/718 4283-4284). Other cropmarkings include a semi-circular mark at NT 550 786 which was probably an Immediate Readiness Dispersal area (Quick Reaction Dispersal) on the later airfield. Similar marks are visible at NT 560 791 and NT 558 786 on 1946 Air Photographs (106G/SCOT/UK14 5364).
Information from RCAHMSAP (RHM), 15 February 1994
The hangars of this airfield now hold the collections of the Museum of Flight (a constituent body of the National Museums of Scotland). The runway area is used as a motor racing circuit and for a Sunday market.
Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 16 October 1996
Airfield with many runways and buildings extant, now in use by the Museum of Flight.
J A Guy 1997; NMRS MS 810/5, 156-63
(1) NT 555 782 (centre) A watching brief was undertaken at East Fortune Airfield (NMRS NT 57 NE 72) during pipe-laying work, which crossed the Scheduled area of the airfield. A quantity of massive concrete blocks were discovered in the vicinity of the now-demolished airship base, possibly representing the remains of one of the associated structures.
East and Midlothian NHS Trust.
B Glendinning 1998
NT 549 787 Between the 31st of March and the 1st od April 1998 the Centre for Field Archaeology (CFA) carried out a watching brief at East Fortune Airfield. The work was commissioned by East and Midlothian NHS Trust, due to the excavation of a pipe track across the scheduled area. Scheduled Monument Consent was granted for the work by Historic Scotland. Trenching was carried out by a JCB, although in the most N part of the trench a 360degree excavator was used. The section of the pipe track running from the Museum of Flight to runway crossing 4 had been excavated and backfilled before the CFA had been notifed of the works being started. Also, the section between runway crossing 1 and crossing 2 had been excavated and had just started to be backfilled before the CFA were informed.
An examination of what remained of the pipe track between crossings 1 and 2 revealed a jumble of massive concrete blocks streching along the length of the track. Mixed in amongst the concrete was a lot of blasting wire. Some of these blocks were L-shaped and were presumably debris from a demolished structure. Most of the blocks had square cross section with sides 0.51m by .37m. The runway had been built over the top of this demolition debris and it is possible that this material came from the demolition of the airship station which had been formerly located in this part of the airfield.
The section of pipe track between runway crossings 2 and 4 was watched during its excavation. The path from the runway to the Control tower was found to be a great deal wider than is presently mapped, 8m rather than 2m. This path was found to be undergoing great damge through ploughing of its edges. It consisits of a rubble base with a layer of Tarmac over this. Some traces of the wiring system that ran between runway and control tower was identified running through the trench.
No artefacts were recovered in the trenches and it was concluded that no further work is required on site.
Sponsor: East and Midlothian NHS Trust
NMRS MS/726/137 (CFA)
- For more information contact: East Lothian Council HER
- Related Places:
- Associated Periods:
- Bibliographic reference: Francis, P. 1996. British military airfield architecture: from airships to the jet age, . 58, 70, 102, 143, 150, 155, 211. 58, 102, 208, 211.
- Bibliographic reference: Smith, D J. 1989. Britain's military airfields, 1939-45 . 80, 168, 203, 232.
- Bibliographic reference: Quarrie, B (ed). 1987. Action stations 10: supplement and index. 45.
- Bibliographic reference: Smith, D J. 1983. Action stations 7: military airfields of Scotland, the North-East and Northern Ireland. 92-4.
- Bibliographic reference: Alexander and Castell, W and L (comp.). 1990. Scottish museums and galleries: the guide. 65.
- Bibliographic reference: Hay and Stell, G D and G P. 1986. Monuments of industry. 201, 235-7. pls. 236A, 237.
- Bibliographic reference: Chorlton, M. 2008. Scottish airfields in the second world war, Vol.1 The Lothians, Newbury, Berkshire. 53-76.
- Bibliographic reference: Fife, M. 2007a. Scottish aerodromes of the First World War, Stroud, Gloucestershire. 8-10,51-58,60,74-79,81,89,90,98,100,123,128,172-3,175,178,204,214.
- Sound recording: Wood, A. 2002. From Defence to Decay.
- Bibliographic reference: Carruthers, G. 2003a. 'East Fortune Airfield (Athelstaneford parish), watching brief', Discovery Excav Scot Vol. 4 2003, p.54. 54.
- (1) Bibliographic reference: Glendinning, B. 1998f. 'East Fortune (Athelstaneford parish), watching brief', Discovery Excav Scot 1998, p.32. 32.