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RAF Banff

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Control tower, 2008
Control tower
© Bryag

RAF Banff, Boyndie Airfield, opened during World War II in 1943 as a Flying Training Command Field, and closed in 1946. Operational control was No 18 Group (1944). Also served RAF Banff Strike Wing of Coastal Command.

The airfield was constructed with the standard triangular three runway pattern, all with asphalt surface, and about 46 metres in width:

  • 18/36 1,280 metres
  • 06/24 1,280 metres
  • 12/30 1,828 metres

With the arrival of 143 Squadron (Mosquito) in October 1944, training command was transferred away from Banff, and the station was built up by the arrival of a number of other squadrons. Many squadrons posted to Banff were quickly transferred to Dallachy Airfield, but would later return in 1945 to convert to Mosquitos.

The base became RAF Banff Strike Wing, Coastal Command, and its main function became the execution of missions to attack German shipping in Norwegian waters, and to attack German ground positions in Norway. Its prime function was the interdiction of vital German iron ore convoys travelling via northern Norway to Germany, and latterly the more important task of attacking the last remaining German U-Boats which were forced to traverse the Kattegat and Skaggerak areas as well as the North Sea.

Operations block tally wall

One of the most remarkable survivors of the strike wing was a wall which had been covered with a listing of all the operational successes for the year 1945, including dates and targets hit.

This wall was copied by Strike Wing Trustee Les Taylor in 1987, and then replicated on the wall of Boyndie Day centre.

Sadly, since becoming more widely known, the original wall within the operation block has been vandalised to the extent that none of the text remains. The remains of the wall can be seen in the photograph below, labelled "Operations room".

Banff Flying Club

Following the closure of RAF Banff in 1946, the airfield became home to a flying club, and the name can still be seen at the top the control tower in the photograph above.

The flying club was inaugurated in 1976 by Sir Max Aitken, former Commanding Oficer of the station when the strike wing was in residence. The ceremony was attended by a large fly-in of private aircraft, and the star of the show was the silver-painted Strathallan Collection Mosquito, flown by world aerobatic champion Neil Williams.

The flying club was unable to survive the fuel crisis of the 1979s when combined with the soaring costs of running such a venture, and the abandoned site became a target for vandals.

The RAF Banff Strike Wing Memorial Trust

RAF Banff Strike Wing Memorial, 2006
RAF Banff Strike Wing Memorial
© Christopher Gillan

The RAF Banff Strike Wing Memorial Trust was set up by a group of volunteers in 1987, chaired by ex-strike wing pilot Group Captain Angus McIntosh from Edinburgh, with the aim of building a memorial at or near the airfield.

The trust raised some £30,000 and a granite stone with brass illustrated plaques was unveiled in September 1989 by former Squadron Commander GD "Bill" Sise from New Zealand. The unveiling was marked by flypasts from RAF Buccaneers and a Nimrod, followed by a series of very low level passes by the last remaining Mosquito in Britain, flown by Tony Craig.

The trust also provided a hand-calligraphy Book of Remembrance in a presentation case to St Mary's Church in Banff, where the entire wing used to mass for church services during wartime, and particularly on VE Day.

On completion of its mission, the trust was would up, and a new association set up to continue acting as a local focal point for the airfield and its history.

Banff Airfield Trust

First proposed in 2008, Banff Airfield Trust gained increasing support at the start of 2009, with plans to promote the heritage of the airfield site, and to restore and preserve associated artefacts of historical and cultural interest. Trustees are likely to be the local authority, the RAF Banff Association, Whitehills and District Community Council, and the Banffshire Coast Tourism Partnership.

The airfield's Landowners, Seafield Estates, have given permission for the former operations block at Boyndie to possibly be used for the scheme.[1] [2]

Almost two years after the initial porposal, the anticipated formation of a trust to manage the proposed heritage centre was announced by the local press, on January 4, 2010. A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said: "We have a meeting planned for mid-January when we hope the papers will be ready to sign."[3]

Site remains

Wind turbine and derelict remains, 2008
Wind turbine and derelict remains
© Anne Burgess

The site is reported to have largely reverted to agricultural use, although there is a karting track on the southern part, occupying the end of the north-south runway. A small industrial estate has been developed on the western part of the site, and The Boyndie Wind Farm occupies another part of the former airfield.

A number of buildings are reported to survive, including the control tower, part of the main store, several waist-high emergency air raid shelters, and numerous bases relating the camps and other buildings, with at least 28 hardstandings in the dispersal area. The airfield had 13 blister hangers and three T2 hangars, all of which has since been removed. Seven dispersed accommodation camps once existed, two of which housed WAAF personnel, while five pillboxes were sited around the airfield.

A covered display has been located within a car park at the beginning of a network of local walk around the surrounding area, and provides information about RAF Banff and the personnel who served at the airfield during World War II.

Information board, 2007
Information board
© Anne Burgess

Site visit

A site visit carried out in 2008 found that there were many building still standing on the site, and that several still contained World War II signs and notices on their walls.

Photographs

Standby generator house, 2008
Standby generator house
© Bryag
Operations room, 2008
Operations room
© Bryag
Wall signs, 2008
Wall signs
© Bryag
RAF Banff Association display, 2008
RAF Banff Association display
© Bryag
Firing range butt wall, 2008
Firing range butt wall
© Bryag


References

1 Final touches to RAF Banff centre proposals, The Press and Journal, January 10, 2009.

2 Friends of RAF Banff may support new centre, The Press and Journal, February 21, 2009.

3 Trust to manage RAF heritage centre to be established - Press & Journal, January 4, 2010.

External links

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