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RAF Skeabrae

(Redirected from RNAS Skeabrae)

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RAF Skeabrae began as an Admiralty facility which was subsequently handed over to the Air Ministry, which had an urgent need for a fighter defence facility in the Orkney Islands.

There was a later plan to merge Skeabrae with RNAS Twatt to the north, as NATO base, but this was cancelled when Iceland was chosen as the location instead.

Airfield building, 2009
Airfield building
© Ian Balcombe

RNAS Skeabrae opened for use by the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) 1940, but was quickly transferred to the RAF. Various dates can be found for the opening and transfer, but are inconsistent, so are not quoted here. The airfield was reduced to care and maintenance as the war ended in 1945, and was disposed of in 1957 (but possibly 1947, as these dates appear to inconsistent too, depending on the source referred to).

The airfield was provided with the usual three runways, and three bomb stores were located close to the northeast corner of the airfield, These are describes as having unusual blast walls to their north and south sides of the buildings, being constructed in a zig-zag pattern. There was a small accommodation camp located to the northwest, with a building which served as a cinema, gymnasium, and chapel to the west, on the east side of the A967 road. The cinema building measures some 44 metres long by 11 metres wide, with a porch to the north where the projector room would have been located, and an extension to the south which would have served as the chapel. A round, concrete, Norcon type pillbox is also described as having been built into a stone wall south of Garson farm. Later accounts of the site include the existence of a decontamination centre, and of the addition of a Callander-Hamilton hangar in November 1944.

Modern reports of the site note that by 1981, some 25 buildings survived on the site, including the control/watch tower, but that by 1993, much of the former remains had been demolished, leaving only a few just concrete bases to be found, and only a depression in the ground where the control tower stood. The runways and some of the dispersal areas still remain, together with some of the airfield's air-raid shelters.

The former bomb stores are reported to remain to the north, having been reused as feed stores and animal shelters. Also reported to survive is the cinema building next to the A967 road, but its condition is unknown.

Five light anti-aircraft camps (batteries?) are shown on the Air Ministry plans from 1944, with evidence of their positions being reported on the ground to the east of Queenamoan farm.

Power station

A dispersed brick and concrete power station was also located on the site, and described as having been responsible for the generation of power for Skeabrae and RNAS Twatt, which had been located a short distance to the north.

This has been reported as surviving, having been converted into a private dwelling.

Bunker unearthed

During a search of the former airfield site for remaining artefacts in early 2018, it was reported that an underground bunker was discovered on what had become farm land.

From the description, it seems this was a Battle Headquarters, a facility that would have have been used in the event that the airfield had been invaded during World War II, providing a well defended centre from which use of the airfield could have been denied to the enemy. This could provide the time needed for reinforcements to arrive.[1]


1 Bunker used in Second World War discovered on Orkney Retrieved 19 April 2018.

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Aerial views



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