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RNAS Hatston

(Redirected from HMS Sparrowhawk)

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RNAS Hatston, commissioned as HMS Sparrowhawk from 1939 to 1945, was one of the main air stations serving the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) during World War II. This was due to its close proximity to the Home Fleet anchorage in Scapa Flow, and its distance from enemy airfields which reduced its potential danger from air attacks.

Hatston was a purpose built air station, constructed near the village of Hatston after an Admiralty representative had been sent to the area in early 1939 to determine the best location for an airfield in Orkney. There was no pre-existing civilian facility, and the Hatston site was recommended. The airfield is reported to have been the first to be built in Britain with hard runways, and was unusual in that four were installed, rather than the standard three, each being tarmac and 46 metres wide:

  • 02/20 713 m
  • 07/25 741 m
  • 12/30 722 m
  • 15/33 914 m

A brief detachment is reported by the RAF from April to May of 1940. The US Navy is also reported to have joined the field from April 1942.

Hatston lies just over one mile northwest of Kirkwall, where the remains of RAF Kirkwall can still be found, and has developed as Kirkwall Airport, however, continuing development of the Hatston area has resulted in the near total removal of all evidence of the major airfield once located there.

A memorial erected on the site to marks its past history.

Link Trainer

A Link Trainer was located in a building on Hatston Brae, however this was demolished in 1997.[1]


The airfield was provided with a number of defences including the usual pillboxes, and a Z-Battery which can be seen as three nearby areas each containing up to 20 unrotating projectile (UP), or rocket, launchers. All evidence has been lost beneath the houses of a number of small housing estates developed in the area.


The airfield served as Kirkwall's main airport until 1948, when it was found to be too small for the aircraft being introduced to the route by BEA, and civilian operations transferred to the larger runways of the former RAF Kirkwall site, to the southeast, which still survives as Kirkwall Airport.

The airfield was used by the Orkney Flying Club from 1953 to 1957, after which it became the site of the Hatston Industrial Estate which utilised the hangars as business accommodation. Some of the huts which served as camp accommodation are reported to have been converted for use as council housing.

The control tower has been demolished, having already been removed by the time a survey was carried out in 1983.

Between 1995 and 1996, a new access road through the industrial estate was created from the northwest end of the main runway, and a number of the old dispersal bays were demolished or used to dump spoil from the related works. This road provides through access from Kirkwall to Stromness, and connects with the A965 road. This was followed by further development of the estate which saw new buildings replace the dispersed hangars and many of the old building which had been in use and survived from World War II. The remains would now appear to consist largely of some parts of the runways and taxiways on the the ground, concrete bases from various buildings, banked earth blast walls, and some air raid shelters towards the shore to the east.


1 Link Trainer building

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Aerial views



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