Part of the Inner Hebrides, Tiree is an island which lies to the south west of the island of Coll, and to the west of the Isle of Mull. Largely flat and treeless with a bedrock of schist and limestone (Tiree marble), the island has extensive sandy beaches and machair (a former beach left higher in elevation than the current adjacent beach following a drop in sea level) with a dense cover of meadow flowers, interspersed with numerous small lochans (small lochs, lakes or ponds). The highest points on the island are Ben Hynish at 465 ft (141 m), and Ben Hough at 393 ft (119 m). The flat centre of the island is known as The Reef, which became the site of a large RAF airfield built there during World War II, later developed as a civil airport.
RAF Tiree was a World War II airfield located on the island of Tiree, constructed on the central area of the island known as The Reef.
The flat, wide area of The Reef had already been established as a civilian airstrip before the RAF arrived. Flying had started there around 1929, with a civilian airstrip operating from a grass airstrip from 1934 to 1940, and the first air service beginning on July 1936, by Midland & Scottish Airways, having been delayed by a dispute over rental for the field.
World War II
The area was requisitioned by the Ministry of War in 1941, with labourers being brought in from Ireland, and several Scottish jails, to build the runways. Quarries were blasted out at Baugh and Balephetrish to provide hardcore for their construction, with the ruins of the derelict Glassary Seaweed Factory at Middleton, and the old stone storehouse on Scarinish jetty being claimed for the same purpose. Three runways were provided, and ten half-T2 type hangars. Tiree was classified as a restricted area, and RAF Tiree was officially opened in November 1941. The airfield would eventually accommodate more than 2,000 aircrew and support staff.
- From April 1942 to July 1942, 224 Squadron flying Hudsons on anti-submarine patrols, protecting North Atlantic convoys, and providing air sea rescue functions.
- May 1942 July 1942, 304 Squadron, Coastal Command Wellingtons.
- October 1942 to September 1943, airfield closed and on Care and Maintenance.
- September 1943 to September 1945, 518 Squadron, Halifaxes from Stornoway, making weather measurement which involved flights of over 800 miles across the Atlantic, frequently in hazardous conditions with icing and high waves, which led to the loss of twelve aircraft.
- February 1944 to September 1945, 281 Squadron, Ansons and Warwicks from Thornaby.
In 1944, two Halifax aircraft collided in low cloud over Island House to the south west of the airfield, one of those killed in the accident was the grandson of then Czech Prime Minister, Jan Masyrak.
The end of the war saw the transfer of the airfield to the Ministry of Civil Aviation on July 1, 1946, and the civil airfield opened in 1947.
About 1961, the RAF left the airfield, and it became a civilian airport under the Board of Trade.
In 1975, control passed to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
In 1978, the airport was taken over by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL).
Two operations room survive in the area, with a further operations room described to the east, and a Fighter Operations Room standing near the entrance to the airport. Many concrete bases for the hangars can be seen around this airfield.
A Royal Observer Corps (ROC) underground monitoring post was later sited near the operations room closest to the entrance.
- RAF Tiree tower
- Airfield aerial view, 1944
- Wartime meteorological station picture
- Operations Rooms photographs (jmb)
- Tiree Airport HIAL
- Airport details
- Airport information
Beinn Hough Radar Station
Beinn Hough Radar Station was located on the summit of Beinn Hough, and was a World War II Chain Home Low (CHL) radar station.
Beinn Hough Radar Station comprised of a number of buildings, and a series of masts located both on, and around, the summit of the hill. Aerial photographs taken by the RAF during a survey in 1946 showed three of the buildings still standing on the hillside, together with further structures near the summit.
One small building is known to survive on the site, with a number of concrete bases still evident nearby.
According to RCAHMS records, there are buildings at NL 9486 4635, NL 9444 4694, NL 9435 4648 and NL 9452 4643, with the radar masts centred at NL 9435 4675. The transmitter/receiver block is reported to be at NL 9444 4694. Two buildings (NL94NW 8.02) are depicted on the current OS 1:10000 map (1976) at NL 9435 4648 and NL 9452 4643, and were noted to be visible on RAF aerial photographs taken in April 1946 - suggested to be the transmitter and receiver blocks. A remote reserve is suggested at NL 9444 4294. The photographs showed at least three masts in the area between the buildings. Between the two groups of buildings, the vertical air photographs show a series of masts, three of which were still standing in 1946.
Port Mor Radar Station
Port mor on the island of Tiree is described as the site of a World War II temporary Advanced Chain Home radar station, which was closed down when the Chain Home radar station at Kilkenneth was activated. The location lies on the west side of the B8065 road between Barrapol and Sandaig. The station has been reported as being active between 1941 and 1942.
Aerial photographs taken by the RAF in 1946 showed one hut and three hut bases on the site.
Note that photographs linked below, originally identified as being of Kilkenneth radar station, have been reclassified to identify them as Port Mor radar station. Further information is provided on their own site.
Early in 2016 we received a note to the effect that the photo we have for the station area is in fact the Middleton Farm sheep tank, which is to the east of the 8065. Immediately across the road, looking west, are several concrete hard standings for huts, and hooks hooks which located steel hawsers that held the mast. These are still visible.
Kilkenneth Radar Station
Kilkenneth radar station is described as a Chain Home radar station which was located on the island of Tiree during World War II. The site has also been described as the location of a Gee transmitter, which would have provided navigation signals to guide World War II bombers. An accommodation camp was also located to the east of the station.
Kilkenneth radar station comprised of a transmitter and a receiver block together with two associated masts, reported as being visible on aerial photographs taken by the RAF during a survey in 1946. Only one mast is reported to have been standing at the time, with four concrete blocks marking the foundations of the other.
The aerial survey also showed the accommodation camp to the east of Creagan House, and to consist of a number of Nissen huts south of a track. Creagan House features on modern mapping, but has no history or details can be found in any online references.
Beinn Ghott Radar Station
Beinn Ghott Radar Station was a ROTOR Radar Station (Code name FLY) constructed on Beinn Ghott near Scarinish on the island of Tiree. The Ground Control Intercept (GCI) station was built in 1953, and closed a few years later, when the ROTOR system became obsolete. The site was maintained by the RAF for some time thereafter, in case it was required to reopen.
A further building related to the site has been identified to the north west, near Balephetrish Hill, identified as a communications block which served the radar station.
Once Beinn Ghott Radar Station had finally been abandoned, most of the technical equipment had been cleared from the site, and a number of buildings demolished, although the Type 80 (control) modulator building still stands out on the hilltop. Around this, much of the site can still be recognised, with features such as the stand-by set house, high voltage switchgear house, sub station, sewage ejection building, water tank overlooking the site, and a large secure fenced dog compound.
We are grateful to our friends at Subterranea Britannica for permission to reproduce the following details. Please be sure to review the original report at the links given below, as this contains significant additional images and illustrations.
SiteName: 'RAF Scarinish' ('FLY') GCI R8 ROTOR Radar Station
Beinn Ghott, Isle of Tiree, Argyllshire
OS Grid Ref: NM032456
Sub Brit site visit 31st July 2003 [Source: Nick Catford]
Most of the buildings and radar plinths still survive within a chain link fence compound that surrounds the hill and the adjacent fields. Unfortunately the R8 operations block has been demolished, it was of modular Seco construction with a wooden framework and stressed asbestos panels and in a derelict state it is unlikely to have survived long in the islands harsh weather conditions. The concrete foundations of the building are still clearly visible among the other remaining buildings on the technical site.
The most prominent feature, the type 80 modulator building, stands on the summit of Beinn Ghott and is clearly visible from the surrounding roads and the incoming ferry to Scarinish.
The building is now used as a cattle shelter and to store redundant farm machinery. It retains its internal partition walls but has been largely stripped of any original fittings apart from the ventilation trunking and engine beds for the generators which are still in place.
The four concrete bases for the 25 foot steel gantry can still be seen on either side of the building. There is a small room on the roof, accessed by ladder; this still contains the intake fan for the ventilation system. The 75' long rotating mesh radar reflector was mounted on top of the gantry straddling the building.
The main part of the technical site was located on a flat area to the west of Beinn Gott, between the hill and Loch Caol. Here a number of buildings survive including the stand-by set house, high voltage switchgear house, sub station, sewage ejection building and a water tank overlooking the site. Close to the sub station is a large secure fenced dog compound. Although the R8 operations block has gone, its 'footprint' is clearly visible as a series of concrete bases with a ramp and steps up to an entrance porch. The guardhouse was of the standard rotor design for an R6 (i.e. shorter than those found at underground stations). This has also been demolished; it was located alongside the extant sewage ejection building.
Most of the radar array buildings can still be seen scattered across the hillside. The two buildings that were straddled by a 25' gantry are of brick construction; the concrete bases for the gantry are still in place around the buildings. The remaining plinths are of concrete construction with metal 'ring' on the roof that would have mounted the radar arrays. One of the 8' plinths is semi sunken with steps down into it while the 12' plinths have steps up into the building. One of the 8' plinth has been demolished, this was located close to the Type 80 modulator building.
Close to the western perimeter fence there is an area of hard standing for the Mobile Type 11 (M) radar which was housed in two vehicles, an RVT435F on which the aerial array was mounted and an RVT467 that housed the radar equipment.
The equipment was plugged into a cable jointing camber which is still extant. This consists of a free standing 'cupboard' containing switchgear and connection points for the radar.
The domestic camp for a radar station is always sited some distance away from the technical site. On top of Balphetrish Hill, two miles to the north west, there is another chain link fenced compound with two rectangular concrete 'barrack' with hipped roofs and two RAF style concrete buildings with flat roofs. This could be the domestic sight for RAF Scarinish, although buildings of this design have not been seen at other rotor sites.
Scarinish Farm Radio Station
A small, World War II radio station has been identified to the west of the junction of the B8065 and B8068 roads near Scarinish Farm, on the island of Tiree.
Visible on aerial photographs taken in 1941, Scarinish Farm Radio Station appears to have had two masts, and been protected by three machine gun emplacements.
Although there are no remains of the original site, the location is shown on modern mapping as the site of a mast, across the road from a police station, fire station, and post office.
Carnan Mor Radar Station
Carnan Mor Radar Station is sited to the north of Ben Hynish on the island of Tiree, and is the NATS (National Air Traffic Service) radar installation on Carnan Mòr. Carnan Mor Radar Station was installed between 1983 and 1986, and provides radar coverage of the Atlantic approach to the UK for civilian air traffic. Its data is compatible with military radar systems, permitting its integration with the Air Defence Ground Environment (ADGE).
The command and control structure which facilitates air defence comprises the NATO Air Defence Ground Environment (NADGE), which includes sites stretching from northern Norway to eastern Turkey, the Improved United Kingdom Air Defence Ground Environment (IUKADGE), and the Portuguese Air Command and Control System (POACCS). These systems integrate the various sites which are equipped with modern radars, data processing and display systems, and are linked by modern digital communications. Weapon systems, the command and control system, and procedures will evolve into the NATO Integrated Extended Air Defence System (NATINEADS).
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