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RAF Tiree

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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.

Postwar development

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.

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