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RNAS & RAF East Fortune Airfield

Fine example of a First and Second World War airfield. In 1919, R34 airship departed from here for the first return flight to the USA. It is now a museum.


Region:
East Lothian
Red Wheel Site:
Yes
Transport Mode(s):
Air
Address:

National Museum of Flight, East Fortune Airfield, East Lothian EH39 5LF

Postcode:
EH39 5LF
Visitor Centre:
Yes
Website:

About RNAS & RAF East Fortune Airfield

The airfield, located three miles north aast of Haddington, East Fortune was originally commissioned as a Royal Naval Air Station in 1916. It was used for coastal patrols over the Forth area by Avro 504s and airships.

The field became an RAF station in 1918 and it was from here in July 1919 that the airship R34 lifted off for the first east/west crossing of the Atlantic.

In 1922, a number of buildings and a portion of land, which had been part of the airfield, were given over to create the East Fortune Hospital. This acted as a tuberculosis sanatorium for the south east of Scotland.

In 1939 East Fortune became a satellite landing ground for Drem. Two years later the site became a night fighter Officer Training Unit equipped with Beaufighters and Blenheims and in 1942 it assumed a new role for strike training using Beaufighters, Beauforts, Blenheims and Mosquitos. With the outbreak of the Cold War it was decide that the USAF should have a base at East Fortune. In 1950 control was handed to the USAF and the main runway extended. The airfield was never used operationally and control reverted to the UK in 1955 and the hangars used to store food in case of a nuclear attack. The airfield was sold off by the Air Ministry in February 1960.

East Fortune operated as Edinburgh's airport for a brief period in 1961 while the facilities at Turnhouse were rebuilt. Buildings on the opposite side of the airfield from the hospital began to be used by the Royal Museum of Scotland for storage in 1971 and this developed into the National Museum of Flight, which opened in 1975.

The airfield is a National Historic Monument.

The Red Wheel heritage plaque was erected during Covid in February 2022, a formal unveiling will hopefully take place in due course.

 

By road: Off B1347.

By rail: The nearest station is North Berwick.

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Bowyer, Chaz, History of the RAF, Dolphin, ASIN B000O52SBU (1984)

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Chant, Christopher, History of the RAF: From 1939 to the Present, Caxton, ISBN -10 1840671092 (2000)

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National Transport Trust, Old Bank House, 26 Station Approach, Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey KT10 0SR