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Airship Sheds
United Kingdom - East Fortune


Country: United Kingdom Location: East Fortune, Scotland

Edinburgh was a strategically important location and the creation of the large Naval base in Rosyth saw this confirmed by the Royal Navy.

In 1912 it was proposed that an airship base with one shed should be established near the new base.

To protect Edinburgh and Rosyth from Zeppelin attacks, priority was given to establishing an aerodrome that could house fighter aircraft, East Fortune, close to the mouth of the Firth of Forth was chosen.

The name “Fortune” referrers to “Fort Town” and made reference to the farms which were sited there to serve a fortress which was sited there in earlier times.

By August 1915 a site for an aerodrome and airship station had been selected, and in the autumn of the same year, aeroplanes arrived and were stationed there.

In the beginning, there were no hangars and the planes were housed in a Piggot Tent, however with the wind off the North Sea, this was blown down very quickly. The aero station was soon started and an airship station was soon commissioned on 23rd August 1916, and a Coastal Shed was quickly constructed, and a second almost completed.

Location
Facilities
Actual
Proposed
Hydrogen Plant
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1 Double Rigid Airship Shed
2 Coastal Class Sheds
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Airships Built:
-

East Fortune main and coastal airship sheds in the winter.



   
Work commenced on the large rigid shed and was completed in the summers of 1917. A siding was laid into the northern part of the airship station, taken from the main East Coast Mainline, from Edinburgh to London which skirted the northern perimeter of the airship station.

East Fortune’s first airships were of the Coastal Class, capable of long range patrols. This was later followed by rigid airship operations out of the double rigid shed. The first rigid airship to land at RNAS East Fortune was No. 9. It arrived unexpectedly on 7th August 1917, having run out of fuel and encountered a thick mist.It flew over the Grand Fleet on 12th August 1917, and returned to it’s base at RNAS Howden.


The first rigid airship to be permanently based at RNAS East Fortune was No.24 which arrived at the end of October, 1917. The No.24 undertook two more trial flights before the end of 1917, and in early 1918 was assigned to convoy escort duties.
   
East Fortune sheds under construction Winter 1916

 

On one occasion it encountered headwinds on returning back to base and could not make any headway, as one engine failed and having only a poor top speed of 30mph on both engines. It managed to land but was damaged whilst being taken in to the shed. It was later flown to RNAS Howden for repairs.


June 1918 saw RNAS East Fortune take delivery of the R 29, ad on the evening of 3rd July 1918 the R29 made a endurance escort duty of 32 hours over sea.

Both the rigid and non rigid ships paid sterling effort during WW1 coastal patrols and as submarine lookouts.

By the end of 1917, RNAS East Fortune had a compliment of thirty two officers and 580 men. There was also a sizable force of aeroplanes housed in canvas hangars. Royal Navy pilots were also trained here and and acted as a depot for machines normally based on warships.

   
General arrangement of the East Fortune site showing the gasholders and tripple sheds.

 

   

One of the most notable events at the end of the war was when the in late November 1918 the rigid and non rigid fleet photographed and filmed the surrendered German fleet anchored in the Firth of Forth, before the ships proceeded to Scapa Flow. Unlike many other RNAS stations, the rigid and non rigid airship fleet continued airship operations and flying in to 1919, whereas many other bases were closed down after hostilities were ceased.

By the end of 1918, East Fortune had had six operational airships, the R29, NS.7 & NS 8, Coastal C*3 and C*8 and the smaller Submarine Scout SSZ 60.

With the arrival of the R34 from Inchinnan, in March 1919, the ship later made a flight over Germany armed with machine guns as a statement of British air superiority, at this point, the Germans had still not signed the Treaty of Versailles. In July of 1919, the R34 left East Fortune for it’s transatlantic voyage, only to be ordered to return to Pulham in Norfolk, instead of East Fortune.

Shortly after the success of the R34’s record breaking double crossing of the Atlantic, came the unexpected announcement that the the East Fortune base would be closed. The R29 which was based there, was scrapped in the shed in October 1919. There was hostility in Scotland as it was at the time loosing it’s only airship base, and questions were raised in the national press, and in the Houses of Parliament.

The final death knell came for East Fortune on 4th February 1920, the R34 and NS7 were the last airships to leave the base. A care and maintenance detachment remained on the site continuing the radio station operations and maintenance.

The Airship sheds were used for storage and also recycling of ammunition. After this work was completed, the work began on dismantling the 3 sheds.

Click here for a link to a video showing the demolishion of the sheds

The land of the airfield was sold off and the base buildings were later used as established a tuberculosis hospital.

The East Fortune site was later used in 1940 was requisitioned as a satellite aerodrome for RAF Drem. The aerodrome was later closed down after the Second World War. The land was later returned to agriculture, but the buildings on the south side of the airfield were preserved and are now the home of the Museum of Flight.


 

   
No 24 Airship mooring on ground outside the main shed.
Experimental perforated windbreaks were tested in 1918 to break up the wind eddies caused by the windbreaks.
 

 

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