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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Fortunes 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 its
base at RNAS Howden.
Fortune main and coastal airship sheds in the winter.
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
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.
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
Fortune sheds under construction Winter 1916
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.
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.
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 its
transatlantic voyage, only to be ordered to return to Pulham
in Norfolk, instead of East Fortune.
after the success of the R34s 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 its only airship base, and questions were
raised in the national press, and in the Houses of Parliament.
arrangement of the East Fortune site showing the gasholders
and tripple sheds.
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.
Airship sheds were used for storage and also recycling of
ammunition. After this work was completed, the work began
on dismantling the 3 sheds.
The land of the airfield was sold off and the base buildings
were later used as established a tuberculosis hospital.
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.
24 Airship mooring on ground outside the main shed.
perforated windbreaks were tested in 1918 to break up the
wind eddies caused by the windbreaks.