Lossiemouth – view picture gallery
A series of new airfields were to be built close to the coast to accommodate squadrons of Coastal Command. By the time they got round to building one at Lossiemouth the war was fast approaching, which resulted with it finishing up a hybrid, with a mixture of permanent and utility structures.
Whilst still under construction on the 1st of May 1939, the airfield was pressed into use to house No.15 Flying Training School, because there was a desperate need for training new pilots to staff the many new squadrons being formed. This school employed a mixture of Harvards and Oxford aircraft, which operated here in the pilot training role until the FTS moved to Middle Wallop on the 20th of April 1940.
On the 1st of April 1940, No.46 Maintenance Unit was formed on the station and soon received its first aircraft for either storage or modification. Because there was a much more urgent need to train new bomber crews the station was taken over by Bomber Command on the 27th of May 1940, to become the home of No.20 Operational Training Unit (O.T.U).
Lossiemouth was also used by bomber squadrons on short detachments whilst bombing German naval vessels in harbours along the Dutch and Norwegian coasts. Sixteen different bomber squadrons carried out bombing and mine laying operations from the airfield over the period of April 1940 to March 1942, although not continuously. All the above activity took place alongside the resident No.20 O.T.U, whose Wellington aircraft were busily employed in the training of hundreds of new bomber crews demanded by new bomber squadrons, or to replace those lost on operations. By the mid war years the resident No.46 M.U was handling hundreds of aircraft such as Wellingtons, Beaufighters and Lancasters. To deliver aircraft within the R.A.F and the factories, No.10 Ferry Pilot Pool was based here from October 1941 onwards. This Pool remained here until disbanding on the 10th of July 1945.
The Fleet Air Arm was then looking for a permanent airfield to replace their temporary wartime ones in Northern Scotland. Lossiemouth became the home of the Naval Air Flying School, which meant that newly qualified pilots came here to learn to handle Seafires and Fireflies in an operational manner. Both these aircraft types were still in use when the school left for Culdrose in October 1953.
The Navy also utilised the station’s aircraft storage facilities, where they too stored hundreds of naval aircraft, including Ansons, Oxfords and Mosquitoes. This unit was eventually named the Naval Air Support Unit, which remained here until the mid 1960s.
In October 1953 the ‘Naval Air Fighter and Strike School’ arrived from Culdrose, bringing along many Vampires, Seahawks, Venoms, and Attackers. Several front line squadrons in the 800 series also became based here at different times, equipped with most of the jet aircraft mentioned above, plus anti submarine types such as Fairey Gannets. Altogether 26 operational squadrons in the 800 series, plus 10 in the 700 training series, had been based here at one time or another over the years 1946 to 1972. The Naval Observers School, present from 1965 to 1970 used even sedate Sea Prince aircraft.
With the diminishing Fleet Air Arm, the Navy vacated Lossiemouth and handed the station back to the R.A.F on the 29th of September 1972. On the 19th October 1984, No.208 Squadron with its Buccaneers arrived from Honington, together with No.237 O.C.U. The latter’s role was to train Buccaneer crews, even though this aircraft type was slowly being phased out. In October 1991 the unit was degraded down to Flight status, kept company with No.208 Squadron with its few Buccaneer’s. In late 1992 both the above were disbanded to make way for two operational Tornado equipped squadrons, this time operating in the maritime strike role. These squadrons, together with the small conversion unit for Jaguar crew training, are still in residence at the time of writing in 1998.
Author: Guy Jefferson