Double Rigid Airship Shed
2 Coastal Class Sheds
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
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.
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
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
East 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
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
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
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 its transatlantic voyage,
only to be ordered to return to Pulham in Norfolk, instead
of East Fortune.
Shortly 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.
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.
for a link to a video showing the demolishion of the
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