I Rigid Shed (711ft long, 151ft wide and 105ft high)
1 Coastal Shed (323ft long 113ft wide, 80ft high)
1 Coastal Shed (323ft long, 114ft wide, 80ft high)
Gasholder 2x 250,000 cft
The northern Eastern
side of the North Sea was a particularly strateagic location
for the Royal Navy, in that it was able to defend and observe
any German coastal shipping which was trying to make it's
way out of the North Sea and in to the North Atlantic.
It was decided that the best location for the new RNAS station
was sited on the Buchan Peninsular north of Aberdeen. The
location was chosen some distance inland from the coast,
unlike other RNAS stations, as this was to protect it from
shelling from German Warships. Coastal towns had experienced
shelling from the German fleet in the early days of World
War 1, when the towns of Scarborough and Hartlepool were
shelled by 6 German warships on 16h December 1914.
The contract for the
construction of the Airship Station was given to the company
Tawse of Aberdeen, and once the site was purchased, construction
began in 1915. Much of the land around the station was used
to grow crops, however the land selected for the airship
station was a peat bog. The local name for the area was
Lenabo, a translation of "wet meadow for cows".
Drainage of the land was a major undertaking, and an army
of both Scottish and Irish labourers was required.
Using steam shovels and
bucket cranes, the top layer of peat was removed from the
ground. Lorries and even horse and carts were used to to deliver
the materials to the site as, with many other remote airship
bases, the local roads were narrow and winding.
A branch line of 4.5
miles was laid from the Longside railway station to transport
men and materials to the site, which speeded up the delivery
process. Even with the new trainline, the construction of
the base and sheds was a slow progress in comparison to
some other airship bases, and it was not fully completed
One of the main reasons
for the slowness of completion, was the fact that local
skilled labour was scarce, and hence delayed the technical
construction of the sheds and site buildings.
RNAS Longside was a
large site, and incorporated two coastal sheds, and a new
large rigid shed. The costs increased on the site, over
time and over £500,000 was spent, if you compare that
to a similar site, RNAS Angelsey which was started as the
same time, the costs was around £59,000.
The station was officially
commissioned on 16th March 1916, and the fist airship arrived
by rail, a few weeks later, ready to be assembled and inflated.
By July 1916, two more Coastal Class airships had arrived,
C.5 and C.7. Unfortunately adverse weather conditions prevailed
in the July, and just 78 hours flying was recorded.
By the end of July the
north side Coastal shed was being painted, and the the south
Coastal shed was in the final stages of having the metal
sheeting completed. Gas mains were being installed in the
sheds, so that the ships could be inflated whilst inside.
November of 1916 there
were four Coastal Class ships on site. During the spring
months of 1917, the weather was abnormally bad, and this
curtailed many flights, and the only good weather arriving
in late June and July. That summer, the ships started to
earn their keeps and accompanied the Grand Fleet in a series
of exercise and patrols.
The larger rigid shed
was now completed by the end of 1917 and a new wireless
station had been added to the station. With the arrival
of another Coastal Class airship, to be based with the existing
four ships, C.7, C.10A, C.14, and C.18 RNAS Longside now
became the main and establish base for the Coastal Class
ship. Facilities for the staff were also improved included
a swimming pool, shops, a theatre and Church.
Further airships arrived
in the beginning of 1918, with the new North Sea class and
some Submarine Scout Zero ships, although these were to
be mainly based at the new mooring out site nearby of Auldbar.
The weather in February 1918 was bad that patrols could
only be carried out on four days in that month.
In the spring of 1918, the weather improved and in March,
76 escort flying hours were recorded and some 200 ships
were protected. In the April, again many convoys were protected.
It was planned that the RNAS Longside fleet would be expanded
as it had the capacity with the two Coastal sheds, and the
large rigid shed, however the end of the war, it was decided
that this was no longer required. At the end of the war,
there were four NS class ships, on Coastal Star and nine
Submarine Scout Twin based at the station.
After the Armistice was signed in November of 1918, RNAS
Longside's fleet of airships continued to provide escort
duties to North Sea convoys. Many mine hunting patrols were
also undertaken and continued in to early 1919. It was from
RNAS Longside in 1919 that the N.S.11 undertook it's record
breaking patrol flight from 14:00pm 9th - 18:50 13th February,
some 100 hours and 50 minutes.
In 1920, no further use of the airship station could be
found and the site was put up for disposal. The large airship
sheds were sold for scrap and demolished.
The base was left abandoned,
and the buildings were gone. The ground on which the airship
station once stood was planted with conifers by the Forestry
Commission. The site is now referred to as the "Forest
of Deer" with some of the site roads acting as footpaths.
Some of the original mooring blocks and ruined walls can
be see in the forest today.
It is difficult to find the original layout of the airfield
from remains but there are still some concrete floors, mooring
blocks and other massive bits of concrete within the trees.
In 2003, Longside Community
Council had a memorial plaque mounted on to a structure
that is thought to have been part of the officer's mess.
The structure is just beside the small parking area at the
entrance to the forest. The plaque incorporates a photo
of the base, which is held at the RAF Museum