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Easterton of Lenabo, airship station 750m ESE of

A Scheduled Monument in Central Buchan, Aberdeenshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.4734 / 57°28'24"N

Longitude: -1.9511 / 1°57'4"W

OS Eastings: 403030

OS Northings: 842572

OS Grid: NK030425

Mapcode National: GBR P8JZ.4T4

Mapcode Global: WH9P8.0F55

Entry Name: Easterton of Lenabo, airship station 750m ESE of

Scheduled Date: 22 February 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13679

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Camp

Location: Longside

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Central Buchan

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

Description

The monument is the core of a First World War airship complex called Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Longside established in 1915 and abandoned in 1920. The station comprises the bases of three airship hangars and the adjacent remains of hardstandings, windbreaks and associated structures and deposits. The monument is visible as a group of extensive, ground level concrete pads and upstanding concrete structures. The monument is located in low-lying, relatively flat ground among mature, mixed woodland at 65m above sea level.

The concrete bases of three hangars are set out in a T-shaped arrangement and are orientated to take advantage of the prevailing wind whilst providing shelter for the large airships that were launched, recovered, stored and maintained here. The main hangar base, the largest of the three, covers an area approximately 216m long by 45m wide. The smaller hangar bases each cover an area approximately 98m long by 34m wide. Windbreaks and associated equipment and structures such as ground anchors extend beyond the hangar bases.  

The scheduled area is polygonal on plan and includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area excludes the top 300mm of existing tracks, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is the core of an airship station established by the Royal Naval Air Service in 1915 and operated until 1920. In its operational form, the complex was over 400 hectares in size, incorporating the core area of sheds and hardstands as well as the necessary infrastructure of technical and domestic buildings and structures all supporting airship operations.

The scheduled monument includes the base of three airship hangars and their adjacent launch and recovery grounds. Partial removal of some of the concrete structures has taken place but overall the structural footprint of the sheds, windbreaks and adjacent features at ground level is intact. The sheds were substantial constructions with the largest, central shed standing at 32m high and capable of housing the larger non-rigid airships as well as the later rigid varieties. The two smaller sheds located forward and to the outer sides of the main shed each stood at approximately 24m high.

The field characteristics of the monument take the form of its ground level and buried remains – the characteristic footprint of hangar bases and adjacent concrete hardstands which are aligned to offer airships protection against the prevailing wind. The structure of each shed is further represented by the pairs of supporting concrete blocks used to take the weight of the overlying framework. These structures form the core of the complex, centred around the sheds. They have an inherent potential to inform our understanding of the structure, layout and function of a purpose-built military airship complex. 

This is an uncommon example of an airship station because it was built solely for use by airships and was not converted or adapted for other uses. The complex therefore had a relatively short operational life. By 1920 the site had been sold off and turned over to commercial forestry.

Contextual Characteristics

This is a rare form of monument belonging to a wider class of over 60 air stations built to defend Britain during the First World War. Airship and balloon stations were constructed at nine locations in Scotland as part of a UK-wide strategy to observe, report and intercept German naval movements, especially U-boat positions and courses. Airship complexes were built here at Longside (also known as Lenabo) and at Inchinnan, Renfrewshire; Caldale Orkney Islands; East Fortune, East Lothian; Luce Bay, Dumfries & Galloway; Lerwick, Shetland Islands; Methil Docks, Fife; North Queensferry, Fife and Montreathmont Forest, Angus.

Unlike most of the other sites with multiple functions for airships, fixed wing aircraft including seaplanes and kite balloons, the sole purpose of RNAS Longside was for airship operations – the characteristic T-shaped ground plan of its hangars, hard stands and wind breaks is only also known of at Caldale in the Orkney Islands and at East Fortune in East Lothian. At both Caldale and East Fortune, the remains are significantly less well-preserved than at Longside as both sites were brought back into use during the Second World War. RNAS Longside had a satellite site at Montreathmont Forest for when conditions were not suitable to land at Longside.

The base is the furthest north on the British mainland (with Caldale in Orkney providing the northern most launch site) and it was part of a chain of similar sites stretching southwards to the English Channel. The North Sea was the main area of operations for airships flown from these stations and RNAS Longside along with RNAS Caldale provided attack and reconnaissance capabilities for the northern sectors.

With the main sheds standing over 20m tall, the complex would have likely had a considerable presence in the surrounding, relatively flat landscape – a character that was lost when the sheds were dismantled.  

Associative Characteristics

As a component in a network of similar sites, the airship complex represents nationwide efforts to protect and defend the United Kingdom in early twentieth century. It reflects the considerable national resource that was put into the homefront effort, and in response to U-boat warfare, and it serves as a reminder of the human sacrifices that were made between 1914 and 1918.

Adjacent to the scheduled monument at the site's entrance is a commemorative plaque recognising the station and the sailors and airmen and women that served here. This was erected by the local community.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the defence of the United Kingdom and the development of airpower during the First World War through airship technology and its supporting ground infrastructure. The core of the airship complex at Longside, which was built as a Royal Navy Air Station and subsequently transferred to the Royal Air Force, survives as the ground-level and buried archaeological remains of three airship sheds, windbreaks and associated structures and features. Limited disturbance suggests there is potential for additional features of interest that survive from the complex's construction and use. The monument is a rare example of a single-function, unaltered military airship complex in use over a relatively short period of time and as such its loss would prevent us from understanding and appreciating the character and significance of airship technology in warfare.  

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE 81604 (accessed on 12 October 2017).

Aberdeenshire Council HER Reference NK04SW 0025 (accessed on 12 October 2017).

Barclay, G, 2014, The Built heritage of the First World War in Scotland. The report of a project commissioned by Historic Scotland and RCAHMS (typescript report).

Fife, M. 2007, Scottish aerodromes of the First World War. Stroud, Gloucestershire. Pp 9, 52, 59-66, 173, 186, 187, 203

Francis, P. 1996, British military airfield architecture: from airships to the jet age. Sparkford, Somerset. Pp: 66

Guy, J A, 1993, Grampian, WW1 and 2 defences. Volume 2 (typescript report).

Hughes, J. 1999, A steep turn to the stars: a history of aviation in the Moray Firth, Revision. Pp: 157-163

Quarrie, B (ed). 1987, Action stations 10: supplement and index. Wellingborough, Northants. Pp: 67

Smith, D J. 1983, Action stations 7: military airfields of Scotland, the North-East and Northern Ireland, Action Stations Series. Cambridge. Pp: 141

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/81604/


HER/SMR Reference

https://online.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/smrpub/master/detail.aspx?tab=main&refno=NK04SW0025

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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