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Bogton Loch airfield, 175m SSE of Buchan's Bridge, Dalmellington

A Scheduled Monument in Doon Valley, East Ayrshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.325 / 55°19'29"N

Longitude: -4.4082 / 4°24'29"W

OS Eastings: 247304

OS Northings: 606074

OS Grid: NS473060

Mapcode National: GBR 4K.6RB0

Mapcode Global: WH3RQ.8F25

Entry Name: Bogton Loch airfield, 175m SSE of Buchan's Bridge, Dalmellington

Scheduled Date: 18 February 2019

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13693

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Military airfield

Location: Dalmellington

County: East Ayrshire

Electoral Ward: Doon Valley

Traditional County: Ayrshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a First World War airfield, built in 1917 as part of the proposed Loch Doon Gunnery School. It is visible as the remains of a support area including the foundations of hangars, workshops, stores, taxiways, bridges and a railway loading dock. It is located on the western edge of the village of Dalmellington, around 160m above sea level.

Bogton Loch airfield was part of the Loch Doon Gunnery School, partially constructed between 1916 and 1917 in and around Loch Doon to support the training of aerial gunnery. Bogton Loch airfield was the second airfield constructed as part of the project, as the first site chosen, on the western side of Loch Doon itself, was found to be wholly unsuitable after construction began. The airstrip at Bogton Loch was located on the west side of the Muck Water, with the support area on the east side, with bridges across the water between the two.

The scheduled area is irregular. It includes the remains described above and an area around 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 above ground elements of all post-and-wire fences, wooden fences and telegraph pole are specifically excluded from the scheduling, 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 remains of the support area of the airfield at Bogton Loch are a well preserved example of elements of a First World War air station, constructed and used for a relatively short but significant period between March 1917 and the end of the First World War.

The support area is visible as a series of brick and concrete platforms, representing the bases of the hangars, workshops, stores and the loading dock, along with the concrete remains of the bridges connecting the support area to the airstrip, and the possible remains of taxiways around the area. The platforms range in size from around 28m by 9m for the smallest example up to around 110m by 20m for the largest. The landing field itself lay to the southwest of the support area, accessed by the bridges crossing the Muck Water, and appears to have been simply a large open grass field, common for landing grounds at the time. There are no plans of the site to identify the buildings, but the hangars can be identified as the largest structures, and are also the closest to the landing field. The loading dock lies on the south eastern end of the site, and the remaining buildings, located along the north eastern side of the site, and behind the hangars when approaching from the landing ground, are likely to be a range of workshops and support facilities. This layout, with hangars closest to the landing field and supporting buildings behind, appears similar to the plans of other First World War airfields such as Leuchars and Turnhouse.

Bogton Loch airfield was built in spring and summer 1917, although photographic evidence suggests that some structures, such as a timber and canvas Bessoneau hangar, may have been built on the site prior to this. The air station remained in operation until the end of the First World War. Although parts of the buildings were removed following its closure, it was not subsequently altered or used for any civil or military aviation unlike many other First World War air stations, and so represents a rare and well-preserved example of a purpose built air station from the later years of the First World War. In and around the remains of the airfield structures there is a high potential for archaeological remains relating to its construction and use that could inform our understanding of military aviation in the closing stages of the First World War, a time when the immense strategic and tactical value of aerial warfare was rapidly developing.


Contextual Characteristics

The monument is a rare surviving example of a First World War air station, without later alteration or reuse. Many First World War airfields continued in use or were reused in later periods, removing the majority of the earliest features, or they did not have any fixed structures or elements in place, leaving minimal traces of their existence. Bogton Loch airfield was one of the few parts of the Loch Doon Gunnery School to become operational before the project was cancelled, and it was not reused following its closure at the end of the war, making it an extremely rare example of a relatively unaltered First World War air station.

The airfield lies on the edge of the village of Dalmellington, around 3 miles north of the northern end of Loch Doon, where the majority of the gunnery school was located, and where a wide range of remains can still be found today. There was no other significant First World War activity in the immediate area, which was fundamentally unsuitable even for the Gunnery School, due to the hilly nature of the terrain and frequent issues with weather.

Other First World War air stations were found along the coast to the west, including at Turnberry and Ayr, and across Scotland a total of 64 came into existence during the First World War. By their nature, First World War air stations were far more ephemeral than their later counterparts, particularly in the early part of the war, although later examples such as Bogton and this is reflected in their survival. Only 17 have any survival of First World War remains, some of which are extremely fragmentary and others have undergone later alteration and reuse, making Bogton Loch a notably intact, unaltered survival, and it appears to be the best preserved First World War air station within Scotland.

 

Associative Characteristics

Bogton Loch airfield was created as part of an enormous infrastructure built and requisitioned across the British Isles during the First World War. It was a part of the early use of large scale military aviation, a theatre of warfare which would grow to become strategically vital within just a few decades of the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers.

The airfield was built as part of the project to establish an aerial gunnery school in the area around Loch Doon based on a French gunnery school established at Cazaux, west of Bordeaux. Loch Doon was ultimately chosen as the location for the new training school following an extensive search across the country. Brigadier General Sefton Brancker was largely responsible for the project, and he noted in his biography that the site at Loch Doon was far less suitable than its French equivalent, a fact also raised by other senior military staff before the project even began.

Despite vast efforts on construction, the project quickly spiralled out of control, with countless problems coming to light. The original airfield for the project at Garpel was located on a peat bog and could not be sufficiently drained to use as a landing ground. By March a new airfield site was identified at Bogton Loch by Dalmellington, although this was barely an improvement, with the landing ground often facing flooding from the adjacent loch. Despite this, Bogton Loch was operational within a few months, with several centrally heated hangars, workshops, stores, accommodation huts, vehicle sheds and a loading dock connected to the railway line.

Although the airfield was completed, the project as a whole continued to be beset by problems. An inspection by senior officials early in 1918 led to its cancellation. The project was unquestionably a costly disaster, with more than 75000 tons of construction material, over 3000 men involved in construction and up to £3 million spent on a gunnery training school that ultimately did not train a single gunner.

Bogton Loch air station was used throughout the final year of the war, mostly for aircraft storage and maintenance. It now acts, along with the rest of the unfinished remains around the loch, as a visible reminder of the project's failure, but also represents a visible and prominent surviving example of the monumental scale of efforts that waging the First World War required, both at home and abroad, and of the rapid development of military aviation during the four years of the conflict, and the need for new tactics, technology and training methods to support this.

The physical remains of sites from the First World War such as Bogton Loch airfield have become places to visit, remember and commemorate the men and women who served on wartime sites such as this. The monument is a highly visible reminder of the considerable efforts made to defend the British Isles during the First World War, one of the key defining events of the 20th century.


Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance as an extremely rare and well-preserved example of a First World War air station, constructed and used during 1917 and 1918, originally as part of the Loch Doon gunnery school project and later as part of the wider network of air stations across Scotland. Key features of an early air station survive at Bogton Loch, including the remains of hangars, workshops and stores, along with supporting structures such as the Muck Water bridges and the railway loading dock. The Loch Doon gunnery school is a very well-documented military construction project, ultimately a costly failure, represent the largest collection of structures relating to military aviation in the First World War in Scotland. Its extent and the expense of men, material and money it consumed are a prominent surviving example of the monumental scale of the efforts required to undertake the war and the physical impact they had on the home front. The remains of the air station are a tangible and powerful reminder of one of the defining events of the 20th century. If this monument was to be lost or damaged, it would significantly affect our ability to understand the nature and scale of the efforts made to conduct the First World War both at home and abroad, and the rapid growth and development of military aviation and aerial warfare during the conflict.

 

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 185825 (accessed on 11/10/2018).

Local Authority HER/SMR Reference 47872 (accessed on 11/10/2018).

Barclay, G. (2013). The Built Heritage of the First World War in Scotland. HS and RCAHMS. Edinburgh

Fife, M. (2007) Scottish Aerodromes of the First World War, Stroud: Tempus Publishing Limited, p. 152-156

Smith, D. (1983) Action Stations: 7. Military airfields of Scotland, the North-East and Northern Ireland, Cambridge: Patrick Stephens Limited, pp.138.

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/185825/

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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