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Hatston Airfield

Airfield (20th Century)

Site Name Hatston Airfield

Classification Airfield (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Hms Sparrowhawk; Royal Naval Air Station Hatston

Canmore ID 81649

Site Number HY41SW 135

NGR HY 4392 1222

NGR Description Centred HY 4392 1222

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Kirkwall And St Ola
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY41SW 135.00 centred 4395 1222

HY41SW 135.01 HY 42910 11774 Pillbox

HY41SW 135.02 centred HY 44032 11793 Aircraft hangars; Sheds; Buildings

HY41SW 135.03 centred HY 43991 12579 Bomb Store; Dispersal bays

HY41SW 135.04 centred HY 43473 12911 Aircraft hangars

HY41SW 135.05 centred HY 43152 12689 Aircraft hangars

HY41SW 135.06 c.HY 4315 1280 Pillbox

HY41SW 135.07 HY 4306 1295 Pillbox

HY41SW 135.08 centred HY 4408 1140 Anti-aircraft site (possible); Huts

HY41SW 135.09 HY 44201 11674 and HY 44464 11829 Aircraft hangars; Slipway

HY41SW 135.10 centred HY 4252 1258 Gun-emplacement; Nissen huts

HY41SW 135.11 centred HY 4276 1185 Military camp; Huts

HY41SW 135.12 HY 4298 1155 and HY 42894 11318 Military camps

HY41SW 135.13 c. HY 4428 1107 Pillbox

HY41SW 135.14 c. HY 4380 1168 Gun-emplacement; huts

HY41SW 135.15 centred HY 4365 1156 Military camp (Wrens)

HY41SW 135.16 centred HY 4338 1209 Military camp

For souterrains found (generally during construction works) in or near the airfield, see HY41SW 3, HY41SW 5, HY41SW 19, HY41SW 24.

Hatston had not been a civilian airfield before the war and in early in 1939 when an Admiralty representative had enquired about the best site for an airfield in Orkney, Hatston was recommended. The airfield was the first built in Britain with hard runways.

After the war, the station became Kirkwall's airport until 1948, when it proved too small for the aircraft being used by BEA. The hangars became part of an industrial estate use and some of the huts turned into council housing. The control tower has now been removed.

D J Smith 1983

There has been further development at Hatston Airfield during 1995-6. A new road is being created from the NW end of the main runway and several of the dispersal bays have either been demolished or are being used for dumping earth from the building work.

On the perimeter of the airfield, on the E side overlooking the shore around Crow Ness, are a series of air raid shelters.

The airfield before redevelopment is visible on vertical air photographs (OS 63/44/28 and 63/48/049).

Visited by RCAHMS (DE) May 1996.

Hatston Airfield is situated on flat ground adjacent to the W side of Bay of Kirkwall and NW of the Peerie Sea, Kirkwall. Many elements of this World War II airfield survive within the Hatston Industrial estate, including aircraft hangars, a machine shop, one Mainhill or 'S' type hangar and several wooden buildings (HY41SW 135.02).

The main runway has now been rebuilt and utilised as an acces road through the industrial estate to rejoin the A 965 road at c.HY 1290 4310. Most of the taxiways are still discernable on the relatively level ground to the N and NW of the industrial estate.

None of the dispersed aircraft hangars survive, though some of the earth banked blast banks and concrete bases can still be seen in the areas to the NW. The remains of a series of bomb stores is visible immediately above the Mean High Water mark NW of Crow Ness (HY41SW 135.03) along with the remains of several dispersal bays.

The airfield is notable for several linked dispersed areas including accommodation camps, anti-aircraft defences, pillboxes and at least two or three small batteries of unrotating projectile mounts (UP or Z battery), many of which have now been demolished or built over by modern houses and small housing estates.

The airfield is visible on WW II RAF vertical air photographs (NLA 16, 615-618, flown 22 June 1941), which shows the site in an almost as built condition. However, a series of vertical photographs taken in 1946 (CPE/Scot/UK 188, 4174-4178, flown 10 October 1946) show the later wartime alterations and additions including the increased number of dispersed aircraft hangars to the N and NW of the main group (HY135.02), accommodation camps and other elements of the military base.

Visited by RCAHMS (DE, GS), August 1997and 1999

The industrial estate has been extended and now occupies much of the area on the N side of the former runway, which is now in use as a through road from Krikwall to a junction with the A985 road to Stromness (HY 43062 12955). Some of the earth banked dispersal bays and aircraft hangar bays survive at the NW end and part of the bomb store could be seen beyond the new industrial sheds and units.

Visited by RCAHMS (DE), 12 September 2008


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