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Skeabrae Airfield

Airfield (20th Century)

Site Name Skeabrae Airfield

Classification Airfield (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Skaebrae; Swartland Road

Canmore ID 81754

Site Number HY22SE 59

NGR HY 2731 2054

NGR Description Centred HY 2731 2054

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Sandwick
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY22SE 59.00 Centred HY 2731 2054


(disused) [NAT]

OS (GIS) MasterMap, May 2010.

HY22SE 59.01 HY 2742 2095, HY 2734 2101 and HY 2727 2102 Bomb Store

HY22SE 59.02 HY 26654 20573 Cinema

HY22SE 59.03 centred HY 27625 20409 Aircraft Hangar; Dispersal Pens

HY22SE 59.04 HY 26836 20007 Aircraft Hangar

HY22SE 59.05 centred HY 27418 20023 Aircraft Hangar; Dispersal bays

HY22SE 59.06 centred HY 26766 20941 Aircraft Hangar; Dispersal Bay; Building

See also:

HY21NE 62 Pillbox

HY22SE 89 Main electricity generating station

Part of the airfield falls on map sheet HY21NE.

Started by the Admiralty for its own use this airfield was handed over to the Air Ministry in May 1940 in order to meet urgent Orkney fighter defence requirements. A new Callender-Hamilton hangar was erected in November 1944. Reduced to care and maintainance at the end of the war it was disposed of in 1957.

In 1981, there were about 25 buildings still intact, including the 518/40 watch office, gymnasium, cinema and decontamination centre.

D J Smith 1983

Reduced to care and maintainance at the end of World War Two and disposed of in 1957. In 1981, some 25 buildings still survived intact, but by 1993 much demolition had been carried out.

J Guy 1993; NMRS, MS/810/2.

The WW II Skeabrae Airfield is situated on undulating ground to the E of the N-S A967 road and S of the Swartland Road. Only the former cinema/gymnasium (HY22SE 59.02) and the bomb store (HY22SE 59.01) and one or two perimeter huts survive as upstanding buildings. The runways are extant and many of the dispersal bays are still visible, though some have had their protective earth banks removed, whilst others are being used for rubbish/rubble disposal or animal fodder storage. Some of the air-raid shelters also survive around the airfield and accommodation camp areas. A depression marks the area where the control tower once stood.

An Air Ministry works Directorate Plan (1811/54) of the airfield dated 1944 (C.E. in C Drwg. no.5139/44) showing the layout of runways, dispersal pens, station buildings, main and defence camps matches the layout shown on the modern OS map plan. Five light anti-aircraft camps are noted on the plan of 1944, and traces of these are still visible, most notably to the E of Queenamoan farmsteading.

The airfield is visible on RAF vertical air photographs (541[A] 390, 3413-3416, flown 18 May 1948) which shows that most of the buildings and hangars were still extant at this time.

It was planned that the airfield would be merged with Twatt Airfield (HY22SE 58.00) as a N.A.T.O. base, but this was cancelled and Iceland was chosen instead.

Visited by RCAHMS (DE, GS, SW), August 2000.


Watching Brief (27 August 2014)

Archaeological watching brief on the machine-excavation of twelve pile base footings for a new barn on the former runway. Each of these was excavated down to the underlying natural layers and a section through the runway of the former airfield was observed. No features of archaeological significance were identified during the course of the watching brief.

Information from Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA).


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