Forgotten Scots airfield is remembered

A forgotten Scottish airfield has had its contribution to defending Britain’s skies in World War I commemorated.

In April 2018, the Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust contacted East Lammermuir Community Council offering to donate a commemorative plaque to remember Skateraw airfield, on the east coast of Scotland, which opened in January 1917 as a third class landing ground for Home defence fighters of No 77 Squadron.

This came as quite a surprise as very few people in the East Lammermuir area were aware an airfield at Skateraw existed, nor of the importance of its role in the First World War.

Jean Higgins, aged 90, and who has lived in the area her whole life and attended the plaque unveiling ceremony was fascinated to learn of its existence and of its history. Equally, Alastair Bowe and his sister Hazel Wager, whose father and grandfather farmed Skateraw
had never been told of the airfield, even though they referred to one of their fields as the ‘53 acre’ field.

Royal Aircraft Factory BE2 and BE12 variants fighters at first had Skateraw available to them until No 77 Squadron switched to using Avro 504Ks at the beginning of 1918. Due to numerous records being lost during World War Two through enemy bombing, many details for airfields such as Skateraw have sadly been lost.

It is known that by the late summer of 1918 Skateraw’s landing facilities formed an area of 53 acres, with dimensions of 650 x 400 yards; the land consisted of loam soil. Ordnance Survey maps confirm this airfield’s precise location through quoted field acreages. Innerwick was the nearest quoted settlement to Skateraw; the village railway station quoted as half a mile from the landing ground and the telephone contact number for the airfield was Innerwick 6.

Landing grounds such as Skateraw may not be well documented but without question played a big part in the winning of World War One and saved many lives in the process.

Following the end of the conflict, Air Ministry Weekly Order (AMWO) 151 of 30 January 1919 gave notification that Skateraw was being relinquished or closed. Since then the agricultural field layout has significantly changed with surrounding new road systems, mainly to do with Torness nuclear power station, but the airfield’s eastern boundary can still just be discerned.

East Lammermuir Community Council was delighted to accept the plaque from The Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust (ABCT) to honour a local World War One landing strip at Skateraw. It was unveiled at a special Remembrance Ceremony on 11 November, 2018.

ELCC feel it is very important to commemorate their local history and the important role East Lothian played during the two world wars. This memorial at Skateraw will mark the importance of the WW1 fighter landing ground and be of historical and educational benefit to the local community.

Unveiling the memorial Pauline Jaffray, BEM, Deputy Lord Lieutenant and EDF Energy Station Manager, Robert Gunn were delighted with the attendance of such a large crowd, made up from the local community. Also laying a wreath alongside that of East Lammermuir Community Council was Dunbar Sea Cadets, whilst Pipe Sgt Donna Collins and Minister Rev Suzie Fletcher dedication and blessing commemorated a very special occasion.

The Indian granite plaque was skilfully mounted on a special natural stone chosen and crafted by Cockenzie based sculptor Gardner Molloy. Not only does it recognise the importance of Skateraw as a World War One fighter landing strip, but it also reflects the natural environment of Skateraw harbour as a site of Special Scientific Interest.

The Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust (ABCT) is Britain’s, and almost certainly the world’s, first national airfield charity formed in 2006. Its founder Kenneth Bannerman has been developing the idea since the early 1970s, after discovering how badly both our airfields and all who served at them were being treated. ABCT now operates on an extremely wide front, erecting memorials to disused airfields, trying to save airfields from either closing or being demolished and carrying out deep-level historical and social research.

This charity is now becoming recognised as a major force, both at home and abroad, and ABCT’s very popular 3,000 page website has seen in-depth visits from well over 180 foreign countries.