East Fortune Aerodrome


East Fortune is probably best known today as the home of the Museum of Flight and as the starting point of the first nonstop double crossing of the Atlantic, achieved by the airship R34 in July 1919. There had been an air station at East Fortune during the First World War, with both airships and aircraft operating from there after the opening of the station in September 1915.
Military flying was to be seen again at East Fortune during the Second World War, with the arrival in June 1941 of No. 60 Operational Training Unit (O.T.U.) from Yorkshire. This unit had been formed in April, the second O.T.U. set up to train night fighter crews for Fighter Command; work of vital importance in order to improve the strength of the defences against the night blitzes.

No. 60 O.T.U. operated with ex-operational aircraft of the types used for night fighting, principally Bristol Blenheims and Beaufighters, and Boulton Paul Defiants, and the age of these aircraft was a major factor in the number of fatal crashes during training flights. The crews were often a long way from home, most of the trainees coming from Poland, New Zealand, Australia and Canada as well as Britain. In November 1942 it was decided that of the four night fighter O.T.U.s in existence by then, one of them should be disbanded, 60 O.T.U. being the unit chosen.

As a result, on 24 November 1942 East Fortune aerodrome was transferred to No. 17 Group, Coastal Command and training now began with No. 132 O.T.U. Training was now given for anti-shipping strikes using Beauforts and Beaufighters, these being the main anti-shipping aircraft then in use. From April 1944 training was also given using de Havilland Mosquito aircraft.

Crews trained at East Fortune played an important part in formations such as the Banff Strike Wing and the Dallachy Strike Wing, both based on the Moray coast to harass and attack German shipping along the Norwegian coast, work which was extremely dangerous as a result of attacks on heavily defended targets, but saw the Germans suffer heavily.