New memorial to Oban Airfield to be unveiled on Kerrera

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A new memorial is to be unveiled on Kerrera on Saturday, July 16, to commemorate Oban Airfield.

The memorial is one of many commussioned by The Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust (ABCT) – the world’s first national airfield charity.

Oban Bay and the stretch of water between the town and island of Kerrera provided good conditions for flying boat operations, with long take-off and landing runs.

RAF flying boats occasionally used the area as early as 1928, being supplied with moorings. The town’s rail and road infrastructure meant it increasingly looked a suitable location for a more permanent location for military flying boats on the north-west coast as the 1930s progressed.

The airfield opened as a full RAF station shortly after the Second World War began and almost immediately saw the arrival of No 209 Squadron with Supermarine Stranraers and later Saunders-Roe Lerwicks. After this unit moved to Pembroke Dock in July 1940 it was replaced with Short Sunderlands of No 210 Squadron, and subsequently Nos 228 and the Canadian 423 Squadrons. These squadrons were able to operate long distance maritime patrols over the Atlantic, countering the U-boat threat to vital supply routes. Other Canadian and Norwegian units also operated Consolidated Catalinas and Sunderlands from Oban between 1942 and 1943, as well as the Australians of No 10 Squadron being detached to the site in 1940 and 1941 from Mount Batten near Plymouth. A more unusual unit towards the end of 1943 became No 524 Squadron that formed to use the Martin Mariner, but this American flying boat did not find favour with the RAF and so the squadron rapidly disbanded.

Having transferred to No 17 Group in July 1943, this airfield saw No 302 Ferry Training Unit (FTU) carry out training for crews that would go on to fly Catalinas and Sunderlands to where they were needed overseas. Oban was placed on Care and Maintenance in April 1945, once the FTU had moved to Killadeas in Northern Ireland, and all RAF involvement had effectively ended by the early months of 1946.

The site was split into three, with slipways still surviving on the Isle of Kerrera and the mainland at Ganavan Sands where maintenance was carried out; aircraft were often dispersed in Oban Bay. A few other buildings also still remain, while many hotels on the town seafront were also requisitioned. Dungallan House served as the Station HQ.

This memorial is an example of the main full-sized standardised design already widely utilised by ABCT www.abct.org.uk/airfield-markers/marker-programme

The charity’s objective in this regard is to eventually commemorate each known major disused airfield in the United Kingdom with one of two forms of standardised granite memorial – nearly 200 have already been unveiled, with hundreds more being planned.

The event will take place at Kerrera Marina at 11am on Saturday, July 16.

For more information visit www.abct.org.uk/airfields/airfield-finder/oban-ganavan-sands