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Crail Airfield, Technical Area, Air Ministry Laboratory Trainer Building, No 62357 09269

A Category A Listed Building in Crail, Fife

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.2744 / 56°16'27"N

Longitude: -2.6094 / 2°36'33"W

OS Eastings: 362357

OS Northings: 709269

OS Grid: NO623092

Mapcode National: GBR 2Z.8MPB

Mapcode Global: WH8TL.WKLB

Entry Name: Crail Airfield, Technical Area, Air Ministry Laboratory Trainer Building, No 62357 09269

Listing Date: 25 August 2006

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 398834

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB50549

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Crail

County: Fife

Electoral Ward: East Neuk and Landward

Traditional County: Fife

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Description

1939-40. 2-storey tall, narrowing to 1st floor, square plan brick former Trainer Building. 1st floor outshot to N elevation supported by brick columns. Asbestos pitched roof. Timber stair and flooring part-remaining to interior.

Statement of Interest

All listings at Crail Airfield are Group Category A. The Runways are designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The Air Minstry Laboratory Trainer Building is noted as building number 5 on the DTZ/LDN report.

Used to train bomb aimers in a synthetic representation of operational flying, the AML Building may be unique. The earliest types of these buildings were contructed in timber and none are thought to survive. It is considered that the brick Crail example was based on these timber models. The building is somewhat of an anomaly as bombing was not a function of the Fleet Air Arm and it may therefore have been constructed for use by pilots from the nearby Leuchars Air base. An image of moving terrain would have been projected on to the floor and the trainee pilot sat on a high level platform with a rudder bar controlling the projector mechanism.

Crail Airfield is the best preserved example of a Second World War Naval Airfield in Scotland. It is remarkable for its survival, completeness and the rarity of some of the individual buildings. It is highly significant not only in the wider terms of Naval and Second World War history, but is also of great local importance. Crail was one of 4 airfields constructed in the early war period (along with Arbroath in Angus, Yeovilton in Somerset, and St Merryn in Cornwall). It follows the Naval pattern of 4 narrow hard runways and associated brick, concrete and corrugated iron structures. The runways are part of the main operational side, the 'Technical Area' to the South-East. The recreation and living quarters of the 'West Camp' are located to the North-West. These areas are separated by the road between Crail and Balcomie. The aircraft hangars and the great majority of the interiors are the most significant losses at the site. Many buildings have been altered and are in a poor state of repair. Around 2000 personnel were stationed at Crail Airfield, both living at the airfield itself and billeted in Crail and the surrounding area.

An airfield operated briefly at Crail in 1918 during the First World War. It was closed in 1919 and no buildings from this period are thought to survive. The site was re-acquired in 1938 and construction of a new airfield began in 1939. In 1940 the site was commissioned as the Royal Naval Air Station HMS Jackdaw and functioned as the main Fleet Air Arm base for training pilots in torpedo warfare. Crail housed 785, 786 and 711 Squadrons and was never a permanent home to an active front line squadron. At Crail pilots were taught the art of flying low over the water, dropping dummy and live torpedoes. The last permanently based aircraft left the base in 1947 and the site became HMS Bruce - the Royal Navy Boys' Training Facility until 1949. It was subsequently an Army Transit Camp (including a mobilisation base for the Black Watch 1952-4) from 1950-4 and served as the Joint Services School for Linguistics during the period 1955-60. The site was then sold and the majority of the buildings were adapted for pig farming. Some farming still takes place along with car boot sales and amateur car racing events (2006). The majority of the airfield was scheduled as an ancient monument in 1997 and this was reviewed in 2006 with a reduced area of scheduling covering the runways and selective listing of the built structures.

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