Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
Leuchars or RAF
Leuchars (IATA: ADX, ICAO: EGQL) was a
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force station located in Leuchars, Fife, on the east coast
of Scotland. Throughout the
Cold War and beyond, the station was home
to fighter aircraft which policed northern UK airspace.The station
ceased to be an RAF station at 1200 hrs on 31 March 2015 when it
Leuchars Station and control of the site was transferred to the
1.1 First World War
1.2 Inter-war years
1.3 Second World War
1.4 Cold War
1.5 Post-Cold War
2.1 RAF drawdown
2.2 Transfer to British Army
3 International Airshow
4 See also
First World War
Leuchars dates back to 1911 with a balloon squadron of the
Royal Engineers setting up a training camp in Tentsmuir Forest. They
were soon joined in the skies by the 'string and sealing wax' aircraft
of the embryonic Royal Flying Corps; such aircraft favoured the sands
of St Andrews, where not the least of the attractions was the
availability of fuel from local garages. Like so many RAF stations,
the airfield itself owes its existence to the stimulus of war, and
work began on levelling the existing site on Reres Farm in 1916. From
Leuchars was intended as a training unit, being termed
a 'Temporary Mobilisation Station' taking aircrew from initial flying
training through to fleet co-operation work. Building was still under
way when the Armistice was signed in 1918. Much was made of Leuchars'
maritime location when it was designated a Naval Fleet Training
School, eventually to undertake the training of 'naval spotting' crews
who acted as eyes for the Royal Navy's capital ships.
The unit was formally named '
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force Leuchars' on 16 March
1920, but nevertheless retained its strong naval links. As the Navy
embraced the value of aviation, the aircraft carrier was added to its
inventory. Many of the flights dedicated to
Leuchars were detached to
such vessels for months at a time, with light and dark blue uniforms
apparently mixing happily together. At St Andrews, the citizens were
not unaware of the potential uses of aviation and attempts were made
to use aircraft as a means of transport for golfing enthusiasts. More
successful were the barn-storming displays of the flying circuses
which were extremely popular in the town. In 1935,
home to No. 1 Flying Training School (1 FTS) and ranges for practice
bombing were established in Tentsmuir Forest. As the war clouds
gathered, its maritime position ensured that
Leuchars would come to
play a more warlike role. 1 FTS moved to
RAF Netheravon and the
station came under the control of Coastal Command. With the arrival of
224 and 233 Squadrons in August 1938 the station had an operational,
rather than training, role for the first time.
Second World War
Armourers secure 250lb bombs in the bomb-bay of a
Lockheed Hudson of
No. 224 Squadron at Leuchars.
On 4 September 1939, a
Lockheed Hudson of No. 224 Squadron RAF
Dornier Do 18
Dornier Do 18 over the North Sea with inconclusive results
but became the first British aircraft to engage the enemy in the
Second World War.
Leuchars was not to secure the romantic image of a
Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain station, but rather settled to the routine of hour
upon hour of maritime patrol which played a crucial part in Britain's
ultimate victory. In February 1940, another 224 Squadron Lockheed
Hudson located the German prison ship the Altmark which allowed for
its interception by HMS Cossack and the liberation of over 200 British
prisoners. On 2 December 1943, a pigeon called Winkie became one of
the first birds or animals to be awarded the
Dickin Medal for helping
rescue the crew of a ditched bomber from the station. During Second
World War, British Overseas Airways Corporation formed in November
1939 from Imperial Airways, and British Airways Ltd operated a wartime
route from RAF
Leuchars to Stockholm. From 1943 BOAC used
civilian-registered Mosquito aircraft. Noted for the carrying of
ball-bearings from Sweden to the UK, the route also returned RAF
aircrew who had diverted to or made crash-landings in Swedish
airfields during operations over Europe. Other aircraft types were
A No. 43 Squadron McDonnell Douglas F-4K Phantom FG.1, an aircraft
closely associated with RAF Leuchars.
Leuchars remained an active station to the end of the war,
concentrating on anti-submarine and anti-shipping strikes. With the
contraction of the Air Force in peacetime, life at
to a more gentle pace, hosting a school for general reconnaissance and
St Andrews University Air Squadron complete with de Havilland
Tiger Moth. In May 1950
Leuchars entered the jet age as it passed from
RAF Fighter Command
RAF Fighter Command and
Gloster Meteor of 222 Squadron made
the station their new home. In 1954 the fixed-wing aircraft had been
joined by a flight of
Bristol Sycamore helicopters for search and
rescue duties. From the beginning, the flight proved a valuable
adjunct to the civilian mountain and maritime rescue services, a role
which continues to this day. There were also two rescue launches based
in Tayport. The next generation of jets to be stationed at Leuchars
Hawker Hunter and the Gloster Javelin, with air-sea rescue
services provided by Westland Whirlwind helicopters. The University
Air Squadron was equipped with the de Havilland Chipmunk. As the Cold
War reached its frostiest depths in the 1960s, the development of
long-range aircraft allowed the Soviets regular incursion into British
air space. Initially this was countered by the use of English Electric
Lightning and, from 1969, McDonnell Douglas Phantom II aircraft. Again
Leuchars' position made it ideally suited as a base to ensure the
integrity of British air space.
Leuchars was also the home in the
1970s for a Fleet Air Arm squadron (892 Naval Air Squadron) when
disembarked from their carrier HMS Ark Royal, also operating Phantoms.
For over two decades Leuchars' aircraft have policed the UK air
defence region, demonstrating the ability to intercept unidentified
aircraft and thereby providing an effective deterrent. During the
Leuchars was home to 27 Sqn
RAF Regiment which was a Short
Range Air Defence (SHORAD) based Squadron, using Field Standard A
Rapier Missile system. Throughout the cold war, search and rescue was
an enduring presence, and Whirlwind and Wessex aircraft were stationed
Leuchars throughout the 1960s to early 1990s.
Panavia Tornado F3 of No. 43 Squadron, seen in 1993.
The Phantoms of 43 Squadron and 111 Squadron were replaced by Panavia
Tornado F.3s during 1986-1990s. April 2003 saw the Tornado F.3
Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), 56 (Reserve) Squadron, move to RAF
Leuchars. In April 2008, 56(R) Squadron amalgamated with 43
Squadron, retaining the identity of the latter until it was disbanded
in July 2009. In September 2010,
No. 6 Squadron RAF
No. 6 Squadron RAF was the first
squadron at RAF
Leuchars to be reformed operating the Eurofighter
Typhoon; Typhoons from the squadron performed a QRA scramble on Sunday
2 January 2011. 6 Squadron took over QRA duties when the last of the
Tornado F.3s were retired. The second Typhoon squadron, 1(F)Squadron,
was reformed at the 2012 RAF
Leuchars Airshow on 15 September 2012.
Leuchars had a long history of defending sovereign UK airspace over
many decades stretching back to Meteor aircraft and finally with the
Typhoon. Iconic aircraft such as the
English Electric Lightning
English Electric Lightning and
McDonald Douglas Phantom were prevalent over many years.
home to the last squadron of
Panavia Tornado F3s, No. 111 Squadron.
111 Sqn operated the
Quick Reaction Alert
Quick Reaction Alert ( QRA ) which was set up
primarily to combat threats from Soviet attacks during the Cold War.
The unit was disbanded in March 2011.
A No. 6 Squadron
Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 taking off from
The station was formerly home to No. 125 Expeditionary Air Wing, but
it is still the home of the East of
Scotland Universities Air Squadron
(ESUAS) and XII
Air Experience Flight
Air Experience Flight (12 AEF), who both use a fleet
of seven Tutor T.1's. No 125 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) was formed
Leuchars on 1 April 2006. The wing encompasses most of the
non-formed unit personnel and does not include the flying units based
at the station. The station commander was dual-hatted as the commander
of the wing.
Leuchars is also the base for No. 612 (County of
Royal Auxiliary Air Force
Royal Auxiliary Air Force (an air-transportable
surgical squadron), and was formerly a host to an RAF Mountain Rescue
Leuchars frequently hosts local
Air Training Corps
Air Training Corps units. Until
1 January 2015 it was also the parent station to several remote units
in the central
Scotland area, including Universities of Glasgow and
Strathclyde Air Squadron, 602 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 603
Royal Auxiliary Air Force
Royal Auxiliary Air Force and many Air Training Corps
RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, and
RAF Coningsby in
Lincolnshire, are now the sole operating bases and custodians for
QRA(I) North & South flying the
Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4. A third
Panavia Tornado F3 Squadron, No. 56 (Reserve) Squadron, was disbanded
in April 2008 in preparation for the arrival of the Eurofighter
Typhoon, in 2010. Members of No 56 Squadron had temporarily joined No.
43 Squadron until it too was disbanded in July 2009. Following the
departure of the two Typhoon Squadrons, 6 Sqn in June 2014, and 1(F)
Sqn in Sep 14, RAF
Leuchars merged the traditional Tri-Wing structure
of Base, Engineering and Logistics and Operations Wings into a single
On 18 July 2011, Defence Secretary
Liam Fox announced that RAF
Leuchars would close as part of the Strategic Defence and Security
Review 2010, with the station being transferred to British Army
control in 2015 and Leuchar's Typhoons moving to
RAF Lossiemouth in
In preparation for the closure, RAF
Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team
disbanded in Nov 2013 whilst No. 58 Squadron of the
RAF Regiment and
No. 6 Force Protection Wing disbanded on 10 May 2014. No. 6
Squadron was the first Typhoon unit to depart Leuchars, heading for
its new home at
RAF Lossiemouth in June 2014. No. 1 Squadron
followed on 8 September 2014, at which point responsibility for Quick
Reaction Alert (North) was transferred from
Transfer to British Army
Leuchars was transferred to the
British Army on 1 April
2015, when it was renamed
Leuchars Station. The Royal Scots
Dragoon Guards gradually relocated from Germany in the spring and
summer of 2015 along with 2 Close Support Battalion of the Royal
Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and 110 Provost Company.
The airfield is maintained as a relief landing ground for aircraft
RAF Lossiemouth and other aircraft. The station continues
to be home to several RAF units, including No. 612 (County of
Aberdeen) Squadron RAuxAF, the East of
Scotland Universities Air
Squadron incorporating No. 12 Air Experience Flight, and the
Scotland and Northern Ireland Region and South East
Scotland Wing of the Air Training Corps.
Leuchars was home to the annual
Leuchars Airshow which originated
many decades before. This usually took place on a Saturday in
September. The 2007
Leuchars Airshow was cancelled due to resurfacing
of the runway. Approximately 45,000 people attended the 2010 show
to see displays including the Red Arrows,
Eurofighter Typhoon, and
Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Air forces from many
provided additional static and flight displays. The final airshow
was held on 8 September 2013 and circa 45,000 people were on site.
List of former
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force stations
^ "Defence Estates Development Plan (DEDP) 2009 - Annex A" (PDF).
GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 3 July 2009. p. 2. Retrieved 19
^ "Quick Reaction Alert". RAF 2004 (PDF) (Report). Royal Air Force.
2004. pp. 38–43. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
^ "No 43 (Fighter) Squadron Disbanded". raf.mod.uk. 13 July 2009.
Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 9 September
^ "Typhoon Force Grows as Historic Squadron Reforms at Leuchars".
raf.mod.uk. 15 September 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
^ "RAF to pull out of
RAF Lossiemouth stays". BBC News. 18
July 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
^ "Disbandment Parade of 6 RAF Force Protection Wing and 58 Sqn RAF
Regiment". rafregt.org.uk. 10 May 2014. Archived from the original on
10 September 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
^ "First Typhoons land at Lossiemouth". Press and Journal. 12 June
2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014. (Subscription required
^ Air Forces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing
Ltd. April 2013. p. 8.
^ "Typhoon aircraft relocate to RAF Lossiemouth". GOV.UK. Ministry of
Defence. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
^ Maureen Ferrier Email (2015-03-31). "Army now in charge at
Fife Today. Retrieved 2017-06-25.
Leuchars residents welcome rebasing news". British Forces News
(British Forces Broadcasting Service). Archived from the original on
17 March 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
Leuchars Station - HL4058". Hansard. 13 December 2016. Retrieved 22
^ Dickie, Andrew (13 September 2008). "RAF
Leuchars Airshow 2008
Review". UK Airshow Review. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
^ "Airshow 2006". The Courier (Dundee). DC Thomson. 11 September 2006.
Archived from the original on 27 May 2007.
^ "Last RAF
Leuchars Airshow takes to skies". BBC News. 7 September
2013. Retrieved 9 Sep