Located 3 miles (5 km) northwest of Campbeltown on the western side of the Kintyre Peninsula, Machrihanish is a former RAF air station, notable for its weather forecasts. The base had an exceptionally long runaway (3049m / 10,000 feet), together with a large number of technical buildings and accommodation.
Machrihanish was established as a naval air station in 1916, operating maritime patrol aircraft and airships until 1918. A new airfield opened on 15 June 1941 as Strabane Naval Air Station, and named HMS Landrail, becoming RNAS Machrihanish later in the month and operated until 1946. The old airfield became HMS Landrail II.
The Air Station was re-activated again during the Korean War for training purposes. Between 1960-62, the base was reconstructed and the current runway built. Thereafter the base developed in relation to NATO requirements during the Cold War, and was the focus of anti-submarine operations with US-controlled nuclear depth charges. A US Navy SEAL unit is also said to have been based here. £10 million was spent to upgrade the station in the early 1990s, keeping it on a care-and-maintenance basis to provide a runway for emergencies or in the event of conflict. The base remained a UK and NATO military base until 1997.
Between the wars a commercial aerodrome was established and is still operated by the government-owned Highlands and Islands Airports Limited operates with IATA location code “GQJ”. It uses the same single runway which, at 3049m (10,000 feet), is the longest in Scotland. The terminal building are at the south-eastern end. There are scheduled flights to Glasgow.
Now a community owned and mothballed RAF base and Commercial Airfield servicing Campbeltown and surrounding areas, was once known as HMS Landrail, Royal Naval Air Station Machrihanish. Deck Landing School.
Some excellent photos of United States Marine Core F4’s and A-6E’s visiting RAF Machrihanish in March 1984.Martin Henderson for allowing us to use them here.
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Images copyright © Martin Henderson, all rights reserved.
Information on Squadrons who were at Machrihanish. Most of these squadrons were forming or reforming:
Royal Navy: Fleet Air Army , August 1945
Front-line Squadrons ashore in the UK: 805 Squadron, flying the Supermarine Seafire for 20CAG/ Colossus class carrier
Click here for Squadron History:
806 Squadron, flying the Supermarine Seafire for 21CAG/Colossus class carrier – Squadron History:
Training & Support Squadrons:
RNAS Machrihanish/HMS Landrail – 740 Squadron – Communications.
Laforey Class Destroyer – HMS Landrail, Launched 7th February 1914. Served with the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla on completion and transferred to escort duties after 1917.
The ship was damage after colliding with HMS Undaunted in August 1915. Sold for breaking in December 1921
883 Squadron -Originally made up of Royal Canadian Air force pilots, became the first Canadian Naval Air Squadron.
883 Squadron consisted of RCAF pilots who had just re-mustered to the RCN.
The squadron formed on Seafires at Arbroath in Scotland in September 1945 shortly after VJ-Day, moved to Nutts Corner in Ireland, then back to Machrihanish in March ‘46, by which time it was up to operational standards and was given a Canadian number.