Excavations to uncover artefacts from Britain’s first operational military airfield are to take place as part of a new initiative between Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre and ZeroFour, the new tech hub owned by Crown Estate Scotland.
Established in 1913, Montrose Air Station, home to No. 8 Flying Training School, played a vital role in training pilots and securing victory during both World Wars. During the Second World War, it was home to Hurricanes and Spitfires which defended the strategically vital Forth.
In 1941, the need to urgently provide runways saw the laying of Sommerfield Tracking. This wire mesh, nicknamed ‘Tin Lino’, enabled flat grassed areas to be used as improvised take-off and landing sites.
This wire mesh is now to be excavated, helping preserve an important part of the former RAF Montrose site, the north-east section of which is home to ZeroFour - a purpose-built innovation hub supporting green enterprise. ZeroFour takes its name from the airfield’s original runway call sign, ‘04 22’.
The excavation of the metal will be overseen by specialists who are expert in dealing with unexploded ordnance which may lie beneath the surface. The site was surveyed and scanned in 2019 to identify unrecovered ordnance and none was found. However, as the scan was not able to penetrate beneath the wire mesh on the runway sections which are to be removed, additional scans will now take place as the excavation is carried out.
For safety reasons, there will be restrictions on public access to those areas of the site where the excavation is taking place. Crown Estate Scotland will ensure these restrictions are minimised.
Excavations are expected to begin in September and will last approximately four weeks. Signs with information will be posted around the site. Improvements to fencing will also be carried out, replacing dilapidated structures on the southern and western edge of the ZeroFour site. New access gates will also be installed.
Stuart Archibald, Chairman of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre said: “The excavation of the Sommerfield Tracking will help preserve the very materials which enabled RAF aircraft to operate successfully. This project is a truly fitting tribute to those who helped defend Britain during two World Wars.”
Jamie Macfarlane, Built Development Manager at Crown Estate Scotland for ZeroFour said: “The airfield has a tremendously rich history, and we are very excited to be working with the local community to help preserve its heritage and tell its story to a wider audience.
“Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre is an important national asset that does a wonderful job explaining the history of RAF Montrose. Looking to the future, ZeroFour will champion innovation and new ideas as we help support clean, green economic growth in the region.”
ZeroFour will support the development of businesses with a focus on the blue and green economies, including offshore wind. It will also provide space for traditional enterprises and champion new technology, research, and development.
It is expected that preparation and infrastructure works will commence in winter 2022/23 and serviced plots will be ready for businesses to access from 2023.