RNAS Longside at Lenabo
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Given that its very brief existence ended almost a century ago, it can be little surprise that information about the lightly-constructed Lenabo Section is not readily available. Nor is it consistent, with authorities disagreeing over both start and end dates. The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was one of the twin antecedents of the Royal Air Force; the other being the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) - its army equivalent. In the Great War, U-boats were a major threat to Britain’s coastal shipping, and the Admiralty decided that its RNAS should build and operate an airship station in the north east, to patrol the shipping lanes. The airships could machine-gun and depth-charge any submarine near the surface or, at the very least, force them to remain submerged, where their speed was too low to attack ships.
The chosen location was Lenabo, a boggy area some three miles south of Longside. Materials for RNAS Longside (as it was correctly called) were unloaded at Mintlaw, Peterhead or even Aberdeen stations. From there, they were laboriously forwarded by road, using horse and cart or steam lorry. Eventually, extra sidings were authorised for Longside station. RNAS Longside was up and running by 1915, an impressive achievement. Not so the rail connection, the idea of which was kicked back and forth for several more years. Hence, it was not until December 1918 that the Lenabo section finally connected the airship station to Longside GNSR. A month after the Armistice, in fact! The airship station included hangars, a powerhouse, a gas plant (to provide hydrogen), a waterworks, steam generators for the hangars, engineering shops, a wireless station, messes, a church, a cinema, garages, a fire station and living quarters for around five hundred naval ratings, engineers and riggers. After the War, RNAS Longside served no useful purpose and, in 1920, the Air Ministry transferred the site to the Disposals Board. Closure of the Lenabo Section and lifting of the rails has been stated to be at various dates between 1919 and 1923. However, the earlier dates may be dismissed, because there was a Fatal Accident on the line on 15 August 1923, when an empty train - being propelled by its engine - and a motorcar collided at a still-ungated level crossing, killing Mr. and Mrs. Patterson, the unfortunate occupants of the car. Given that Grouping was on 1 January 1923, this also means that closure was under the aegis of L&NER. Although the physical evidence of the Section persisted for some decades, little or nothing can be discerned today, as this photograph of open woodland helps testify. There are, however, some few remains of the airship station itself, which have been commemorated by a plaque erected by the Lenabo Community Council.
1 mile Longside Stn. A950 Longside RNAS Longside