A World War II Royal Navy base still in use as such but also the location of the Fleet Air Arm Museum.
Period of construction:
1900 - 1949
Transport Trust plaque:
Near Ilchester,somerset, BA22 8HT
Work began in 1939 on the construction of the site, with the runways being completed in 1941. It became HMS Heron. Some of the original buildings survive but the control tower has been considerably extended.
The Naval Observer School moved to HMS HERON in mid 1940, with the Naval Air Fighter School soon following. Several units which were preparing for embarkation were also stationed at the site during World War II. The runways were further extended in 1952 and 1957 to cope with jet aircraft. In May 1953 it became the headquarters of Flag Officer Flying Training.
During the 1960s further development work was undertaken, with the School of Fighter Direction returning to the site and the Sea Venoms being replaced by the de Havilland Sea Vixens then in turn by the McDonnell-Douglas Phantom FG.1 as a carrier-borne fighter.
The 1970s saw the Flag Officer, Naval Air Command (FONAC), transferring from RNAS Lee-on-Solent. Royal Navy fixed wing operations were phased out, and the Phantoms transferred to the RAF. The base remained as the home of the Commando Helicopter Squadrons, using the Wessex HU.5 and later the Sea King HC.4, and the fixed wing Fleet Requirements and Aircraft Direction Unit (FRADU). It became the main shore base for the Navy's fleet of Sea Harrier FRS.1 (and later, FA.2s). A ski-jump (now removed) was installed to enable practice of ski-jump assisted take-offs.
Following the closure of RNAS Portland (HMS Osprey) in 1999, HMS Heron became the main shore base for the Lynx fleet.
Ashworth, Chris, Action Stations- Military Airfields of the South West. Patrick Stephens, ISBN 85059-510-X (1990)
Barber, Mark, Elite 165: The British Fleet Air Arm in World War II, Osprey, ISBN-10: 1846032830 (2008)
Berryman, David, South West England: The Complete History of Britain's Military Airfields, Crecy, ISBN-10Â 0859791211 (2007)
Finnis, William, A History of the Fleet Air Arm, Crowood Press, ISBN-10: 184037182X (2001)
Haywood, Roger, The Fleet Air Arm in Camera: Archive Photographs from the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Sutton Publishing, ISBN-10: 0750912545 (1996)
Hobbs, David, The Fleet Air Arm in Focus. Maritime Books, ISBN-10 0907771459 (1990)
Key, Alan, The Fleet Air Arm: An Illustrated History, Scoval Publishing, ISBN-10 1902236106 (2008)
Thetford, Owen, British Naval AircraftSince 1912, US Naval Institute Press, ISBN-10: 1557500762 (1991)
Wragg, David, The Fleet Air Arm Handbook 1939-45, Sutton Publishing, ISBN-10 0750934301 (2003)
Daily, but enquire on telephone: 01935 840 565
How To Find:
On B3151 off A303, 7 miles north of Yeovil.
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