RAF Leuchars

Royal Air Force Leuchars is situated near St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland. The motto of the station is “Attack And Protect”. As a result of the UK government’s defence review in 2011, the RAF are scheduled to leave Leuchars, with the British Army taking over the base from 2015.

Leuchars is currently in a transitional phase. The RAF’s operational aircraft, Nos. 1 and 6 Typhoon Squadrons, re-located to RAF Lossiemouth in Morayshire, Scotland in 2014. This leaves No. 612 (County of Aberdeen) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the East of Scotland Universities Air Squadron, and Number 12 Air Experience Flight at Leuchars. The first Army unit has now arrived: 71 Engineer Regiment.

The Airshow

Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon FGR4 ZK302 of 6 Squadron

Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon FGR4 ZK302 of 6 Squadron

Until 2013, RAF Leuchars hosted an annual airshow. The show was first held in September 1945, when the RAF opened many of its stations to the public, to celebrate victory in the Battle of Britain and World War 2. These shows continued annually, and became known as “Battle Of Britain At Home Days.” The show was always held in early September, to commemorate the time the Battle Of Britain was at its height in 1940.

As the RAF was reduced in size over the years, the number of Battle Of Britain shows also reduced, until Leuchars became the last RAF station to host such a show. The last show in 2013 was the 65th since 1945, with only a couple of years being missed due to operational commitments or runway re-surfacing. The Airshow was run as a self-financing event, with any profits being donated to charity.

History

Construction of the airfield at Leuchars began during the First World War in 1916, and was still in progress when the war ended in 1918. Leuchars was originally a Naval Fleet Training School, and its location on the North Sea coast was ideally suited for this. Although the base was officially named Royal Air Force Leuchars in 1920, the Royal Navy continued its presence.

Panavia Tornado F3 ZE288 of 111 Squadron

Panavia Tornado F3 ZE288 of 111 Squadron

As the Second World War approached, Leuchars became an operational station under the control of RAF Coastal Command. The main tasks of the station were maritime patrol, anti-submarine and anti-shipping operations.

After WW2 Leuchars reverted to a training role, for reconnaissance pilots. In 1950, the station became part of RAF Fighter Command, and the first jet aircraft were stationed at Leuchars.

The next threat that Leuchars faced was the Cold War. Leuchars took over Quick Reaction Alert duties, to protect UK airspace from attacks by Soviet aircraft, a role which continued until 2014.

 

The Eurofighter Typhoon was the latest in a line of famous aircraft to carry out QRA duties from RAF Leuchars: its predecessors include the Panavia Tornado F3, the McDonnell-Douglas Phantom, the English Electric Lightning and the Gloster Javelin.

Around The Site

RAF Leuchars is situated on the north side of the Eden Estuary in Fife, Scotland. You can see the estuary on the Google Map satellite view, just to the south of RAF Leuchars. The satellite image was taken at low tide, and the extensive mud and sand flats are clearly visible. The estuary is a Local Nature Reserve (LNR), and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Scroll the map to navigate to the small town of Leuchars, at the top left of the view. Use the +/- zoom buttons at the bottom right to zoom in, and use the “satellite” button at the top left to switch on the labels. You can see that some of the streets in Leuchars are named after WW2 aircraft: for example, Spitfire Place, Blenheim Place, Hudson Place, Anson Place and Mosquito Drive. Post-war aircraft are also represented, with Meteor Row, Javelin Crescent, Hunter Road and Tutor Road.

 

Reset Map

Just to the north of the town in fields are the remains of Leuchars Castle, a 12th century motte and bailey castle. There isn’t much left today- the remains of the stone castle were demolished in the 19th century. The motte, or mound on which the castle was built still exists, and can be seen on the satellite view. The only remaining stonework is the dovecot, which can be seen in a field 200m west of the motte. If you can’t find the castle, click here.

Now zoom out and navigate south over the Eden Estuary. The pointed area of land to the right is the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, where the British Open golf championship is played. The long stretch of sandy beach facing the sea is the West Sands, where the movie Chariots Of Fire was filmed.

Finally, if you’re really sharp-eyed, try to find the small black aircraft which was flying over RAF Leuchars when the satellite photo was taken. Hint: reset the map, then zoom in on the red marker in the centre. Now scroll to the right over the grassy area between the runways- the aircraft, probably a Tucano, is just to the left of the taxiway. If you can’t find it, click here.