Daedalus 100 - Lee-on-solent’s centenary
A commemorative event on 16 September marked Lee-onSolent airfield’s 100th anniversary. The South Coast site was first used by the Royal Navy for seaplane training, in 1917. In May 1939, it became HMS Daedalus and, during WWII, was home to numerous front-line squadrons. Formed on 20 March 1940 as a Communications Unit, No 781 Naval Air Squadron remained there until it was disbanded on 31 March 1981. Deploying 435 units – the largest number by far of any UK airfield – Daedalus played an enormous part in the D-day operations of June 1944.
Post-war, Lee became the main base for ground instructional and maintenance training on Fleet Air Arm aircraft. When the Navy left in the mid-’90s, Hampshire Constabulary became the airfield operator. Proposals to turn Daedalus into a housing estate were thwarted when pairs of maintenance companies and flying schools moved in and the aircraft residents grew in number. The executive leader of Fareham Borough Council supported the continued use of the airfield and so it survives today, with a new infrastructure and additional hangars currently under construction.
At the centenary event, thirty classic and vintage aircraft were lined up on static display, including an RN Wasp, Wessex HU5 and Sea King HU5 ground instruction helicopters provided by HMS Sultan. A second Wasp, Terry Martin’s XT787 (G-KAXT), flew in accompanied by former Royal Navy Sharks display team Gazelle HT2 XX436/G-ZZLE. Other notable classics included the recently-retired ex-aurigny Britten-norman Trislander G-RLON, which is now owned by Southampton’s Solent Sky Museum and stored at the airfield, Waco YMFCS G-YMFC and N45BN and Beech 17 Staggerwing N16S (formerly FT466 with the RN)
There was no flying display as such, but the resident HM Coast Guard gave two rescue demonstrations, showcasing its newly-delivered AgustaWestland AW189, G-MCGO. This was a fitting Daedalus centenary tribute. A full air display, honouring the airfield’s D-day role, is planned for 2019. www.solentairport.co.uk
Retired Aurigny Trislander G-RLON heads a line-up including Jabiru engined Spitfire 26 G-CEFC and Bill Charney’s Beech Staggerwing