Daedalus 100 - Lee-on-so­lent’s cen­te­nary

Pilot - - OLD TIMERS - Re­port & photo: Adrian Balch

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

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