RNAS/RAF Catfirth 1918

From Curtiss through to the Felixstowe 'boats

RNAS/RAF Catfirth 1918

Postby SimonGunn » Thu Jul 28, 2016 12:41 pm

I wonder if anyone has information about RAF Catfirth, a flying boat base in the Shetland Isles operating for the last year of WW1?

I used to live in Shetland and stumbled on the base, which was quite near my home. I became interested and researched enough to publish an article in a local magazine, about the base and the first ever flight to Shetland. I am finding it very difficult to find records or photos, but have received some from the RAF and Fleet Air Arm Museums, National Archives, Imperial War Museum and the Shetland Museum Archives. I have also managed to find some things online. What I would dearly love are the pilot and station logbooks, but fear they may not exist anymore.

This is a summary of what I do know:

The base was started by RNAS in November 1917. The site was/is 90 acres and was built to house 445 men. Went under RAF command on 1 April 1918.
F3 flying boats from Houton Bay on Orkney carried out anti-submarine patrols between Orkney and Fair Isle, Catfirth covered the seas round Shetland down to Fair Isle. Both Houton Bay and Catfirth air bases came under Northern Command, at Stenness on Orkney.
The base still exists, in part. The wooden huts were sold off in the 1920s, but 3 concrete ones are still standing together with coal and meat stores, the remains of the ammo store, the concrete slip and hardstanding. So far, the base has not been built on.
I know of 5 aeroplanes that were at Catfirth: Porte Baby 9807 was the first, flew in from Killingholme, via Dundee and Houton Bay, the pilot was Lt Arnold B Massey AFC (1897-1984). He believed his flight was the first to Shetland as there was a reception committee, both military and civilian to meet him. I believe the first flight arrived (alighted?) at the end of May or beginning of June 1918. I don't know the identities of the rest of the air crew, probably co-pilot, W/T operator and engineer.The plane was wrecked while on the Catfirth hardstanding in a gale on June 14th 1918.
Porte Baby 9810 was flown in by Lt George Hodgson (AFC, Mentioned in Dispatches), in August 1918.
There were also Felixstowe F3 nos. 4232, 4407 and 4405.I have no record of others. Patrols were carried out between 19.7.18 and 12.8.18.
The CO was Lt Col C.R. Finch Noyes AFC, DSO who had been CO at Killingholme. Knowing he was going to Catfirth, he took pilots and men with him. He also ensured that the 2 Porte Babies were fitted with 3 Rolls Royce Eagle VIII engines.

If anyone has further info or photos, I would be very grateful.

Simon Gunn, Ross-shire
SimonGunn
 
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