Burke’s Sheds

Burke's Shed 1b

Burke's Shed 1b

History

No.2 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps moved to Upper Dysart, three miles to the south of Montrose in February 1913. The location was not ideal being a farmers field, 300ft (90m) above sea level and prone to haar (sea fog). The Commanding Officer, Major Burke, started surveying the area for a better location and chose Broomfield, one mile to the north of Montrose. It was a naturally flat area just 20ft (6m) above sea level and with good drainage due to the sandy soil. Plans were drawn up to relocate the Squadron there at the beginning of 1914.

The hangars used at Upper Dysart to protect the aircraft were made of canvas and wood so were unsuitable for a permanent air station. Three buildings designed by the Royal Engineers of the War Office's Directorate of Fortifications and Works were pre-fabricated at Glasgow before being transported to Montrose and erected in December 1913. Each building consisted of two hangars  (or sheds as they were then known as). They are referred to as ‘Burke’s Sheds’ after the Commanding Officer, Major C.J. Burke.

The Montrose Review in December 1913 reported:
EXTENSIVE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW MONTROSE AERODROME - £12,000 Scheme
Steps are already being taken by the War Office for the construction of a range of buildings on Montrose Links providing housing accommodation  for the large number of aeroplanes to be attached to No.2 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps after transference of the base from Upper Dysart to the Links.
Schedules have been issued inviting builders to contract for the erection of three huge corrugated iron sheds, each measuring 210 feet by 65 feet, and about 27 feet high to the apex, the eaves being 15 feet from the ground. Concrete piling will be used for the foundations, while the walls and roof will be lined throughout on the inside with asbestos cement sheeting, which will both make for safety from fire and ensure a warmer interior.  Concrete will also be used for the floors, while provision will be made inside for a dressing room for the pilots.  Each Shed, which will hold six or seven aeroplanes, will be provided with two sliding doors, 65 feet wide. A substantial guardroom will be built in the immediate vicinity of the sheds with all necessary equipment.
It, of course cannot be definitely stated what the cost of the buildings will amount to, but it is roughly estimated by a competent authority at between £10,000 and £12,000.  The Department hints that most consideration will be given to the contractor who will offer to complete the work in the shortest time.

Historical Importance

Burke's Sheds are the only group of pre First World War, Royal Flying Corp hangars of their type in the world and of significant importance to the history of military aviation in Scotland, in Great Britain, and Internationally. All three hangars are listed as Category A buildings by Historic Environment Scotland.

Historic Environment Scotland states: Montrose is one of a very small group of air stations in the United Kingdom to have retained relatively unaltered hangars that pre-date the First World War, in this case Major Burke s sheds from 1913. These largely unaltered hangars are extremely rare, being among the earliest surviving examples of first-generation aircraft hangars in the United Kingdom and potentially Europe..... Unusually for an early air station Montrose (Broomfield) remains relatively unaltered, which is extremely rare in a European context. The site is an extremely important surviving group of military airfield buildings and displays the hangar architecture of several different periods, which spans the history of aviation for military purposes. Exceptionally rare, these hangars are of international importance as they date from the formative phase in the development of military aviation. (historicenvironment.scot)

Historic England in their document 'Historic Military Aviation Sites - Conservation Guidance', page 6, Chapter 2.1 '1909-14', state: Remarkably, hangars have survived from the pre-1912 flying schools at Larkhill on the edge of Salisbury Plain (army) and Eastchurch in Kent (navy) and extensive ranges of buildings dated 1913-14 on newly established Royal Flying Corps (RFC) sites at Upavon and Netheravon, also around Salisbury Plain, and Montrose in Scotland. These survivals are of exceptional rarity and of international importance in the context of the development of military aviation. (ukhistoricengland.org.uk)

Note: It is sad to report that the hangars at Eastchurch and Netheravon have since been demolished and the only hangars left are one at Farnborough, one at Filton and three at Montrose. Of these Montrose is unique in having a group of three together.

Burke’s Sheds – 1914

Burkes’s Sheds – 2018