On my virtual historical tour of the Solent we will continue heading north west, but will pause a while at Lee on Solent. This is an unscheduled stop because Lee on Solent does not in fact feature in my novel ‘Ancasta ~ Guide me Swiftly Home,’ but the bay certainly has important history and my parents lived at Stubbington, the far end of the bay for a few years and so I know it quite well.
Lee on Solent was key in World War one as a strategic sea plane and training base from July 1917 for the RNAS, using both Shorts and Fairy Aviation planes, although sea plane trials had been made from the beach since 1915.
In 1939 it became the more familiar HMS Deadalus,(although its names changed a couple more times before reverting back to HMS Deadalus again a few years before it was closed) and remained a naval base and barracks until 2005 when the large expanse of land, airfield and buildings were sold for redevelopment. For anyone interested in the base, here are a couple of video links on Youtube:
Mast Manning Display in 1993 Hey look at that. Formation Display on a mast!
HMS Deadalus Closure in 2005 A nostalgic tour of the barracks!
The uses of the base have been varied and interesting starting with seaplanes in 1917 but later it was important for military hovercraft development and testing, and finally the base was best known for its coastguard and helicopter rescue missions. Life was never dull living in the area for the last 100 years, and a walk along the sea front would have its exciting moments and photographic opportunities as well as a sea front to relax and enjoy the views across the Solent to The Isle of Wight.
The Fleet air arm archives inform us that back in 2001 the airfield was still used for air sea rescue, but also for a Catalina restoration company and the Hovercraft Museum Trust. (Having enjoyed watching the Duxford Catalina fly – an amazingly whilte and graceful 1930’s flying boat, on a couple of occasions I was excited to research this link but records show that, oncce restored, this Catalina in Lee was due to be ferried to the USA and its new owner. Anyone know any more?)
I am pleases to say that the Hovercraft Museum still exists but visiting is by appointment only. This link will take you to the website for more information:
The museum claims to be the only one of its kind in the world!
Although Lee on Solent did not feature in Ancasta~Guide me Swiftly Home, I am planning for it to be a location in the third in the Riduna series, for which I am currently researching. Watch this spece!