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Oban (Ganavan Sands)

Also known as: Ganavan / Kerrera / Oban Bay / RAF Oban
County: Argyll and Bute
Current Status: Harbour / Housing / Leisure activity
Date: 1930s - 1 February 1946
Current Use: Disused
Used By: RAF / RAF (Norwegian) / RCAF
Landing Surface Types: Water

Oban Bay and the stretch of water between the town and island of Kerrera provided good conditions for flying boat operations, with long take off and landing runs. RAF flying boats first used the area in the 1930s, such as a Flight of Supermarine Southampton flying boats of No 201 Squadron visiting in the summer of 1931. Oban’s rail and road infrastructure meant that it was a suitable location for a more permanent location for flying boats on the north-west coast.

The autumn of 1939 saw the arrival of No 209 Squadron with Supermarine Stranraers and later Saunders-Roe Lerwicks. After these extremely poor aircraft moved to Pembroke Dock in July 1940 they were replaced with Short Sunderlands of No 210 Squadron, and subsequently No 228 and the Canadian No 423 Squadrons. The squadrons were able to operate long distance maritime patrols over the Atlantic, countering the U-boat threat to vital supply routes. Other Canadian and Norwegian units also operated Consolidated Catalinas and Sunderlands from Oban between 1942 and 1943, as well as the Australians of No 10 Squadron being detached to the site in 1940 and 1941 from Mount Batten, near Plymouth. A more unusual unit towards the end of 1943 became No 524 Squadron that formed to use the Martin Mariner, but this American flying boat did not find favour with the RAF and so the squadron rapidly disbanded.

Having been transferred to No 17 Group in July 1943, No 302 Ferry Training Unit (FTU) carried out training for crews that would go on to fly Catalinas and Sunderlands to where they were needed overseas. The site was put under Care and Maintenance in April 1945, once the FTU had moved to Killadeas, and all RAF involvement had effectively ended by the early months of 1946.

The site was split into three, with slipways still surviving on Kerrera Island and the mainland at Ganavan Sands where maintenance was carried out. The aircraft were often dispersed in Oban Bay. A few other buildings also still remain, while many hotels on the seafront were also requisitioned. Another hotel today at Dungallan House served as the Station HQ.


The following organisations are either based at, use and/or have at least potentially significant connections with the airfield (as at 01/07/2013):

  • Oban Community Council
  • Oban Library
  • Oban Marina
  • Oban War & Peace Museum
  • Pennyfuir Cemetery
  • RAF Oban

Notable Past Associated Organisations:

  • Alexandra Hotel
  • Dungallan House
  • Great Western Hotel
  • Marine Hotel

Main unit(s) present:

  • No 4 Flying Boat Servicing Unit

  • No 209 Sqn

  • No 210 Sqn

  • No 228 Sqn

  • No 302 FTU

  • No 330 Sqn

  • No 422 Sqn

  • No 423 Sqn

  • No 524 Sqn

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