HMS Tern,Birsay – Community Buy Out Quick Survey

One day we will all be able to visit each other and places further afield again. A site worth the trip in Orkney is where there was once a major airfield in Orkney – HMS Tern, Birsay.

HMS Tern farmland boundary

This incredible historical site has featured in quite a few of our articles in The Orkney News. HMS Tern

The Birsay Heritage Trust which has worked tirelessly and made such a huge contribution to the preservation and conservation of the site is considering a community buy out.

HMS Tern Naval Air Station in Birsay is a vital part of Orkney’s WW2 heritage. Since being saved from demolition in 1986, there has always been the ambition to preserve and develop the site as a community facility and a visitor attraction.

HMS Tern cinema

Remains of the huge camp at HMS Tern (photo F Grahame)

Operational from 1941 to 1949 and fully closed in 1957. It was one of 4 local military airfields that supported the Home Fleet in Scapa Flow and has retained the greatest number of structures.

HMS Tern

The control tower with signal room beneath (F Grahame)

Over the last  10 years, a dedicated sub-group of Birsay Heritage Trust volunteers have carried out clearance on the site, organised local tours and run community open days.

An application to the Scottish Land Fund for stage 1 funding was successful. This will fund the business plan and survey needed to apply for SLF stage 2 funding for some structures and part of the surrounding land.

Orkney Islands Council (OIC) own 14 acres of the site, including the majority of the main structures. They have agreed to transfer ownership to the community for £1 plus legal fees. The runways and remaining land are owned by local agricultural businesses.

The Trust, a registered charity,  are hopeful they can purchase some of this additional land to enhance the visitor experience at HMS Tern.

HMS Tern

Inside the air raid shelter (F Grahame)

Issy Grieve, Chair of Birsay Heritage Trust said:

HMS Tern access“We are excited to have the opportunity to progress this project. Our volunteers have done an amazing job so far, helping clear the debris from some of the important buildings.

“Securing SLF funding will be the first step towards preserving the site and opening it up to locals and visitors. The first phase will focus on the iconic Control Tower and Cinema buildings. We hope the local community will support our efforts”

An important part of the business plan is the community input. Birsay Heritage Trust  along with their consultants, SKS Scotland, have put together a short survey to gauge community support for the project.

Link to the Survey:  HMS Tern Survey

HMS Tern Cinema  remains

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