Description Lee-on-the-Solent

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HMS Daedalus, Lee-on-Solent


Location: N5048.91 W001 12.42. 2 NM NW of Gosport. 32ft amsl.

HMS Daedalus, in the town of Lee-on-the-Solent lies within the Portsmouth and S.E. Hampshire area of Southern England, in the county of Hampshire.

Adjoining the Solent and only 3 miles from the M27. The site infrastructure is extensive and well maintained. The site comprises of a building complex of 41 Ha (100 acres), containing over a million square feet of buildings, and an airfield of 154 Ha (382 acres) with three multi-directional runways. The buildings, which include large hangars, accommodation blocks, and a Wardroom overlooking the Solent, are mostly in good condition. The airfield (most of which lies in the Borough of Fareham) contains a comprehensive perimeter track system with hangars, control tower, airfield management system, fuel farm and support services.

In 1996 the Air Station closed and the Ministry of Defence has declared it surplus
to requirements. HMS Daedalus,  owned  by  the Ministry  of  Defence  (MOD),
comprises about 195 hectares of land.  The site lies partly in Fareham  Borough (153  hectares) and  partly in  Gosport Borough  (42  hectares).  The site has two distinct characteristics - the airfield in the north and the 'built-up' area in the south.

HMS Daedalus site from the air looking north, 2000, Lee-on-Solent

Architecture of the Establishment at Lee on Solent

Go to the Daedalus buildings and airfield architecture pages.
Short History

The Air Station was named after "Daedalus". In Greek mythology Daedalus, the ingenious craftsman of Greek legend who created wings to escape King Minos of Crete, but whose son Icarus died when he flew to close to the sun. See History of the origin of Daedalus name and the ships named after it.

HMS Daedalus at Lee on Solent was the most important of the 56 Fleet Air Arm air stations found all around the world at the end of World War 2. She was first established in the First World War in 1917 by the Admiralty, and was subsequently transferred to the RAF on 1 April 1918. On the formation of the Fleet Air Arm under Admiralty the air station was returned to the Royal Navy on 24 May 1939 and played an important role during the Second World War. Post war she continued to play an important role, being renamed HMS Ariel on 31 October 1959 to reflect her electrical, radar and ground training emphasis. In 1962 the joint Service Hovercraft Unit was formed at Lee with the aim of testing hovercraft in an operational military environment, and soon after the air station reverted to the name Daedalus on 5 October 1965. She was finally paid off from the Royal Navy on 29 March 1996. Today the establishment is still owned by the MOD and maintains a number of civil aircraft agencies and clubs.

See also the History of Daedalus 1917-2001
Post Royal Navy at Daedalus

It was bound to happen, in 1996 the Royal Navy marched smartly out through the gate for the last time. Since that day and pro-tem, most of the airfield itself has been leased on an annual basis to the Hampshire Constabulary, which now flies an Islander. The SAR function is privatized, with two helicopters on site and a private light aircraft group holds an annual sub-lease, as does the gliding club. The PNGC is by far the largest of the naval gliding clubs, in fact it is one of the biggest in the UK with approaching 10,000 launches each year, 6 dual seaters, 6 singles (including a Discus), 5 winches, 3 tugs and 325 members.

For a while the future of the site was unsure after the departure of the Royal Navy. The local authorities, (the site area includes two and bounds on a third), and the MoD, have come up with all sorts of proposals, from housing and business park, to gravel extraction, and even a horse racing course, and Hovercraft Museum. There was also the importnat development of  the Daedalus development Strtaegy and the creeation of the Daedalus Conservation Area.

With all this going on the resident occupiers had no security, and several times thought they would have to find a new home at very short notice. However, in December 2000, MoD Property Services withdrew HMS Daedalus from sale, and into 2001 it seemed the MoD were at last having second thoughts about its disposal.

The MOD retains the Government's largest portfolio of  built heritage at Daedalus and is keenly aware its obligations for responsible use and disposal, as well as its role as a champion of the future sustained use of historic sites. In compliance with the Government's 'Nine Point Plan of Action' heritage commitment, the MOD will continue to seek the improvement and re-use for future generations of the many historic buildings on the Defence Estate including at Lee-on-the-Solent.

In December 2000, MoD Property Services, the Defence Estates, withdrew HMS Daedalus from sale, and reviewing the site for its potential for future MOD activities rather than disposal. The local authorities also have responsibility for the site.

Ref: The Ministry of Defence - THE STRATEGY FOR THE DEFENCE ESTATE and the Defence Estates Framework Document.

Defence Estates is an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Defence Defence Estates is an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Defence, which came into effect on 1 April 1999. Formerly known as the Defence Estates Organisation - an amalgamation of the
Defence Works Service, the Defence Lands Service and a Central Policy Division of MOD - it was given an enhanced role in providing a strategic overview of the defence estate, rationalisation and disposals, following on from the Strategic Defence Review.

The airfield borders the Solent opposite the Isle of Wight and has a slipway into the sea. This is the only Hampshire airfield with hard runways outside the north of the county  except the international airport at Southampton.  The airfield has been the base for the Coastguard Search and Rescue Service since 1973 and for the Hampshire Police Air Support Unit since 1985.  Currently the airfield is held on short term lease by Hampshire Police pending a decision by the Ministry of Defence on its disposal. The site is underlain with deposits of gravel and was removed from the list of preferred extraction sites following the recommendations of the inspector at the 1995 Public Inquiry into the Hampshire Minerals and Waste Local Plan.

Flying at Daedalus today

Among a variety of flying and training activities, the Coastguard Search and Rescue Service and Hampshire Police Surveillance Unit have use the Airfield as a strategic base. In SeaWings 2000, on 4 June 2000,  the airshow at Southampton most aircraft  operating from Lee-on-Solent, including the magical experience of 11 Spitfires and a Hurricane take off one after the other and form up with two more Spits for their formation flypasts over Southampton.

Bristows search and Rescue helicopter

See also the Daedalus page on "Flying at Daedalus  in the 21st Century"

Recent advice is that the MOD has negotiated with Hampshire Police to operate and maintain the airfield for a fixed year period from mid 1996.  The successful outcome to these negotiations permited current aviation activities, including Coastguard search and rescue operations  and glider flights to continue into the foreseeable future.

See also the Daedalus Heritage pages on "Daedalus 21st Century - a new era today"

        Created & Last Modified: 24-6-2001

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