The MONAB Story

A history of the mobile airfields of the Royal Navy


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The Mobile Naval Airfields Organisation

 

Post-War operations

MONAB X was retained in its original form for use by the MNAO as a trials & development unit. The recently formed Mobile Repair Unit No.4 and Mobile Air Torpedo Maintenance Unit (MATMU) No. 1 were also retained on a Care & Maintenance basis for future use.

With the cancellation of all future planned units the MNAO was now tasked with two new roles; the continued utilisation of MONAB X as a trials & development unit, alongside the new tasking of creating Reserve Storage MONABs from the equipment being returned from units in Australia. The first of the active MONABs were decommissioned in mid-November 1945 and the equipment from MONABS I. II & IV were being stockpiled in Australia awaiting a decision about their disposal. The retained wartime mobile units, MONAB X and MATMU (Mobile Air Torpedo Maintenance Unit) No. 1 were accommodated RNAS Lossiemouth while MR 4 was installed, on a semi-permanent basis, at RNAS Milltown, the satellite airfield to Lossiemouth. The MNAO was now tasked with two main roles; the continued utilisation of MONAB X as a trials & development unit, alongside the new tasking of creating Reserve Storage MONABs from the equipment being returned from units in Australia.

By the spring of 1946 the MNAO had been considerably scaled back and RNAS Middle Wallop was to be handed back to the RAF in April. With the closure of the formation station and the paying off of HMS FLYCATCHER on April 10th 1946 the MNAO was to become a lodger unit at HMS FULMAR, RNAS Lossiemouth, and a review of the organisation was undertaken. However, there was to be a three-month gap before Lossiemouth was to be commissioned on July 12th 1946 so the MNAO and its charges were to be accommodated at three separate sites; RNAS Fearn, RNAS Inskip and RNAE Risley whilst awaiting a move to their new home. Royal Air Force Station Lossiemouth was due to become an RN Air Station in early July and the MNAO and MONAB X were installed at Lossiemouth during May and June while the station was still under RAF control.

The retained wartime mobile units, MONAB X and MATMU No. 1 were accommodated RNAS Lossiemouth while MR 4 was installed, on a semi-permanent basis, at RNAS Milltown, the satellite airfield to Lossiemouth.

Two composite MONABs were established at RN Air Stations Ta kali, Malta and Trincomalee, Ceylon, while MONAB IX was to remain at RNAS Sembawang, Singapore with additional equipment to form a reinforced MONAB; this provided an enhanced MONAB held in storage on a care & maintenance basis in Singapore for reactivation should it be required. MONAB IX, HMS NABROCK had been paid off on December 15th 1945, and RNAS Sembawang recommissioned as HMS SIMBANG, however much of the MONAB equipment remained in use on the station for the first year before being mothballed.

Over the next four years the components and structure of MONAB X were modified and redesigned, and new mobile equipment was tested for its suitability for field use. At some stage the organisations name was changed to reflect its new post-war role, becoming the MONAB Development Unit (MDU).

MONAB 10 reactivated

By 1950 the reserve units overseas had been disbanded and MONAB X was held in storage at RNAS Lossiemouth pending a decision about its future usage. This was discussed at a meeting held on September 13th 1950 which resulted in the proposed reconstruction and reactivation of the unit and its installation at a reserve airfield. Proposed sites for housing MONAB 10 (as it was now designated, Roman numerals had been dropped) included; Henstridge, Worthy Down, Burscough, Crail, Evanton, and Fearn, all RN Air Stations. RNAS Henstridge was chosen.

This was not the first time the suggestion to install the unit at a reserve station had been proposed. With the closure of the naval airfields in the Shetland and Orkney Islands after the war RNAS Dounreay was proposed as a temporary base for squadrons disembarking from ships visiting the anchorage at Scapa Flow. In order to provide facilities at the station, without commissioning it and providing a permanent complement, it would be manned by a Mobile Naval Air Base and a Fleet Requirements Unit would be made available. There is however no evidence to suggest that MONAB 10 was ever installed at RNAS Dounreay.

MONAB 10 was reactivated by Confidential Admiralty Fleet Order (CAFO) 139/51 which called it out of storage, effective from September 7th 1951. It was to leave RNAS Lossiemouth by the middle of 1952 and was to be installed at RNAS Henstridge, Dorset, which had been reduced to Care & Maintenance. This decision was possibly to free up space at RNAS Lossiemouth, and to maintain the MONAB in storage. The first components of MONAB 10 arrived at RNAS Yeovilton in the late spring of 1952, the unit was in place by the autumn of that year. When it was finally disbanded on July 2nd 1955 its equipment was still installed at RNAS Henstridge, being maintained by a small staff bused in daily from RNAS Yeovilton.

The MONAB Development Unit disappears from official records at the end of the 1950s, when it was either absorbed into another organisation or was disbanded.

 

 
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HMS 'FLYCATCHER'

Blank ship’s badge
No badge issued for this ship

 

 

Function

Planning, assembly, equipping, and formation of mobile airfield units in the UK, and their despatch to their operational locations.

Initially on books of 'PRESIDENT'

commencing 10 September 1943 occupying dispersed offices within the Admiralty

Commissioned as independent command

04 September 1944as 'FLYCATCHER' at RNAS Ludham

16 February 1945 as 'FLYCATCHER' at RNAS Middle Wallop

Paid Off as independent command: 10 April 1946 

Accounts carried on books of 'FULMAR'

7 Jul1y 946  as M.N.A.O., later renamed M.D.U. (MONAB Development Unit) Accommodated at RNAS Lossiemouth, disbanded c.1955

 

Commanding Officers

Colonel J.M. Fuller R.M. (S.O.M.N.A.O.)
10 September 1943 to 04 September 1944

Commander (A) J. B. Wilson (S.O.M.N.A.O. & C.O.)
04 September 1944 to 01 November 1944

Captain L. J. S. Ede (S.O.M.N.A.O. & C.O.)

01 November 1944 to 10 April 1946

 

 

 

 

Related items

R.N.A.S. Ludham 
R.N.A.S. Middle Wallop
R.N.A.E. Risley
R.N.A.S. Lossiemouth
R.N.A.S. Milltown
R.N.A.S. Henstridge
Histories of these establishments and other information are part of the Fleet Air Arm Bases web site

 

 

 

 

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