Site Records

Site Name: Area Combined HQ Rosyth - Pitreavie Castle (Flag Officer, Rosyth, RN & AOC No 18 Group, RAF Coastal Command)

Castle Drive
OS Grid Ref: NT117848

Sub Brit site visit: 26th June 2005

[Source: Bob Jenner]

Before the outbreak of WW 2 it was realised that protected accommodation would be required for certain vital headquarters.

Pitreavie Castle

As a result the RAF searched for a site for a Coastal Command Group HQ in the vicinity of Rosyth naval base.  A rundown Scottish fortified house, Pitreavie Castle was found and subsequently purchased from the estate of Mr Henry Beverage for the princely sum of £12,306-00d to be the underground HQ for No 18 (Reconnaissance) Group, RAF Coastal Command.

On 14 April 1939 the Admiralty, desiring to

move the Flag Officer, Rosyth ashore, approached the Air Ministry with a view to creating a permanent Area Combined HQ in the underground facilities currently being built.  This was subsequently agreed with the RAF remaining as the lead service.  The ACHQ was completed during 1941.

Aerial view of the Castle within the HQ site

The now extended Castle provided accommodation for the Group HQ and the Air Officer, Commanding and a joint service Officers' Mess.  The nearby stable block became a Sergeants' Mess whilst a large hutted camp sprung up for Officers, NCO’s and other ranks/ratings (both male and female) sleeping needs.

Headquarters layout

The Air Officer, Commanding. (AOC) No 18 (Reconnaissance) Group was responsible for maritime operations from Flamborough Head in Yorkshire, round the north of Scotland, including the Orkney's and Shetland's to Gairloch on the west coast inclusive of the Hebrides, whilst the Flag Officer, Rosyth was responsible for naval operations from Wick, in Caithness down to Flamborough Head. The remaining part of 18 Groups area was the responsibility of the Admiral Commanding, Orkney's and Shetland's.

The underground HQ consisted of a square, 2 storied structure, 20 feet underground with a double concrete burster cap over the top floor, this outline can still be seen on the grass below the Castle today.  There were two entrances to the complex entering on the top floor, one to the east for RAF personnel from Pitreavie

Access to the underground operations centre
Castle and one to the west from the Naval HQ block , an emergency exit is located on the lower floor. The central Operations Room on the top floor (38 feet x 28 feet) is 13 feet high and projects 3 feet above the rest of the block. A 3 foot high platform has 3 glass fronted cabins, one for each of the services along one wall.  Apart from staff offices the majority of the accommodation is taken up by communications equipment for the RAF, Navy and GPO.  The Army had very limited presence or space.    

WW2 Plan of the upper floor of the underground headquarters
Drawn by Nick Catford

Following the end of WW 2 the Maritime HQ continued to function although the Flag Officer, Rosyth became the Flag Officer, Scotland.

In 1949 NATO was formed and both of the Naval and Air Commanders became double hated with NATO appointments.

Photo:The upper floor of the two level combined operations room in April 1996, shortly after closure
Photo by Jim Crockett

In 1958 RNR HQ Unit formed at MHQ Pitreavie.  The name HMS Scotia was adopted in 1960.  During 1962 HMS Scotia moved out of the underground MHQ to an above ground building.  On 15th May 1996 upon the closure of Pitreavie HMS Scotia relocated to new quarters within the nearby HMS Caledonia.

During 1962 both Flag Officer Scotland and Air Officer Scotland assumed responsibility for Northern Ireland and added NI to their respective titles.

Click here for more information and pictures of Area Combined
HQ Pitreavie Castle

[Source: Bob Jenner]

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Last updated 29th January 2008

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