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Wings Over Wick
|Eric A Stone, D.F.C., Dunmow
I was a Captain and Pilot in 220 Squadron Coastal Command and the squadron was stationed at Wick from 1940 to 1942.
Squadron 220 was based at Thornaby (near Middlesborough) and moved to Wick in 1940. I was with this squadron the whole time. The squadron flew Lockheed Hudsons an American aircraft and carried a crew of four. Two pilots and two wireless operators/air gunners. The second pilot did the navigation.
The work carried out by 220 from Wick was general reconnaissance over the Norwegian coast also over the Skagerrak and Kattegat off Denmark. Usually two aircraft each day went over (completely separate) one taking a certain area and one another. Being completely on their own they were always open to attacks by German fighters based on the Norwegian coast, and unfortunately quite a few aircraft never returned from patrol. The usual escape routing was to either get in the clouds (if any) to hide or very low on the sea. The patrol aircraft's mission was to attack any ship it could and to signal back to Wick any information regarding larger shipping gatherings etc. These operations usually lasted four to five hours from take off to landing. The shipping attacks were always carried out at mast height and on one attack a Hudson actually hit the mast of a ship and brought back about a foot of the top, jammed in the bomb doors. This little trophy was framed and kept in the Flight Commander's office. If a report indicated a larger collection of shipping, several Hudsons usually about four to six, would be despatched to attack, either early evening or on a moonlit night. Other operations included attacks on aerodromes, harbour installations and factories on the coast helping the German war efforts. The squadron had many successes, sinking quite a few ships. One outstanding attack was at Alesund Harbour on the evening of October 29 1941. Called in the London Illustrated News of November 8th "The Most Devastating Shipping Attack Ever Made By A Single Air Force Squadron", six Hudsons made the attack, four supply ships were severely damaged, a fish oil factory ablaze, German barracks machine gunned and a power plant bombed. No planes were lost and no crew members injured. As I have said before, we had our successes, but also unfortunately our losses.
You asked about the town of Wick in those days. This is how I remember it from 1940 to 1942. The town was much, much smaller than now, chiefly a fishing port and everyone seemed to know everyone else.
The townsfolk took us to their hearts and treated us as their sons. We were welcomed everywhere in homes, and as there were no pubs in Wick or other entertainment it was marvellous to go to people's-houses in the evening and feel one of the family. The people of Wick somehow to us, seemed a lot different to other places in Scotland, more like Scandinavians. We in turn used to invite the townsfolk to our Sergeants and Officers messes to many parties and social functions. A particular friend of the aircrews was a Mr Robby Moore and his wife Netta. They had three sons, one worked in local government, one worked as a fisherman on his fatherís boat and one was at school. Mr Moore owned and captained a fishing boat called the "Alert" and had a crew of five, including his son. He has of course passed on now, but his sons may possibly be about. They would be aged between 60-70 years. They lived in a cottage in a row, high on the hill over looking the harbour. Nearly all the aircrew visited Robby and Netta regularly, sometimes the cottage was bulging at the seams and many, many parties took place. I was married in June 1941 and at the time lived near Southampton, at a place called Eastleigh ( a long way from Wick). I took my wife back to Wick with me and we lived in the same row of cottages as the Moores, consisting of a bedsitting room and kitchen called by the locals "a but and ben".
The Moore family looked after us newlyweds as they did with many other wives of aircrew who lived outside the aerodrome. We shall never forget the people of Wick or the hospitality and sympathy in adversity shown to us. When 220 squadron left Wick in 1942 the aircrew presented Mr & Mrs Robby Moore with an armchair with a suitably inscribed plate on it, in grateful thanks for their many, many kindnesses.