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Wings Over Wick
|Flt Lt Douglas A Weaver, Birmingham
We remember the first two nights we spent on the floor of the Church Hall in Wick (as our billets were not ready for us on Wick Airfield). However, we soon became fully operational. The squadron's main task was to cover the coast of Norway and the North Sea due east of Wick, flying up the fiords to bomb the fish oil factories of Bergen and other towns occupied by the Germans. Also to patrol the North Sea coast of Norway searching for U-Boats, disposing of wireless ships moored off the coast and patrolling the Northern approaches covering the convoys taking supplies to Russia.
Once we were given the task of flying up the Kattegat and Skagerak to drop leaflets on the city Of Oslo to counter the propaganda of "Lord Haw-Haw" who broadcast to them over their wireless sets. Another interesting exercise was flying diversionary bombing raids over the Southern North Sea coasts of Sweden and the Channel coasts of Holland and Denmark to draw the attention of the German defences away from the first of the 'thousand bomber' raids over Germany (Bomber Harris's crews).
The people of Wick were very kind and looked after us extremely well when we went into town. In those days Wick was a 'dry' town as there were no public houses. We were told that these were closed during and after the First World War for reasons that were never fully explained to us. However, we were by this time allowed to use the upstairs Long Room of the County Hotel in Wick, which had a bar at the far end of the room.
The squadron received invitations for two crews at one time to be entertained by the Duke of Sutherland on a long weekend in his home in Golspie. It was a most enjoyable time resting from operations and fishing for salmon and trout in the stream on the estate and taking them back for the cook to prepare for dinner.
Leo and I had another dodgy experience when our "mad" pilot by the name of H.S. (we will not mention his name in case he gets a copy of your book) and our worried navigator, John Hannah, were flying on a patrol north of Thurso. On our return the pilot decided to fly over the fleet at Scapa Flow and dive down to the King George V battleship for a bit of fun. Apart from the fact that Air Ministry instructions were that we should not fly within 1000 yards of that area, it was a daft thing to do anyway. You can imagine what the crew of the battleship thought of that manoeuvre - they very nearly shot us down. If it had not been for Leo and me grabbing the control column to pull us out of the dive and threaten this lunatic that if he did not get us back to Wick in one piece we would blow his head off. This he did very quickly saying that he did not know what had come over him and would we not tell Headquarters when we got back. Unfortunately for him bad news travels fast as the Admiral in charge of the K.G.V. had already advised Group Headquarters Wick what had happened. Consequently when we landed the Squadron Commander and the Redcaps (RAF Police) arrested us. When we dropped out of the plane onto the tarmac we saw a neat row of bullet holes across one of the twin tail fins. It was then we realised how close we had been to the battleship.
We were taken to the Group Captain of our Squadron to be questioned (or to be debriefed, as they preferred to call it). We had to give evidence at the pilot's court martial. He lost his "wings", was reduced to Pilot Officer from Flight Lieutenant, and was fortunate not to have lost his commission. "Lack of Moral Fibre" was registered on his records, he was grounded and given the job of a Flight Controller (one of several) in the airfield control tower. We were convinced that as he had a very glamorous and demanding wife who was keen for him to come off flying (she was staying in rooms somewhere in Wick) that he was trying very hard to 'work his ticket' and get off flying, which he did. It was not long after this fracas that he went completely 'round the bend' and was discharged from the Airforce (poor chap).
Fortunately Leo and I became members of Flight Lieutenant Norman Burke's crew, who was an Australian. The navigator Flying Officer Jack Durrant, was from New Zealand with whom he had flown the many and varied sorties previously mentioned. It was August 1942 that Leo and I completed another 500 hours operational flights which meant we had reached the operations limit required of us. Now is the time for us to take a rest from ops. An interesting statistic emerged at this point in that we were the two oldest surviving crewmembers of wartime 48 squadron. Most of our friends had unfortunately been lost on operations.
We had all this in mind now that the time had arrived for us to be posted to a training unit as instructors. It was rumoured that Silloth, Humberside was top of the list. We were not too happy as the Humber was referred to as "Hudson's Bay". They lost more crews there on training than we did on operations. Fate took a hand on our behalf at this point as our "Aussie" pilot and "Kiwi" navigator had been in the airforce and away from home for some years. They were keen to go to a theatre of war a bit nearer to their homes and asked for an overseas posting. This was granted and as we two were the other half of the crew we were all posted to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire to be kitted out for our further contribution to the war effort against the "Japs" (Japanese) in India and the Far East.
Doug Weaver and Leo Maturi were on the same aircrew of 48 squadron flying Lockheed Hudsons from Wick in 1941. Leo Maturi also recalls his time at Wick.