Wings Over Wick
1939 - 1945
Frank Manson, Wolverhampton
I was at Wick for nearly two years from early 1940 and remember it with
affection. Two trains a day, to and from Inverness, and I was very
surprised when I first arrived, to see a big notice at the station
saying that because there was a war on, the train could not be kept
waiting for anyone! I had come with a group to open two radar stations.
The first was in Orkney on the side of Scapa Flow and Hitler - who
seemed to want to get me personally - mistakenly bombed Wick when I was
in Orkney and then Scapa when I had moved back to Wick. That wasn't his
only attempt. One morning I came out of the cookhouse with my breakfast.
I had a plate of porridge balanced on top of a mug of tea and a rasher
of bacon under a slice of bread held down by my thumb on the plate with
my other hand. I was heading for the dining hut when a plane came over.
I didn't even look up, I was watching my plates, and planes often came
in after patrol over the North Sea. I assumed it was the usual
Hudson until the bullets banged into the hut just behind me. He went on
to shoot up the airfield. We had plotted him in for forty miles but
Inverness, who should have identified him correctly, had made the same
mistake that I did, I didn't even spill any tea. That was at our Radar
Station at Ulbster, which dealt with low flying aircraft. We moved
there from our first station, which was at Tannach, near Hempriggs and
we had another station, Thrumster, which recorded high flying aircraft.
Working eight hours on and eight hours off we were
able to spend some time in the town. The tennis courts were popular and
snacks at the Boys Brigade Hut and Deep Sea Fishermen's establishment
helped a lot. We used the Breadalbane Cinema and in my case the
Public Library. Few have experienced the sorts of winds you get,
which reminds me of one occasion when we were struggling through the
snow from the living quarters to the operations site - about a quarter
of a mile away - the wind took one chap's glasses off and they
disappeared in a snow drift. He was out of action for about a
month until they could get him a new pair from Inverness. A week’s
supply of provisions had to be kept at the operations site, for the
times when it was completely cut off.