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Wings Over Wick
Jack Hughes, Mold, Clwyd
I even remember the actual date 1 travelled to Wick. July 4th 1940 - why? - because it was my birthday.
Our unit was known as an Air Ministry Experimental Station and was located on the outskirts of the hamlet of Thrumster. Whilst not directly connected with the main Wick Aerodrome the work we undertook was to provide detection of enemy aircraft approaching Wick. Nowadays everyone knows about Radar, but in those days it was a secret weapon.
In early August I was struck suddenly ill with appendicitis and was taken to the Bignold Hospital and operated on the same evening. From there I was taken to Forse House, Latheron to recuperate. The final stop in my recuperation was a fortnight's stay at Dunrobin Castle, Golspie, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland where we were wonderfully looked after by all the staff.
In September I was accommodated with a lovely family named Budge at New Houses, Thrumster. They had a son named Jack about 11, and a daughter Renee. Mrs Budge was an excellent cook and when I came home on leave she would bake a large quantity of shortcake for my family.
In the field adjoining the village post office and not more than 100 yards from New Houses, Thrumster was a collection of aircraft scattered over a wide area -mainly Blenheim Bombers. But they could never fly - they were made of wood, but indistinguishable from the real Blenheims - for this was a 'dummy' airfield whose aim and purpose was to direct attention of enemy aircraft from the Coastal Command Aerodrome at Wick. (Hard luck for the poor natives of Thrumster, don't you think.)
I was posted overseas in November 1940 and some months later I received a letter from Mrs Budge of New Houses, Thrumster in which she described in graphic detail a frightening air-raid they had recently experienced when German bombers bombed and straffed the 'dummy' airfield and the surrounding houses. Considerable damage was done to their bungalow and what can only be described as a miracle as Jack lay asleep, machine gun bullets had penetrated his pillow on either side and he was unharmed. Had I not been posted overseas I would have been sleeping in that bed. It gives meaning to the saying "a hair's breadth away".