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Wings Over Wick
Mr T A McGarry,
Chichester, West Sussex
In the early months of 1942 Skitten was the home base of a Coastal and Marine RAF squadron, No 86, flying Bristol Beauforts and was the only squadron stationed there at that time. Although the day to day running of the Station rested with the Squadron Commander it was under the Operational Control of Wick and its Station Master.
The Beauforts main operational role was that of a Torpedo Bomber, although other maintenance duties were being undertaken, but the main reason for it being stationed at Skitten was for torpedo operations against shipping off the coast of Norway.
Skitten at that time was very basic and all briefing and debriefing was carried out in the main operations block at Wick. With torpedo bombing operations it was a question of waiting for targets, so a lot of the time was spent on stand-by, and at various degrees of readiness.
However, weather permitting - in our case low cloud off the coast of Norway, aircraft would carry armed patrols, called ROVERS, in search of a target, aided by an early form of ASV (Radar). In good weather any prospective target would have fighter cover and the Beaufort was no match for a fighter plane hence most of our operations were carried out when conditions suited.
The exception of course, was when a target had been sighted from Norway, and then the squadron would go out in strength according to the target.
The squadrons stay included co-operation with the Navy on exercises, but with the odd burst of excitement with the long periods of waiting it was not really a fruitful period - but in July 1942 the squadron was posted to Malta - now that's another story.