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Wings Over Wick
Duncan Radburn, Stockton on Tees
I was stationed at Wick with 612 Squadron, Coastal Command as a wireless operator/radar operator/air gunner on Whitley bombers. Our job was to located U-boats, protect convoys and be involved with air/sea rescue work.
I was only at Wick during the latter part of 1942 having returned from Iceland via Thorney Island with 612. You will find a copy of my flying log when we covered convoys heading for Russia.
A/S Patrol stands for Anti-Submarine Patrol. We never flew over convoys, first we made ourselves known, out of range of navy escort guns, as they fired on anything that approached before making identification. This was quite understandable in their position.
We patrolled right round the convoy at about 600 to 1500 feet, much depending on the weather. Flying at this height tended to keep the submarine submerged and out of range. So even though contacts were often not made the navy told us they were pleased with our presence. The convoys varied in number, this particular one heading for Russia was about 40 or 50 strong, but had been scattered by a U-boat attack before our arrival, and was gathering itself together again. The Whitley had three wireless operators in the crew who took shifts operating ASV radar (air to surface vessel) which could detect any solid masses in the water, giving range and bearing from the aircraft. The range of contact varied but was usually 12 to 20 miles away. The weather played a big part in sighting. On rough days the contact was often lost on the radar screen, as we attacked low level (50 feet).
We had many false alarms as the contacts proved negative the U-boat having dived or it was a empty dinghy/oil drum or a fishing boat etc. l never saw any U-boats in northern waters but was more fortunate in the Bay of Biscay. Many aircrew of Coastal. Command never saw a U-boat but did a good job by keeping U-boats below the surface, thus preventing them from recharging their batteries on the surface.
I have no recollection of Wick town, we didn't move much out of Wick aerodrome. I can however comment on the weather, it was grim and very high winds will always be remembered. I left Wick at the end of 1942 to milder climates of Cornwall and North Devon.