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Wings Over Wick Index

Wings Over Wick
1939 - 1945
Glad To Land

D Thomas, Eaton, Grantham
My local Aircraft Association has shown me your appeal for wartime information about Wick airport. While I was never stationed there, I did visit it once.

During training for aircrew in bombers - pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, wireless operators and gunners met at OTU (operational training unit) to form crews. In our case, this was at Kinloss across the Moray Firth. We flew from Forres, the satellite grass covered airfield, next to the Findhorn River. There we were introduced to the Whitley twin engined bomber by then almost obsolete but the biggest plane we had flown till then and still serviceable. It was robust and slow but reliable and our plane bore minor traces of damage sustained in earlier missions.

During our training flights we flew all over the country simulating real operations at night. On one occasion, the 12th June 1944, we flew above cloud, south into Yorkshire, east 60 miles over the North Sea, to return in a northerly direction over the sea, until we should intersect the East West radio beam transmitted from Kinloss. We were not to know that it had broken down. Having no radar aids and flying above cloud we had no real idea of our position, and had to observe radio silence except in an emergency. I was bomb aimer while the navigator was directing the flight by Dead Reckoning, (that was hoping the wind had not changed since the start of the flight so we should theoretically return to our start). But errors build up, so now we could have been after 4 hours flying as much as 60 miles off course. We decided to continue north for a few more minutes before turning west and descending through cloud to look for land. At about 1000 feet we broke through cloud over the sea hoping to see the Moray coast. It was now 8pm and gloomy.

After some minutes flying low below cloud we saw the coast ahead and offshore a small fishing boat. As we passed overhead it fired a Verey light flare of the colours of the day, to which we should have responded. It also fired a stream of tracer bullets from its single Vickers gun, which fortunately missed us. We pulled up over the approaching coastline to find, amazingly, we were over an airfield almost devoid of other aircraft. I suppose in the light of our experience at that time, it could have been Aberdeen or the Orkneys but it was Wick.

Our abrupt arrival caused some excitement as our plane was thought at first to be a German hit and run raider, followed by consternation when we landed. The Beaufighters normally based there had departed to take part in D-Day. Airfield telephones had also been disrupted by our 200 foot long trailing aerial, the wireless operator had no time to wind in before we landed.

However we were made welcome, stayed the night and returned to Forres the next day somewhat relieved. We never returned to Wick, but we survived.