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Wings Over Wick Index

Wings Over Wick
1939 - 1945
Canadian Squadrons

M A Botham, Winnipeg, Manitoba
"What was it like flying from Wick air station during wartime?". Even after 48 years had passed, the least I can say is, it was scary and lonely because we were hunting for submarines that may have been on or close to the surface. We usually flew from dusk to dawn and seldom saw another aircraft or few ships sailing alone.

While we Canadians were accustomed to having lots of snow during winter, I recall it was rather unusual, at least for me, to have even a brief period of snow during the summer in Wick. You might say that it happens quite often. Having brought my bicycle with me, I remember very well riding it to John O' Groats for the fun of it.

Prior to our crew of six being sent to Wick, we were stationed at a base called Chivenor (near Barnstaple). Our airplane, a "Leigh light" Wellington, was often nicknamed "Wimpy" and had a large search light built into the body. I think it was about a million-candle power and could be lowered to light up the water surface, but only for a very short period of time. We did fly at relatively low altitudes (1500 to 2000 feet) and were of course subject to air turbulence.

Our radar search equipment was the best available during the war, for it did in fact take over control of the aircraft, with the Captain's approval of course, if a blip appeared on the screen. The radar would control the descent, open the bomb doors and drop the depth charges. The Captain could abort all radar control at any time. Most flights were between 10 and 12 hours in length.

Before we were at Wick, and perhaps a reason for our crew being sent there, another aircraft flown by Flt Lt David E Hornell (Canadian) flying from Wick, had been shot down by gunfire from a U-Boat (June 1944). The submarine was however sunk by the depth charges dropped from Hornell's aircraft. Flt Lt Hornell died as a result of this action and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. He is buried in Lerwick Cemetery.