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Wings Over Wick Index

Wings Over Wick
1939 - 1945
Met Flights

F Vaisey, Moulton, Northants

I, a young 18 year old, spent a happy, though hard working and dangerous time at Wick. No 519 Squadron was attached to the Coastal Command of the Royal Air Force. When I first joined the squadron as a Navigator/Met Air Observer we flew in twin engined Lockheed Hudsons - very heavy under-powered planes which were prone to crash. However we later flew in four engined Boeing B17E's - the Flying Fortress, a much safer and steadier aircraft. One could say that they were the Great Grandparents of the present Jumbo Jets.

Our job on 519 was threefold: -

1. To spot and locate German shipping - surface shipping - off the coast of Norway.

2. To look for German submarines on route from Keil and other German ports to the Atlantic via the Denmark Strait etc and around the Faroes etc.

3. To make observations of the weather, sending back reports for the weathermen to interpret, in order to forecast the weather for the Bomber raids over Germany.

We had two regular runs - as they were called, the first; leaving Wick we crossed to the Coast of Norway then turned North running a few miles off the coast, (looking for coasters etc) then changed course to the westward, out into the open sea (submarine patrol) towards Iceland, then south back to base at Wick. These flights were 10 to 12 hours long sometimes up to 14 hours and cold - I remember on one occasion the thermometer read minus 57degF, we were well inside the Arctic Circle and a few thousand feet above the sea.

Our second run took us to off the coast of Denmark then south along the German and Dutch coasts turning to the west landing at Langham in Norfolk. After staying overnight we did the reverse trip the following day. The object was to make a final check on the weather etc. for the bombers that evening.

We carried Depth Charges to attack the submarines but could only report back by radio the positions of surface shipping (E boats etc) to the Navy for them to deal with, sometimes other aircraft were sent out to strafe and bomb them.

As we spent most of our time flying or sleeping, we did not have much time to spend in town. About every month we were allowed "Aircrew leave" and then went home to see our parents. The Commanding Officer would lay on an aircraft to fly us south to London or near London but we had to make our way back by train. It used to take me 24-36 hours from Bristol where l was then living - the journey from Inverness to Wick could take onwards of 8 hours.

Some weekends, when we were off call, we went to the local Dance Hall, it was called the "Breadalbane" I think, I learned the Eightsome Reel there. When we got a full day off we used to cycle to the Old Man of Wick, just south of the town.

It was a long time ago but being a Navigator I can, even now, remember all the indentations in the coastline from Duncansby Head to Lybster. I often think of flying in over Dunnet or Duncansby Head grateful that I have made landfall and got the crew back.