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Wings Over Wick Index

Wings Over Wick
1939 - 1945

Douglas Johnston,  Lochgelly, Fife
On coming back to Scapa Flow after a spell on North Atlantic Patrol, the crew of the trawler, Preston North End, were not best pleased to be ordered to sea, as soon as coaling was complete. We were ordered to collect a whaler from base and proceed to North Rona, a lonely, rocky island, north of Cape Wrath and there, salvage a Whitley Bomber, which had crash landed on the uninhabited island. (This Whitley had flown from Wick - the crew were rescued unharmed.)

The island, which was very small and guarded by high cliffs and very heavy seas, is fairly level, after the cliffs are surmounted. The seas were rough the entire journey and as the whaler had to be towed, the two sailors in it who were both former fishermen were seasick and glad to reach Rona. The only place we could land equipment was in a small geo and the ship had to lie off beyond the rocks.

All equipment had to be hauled up the cliffs and this took some time. Before this job was completed, three of us went ashore up the cliffs and looked around. We saw the aircraft but no sign of any crew, in fact the only person we found, was a dead merchant seaman. We thought after his ship had been torpedoed, he had managed to get ashore, up the cliffs and sought shelter in the lee of the ruins of the church. Dismantling the place was a rough and ready matter and when completed, all the pieces had to be lowered to the whaler and rowed out to the ship. The crew enjoyed this trip, a change from our usual.

Our only company on the island were the seals and they were noisy all night and every night. When completed, we returned with our load to Wick where we handed over the salvage to the RAF who attended to the transfer to one of the local airfields. The RAF were very kind to the crew and we had freedom of their canteens. Very welcome when you consider Wick was a "dry" town then.