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Wings Over Wick Index

Wings Over Wick
1939 - 1945

Mr E A Holt, Flint, Clwyd
Before the start of World War 2,  I was working for the Bristol Aeroplane Company and prior to 1937 they had a few 'outside reps' and in the following war I believe it was recognised that the RAF would not have the numbers of skilled men to cope with repairs and modification to their aircraft if hostilities broke out. At some level of government, a decision was made to set up a CRO (Civilian Repair Organisation).  So my company, along with all other aircraft manufacturers started to recruit experienced personnel from their workforces to expand their 'service departments'.

My first posting to Wick was my first visit to Scotland and lasted from September 3rd to December 2nd 1940 and unlike many other airfields it was a change to find the station on the edge of the town. Being the first CWP (Contractors Working Party) we had no contacts for lodgings; I stayed with Mrs E Harper at 5 Willowbank and my colleagues were at Nos. 92 and 116 as well as No 18 and 22 Henrietta Street.

I doubt if 5 Willowbank exists as the flat that I knew; the building was old then and had some inconveniences e.g. the bathroom was across the landing and hot water boiled in kettles and pans had to be carried across to the bath. Because of the time of year and the nature of our work I did not see a great deal of the town in daylight except when aircraft were away on ops and not available, we walked to town and the fish harbour.

Normally, because much of our time was spent in draughty hangars or out in the open, we would sort out a warm hotel or pub as a meeting place, but with a 'dry' town this was not on. (I tried the local shebeen a couple of times but didn't like the atmosphere).

We were grateful for the ship chandlers store in the High Street; the weather was bleak and I made my first purchase of 'long johns' it was so cold, and the owner wasn't a hard man if we were a few clothing coupons short. Our company recognised the extreme working conditions and to our surprise and pleasure sent up a crate from Leuchars with raincoats, leggings, gum boots and souwesters.

Fifteen 'postings' later and still with my special pass to get on the train at Perth (everywhere above Perth was a restricted area), we arrived at Wick on August 30th 1943 for a stay that turned out to be until November 8th.

I think all 16 of us went back to our previous 'digs' and a local got us a contact with a local trader who did a door-delivery service of bottled beer from Thurso, and we spent many hours playing cards; I cannot recall there being any incentive to go out into the weather and blackout conditions unless it was essential.

Almost every clear weather morning between 10 and 11, the station air-raid warning siren would wail but few took any notice because it was only an enemy PRU aircraft, too high up to be hit with anything, and it became a standard phrase to dismiss the siren as "itís only weather willy".