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Wings Over Wick Index

Wings Over Wick
1939 - 1945

G Angus,  Leven, Fife

Early in the war, 1941, I was posted to Wick as an electrician. Though I was posted to Wick I spent most of my stay near Thurso and at Dunnet Head. I found that my work was not to do directly with aircraft. The day after my arrival a sergeant took me to an area where I saw several RAF trucks, a tractor and a tall strange looking vehicle. "Ever driven a tractor?" the sergeant asked me. "This is the closest I've ever been to one," I replied.

Mr Angus then received some practise at pulling a heavy wheeled apparatus with the tractor before receiving the keys to this unusual object.

My next task was to be the more complicated one. "The station adjutant gave me those keys with the instructions that they were to be passed to you and I was to impress upon you that you have to take care of them.  Mention to no one that you have them and if you lose them, look out" said the sergeant in a very earnest voice.  "These keys are for that hunk of apparatus you have been towing.  The orders are that you open it up, study everything in it and report to the adjutant on Thursday, that's in three days time, and keep all this to yourself".

The next two days I spent opening everything up, studying how the thing worked.  There was an engine, which drove a generator, which supplied electricity, which by operating switches lit up the neon tubes in the plastic tower on top.  I finished up by giving everything a really good clean. Thursday came and according to orders I made my way to the office and asked to see the adjutant.

The same sergeant I had met before took me in immediately.  After saluting the adjutant smartly, I was asked to sit down. "I have your records here and note that you were first equal out of forty in the examinations following your electricians course at Henlow.  It is because of your record that I have decided to give you this responsibility. You have checked over the beacon and tested it?   Are you satisfied that you understand it? "It isn't difficult to start up and run up to voltage and light the tubes, sir," I replied, "but a switch on the board starts a spindle turning in the small compartment at the rear and I don't know what it is meant to do".

"Good" said the adjutant, as he pulled open his desk drawer "this is what is missing" and held up a round disc. "You will notice that there are indentations around the edge".  He held out the disc to me. It was about 20cms in diameter, three millimetres thick and had a series of indentations around its circumference.  The indentations I noticed were not the same, some were long, some were short. It dawned on me suddenly the meaning of this. "I see you understand now" said the adjutant. "Yes" I replied "if this is put onto the spindle I mentioned and the spring loaded switch arm I noticed drops into these long and short notches it will cause the tubes to flash Morse Code".

"You've got it and from now on you are in charge of what we call our flashing beacon.  You will be given a disc, a map of where to go with the beacon, instructions on how long to stay, when to stop and start flashing each night and when to return. Each time you return it will be to change the disc and receive fresh instructions.  That disc you have is the first one.  Keep it out of sight, fit it on the beacon and remember to lock the cabinet and keep the keys on your person".  "Thank you Sir, I'll take care of it" said I as I slipped the disc under my tunic. "There's more to come" he continued "Wherever you go a furniture van will follow you.  Aboard it will be two armed airmen, cooking utensils, food and bedding.  You are in charge.  These airmen will help you in any way you wish.  They will take turns on guard during the night and wake you should the beacon fail in any way which I hope it won't."  So that was my job.  Most of the time was spent near Thurso and Dunnet Head.  On many nights all through the winter our beacon flashed different code letters at different times.  I never learned the true reason for it. There were Lockheed Hudsons in the area.   Could we be guiding them back after missions to Norway?   I will never know.