N E W S F E E D S >>>
Wings Over Wick Index

Wings Over Wick
1939 - 1945

James Swanson, Edinburgh
I was stationed in Wick RAF Station from Sept 1940 to June 1944 as an RAF Policeman. We had a guardroom in the centre of the camp (which is still there) where we had two cells for prisoners, i.e. mostly airmen who were given detention for being absent without leave or other minor offences.  Sentences of 30 days or over, were served in Barlinnie prison in Glasgow and these airmen had to be escorted there by two RAF Policemen.

A second guardroom was situated in an unfinished house opposite the school where the police manned a barrier to check all people entering or leaving the camp. (Civilians and Airmen).  General discipline was also part of our duty and the investigation of reported theft or loss of equipment etc.  Airmen confined to camp for minor offences had to report to the guardroom in full kit at a time after their normal duties were over. Airmen going on leave had to show their passes on leaving the camp and on return.  If late on returning they were charged and the policeman charging him had to appear to give evidence before his CO's.  The work generally was similar to that of the civil police except that we were also responsible for discipline both on the camp and off it.

To live in Wick was quite good and for over 2 years I lived out of camp with my wife who liked Wick and we had quite a number of friends among the townsfolk.  When living out we were on civilian rations and could manage quite well. The fishermen would give you fish and one friend used to drop off a puckle when his boat came in.  Eggs we used to collect at the farms and being friendly with the McKenzies at "Old Wick" we used to get a small bottle of cream once a week.

Entertainment was by 2 Cinemas.  Also there was, later on in the war, a camp cinema also used for ENSA Concerts. I remember one where Bernard Miles and John Mills appeared together. (Bernard Miles later became Lord Miles)

I have many memories of crashes during my period of service in Wick.  I think it would be early in 1941 when an aircraft of 612 squadron (City of Aberdeen) crashed onto the moors near Mid Clyth. It was night time and the snow was on the ground. I was with a rescue party that went out and we had to carry the injured on stretchers some way across the moors to the ambulance and with the snow filling the ditches I'm afraid the injured had a rough ride. No one was killed in that crash and one memory was of the Medical Officer with his uniform on top of his pyjamas and a pair of flying boots on his feet.  On his return to the camp he must have worked most of the night attending to the injuries.

On another occasion another plane was passing over Sinclair Bay when it was seen that a man had jumped from the plane by parachute.  He landed in the bay but the parachute landed on top of him and when a fishing boat got to the point he had disappeared. His body was recovered about 6 weeks later and the cords of the parachute were bound round his body. It was never known why he jumped from the plane, which was not one from Wick.  He was a Canadian Sergeant and his body was buried in Wick Cemetery in the war graves section and I think it is still marked there.

Our Sergeant in charge was posted and on Aug 1942 I was promoted Sergeant I/C Police. In Aug 1942, a very misty day at Wick when our planes were grounded because of the weather, I heard that the Civil Police had received a message of what was thought to be a plane crash in the hills near Dunbeath. As we had no aircraft flying and no knowledge of any, it was left to the Civil Police to investigate.

I contacted them and asked if they were going, would they take me with them. They agreed and the Bros Carter and another younger constable (Johnstone, I think was his name) and I drove down to Dunbeath and up into the estate. We were given directions as to where they thought that the crash was and on following the path we met the Doctor. McIntosh or McIntyre (I am not sure of his name but he was around 80 years old at the time) and two others coming down and they told us then, that they were all dead, and one was the Duke of Kent. We got a bit lost in the mist and one of the men who was returning up to the crash, took us to the scene.

The constable and I stayed at the crash site while the others went away to make their report and arrange for a guard to take over.  The aircraft, a Sunderland Flying Boat had taken off earlier that day from Invergordon, on its way to Iceland, but in the mist had cut across too soon and hit the hills.  During a visit earlier this year to a visitors centre near Lybster, I heard that there were rumours that there had been females on board and much booze.  Having spent some 7 or 8 hours beside the wreckage and the dead, I can say there is no truth in such stories.

The only mystery was that we were told there was 13 on board and we had accounted for all 13 and yet the next morning their air gunner was found some distance away, injured but still alive.  We had heard someone calling but two locals who had come up, went out and searched around, saying when they came back, they had heard a call but when shouting back had got no reply. It seems he had been lapsing into unconsciousness and been unable to reply.