- RAF Wick during the Second World War -
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The airfield at Wick was opened in 1933, originally a grass strip airfield used by Captain E. E. Fresson's Highland Airways Ltd. (later Scottish Airways Ltd.)
In 1939 it was taken over by the Air Ministry and hard runways were constructed along with hangars and other buildings. Wick, along with its satellite airfield at Skitten, was administered by No. 18 Group, R.A.F. Coastal Command whose headquarters were at Pitreavie, Fife.
The first R.A.F. Squadron to be based at Wick, was No. 269 Sqn. flying Avro Ansons, arriving in October 1939 from Montrose. The crews of Wick's Ansons soon became well known to the lighthouse keepers in the Orkneys as they dropped Newspapers and magazines to the isolated men.
Squadrons Based at RAF Wick
- No. 43 Squadron. 26 Feb 1940 to 31 May 1940
- No. 111 Squadron.
- No. 269 Squadron.
November 1939 Coastal Command
26th Feb 1940
16th Aprl 1940
30th May 1940 Move to Scotland
31st May 1940
5th June 1940 On the Move
21st June 1940
26th June 1940
3rd Sept 1940 Rest period
6th Jan 1942 On the Move
23rd Sept 1942
February 1943 Exercise
4th Apr 1944 Preparations
1st Jun 1944 Doodlebugs
6th Jun 1944 In Support
If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.
Those known to have served at
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Best Robert.
- Carter . LAC.
- Carter Lesley. LAC.
- Fawcett Robert. Sgt.
- Finfer Leslie Maurice. Sgt. (d.28th August 1943)
- Holmes Winifred.
- Hornell VC. David Ernest. F/Lt. (d.24 June 1944)
- Hunter Douglas Chisholm. Pilot Officer (d.7th Jan 1942)
- Kinden Richard Frederick. Captain
- King Edward.
- Langley John.
- Marwood Douglas.
- Reich Douglas Gordon. Flt.Lt.
- Rusher Francis James.
- Walker David F. . F/Lt.
- Wyche . Frank. W/O
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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Edward "Ginger" King 48 SquadronI was a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner on Ansons flying Coastal Command out of Wick. I married WAAF Winifred Holmes, ambulance driver and chief's car driver. Does anyone know me, Win or of the whereabouts of Bob Best?Ted King
W/O Frank Wyche 269 SquadronMy Father, Frank Wyche was in the RAF and based in Wick and Reykjavik during 1941 to 1944. He was an Air Observer and Navigator. He developed TB in Iceland and was sent back to England. He died in 1946, when I was less than 2 years old. There are no family left to tell me anything about his time in the war, so I am hoping that someone will read this and be able to tell me what the RAF were doing there at this time.B Margetson
Pilot Officer Douglas Chisholm "Pym" Hunter 48 Squadron (d.7th Jan 1942)My uncle Douglas Chisholm Hunter was based in Wick with 48 Squadron. He was killed in action and my grandmother (who lost two brothers killed in action in WW1) thought that Douglas had been killed on a bombing raid over Bergen, Norway. As my father, his brother, died in 1956 and their sister died in 2006 I am now trying to find out as much as I can about Douglas. He went to Highgate School in North London. I have a few pictures of him as a young boy but nothing else.Matthew Hunter
Captain Richard Frederick Kinden Royal Warwicks/East SurreysPOW transferred from Italy, having been taken prisoner in North Africa at Fort McGregor. Claims to have ended up in Offlag 79 but we can find no record of him there. Still alive and, though in failing health, wishes to clarify the records.Joanna McMahon nee Kinden
Francis James Rusher Royal Warwickshire RegimentI am trying to trace anyone who knew my grandad, Francis Rusher or knows what happened to him after the war.
After years of searching for a dead person, as that is what my nan had always told my dad, I have recently found out that he was a prisoner of war at Stalag 357 A/5 in Oerbke, Lower Saxony. He was liberated, so we now know he did not actually die during the war.
We would like any information regarding him as we do not know his age, where he came from etc. His prisoner of war number was 84063. I would be grateful of any information, no matter how small or large.Sharron Beale
LAC. Lesley Carter 540 Squadron.My brother, 921542 L.A.C. Lesley Carter, served with 540 Squadron at Wick. Before he passed on he told me he was attached to a section commanded by the son of the owner of Ilford Film Co. which consisted of two Spitfires that were stripped down fitted with extra fuel tanks and a camera, he told me the Germans had nothing to touch them. He also said the Ilford Company petitioned for these special planes but were refused as production for fighters had priority so the the film company bought and paid for the equipment needed.
I am searching for other photographs of this period at Wick that I know exists. The reason I am sending these photographs is because there is no mention of Spitfires flying from that station and there must be many who would have personal photographs of this small group of men.Geoffrey Carter
Flt.Lt. Douglas Gordon Reich Photographic 2 Operational SquadronDouglas Reich was a 17-year-old lad from Worsley, Manchester when war was declared. After volunteering for the RAF at 18, he was sailing on the Liberty Ship “The George F Eliott” in March 1942 when it was diverted to New York to avoid U. Boat attacks, so he took the train to Montreal. He was posted to No 5 Elementary Flying Training School at Windsor Mills, Flying Fleet Finch Mk. 2. After 5 hours and 20 minutes duel instruction, he took his first solo flight and finished the course with 65 hours flying time. He was then posted to No 13 Service Flying Training School at St Huberts, 100 miles from Montreal, to fly Harvards. After 2 weeks, his instructor was badly injured and his pupil killed, so he got a new instructor F/O Thompson. Towards the end of the course, Reich belly landed the plane after the engine caught fire, but finished the course and was awarded his commission. He returned from Canada in December 1942 with 220 hours flying time and then went to Tern Hill, Shropshire, England on refresher courses flying Miles Master and Kestrels.
In 1943 he went to an operational training unit at Hawarden, North Wales, to fly Mustang Mk I, - single seater fighter planes - and in May, was posted to No 2 Operational Squadron, an Army co-op squadron, at Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, to fly low-level photography reconnaissance missions. He photographed the French coast before D-Day, VI rocket sites and Pegasus bridge in Normandy to see if it could carry Allied tanks. On June 15th 1944, at 08.00hrs he was briefed to lead a section to attack the ferry boats that were taking German troops across the River Seine. The ferry was allowing them to get to the beachhead much quicker than by road.
He took off from Gatwick Aerodrome about 8.40am to attack the ferry boats transporting troops across the River Seine. At a place called Caudebec, he saw a ferry on the bank and blasted it with his four 20mm cannons. He pulled up, turned and fired on another ferry on the opposite bank then turned back over the river. Doing well over 300mph and flying very low, he crashed in to the Seine at Caudebec.
He floated in the river for 5 hours before being picked up unconscious by a French fishing boat crew who handed him over to the Germans. Regaining consciousness in a French cottage hospital about 10 hours later, he awoke as a Prisoner of War. It was a miracle he survived with only bruising, concussion and a broken ankle, although he had also burst all the blood vessels in his eyes! This is due to the fact that he had given his ‘Mae West’ inflatable lifejacket a few lungfuls of air before take-off. He had done this in case a crash ever burned his hands and he couldn’t hold and blow into his mouthpiece while in water. But the crash’s cause remains a mystery. Says Doug: “The only thing I can think of is that I’d been flying too low, put a wing tip in the water and cartwheeled in.” He spent weeks in hospitals and was interrogated in Frankfurt where his Scottish name had sparked confusion. “When I was being interrogated in Frankfurt beforehand, the interrogator looked at my name, blue eyes and fair hair and thought I was German. I said ‘I am not! All my relatives come from the Glamis area of Scotland.’ Reich was probably misspelt in the 1700s.”
He was sent to Stalag Luft I in July 1944 on Germany’s Baltic coast at a small town named Barth, near to Stettin where he spent the last 11 months of the war. Its sister camp, Stalag Luft III, inspired the Great Escape film, although no one escaped from Doug’s camp while he was there.
Conditions in the camp were tough but inmates got Red Cross parcels from Britain and the US to stave off starvation. Under captivity, however, he did develop acute appendicitis. A fellow POW and doctor removed the organ by torchlight during an air raid.
Doug survived and prisoners learnt about the end of the war by listening to a secret hidden radio in the camp hospital. In May, 1945, Stalag Luft I was liberated by the Russians. The mood, of course, brightened with unexpected perks. He said: “A day or so later, a Russian Colonel visited our camp and decided we needed some fresh meat. So he sent a very drunk soldier who drove a herd of cows through our gate. It was very funny.”
On May 13, 1945, a fleet of American Flying Fortresses evacuated all RAF personnel. Doug returned to England left the RAF in 1946 and got a job as a newspaper photo engraver in Manchester. He married Sheila in 1948 and had a son and a daughter and currently (2009) have three grandchildren and a great grandchild.Elizabeth Whyman
John Langley 630 SquadronPart of a letter written by John Langley in May 2008.
I have been reliving old memories and I can’t get them out of my mind. First of all, I have landed at both Manston and Gatwick and for the life of me I cannot understand why Gatwick was developed rather than Manston. When I touched down at Gatwick, it was a grass field, ie NO runways, whereas Manston had a huge runway which was so wide that when I took off using the left hand side of the runway a squadron of Spitfires was doing a formation landing on the same runway at the same time. Admittedly I did not like it, but it illustrates the size of the runway.
Additionally, the place is, in my opinion, much better suited than either Gatwick or Heathrow (another grassy field in those days), most particularly from the point of noise pollution, to say nothing of the fact that the circuit above Heathrow is over the most densely populated area of the country.
But the reason why Manston is the place I remember so well is this: When I joined the squadron at East Kirkby, at first I had to fly whatever aircraft was not being used by its "owner" as I had to wait until a new plane was delivered (we were allocated an aircraft and the associated ground crew, but until one came there was always a crew on leave or, as happened to me, I was given the CO’s kite as of course he didn’t fly every op. When eventually I got my brand new Lancaster it was a Mark 2, the only one on the airfield. It differed from the Mark Ones by having Packard-built Merlins with Stromberg carburettors, which unfortunately no one knew anything about. As a result, it was very troublesome and eventually it was "posted" to an OTU while I was on leave.
I was given the letter A Able, which was rather nice. By this time I had flown about a dozen different lettered planes, including S Sugar, which was the dual-controlled kite used for training and was universally detested as being a real old crock. One day, we were told that come what may with the weather (awful), Churchill had insisted a raid must take place, regardless of the consequences. We were going to Munich and were routed over the Alps. When the time came to take off, the cloud base was under 500 feet, it was raining cats and dogs and to crown it all, the wind direction meant we had to use the shortest of the three runways. About two-thirds of the take-off run, when it was impossible to stop, one of the engines caught fire and the flight engineer stopped it, feathered the prop, and operated the fire extinguisher button. I managed to get airborne on the other three engines, but we were unable to get high enough to fly over the Alps and another engine was overheating, so I had to turn back.
The weather at East Kirkby was too bad for landing, so we made our way to the main emergency strip at Manston, where we landed safely. A van with the ‘follow me’ light led us to our parking place and after reporting the forced landing to the squadron, we went to bed.
Don’t have page 2 of the letter, but apparently, they got up next morning to the shock of a badly damaged Lanc where they’d parked theirs, before realising it was another plane that had come in during the night.A. Langley
Douglas Marwood 227 Sqd.My late father Douglas Marwood was a crew member of stricken a RAF Lancaster bomber PB649.K that crash landed at Wick early in the morning of 22nd December 1944. The aircraft was badly damaged and losing fuel after a raid on Politz. The aircraft was based at RAF Balderton, Nottingham and belonged to 227 Squadron. The aircraft was guided back to Wick by a Scottish female controller and the plane landed, narrowly missing a torpedo dump. The aircraft was a write-off with no fatalities.
The crew spent 5 days at Wick and had a very enjoyable Christmas. In the words of a New Zealander pilot Mervyn Croker: "we were treated at a bit of a novelty at Wick and thoroughly spoilt". I wonder has anyone any information about these unexpected Christmas guests?
The crew consisted of:
- Flying Officer M.R. Croker (NZ426913)
- Sgt. V Mitchell
- Flying Officer S.J. Pirt
- Flight Sgt. D Marwood
- Warrant Officer W.A. Henshaw (NZ181638)
- SGT. J.P. Wilcox
- Sgt. W.J WilliamsJennifer Godfrey
F/Lt. David F. Walker 608 sqdThe Norfolk cricketer David Walker who was stationed at R.A.F. Thornaby in 1941 6 OTU then 608 Squadron Early the following year he and 608 were transferred to Wick. He died early in 1942 when his plane was shot down off the Norwegian coast. He is buried in Trondhiem. If you have any information about his time at Thornaby or Wick, I would be most grateful.Andrew Dawson
Sgt. Robert Fawcett 220 SqdMy father, Sgt. Robert Fawcett, W/OP or T/Gun. with 220 Squadron, based at Thornaby,1940/41, was reported missing June 1941, flying out of Wick. My mother Margaret Dixon, and was originally from Halton, Lancs. I was born after Bob was lost, and would love to hear from anyone who may have come into contact with him during his service.Ann Wright
Sgt. Leslie Maurice Finfer 519 Sqn (d.28th August 1943)Maurice Finfer was my cousin. He volunteered for the RAF hoping to become a pilot. He duly did so going to Canada or pilot training. After passing out as a pilot he was assigned to bombers, something he apparently objected to. So, he was stripped of his pilots rate, and retrained as a navigator/gunner/radio operator.
He was then posted to 519 Sqn at Wick, Scotland. Where his duties included meteorological reporting and searching for enemy submarines and surface shipping over the North Sea up into the Arctic. They were flying very old and worn out Hampton mk3s. On the 28/08/43 he took off and was never seen again. There were several other losses around this time. If anyone has any further info on this please get in touchRon Snowball
LAC. CarterMy brother served in the RAF between 1940-1948. His identity was No 921542, L.A.C. Carter and I understand that he serviced Spitfires for reconnaisance from Wick. I possess a few photographs of him from this period and I would like to learn more of their activities.Mr G. Carter
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