A SPECIAL exhibition will be opened tomorrow at the start of the celebrations to the mark the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Britain’s first operational military airfield on the Angus coast.
The Royal Flying Corps set up its first air station at Montrose on 26 February, 1913. And an exhibition, charting the history of the airfield - “Montrose’s Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” - will be officially opened at the air station’s museum by Councillor Helen Oswald, the Provost of Angus, who will be accompanied by RAF airmen from 2 Squadron – the first squadron to be based at Montrose
Councillor Oswald said: “It is a true honour to be asked to be asked to open this exhibition. In Angus, we are rightly proud of the ancient history of our county but this is an opportunity to celebrate our more recent – but equally fascinating - history by commemorating the pilots and aircraft of Montrose Air Station.
“The pilots, aircraft and support staff of Montrose Air Station, and the debt we owe them for their sacrifices in the lead up to and during both World Wars, should be remembered at all times – and especially throughout 2013, the 100th anniversary of the air station.”
Alan Doe, chair of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, said: “This exhibition will provide a fascinating insight into the history of Montrose Air Station, Britain’s first operational military airfield.
“The station was set up by the Royal Flying Corps’ 2 Squadron in February 1913 and was one of the main training centres for Britain’s World War l and World War ll pilots, as well as being a major air station during both World Wars.
“Montrose Air Station played a highly-significant part in the history of flight and the First and Second World Wars but it was at risk of being forgotten. However, thanks to the efforts of our dedicated team of volunteers and funding from, amongst others, Heritage Lottery Fund and Angus Council, Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre now tells the story of the base, the men and women who were stationed there and the aircraft that flew in the skies above Montrose when the station was operational.”
He added: “This exhibition launches our programme of special events commemorating 100 years of Montrose Air Station. Over the next few months, we expect thousands of people from across the UK and beyond to come along to Montrose Museum and to visit Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre.”
The exhibition features personal letters from pilots who trained at the base to their loved ones, original RAF uniforms and accounts of Spitfires flying off across the North Sea to protect Britain from German bombers.
It also features a diorama providing a miniature 3D aerial view of Montrose Air Station as it was in 1940 and the cross from the grave in France of a British pilot who trained at Montrose and was killed in action in 1917.
During the First World War Montrose was primarily used as a training base for pilots heading for the Western Front and served as a fighter squadron base and training facility during the Second World War.
The bodies of many of the pilots who died on training flight are buried in Montrose’s cemeteries and the the airfield is reputed to be one of the most haunted place in Britain. It is said to be haunted by the ghost of Lieutenant Desmond Arthur of the Royal Flying Corps, who was killed in 1913 when his biplane crashed at nearby Lunan Bay.
Three years ago an old radio at the museum - filled with cobwebs and with no power and no aerial - began broadcasting “phantom” speeches by Winston Churchill and music by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Allies’ favourite band during the Second World War.