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Montrose military airfield to celebrate 100 years

Montrose played an important role in the history of the RAF. Picture: PA

Montrose played an important role in the history of the RAF. Picture: PA

  • by FRANK URQUHART
 

A SPECIAL exhibition is to open later this month 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.

• Montrose’s Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines will open on 23 February

• Montrose Air Station was Britain’s first operational military airfield

• The air station was a main training centre for Britain’s World War I and World War II pilots.

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” - is to be opened at the air station’s museum on 23 February 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

Alan Doe, chairmen 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 I and World War II 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.”

Dr Dan Paton, curator of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, said the exhibition would include several of the fascinating artefacts from the station’s proud history.

He explained: “The exhibition also features several items that have been loaned to us especially for the occasion, such as Winkie the Pigeon, who is normally a resident at Dundee’s McManus Art Gallery and Museum.

“During the Second World War, caged pigeons would often be carried in planes so they could fetch help if anything went wrong. Winkie was in a bomber flying from Leuchars when it was hit by enemy fire and went down in the North Sea. On release from her cage, Winkie flew to Broughty Ferry, where she raised the alarm and the crew were saved. In recognition of her bravery, Winkie was awarded the Dicken Medal and, after she died, her body was preserved so future generations would remember her.”

The exhibition will also feature a diorama providing a miniature 3D aerial view of Montrose Air Station as it was in 1940 and the cross from a 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 airfield is said to be one of the most haunted place in Britain. It is reputed 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.

 

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