RAF Leuchars sees 93-year-old veteran fly again

Former Catalina pilot, 94-year-old John Cruickshank VC. Picture: Getty

Former Catalina pilot, 94-year-old John Cruickshank VC. Picture: Getty

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A 93-year-old RAF veteran who was awarded the Victoria Cross during the Second World War returned to the skies above Leuchars today in a model of the aircraft he used to pilot.

John Cruickshank, from Aberdeen, is the only RAF veteran living in Scotland to have the highest military honour for valour in the face of the enemy.

He was welcomed to RAF Leuchars in Fife by station commander Air Commodore Gerry Mayhew ahead of Scotland’s largest airshow due to take place this weekend.

Air Commodore Mayhew told Mr Cruickshank it was an honour to meet him before the veteran boarded the Catalina flying boat, one of the aircraft to feature in the Leuchars Airshow 2013.

The crew took Mr Cruickshank on a 20 minute round trip flight to Dundee, bringing a smile to the veteran’s face.

On July 17 1944, on his 48th mission, Flying Officer Cruickshank was captain and pilot of a Catalina flying boat when he spotted an enemy submarine during a patrol in waters close to the Arctic Circle.

He made an attack on the U-boat but his depth charges failed to drop, despite losing the element of surprise he decided to return for a second time, facing enemy fire, and managed to sink his target.

One member of his crew was killed and three injured including himself. He received 72 injuries including two serious wounds to his lungs and 10 to his legs.

Mr Cruickshank said: “It was just normal, we were trained to do the job and that was it.

“I wouldn’t like to say I’m the only one that has an amazing story, there are plenty of other stories coming from that time.

“It wasn’t that wonderful in those days I can tell you that. We could only think in those days there were better days to come.”

This year’s airshow is the 65th Battle of Britain at Home Day to be held at RAF Leuchars and is the last event of its kind to take place at the base before it transitions from the RAF to Army.

Air Commodore Mayhew said: “This is not the end of the Royal Air Force in the central belt or even in Scotland. So we will be looking at opportunities next year that we can fill if Leuchars Airshow is not here.”

“It is a special airshow for me and those in uniform. It is an opportunity for us to say thank you to everybody in Scotland who supported us through out our whole history here and start the hand off to the army who will start moving in next year and into 2015.”

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