Commemorating Montrose’s Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines!
To mark the start of Montrose Air Station’s centenary year, the volunteers who run the restored military base’s heritage centre are currently putting the finishing touches to a new exhibition which will run from February 23 until April 14 at Montrose Museum, Panmure Place, Montrose, Angus.
“This exhibition will provide a fascinating insight into the history of Montrose Air Station, Britain’s first operational military airfield,” explained Alan Doe, chair of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre. “Montrose Air 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,” continued Alan. “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, revealed that the exhibition at Montrose Museum will include several of the fascinating artefacts which are normally on display at the Heritage Centre – and a few very special additions... “The exhibition 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.”
Other highlights of the exhibition include a unique 16 foot by 5½ foot lace panel depicting scenes from the Battle of Britain. “As well as being of historical interest, this is a beautiful work of art,” said Dr Paton, who added that there will also be a ‘diorama’ providing a miniature 3D aerial view of Montrose Air Station as it was in 1940. “The Robertson Cross will also be on display. This is the cross from the grave in France of a British pilot who trained at Montrose and was killed in action in 1917.”
In addition, there will be the first public viewing of a clock which was recently donated to Montrose Air Station. “This clock was made by an engine fitter at the base, Leading Aircraftsman Taylor,” said Dr Paton. “After carrying out an engine repair, LAC Taylor accompanied the pilot on the test flight. However, the pilot flew too low over Montrose, clipped the railway signalling hut and crashed.
“Luckily, both men survived and, as a memento, LAC Taylor made the plane’s propeller into a clock, which we are delighted to be able to display at the exhibition alongside photographs of the crash.”
Montrose Air Station Centenary Exhibition will be formally opened on February 23 by the Provost of Angus, Mrs Helen Oswald. The Provost will be accompanied by RAF airmen from 2 Squadron – the first squadron to be based at Montrose Air Station. “2 Squadron left when war broke out in 1914, never to return – until now,” said Dr Paton. “This will be their chance to pick up the kit they left behind!”
For more information about Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, and the exciting programme of events which will commemorate Montrose Air Station’s centenary throughout 2013, visit www.rafmontrose.org.uk.
Montrose Air Station in 1913 (courtesy of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre)
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