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Wings Over Wick
|J Owen-King, West Sussex
Lots of different squadrons served at Wick during the war but I can only deal with my own, which was No 269 (General Reconnaissance) squadron Coastal Command.
If ever there was a 'Scottish' regular squadron at the outbreak of war then this was one. After reforming in the south in December 1936, 269 squadron immediately went to Abbotsinch, near Glasgow, which was its main base until posted to Wick, via Montrose, in October 1939. This resulted in the ground staff, up to the early months of 1941, having a large proportion of Scots in its makeup. It even had a squadron pipe band! The aircrew was a mixture of UK types with a handful of pilots from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The aircraft were originally Avro Ansons to be replaced early in 1940 by Lockheed Hudsons - both twin engined and both carrying a crew of 4 - and 2 pigeons. The two pigeons - ah, they were lifesavers. If you came down far away in the sea and were afloat in your rubber dinghy, unable to wireless back for help, then you released a pigeon to fly back to its loft in Wick with a message giving your position, so that a boat could come to the rescue.
What was it like in Wick? Well, alas, I can't be of much help here, since when I arrived in June 1941 most of the squadron had already departed to Iceland, and I was only there for about two weeks before flying in the last Hudson to leave Wick to join them. However, one lasting memory of Wick was - GETTING THERE! Four of us new pilots started from London by train, and having got as far as Inverness found we still had about 8 hours to go before reaching Wick. Finally, something else we found unique, to our astonishment Wick was a "dry town".