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Wings Over Wick
Mr David Bain, Wick
I joined the RAF in January 1940. I went to Inverness for a medical and was posted straight away to the training centre at Padgate. I did my 6 weeks basic training there before being posted to Blackpool for air technical training to do the job of aircraft fitter. I was there for around 6 months before being posted to Abbotsinch outside Paisley and finally in January 1941, I was posted to my hometown of Wick. We formed the 1406 meteorological unit. It was a small unit at the time - we had to fly beyond Norway to the Arctic Circle to find specific weather readings and temperatures.
We were supplied with Hampden aircraft although they were unsuccessful as they were too small and couldn't carry enough fuel. They were replaced with Lockheed Hudsons which had an extra fuel tank fitted into the fuselage and this gave a longer flying time.
At first, aircraft of our unit, carried no bombs. This was to cut down on weight. This day, one of our crews left Wick in darkness. They went out as far as Noss Head and saw a German submarine sitting on the surface recharging its batteries. The pilot could do nothing. He reported it back but by the time other aircraft got there it had gone. Thereafter the planes always carried some armaments.
On the planes, special instruments for taking the weather readings were fitted outside the cockpit nearest to the navigator. Once back in Wick they were relayed to Pitreavie in Fife which was Coastal Command Headquarters.
My job was to ensure that the engines of the aircraft worked perfectly. There was a 700 form to sign after you did the service. The other trades involved in preparing the aircraft also had to sign this form and then the pilot signed it. There were quite a few aircrew from Canada, New Zealand and Australia at Wick. They were a very helpful bunch and would sometimes muck in and help you more than the English aircrews.
There was also a Spitfire flight at very high altitude above the airfield to collect readings. Flight Lt Rickaby was one of the pilots. He was a well-known jockey and used to take the Spitfire down to Newmarket for the races.
I finally left Wick in 1944 when I went to Tain, although the 519 Met Squadron stayed on at Wick.