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Wings Over Wick
Peter Rackliff, Wokingham, Berks
I myself flew with squadron no. 518 and we were based on the Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides. However right on the end of the war the entire Fortress aircraft of 519 squadron were grounded temporarily, because some metal corrosion had been discovered in the tail spar of one or two of this type of aircraft, also known as the B17. This was in the summer of 1945. The RAF decided to send 6 Halifax MkIII aircraft and their crews from 518 squadron at Tiree to Wick. These crews had to fly RECIPE sortie for the next few months, because 519 squadron was non-operational. And so I came to Wick for a very pleasant summer. My memory of the town in 1945 is somewhat hazy, but I remember enjoying swimming in the outdoor pool, also the regular dances, which were held in the Rifle Hall on a Friday or Saturday night. I also remember that although we flew the 'topleg'(at 18,000 ft) just inside the Arctic Circle, on the RECIPE, these were some of the warmest trips I ever did. (I used to freeze over the North Atlantic.)
It is rather strange that your request should have arisen a week after the dedication of "The Halsary Memorial". This memorial was erected to the memory of those who died when a Fortress aircraft (Z9-A) of 519 squadron crashed on return from a 10-hour RECIPE sortie. The date was 1st February 1945, whilst circling Wick Airfield in a snowstorm, the crew lost radio contact and the aircraft crashed on the moors to the west of Wick at Halsary.
I came up from Woking for the ceremony on August 29th and was privileged in being able to take part. I read a brief statement describing the work of the Met squadrons in WW2 (and in particular 519 squadron at Wick) and was also able to read the "Ode to 519 Squadron" which I composed in July. The last two lines are engraved on the brass plate, which forms part of the memorial.
"We shall remember those who flew -
Beyond the storms, into the sunset."