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Wings Over Wick
John Telfer, Baillieston, Glasgow
We were not very happy at the idea of going to Wick, the main reason being leave. The normal practise at most RAF Stations was 7 days leave every 3 months, but at Wick, being so far away and the travelling time involved, one only got leave every 6 months. Of course we got 14 days, but it seemed a long time to wait for leave, also no weekend passes were granted as you couldn't go anywhere for a weekend.
The three of us were with 214 squadron Coastal Command. They were involved with Air Sea Rescue, and Patrols over the North Sea. The aircraft we serviced were Lockheed Hudsons. I remember attending a funeral of a German flier who had been picked up in the North Sea. Although he was one of the enemy, the occasion was still sad, I wonder if his grave is still in the cemetery at Wick.
When John, George and I arrived at Wick, the camp was overcrowded, so we were housed with people in the town. We lived with an old couple, Mr & Mrs Webster in Cairndhuna Terrace. Mr & Mrs Webster's grandson Billy lived with them, I think he was about 8 or 9 years old. Some nights we played Lotto (Bingo its called now) to help amuse Billy. Three other airmen lived with us, the Government were not very generous, they paid only 6d (2.5 pence) for each airman. We only slept there, and got all our meals at the camp, the RAF provided our beds and blankets, but each night Mrs Webster gave us a cup of tea and a biscuit, and the same each morning before setting off to the camp. The 6 of us gave them 2/6d each (12.5 pence) every week to help to thank them for their kindness. They were very good to us.
George McDermid had been given an address in Saltoun Street, where his cousin had lived on holiday, and she had suggested that he should pay them a visit. One night George and I, not having anything to do, we knocked on Mrs McDonald's door, and the door was answered by her daughter Margaret, who told us that her mother was next door visiting her two sisters, Mrs Gibson who was a widow and Elizabeth Sutherland. Margaret was her niece of course and as she called her Aunt Liz, we called her Aunt Liz too. Mrs McDonald also had a daughter called Nan. We were invited in and made very welcome and had a lovely tea with lots of home baking, so from then on John, George and I used to visit them 2 or 3 times a week, and each time, we had to alternate between the houses. We would play cards some nights, but not for money, and always finished up as usual with a lovely tea. I remember one night, it was my 21st birthday. John Thomson had been sent a cake by his wife, so he suggested we take it to Mrs McDonald's to celebrate my birthday.
About the middle of December, I, along with 40 other airmen, was sent from Wick to be posted elsewhere. I will tell you about an incident that happened 28 years after I was at Wick. My wife and I, and daughter Gwen were camping on a site at Brora, and one day we decided to drive up to Wick to see the Glass Factory. While we were there, I suggested that we call at Saltoun Street, I expected that Mrs McDonald or Mrs Gibson would still be there, but Aunt Liz seemed to be very old in 1941. Anyway Mrs McDonald's door had no name on it, so I looked at the next door which had Sutherland on it. So I knocked on the door and an old lady opened it. I explained that I was looking for Mrs McDonald. "Oh, that was my sister, she died 17 years ago", I realised then that this was Aunt Liz, and I said "You are Aunt Liz", she said "Yes, and you are the boy we had a birthday party for in 1941". I was stunned that she had remembered after all that time. Of course we were invited in and had tea with her.
My first impressions of Wick were soon changed by the kindness of the people, especially in Saltoun Street and Cairndhuna Terrace.