How the wartime RAF cre­ated mod­ern Scots fly­ing

The Herald - - NEWS - DAVID LEASK

THE war was just weeks old. Bri­tain – and its Royal Air Force – was braced for an aerial at­tack that never quite came. Then Ger­man bombers ar­rived over the Loth­i­ans.

The Bat­tle of the Forth Bridge – the se­ries of dog­fights be­tween Spit­fires and Junkers and Heinkel over the rail­way cross­ing on Oc­to­ber 16, 1939 – was the first time shots were fired in anger in Scot­land’s skies. It ended with two bombers downed and 11 UK ser­vice­men killed as ships of the Royal Navy were bombed in the Firth.

The Bat­tle for Bri­tain, the RAF’S “finest hour”, did not re­ally be­gin un­til the next sum­mer. The first Scot­tish civil­ian killed in the war lost his life in an air raid on Orkney the fol­low­ing March. But those early skir­mishes over the Forth when the “Phoney War” was still be­ing waged un­der­line the last ef­fect the RAF has had on Scot­land. Why? Well, the Spit­fire squadron scram­bled was 602, the City of Glas­gow, was orig­i­nally based at RAF Ab­botsinch then at RAF Turn­house.

We have new names for those old sta­tions: we call them Glas­gow and Ed­in­burgh air­ports. Ever won­dered when you set off on hol­i­days why our main hubs are where they are? Be­cause they were bases.

The RAF has grad­u­ally with­drawn from Scot­land, though it keeps Typhoon fast fighters at Lossiemouth on the Mo­ray coast. Yet it has left an in­deli­ble foot­print in the very shape of Scot­tish civil avi­a­tion.

Aberdeen Air­port, though ini­tially dreamt up as com­mer­cial air­field, was RAF Dyce. In­ver­ness Air­port was RAF Dal­cross. And not just in our big cities. Vis­it­ing Tiree? Wick? Camp­bel­town? Orkney? Shet­land? Lewis? Ben­bec­ula? If you fly, you will land at an old air force sta­tion. The RAF made an on-the-ground dif­fer­ence.

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