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RAF Dyce

Airfields were very important in World War II. Dyce Aerodrome opened in 1934. The 1st flight involved 3 passengers who paid to be flown to Glasgow. In October 1939, the Air Ministry took control of the airfield. Originally planes landed on what was a grass field. But the RAF needed proper runways so 3 hard runways were built. 602 and 603 air Squadrons flew from Dyce.

RAF Dyce was home to the Dyce Sector Operations Room and Staff, and the following Squadrons during the Battle of Britain:

No 248 Squadron from 22 May 1940 (Bristol Blenhiems)
248 Squadron moved back to RAF Dyce on the 6th Jan.

No 141 Squadron from 22 October 1940 (Beaufighters)

No 145 Squadron from 31 August 1940 (Hurricanes)

No 1 Squadron from 9 October 1940

165 Squadron Ayr - With the end of the war in Europe, the squadron moved to Dyce to re-equip with Spitfires and prepare for its transfer to Norway in Mid-June. There it provided air defence for 6 months until the Royal Norwegian Air Force had reorganised after its return home from exile. Returning to the UK in January 1946, the squadron disbanded on 1 September 1946, passing its aircraft to No.66 Squadron.

603 Squadron RAF
- Supermarine Spitfires of No. 603 Squadron flew out of Dyce in Scotland on routine Convoy patrols, 4 February 1942. Dyce was also a Coastal Command base and the Fighter Section there was commanded by Group Captain F Crerar.  Squadron Leader David Douglas-Hamilton of 603 (City of Edinburgh) Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron was based at Dyce in 1942 Group 13 had its headquarters at the Blakelaw Estate in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and its commanding officer during the Battle of Britain was Air Vice-Marshal Richard Saul.  Group 13’s sector stations were at Catterick, Usworth, Wick, Dyce and Turnhouse.

F/O Athur Peter P Pease completed his flying training and was posted to No.1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum in late May 1940. He met Richard Hillary there and they became friends. They went to 5 OTU, Aston Down on 23rd June and after converting to Spitfires they joined 603 Squadron at Dyce on 6th July. Pease shared in destroying a He111 on the 30th. He was hit by return fire but returned to Montrose, unhurt. On 3rd September he claimed a Me109 destroyed and on the 7th he made a belly-landing back at Hornchurch in Spitfire L1057, after being damaged in combat over London.  On 15th September 1940 Pease was shot down and killed in combat. His Spitfire, X4324, crashed at Kingswood, near Chartway Street, Kent.

P/O Dudley Stewart-Clark, of West Lothian, was educated at Eton. He joined the RAFVR about May 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot. Called up on September 1st 1939 he completed his training and was with 603 Squadron at Dyce in June 1940.  On July 3rd Stewart-Clark shared in the destruction of a Ju88, on the 6th he shared a Do17 and on the 15th and 16th he shared He111’s. He was shot down by Hauptmann Bode of II/JG 26 over the Channel off Margate on September 3rd in Spitfire X4185. Stewart-Clark baled out, wounded, and was admitted to Chelmsford Hospital.  He was killed on September 19th 1941, as a Flight Lieutenant with 72 Squadron. His Spitfire Vb W3516 was shot down off the French coast near Gravelines.

P/O Philip Melville Cardell, from Huntingdonshire, joined the RAFVR in May 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He was called up on September 1st 1939 and, after completing his flying training, was commissioned and went to 5 OTU on June 10th 1940. He was posted to 263 Squadron at Drem on the 23rd. After a few days he went to 603 Squadron at Dyce. The squadron went south to Hornchurch on 10th August 1940 On September 27th Cardell was in combat with Me109’s over the Channel. He destroyed one but it is believed that he was wounded in the engagement.  Cardell attempted to get back to the English coast but had to bale out a quarter of a mile off Folkestone. His friend, Pilot Officer PG Dexter, tried to attract peoples' attention to Cardell's plight. When he failed to do so, he made a forced-landing on Folkestone beach, commandeered a boat and headed for his friend but Cardell was dead when they reached him.  Cardell was 23.

F/O Robin McGregor Waterston, of Edinburgh, joined 603 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force at Turnhouse in 1937. He was then studying in Scotland for an engineering degree.  Called to full-time service on August 24th 1939, Waterston was with 603, by then at Dyce, in early July 1940. About this time he picked up the nickname 'Bubbles'. On the 20th he shared a Do17, shot down into the North Sea 30 miles east of Aberdeen.  The squadron was sent south to Hornchurch in  August and Waterston claimed a Me109 destroyed on August 30th over Canterbury. He returned to Hornchurch with a punctured oil tank after being attacked by other 109’s.  The next day Waterston was killed in a combat over London and is believed to have been shot down by Me109’s of I/JG3. He was either unconscious or already dead when his Spitfire, X4273, was seen to emerge from the haze and spin out of control into the ground near Repository Road in Woolwich, South London.  Waterston was 23.

612 Squadron RAF

No 612 Squadron was formed at Dyce on 1 June 1937 as an army co-operation unit of the Auxiliary Air Force. and was initially equipped with 2-seat Avro Tutor Bi-plane training aircraft.  In December 1937, at the end of the year it received Hectors, but on 1 November 1938 it was re-designated a general reconnaissance squadron, receiving Ansons in July 1939 which had room for four crew members and had a much better range, making them better suited for the reconnaissance role.  Hectors were retained until November, but the Ansons began coastal patrols on the outbreak of World War lI.  In November 1940, conversion to Whitleys began and these flew their 1st patrols in February 1941, though it was the end of the year before the last Anson left.

In December 1941, No.612 moved to Iceland, returning to Thorney Island in August 1942 for anti-submarine patrols over the Channel and Bay of Biscay.  Some Wellingtons arrived in November 1942 and a few operated until January 1943, but it was not until April that conversion was resumed and June before all the Whitleys had been replaced.  Patrols over the Bay of Biscay continued until September 1944, apart from a short break in Ulster between January and March 1944.  After 3 months patrolling the Western Approaches, the Squadron moved to East Anglia to fly anti-E-boat patrols off the Dutch coast until the end of the war. On 9 July 1945, the squadron was disbanded.

Dyce was also a Coastal Command base and the Fighter Section there was commanded by Group Captain F Crerar. 603 Squadron was based at Dyce and it flew Spitfires.

Air Transport Auxiliary did not fight in combat but ferried fighter and bomber planes to RAF bases where they could be used in anger. Probably the most famous member of the ATA was Amy Johnson who joined in 1940. In 1941 she was killed in the Thames Estuary after flying from Blackpool in very poor ice fog weather.  What happened to her and her Airspeed AS10 Oxford plane remains a mystery but it is assumed that Johnson got disorientated and then ran out of fuel.  She bailed out into the River Thames and may well have been hit by the propellers of a passing ship.  Although she was seen alive in the water, a rescue attempt failed and her body was never recovered.  The incident also led to the death of her would-be rescuer, Lt Cmdr Walter Fletcher of HMS Haslemere.  The Halsemere's Captain, Lieutenant Commander Fletcher dived into the icy waters during the rescue.  He was brought out the water unconscious and died later of hypothermia without ever telling of what or who he saw.  "She called out that she was Amy Johnson, that the water was bitterly cold, and could they get her out as soon as possible.  They threw her a rope, but she couldn't get hold of it." Then someone dashed up to the bridge and reversed the ship's engines, as a result of which, she was drawn into the propeller and chopped to pieces."

World War II: on Whitleys and Wellingtons

No. 612 Squadron so entered World War II as a General Reconnaissance unit within RAF Coastal Command, flying with the Avro Ansons. These were replaced from November 1940 with Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys, and from November 1942 on these made again gradually (April 1943 saw the last Whitley leave the squadron) way for various marks of specially adapted General Reconnaissance (GR) versions of the Vickers Wellington, which the squadron continued to fly until the end of the war. The squadron disbanded on 9 July 1945 at RAF Langham.

This picture shows Armstrong Whitworth Whitley K7208, built as a Mk I, but used in 1938 as a prototype to test the aircraft with Rolls Royce Merlin engines. The turrets were removed and faired over, and the maximum weight increased to 33,500lb.  The Armstrong Whitworth Whitley was the only heavy bomber available to the RAF at the outbreak of the 2nd World War. Together with the Vickers Wellington and Handley Page Hamden medium bombers, the Whitley had the unenviable task of taking the war to Germany, at a time when navigation at night over such long distances was at best hit and miss. The Whitley was a very distinctive aircraft, with a sharp, angular appearance and very odd looking flight profile – the wings were angled slightly upwards, so in level flight the Whitley looked to be pointing downwards. Although it was slow, it was rugged and reliable, and when it was new it carried a heavy bomb load.

The Wellington was the brainchild of Barnes Wallis, most famous for the bouncing bomb of dam buster’s fame. After a long period spent working for Vickers on airships, Wallis had moved to the design of aircraft. His main early contribution to the field was the invention of the geodetic method of aircraft production. In this system the aircraft fuselage was made of a light weight grid of relatively simple parts that combined to produce strong, light, flexible aircraft. The “basket weave” structure of the aircraft would then be covered with a layer of cloth.

Wellington Bomber

The Wellington began life as a response to the B.9/32 Bomber specification of 1932. This called for a twin engine day bomber capable of carrying a 1000lb bomb load and with a range of 720 miles. If the Wellington had been designed to this specification, we would probably never have heard of it!   The design of what would become the Wellington evolved rapidly over the next few years, with both Vickers and then the air ministry increasing its performance, until when the first prototype flew it was capable of carrying 4,500 lbs of bombs and a maximum range of 2,800 miles, while the empty weight had almost doubled, from the 6,300lbs of the original specification to 11,508 lbs for the first prototype.

We roller-skated the 3 miles to the airport at Dyce, occupied by RAF Fighter Squadron 612. We made it through the wire, and at the back of the airfield we came across a completely unguarded 2-seater Bi-plane. We climbed aboard.  Brother was the pilot and I was the gunner. We had a great 1/2-hour, but obviously made too much noise.  We were marched off at gunpoint into the officers' mess.  Tea and buns!  A telling off and warned not to tell anyone how we got through the defences.

No. 612 Squadron was reformed on 10 May 1946 at RAF Dyce as a Fighter squadron of the RAAF. Initially the Squadron was equipped with Griffon-engined Spitfire F14g and in November 1948 it got additional Merlin-engined Spitfire LF.16e fighters. 

Development of Dyce

The airport opened in 1934, established by Eric Gandar Dower, intended to link the northern islands of Scotland with London. During WWll the airfield became an RAF base. It was the site of the Dyce Sector Operations Room within No. 13 Group RAF. Although fighters were based there through the Battle of Britain to provide protection from German bombing raids from Occupied Norway, it was mainly used as a photographic reconnaissance base.  A significant wartime event occurred in May 1943 when a German, Junkers Ju 88 fighter-bomber landed here; it was flown to Scotland by its crew, who wanted to defect to the Allied side. The capture of this aircraft was of great intelligence value at the time, as it was fitted with the latest FuG 202 Liechtenstein BC A.I radar. The aircraft is preserved in the RAF Museum.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013