A group of Forfar air cadets had front row seats recently for probably the first Spitfire ‘landing’ in Angus since the Second World War.
The youngsters from 2231 (Forfar) Squadron joined in the celebrations marking the centenary of Montrose Air Station, which was the country’s first operational military airfield.
The air station became formally active on February 26, 1913 when five aircraft from No2 Squadron of the newly formed Royal Flying Corp (RFC) flew to Montrose from Farnborough, a 450-mile journey that took 13 days to complete.
Their arrival was a landmark event and children were given the day off school. Manned flight was still in its infancy and it is unlikely that anyone locally would have seen an aeroplane before.
It was primarily a training base but was home to 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron’s Spitfires and Hurricanes during the Second World War and pilots from Montrose flew from Montrose to fight in the Battle of Britain.
It was closed in 1952, its runways decommissioned and all that remains today are a few wooden huts and three of the world’s oldest aircraft hangars, now the centrepiece of what is now Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre.
The air station relived its glory days as part of the celebrations, however, when it once again echoed to the sound of aircraft engines as more than 40 light aircraft from across the country landed on a temporary grass runway created specifically for the occasion.
The Forfar cadets had a ‘ringside seat’ to watch the arrivals and also visited the museum to view the Montrose Air Station Heritage Trust’s new Spitfire replica. As the climax to the celebrations, the full-sized replica was unveiled by His Royal Highness Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex.
Built by a specialist company in England, the aircraft will now be the museum’s new ‘gate guardian’ as well as a memorial to the RFC and Royal Air Force pilots killed in both world wars.