Heritage Centre talk

Neil Werninck was the guest speaker at the February meeting of Laurencekirk and District Inner Wheel.

Neil, a well known photographer and Rotarian from the Montrose Club is a member of the Air Station Heritage Centre. He has a passionate interest in local and aviation history and provided an interesting digital presentation and account of the history of the Station.

The Air Station was Britain’s first operational military airfield set up by the Royal Flying Corps in 1913. The Heritage Centre’s collection of photographs and artefacts tell the story of RFC/RAF Montrose through the memories and experiences of the men and women who served. New squadrons left from there in 1916 to fight in France, and Spitfires left from RAF Montrose in 1940 to shoot down German raiders in the Battle of Britain.

The most important role of RAF Montrose was as a centre for advanced flying training for the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force. Neil demonstrated the many dangers that had been involved, with photographs of various crashed aeroplanes, including three in one morning.

Some of the famous pilots who had trained there were Flt Lt Richard Hilary, Peter Townsend and Squadron Leader “Stapme” Stapleton. Another famous pilot was Lt Desmond Arthur, whose death in 1913 is thought to have led to the first sightings of The Montrose Ghost. One room at the Centre is devoted to the Home Front. The new ‘wartime house’ gives an idea of what domestic life was like in the war years. The Centre is run by the Ian McIntosh Memorial Trust which is a registered charity and run entirely by volunteers, receiving no regular financial support from local or national government. In 2013 the Centre will be celebrating the Centenary of RFC/RAF Montrose with a programme of events and exhibitions. The highlight will be the unveiling of a replica Spitfire. Spitfire funds were set up during the Second World War to buy aircraft for the RAF. The Heritage Centre has revived the idea to raise £50,000 to buy the replica.

A vote of thanks was given by Jean Coll. President Gladys Johnston reminded members of the club’s Charity Bazaar on March 3.