An exhibition, 'Tain & District Through The War Years', was held from June-August 2006 in the Collegiate Church. It was the work of a group of museum volunteers who got together to remember their childhoods and, more particularly, the years 1939-45 and how they affected Tain and District.
On the 16th September 1941 the small landing strip which had served the pre-war Tain ranges was developed and opened as a fighter sector station to bridge the gap between Scapa Flow in the North and Turnhouse in the South.
At the end of October 1942 American engineers made extensions to the north-east and south-west runways. This allowed longer range aircraft, like the Liberators,to use the station.
Right: members of 8066 Servicing Unit, 86 Squadron, Coastal Command. Photo DJ Matthews
On 22nd February 1943 the station was transferred to Coastal Command. Various British and Allied squadrons came and went throughout the war, some staying for as little as a day, others for much longer. Among them was 547 Squadron, flying B24 Liberators. DJ Matthews recalls the atrocious flying conditions they faced north of the Shetlands:
"... we saw neither sea nor sky for over 8 hours. For all that time the drift meter, astro compass and sextant were blind and impotent. Combine these shortcomings with fickle magnetic compass and pernicious static peculiar to the area, and navigation was reduced to little more than a hope and a prayer. And pray I did!"
311 Czech Squadron
Another unit operating out of Tain was 311 Czech Squadron.
Warrant Officer Jan Matejka's crew after a return from an anti-submarine sweep over the Baltic in 1945. Taken at Tain. Skipper is on extreme left. Photo: Z Hurt.
Forbie Urquhart, a Tain resident, witnessed the crash of a 311 Sq. Liberator. He recalls he was coming home from the ATC at 10pm one evening when he saw a glow in the sky and then an aircraft overhead losing height. It came down by Kirksheaf Farm and the pilot was later praised for avoiding the town. Forbie was the first on the scene but there was nothing anyone could do for the crew.
He subsequently discovered the Liberator, fully laden with fuel and depth charges for the trip that could last as long as 16 hours, had lost its starboard inner engine on take-off.
The graves of airmen in Old St Duthus Churchyard who paid the ultimate price.
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Tain & District Museum is home to an extensive and varied collection of objects, photographs and archives of local, regional and national significance. Because of the relatively limited exhibition space, only a small proportion of the collection is on display at any one time. Our website allows us to make more of the Collection accessible to all.
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