Site 15. RAF Wick : October – December 1939

Wick Squadrons 1939

Air Operations

OCTOBER – The first squadron to arrive was 269 Squadron on the 10th, flying Avro Anson maritime patrol aircraft to conduct reconnaissance patrols of the North Sea and North Atlantic. On the 14th, thirteen Ansons took off one after the other to carry out the first patrols from Wick to hunt for U-47 which had sunk the Royal Oak in Scapa Flow in the early hours of that morning. Each aircraft followed a different route but no sign of the U-boat could be found.

On the 19th, 41 Squadron arrived equipped with Supermarine Spitfires to provide fighter cover for the airfield, but were recalled to RAF Catterick on the 24th. Fighter cover was replaced on the 31st by 803 Squadron from the Fleet Air Arm equipped with the woefully underpowered Blackburn Skua and Blackburn Roc carrier-based fighters. During the month 269 Squadron would fly three convoy escort patrols, 63 anti-submarine patrols and 87 reconnaissance patrols over the northern approaches to Scotland.

Blackburn Skua MkII
Blackburn Skua MkII
Blackburn Rocs
Blackburn Rocs

NOVEMBER – 24 Handley Page Hampden bombers of 50 and 61 Squadrons transferred to Wick to launch an attack on the German heavy cruiser Deutschland which was reported to be heading south from Stavanger. The operation consisting of 48 Hampdens was the biggest air strike of the war so far, but the force was unable to locate their target.

153 anti-submarine patrols were carried out during the month resulting in two German U-boats being attacked by Ansons of 269 Squadron but with limited success. The squadron also completed 51 reconnaissance patrols of the northern approaches, escorted six convoys, and carried out eight searches for German warships.

Lockheed Hudson Mk I
Lockheed Hudson Mk I of 224 Squadron

DECEMBER – The airfield at Wick came under the control of Fighter Command following the sinking of HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow.

269 Squadron carried out 106 anti-submarine patrols this month and claimed their first victory of the war on the 8th when they bombed a U-boat northwest of Cape Wrath with two General Purpose bombs. The bombs scored direct hits on the submarine which caused it to sink with the loss of all hands. The airfield launched an additional 84 reconnaissance patrols over the northern approaches, escorted 14 convoys and carried out 11 searches.

1939 RAF Wick Losses

Hampden Mk I
Hampden Mk Is and aircrews of 50 Squadron.