Family of Russian pilot to travel to Montrose to see his story told in exhibition

Georgiana Osborne, Lord Lieutenant of Angus; Alexei Timofeev, Soviet pilot and former head of Moscows Vnukovo Airport; and Anna Belorusova, at the unveiling of the exhibition in 2015.
Georgiana Osborne, Lord Lieutenant of Angus; Alexei Timofeev, Soviet pilot and former head of Moscows Vnukovo Airport; and Anna Belorusova, at the unveiling of the exhibition in 2015.

A fascinating exhibition which tells the forgotten story of a secret mission during World War Two is being re-opened later this month.

Scotland and Russia came together in May 2015 at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre to unveil an exhibition about a top secret mission in which 24 elite Soviet pilots from the 10th Guards Air Division secretly came to Perthshire in 1943 to learn how to fly Whitworth Armstrong Albemarle bombers.

The exhibition, The Russians in Scotland, has been expanded to include details of one Russian airman, Peter Petrovichev, who trained at RAF Errol and returned to his homeland in an Arctic Convoy.

He sailed from Loch Ewe aboard the escort destroyer HMS Whitehall in Convoy JW58 on March 27, 1943.

It was an eventful passage as HMS Whitehall was involved in the sinking of a German U-boat.

Three of his children will travel to Montrose next week for a special event which will see their father’s story on display.

Dr Dan Paton, curator of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, said: “The event is to mark the re-opening of an exhibition, The Russians in Scotland, that was opened two years ago.

“It unveiled a forgotten but significant episode of the Second World War - the coming to Scotland of a group of Russian airmen who were trained to fly an aircraft we were to supply to the Russian Air Force.

“This is the only occasion during the war when Russian servicemen came to be trained in Britain.

“Conversely three squadrons of Hurricane fighters were sent to Russia to train Russian pilots on Hurricanes.

“The exhibition has been expanded because three of the Russian guests are the children of one of the Russian airmen who returned to Russian in an Arctic Convoy so there is display material on the Arctic Convoys.”

The story of the Soviet airmen’s secret mission was uncovered by Russian historian Anna Belorusova, whose grandfather, Commander Peter Kolesnikov, was one of the pilots involved in the clandestine operation.

Anna never met her grandfather as he died long before she was born and her research led her to Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre four years ago because photographs showing the Soviet airmen came from the collection of Richard Moss at the museum. And two years later, the exhibition has been expanded and re-located to a fitting location, the Richard Moss building.

The display will be re-opened at a ceremony next Wednesday (May 10).

Anna, who has written a book about her grandfather’s air unit entitled Russians in Scotland, will travel back to Angus for the event.

The exhibition will be opened by Georgiana Osborne, Lord Lieutenant for Angus, who opened the display back in 2015 with Russian Consul General, Andrey A. Pritsepov.

The Russian Consul General will return to Montrose Air Station for the unveiling of the updated exhibition.

Other guests include Anastasia Ilinsykaya, Russian Vice-Consul General; Brigadier General Melville Jameson, Lord Lieutenant for Perthshire; Major Robin McLean, curator of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum; along with Peter Petrovichev’s children Valery, Peter and Maria.