Five Montrose First World War squadrons to be commemorated

Jules Stevensen with the BE2 replica
Jules Stevensen with the BE2 replica

Five squadrons which were formed at Montrose during the First World War will be marked in a new exhibition.

On Thursday (October 1) a display at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre will be unveiled.

Number 2 Squadron left Montrose on the August 3, 1914 to lead the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) to war with a total strength of five squadrons and less than 100 aircraft.

When the war ended in November 1918, the Royal Air Force (RAF) had more than 20,000 aircraft and 200 operational squadrons.

The exhibition sets out to commemorate the four new operational squadrons which were formed at Montrose during the First World War and show the contribution made by RFC/RAF Montrose to the expansion of military aviation, which was one of the most important features of the war.

The squadrons were: 25 Squadron - formed on September 25, 1915 from No6 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron; 43 Squadron - formed on April 15, 1916 from elements of No18 Reserve Squadron; 83 Squadron - formed on January 7, 1917 from elements of No18 Reserve Squadron; and 108 Squadron - formed on November 1, 1917 from elements of No52 Training Squadron.

The display also plays tribute to 2 Squadron, which was established Montrose Air Station in 1913.

The exhibition will sit in the Lt Ross Robertson building, which is named after a pilot who learned to fly at Montrose and was killed in action on his fourth mission five months later on May 12, 1917.

It will be formally opened on Thursday by Air Vice Marshal Ross Patterson, Air Officer Commanding RAF Scotland, in the presence of Georgiana Osborne, Lord Lieutenant of Angus, invited guests, Montrose Air Station volunteers and visiting members of the public.

The display is the next step in heritage centre’s First in France 1914 Project, which was launched last August to commemorate 100 years since the outbreak of World War One.

The launch will kick off at 11am on Thursday with a flypast by the RAF.

Guests will be welcomed by Alan Doe, chairman of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, followed by a speech by Air Vice Marshal Patterson.

At 11.30am there will be a tour of the heritage Centre for invited guests and at 12.30pm Dr Neil Geddes will perform a flying display in a replica SE5.

At 2pm there will be a meeting of the Scottish Commemorations Panel Aviation Think-Tank.

The replica BE2, which staff and volunteers at the museum are building as part of the First in France Project, is well underway and visitors will be able to see it coming together in the Lt Ross Robertson building.

The BE2 was built in 1912, designed by Geoffrey de Havilland, and the museum are working of a 1914/14 model.

Mr Doe said: “This is a unique project in the country. We are the only ones building a BE2 in Scotland.

“We are about there with the air frame and hope to have the frame finished by the end of the year. We will then be placing the fabric over the top in the new year.

“We hope to have the replica completed by next summer.”

The BE2 has to be finished by the end of 2016 as these are the terms set by the Heritage Lottery Fund, who awarded the museum a grant for the aircraft.

Before the fabric can be added to the air frame, an engine which has been built for the BE2 replica by Brian Thorby, from his Brechin workshop, will be placed inside it.

Mr Doe told us after the BE2 is completed the next project in the Lt Ross Robertson building is to restore the Sopwith Camel replica which sits in the hanger.