It is a fact little known to locals that in 1913, Montrose became home to the first operational military airfield in Britain. Montrose Air Station trained pilots throughout the First and Second World Wars before closing in 1952.
When war broke out in 1914, Lt. Harvey-Kelly of No. 2 Squadron, flew from Montrose Air Station to Amiens in a BE2.a; ,making him the first British serviceman to land on the battlefields of France.
Today over a century later, volunteers are working to keep the memory of Kelly and his courageous fellow pilots alive and we caught up with Lucia Wallbank, volunteer recruitment and development officer, who is calling for more people to volunteer at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre.
She said: “Without the hard work of volunteers, an important piece of Montrose history may have been lost in the mists of time. There are no paid members of staff at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, it is run entirely by volunteers.
“In recognition of their significant contributions, the museum staff last year won the Queen’s Award for Volunteering and were finalists in the Daily Record Great Scot Awards.
“The story of the museum began in 1983 with the formation of the Montrose Aerodrome Society by a group of ex-servicemen and interested citizens. The first buildings were acquired some years later, and Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre opened in 1994. That year, there were only 18 visitors. Now we welcome thousands of visitors annually, who come from all over the world.
She continued: “I first started volunteering here as a 16-year-old Montrose Academy student. I came along with my history class to and have come back to help out ever since, continuing to volunteer during my university vacations. After graduating from the University of St Andrew’s with a degree in modern history, I now help to recruit new volunteers as part of a grant provided by the Voluntary Action Fund.
“We are keen to expand our dedicated and enthusiastic team. Volunteers can get involved with activities ranging from welcoming visitors at reception to restoring vintage vehicles.
“We are especially looking for volunteers to help out with jobs crucial to our everyday running. The season runs from April 1 to October 31, and we currently open from Wednesday to Sunday. In the future we would like to open on Mondays and Tuesdays, if more volunteers can be found to work on reception. We are also keen to welcome anyone who can assist with guided tours and school visits.
“Other aspects of museum operation include IT, research, cataloguing museum objects, and creating new displays. Currently volunteers are working on a project to digitise our collection of First World War photographs.
“A group with specialist skills are working diligently on a project to restore vintage Derwent and Merlin engines. Another ongoing project is to construct a full size replica of the plane flown by Lt Harvey-Kelly to France in 1914; due for completion in December 2016.”
She concluded: “You will find volunteering here a fun and rewarding experience, which makes a real difference to the local community.”
To find out more about becoming a volunteer at the museum, call 01674 678222 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.