Montrose marks the centenary of WW1

Flying Display with Dr. Neil Geddes in his First World War replica SE5 aircraft.
Flying Display with Dr. Neil Geddes in his First World War replica SE5 aircraft.

A special commemorative wreath is taking the same route to France that young pilots took when they set off from Montrose Air Station to join the First World War.

On August 3, 1914, the Royal Flying Corps Number Two Squadron left Montrose, the first British military airbase, to fly their biplanes to Dover.

They then led the squadron to Amiens in France 10 days later.

And on Sunday (August 3) a commemorative wreath set off from Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre to RAF Leuchars, flown in a replica SE5 aircraft by Dr Neil Geddes.

The next stage of the wreath’s journey is in a Tornado to Dover, it will then be flown to Amiens in a replica BE2 on August 13 where it will be laid on the city’s war memorial to mark the men who flew from Montrose 100 years ago.

Dr Dan Paton, curator of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, said: “It was moving and emotional to see Dr Neil Geddes taking off.

“It was important that we marked this weekend because it was a historic moment for Montrose Air Station, as well as a historic moment nationally. This was the first time aircraft were being sent to war.

“The men left Montrose on August 3, 1914, and for us there was no other date we could have held this event on.

“Montrose Air Station was used in both world wars but I think it was most important in World War One. Pilots were being trained here.”

He added: “The event was successful and I am proud of the work and dedication of our volunteers.”

Around 500 people visited Montrose Air Station on Saturday when a new building was opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Angus, Mrs Georgiana Osborne.

This is where the heritage centre will display their World War One artefacts and photographs in its First In France exhibition.

The building is dedicated to Lieutenant J Ross Robertson, who was killed in action in France in 1917.

Dr Paton said: “For me the highlight of Saturday was getting children involved and engaged in history through a number of activities, including dressing up and an art competition.”

Around seven families of the men who served at Montrose during the First World War attended the event.

One family was the relatives of William Parrott who travelled from all across the UK to be at Montrose.

Serena Parrott was researching her family history and tree, and when trying to find out more information about her great-grandfather her journey led her to Montrose Air Station.

She told the Review: “We didn’t know much about him. His full career is still a little confusing but the family are hoping that working together with the air station we can piece the parts the puzzle.

“We can’t always get to meet as a family because we’re spread across the UK and this event in Montrose has been a nice way of us all getting together.”

William Parrott, from New Southgate, London, was transferred to the Flying Corps Number Two Squadron on June 18, 1914 - the day before his 20th birthday - as a class two air mechanic. He was based in Montrose before serving in France for two years and living in the trenches.

His great-granddaughter said: “The only things he ever said about it was that he had to hang his kilt upside down and bang it with his boot to get all the lice out. He also said that ‘France was nothing but mud and fleas’.”

He returned to Montrose in 1916 and was based there until the end of the war. He then continued to work at Montrose Air Station as a chauffeur for Air Vice-Marshall Hugh Vivian Champion de Crespigny.

Like many pilots who were based in the burgh, he married a local girl, Eva McKenzie.

He then trained young gunners in turrets of Lancaster Bombers in World War Two and climbed rank to Warrant Officer in RAF Evanton.

Ms Parrott said: “He survived two World Wars but in 1962 he was knocked down by a drunk driver and died the next day.”

The Parrott family have donated William’s photographs and documents to Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, which are to be included in the World War One exhibition.

On Monday (August 4) the Montrose Branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland (RBLS) held a service at the town’s Cenotaph to remember those who went to war 100 years ago.

Brother and sister Riley and Ruby Hall attended the service and laid roses on the Cenotaph in memory of their great-great-grandfather Charles Bowman who was sent to the front line in 1916. He died four weeks later.