Scotland and Russia’s secret wartime link to be revealed at Montrose Air Station

Commander Peter Kolesnikov, one of the members of the top secret Soviet mission to Scotland in 1943.
Commander Peter Kolesnikov, one of the members of the top secret Soviet mission to Scotland in 1943.

The unveiling of an exhibition about a top secret wartime mission to Scotland at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre is to be attended by a highly distinguished group of Russian visitors.

The delegation will include the Russian Consul General and his deputy, representatives of Russia’s top aviation museum and a descendant of one of the 24 elite Soviet pilots who were sent to Scotland during World War Two to undergo specialist aviation training.

The exhibit will be officially opened on Friday (May 15) by the Lord Lieutenant of Angus.

The Russian Consul General, as well as two Montrose Air Station World War Two veterans, will be presented with medals.

Dr Dan Paton, curator of the heritage centre and exhibition, said: “Montrose Air Station’s exhibition ‘The Russians Are Coming’ reveals how ‘Hero-Pilots’ of the 10th Guards Air Division secretly came to Scotland in 1943 to learn how to fly Whitworth Armstrong Albemarle bombers.

“This story was discovered by Russian historian Anna Belorusova, whose grandfather was one of the pilots involved in the clandestine operation, and who will be attending the opening of the exhibition.”

Anna only realised her late grandfather, Commander Peter Kolesnikov, had spent time in Britain when she came across his wartime possessions, including an English phrase book.

She said: “The hand-written inscription on the front page of my grandfather’s phrase book says: ‘Good luck and may you visit Britain again under better conditions. Russia & Britain - V!’”

She will be attending the opening with several Russian pilots who are also descendants of airmen of the 10th Guards Air Division.

Anna continued: “The Soviet pilots’ fascinating story has struck a powerful chord both in the UK and Russia.

“The exhibition brings to light a hitherto neglected piece of air history, while also highlighting the wartime alliance between the two countries.

“The Soviet airmen’s memory is in very good hands in Montrose.”

The Russian delegation will also include Alexei Timofeev, former head of Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, and Elena Nikitina, Head of Vnukovo Air Museum, Moscow.

“We are honoured to attend the opening of the exhibition which tells the story of the legendary 10th Guards Air Division, who were based at Vnukovo aerodrome during the war.

“We are very grateful to our Montrose colleagues for all their wonderful work in creating the exhibition and hope that our two museums continue to work together,” said Elena Nikitina.

Following the official opening of the exhibition by the Lord Lieutenant of Angus, Georgiana Osborne, and the Russian Consul General, Andrey A. Pritsepov, two Montrose Air Station World War Two veterans will be presented with Russian 70th Anniversary medals.

Dr Paton added: “Our exhibition commemorates a group of fearless Russian airmen, so we are delighted that our honoured Russian guests will be commemorating Scotland’s brave airmen and women by honouring Mrs Ness Van, who was in the ATS, and Mr David Oswald, who served in the RAF,

“This will be a very special day for all concerned but especially for the descendants of Russia’s Hero Pilots, who will finally find out the full story of this top secret mission to Scotland.”

The opening of the exhibition will also mark the start of Montrose Air Station’s Open Weekend, which is part of Museums Galleries Scotland’s 2015 Festival of Museums.

From Friday to Sunday (May 15 to 17), free entry and a host of activities commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two will be available at the centre.