The Russians are coming… to Montrose Air Station!

A few of the Soviet airmen who arrived in Scotland in 1943 to undertake top secret training at Errol Airfield, including Commander Peter Kolesnikov (first row, left).
A few of the Soviet airmen who arrived in Scotland in 1943 to undertake top secret training at Errol Airfield, including Commander Peter Kolesnikov (first row, left).

A delegation is travelling from Russia to attend the opening of Montrose Air Stations Heritage Centre’s new exhibition about 24 elite Soviet pilots’ top secret mission to Scotland during World War Two.

As part of Montrose Air Station’s open weekend on May 15, 16 and 17, the delegation will consist of the head of Vnukovo Aviation museum and several descendants of the Hero-Pilots of the 10th Guards Air Division, who were sent to Errol Airfield, near Perth, to learn how to fly Whitworth Armstrong Albemarle bombers in 1943.

Anna Belorusova, the granddaughter of Soviet pilot Commander Peter Kolesnikov, knew nothing about her grandfather’s wartime visit to Scotland.

“My grandfather died soon after World War Two and among treasured possessions at home there was a map of the coast of Britain, a Christmas menu adorned with a thistle and a photograph of him with 10 other Soviet airmen, which was a puzzle to me all my life,” said Anna, whose investigation into her grandfather’s war records led to the discovery that Soviet pilots had secretly trained at Errol and Hurn in Dorset from 1943-1944.

Last year, Anna’s research brought her to Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, where she met military historian and curator of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre Dr Dan Paton.

He said: “Whenever Anna told me the story of her grandfather and his fellow Soviet airmen, I knew this would be an excellent subject for an exhibition at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre.

The Russian Consul General and Vice Consul are also attending the opening.

“We are delighted that The Russians In Scotland exhibition - which will be officially opened on May 15 by the Lord Lieutenant of Angus, Mrs Georgiana Osborne - will be attended by such a highly-distinguished guests from Russia,” he continued.

“Many of the Soviet pilots’ descendants who are attending the opening ceremony have followed in their father or grandfather’s footsteps and are pilots themselves.

“I’m sure they will be fascinated by the information, photographs, documents and memorabilia on display at the exhibition and also by Montrose Air Station’s aviation artefacts, including planes, vehicles and buildings from World War One and World War Two.”

Montrose Air Station’s open weekend, which is part of Museums Galleries Scotland’s 2015 Festival of Museums, will also feature free entry from May 15 to 17 and a host of activities commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

On May 16 and 17, activities will include opportunities for children to don a flying suit and sit in the cockpit of a Spitfire, a display of vintage military vehicles, the chance to ‘fly’ a Sopwith Camel via a state-of-the-art flight simulator and viewings of the full-size replica of the 1914 aircraft which is currently being built at Montrose Air Station.

Visitors will also be able to step back in time, courtesy of a World War 2 re-enactment group which is setting up a wartime RAF camp in the grounds of Montrose Air Station.

Dr Paton added: “This year’s Open Weekend will certainly highlight the importance this part of Scotland played in military aviation history, in the UK and all over the world, including Russia.

“We are deeply honoured that the Russian delegation will be making the journey from Russia to Montrose to honour their countrymen, their fathers, grandfathers and Hero-Pilots.”

For more information about Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre Open Weekend 2015, visit www.rafmontrose.org.uk.