When love was in the air in Montrose

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With Valentines Day approaching this Sunday we’re looking back at when love was, quite literally, in the air at Montrose Air Station almost 100 years ago.

In March 1918 a host of American squadrons arrived in Scotland, two of which were sent to Montrose, and by the time the squadrons left Angus six months later in August 1918 seven of the pilots were taking newlywed brides home with them.

The Americans clearly made an impression on the local girls and 10 of them, as well as two members of the Womens Royal Air Force - which was created when the Royal Air Force was formed on April 1, 1918 - got hitched to 12 US pilots between July 1918 and June 1922.

Six of the weddings were within 11 days in August.

The Montrose Review dated August 9, 1918 reported: “During this week there have been quite a number of military weddings in
Montrose.

“The early departure of the United States Air Force from Montrose has been the cause of the briskness of the matrimonial market.

“Our American cousins have found favour in the eyes of our Scottish lasses…”

All of the newlyweds went to live in the States and Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre is trying to track down surviving descendants in the hope that they can welcome the families of the couples to the museum for the centenary of the transatlantic weddings in two years time.

Dr Dan Paton, curator at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, said: “The United States had entered the war late in 1917 but America had lost its early lead in aviation and US Squadrons coming to fight in Europe were forced to use British and French aircraft.

“Among the American units which arrived in Scotland were the 41st and 138th Aero Squadrons, sent to Montrose in March 1918 to train in the use of British aircraft like the Sopwith Camel.

“The Americans were impressed with what they saw.”

Sergeant Wilfred Mack of the 41st Aero Squadron described the air station at Montrose as “an immense field where a large number of British pilots receive their flying instructions, including aerial gunnery, photography etc. Should they qualify in all instructions they are given their wings and assigned to various combat squadrons at the Front where needed. Many looked very young, some too young to shave”.

Dr Paton continued: “The Americans were less impressed with their accommodation in a disused flax mill but they seemed to quickly integrate into local society and were soon entertaining the locals with an American concert.

“They clearly impressed the local girls. In August 1918, when the American Squadrons left Montrose, there were seven weddings to Americans which attracted the attention of the local press.

“Overall, 12 women married Americans they met at Montrose in 1918.

“The American weddings are an extreme example of something that was commonplace at Montrose as local girls married handsome men in uniform.

“All of the 12 brides went to the United States with their husbands after the war and settled all over the country.

‘‘They kept in touch with each other and their histories have been traced up to their deaths.

“One of them, Williamina Duncan, returned to Montrose with the four children of her marriage to Jens Carl Christian Johnsen, after his death in 1927. Two of her children joined the American Army in the Second World War.

“Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre is playing an important part in the national programme commemorating the First World War.

“This story of the American weddings is one of happiness and hope in a war characterised by death and destruction on a gigantic scale. It is attracting a lot of attention.

“But there is another side to the story. From marriage certificates we can identify the families of the women in Montrose - did they keep in touch with their daughters and sisters in America and has any family contact been maintained down the generations?

“We are doing our utmost to discover as much as possible about these men and women who married in wartime.

“Perhaps we can look forward to welcoming surviving descendants to Montrose, the home of their great-grandmothers, to celebrate the centenary of the American weddings in 2018.”

If you have any information about the weddings please get in touch with Dr Dan Paton at the heritage centre on 01674 678222 or by emailing rafmontrose @aol.com

The American weddings...

Victoria Dorothy Copplestone Bush (1895 to 1985) married William Brand Beaver (1896 to 1957) at Montrose on July 3, 1918.

Alice Maltman Smith (1901 to 1927) married Clifford Lee Cummings (1898 to 1979) at Montrose on August 2, 1918.

Jessie Ann Moir Skinner (1898 to 1930) married Charles H E Roy (unknown to 1944) at Montrose on August 5, 1918.

Winifred Ivy Campbell (1900 to unknown) married Sidney Day Richard (1894 to 1956) at Montrose on August 12, 1918.

Mary Ann Kindness Smith (1889 to 1984) married Clyde Samuel Swigart (1889 to 1928) at Montrose, August 12 1918.

Williamina Duncan (1886 to 1977) married Jens Carl Christian Johnsen (1884 to 1927) at Montrose on August 13, 1918.

Annie Jarvis (1897 to 1939) married Chris Christiansen Dein (1882 to 1938) at Montrose on August 13, 1918.

Violet Napier married Frank Haynes (birth and death dates for both unknown) at Montrose on October 26, 1918.

Jean A Watt (1898 to unknown) married Wilson Browne Miller (1888 to unknown) at Montrose on February 7, 1919.

Florence Jane McGregor Dow Thornton (1897 to 1983) married George Alvin Stevens (1900 to 1982) in Dundee on April 11, 1919

Mary Craig Wood (1898 to 1995) to Harold Davison Miller (1892 to 1941) at Greenock on June 25, 1920

May Moie Davidson (1897 to unknown) married Ralph Gottfred Peterson (1891 to 1960) at City Hall, NY City, June 12 1922