Town museum’s milestone year

Captain Becke and Captain Longcroft are pictured shortly after their arrival at Upper Dysart in February, 1913.
Captain Becke and Captain Longcroft are pictured shortly after their arrival at Upper Dysart in February, 1913.

THE FIRST in a series of events celebrating the centenary of the former RAF Montrose will open next month, heralding the beginning of an exciting year for the air station trust.

Featuring a wealth of new display material and rarely seen artefacts, the exhibition in Montrose Museum will open on Saturday, February 23, almost a century to the day since the first aircraft arrived at the original air station at Dysart, to the south of the town.

Five aircraft of No2 Squadron of the newly formed Royal Flying Corp (RFC) flew to Montrose from Farnborough, a 450-mile journey that took 13 days to complete. The first aircraft appeared at 10.30am on February 26, 1913, but despite the pilot’s feat of navigation it landed near Hillside, Captain Ferdinand Waldron having overshot the planned destination.

Captains Longmore and Becke landed there shortly after and were joined by Waldron to be greeted by a reception party headed by Provost Scott.

The day was a landmark event and children were given the day off school, as manned flight was still in its infancy and it is highly unlikely that anyone in Montrose would have seen an aeroplane before.

The exhibition, which will be opened by Angus Provost Helen Oswald, offers the rare opportunity to exhibit the centre’s Battle of Britain lace panel. Too large to display permanently the 16-feet long panel was woven to commemorate the Battle of Britain and is the only one in a Scottish museum.

Another unique exhibit is the Robertson Cross, from the grave of Lieutenant Ross Robertson who trained as a pilot at Montrose in 1917 and was shot down over enemy lines. He was buried in a German cemetery and this is the actual cross which marked his grave. A diorama of RAF Montrose has also been commissioned from BG Models of Biggar, which will represent the air station as it was in the summer of 1940.

Spitfires will take centre stage at the final event of the centenary year, when a full size replica will be unveiled at the centre on Friday, July 26, a ceremony which is expected to include flypasts of aircraft representing the history of RFC/RAF Montrose. The famous Montrose ghost has also been included and a short play featuring the ghost has been written for the occasion by Betty Doe, wife of the heritage chairman Alan Doe and will be performed with the appropriate backdrop of a Sopwith Camel.

Curator Dr Daniel Paton said the centenary will help to put both the museum and town on the tourist map.

He said: “It’s now a significant visitor attraction and deserves to be better known. Its tourism potential has been recognised by Angus Council and the acquisition of both the diorama and the Spitfire has been generously supported by council grants aimed at encouraging tourism.

“The centenary will also be an occasion to celebrate the service of the many thousands of men and women who served at RFC/RAF Montrose between 1913 and 1952 and to commemorate the hundreds of men who were killed while under training at Montrose. The Spitfire will be their memorial and a commemorative stone will be sited beside it. We at the heritage centre hope that the centenary events will be enjoyed by the people of Montrose and that they will feel proud of the unique place of their town in the history of aviation in Britain.”