RAF Leuchars memorabilia centre set for take off
RAF Leuchars memorabilia centre set for take off. A Memorabilia centre, which will encapsulate the history of RAF Leuchars, is planned for the station. The centre will store, preserve and exhibit valuable memorabilia documenting the heritage of the air base, which dates back to the First World War.
It has artefacts already from organisations within the station, including the two flying squadrons and the recently disbanded 56 (Reserve) Squadron.
However, Citizen readers and former personnel who served at Leuchars are also being asked if they have documents or artefacts to lend or donate to the centre.
Aviation at Leuchars dates back to 1911 with a balloon squadron of the Royal Engineers setting up a training camp in Tentsmuir Forest.
They were soon joined in the skies by the ''string and sealing wax'' aircraft of the embryo Royal Flying Corps, such aircraft favouring the sands of St Andrews where not the least of the attractions was the availability of fuel from local garages!
Work began on levelling the existing site on Reres Farm in 1916, during the First World War and, from the beginning, Leuchars was intended as a training unit, being termed a 'Temporary Mobilisation Station' taking aspiring aircrew from initial flying training through to fleet co-operation work.
Building was still under way when the Armistice was signed in 1918 and the unit was formally named 'Royal Air Force Leuchars' in March 1920.
In St Andrews, the citizens were not unaware of the potential use of aviation and attempts were made to use aircraft as a means of transport for golfing enthusiasts! More successful were the barn-storming displays of the flying circuses, which were extremely popular in the city.
In 1935, Leuchars became home to Number 1 Flying Training School (No 1 FTS) and ranges for practice bombing were established in Tentsmuir Forest. As the war clouds gathered over Europe, its maritime position ensured that Leuchars would come to enjoy a more warlike role and No 1 FTS moved to Netheravon, the station coming under the control of Coastal Command.
With the arrival of 224 and 233 Squadrons in August 1938, the station enjoyed an operational role for the first time and, on the second day of the Second World War, a Hudson of 224 Squadron attacked a Dornier 18 over the North Sea with inconclusive results but became the first British aircraft to engage the enemy in the conflict.
Leuchars settled to the routine of hour upon hour of maritime patrol, which played a crucial part in Britain's ultimate victory. In February 1940, application and endurance secured their just reward when another 224 Squadron Hudson located the German prison ship, the Altmark, which allowed for its interception by HMS Cossack and the liberation of over 200 British prisoners.
Leuchars remained an active station to the end of the war, concentrating on anti-submarine and anti-shipping strikes.
With the contraction of the air force in peacetime, life at Leuchars returned to a more gentle pace, hosting a school for general reconnaissance and the St Andrews University Air Squadron complete with Tiger Moths.
In May 1950, Leuchars entered the jet age as it passed from Coastal to Fighter Command and Meteors of 222 Squadron made the station their new home. In time, the first generation of jet aircraft such as the Meteor and Vampire gave way to the Javelin, the Hunter, the Lightning, the Phantom and the Tornado.
In 1954 the fixed wing aircraft had been joined by a flight of Sycamore helicopters for search and rescue duties, a role subsequently undertaken by the Whirlwind and then the Wessex. From the beginning, the Flight proved a valuable adjunct to the civilian mountain and maritime rescue services, a role which continues to this day.
As the Cold War reached its frostiest depths in the 1960s, the development of long range aircraft allowed the Soviets regular incursion into British air space. Initially this was countered by the use of Lightning and, from 1969, Phantom aircraft. Again Leuchars' position made it ideally suited as a base to ensure the integrity of British air space.
For over two decades, Leuchars' aircraft have policed the UK air defence region, demonstrating the ability to intercept unidentified aircraft and thereby providing an effective deterrent.
The guardianship of British air space is vested in the Tornado Interceptors of 43 and 111 Squadrons.
April 2003 saw the Tornado F3 Conversion Unit (OCU), 56 (Reserve) Squadron, operating from RAF Leuchars.
In April this year, 56 (Reserve) Squadron amalgamated with 43 (Fighter) Squadron. The new merged squadron is named 43 (Fighter) Squadron.
Anyone who can help with items for the memorabilia centre is asked to contact Squadron Leader Sue Freeman or Flight Lieutenant Duncan MacNiven on 01334 839471 Ext 7948/ 7286 or 6050
source: fifetoday.co.uk, Friday, June 19, 2008.