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RAF Castletown
Ensign of the Royal Air Force
Castletown, Caithness, Scotland
Type Royal Air Force station
Coordinates Latitude: 58.583
Longitude: -3.341
Built 1939 (1939)
In use 1940-1945 (1945)
Current
owner
Air Ministry
Controlled by Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Garrison RAF Fighter Command
RAF Coastal Command
Occupants No. 13 Group RAF
No. 18 Group RAF
Battles/wars Second World War
Events Battle of Britain & Defence of Scapa Flow

Royal Air Force station Castletown or more simply RAF Castletown is a former Royal Air Force station that operated during the Second World War. Built near to Castletown in Caithness, Scotland the station opened in 1940 and closed in 1945. Initially built to provide a base for fighter cover for the Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow, it later became an air-sea rescue base as well, before closing just after the end of the war in Europe.

Air defence of Scapa Flow in 1939Edit

At the outbreak of war, the only base available for local air defence of the hugely important Royal navy base at Scapa Flow was the naval airfield, RNAS Hatston. Hatston had no permanent aircraft allocation and was used by the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) squadrons from the Home fleet aircraft carriers when they were at Scapa Flow.[1] There were no RAF stations nearby and the Air Ministry took immediate steps to remedy this by requisitioning Wick Airport which became RAF Wick and by the end of September 1939 Blackburn Skua aircraft of 803 Squadron FAA were patrolling over Scapa. At the same time a site was sought for a second airfield. A site was chosen at Thurdistoft near Castletown and work began immediately on the construction of a new station, RAF Castletown.[2]

Operational historyEdit

Castletown officially opened on 28 May 1940[2] as a satellite of RAF Wick.[3] Wick was then a station in 18 Group, Coastal Command[1] though also serving as a sector headquarters for 13 Group in Fighter Command. On 7 June 1940, Castletown ceased to be a satellite of Wick and became an operational station of 13 Group. The new station itself had its own satellite at RAF Skitten, which opened in December 1940.[citation needed]

The first aircraft, Hawker Hurricanes of 504 Squadron, arrived on 9 June 1940. Throughout the Battle of Britain Castletown provided air cover for Scapa with 504 Squadron being replaced by 3 Squadron and later 232 Squadron.[4]

After the Battle of Britain, the threat of invasion receded but attacks on Scapa continued. In 1941 124 Squadron was formed at Castletown to provide convoy and coastal patrols.[5] This activity continued until 1944 when the last squadron (by coincidence 504 Squadron) left and the station began to be wound down. The last known aircraft to visit the station was a Sikorsky Hoverfly helicopter of 771 Squadron FAA in March 1945[6] and the station closed soon after.[6]

As fighter activity decreased Castletown became a base for air-sea rescue duties with 282 Squadron being raised specifically for this purpose at Castletown in 1943.[7] 282 Squadron was replaced by 278 Squadron in 1944.[citation needed]

Ground defence of the station was initially provided by army units but from 1942 onwards No. 2816 Squadron RAF Regiment fulfilled these duties.[8]

Squadrons based at stationEdit

Sqn Aircraft From Arrived Departed To Notes
3 Hawker Hurricane I RAF Wick
RAF Turnhouse
RAF Skaebrae
3 September 1940
13 October 1940
10 February 1941
14 September 1940
7 January 1941
3 April 1941
RAF Turnhouse
RAF Skaebrae
RAF Martlesham Heath
[9]
17 Hurricane IIA/I RAF Martlesham Heath 5 April 1941 16 June 1941 RAF Elgin Detachments at RAF Elgin & RAF Sumburgh.[10]
54 Supermarine Spitfire VB/IIB RAF Hornchurch 17 November 1941 2 June 1942 RAF Wellingore [11]
66 Spitfire LF IXB RAF Bognor 8 May 1944 14 May 1944 RAF Bognor [12]
118 Spitfire VI RAF Peterhead 19 October 1943 20 January 1944 RAF Detling Det at RAF Peterhead.[13]
123 Spitfire I/IIA/VB RAF Drem 22 September 1941 11 April 1942 en route Egypt Det at RAF Tain.[14]
124 Spitfire I/IIB/VA/VB Reformed here 10 May 1941 17 November 1941 RAF Biggin Hill Reformed here.[14]
131 Spitfire VB/VC RAF Westhampnett 22 January 1943 26 June 1943 RAF Exeter [15]
132 Spitfire IXB/VB/VI RAF Detling 17 January 1944 10 March 1944 RAF Detling [15]
167 Spitfire VB RAF Scorton 1 June 1942 14 October 1942 RAF Ludham Det at RAF Peterhead.[16]
213 Hurricane I RAF Driffield 18 February 1941 11 May 1941 en route Egypt via HMS Furious [17]
232 Hurricane I RAF Sumburgh 18 September 1940 13 October 1940 RAF Skitten [18]
260 Hurricane I Reformed here
RAF Skitten
22 November 1940
7 January 1941
5 December 1940
10 February 1941
RAF Skitten [19]
278 Westland Lysander IIA
Supermarine Walrus
RAF Matlask 21 April 1942 February RAF Shoreham As a detachment from RAF Coltishall.[20]
282 Walrus
Avro Anson I
Formed here 1 January 1943 12 January 1944 Disbanded Dets at RAF Peterhead, RAF Drem and RAF Ayr.[21]
310 Spitfire VA/VB/VI RAF Exeter 26 June 1943 19 September 1943 RAF Ibsley Det at RAF Sumburgh.[22]
331 Hurricane I/IIB RAF Catterick 21 August 1941 21 September 1941 RAF Skaebrae [23]
404 Bristol Blenheim IVF RAF Thorney Island 20 June 1941 27 July 1941 RAF Skitten [24]
504 Hurricane I
Spitfire VB/VC/VI
Spitfire IXB/VB
RAF Wick
RAF Redhill
RAF Hornchurch
21 June 1940
19 September 1943
10 March 1944
2 September 1940
18 October 1943
30 April 1944
RAF Catterick
RAF Peterhead
RAF Digby
Full strength.[25]
Det at Sumburgh.[25]
Full strength.[25]
607 Hurricane I RAF Skitten 27 July 1941 20 August 1941 RAF Skitten [26]</ref>
610 Spitfire VB/VC RAF Ludham 15 October 1942 20 January 1943 RAF Westhampnett [26]

ReferencesEdit

CitationsEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Myers, P. "Air Operations RAF Wick". Caithness.org. http://www.caithness.org/history/articles/airoperationsrafwickpart1/airoperationsrafwickpartone.htm. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Castletown Recalls p. 3.
  3. Gutteridge, Andrew (2002). "WW2 Defences in Caithness Part 2, Air Defences". Caithness Field Club Bulletin. http://www.caithness.org/caithnessfieldclub/bulletins/2002/ww2_defences_in_caithness.htm. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  4. Wood, Derek & Dempster, Derek (1967) [1961]. The Narrow Margin: The Battle of Britain and the rise of air power 1930–1940 (2nd ed.). London: Arrow Books. ISBN 978-0-09-002160-4. 
  5. "History of No. 124 Squadron". Royal Air Force. http://www.raf.mod.uk/history_old/h124.html. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Castletown Recalls p. 11.
  7. "282 Squadron". Royal Air Force. http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/282squadron.cfm. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  8. Castletown Recalls p. 13.
  9. Jefford 1988, p. 24.
  10. Jefford 1988, p. 30.
  11. Jefford 1988, p. 42.
  12. Jefford 1988, p. 45.
  13. Jefford 1988, p. 57.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Jefford 1988, p. 58.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Jefford 1988, p. 59.
  16. Jefford 1988, p. 64.
  17. Jefford 1988, p. 71.
  18. Jefford 1988, p. 74.
  19. Jefford 1988, p. 80.
  20. Jefford 1988, p. 82.
  21. Jefford 1988, p. 83.
  22. Jefford 1988, p. 85.
  23. Jefford 1988, p. 87.
  24. Jefford 1988, p. 89.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Jefford 1988, p. 95.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Jefford 1988, p. 99.

BibliographyEdit

External linksEdit


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