Dornoch Historylinks Image Library

Dornoch Castle with Lancaster bombers
Dornoch Castle with Lancaster bombers

Black & white photo of Dornoch Castle and county buildings taken from Cathedral tower with large fleet of Lancaster bombers in the background.

[In 1941 Dornoch airstrip was developed by the RAF at a cost of £38,000 and on 10 August 1941 it was officially opened as 40 Satellite Landing Ground (SLG) with one RAF officer and 12 other ranks billeted at the Royal Golf Hotel. Shortly thereafter 45 Maintenance Unit (MU) Kinloss used Dornoch for storage of Spitfires, Havocs and Whitleys, with possibly Wellington bombers (45 MU Operations Record Book (ORB) recording the overshoot and damage of Wellington 1C, X9930 on 13 Sep 41). The use of the airfield for storage was short, largely due to the inability to camouflage aircraft on the large open space of the links, rendering them vulnerable to enemy attacks. In 1943, following the reorganisation of 41 Group Maintenance Command, Dornoch was taken over by 46 MU Lossiemouth, with the main party arriving on 11 October 1943. Dornoch was then used for storing Beaufighters, 90 being held in May 1944 and 108 in July. The airfield was at its maximum capacity in April 1945 with 'planes being prepared for service rather than storage. Although there is no mention of Lancasters at Dornoch in 46 MU ORB they were evidently there as shown in this photograph, with a 46 MU air fitter Archie Campbell of Loch Rannoch recalling getting a dressing down "for using a local Witch's stone as an anchor while towing a Lancaster out of soft ground". Source - page 12 'A Steep Turn to the Stars - A History of Aviation in the Moray Firth' by Jim Hughes.]
Picture added on 24 April 2008
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I don't think the larger aircraft depicted are in fact Avro Lancasters but, more likely, something like Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys
Added by Richard Robins-Bird on 25 August 2014
Seeing this photograph with the Dornoch airfield in the background and the Dornoch castle in the foreground I was reminded of a very interesting experience I had in 1965. In the Summer of that year I was on three months “home leave” from the B S A Police in the then Rhodesia. After spending time in Embo, Glasgow and Edinburgh I decided to take a hitch hiking holiday in Germany with a Scots colleague from Rhodesia. We visited many German cities on this trip and also attended the German Grand Prix at Nűrburgring on the 1st August. At the start of the race Jim Clark was number one on the grid with Jackie Stewart second…so Scotland was then very well represented much to our pride. Jim Clark won the race but Jackie Stewart had to retire after only two laps with suspension trouble. Sorry but I digress…this was not the really interesting experience that I wanted to relate…
On our journey we hitch hiked everywhere and had no difficulty getting lifts as the then world was much less violent than today’s. At one stage we were hitch hiking North from Cologne when we were offered a ride by a German male driving a late model Mercedes. He told us that he was going to Műnster which suited us as we wanted to visit a British army base there. The driver then quizzed us as to where we were from and we told him that we were from Scotland. We did not want to mention Rhodesia as at that time South Africa was going through a lot of criticism because of its racial policies and often people that we met on the trip were quick to lump Rhodesia in with South Africa.
I was then asked from where I was from in Scotland and I told him it was Embo in Sutherland. This did not help him and he questioned me further and I told him that Embo was just about three miles North of Dornoch. On hearing this he became very animated and went into some detail of how Dornoch was such a beautiful town. He talked of the cathedral and the castle across the road and the golf course towards the sea. I was of course very pleased that we had found common ground and I then pressed him for details as to where he had stayed in Dornoch. In my early teens I had worked as a waiter in both the Dornoch Hotel and the Royal Golf Hotel and hoped that he might have been one of my former table guests. Our German friend then became silent for a short time and then started to smile telling us that he had never visited Dornoch but that in WW 2 he had been a Luwaffe recce pilot and that he had then flown over Dornoch a few times. This was while he was coming in from the North to photograph the then naval base at Invergordon and the RAF air base at Lossiemouth. He was also able to tell me that both the Dornoch Cathedral and Dornoch Castle were excellent land marks to give him his bearing when flying in bad weather.
I was then able to give him a bit of interesting post WW2 Luwaffe history. In 1953 I worked a summer holiday as a weeder in the Forestry Commission’s seedling nursery in Embo Street. While we were weeding on this high ground we had a ring side view of jet fighters flying over the Dornoch Firth and climbing from and diving towards Lossiemouth. The reports that we got at that time were that these jet fighters were piloted by Luwaffe pilots as Germany had then just come into the NATO fold and that Lossiemouth had been chosen as the training base for their future jet fighter pilots.

Many thanks for your very interesting comment - Administrator

Added by Kednneth Mackay on 27 August 2014
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