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RAF Grangemouth

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RAF Grangemouth was a World War II airfield which opened in 1939.

It seems that the unfortunate Grangemouth airfield opened as the Central Scotland Airport in July 1939, only to close for commercial operation some three months later with the start of World War II, when it became a fighter base.

The control tower was established in an existing prewar civilian building, which was destroyed by fire in August 1952. The airfield closed in June 1955, when it was demolished to make way for the expanding BP refinery, and British Hydrocarbons plastics plant nearby.

Memorial unveiled after 5 year delay

Hoping to take advantage of the 2008 RAF Leuchars Airshow, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire - was scheduled to carry out a flypast on Saturday, September 13, 2008, to mark the unveiling of a full size replica of a Mark I Spitfire which was to be installed in tribute to those air cadets killed while training at Grangemouth's wartime RAF base. Unfortunately, low cloud led to the flypast being cancelled, and the replica was stored on a lorry, pending completion and installation.

The replica was described as an exact copy of the Spitfire flown by 58 Operational Training Unit (OTU) Sergeant Eugeniusz Tadensy Lukomski, killed in 1941 when his aircraft came down in Avondale Estate in nearby Polmont. The completed replica will bear the distinctive markings and colours of the Polish 303 Squadron, the highest scoring foreign squadron of the Battle of Britain.

Memorial garden

Although the flypast and spitfire did not appear on the day, the event still marked the opening of a memorial garden dedicated to those who died, planted on ground granted for the purpose and located on the perimeter of the original airfield. Within the garden, a wall features the names of each Polish fighter pilot who died at Grangemouth.

The memorial remembers the contribution of hundreds of Polish pilots who developed their skills at the airfield as members of 58 OTU during World War II. By the end of 1939, RAF Grangemouth was used solely as a Battle of Britain satellite airbase, strategically vital for the protection of the Forth Bridge and Rosyth Docks, where many Royal Navy vessels were based or repaired.

The commemoration was organised by the 1333 (Grangemouth) Squadron of the Air Training Corps (ATC) who began a campaign to trace the former cadets' families in 2006.[1]

Memorial unveiled in 2013

The replica spitfire was finally completed, installed, and revealed in a special ceremony held on Thursday, May 09, 2013, when it was unveiled by 100-year-old former aircraft mechanic John "Dinger" Bell in the memorial garden.[2][3]

Erroneous news reports published

The original news articles published by the BBC[4] and the Scotsman online[5], regarding the unveiling of the memorial described above, contained a misrepresented quotation regarding aircraft and pilot losses.

Both contained the statement "Many of these planes had been badly shot up, one of the reasons that so many were killed in training accidents", and which both attributed the statement to Flying Officer Tom McMorrow, commanding officer of the 1333 (Grangemouth) Squadron of the Air Training Corps".

Further to correspondence and research provided through our blog, by a veteran technical NCO with five years' service in the RAF in wartime, we are pleased to report that this statement was incorrectly attributed by those sources, as follows:

I have now received an official explanation! It appears that the C.O. Grangemouth A.T.C. in an interview quoted an extract from a book relating to accidents at another airfield flying elderly Blenheim Bombers. This is the basis of the story, He states that at no time was Grangemouth and its Spitfires implicated. Regrettably this erroneous version still is circulating on the Web. I received also a fulsome apology for the frustration felt by myself and ex-collegues relating as it did to our wartime service.

- A Paterson

Secret gas tests

Former crew stationed at Grangemouth have told of the base being used for secret operations involving the spraying of gas, using Lysanders of 614 Squadron. The whole area around the base became a restricted area due to the stockpiles of mustard gas held there and the secrecy of the missions carried out. The restricted area took in the nearby town and the docks, and special passes were issued to all residents.

This account is supported by the release of formerly classified or secret information into the public domain regarding the posting of 614 Squadron to RAF Macmerry, where the installation of storage tanks has been described beneath the north end of the runway, with 614 being tasked with spraying the material over the invasion beaches in the event of an enemy attack from this direction.

Although the name suggests mustard gas is the harmful component, it is in fact a liquid which can be dispersed as an aerosol, and persists where it lands, denying access to an area, and remaining dangerous for some some, being absorbed through the skin if picked up directly or on clothing, and not displaying any significant symptoms for some hours, by which time it is generally too late for effective treatment to be administered.

Employed during World Wars I and II, mustard agents are now regulated under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Three classes of chemicals are monitored under this Convention, with sulphur and nitrogen mustard grouped in Schedule 1, as substances with no use other than chemical warfare.

References

1 Plans revealed for Grangemouth Spitfire memorial at former airbase | Magazine | Edinburgh | STV Retrieved June 08, 2013.

2 Grangemouth Spitfire memorial remembers pilots killed in training | Magazine | Edinburgh | STV Retrieved June 08, 2013.

3 Grangemouth unveils Spitfire memorial to 71 pilots killed in WWII | Dundee & Tayside | News | STV Retrieved June 08, 2013.

4 BBC News, Spitfire tribute to WWII airmen, September 12, 2008

5 news.scotsman.com Spitfires to fly above Forth again in Polish fighter pilots tribute, March 21, 2008

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