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RAF Annan crashes detailed in new book

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By Zachary Hannay
Nostalgia
RAF Annan crashes detailed in new book

ANNAN Airfield opened in spring 1942, when the RAF had a great need to train fighter-bomber pilots.

These pilots would go on to take the offensive to the enemy in northern Europe and other theatres, such as the Mediterranean and Western Desert.

Now Highland-based author Keith S Bryers has written a book on Scotland’s wartime aircraft crashes.

It has been published by Aviation Books Ltd and it includes many aircraft which crashed while flying from Annan.

The main unit based at Annan was 55 Operational Training Unit (OTU), whose single-seat Hurricane aircraft roamed across much of south-west Scotland and northern England on low-level practice missions.

About half the unit operated from Longtown airfield and the Solway Firth played the role of the English Channel, while northern England served as northern France.

By November 1943, the unit had no less than 80 Hurricanes on its strength plus 18 Master trainers and five Martinet target tugs. It was reformed in early 1944 as 4 Tactical Exercise Unit (TEU) with one half operating from Great Orton airfield, instead of Longtown.

Shortly afterwards, the unit was again re-designated, this time as 3 TEU.

The airfield at Annan had a poor reputation within the RAF for its weather and certainly low cloud and mist were significant contributory factors in the many crashes which occurred, along with pilot inexperience, the use of often ‘tired’ aircraft and the inherently dangerous nature of tactical low-flying in hilly areas in wartime conditions.

Keith’s book lists some 80 crashes which were suffered by 55 OTU and 3 TEU based at Annan, many of them fatal.

Flying activity at the site had largely ceased by mid-1944, after which the airfield was used for storing bombs.

The RAF had left by 1952 and the nuclear power station Chapelcross was built there in the late 1950s and used to produce plutonium for the British nuclear weapons programme until the early 2000s.

Keith’s fully-referenced two-volume book – Scotland’s Wartime Aircraft Crashes – provides details of some 4500 wartime crashes of British, American and German aircraft, which resulted in more than 6700 fatalities.

Volume one covers 1939-42 and volume two relates to 1943-45.

Each volume has more than 350 pages with some 60 photos in all. Print-on-demand copies can be obtained through The Great British Bookshop or Amazon at £22 per volume plus P and P, where applicable.

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