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RAF Peterhead

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Aerial view, 2006, © http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/14644
Aerial view
© Alan Stewart

RAF Peterhead, Longside Airfield, was a World War II airfield located approximately four miles west of Peterhead.

Peterhead Airfield was built for the RAF in 1941, between Longside and Peterhead, and disbanded in 1945. At its busiest, there was in excess of 2,000 personnel stationed there, typically 1,576 RAF and 289 WAF, with up to five accommodation camps in use, serving a large number of RAF squadrons, and up to four Fleet Air Arm (FAA) squadrons. Amongst the nations represented were Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, Poles, Czechoslovaks, Belgians, and Americans. Squadrons of particular note would include the RAF 13th Group (Night Fighters), the Royal Canadian Air force (RCAF) (416 Squadron), and the Polish Air Force (309 Squadron). Records suggest the airfield was used as a fighter station operating Hurricane, Spitfire, and Mustang aircraft, and provided protection for eastern convoys.

May-July 1944, 416 Squadron formed at Peterhead on November 18, 1941. In the same month, one person was killed, and three others injured, when a Ju-88 bomber dropped two bombs on the airfield.

Although the hangars no longer remain, much of the airfield remains, including much of the runways, dispersal sites, and remains of the accommodation camps, buildings, and huts associated with them. A number of pillboxes (possibly seven originally) remain around the site, which was equipped with a Battle HQ, rifle range, and its own sewage plant. The Operations Block lay to the south east of the junction of the A950 and the Peterhead bypass. Originally a flat roofed building with four associated huts within a fenced enclosure, a house now occupies the site.

The airfield is still in use, and has served as a refuelling point for Bond Helicopters and Bristows, flying on to service oil platforms in the North Sea. The control tower was demolished in 1969.

On a smaller scale, a stretch of runway has also been cleared for use by radio-controlled model aircraft.

Halifax crash November 1944

Our thanks to Mike McHolm, who kindly provided details and photographs relating to an incident at Longside, where his grandfather, Flight Lieutenant Norman Adam McHolm (1915 - 2004), Royal Canadian Air Force No 420 "Snowy Owl" Squadron, suffered an engine failure during take-off and crashed on 8 November, 1944, flying a Halifax called "Q" Queeny York.

The aircraft had originally landed successfully at the airfield following problems caused by icing of the wings. However, during the subsequent take-off run, the port outer engine failed, causing the aircraft to swerve, crash through a stone wall and then a stream before coming to rest.

Halifax crash site, McHolm
Halifax crash site
© Mike McHolm by CC
Halifax crash site, McHolm
Halifax crash site
© Mike McHolm by CC

Pilot Flight Lieutenant Norman McHolm suffered facial and back injuries in the incident, and went on to become one of the East Grinstead Guinea Pigs. These were pilots and aircrew who had suffered facial injuries as a result of aircraft crashes and fires, and understood that the doctors helping them were developing new methods of plastic surgery to help them, hence the name 'Guinea Pigs'.[1] Most notable was probably (Sir) Archibald McIndoe, born in Dunedin, New Zealand, on 4 May, 1900, and worked at the Blond McIndoe Research Centre[2] based at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, West Sussex.

Part of their work involved bringing the townspeople on board, in order to help the injured men recover mentally as well as physically. Doctors visited the town to meet the residents, and alert them to the appearance of their patients who were enduring many new procedures intended to help rebuild their faces, and asking that they be treated normally.

East Grinstead became known as 'The town that did not stare'.[3]

Norman McHolm spoke of the crash and East Grinstead during an interview with CBC Radio.[4]

Also contributed (via email) was the identification of this aircraft as Halifax DT803, and that the incident occurred while FL McHolm was training with 1666 Heavy Conversion Unit, based at Wombleton in North Yorkshire.

We can't pinpoint exactly where the crash occurred on the airfield, nor have we identified it in any of the air crash lists we have access to. Any further details would be appreciated, and can be forwarded using the Contact Form


1 East Grinstead 'guinea pigs' celebrate 70th anniversary Retrieved March 18, 2013.

2 Blond McIndoe Research Foundation - The Guinea Pig Club Retrieved March 18, 2013.

3 McIndoe Memorial Statue Retrieved March 18, 2013.

4 CBC Radio Interview with Norman McHolm speaking of the crash Retrieved March 18, 2013.

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