September 11, 2015

Second World War veterans from Norway returned to Fife to commemorate long-standing ties between the community and the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF).

The veterans, ranging in age from 91 to 98, gathered on September 10 in the village of Woodhaven where, from February 1942 until the end of the war, the Catalina flying boats of 333 Squadron (RNoAF) were based.

They were accompanied by the Norwegian Defence Attaché, Captain Wemberg, and the Assistant Chief of Staff of the Veterans’ Affairs Division of the Norwegian MOD, Brigadier Guttormsen, himself a former commanding officer of the Squadron.

The Brigadier underlined the strong bonds that continue to exist between Norway and the people of Fife.

He explained how the Woodhaven Catalinas were used in highly secret missions – 31 in all – to transport agents and operatives between Scotland and Norway, although their core role was in support of the Battle of the Atlantic, providing convoy escorts, reconnaissance and anti-submarine patrols, sometimes amid fierce battle. Four German U-boats were sunk and eight damaged, though at the cost of over 30 Norwegian personnel. 

The post war relationship between the Squadron and Wormit Boating Club began with the unveiling in May 1975 of a memorial to 333 Squadron to symbolise the enduring friendship between the Squadron and the area that was home for three years. The two rowing club skiffs proudly displayed at the commemoration bear the names ‘Catalina’ and ‘The Flying Boat’, testament to the friendship that has lasted for over 70 years.

Gifts were exchanged, including squadron plaques, watercolours painted by local artist and boat club member Jim Lindsay and bowls carved by a local craftsman from the wood of one of  the laburnum trees planted by William B Rankine in 1944 to commemorate the visit by King Haakon VII to Woodhaven in July that year, and which fell down in June 2004.  Local schoolchildren thanked the veterans in well-practiced Norwegian, and all enjoyed light refreshments including local shortbread.

The event was part of a week-long tour for the veterans which also included visits to Leuchars, St Andrews, Montrose and Dundee.

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