Unit History: Dallachy (Airfield)
RWY 05/23 Concrete 1463m x46m (bad state of repair and overgrown)
RWY 11/29 Concrete 1280m x46m (Bad State of Repair and overgrown)
Dallachy was built for Coastal Command in 1942 and early 1943. This airfield, due to land layout (A ridge which runs along the south side of the airfield) only had two runways instead of three. Bomber Command indicated an interest in the site, due to the short runways, this ruled out Heavy Bomber use. The Navy also had an urgent requirement for an Observer School, Dallachy was offered for use. The navy was unhappy with the two runways and the inevitable cross winds, which would make training very difficult.
In Late May 1943, the airfield was lent to Flying Training command 14 PAFU that brought Oxfords to Banff. Separate day and night flights were set up and began on 25th June 1943. A large amount of multi-engined flying hours were amassed during 1943/44.
Dallachy, being on the Northern Coast Of Scotland, often suffered Radio cross talk, this was attributed to German Forces in occupied Norway. As with most other training airfields, Dallachy had it’s share of crashes. In the year’s stay at Dallachy, the Advanced Flying Unit produced over 660 pilots with 65,721 flying hours.
Coastal Command took over the site on 1st Sept 1944, it was planned that Wellingtons would be used, plans were changed and Warwicks and Swordfish aircraft arrived at the end of September. Beaufighters arrived in October 1944 after the U-boats had fled their bases in France. A detachment of 524 Squadrons Wellingtons from Langham joined the wing for a while.
The New Strike Wing’s first operation was on the 25th October. 22 Beaufighters,2 mosquitoes from Banff and a Warwick set out to attack shipping in Norway, due to bad weather the operation was cancelled.
Operations continued into the winter, numerous missions had to be aborted due to the weather which went into heavy snowfalls in January 1945. Wellingtons from 524 Squadron returned to Dallachy in February 1945 after having new radar equipment fitted.
On 9th February 1945, what the wing called Black Friday. 31 Beaufighters left Dallachy and from other airfields, 9 Mustangs and 2 Warwicks took off for Norway. 9 Beaufighters and a Mustang failed to return home.
A Trial known as Operation Ashfield (Radar detection of shipping at night which flame floats would be dropped to provide a Centre point for Strike Wing Aircraft). This tended to cause problems as on several occasions the Strike wing couldn’t find the flares.
Within Spey bay there are several accounts of bombs and torpedoes being dropped due to aircraft suffering mechanical problems.
As the war went into it’s last few months, activity at Dallachy was at fever pitch, Germans were fleeing and between merchant freighters, U-Boats and military vessels the strike wings had a busy time.
The last official Operation took place on the 21st May 1945, where Beaufighters were hunting for Surrendering U-Boats in Norwegian Fjords.
Following the end of the war, 404 and 489 Squadron went to Banff. 144 and 455 Squadron disbanded. At it’s peak, Dallachy had around 2000 personnel. The Station was used as a holding unit for Aircrew hopeful of a civilian career. Dallachy was then put on a Care and Maintenance program on 24th November 1945.
I received an Email from Mark Gibb, Mark was a personal friend of Wing Commander H.N.Gravenor who was a station Commander at Dallachy. One of the stories which was mentioned was:-
"On high ground adjacent to the Eastern aerodrome boundary, on which there was a training school/camp for spies !! He told of an environment in which the trainees could only speak German and would only eat German rations in order to acclimatise themselves to their forthcoming role. He said that the camp was visible from the control tower, but that he, or any other member of his staff, were not permitted near the camp.....by the way he described this to me, this obviously still griped him after all these years as he was the Station Commander !!"