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Soviet Air Force in Scotland: Top Secret WWII Mission Exposed

© Photo : Russian Consulate General in EdinburghDelegates to the exhibition, which opened on Friday.
Delegates to the exhibition, which opened on Friday. - Sputnik International
A new exhibition at the former RAF Montrose air base in Scotland reveals the secrets of a WWII mission carried out at the airfield by elite Soviet pilots.

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An exhibition which opened on Friday at Montrose Air Station in the district of Angus reveals to the public for the first time a top secret mission carried out by 24 elite Soviet pilots in Scotland during World War Two, who arrived in the area in 1943.

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"Montrose Air Station’s exhibition 'The Russians Are Coming' reveals how 'Hero-Pilots' of the 10th Guards Air Division secretly came to Scotland in 1943 to learn how to fly Whitworth Armstrong Albemarle bombers," explained Dr. Dan Paton, curator of the exhibition.

The mission was revealed after detective work from Anna Belorusova, the granddaughter of late Soviet pilot Commander Peter Kolesnikov, who arrived in Scotland this week as part of a Russian delegation including several descendants of the pilots of the 10th Guards Air Division, and representatives of the Vnukovo Aviation Museum in Moscow.

"My grandfather died soon after World War Two and among the treasured possessions at home there was a map of the coast of Britain, a Christmas menu adorned with a thistle and a photograph of him with 10 other Soviet airmen, which was a puzzle to me all my life," said Belorusova.

An English phrasebook she found in his possession revealed a clue to the mystery: "The hand-written inscription on the front page of my grandfather’s phrase book says: 'Good luck and may you visit Britain again under better conditions. Russia & Britain — V!'," she revealed.

Belorusova's investigations yielded the discovery that elite Soviet pilots had been sent to airfields at RAF Errol in Perth, Scotland, and at Hurn in Dorset, England, from 1943-1944. The pilots' mission was to learn how to fly the airplane, which was supplied by the Royal Air Force to the Soviet Air Forces.

"It was hush-hush at the time," Dr. Paton told the Dundee Courier newspaper. "They trained at Errol and Tealing, so they were close to Dundee. The foreign minister [Vyacheslav] Molotov also visited Britain on two occasions and his aircraft landed at Tealing."         

© Photo : Photo courtesy of Anna BelorusovaA few of the Soviet airmen who arrived in Scotland in 1943 to undertake top secret training at Errol Airfield, photo supplied by Anna Belorusova.
A few of the Soviet airmen who arrived in Scotland in 1943 to undertake top secret training at Errol Airfield, photo supplied by Anna Belorusova. - Sputnik International
A few of the Soviet airmen who arrived in Scotland in 1943 to undertake top secret training at Errol Airfield, photo supplied by Anna Belorusova.
The 12 surviving veterans of the Soviet 10th Guards Air Division were unable to make the trip to Scotland due to ill-health, while the RAF participants of the mission are no longer alive. However, representing the armed forces at the opening of the exhibition were Scottish veterans of World War Two.

"Our exhibition commemorates a group of fearless Russian airmen so we are delighted that our honored Russian guests will be commemorating Scotland’s brave airmen and women by honoring Mrs. Ness Van, who was in the ATS, and Mr. David Oswald, who served in the RAF,” said Dr. Paton. 

The opening of the exhibition on Friday marked the beginning of the Air Station's Open Weekend, part of a host of activities organized by Museums Galleries Scotland to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Other events include an exhibition on the Shetland Bus boats, which ran between the Shetland Islands and Norway during WWII, and played a significant role in assisting the Norwegian resistance.

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