Fife community celebrates a remarkable 75-year friendship

The remarkable relationship between a north east Fife community and a Norwegian air squadron will be further reinforced next weekend.
Ralph and Evelyn will be taking a friendship quaich. (Pic: Neil Hanna)Ralph and Evelyn will be taking a friendship quaich. (Pic: Neil Hanna)
Ralph and Evelyn will be taking a friendship quaich. (Pic: Neil Hanna)

Wormit couple David and Jan Winch and Sandford House owners Ralph Webster and Evelyn Hardie have been invited as guests of honour to the 75th anniversary of the formation of 333 Squadron at Woodhaven.

They’ll be taken in one of the squadron’s P-3N surface surveillance aircraft from Lossiemouth to the Andoya air base at Andenes, near the Arctic Circle, where they’ll be treated to a barbecue, an airshow and a celebration ball.

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The 333 Squadron was formed in Woodhaven in 1942 to fly Catalina aircraft on clandestine missions to Norway.

Since then, squadron members and their families have maintained links with the community in Wormit, with regular visits taking place on both an official and unofficial basis.

Sadly, the number of original squadron members has dwindled greatly, but their successors are well aware of the strong bonds.

“The squadron is regularly deployed to Lossiemouth, or in the past Kinloss, to take part in NATO exercises,” said Mr Winch.

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“On these occasions some crew and maintenance members managed to make a quick trip at short notice to see the birthplace of their squadron. They are taken on a short tour and members of Wormit Boating Club provide a welcome, when time allows, for local people who remember the Norwegian wartime presence to meet the visitors.”

Mr and Mrs Winch will be taking with them a commemorative album which they’ve put together documenting the 75-year friendship and Ralph and Evelyn will be presenting a friendship quaich from Sandford House.

During the war, the house was owned by Lady ‘Bluebell’ Walker, who offered it as a leave centre for Norwegian airmen, earning the St Olaf Medal for her work.

Having restored the house after it lay empty for three years, the couple have followed Lady Walker’s tradition by welcoming the Norwegians whenever a group has visited the area – at first showing them the ‘work in progress’ and latterly giving them a tour of the Arts and Crafts house to see it as would have been when their countrymen knew it.

Copies of the album will also be available to see locally, and a soft-backed version will become available for anyone to buy as a reminder of this significant part of the local heritage.

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