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|Castletown, Caithness, Scotland|
|Type||Royal Air Force station|
|Controlled by||Royal Air Force|
|Garrison||RAF Fighter Command
RAF Coastal Command
|Occupants||No. 13 Group RAF
No. 18 Group RAF
|Battles/wars||Second World War|
|Events||Battle of Britain & Defence of Scapa Flow|
Royal Air Force station Castletown or more simply RAF Castletown is a former Royal Air Force station that operated during the Second World War. Built near to Castletown in Caithness, Scotland the station opened in 1940 and closed in 1945. Initially built to provide a base for fighter cover for the Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow, it later became an air-sea rescue base as well, before closing just after the end of the war in Europe.
Air defence of Scapa Flow in 1939
At the outbreak of war, the only base available for local air defence of the hugely important Royal navy base at Scapa Flow was the naval airfield, RNAS Hatston. Hatston had no permanent aircraft allocation and was used by the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) squadrons from the Home fleet aircraft carriers when they were at Scapa Flow. There were no RAF stations nearby and the Air Ministry took immediate steps to remedy this by requisitioning Wick Airport which became RAF Wick and by the end of September 1939 Skua aircraft of 803 Squadron FAA were patrolling over Scapa. At the same time a site was sought for a second airfield. A site was chosen at Thurdistoft near Castletown and work began immediately on the construction of a new station, RAF Castletown.
Castletown officially opened on 28 May 1940 as a satellite of RAF Wick. Wick was then a station in 18 Group, Coastal Command though also serving as a sector headquarters for 13 Group in Fighter Command. On 7 June 1940, Castletown ceased to be a satellite of Wick and became an operational station of 13 Group. The new station itself had its own satellite at RAF Skitten, which opened in December 1940.
The first aircraft, Hurricanes of 504 Squadron, arrived on 9 June 1940. Throughout the Battle of Britain Castletown provided air cover for Scapa with 504 Squadron being replaced by 3 Squadron and later 232 Squadron.
After the Battle of Britain, the threat of invasion receded but attacks on Scapa continued. In 1941 124 Squadron was formed at Castletown to provide convoy and coastal patrols. This activity continued until 1944 when the last squadron (by coincidence 504 Squadron) left and the station began to be wound down. The last known aircraft to visit the station was a Sikorsky Hoverfly helicopter of 771 Squadron FAA in March 1945 and the station closed soon after.
As fighter activity decreased Castletown became a base for air-sea rescue duties with 282 Squadron being raised specifically for this purpose at Castletown in 1943. 282 Squadron was replaced by 278 Squadron in 1944.
Ground defence of the station was initially provided by army units but from 1942 onwards No. 2816 Squadron RAF Regiment fulfilled these duties.
Squadrons based at station
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|3||Fighter||13 October 1940||6 January 1941|
|17||Fighter||5 April 1941||15 June 1941|
|54||Fighter||17 November 1941||1 June 1942|
|66||Fighter||8 May 1944||13 May 1944|
|118||Fighter||19 October 1943||19 January 1944|
|123||Fighter||22 September 1941||11 April 1942|
|131||Fighter||22 January 1943||25 June 1943|
|132||Fighter||1 January 1944||19 March 1944|
|167||Fighter||1 June 1942||13 October 1942|
|213||Fighter||18 February 1941||11 May 1941|
|232||Fighter||18 September 1940||12 October 1940|
|260||Fighter||7 January 1941||10 February 1941|
|278||Air-sea rescue||1 February 1944||1 April 1944|
|282||Air-sea rescue||1 September 1943||22 November 1943|
|310||Fighter||26 June 1943||20 September 1943|
|331||Fighter||21 August 1941||21 September 1941|
|401 (RCAF)||Fighter||12 December 1940||1 February 1941|
|404 (RCAF)||Coastal patrol||20 June 1941||27 July 1941|
|504||Fighter||9 June 1940||1 September 1940|
|504||Fighter||19 September 1943||18 October 1943|
|504||Fighter||10 March 1944||10 July 1944|
|610||Fighter||15 October 1942||19 January 1943|
|607||Fighter||27 July 1941||20 August 1941|
|808 (FAA)||Fighter||5 September 1940||1 October 1940|
- Myers, P. "Air Operations RAF Wick". Caithness.org. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
- Castletown Recalls p. 3.
- Gutteridge, Andrew (2002). "WW2 Defences in Caithness Part 2, Air Defences". Caithness Field Club Bulletin. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
- Wood, Derek & Dempster, Derek (1967) . The Narrow Margin: The Battle of Briatin and the rise of air power 1930–1940 (2nd ed.). London: Arrow Books. ISBN 978-0-09-002160-4.
- "History of No. 124 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
- Castletown Recalls p. 11.
- "282 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
- Castletown Recalls p. 13.
- Andrew Gutteridge, ed. (2005). Castletown Recalls 1939–1945. Castletown Heritage Society. Retrieved 17 March 2010.