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Sky over Scapa

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BACK IN PRINT - The story of airmen and islanders in six tragic years of war.

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£ 18.75

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By Gregor Lamb

For Britons the name 'Scapa Flow' brings to mind the Royal Navy and the ships of the Home Fleet which were based there during two world wars.

But how many associate the name 'Scapa' with aircraft?

The first aircraft appeared in Scapa Flow in 1913 and Winston Churchill in his capacity as First Lord of the Admiralty took advantage of this to survey, from the air, the 'Grand Fleet' as it was to be later called.

By the end of that war, three seaplane stations had been built in Orkney and two landing strips.

In 1917 Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning made history in Scapa Flow when he became the first pilot in the world to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier underway.

The advances made in the development of the aircraft carrier in the inter-war period had a great effect in the Scapa region. The Royal Navy's first purpose built Air Station was established at Hatston where the busy fighter squadrons were disembarked. Yet another station was established at Twatt where brave pilots acted as 'the enemy9 to give the cruisers and battleships of the Home Fleet practice in anti-aircraft fire. This was much needed, for with the invasion of Norway, Orkney found itself in the front line. Two Royal Air Force Stations were built to protect Scapa against the new threat - long range enemy bombers.

How many know that the dress rehearsal for the Battle of Britain began in Orkney in March 1940 with the attempted destruction of the Home Fleet in its base, Scapa Flow? In the 'Battle of Orkney' the islands became the first part of Britain to be bombed, here the first British civilian was to die, and the first enemy aircraft was brought down on British soil. Squadrons based in Orkney in a defensive role now found themselves taking part in offensive missions and aircraft flying from Hatston sank the cruiser Konigsberg in Bergen harbour, the first warship to be sunk by aircraft alone. After supremacy in the air had been established, the Orkney airfields became training grounds for some of the major operations of the war. At one point fifteen squadrons of aircraft were based in the islands and at times there were up to ten aircraft carriers in Scapa Flow.

This is the story of airmen and islanders in six tragic years of war.

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