The War Years
During World War II, while bombs were falling on London and children were being evacuated en masse from cities, a tiny airfield on The Banffshire Coast was delivering a hammer blow against Hitler’s regime. Fearless airmen from around the UK, Canada and Norway flew hundreds of missions from RAF Banff Strike Wing at Boyndie – missions which were critical to the success of the Allied campaign.
These heroic airmen, flying in Mosquito and Beaufighter aircraft, attacked enemy U-boats and surface vessels in the North Sea and off the Norwegian coast. They inflicted heavy damage, leading to the loss of vast quantities of iron ore and other vital supplies. Over 80 fliers from the base gave their lives during the conflict.
RAF Banff Strike Wing closed in 1946, but many former airmen and their families still visit to rekindle memories and to pay their respects to comrades who did not return home. Although no longer operational, some of the original airfield buildings still exist and there is an opportunity to look up the names of loved ones on a memorial nearby.
Excavation work has also taken place at the ‘drome to unearth evidence of a catastrophic test flight in 1945. Pieces of a Mosquito which crashed after diving vertically into the ground were uncovered during a dig on the site, and it is believed that there could be other pieces of aviation history scattered elsewhere at Boyndie. Plans are currently being developed to develop the old airfield to make it more accessible to visitors.
Nearby, The Old School – a popular coffee shop and visitor centre – has an extensive display about the airfield and its history.
The location of RAF Banff Strike Wing meant that the coastline was often targeted by enemy aircraft. Although the number of lives lost was mercifully small, many buildings did not emerge unscathed. The Luftwaffe was successful in dropping payloads on the most prominent of all buildings on The Banffshire Coast – the Duff House mansion.
The property was initially used as a prisoner of war camp before being utilised as an Allied headquarters for several regiments, and then finally as the main base for the Norwegian Brigade. In 1940, two bombs fell through the roof of one of the wings, but did not explode. The damage was so extensive that the eastern wing had to be demolished.
Duff House is now a museum and art gallery which is open to the public. It is possible to see a piece of shrapnel which was found on a tree in the grounds, as well as personal items which belonged to soldiers who were stationed there. A number of military signs are also etched on the walls, including a Norwegian flag on the third floor.
After the war ended, Duff House was lived in by a large number of Polish soldiers while they waited to resettle in Scotland rather than return home.