Royal Air Forces Association Stornoway Branch
Welcome to the website of the Stornoway Branch of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA). We are situated on the island of Lewis and Harris, part of the Western Isles or Outer Hebrides group
of islands, off the northwest coast of mainland Scotland. The Branch was founded in 1998, and is today a strong and active branch within the network of RAFA branches throughout the UK and worldwide
(for more information on RAFA, log onto www.rafa.org.uk ).
MONTHLY MEETINGS HELD ON 1st WEDNESDAY OF EACH MONTH AT;
MASONIC LODGE FORTROSE, KENNETH STREET, STORNOWAY, ISLE OF LEWIS
NEXT MEETING:- Wednesday 7th March 2018 (AGM)
Follow us on facebook at - 'RAFA Stornoway Branch'
Over and above the regular work of the RAF Association, the Branch has been engaged in many unique events and initiatives over the past years. Shown below are examples of some of these.
2004 - RAF STORNOWAY MEMORIAL
To commemorate those servicemen killed operating from RAF Stornoway between 1941-'45 during World War II, the Stornoway Branch of RAFA commenced work on the establishment of a lasting memorial. With donations from organisations and individuals, both island based and from the mainland, a site adjacent to the entrance to Stornoway Airport (RAF Stornoway as was) was chosen. This site is co-located with the Melbost/Branahuie Garden of Remembrance. These twin villages closely border Stornoway Airport, and so have had a close relationship with RAF Stornoway over the years. The RAF Stornoway Memorial, which bears the inscription 'FOR THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES', was officially unveiled on Saturday 6th November 2004. Guest of honour was the Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles, with RAFA members and representatives of the RAF, Melbost/Branahuie residents, Royal British Legion, Air Cadets and local Council. The site is now the centre for annual Remembrance weekend ceremonies.
2005 - 'LEWIS & HARRIS FIGHTER' VISIT
With the discovery of information about the wartime donation, by the islanders of Lewis and Harris, towards the cost of purchasing a Spitfire aircraft, which bore the name 'Lewis & Harris Fighter', the Branch compiled a history of the aircraft's service (see 'L & H Spit.' section of website). During the course of this research, it was learnt that 72 Squadron of the RAF had been the first operators of the aircraft in 1941. Co-incidently, the present day squadron, based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire, was in the process of naming their current aircraft, Shorts Tucano T.1, after their wartime Spitfires. The Branch contacted 72 Squadron to request one of the names be 'Lewis & Harris Fighter'. This they agreed to do. To round-off this remarkabl event, on 8th September 2005, the squadron flew the aircraft, RAF serial ZF349, to Stornoway, where it was greeted by RAFA, members of the public and the leader of the Western Isles Council, who presented 72 Squadron with a Western Isles coat-of-arms.
2006 - RAF STORNOWAY BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE
To compliment the RAF Stornoway Memorial at Stornoway Airport, the Branch initiated work on a RAF Stornoway Book of Remembrance, which would record the names of the 125 servicemen known to have died operating from Stornoway during WW II. Using the extensive research carried out by Branch Historian Mr. Rodney Long, the pages were produced locally and then sent away for professional binding into an impressive leather bound volume. When the volume had been completed, it was dedicated in a service held in Martin's Memorial Church, Stornoway, where it is now housed in a purpose built display case.
2007 - BETHESDA DONATION
With the sad death of long time member John Fairgrieve in January 2007, the Branch decided to make a donation in his memory to the Stornoway Bethesda Hospice, where John spent his last days, and whose staff looked after him so well. In consultation with the hospice, it was decided to raise funds to purchase a syringe-driver item of medical equipment for use in patient care. Over the course of the year, various fund-raising events were organised and, by October, one thousand pounds had been raised. On 24th October 2007, a short ceremony was arranged at the hospice, at which Branch Chairman Roddy Moffat and members of Stornoway RAFA, handed over a cheque to the Hospice Matron Mrs. Cathie MacDonald. Also presented was a RAFA plaque.
2008 - 10TH ANNIVERSARY
2008 saw the Branch celebrate its 10th anniversary since its founding in 1998. Various events were organised to commemorate this milestone. One of these was a commemorative photo-shoot in August (see above) of the 2008 membership. This was designed to replicate a photo taken of the inaugural Branch meeting in December 1998. The venue for both was the Stornoway Royal British Legion Club.
2009 - RAF LOSSIEMOUTH VISIT
As part of a Branch trip to the mainland in October, RAFA members took part in a conducted tour of RAF Lossiemouth, home of the RAF's Tornado in Scotland. Our host for the tour was Sgt. Tony Carlin. The tour included visits to the RAF Lossiemouth Museum, which houses various artifacts relating, not only to the RAF's use of the base, but also its use by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) previously. We were also shown around the 617(Dambusters) Sqn. area, 617 being one of the Tornado squadrons based at Lossiemouth. Here, we saw replicas of the famous 'Bouncing Bomb' used by the squadron to breach the German dams in WW II, and the 'Tallboy' bomb, used against the German battleship 'Tirpitz' and submarine pens. Also part of this trip away were visits to Fort George and the Highland Aviation Museum, both in the Inverness area.
2010 - VISIT TO EAST FORTUNE MUSEUM
This year's trip away was to the Edinburgh area in October. The main venue to be visited was the Scottish National Museum of Flight at East Fortune, just outside Edinburgh. Here, members toured the various exhibits, two of which formed the highlight of the visit. Firstly, on the commercial side, there was one of the preserved 'Concode' airliners, which can be entered to gain an impression of what it must have been like to travel on this icon of the skies. The other highlight was one of the Avro Vulcan bombers, used for the 'Black Buck' long-range bombing raids during the Falklands War in 1982 (see photo above). We also took in a visit and tour of the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood in Edinburgh, and a tour of the ex-Royal Yacht 'Brittania' at nearby Leith.
2011 - YORKSHIRE AIR MUSEUM
The Branch undertook a visit to the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington, just outside York. This long-range trip was arranged because of a special connection between the Isle of Lewis and one of the museum's exhibits. During WW II, two Halifax bomber squadrons (58 and 502 Sqn.) operated from RAF Stornoway between 1944-'45. One of these crash-landed on take-off from Stornoway, and the remains were scrapped on site. Part of the box-like fuselage was purchased by a local crofter at the time, and used for many years as a hen-shed! When the Yorkshire Air Museum decided to restore a complete Halifax aircraft for display (one of only two in the world), the remains on Lewis were donated and incorporated into the re-build. That aircraft can now be seen at the Yorkshire Air Museum, and was viewed by the Stornoway members during their visit (see photo).
2012 - SHOWING THE FLAG
With the Branch's acquisition of an official RAFA flag, but without a site from which to permanently fly it, the decision was taken to seek permission to fly it in the centre of Stornoway town during this year's RAFA 'Wings' week public appeal. With approval obtained, arrangements were made to hold a flag-raising ceremony in Perceval Square, Stornoway at the start of 'Wings' week on Monday 10th September. Guest of honour was Mr. Norman A. MacDonald, leader of the Western Isles Council who, assisted by RAFA Branch Chairman Robin Hudson, raised the flag, which remained flying for the rest of the week. Also present at the ceremony were RAFA members, Air Cadets of 1731(Isle of Lewis) Sqn. and members of the public. It is hoped to repeat the event each year, during 'Wings' week, to highlight RAFA's 'Battle of Britian' Appeal to the public.
2013 - A BUSY YEAR
With so much of note occurring this year, it was difficult to highlight one event to represent the year, so the picture above is a montage of four of the events. Top left, shows the Branch visit to Stornoway Airport during one of this year's two NATO exercises called 'Joint Warrior', where we were shown some of the aircraft taking part. Top right, shows the Branch trip to the RAF detachment at Benbecula (North Uist), our nearest serving RAF unit. The detachment, from RAF Boulmer, is a remote radar-head, and the tour of their facility was most interesting. Bottom left, shows RAFA members and RAF personnel from Benbecula ready to collect public donations on RAFA's flag-day in Stornoway, as part of RAFA's 'Battle of Britain' appeal. Bottom right, shows the visit of this year's standby display Tucano aircraft from 72 Sqn. to Stornoway Airport in September at the start of 'Wings' week. The aircraft was marked with RAFA insignia.
2014 - A YEAR OF CHANGE
'Battle of Britain' parade through Stornoway
2014 was indeed a year of change for Stornoway Branch RAFA. Early in the year, our long-term meeting venue of the Royal British Legion Club in Stornoway was forced to close due to financial reasons.
Not only was this our meeting venue, but it also housed our collection of artifacts, built up over the years. We were fortunate in being 'adopted' by the local TA (Territorial Army) personnel, who
allowed us use of their facilities in the Stornoway Drill Hall. Also of great significance, our Branch Secretary had to step-down from the post due to increased work commitments. This post is at the
heart of any branch, and so it is to be hoped a replacement can be found. Then there was the Scottish Independance Referendum, with the possibility of a yes vote having implications on the structure
of RAFA in Scotland. As it turned out, the status-quo was maintained. The year saw us collect our highest ever total locally for RAFA's national fund-raising 'Wings' appeal. We were also able to host
the new RAFA Area display van at the Point Agricultural Show in July. Unfortunately, the year saw the demise of our Branch Newsletter, featured on this website NEWS page, to be replaced by a monthly
'blog', giving a regular update on the Branch's activities. The year was rounded-off by the Branch Christmas Dinner in December.
2015 - RAISING THE BAR
RAFA Stornoway Branch's major achievement of 2015 was our highest ever (increased still further from last year's record) fund-raising total on behalf of our parent organisation. The year saw us raise just over 3500 pounds through public donations here on the Isle of Lewis. This, at a time the country as a whole is still suffering the prolonged effects of the financial downturn, is a real testimony to the gernerosity of the people of these islands! The money was raised at various events such as sponsored supermarket bag-packs, street collections, a RAFA 'Roadshow' and public collection during the RAF Red Arrows visit to the island (see picture above, courtesy of member Bruce Hudson). Other notable events of the Branch's year included a visit to the Scottish Air Show at East Fortune, just outside Edinburgh, visit to the newly refurbished Lews Castle in Stornoway, launch of our Branch Facebook page ('RAFA Stornoway Branch'), Summer BBQ and Christmas Dinner. The year also saw us move to a new permanent venue for our regular meetings, which has proved very suitable.