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After an original idea by Paul Freeman.
First published 7 Nov 2010. This collection of airfields is © 2010 - 2017 RonaldV
uk

RAF Skitten

26-11-2011

07-02-2014

1112

58°29'52"N003°09'53"W

Runway: 05/23 - 1050meters/3450feet - concrete
Runway: 11/29 - 1230meters/4030feet - concrete
Runway: 17/35 - 1500meters/4950feet - concrete

Skitten air field (Also known as RAF Skitten) was an airfield in the North of Scotland.
The airfield was opened in December 1940. Initially serving as a satellite of RAF Castletown, it was intended to accomodate a single fighter squadron. In April 1941 Coastal Command announced it was interested in using Skitten as a satellite for RAF Wick. For this reason its three runways were lenghtened to allow medium sized aircraft to use the airtfield. The lengthened runways also allowed the airfield to be used as an emergency landing ground for Bomber Commands operations against Norway.
In 1942 Skitten was used for Operation Freshman, the attempt to destroy the Norsk Hydro plant near Vermork, Norway. The plant was producing 'heavy water' for Germany's atomic research program and it was a top priority to stop this research. Under the cover story  'Washington Competition' (or Washington Cup) training for the raid began at RAF Skitten with the actual operation being called 'Freshman'.
Skitten became an official reserve base for Bomber Command in early 1943, meaning Coastal Commands aircraft would have to be able to redeploy on short notice.
In April 1943 RAF Skitten became the base for training with the 'Highball' bomb. 'Highball' was a derivative of the 'Grand Slam' bomb that was used succesfully against the Ruhr dams by 617Sqn 'Dambusters'. Although never used in anger, it was 618Sqn (Mosquitos) that trained with them for a planned attack on the German battleship "Tirpitz'. Problems with the weapon and delays in training caused the project to be cancelled, though.
In 1944, with the end of the war in Europe in sight, the air base was returned to Coastal Command.
Shortly after the end of the war RAF Skitten went on a Care and Maintenance status and it was sold soon afterwards.

nophoto.jpgNoPhoto.jpg
No photos of the airfield while in use have been located

Around 1953 Skitten had been turned into a pig farm, owned by a Mr. Ronaldson of Westerseat. Later, parts of the airfield were sold off and turned into a quarry. Although the runways are still recognisable, the quarry in the center of hte airfield has rendered them unusable. Major portions of the logistyics site still exist however.
A memorial dedicated to the men of the 'Washington Competition' and the participating aircrew was erected at Skitten on 5 Sept 1992. In flight manuals warnings are still given that the proximity to Wick may cause confusion in bad weather. With a typical english sense of understatement they state that the runways are in a 'seriously deteriorated condition'.

skitten4.jpg
RAF Skitten and the quarry in June 2003 (caithness.org).

skitten2003.jpg
This photo of RAF Skitten in 2003 shows how much damage has been done by the quarry (Google Earth)

2020129_bf5732bc.jpg
Remains of Skitten Airfield in 2010 (Steven Brown, licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence, via Geograph.org.uk).

Thank you to William Saeter from Oslo for correcting me on some details on the 'Washington Competition' and 'Freshman'.




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