An exhibition, 'Tain & District Through The War Years', was held from June-August 2006 in the Collegiate Church. It was the work of a group of museum volunteers who got together to remember their childhoods and, more particularly, the years 1939-45 and how they affected Tain and District.
RAF Fearn became HMS Owl, a Royal Naval Air Station, on 1st of August 1942. There were less than 100 men at the begining, but the camp grew and by 1943 there were around 1500 men with the number eventually reaching some 3000 at its peak.
Card showing Barracuda aircraft.
Initially, the living sites had no water, no drainage and no sanitation making living conditions difficult:-
"It was a case of a stiff upper lip, a sense of humour and Wellington boots". (From "A Naval Life", by Captain S.B. de Courcy Ireland, a Commander of HMS Owl)
"The first winter 70 officers were living in a mess that could sit 22,Inspection at Fearn. Photo: Joyce Wood sleeping in bell tents, or the lucky few in old huts a quarter of a mile away. The quarters were scattered, cold and draughty". (ibid)
Jane Ross-Davies - 3rd row back, 4th from right.
Nevertheless, a sense of humour prevailed. Jane Ross-Davis, who served at HMS Owl for one and a half years, writes "I was cycling around the perimeter one day [to go to the "WREN" shop] when I was passing a plane and they set the engine going. I was thrown off my bicycle - uniform flew over my head. Luckily I had my "black outs" on (Navy knickers with elastic knees). The pilots laughed their heads off - sadly a lot of these pilots never returned".
Young women from all walks of life also answered their country's call to serve. They joined the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) - hence the name "Wrens"
"Late in August Second Officer Violet Common WRNS visited the station to look at the Wrenery (nissen huts) and on the 31st August spent most of the day in her shirt sleeves - making beds, arranging flowers and so on, in preparation for the arrival of her flock" (ibid).
On the 1st September 1942 the first 12 Wrens arrived at Fearn, much to the delight of the Ship's Company! Their duties were in the Wardroom, Chief and PO's Mess and in the Galley.
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