Memorial to Dutch airmen near St Andrews
In the early stages of the Second World War, following the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940, the Dutch government, alongside the governments of other occupied European nations, went into exile in the United Kingdom. Remnants of the defeated Dutch armed forces also escaped to Britain. Dutch airmen in the United Kingdom were formed into 320 Squadron and, for a period in 1941 and 1942, were stationed at RAF Leuchars. While based in Fife, the squadron was equipped with Lockheed Hudson aircraft and deployed mostly in anti-shipping operations in the North Sea.
A flight of one of the aircraft ended in disaster in August 1941 when the Lockheed Hudson Mark I crashed at Brigton farm close to St Andrews. The plane was on a training mission with a reduced crew of two but, being fully armed, the destructive force of the crash was considerable. The aircraft model involved was notorious for being under-powered which resulted in a number of similar incidents and fatalities. The two airmen onboard died in the accident at Brigton. The tragic event is commemorated on a plaque situated close to the crash site. The memorial was dedicated in August 2008 in the presence of local representatives and those from the Netherlands. The graves of the Dutch airmen involved are located in the cemetery at Leuchars.
Happier evidence of Dutch airmen’s presence in Fife is provided by a historic photograph of the wartime Polish Canteen at no. 60 South Street in St Andrews. The exterior of the building displayed not only a notice in the Polish language but also one in Dutch. The Polish Canteen, while primarily providing recreational facilities for the exiled Polish forces engaged in the coastal defence of Fife, was also available for other allied military personnel stationed in the area.
The memorial to the Dutch airmen is located in a narrow lane leading to Brigton Farm off the Grange Road from St Andrews to Lathockar at grid reference 56°17’40”N 2°47’24”W.
Image of memorial courtesy Jo Goodburn Polish Canteen image (detail) © University of St Andrews, CC BY-NC 4.0, courtesy University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums, ID: GMC-32-14-1