Norwegian flying boats in Wormit

During the Second World War the Tay estuary was home to a unit of seaplanes of the Royal Norwegian Navy Air Service. Following the invasion of Norway by Nazi Germany in 1940, King Haakon VII and the government escaped to London. Elements of the Norwegian armed forces also joined those of other occupied nations seeking refuge in Britain. The Navy Service – which soon became the Royal Norwegian Air Force – established a base at Woodhaven Pier near Wormit in 1942 and remained there until the end of the war in 1945. The unit was equipped with a couple of Catalina flying boats. These long-range maritime patrol aircraft were deployed mainly in anti-submarine warfare and convoy duties in the North Atlantic but also used for clandestine missions to occupied Norway.

Norwegian Catalina on the Tay during the Second World War

The Catalinas were part of a larger Norwegian unit, 333 Squadron, which also consisted of land-based Mosquito fighter bombers stationed at RAF Leuchars nearby. These aircraft were mostly engaged in shipping reconnaissance flights along the Norwegian coast.

Interestingly, on at least one occasion in 1942, the Tay also played host – courtesy of the Norwegians – to a German-made Heinkel He 115 torpedo bomber seaplane. A number of these aircraft had been acquired by Norwegian forces prior to the outbreak of the war and, following the German invasion of Norway, several escaped to the United Kingdom. They were also deployed on special operations until spare parts became unavailable.

Norwegian memorial at Woodhaven Pier

In July 1944, King Haakon VII visited the installation at Woodhaven Pier. A memorial plaque at the location refers to laburnum trees which were planted on that occasion. The small harbour and slipway used by the Catalinas is now home to the Wormit Boating Club. The club still maintains close links with 333 Squadron in Norway and, on occasions, flies the Norwegian flag. In 2019, representatives from Norway attended a ceremony at Woodhaven Pier marking the 75th anniversary of the formation there of the Royal Norwegian Air Force.

The Norwegian memorial is located in Wormit at Woodhaven Pier, grid reference 56°25’52” N 2°57’45” W. Access is down a side road off the B946 signed to Wormit Boating Club.


Catalina image, public domain, via
Memorial image © Finn Årup Nielsen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons