Ghost of tragic Montrose air station pilot laid to rest after a century

One of Scotland’s most famous military ghosts is finally at rest a century after his death.

A wreath-laying ceremony to honour Lieutenant Desmond Arthur was held in Montrose, 100 years to the day after he was killed in a flying accident near the town.

An apparition said to be the 29-year-old airman’s spirit has reputedly haunted Montrose Air Station since the tragic incident, which saw the wing of his biplane snap during a routine practice flight.

Members of the heritage centre now occupying the site were at Sleepyhillock Cemetery at the behest of his family and relatives of the girl he loved.

Curator Dr Dan Paton led a sombre service at the pilot’s graveside before volunteers Georgina MacDonald and Bob Sutherland laid down wreaths.

“For a long time we have thought of Lt Desmond Arthur as an unquiet spirit but today it is time to lay the story of the Montrose Air Station ghost to rest,” Dr Paton said.

“We can see him in a very different light since contacting his relatives. He was a brave and excellent pilot by the standards of the time and a brave man who knew the risks of flying these aircraft.

“Let’s remember him today as he would’ve liked to have been remembered as a pioneer of aviation.”

Earlier this month it was revealed Lt Arthur had a picture of his true love, Winsome Ropner from West Hartlepool, in his breast pocket at the time of the fatal crash at Lunan Bay.

Her grandson Paul Willcox and the pilot’s great-nephew Nick Arthur gave their blessing to the wreath-laying ceremony and have also donated documents to be exhibited at the centre.

This year marks the centenary of the base and has already seen a range of events to celebrate the landmark occasion.

Dr Paton said moves are under way to create a database of all the men killed while training at the site, which he estimates could run into the hundreds.

He added: “There are 85 RAF and Royal Flying Corps graves in Montrose but that is only a small proportion of the number of casualties.”

In 1913 No 2 Squadron Royal Flying Corps established at Montrose as the UK’s first air station to protect the Royal Navy, chosen on the orders of Winston Churchill, who feared an attack across the North Sea.

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