RAF flight suit used for secret WWII mission in Scotland on display at Russian Museum of “Hero Pilots”

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A leather flight suit issued to a Russian pilot who served at Scottish RAF Errol Air Base in WWII has been on display in a museum in Russia.

The sheepskin outfit has been carefully preserved by the family of Commander Veniamin Korotkov, one of a group of Russian men who spent time pilot training in Perthshire.

These same airmen supplied food to Leningrad in 1941, flying DC-3 transport planes.

Later, in 1943, the elite Russian pilots were brought to Scotland for a secret mission in Errol. Their job was to hone their flight skills and then transport twin-engine Albemarle bombers across the North Sea to Moscow.

The planes had been supplied by Great Britain as an Allied aid for transport to the Eastern Front.

The Russian connection with RAF Errol was commemorated a year ago when a magnificent memorial stone was installed next to the Parish Church of Errol to remember the brave Russian airmen who came to RAF Errol during the World War II to aid the Allied war effort.

Another memorial has been erected to the victims of a plane crash at Fearnan in Highland Perthshire. A Russian piloted plane crashed next to Loch Tay in a test flight crash after leaving Errol Air Base minutes earlier.

There is a commemorative stone corresponding to that of Errol, placed in Russia in the village of Khvoinaya, southeast of St. Petersburg.

Before coming to Perthshire in the fall / winter of 1941, airmen helped deliver food during the most difficult phase of the siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). At that time, the only way to access the city surrounded by the enemy was by plane, and the daily ration of bread was reduced to 125 grams.

Every morning, the heavily loaded DC3 Douglas planes took off from Khvoinaya airfield, hidden in the pine forest, and followed the dangerous air route controlled by Luftwaffe fighters to Leningrad.



A Douglas DC3 plane carrying food leaves Khvoinaya airfield, Russia, en route to Leningrad, December 1941

The name of the village means “pines”. It is surrounded by endless pine forests and that is why the location of the WWII airfield was chosen – to hide the transport aircraft base from German reconnaissance planes.

On the return flights, they evacuated the starving citizens of Leningrad.

Russian historian Anna Belorusova has been very involved in establishing the link between Russian aviators and Scotland. His grandfather, Commander Pyotr Kolesnikov, was one of the pilots.

Anna explained how the stone monument was erected to Errol: “Two years ago, when we were considering various options for a memorial to Errol, Brigadier Sir Melville Jameson got the idea that it should be of a Russian stone.

“Whether by chance or by choice, that day I was in the village of Khvoinaya where, in front of the local history museum, I saw a crimson red memorial stone in the shape of an eternal flame.

“The rare rock, displaced from the northern lands by a glacier millions of years ago, had been found by a local forester and installed by the villagers near the old airfield to honor the airmen.

“The Khvoinaya Rock was a ‘cousin’ of the famous Shoksha quartzite mined in Karelia, with which is bordered the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin wall.

“It guided us into what should be the Errol Memorial Stone.

“It was executed in crimson quartzite from Shoksha by a renowned Karelian sculptor, Aleksandr Kim, and the Petrozavodsk foundry made similar looking cast iron planks for the two memorials, in Russia and Scotland.”

On October 2, 2021, a memorial hall was opened at the Khvoinaya Museum.



Anna Belorusova (left), granddaughter of captain Pyotr Kolesnikov and Yulia Mazulina (center) granddaughter of captain Ivan Neronov.  The two grandfathers of these Russian women will later come to RAF Errol
Anna Belorusova (left), granddaughter of captain Pyotr Kolesnikov and Yulia Mazulina (center) granddaughter of captain Ivan Neronov. The two grandfathers of these Russian women will later come to RAF Errol

The village museum tells the story of the air supply operation of the Siege of Leningrad on the basis of declassified WWII documents from the Moscow State Archives.

Part of the commemorative exhibition is dedicated to the stay of airmen at RAF Errol.

Two interpretive panels tell the story of the two red commemorative stones.

Included are portraits of Perthshire dignitaries such as Provost Dennis Melloy and Brigadier Melville Jameson. Their images are featured on information boards written in Russian, explaining why Errol in Scotland was so important to the larger mission of breaking the siege.

The highlight of the museum’s exhibit, which officially opened this week, is a unique and never-before-seen exhibit – an RAF flight suit worn by Russian air unit commander Veniamin Korotkov.



Svetlana Ovcharenko and Natalia Frolova from Khvoinaya Museum in Russia prepare new exhibition
Svetlana Ovcharenko and Natalia Frolova from Khvoinaya Museum in Russia prepare new display for the exhibition

The Russian airmen stationed at RAF Errol were part of the top secret 305 air unit formed by the British command specifically for the Albemarle ferry operation.

Each Russian crew member received a sheepskin suit with an RAF logo sewn into the liner.

The costumes have returned home to Russia.

But it is believed that only the one worn by Commander Korotkov survives to be seen today. The garment is now approaching 80 years.

His grandson Oleg Shevtsov, a Moscow-based journalist, said: “My grandfather passed away in 1967, when I was only nine years old. He brought the flight suit from his top secret mission to the UK, which we knew nothing about, and it was carefully preserved by his daughter Ida, my mother, among his treasured memories.

“As a teenager, I often used to put it on, as if the warmth and strength of my grandfather were embracing me.

“My two sons and I are very happy that he and his heroic fellow aviators are now commemorated in both Russia and Scotland. “

Sasha Mizikova, an 18-year-old student at the St. Petersburg School of Fine Arts, who helped design the exhibit, said: York to visit RAF Linton-on-Ouse.

“There they witnessed the preparation of an intense night raid on Düsseldorf and 36 Halifax bombers took off at dusk.

“In his detailed report of this visit, Colonel Korotkov wrote very movingly about the youthfulness and composure of the British crews they encountered, four of whom did not return.

“Those Bomber boys were about the same age as me now.

“Many of their Russian peers never returned home after the Eastern Front bloodshed. These memories fade with each new generation and that is what memorials are for – lest we forget. “


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