Fair Isle panorama from Buness

Thursday March 18, 2010

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An account of the wartime shooting down of 'Weather Willie'

 rRemains of the two Junkers Jumo 211A-3s engines from a Heinkel 111H-2
The remains of the two Junkers Jumo 211A-3s lie on Fair Isle amid other small items scattered across the bald patch in the grass which marks the spot where the Heinkel 111 H-2 burned on 17th January 1941.

(photo Dave Wheeler)


Weather forecasts were an essential part of pre-raid planning and, because the prevailing winds in Western Europe bring most of Britain's weather in from the Atlantic, the Luftwaffe was at a distinct disadvantage when trying to predict the conditions over the country. Long flights by the Wettererkundungs Staffel skirting round the Shetlands attempted to gather data to produce a forecast. Here one of the unit's Dorniers returns from a nine-hour flight to Fair Isle on July 31, 1940. Observer: H. Dohrmann, left; pilot Karl Heinz Thurz, right, on his second recce mission.

Iain Morrison also has a very interesting and informative website at
with information about the life of Lieutenant Karl Heinz Thurz,
Luftwaffe Weather Reconnaissance Pilot

Fair Isle is a small island situated between the Orkney' and Shetland groups off the north coast of Scotland. Most widely known for its knitwear and the distinctive 'Fair' Isle' patterns, it is also renowned amongst ornithologists as one of the premier bird observatories in Europe. Its isolation in the North Sea and relatively small size (being only 3 miles long and 1 mile across) has meant that it has always been a welcome refuge for both man and bird on their journeys; a shelter from the inhospitable sea, together with freshwater and a chance to rest up without too much disturbance. The Vikings knew it as Fridarey,  'The island of peace' and on a fine summer's day it is very easy to appreciate their words. However, during one of the frequent storms, one need only look down from the top of the sheer cliffs that ring most of the island to temper this with the power of the elements; a chart reveals a multitude of wrecks littering the surrounding water, from Spanish galleons to Russian trawlers.



The present community is a thriving one, with natives and 'incomers' helping to create a healthy and vibrant atmosphere which is tangible in the warm welcome they give everyone who braves the four-hour crossing from Shetland on the Good Shepherd - the ferry and lifeline with the outside world. More recently a scheduled air service has created a quicker entrance and exit route although still not immune to the unpredictable and swift-changing climate. For it is the weather that commands the island; its position, at the junction of the Atlantic, the North Sea and the Gulf Stream means that it is one of the melting pots from which arise new twists in the weather-patterns. of the area.


However important weather forecasting is in peacetime, it becomes doubly so in war and the collection of data for compiling long-range forecasts is a vital operation which must be carried out regularly to ensure accuracy.


(This is reproduced from an OCR'd photo-copy of the original article, and is reproduced here
with the permission of the author.  Dave Wheeler)


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Text and photographs 2008 Dave Wheeler except where otherwise credited. (Logo picture courtesy of Sumburgh SAR)
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