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Sunday, 3 August 2014

First World War, Ghosts, and Aeroplanes

John Binnie and Betty Doe

Montrose Air Station is commemorating the centennial of the First World War with an open day, and the launch of a new play, Falls the Shadow, by Betty Doe. When I say it is a new play, that is because it has been expanded from the one act play she wrote last year, and which was performed at the air station in front of Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, who was in the audience.
The Red Baron's plane

Nowadays, Montrose Air Station is a museum which features many exhibits from the first and Second World Wars, including several vintage aeroplanes, and it even has one which was originally flown by the Red Baron. Now, don’t tell me you don’t know who the Red Baron was? Well, just in case you don’t know, and apologies to those who do, the Red Baron was the German ace pilot, Manfred von Richthofen, who shot down more aircraft than any other pilot during the course of the war. Oh, and let’s not forget the ghost! Over the years many ghostly happenings have occurred at Montrose Air Station, and it is thought the ghost is LT Desmond Arthur who was killed in 1913, when his biplane crashed on a training flight.
The ghost, Lt Desmond Arthur, played by Stephen Docherty

Betty Doe’s play, Falls the Shadow, was performed in one of the large hangers on the site. It was directed by John Binnie, a well known writer/director whose productions have won three Edinburgh Fringe First awards, and was performed by professional actors. The result was a professional, polished play which was enjoyed by a multi-national audience.
Cast of the play with World War 2 pilots to the left and World War 1 pilots with Major Burke to the right.

The actors performed scenes set during both the first and second world wars, overseen by the ghost of Desmond Arthur, who was joined at the end by the ghost of Major Burke who led the Montrose based No 2 Squadron of the Flying Corps to France in 1914. He was killed in action in 1917. There were some highly emotional scenes, and the play really brought it home to the audience what conditions were like, particularly during the First World War, when the life expectancy of pilots was six weeks.

I can only congratulate Betty Doe on writing such an emotive play, the actors for their superb performance, and John Binnie for a professional production.

Scenes from the play:
First World War pilots playing chess before flying into battle, with the ghost of Desmond Arthur looking on.
Second World War pilots playing cards prior to flying into battle
The ghosts of Lt Desmond Arthur and Major Charles Burke
The ghosts again
Playwright Betty Doe with the ghosts of Lt Desmond Arthur and Major Charles Burke

Chris Longmuir