Monthly Archives: April 2018

To bale out or not to bale out? (3)

My last two posts have involved an RAF Bomber Command raid on Mannheim during the night of September 5th-6th, 1943. And as the titles have suggested, there was more than a little emphasis on the idea of baling out. Is it better to stick it out inside a damaged aircraft? But then, you might have huge problems in trying to land safely. Is it worth it to risk finishing up in the River Trent?

Or is it better to jump out into the unknown? Perhaps into the freezing North Sea, or into one of the hundreds of minefields strewn down the eastern coast of England. Both decisions involve unknown consequences, and in the case of Bomber Command in 1943, they often involved, literally, a step in the dark:

During that same raid on Mannheim that accounted for Lancaster serial number DV 232 and squadron letters QR-K, in a second Lancaster, the pilot, Flying Officer B.C. Fitch, found that his own aircraft, Lancaster LM360, was steadily losing height. He was totally unable to gain any altitude to improve the situation. In addition, the mid-upper turret was not working. The crew made the decision to turn back for home. Not a popular thing to have to do, as it meant the operation did not count towards the magical 30 raids which would take them off combat flying.  This particular night they were carrying, among other things, a 4,000lb Cookie, which the pilot dropped into the North Sea at position 54 21 North, 01 40 East:

And then they carried on, lighter but still slowly losing height as they made their way westwards. Within a short time, according to Murphy’s Law, one of the engines caught fire. The pilot, Flying Officer Fitch, extinguished the blaze and feathered the propeller. On they went, but it wasn’t looking good. Fitch decided to give the order to bale out as they were now over land. All of the crew duly did this, and they all survived without a problem except for the odd bruises and twists associated with a parachute escape. Flying Officer Fitch flew on alone. On and on, with the plane apparently feeling better and better about the whole idea:

So Fitch decided to attempt a landing at RAF Winthorpe. Wonder of Wonders!  Not a problem and he ate all the bacon and eggs prepared for the rest of the crew as they sat on very slow moving buses travelling at a snail’s place towards King’s Lynn.

The crew was:

Flying Officer B.C. Fitch, (pilot)

Sergeant T.W. Taylor, (flight engineer)

Flying Officer S.A. Jennings, (navigator)

Pilot Officer A.Lyons, (bomb aimer)

Sergeant G. Kershaw, (wireless operator / air gunner)

Flight Sergeant H.W. Pronger, (mid-upper gunner)

Sergeant L.W. Cromarty, (rear gunner)

Sergeant Livesy, (2nd wireless operator / air gunner)

Harold William Pronger, the mid-upper gunner, was a 33 year old Australian whose parents lived in Bundaberg in Queensland:

His parents were called William Charles Pronger and Helena Pronger. Sadly, despite his life being saved by his parachute, Harold was disappointed not to become a member of the Caterpillar Club, an organisation which is open to people who have successfully used a parachute to escape from a disabled aircraft.  They receive a membership certificate and a very attractive lapel pin:

Sadly, Harold had used the wrong brand of parachute! He had, apparently, a GQ Obs. type parachute, made by the GQ Parachute Company Limited of Woking. Harold did receive though, for his bravery, a GQ Club Badge, No.181.

All of the crew of Lancaster LM360 survived the war as far as I can ascertain…except one. There are, though, a lot of men called Livesey, rather than Livesy, just in case an error has been made. And at least half a dozen of these Liveseys were killed while serving in the RAF.

We’ll look at the one man who did not survive the war next time.

 

 

 

Advertisements

18 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History

The adverts in Victor Comic (2)

Here’s a second look at some of the adverts in Victor Comic in the 1960s. Ironically, given the wide spectrum of areas where the picture stories are based, from working class athletes to First World War flyers, from the trusty Gurkhas to the first Mounties, the adverts are not particularly vast in scope. I suppose the problem was that they all had to sell things which a boy or a youth of say, 8-16 or older might be interested in, and could afford, without involving risky photographs of the fair sex or dangerous weapons.

So keep it clean lads and stick to your Airfix kits:

FW Woolworth. Whatever happened to them? All the naughty boys were  probably sniffing their Airfix glue to get their kicks but there was certainly very little of a hallucinogenic quality in stamp hinges. So the comic was full of  them. And a lot of money must have been made. Well, they do say Philately will get you anywhere. Just look at these adverts:

Don’t be fooled by the word ‘Million’, though. For a start, you have to share a million stamp packets with everybody else and there is bound to be some catch to it. You certainly won’t get a million packets of stamps because that many would bury a small town. The second advert has prices.  Between 2/6 and 5/- would be a likely sum for a boy’s weekly pocket money (12.5 to 25 pence). The advert for 50 different stamps “plus exciting mystery set” certainly makes Heston in Middlesex sound exciting and mysterious. And neither Mr Brown nor Mr Delaney in the very last section can be doing that well with the amount of advertising space they have had to share.

There are still matchbox covers for sale. although if I lived in Cocksett Avenue I think I’d move:

And still the stamps pour in. Did the entire world write a dozen letters a day? To Rumania, and Paraguay, and China (Communist and Nationalist)?

England winning the World Cup in 1966 gave every country an excuse to print even more stamps. And those stamps that were overprinted with “England Winners”. Do you remember how everybody went nuts to buy them? Well, just look up sometime how much they are worth nowadays:

For the older boy there were adverts for cars:

Mind you, they were model cars at Woolworths, not real ones. Incidentally, my Dad paid £510 for a full size Hillman Minx in 1966 and my Mum would have played merry stink with him if he’d told her the correct price.

Every teenager will want to change his body, of course. Here’s an advert for Charles Atlas who always looked rather like my Dad;. but only from the neck up. I’ve actually seen this advert before. When I was a little boy, I thought the two young ladies were very strange bricklayers. And I wouldn’t want to live in Chitty Street either:

And last of all, a comic can advertise itself. Special editions for the Summer Holidays:

And don’t miss any foreign sales. There are thousands of little boys across the globe all wanting to have Victor comic sent to them. But what bizarre sums of money! 43/4d and 36/10d are just weird. It’s like the charge being precisely £4.34 or exactly £3.61 :

Above all reserve your comic:

Or you could buy your Victor on DVD. A lot cheaper than collecting the whole lot on ebay one at a time.

25 Comments

Filed under History, Humour, Personal

To bale out or not to bale out? (2)

The last RAF post was about an Avro Lancaster III of 61 Squadron, serial number DV 232, squadron letters QR-K which went for a swim in the River Trent near East Stoke on September 6th 1943:

They had taken off, one of many, at 2015 on September 5th 1943 from RAF Syerston to go and bomb Mannheim. This was a huge operation and involved 605 aircraft including 299 Lancasters, 195 Halifaxes and 111 Stirlings. Of the 605 aircraft, 34 were lost, some 5.6% of the attacking force. The trip to Mannheim was a very, very, costly one for the young men of Bomber Command:

9 Squadron  (14 killed)
10 Squadron (7 killed )
12 Squadron (2 killed)
44 Squadron (7 killed)
49 Squadron (5 killed)
51 Squadron (5 killed )
73 Squadron (4 killed )
76 Squadron (6 killed)
77 Squadron (12 killed )
78 Squadron (19 killed )
83 Squadron (7 killed)
90 Squadron (7 killed)
101 Squadron (1 killed )
106 Squadron (13 killed)
149 Squadron (12 killed )
156 Squadron (2 killed)
196 Squadron (6 killed)
405 Squadron (3 killed )
419 Squadron (13 killed )
427 Squadron (7 killed )
619 Squadron (6 killed )
620 Squadron (4 killed )

The people in Mannheim weren’t exactly dancing in the shattered streets either. The Pathfinders did their job perfectly, marking a target completely free of clouds as if it were a training exercise. The bombs fell exactly where they were scheduled to fall. We have very few facts and figures about the exact damage done. This was because the raid was so severe that the report gathering and recording process broke down completely. Indeed the German records use only one word about this night. That word is “catastrophe”.

Around six months later, during the night of March 24th-25th 1944, pretty much the same men who had been the crew of QR-K in the River Trent, but were now part of 97 Squadron, were compelled to ditch into the Channel after their 16th trip to Berlin. Fortunately for them, they were picked up by a German E-boat and became prisoners. Only poor Sergeant Robson, the flight engineer, still only 20 years old, perished. He was drowned in the very severe impact and his body was never found. The crew that day was Todd, Robson, Fuller, Duvall, Housley, McCloskey, Cartwright:


One man lost a leg and several of them were quite badly injured. But as far as my researches tell me, they all survived the war.
I don’t know though, about some of the others….people who made just occasional appearances in the crew’s line up, such as Patrick , or Debnam, for example. I have no initials and too many dead Debnams to make even a wild guess about him.

I might have found a match, though, with Frederick Cyril Shergold of 207 Squadron. On September 22nd 1943, at the age of only 21, Frederick was killed during a raid on Hannover. Like the Shergold on September 6th 1943, he too, was a navigator, so I strongly suspect he may have been the same man who went into the River Trent on that “All’s Well that Ends Well” night . Alas! More than one man called Shergold was killed in the RAF during this greedy war to be totally, absolutely certain.

22 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History

The adverts in Victor Comic (1)

Years ago, one of my favourite comics was called ‘Victor’. At this time, during the 1960s, there were lots and lots of comics, which were read by lots and lots of boys.

And of course, with so many publications which reached so many boys, there were bound to be lots and lots of advertisements. Some were for games to pass the infinite time of childhood. This is one of the best known:

But that wasn’t the only one:

The majority of adverts were for hobbies:

One hobby which I always found quite bizarre involved miniature metal steam engines. One of the more familiar names was ‘Mamod’ although other types were also available:

The biggest money earner was surely philately. It was as if every boy in the country was a keen collector of postage stamps. First of all though, you had to buy an album:

Stamp collecting taught you a lot though. Where all the countries were. What language they used, and quite often a word or two of that language. You learnt if the language had a different alphabet. I could tell Chinese from Korean and so could a lot of other 10 year old boys. It was easy to be familiar with the different states of India or Malaysia and all those exotic sounding islands of the West Indies. And stamps were so easily obtainable:

They sold stamps by the Approvals method. This involved your being a member of, say, the Wulfruna Club, to quote the advert above. You were sent a little booklet full of stamps, usually in sets, all of which were priced at sums below five shillings (two weeks’ pocket money approximately). You could buy some stamps yourself or see if your friends wanted to buy any. You sent the money back to the Wulfruna Club by postal order. There were bonus stamps available if you sold more than a certain amount’s worth of stamps, or if you recruited your friends to the club. On one occasion, I received bonus stamps from Bahawalpur, one of the states of Pakistan, for recruiting two other boys to the club.

Here is a final three part advert which mentions not just postage stamp approvals but also matchbox covers. A lot of boys collected either matchboxes or cigarette packets but I wasn’t allowed to pick them up off the pavement because there might be germs involved. Anyway, here’s the advert:

Keen eyed detectives of the future or past will note that their advert also offers tuition in conjuring. There are few things in life more boring than a Member of the Magic Circle but, more worryingly perhaps, how would a stupendous world beating conjurer still be living in Stoke-on-Trent?

Unless, of course, you investigate with that Google thing whereby you walk down the street and discover that Whitfield Road is really the Las Vegas of the North Midlands.

 

 

23 Comments

Filed under History, Humour, Personal

Earthquakes and Lights in the Sky

At least one physical phenomenon is very rare in Nottingham. Would that it were not so:

Untitled
“Northern Lights,” or “Aurora Borealis” was first recorded as having been seen in the neighbourhood of Nottingham during the winter of 1755-1756. The Northern Lights appear at their best according to an eleven year cycle, and 2015-2016 was quite a good year, so keep yourself entertained by doing a very long backwards calculation!
Here is a website which will tell you when is a good time to look for the Northern Lights.
aurora-borealis-cccccccccccccccccccccccccc

Another physical phenomenon is almost equally infrequent in Nottingham…Thank Goodness!
And luckily, when it does happen, it tends to do little damage, and it soon gets forgotten. Who remembers this one now?…

August 23 1752  The severe shock of an earthquake was felt in Nottingham and the surrounding district, about 7 a.m. Great alarm, but not much damage, was the result. The day was remarkably fine, both before and after the shock.”

And forty years later, another earthquake came to nothing…thank goodness:

February 25, 1792  Between the hours of eight and nine this evening, an alarming shock of an earthquake was felt in the Midland counties, but particularly at Nottingham, many of the inhabitants running out of their houses, expecting them to fall upon their heads. The shock was preceded by a rumbling noise, like the rolling of a cannonball upon a boarded floor.”

Another Victorian source mentions an earthquake on October 6th 1863:

“The earthquake appears to have been felt over a great part of England” and it was decidedly more severe in the western parts of the country, especially the West Midlands:

“At Birmingham walls were seen to move, and people rose from their beds to see what damage had been done, for though the rumbling, grating sound is like a passing train, it was known at once to be something more. At Edgbaston successive shocks were plainly felt, and houses were shaken to their foundations. At Wolverhampton everything in the houses vibrated. The houses cracked and groaned as it the timbers had been strained. The policemen on duty saw the walls vibrate, heard everything rattle about them, and were witnesses to the universal terror of the roused sleepers.
At Cheltenham, a deep rumbling noise was heard, the heaviest furniture was shaken, the fire-irons rattled, heavy stone walls were heard to strain and crack, and the boys at Cheltenham College were all under the impression that the rest were engaged in making the greatest possible disturbance.”

I was unable to find a picture of the boys of Cheltenham College, but, much better, here are the splendid young ladies of Cheltenham Training College around the same period:

chel traoining

And what of Nottingham? Well…

“October 6th 1863  A slight shock of earthquake was felt early in the morning in Nottingham, and in most parts of the country.”

and then, just over a year later:

October 30th 1864  Slight shocks of an earthquake were felt in Nottingham, and in various parts of the country.”

Those two earthquakes were so insignificant that they have, literally, not passed “the test of time” and I have not been able to find really very much at all about them.

In fairly recent times, my Dad experienced an earthquake in South Derbyshire:

“On one occasion when he was walking home from his job as a teacher at Woodville Church of England Junior School in Moira Road, Woodville, Fred was the hapless victim of an earth tremor. It must have been quite frightening because, as he was to relate many times in subsequent years, he was able to watch the pavement rippling up and down with the force of the shock.

Seismological records for the local area show that this event occurred most probably on February 11, 1957. Here is my Dad’s quiet little mining village around that time, in the late 1950s:

 

If you want to check the history of known earthquakes in England, then this is the link to the relevant Wikipedia page.

29 Comments

Filed under History, Nottingham, Science

To bale out or not to bale out? (1)

This post is about an Avro Lancaster III of 61 Squadron, serial number DV 232, squadron letters QR-K. They took off, one of many, at 20:15 on September 5th 1943, from RAF Syerston near Nottingham to go and bomb Mannheim. This was a huge operation and involved 605 aircraft including 299 Lancasters, 195 Halifaxes and 111 Stirlings.

This is a Lancaster:

This is a Halifax:

And this is a Stirling:

Of the 605 aircraft, 34 were lost, some 5.6% of the attacking force, an unsustainable casualty rate.

On their way to the target, Lancaster DV 232 and QR-K had severe engine problems, with the port outer engine failing and the pilot unable to maintain height. And then the port outer engine caught fire. Pilot Officer Peter Todd, the pilot, extinguished it and feathered the propeller. The decision was taken to carry on and not to bale out. The aircraft’s 4,000lb cookie and the rest of the bombload were all duly dropped on Mannheim from around 15,000ft:

The crew then turned for home, full of a strange mixture of trepidation and perhaps misplaced hope. All credit to the plane, though, as the aircraft flew on sedately with Todd at the controls. Eventually he crossed the North Sea, crossed the English coast and discovered that the crew still did not want to bale out, even though they were over English fields. They wanted to stick with the plane which had faithfully brought them so far. They finally reached RAF Syerston where Todd attempted a landing. It did not go too well as the three remaining engines all stalled and the bomber began to sheer over towards the left. Todd missed the airfield buildings but soon found himself skipping too low and too fast over a landscape of fields unfamiliar to him. To the south was the River Trent and eventually the aircraft somehow skidded to stop in the welcoming waters of the river:

The crew were all completely uninjured, floating gently on the river’s calm cold waters:

And just in case you were wondering, the Lancaster was removed by floating it downstream and then rescuing it from the foaming torrent on the southern bank where there was a large flat area just before the village of East Stoke.

This story also turns out to be a very good example of how paperwork often went wrong in WW2. “We had more important things to do than get the bloody paperwork right!” as one high ranking RAF officer once said.

I mentioned just recently that research nowadays, especially with the Internet, can reveal many, many details about the events of the Second World War. But sometimes, quite basic details are lost. One website therefore, the best one, I would say, gives the crew as

Pilot Officer PH Todd (pilot), Sergeant S Robson, (flight engineer), Flying Officer J Hodgkinson, (navigator), Sergeant VR Duvall, (bomb aimer), Sergeant W Housley, (wireless operator / air gunner), Flight Sergeant Patrick , Sergeant John Cartwright, (air gunner).

 

An RAF Forum says, though, that the original Todd crew, posted in to 61 Squadron from 1661 Conversion Unit on August 25th 1943, was:

Todd, Robson, Shergold, (navigator), Duvall, Housley, Debnam, (air gunner). Cartwright.

Sergeant Patrick came from 1654 Conversion Unit on August 25th 1943 and he replaced Debnam for their first operation on the 3/4th September 1943. This was a disastrous raid on Berlin with 316 Lancasters and 4 Mosquitoes. 22 Lancasters were lost, an unsustainable rate, just below 7.0%. At least 70 aircrew were killed:


In Berlin, destruction was caused to major water and electricity works and to one of the city’s largest breweries. A total of 422 people were killed, namely 225 civilians, 24 servicemen, 18 men and 2 women of the air-raid services, along with 123 foreign workers made up of 92 women and 31 men. Another 170 civilians were missing. Two delayed action bombs eventually went off and they killed a soldier and seven “criminals”….convicts who could earn remission of their sentence by volunteering for this work. Later in the war, of course, when they ran out of convicts, the Germans made extensive use of Jews for the manual transportation of apparently live bombs which had failed to explode.

The same crew which flew to Berlin was used to fly to Mannheim. They were the ones who returned ultimately to slither rather ignominiously into the River Trent. My belief is that they were:

Todd, Robson, Shergold, Duvall, Housley, Patrick, Cartwright

All of the crew were able, incidentally, to walk to the bank of the River Trent along the fuselage and then out through the front gun turret:

 

 

 

26 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham