Hendon objects 3

In my last blog post about the non-flying exhibits in the museum at Hendon in north London, we were looking at some of the objects and various pieces of metal which had been rescued from aircraft as they awaited their turn in the scrapyard. These treasures were all housed in the RAF Museum which my family and I visited as long ago as 2010.

In my first two blog posts, I made an effort to include mostly things that were associated with the ground, such as a battleship, medals and the metal cross from a dog’s collar. This time, though, the objects are supposed to be connected more closely with the air.

We have therefore, some examples of the nose art on RAF Lancasters and other Bomber Command bombers.

This one comes from an aircraft in one of the Polish squadrons of the RAF:

This aircraft has all of its missions marked carefully, although I do not know whether the white or yellow colouration has any significance:

This is the artwork on a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. In general, American artwork tended to be less inhibited than in the RAF:

Here’s what looks like a wasp type creature on a B-24 Liberator of the Indian Air Force:

These bombing raid symbols are just about the neatest that you could ever get. Note the quotation from Herman Goering underneath them:

“No enemy plane will fly over the Reich Territory.”     Herman Goering

The bombing raid symbols also contain three medal ribbons for the Distinguished Flying Crosses or Distinguished Flying Medals won by members of the crew. The one with blue and red in the medal I do not know. The name of the medal recipient was painted underneath the engine nacelles. Here is Pilot Officer Tottenham:

And Pilot Officer McManus:

This aircraft was “S-Sugar” within the squadron. As well as on the side of the fuselage, the single letter appears on the nose:

And also on the tailfins:

I don’t know what the little aircraft is. Possibly, it is a training aircraft. If you know its identity, please indicate in the Comments Section.

The museum has a couple of bombs on show.

This appears to me to be a standard 4,000lb “cookie” which carried the maximum bombload inside a very thin skin so as to create the biggest blast possible. That would blow the roofs off and allow the incendiaries to get inside the buildings and start their work:

This is a “Grand Slam” ten ton bomb, designed to penetrate the ground at more than the speed of sound and then to explode, creating a vast empty space deep in the ground. The technical term for this is a camouflet, an artificial cavern created by an explosion. Whatever is above it, buildings, railways, bridges, whatever, can then collapse into the void.

It was an incredible sight, my Dad always said, to see a Lancaster getting off the runway carrying this enormous weight. The aircraft would invariably struggle and he always described its wings as “being like a huge crescent”, although somehow, the gallant aircraft always managed to get into the sky:

It was when he was with 617 Squadron in late 1944 and 1945 that Fred had seen Lancasters staggering into the air armed with these gigantic bombs. I did ask him in the latter stages of his life if he remembered any of the places he had bombed, but, alas, he was too old by then. He added that from his point of view, so many of the targets were names he had never heard before. And I suppose with “Mimoyecques” he does have a point!  The only target he did in fact remember were the U-boat pens in Brest. The crews were all told to make sure that they dropped their bombs well in the middle of each protective concrete roof. Otherwise, they would stand little chance of doing very much damage.

These extraordinary ten ton weapons were used operationally by 617 Squadron from March 14th 1945 onwards.

And finally, here’s one of those hypnotic spinner patterns beloved of the Luftwaffe. They always seem to appear in the newsreels from the early part of the war:

PS :  Forgive the weird colours in the previous photographs, but this entire floor was lit with special lighting to preserve the original Bomber Command matt black.

Here is some modern nose art from the 1970s. This was on the nose of a Handley Page Victor V-Bomber which had been preserved without the rest of the aircraft:

And finally, here is an English Electric Lightning fighter of the early sixties, proudly displaying its tiger badges. Firstly, on the nose itself, there are the two stylised versions either side of the RAF roundel:

And here is the  animal proper on the aircraft’s tail:

This Mach-2 fighter was operated by 74 Squadron and this is the Tiger scheme from the days when they were the RAF display team in 1962.



Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, military, my Dad, Personal

20 responses to “Hendon objects 3

  1. Glad you enjoyed it, Derrick. I’m just sorry for the storm of typos towards the end. The concert pianist fingers are not what they used to be!

  2. Pierre Lagacé

    This aircraft has all of its missions marked carefully, although I do not know whether the white or yellow colouration has any significance…

    My logical guess?

    Yellow… Night operations
    White… Day operations

    M… Mine operation
    Small swastika… Enemy plane shoot down

    • You’ve convinced me, Pierre! I was barking entirely up the wrong tree. My idea was that the colours and the rest corresponded to the destination, such as Germany, France or Italy.
      Your idea, though, is far superior, and I shall adopt it until something even better comes along!!

      • Pierre Lagacé

        The other Lancaster has all yellow bombs which means night operations. You have confirmation there. You can’t paint black bombs representing night operations on a black fuselage.

  3. GP

    I miss seeing aircraft with these humorous and informative artwork.

    • I wonder when it died out. Perhaps with the advent of jet aircraft?

      • GP

        It may have lessened after the Korean War due to politically correct attitudes, but much to my surprise, after researching, the tradition is carrying on somewhat and the Air Force has unofficially sanctioned it. The Flying Tigers never lost their shark teeth design.

      • Excellent! The pilots and crews should be allowed to personalise their aircraft if they want to do that.,

      • GP

        I agree adamantly. I think it helps to seal the bonds between the crewmen.

  4. Interesting stuff. Love seeing pictures of these old air planes.

  5. What a dangerous and heavy load to airlift! I imagine that a direct hit or crash while carrying such a load would mean instant death for the crew. Your father was blessed to have survived all this.

  6. The crews always used to say that if any aircraft could do it, it would be the Lancaster, whose lifting capacity was quite outstanding.
    My Dad was very lucky to have survived in the face of more than 50,000 casualties in Bomber Command. He once said to me that casualties were so high among the men who bombed the German capital that it was only because he had never been sent there that I existed!

  7. Chris Waller

    I have it in mind that I have seen photographs, or film footage, of Lancasters without an upper gun-turret. Were any versions of the Lancaster built without an upper gun-turret, or am I mistaken?

    • On particular occasions, the upper gun-turret was removed, as was the case with the Dambusters’ aircraft. This was to save weight, given the size of the bomb they were carrying.
      As the war went on, and the Luftwaffe grew more and more scarce, more and more upper gun-turrets were removed. Again, this was to save weight, and make possible a bigger bombload.

      I think I have seen that Lancasters actually left the factory without these turrets, but I am not 100% sure about that.
      Similar things were also done with the front turret but this was more risky, as the Americans found with B-17s that had no forward facing defence. The Luftwaffe just attacked them from the front in more or less complete safety.

  8. Hendon is a great place to see aircraft, even under the odd lighting. Sadly (or maybe not) the last time I was there, the ‘Battle of Britain’ exhibits were all in the process of being dismantled. Whilst it did ‘spoil’ the overall view, it did allow you to see inside the ‘guts’ of the aircraft, quite a unique experience I guess. I didn’t realise they wrote the names of those who’d won various awards on the nacelles, I wonder if that’s a general thing or just with this example.

    • As far as I know, the names of fliers on the nacelles is particular to this individual aircraft, although the idea may have caught on with other aircraft in the same squadron.
      I think I would find it disappointing to find aircraft in bits and pieces on the floor. It’s rather like our school trip to the Soviet Union in 1969. We got to Red Square only to find St Basil’s Cathedral shrouded in complete scaffolding and the building virtually invisible.

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