Category Archives: Aviation

What would you do ? (12) The Puzzle

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle in 1964. The last issue of “Boys’ World” came out on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”:

Here’s the situation:

The yellow box sets the scene, and the task is for you to solve the situation. Perhaps you might like to write your idea in the “Comments” section.

Here’s the yellow box enlarged:

So…..a V.1 flying bomb, a “doodlebug”, as they were nicknamed by the people of London. You have to destroy it but your  Hawker Tempest V has run out of ammunition’

I think I can guess the answer, but be very careful. There’s a whole ton of explosives on board that Vergeltungswaffe Eins. So much for the indiscriminate bombing of women and children!

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The Supermarine Walrus (5)

Here is the Airfix kit of the Walrus:

Assembly tended to be a rather fiddly process for an impatient young boy. I, for one, was completely unable to stick the numerous struts into the bottom wing, and then wait overnight while everything dried, so that the struts could then be lined up accurately with the holes in the top wing. If you didn’t do this, of course, you finished up with a very tricky sticky situation with an ever increasing amount of glue spreading from the top of the tube to clumsy little fingers to the flat surfaces of the wings.

And finally….

The Walrus was sometimes known as the “Steam-pigeon”, the name coming supposedly from the steam produced by water striking the hot Pegasus engine. Usually, though, its nickname was the “Shagbat”.

People ask, of course, “What is a shagbat?” Well, according to a book I found about British military aircraft, a shagbat was…

“a legendary bird, whose reputedly ever-decreasing circular flightpath had its own inevitable conclusion”.

So….. is there any other definition of a shagbat.? Well, I don’t think there is, but I can offer you a couple of twos for you to add together and produce at least fifty-five.

First of all, as a verb, “shag” is a word beloved of young men down the pub, and means “to have sex,” I tried very hard to think up some examples, but none of them were suitable, although the one about the hole in the fence was jolly funny. The Urban Dictionary expressed it very well, however:

“Used by people who think the term “making love” is too innocent and ” f**** ” is too coarse.”

And what does the “bat” bit mean? This I found in a second on-line dictionary:

“Any annoying post-menopausal woman, but especially one who applies a considerable amount of make-up….She may even scare small children with her appearance. An example would be “I try to be nice to the old bat.”:

Put the two words together and you have “shagbat”. The sort of woman you wake up with after a wild Saturday night in a small town whose name you cannot, for the moment, remember:

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The Supermarine Walrus (4)

Last time, we looked at how practically no provisions whatsoever were made in 1940 to rescue RAF fighter pilots who were forced to bale out over the sea:

“A passing ship is bound to pick them up, and pretty damn speedily at that, don’t you know, what ? what?”

During the Battle of Britain, Flight Lieutenant RF Aitken of the RNZAF was so disturbed by the death rates among his fellow fighter pilots that he actually “borrowed” a Supermarine Walrus flying boat from the Fleet Air Arm. During this period of grotesque complacency on the part of the RAF top brass, Flight Lieutenant Aitken,  despite working single handed, managed to rescue thirty five British and German flyers from The Cruel Sea during the summer of 1940.

The situation though, did not really improve. Twelve hundred British airmen went “into the drink” between February 1941-August 1941. Of these 444 were picked up by the British. 78 were picked up by the German Seenotdienst and 678 were not picked up by anybody whatsoever and they all died. Every single one. It was lucky that their training cost so little.

At official levels, it was only on August 22nd 1940 that an emergency meeting was held under the chairmanship of Air Marshal Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris to explore the shortcomings of air sea rescue provision.

And thus, from September 1941 onwards, the Air Sea Rescue Directorate became functional and gradually the RAF began to use the Supermarine Walrus more widely from coastal land bases as an Air Sea Rescue aircraft.

By the end of the war things had improved out of all recognition. The RAF now possessed not eighteen but 600 high speed rescue launches and numerous squadrons of specialist aircraft.

Even so, results were nowhere near 100%.

Many crews did not ever rescue anybody in all their years looking for stranded airmen. Some never found even a single dinghy. Worse still, some only ever found empty dinghies.

Some crews only ever found corpses, men frozen stiff with the cold, dead from exposure or any of the other conditions likely to occur in a dinghy which, for some reason best known to the top brass, did not have a covering of any kind and was completely open to the elements.

Old Nottinghamian, John Harold Gilbert Walker (1918-1942), died in this dreadful way. He was shot down in his Spitfire over St Omer, and four days later, the dinghy and his lifeless body were found, a mere eight miles south of Dungeness. John was only twenty three years of age and he had died of exposure waiting in vain to be rescued.

John’s remains were returned to his family in Nottingham and he was interred in the cemetery of St Leonard’s Church in Wollaton on May 19th 1942. If you’re ever out that way, go and put a few flowers on his grave.

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What would you do ? (11) The Solution

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys, and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle.

It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here’s the situation, as always, explained in the coloured box:

And the correct solution given on page 2 of the comic is:

“The crashed pilot took off his jacket and spread it across the swamp before him. He then leaned forward on the jacket, reaching for firm ground. In this way he eased his way to safety . For the jacket acted as a kind of platform, enabling the pilot to distribute his weight more evenly. Snowshoes act in much the same way on soft, deep snow.”

Now personally, I don’t think this would work. I think that the first time you put your jacket down it would disappear into the swamp and you’d lose it for ever. My solution, if it qualifies as such, was based on lying very still in the water/mud etc and hopefully finding a small log to act as a float. Even better would be to have an aircraft with a inflatable dinghy in the wing and to know how to find it, release it and paddle away.

I did a blogpost about this a good while ago. It was called “The Luckiest Man in the World” (4) and concerned Tom Weightman, an RAF rear gunner who survived a crash on a lake in Norway because he knew where the aircraft’s dinghy was stored, unlike his six colleagues who all perished trying to swim to shore. You can find the story here.

This was not the first time that Tom had been the only survivor. Read how he escaped a fatal crash at Dilhorne near Stoke some time previously here.

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What would you do ? (11) The Puzzle

I’m sure that you all remember the feature called “What would you do ?”. It used to appear on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys and it ran from January 26th 1963 to  October 3rd 1964 when “Eagle”, itself not in the best of financial health, merged with it. The last issue of “Boys’ World” was No 89, and any of its fans left by then would have struggled to find any trace of their favourite comic in Eagle:

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Let’s take a look:

And here’s the situation, according to the blue box:

“I’m sinking and I can’t get out!”

That is the first terrifying thought in this flier’s mind. He ha escaped from his blazing plane, only to find that the ‘lake’ he has plunged into, is really a swamp. Slowly, he is being sucked deeper and deeper…within minutes, he will be completely covered. What can he do?

Here’s the Blue Box, just to prove that I’m not making all this up:

The blue box sets the scene, and the task is for you to solve the situation. Perhaps you might like to write your idea in the “Comments” section.

So…..it’s one “Dilly of a pickle”.  Sinking into the swamp. Sucked down deeper and deeper.. Only minutes left.

What can  he do??

And don’t cheat by asking an expert!

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The Supermarine Walrus (3)

The RAF’s provisions for Air Sea Rescue during much of the Second World War were absolutely abysmal. Nowadays there would be Public Inquiries and the newspapers would be explaining to their readers exactly what corporate manslaughter was.

Throughout the first two years of the conflict the RAF had twenty eight ships and no search aircraft. During the Battle of Britain, recent research has revealed that around two hundred pilots died unnecessarily when they ditched in the English Channel:

Indeed, in August 1940, Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park, who commanded the fighter group in the south east, actually ordered his flight controllers not to vector pilots over the sea because “too many were getting drowned:

The problem was that most of them perished once they hit the water because they were only visible until their parachute folded up into the waves and both pilot and parachute sank.

There was just no effective means of looking at all those waves from above and finding a downed pilot.

It all came from that lack of decent search aircraft. Making up the deficit in reconnaissance aircraft with Avro Ansons and Westland Lysanders was no use. Their range was not long enough. The Anson was 660 miles, and the Lysander just 600 miles. A limit of 600-700 miles didn’t allow them to carry out patrols of either the required time or the required distance.

Overall therefore, there was very little chance of survival if you ditched into the sea, and only the occasional flier was picked up by a passing destroyer or fishing boat:

On one day in August 1940, fifteen of the eighteen RAF pilots who baled out over the North Sea and the English Channel were lost to the cold, cold, waves. Overall, the statistics showed that if a pilot baled out over land, he had a fifty per cent chance of survival. Over water that fell to twenty per cent. In the words of one writer, “The ditching of a British aeroplane in the Channel or the North Sea usually doomed its crew.”

The men to blame, of course, as always, were the top brass who sat in their offices and decided:

“There are so many ships constantly sailing round British waters that nobody could possibly fail to be picked up, and picked up pretty damn speedily at that, don’t you know, what ? what?”

 

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The Supermarine Walrus (2)

Last time, we were looking at the Supermarine Walrus amphibian which was used by the RAF in the second half of the Second World War:The Germans entered the war completely prepared for air-sea-rescue, of course. They had a dedicated arm of the Luftwaffe called the Seenotdienst and they made extensive use of the Dornier Do24, one of the comparatively few three engined aircraft used in the conflict:

The Dornier Do 24 was initially built for the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Koninklijke Marine, to be used primarily in the Dutch East Indies, today’s Indonesia. The Do24 was very much admired by the Seenotdienst so, in the words of Adolf Hitler, “I invaded the country and I stole all six of them.”

The Germans also made extensive use of the Heinkel He59 which was unarmed and painted white with big red cross:

These floatplanes would cheerfully rescue both Luftwaffe and RAF aircrew. Nevertheless, there was a suspicion that the Germans might have been using their aircraft for proscribed reconnaissance activities and the RAF was told to shoot them all down in Bulletin 1254, which indicated that “all enemy air-sea rescue aircraft were to be destroyed wherever they were encountered”. In retrospect, perhaps a little disappointing as a decision.

The older He 59 was much more comparable with the Walrus, perhaps, than the Do24. This Heinkel biplane was much slower than the monoplane Dornier (and was therefore much easier to shoot down as part of Bulletin 1254). Both aircraft made extensive use of the invention of Ernst Udet, the yellow-painted “Rettungsbojen” or rescue buoys:

These buoy-type floats were highly visible and they held emergency equipment such as food, water, blankets, dry clothing enough for four men, and an assortment of board games including, of course, “Risk”, for the Germans. Here’s a cut-away of the buoy:

And here is a rare picture of Admiral Donitz about to begin his famous speech announcing that all the lighthouses of the world were now part of the Greater German Reich:

Shot-down airmen from both sides were strongly attracted to these buoys and many a desperate game of Schcrabble or Buckaroo was played to decide who had first dibs with the rescue buoys’ bratwurst or their assortment of smoked cheeses. British airmen and seamen called the Rettungsbojen “Lobster Pots” for their shape:

The rescue buoys also attracted the close attentions of many sailors in both German and British rescue boats. They would come to inspect the buoys from time to time and “friendly” downed airmen were rescued, but enemy aircrew automatically became prisoners of war.

 

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The Supermarine Walrus (1)

In a recent blog post, I wrote about the most famous flying boat of World War Two, the Short Sunderland. I was lucky enough to visit the RAF Museum at Hendon in north London, where the aircraft is positioned in a very large space, unlike the way it was rather cramped way it was displayed when I went to Duxford in 2009:

With the Sunderland, under its starboard wing almost, is a Supermarine Walrus, which is not a flying boat but an amphibian, an aircraft which can go on land as well as on water.

The Walrus is an extremely unattractive flying machine, and it is extremely difficult to imagine that it was designed by RJ Mitchell, the man who designed the world’s most beautiful aircraft ever. This was the fighter that was originally to be called the Supermarine Shrew, until the name was changed to Supermarine Spitfire (“just the sort of bloody silly name they would choose.” (Mitchell)).

The Walrus was intended to be a gunnery spotting aircraft for sea battles between big warships, but this only happened twice, in the Battle of Cape Spartivento and the Battle of Cape Matapan. In actual fact, the Walrus’ main task was to patrol the seas looking for German or Italian submarines and surface warships. By 1941, the Walruses, or perhaps Walri, had air-to-surface radar for this purpose, although by 1943, all catapult-launched aircraft on Royal Navy ships, including the Walrus, were being phased out as the catapult and the hangar took up too much deck space.

The Walrus was then used at sea only on aircraft carriers as its landing speed was very low and neither flaps nor a tail-hook was necessary. The Royal Navy didn’t have that many aircraft carriers, so the main use of the Walrus now became chiefly air-sea rescue from land bases.

Before the Walrus, the British had not had any aircraft specifically designed for air-sea rescue in home waters.

Here’s the Walrus from the front:

And here it is from the back. Notice how the four bladed propeller is so close to the rear gunner that it may give him a short-back-and-sides haircut if he is not careful:

Here are the wheels which the pilot would lower before landing in the normal way on a runway. As I mentioned above, the Walrus had such a low stalling speed that it could land on an aircraft carrier without recourse to an arrester hook or to any safety nets. Presumably this allowed the Walrus to transport very badly wounded casualties to an aircraft carrier for immediate medical treatment, if the wounded man was too badly injured for a long flight to land :

Here are the floats underneath each wing tip. They appear to have about three thousand of Rosie the Riveter’s finest holding them together:

And to finish up, here’s an overall view of a Walrus:

It flies at about 55mph, but finds long climbs rather challenging. No, just joking!

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Kamikaze (6)

According to author Robert C Stern  in his fascinating book “Fire from the Sky”, the very last hit by a kamikaze was in Buckner Bay on August 13th 1945 on the attack transport USS Lagrange (APA 124). Work on building the Lagrange began on September 1st 1944 and the ship was ready by November 11th. The quick workers were the California Shipbuilding Corporation of Wilmington, California and the captain was Frank R. Walker. Here’s Captain Walker:

And here is the Lagrange :

It was a Haskell class ship, and all of them looked very similar one to another. Here’s a clearer photograph of another ship of the same type.

The USS Lagrange (APA 124) was the victim of kamikaze attacks on two separate occasions. On April 2nd, the convoy was attacked by eight Japanese aircraft. Private First Class Max Drucker, Company M, 306th Infantry was on deck near a 20mm anti-aircraft gun when one of the kamikaze planes approached the La Grange in a steep glide. Drucker leaped to the gun, got into action and directed an accurate stream of fire at the enemy aircraft. His was the only gun engaging the enemy. About 200 yards from the ship the Jap veered suddenly and fell into the sea.

On August 13th 1945, the Lagrange was attacked for a second time, in Buckner Bay, now called Nakagusuku Bay, on the southern coast of Okinawa. There were two kamikaze pilots.  One, carrying a 500-pound bomb,  hit the Lagrange’s superstructure :

The second kamikaze aircraft clipped the top of the kingpost and splashed in the sea twenty yards from the ship. The kingpost is the tall shaft that supports a cargo boom. Each one of the aircraft caused considerable damage but more important, 21 men were killed and 88 were wounded. This was the sad reality of kamikaze aircraft. And it wasn’t just one man who died:

So near to the end of the war, with the armistice about to be signed on August 14th 1945, this attack was completely and absolutely pointless. And the Japanese senior ranks would have known that.

The very last ever kamikaze was on August 15th 1945. Vice Admiral Matomé Ugaki had ordered five “Judy”s to be prepared but when he walked out to his plane, there were eleven aircraft on the runway with 22 men inside them.

Here is a “Judy”, or rather a model of one, in this case, the prototype:

Here is Matomé Ugaki, captured on that last day of the war, as he led 22 other men to pointless deaths:

Ugaki got on board one of the aeroplanes, carrying a samurai sword given to him as a present by Admiral Yamamoto. Behind him sat Tatsuo Nakatsuru, whose father would still be praying for him on the anniversary of the August 15th attack as late as 2019.

The planes all took off, formated and flew away. And that was more or less the last that anybody saw of them.

Ugaki’s last radio message said that they had found a ship and were diving onto it:

The next day an American landing craft found a wrecked plane on a beach. It contained three bodies, all very badly mutilated but one carried a samurai sword. On August 15th 1945, not a single American ship was hit by a kamikaze. Indeed,  not a single American ship was even attacked.

Overall, the kamikazes carried out approximately 3,000 attacks and 3,913 Japanese pilots were killed. 2,000 of these 3,000 attacks never got as far as diving on an enemy ship, largely because of mechanical failures and the efficiency of the American fighters. Indeed, when it left its base, there was only a 9.4 % chance of the Kamikaze hitting an Allied ship. Once the kamikaze started its dive, there was a 36% chance it would hit its target,

If it did hit, 40 casualties was a reasonable average expectation of casualties:

Overall, the kamikazes sank 66 Allied ships and damaged a further 250. In terms of personnel, there were around 15,000 Allied casualties. Figures suggested have been 6,190 killed and 8,760 wounded. I originally wrote “men” in that previous sentence, but there must have been casualties among nurses on board hospital ships:

Author Robert Stern’s final opinion is that the kamikazes would never have changed the outcome of the war. That was down to the implied threat of a Soviet invasion and the possibility of the Americans using further atomic bombs. And even if the Japanese mainland had been attacked, despite incredible casualties for the Allies, the result would have been ultimately the same:

And why did they do it? Well, Stern’s conclusion is that:

“The Kamikaze was led on his path of self-destruction primarily by a sense of obligation to parents, and nation as embodied by the Emperor.”

Overall, Robert C Stern’s “Fire from the Sky” is a fascinating book with a good number of splendid photographs and some excellent accounts of individual events. It has 384 pages and I’m certainly pleased that I bought mine.

The author’s final chapter is about the modern kamikazes, the Islamist suicide bombers who have created such appalling carnage in various places in the world. My very last two posts about kamikazes will show you some of Stern’s fascinating ideas.

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Kamikaze (5)

By the end of the war, the Japanese were using any aircraft that they could find to use as kamikazes. As author Robert Stern points out in his fascinating book “Fire from the Sky”, this was the moment when the Japanese accidentally invented the stealth aircraft. They were forced to go right to the back of the disused hangar and dig out some of the oldest and most infrequently used training aircraft to use as kamikazes. These included the “Spruce” and “Willow” trainers, which were biplanes apparently made from bits of wood, canvas, knotted string and bits of old wallpaper. For this reason they did not show up on radar very much at all, something which puzzled the Americans enormously and which the Japanese never found out about.

Here is a “Willow” aka a Yokosuka K5Y :

And here is a “Spruce” aka a Tachikawa Ki 9 :

The Japanese used a variety of aircraft for kamikaze attacks. The single engined ones were mainly the naval “Zeke” or the army’s “Oscar”, the two often being misidentified. Here’s the “Zeke” aka the Mitsubishi A6M Zero:

And here is the “Oscar” aka the Nakajima Ki 43 :

Use was also made of the “Tony”, the “Frank” and the twin engined “Dinah”.

Here’s the “Tony” aka the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (Swallow). When it first came into service, Allied pilots thought they were Messerschmitt Bf 109s, perhaps built under licence.:

And here is a “Frank” aka the Nakajima Ki 84 Hayate. This photograph is by yours truly, taken at Hendon. Can you see the Mosquito, about to shoot it down?:

And this is my even more splendid photograph of a backlit “Dinah” aka Mitsubishi Ki-46 :

There was a welter of single engined torpedo bombers used by the Japanese as kamikaze planes. They included the “Jill” aka the Nakajima B6N Tenzan. “Tenzan” means “Heavenly Mountain”, and is under no circumstances ever to be used as a term of endearment for the woman in your life. Perhaps worth trying with the man, though:

The “Kate” was aka the Nakajima B5N. It seems to have been painted on occasion in the most vomit provoking luminous green ever used:

The “Judy” was aka the Yokosuka D4Y Suisei (Comet):

Perhaps the most frequent mount for the would-be suicide jockey was the Aichi “Val” or the Aichi D3A. This photograph is the one most frequently used:

I first saw it in the “Hippo Book of Aircraft of the Second World War” when I was nine or ten :

The list goes on. Twin engined bombers were mainly the “Betty” and the “Sally”. Here’s a “Betty” which the Japanese called the Mitsubishi G4M1 :

And this is a “Sally” or a Mitsubishi Ki 21. It was actually possible to cultivate a decent crop of tomato plants in the long greenhouse behind the cockpit :

That’s enough photographs for now. Other aircraft types to be used, but much less frequently, are listed below:

“Claude”, Mitsubishi A5M, carrier based fighter

“Frances”, Yokosuka P1Y, navy land-based bomber

“Hamp”, Mitsubishi A6M3, navy carrier fighter

“Irving”, Nakajima J1N, navy land reconnaissance aircraft

“Jake”, Aichi E13A, navy reconnaissance seaplane

“Myrt”, Nakajima C6, navy carrier reconnaissance aircraft

“Nate”, Nakajima Ki-27, army fighter

“Nick”, Kawasaki Ki-45, army two-seat fighter

“Pete”, Mitsubishi F1M, navy observation seaplane

“Sonia”, Mitsubishi Ki-51, army light/dive bomber

Here’s a “Pete”, but its very easy to find the rest on “Google Images” :

Next time…..the Last Kamikaze.

 

 

 

 

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