Tag Archives: Coastal Command

George Norman Hancock, Old Nottinghamian and RAF (2)

Last time, we saw how George Norman Hancock sat the Army Entrance Examination and was placed second in the Order of Merit for the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell in Lincolnshire. There were six successful candidates:

AFR Bennett (Harrow County School), GN Hancock (Nottingham High School), K Gray (Leeds Grammar School), TL Moseley (Tamworth Grammar School), GAV Knyvett (Malvern College) and JAP Owen (St Bees School, Cumberland).

These were six optimistic young men, the brightest and the best, who would dedicate their lives to the Royal Air Force and their country. Some of them would lose those lives for ever.

Wing Commander Albert Frank Reuben Bennett worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. He was killed on Wednesday, July 1, 1942 at the age of 29.

Wing Commander Thomas Lawton Moseley was with 228 Squadron when he was killed on August 25th 1942 at the age of 29. He was in the same Short Sunderland flying boat in which the Duke of Kent was killed:

As for K Gray of Leeds Grammar School, I found three Kenneth Grays who were all killed but they were members of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, so, unless he left the RAF and then returned to it, I am not sure that this particular K Gray is very likely to be any of them. On the other hand, he may well be.

I first found George’s name in the RAF list for 1933 when on July 15th 1933, he was appointed to a permanent commission as a Pilot in the General Duties Branch of the RAF. In 1938-1940 he was recorded as Flight Lieutenant GN Hancock with the date July 14th 1938 after his name. This corresponds, presumably, to the date when his rank of Flight Lieutenant began. In June 1938 he qualified as a Special Signals Officer and for the rest of his life, he was to work in this area of the service. He would always be engaged in flying an aircraft rather than a desk.
Interestingly, he soon became an Experimental Signals Officer at the Aeroplane And Armament Experimental Establishment, which was originally located on the east coast, at Martlesham Heath near Woodbridge in Suffolk. When the war broke out, it was moved to the less vulnerable site of RAF Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.  Boeing B-17s were frequently used in research of the electronic variety. This one was specifically part of the AAEE:


The next time we meet George is in the “Flight” edition of April 13th 1939 when Flight Lieutenant GN Hancock became Squadron Leader GN Hancock with effect from April 1st 1939. On April 24th 1939, George was transferred to the Technical Branch from General Duties.
George’s name also cropped up in the King’s Birthday Honours for 1944, which celebrated the official birthday of King George VI. He was listed as Group Captain GN Hancock, “Mentioned in Despatches”, this time for his work with Coastal Command.
In 1946, George was awarded the CBE in the New Year’s Honours List as senior Signals Officer of the entire RAF. He must have also been promoted, if only temporarily, to the rank of Group Captain.

On November 1st 1947 George relinquished his temporary rank of Group Captain to become a Wing Commander (substantive). On July 1st 1953, he reverted to being a permanent Group Captain because on October 6th 1953, he was transferred to the General Duties Branch, retaining his rank…Group Captain GN HANCOCK, CBE, MIEE (seniority 1st July 1951).
I’ve not found the second abbreviation yet, but it possibly means “Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers”. He certainly joined the Institution as a university graduate in 1940 and by 1942, he was an Associate Member, and ten years later, a full Member. At the time of his death, George was also the proud holder of two prestigious diplomas. One was the AMIEE and the other was the AMI Radio Engineers. One was “Associate Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers” and the other was, presumably, “Associate Member of the Institution of Radio Engineers”.

George’s obituary lists the various jobs he did in the RAF and they certainly make a long and impressive list. He was the Chief Signals Officer in Coastal Command, the Senior Staff Officer at the Air Traffic Headquarters at Uxbridge, and the Command Signals Officer with the British Air Force of Occupation in Germany. At the time of his death on March 31st 1954, he was working with the Ministry of Supply as the Senior Air Force Representative to the Controller of Guided Weapons and Electronics in the Ministry of Supply. Here is an early Bloodhound anti-aircraft missile:

To carry out all of these important posts, George needed immense dedication to the cause, and he had it in abundance, being committed both to the Royal Air Force and to his profession as a telecommunication engineer. He was known universally and affectionately by his nickname of “Hank”. His friends loved his courage and his jovial optimism. His work colleagues had great respect for his plainly expressed opinions and his dogged persistence in working away at things and overcoming any problems. Indeed, his obituary writer thought that George’s character was the very reason that he was always called “Hank”.

“This bestowal of a nickname gave an accurate measure of the esteem in which he was held by his colleagues.”

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Filed under History, Nottingham, Aviation, The High School

Victor Comic and me (4)

This time in Victor, it’s Coastal Command. Patrolling the Ocean Blue in their aircraft and bombing U-boats. Until the German anti aircraft gunners take a hand….

And that single event, that single exploding shell, seems to put a very abrupt end to all of the crew’s sentiments about peace on earth which might be talked about in church on a Sunday morning . We are moved on very quickly from love for our fellow man to an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth! And what about the words of the world’s most misspelled holy man, Gandhi? An eye for an eye and the whole world is blind?  All those lovely thoughts are completely knocked on the head. Literally. Vengeance is the order of the day. Just listen to what he says…..

And the next frame asks some very pertinent questions about staffing levels in the wartime RAF.

If we don’t need a bomb-aimer, then why did we bring one?

He could have been at home, spending his afternoon with his stamp album and his hinges, sticking in that German set with ships on, rather than bombing the real thing….

Aircraft recognition anyone? Well, it’s a Consolidated PBY Catalina, dropping old oil drums on a U-boat…..

No real man likes a hand placed tenderly on his shoulder, even if he’s wounded.

Leave me alone and go and look after Jack, we’ve all been very worried about him…..

I’ve spent my whole life being a facetious commentator on life.

In actual fact, I am a great admirer of Victor comic and even as an adult, I can see lots of positive teachings within its heavily serrated pages.

Soooooo…it will be a Victor true story with no facetiousness whatsoever next time. Well, only a teeny weeny bit.

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Attack the Tirpitz!! In a Halifax??

You are so lucky! You are going to see three photographs of a relatively rare aircraft, a Halifax Mark II, taken in the almost funereal gloom of the RAF Museum at Hendon. I apologise for the quality but in their efforts to preserve the original paint on the aircraft, the museum lights are kept very low indeed. For this particular aircraft, do not be put off by the fact that it seems apparently to have grown two enormous circular fins in the middle of its back. That is an Indian Air Force B-24 Liberator:

this one

The Halifax was the second British four-engined bomber to enter service in World War Two but it became the first to bomb Germany during a raid on Hamburg on the night of March 12th-13th 1941. Subsequent increasing losses on operations over Germany caused Halifax bombers to be used on less hazardous targets from September 1943.

The Halifax made over 75,000 bombing sorties and dropped almost a quarter of a million tons of bombs on Germany.

The Halifax continued in service with Coastal and Transport Commands after the war and the last operational flight was made by a Coastal Command aircraft in March 1952 from Gibraltar.
This s a Halifax B Mk II, Series I, with the serial number W1048. It was built by English Electric in 1942 at their factory near Samlesbury near Preston in Lancashire as part of a contract for 200 Halifaxes. This a similar aeroplane:

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On March 27th 1942 it joined 102 Squadron at Dalton in North Yorkshire as “DY-S”.  The squadron was in the process of converting from the old Whitley Mark Vs
On April 9th 1942, six aircraft from 102 Squadron were exchanged with six aircraft from 35 Squadron because they were fitted with Gee radio navigation aid and could not be risked on a raid beyond the range of Gee stations  W1048 now became “TL-S” of 35 Squadron.
On April 15th the aircraft was taken on a training flight around Filey Bay followed by some low level practice bombing at Strenshall. Just over a week later, it  flew with ten other Halifaxes to RAF Kinloss in Scotland as an advance base for the raid on the German battleship, the Tirpitz.
It took off on April 27th 1942 at 2030 hours, the bomber’s first operational mission. “DY-S” was the  seventh of eleven bombers to depart and it was never heard of again. Until, that is, it was restored to the RAF Museum at Hendon;

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The crew was Pilot Officer Don P MacIntyre who was 24 years old and came from Canada. The busy bee in the crew was Pilot Officer Ian Hewitt who was the observer, bomb aimer and navigator. He  later won a DFC. After the war, he moved to quieter pursuits and became a chartered accountant, dying peacefully at home in bed in June 2015, aged 94.
The Flight Engineer was Sergeant Vic Stevens and the first WOP/AG  was Sergeant Dave Perry
The mid upper gunner was another Canadian, Sergeant Pierre Blanchet.
The tail gunner was Sergeant Ron Wilson who in later life was to become a London cabby.
The aircraft was carrying four spherical mines of the Royal Navy type 19N. They each weighed a ton and their shape and size meant that the the bomb doors could not be closed.
The cunning plan was to roll the four mines down the steep mountainside into the gap between the ship and the shore.  They would then sink the ship because the underside was thinner and therefore more vulnerable.
At half past midnight, the eighth aircraft to attack, Don McIntyre followed by his friend Reg Lane set off to release their mines. McIntyre was first. As they had arranged, they descended to 200 feet but “DY-S” was hit by flak and too badly damaged to get back to Yorkshire or even to Sweden.
They were forced to land on the frozen surface of Lake Hoklingen, twenty five miles east of Trondheim.

Here is the starboard inner engine nowadays in the museum:

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Vic Stevens broke his ankle and was eventually taken to hospital by the Germans. The other six came into contact with the Ling, the Norwegian underground and were helped to Sweden. Ian Hewitt and Don McIntyre returned to England after a few weeks, and Dave Perry,  Pierre Blanchet and Ron Wilson after a year. By this time Ron Wilson had rented a flat, found a job and made a start on a new life.
The poor old Halifax sank through the ice in the southern corner of the lake just twelve hours after the crash.
In 1971 the remains were found by local divers and in September 1972 by the RAF Sub Aqua Club. Everything was still there except for the starboard outer engine and one or two bits and pieces taken by souvenir hunters in the past.

Here is a photograph which is admittedly very similar to one of the others. I am quite proud of it, though, because my Idiots’ Guide to Photoshop has enabled me to turn a pretty well completely black picture into something understandable. Slight tinges of red are apparently the chemical which inhibits any further deterioration in the fresh air. Do they make that for humans?

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By the end of June 1973, the Halifax had been retrieved from the lake, and after a lot of restoration, it was ready for the public by the end of 1982. Apparently a second Halifax from the same squadron and the same operation was discovered at the bottom of a nearby fjord in 2014. This exciting discovery was made by the Marine Technology Centre from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. The wreckage is around 600 feet down, and is thought to be W7656 and to contain the remains of Sergeants Evans and Columbine, the wireless operator/gunner and the navigator respectively. I do not know if this will make any difference to plans to raise the aircraft and to restore it.

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The Bristol Beaufighter at Hendon

I went on a trip to RAF Hendon Museum a few years ago, and I intend to share one or two of the more interesting aircraft with you over the months. Hopefully I will only be using my own photographs, so here are my excuses first. The Museum is really quite dark, so that the daylight or bright artificial lights have no effect on the (poor quality) Second World War paint. The museum is also very cramped, so try as I might, I could not get all of the aircraft into the shot at once.

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This particular aircraft is a Bristol Beaufighter Mk X. The Beaufighter flew for the first time on July 17th 1939 and the RAF received them in April of the following year. They were used as night fighters with airborne interception radar or, like this aircraft, as strike fighters, especially in Coastal Command. Armed with a combination of four cannons in the nose, machine guns, bombs, rockets or torpedoes, they were a formidable opponent. Production reached 5562 aircraft and they equipped 52 squadrons of the Royal Air Force:

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This particular example, RD253, BF-13 was built in October 1944 at Old Mixon in Weston-super-Mare. It has Bristol Hercules XVII engines and is one of a batch of 500 Mark Xs built there between September 1944-August 1945.

It is painted in Coastal Command colours of dark grey on the top, and underneath a much paler grey. The black and white stripes are there to undo all the work of the camouflage designers and painters in an effort to prevent friendly fire shooting the aircraft down. This could be a huge problem as one or two British anti-aircraft gunners apparently had Iron Crosses for five kills or more.

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This aircraft initially went to 19 Maintenance Unit at St Athan in Glamorgan on November 2nd 1944.
On March 7th 1945, it was sent to RAF Pershore in Worcestershire.

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Ten days later, on March 18th 1945,it was one of sixteen sent to Portela near Lisbon for use by the Portuguese Naval Air Arm, the Forcas Aereas da Armada. The aircraft was taken out of service in 1949 and then parked in the open in front of the Instituto Superior Tecnico.  It came to the Hendon Museum via South Africa, Bicester in Oxfordshire and  St Athan in Glamorgan, and was restored by 1968.

Overall, the Beaufighter strikes you as a very, very powerful and heavily armed aircraft. There must have been a lot of young men who really enjoyed the chance to fly it, armed to the teeth, with the sole aim of destroying anything belonging to the enemy that moved.

 

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The Bristol Beaufort at Hendon

I went on a trip to RAF Hendon Museum a few years ago, and I would like to share one or two of the more interesting aircraft with you over the months. Hopefully I will only be using my own photographs, so here are my excuses first. The Museum in  places is really quite dark, so that the daylight or bright artificial lights have no effect on the (poor quality) Second World War paint. This gives rise to a distinct purplish tone on many of the photographs. The museum is also very cramped, so try as I might, I could not get all of the aircraft into the shot at once.

This is a Bristol Beaufort, the only monoplane produced for the Royal Air Force that was designed from the start for general reconnaissance and as a torpedo bomber. It was named after the late and great Duke of Beaufort, whose very large ancestral home was near to the headquarters of the Bristol company.

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The prototype first flew on October 15th 1938 and Beauforts entered service with No.22 Squadron in November 1939. They were Coastal Command’s standard torpedo bomber until 1943 and also laid mines.

The Beaufort was very successful as a torpedo bomber, and saw action over the North Sea, the English Channel and the Atlantic. In 1942, Beaufort squadrons were deployed to the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean to meet a changing enemy threat. Malta-based aircraft were particularly successful in attacks on Axis shipping at a critical time in the war in North Africa.

Total Beaufort production was 1380, including 700 which were built in Australia.

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The Beaufort at Hendon was assembled from bits of various Australian aircraft found at Tadji Airstrip and West Sepik in Papua and New Guinea.  Five airframes were salvaged from these sites by Dr Charles “Bunny” Darby  in  1974  and as far as is known, significant bits of some 28 Beauforts are still there.
In October 1987, two Gate Guard Spitfire Mk XVIs were swapped for a P-40 Kittyhawk and a Beaufort. The latter eventually arrived at Hendon via a workshop in Hawkins, Texas and then Felixstowe and  Cardington in Bedfordshire.

To me, a Beaufort always looks like a half way between a Blenheim and a Beaufighter. Here is a proper photograph, purloined from my best friends at Google Images. I just didn’t want you to think that all Beauforts strongly resembled a very large twin engine blackcurrant:

bea

The best illustration of a Beaufort is, in fact, a model. There wasn’t an Airfix one, as far as I can remember, so perhaps this is a Frog kit or something even more exotic. I couldn’t find a good picture of a Beaufort in Australian colours:

beaufort

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