Tag Archives: RAAF

Len Dorricott (3)

Last time, I was talking to you about Len Dorricott, who had flown a large number of missions as the navigator in one of the most famous Avro Lancasters of World War Two,  AR-G, G for George, of 460 Squadron of the RAAF. The vast majority of what you read, though, was written not by myself, but by Len’s wife, Rosemary. And meeting her future husband, apparently, was not Rosemary’s first encounter with the Avro Lancaster and the men who flew them.

She had actually had a much earlier connection with Lancaster aircrew. Here she recalls her childhood, and in particular the wonderful sights and sounds which were there at the end of her garden:

“Rosemary Dorricott : Childhood Memories Aged Nine

We stood in the garden in silence—and waited as dusk grew near—then the heavy throbbing of engines broke into the tranquillity of a summer’s night:

It was wartime—a time of austerity and uncertainty but the beautiful summer’s air belied the horrors of what war could bring!

Those heavy engines roared over our heads.

It was hard to believe those beautiful, graceful machines could be the bearers of destruction—but that was war and the means of our salvation!!

We thought of those young men going into the unknown whose mission it was to successfully accomplish the task they so bravely took on ! We counted each majestic machine, heavy with their bomb load and said a prayer for each one—and then the summer’s night returned to its tranquil peacefulness, as if there had been no disruption !!

It was dawn before we heard the first sounds of aircraft returning.

The sounds had changed—some with spluttering engines as they limped home.

Large gaps appearing in the order of their flight—and we knew, as we counted them back—that some would not return !!!

Dedicated to the Lancaster bomber

Bomber Command

World War Two 1939-1945

* * *

Over seventy years later, I stood on the tarmac at Coningsby with my veteran air crew husband. Bomber Command Memorial Occasions have taken a great part of his life recently, and he is now receiving great recognition for what he and his fellow RAF bomber crews did during the war, much deserved, and, not because of all this, I love and cherish him for the man he is — My Len ! !

Rosemary

                                                        August 2014”

One final detail that I feel I should pass on is that G for George is probably the most widely recognised Lancaster among ordinary people and certainly among little boys over the age of fifty.

G for George was, of course, the first Lancaster that you could make a plastic model of, when Airfix  brought out their 1-72 scale kit. It was originally, I seem to remember, in a box , or perhaps with a fold-over card top that kept all the little bits of the kit safe in their plastic bag. I think it was a Series 5 kit, price 7/6, or 37½ pence.

Here is is the fold-over card top which had a transparent plastic bag full of parts stapled to it:

And then came the artwork of Roy Cross, when the kits were sold in large, sturdy cardboard boxes:

I’ve always thought that Cross’s work should have been turned into prints on good quality paper, suitable for framing.

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Len Dorricott (1)

My wife’s hobby is photography and she specialises in a particular photographic printmaking process called “Bromoil”.

In the club she goes to, a few years ago, she met a gentleman who had stepped right out of the pages of history:

Here he is, busy Bromoiling:

This pleasant old gentleman was called Len Dorricott and he had been a navigator in Bomber Command during World War II:

He had flown with 576 Squadron, 61 Squadron, 81 Squadron and 460 Squadron who were members of the RAAF. The latter squadron’s losses were almost unbelievable. 1018 aircrew (589 of whom were Australian) were killed and 181 aircraft were destroyed. Here’s their badge:

With them, Len flew 29 missions, a substantial number of them in the famous G for George, the Lancaster which in 1945 was flown to Australia by an all-RAAF crew of Bomber Command veterans and is now preserved at the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra:

Here are the three squadron letters, just in case you think that in the photograph above, it’s AB-C :

G-George flew 90 missions over hostile territory, but this famous aircraft did not ever lose a single member of its crew, even though thirty of them were eventually killed in other aircraft:

When he was with 576 Squadron, Len Dorricott also flew in Operation Manna in May 1945, He went from RAF Fiskerton to the Netherlands where he dropped bread and other food to the starving Dutch population:

Len said later:

“It began as just another mission but it turned into something very special. The fact that it was daylight and we were flying so low meant we literally had a bird’s-eye view. I saw a German soldier, walking in the street with his rifle over his shoulder, looking up at us. The best thing of all was seeing the people on rooftops waving at us with anything they could. It was a marvellous feeling, the best thing I did in the war. I will always feel proud of that.”

Len lived to be 91 years old.

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the Supermarine Southampton at Hendon

You don’t always expect to see a flying boat in a museum in London, but the RAF Museum at Hendon has, among many other seaplanes, a Supermarine Southampton, a type which, between the two wars, was an extremely successful aircraft in Royal Air Force service:

The Southampton was designed by the famous R J Mitchell and it immediately brought Mitchell’s name to the fore as an aircraft designer. At the same time, it also gave Supermarine an enormous amount of publicity, affording a much greater chance that their later designs might be approved:

The first 18 examples of the Mark I were made completely of wood. They were delivered in August 1925. The RAF, however, was now beginning to express a growing preference for metal aircraft and when the Mark IIs were delivered, they were made entirely of metal. They were much preferred to the older wooden Southamptons which, from 1929 onwards, were all gradually converted to have metal hulls:


The aircraft was amazingly durable and reliable and each one had an average service life of around eleven years. One source of their fame was a series of long distance formation flights to many different parts of the world. In 1927-1928, the “Far East Flight” travelled from Felixstowe to the Mediterranean and then on to India and Singapore, a total of some 27,000 miles:

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The museum aircraft is a Mark I, N9899, from the very first ever batch of Mark Is which were numbered N9896-N9901. It was used by No.480 (Coastal Reconnaissance) Flight at Calshot in Hampshire. Here’s a general view. Not many aircraft have a ladder. At least, not on the outside.:

On September 7th 1925 the crew had an engine failure just off Wicklow Head in Ireland and had to be towed more than one hundred miles over the sea to Belfast Lough by HMS Calliope. On November 23rd 1928 N9899 was one of three Southamptons moored near Portland when it broke loose from its moorings in a gale and crashed violently into a breakwater. Only its engines were salvageable. In 1929 it was purchased privately so that its fuselage could be used as a houseboat, one of five flying boats to suffer such a fate at this time. N9899 then seems to have been towed to Felixstowe where it remained until the RAF bought it back and began a restoration scheme in the late 1960s.

What struck me about the aircraft was its vast collection of amazing old fashioned rivets and apparently heavy ironwork. Here is a closer view of the hull, revealing just how many rivets are holding the aircraft together. I haven’t bothered to count, but I bet there must be the best part of a couple of thousand. It’s a good job Mitchell’s most famous design, the Spitfire, was not too much like a Southampton!:

Notice the beautiful flowing lines of that tight, superbly graceful, bottom, or perhaps “hull” would be a better word. The museum still has that purple light to stop excessive fading of fragile old colours. I would think that aviation experts will see in the Southampton much of the design that Mitchell took forward to the Walrus.

This photograph shows a view from the rear, with the squadron letters of QN. I have the distinct feeling that every one of those silver metal panels might have a few rivets. The section around the gun turret, above the roundel, certainly does:

Here’s my final view, with the wheels used to bring the aircraft into the museum still in situ. They are not part of the aircraft because the Southampton was a flying boat, rather than an amphibian like the Consolidated PBY Catalina, which had its own undercarriage:

Notice behind the Southampton a Lockheed Hudson of the Royal Australian Air Force. Can you spot the kangaroo? Here’s a better view:

The Japanese used the Southampton as well as the RAF. Here’s a photograph of a modern day Polish construction kit:

I think that “IJNAF” stands for “Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force” (or something very like it.)

 

 

 

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Three war crimes, two Sunderlands and one Ashley Wilkes (1)

One of the world’s most bewitching aircraft is the Sunderland flying boat. When I was a boy, I never did save up enough pocket money for the Airfix kit, although it was only fifty pence or so in the 1960s. I should have bought it then, though. They’re fifty pounds now!

The Short S.25 Sunderland was a flying boat patrol bomber operated not just by RAF Coastal Command but also by the RAAF, the RCAF, the SAAF, the RNoAF and the Marinha Portuguesa. The last one’s a bit of a give away, but did you get all of the rest? This one’s Australian:

The Sunderland was designed and built by Short Brothers of Belfast, and the cynic inside me says that it was the only decent aircraft of their own that they made during the war. This model of the aircraft was numbered the S.25 because it was a warplane but it was a direct descendant of the S.23 Empire flying boat, the flagship of Imperial Airways. Here it is, a beautiful aircraft:

The new aircraft S25 was very well designed for its purpose. The Sunderland had a wingspan of 112 feet, a length of 85 feet and a height of 32 feet. It was a big aeroplane! Even the stabilising floats on the wings were as big as a rowing boat or a small plane. Compare one of them with the man with a pram, and the Walrus behind them both:

A Sunderland had four Bristol Pegasus XVIII nine-cylinder radial engines which gave it a total of 4,260 horse power:

And those powerful Pegasus engines gave it a range of around 1800 miles at a cruising speed of 178 mph Don’t fly too fast when you’re doing maritime reconnaissance!

The S 25 Sunderland featured a hull even more aerodynamic and more advanced than that of the S23. You can see why it’s called a “Flying Boat”:

Here’s lengthways:

Here’s the nose end of that hull:

Weapons included machine guns in front and rear turrets. The front turret had rather weak 0.303 guns which could not always penetrate thick metal, but at least I got a good shot of it:

I even got a good shot of the three jokers who seemed to be making off with the plane from the Hendon museum, trying to push it backwards through the very large French windows:

Here’s some close-ups for the wanted posters:

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I didn’t get any good photographs of the rear turret but it had heavier 0.50 calibre machine guns. You can just about spot it among the bits of other aircraft. It’s slightly right of centre:

There was also a heavy machine gun firing from each of the beam hatches. You can just about see one poking out here:

The Sunderland made extensive use of bombs, aerial mines, and depth charges. Here are four which have been winched out ready to drop. Hopefully, they are dummies:

Here they are in close up.

The Vickers Wellington’s immensely  powerful Leigh Lights, designed to light up U-boats on the surface at night, were rarely, if ever, fitted to Sunderlands.

Next time, a look inside the mighty Sunderland.

 

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the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk at Hendon

On July 22nd 2010, we visited the RAF Museum at Hendon. I took a great number of photographs and these few show the Curtiss Kittyhawk IV.

First  a general view of the aircraft, taken from the rear, as the museum is very, very, full. The peculiar colours are because of the strange Jacques Cousteau type lighting which is supposed to prevent deterioration of the original paint from the 1940s. They originally found some thirteen P-40s abandoned in the New Guinea jungle in 1974 but I suppose you can’t be too careful! Incidentally that was the same operation that retrieved the RAAF Beaufort I depicted a little while back:

Here’s a second view of the Hendon P-40 with perhaps a little bit less of the “Under the Sea” effect and a lot more of that strange deep purple light made famous by the Aviator Formerly Known as Prince. Here’s a very slightly different view of the P-40. And by the way, I don’t know why the question mark is there:

And here, incidentally, is that Bristol Beaufort, with the link to read about it:

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One of the most interesting things about this plane is its name. Manufactured by Curtiss-Wright of Buffalo, New York, the largest aviation company in the USA during the 1930s, the P-40D and subsequent models was called the Kittyhawk by the RAF, the RAAF, the RCAF and the RNZAF as well as the South African Air Force. It was used extensively in North Africa:

The earlier P-40A, P-40B, and P-40C models were called Tomahawks. I have no idea whatsoever why, other than a sneaking feeling that it was just to confuse everybody who wasn’t aware of the story. The Kittyhawk had a more powerful engine and if you like aircraft engines, you can read a tale involving substandard or defective aircraft engines for military use, conspiracy, false testimony, gross irregularities, neglect of duty, troublemakers and a general court martial via this link. Amazingly, the paragraph you need is called “”Defective engines sold to U.S. military in World War II. It was apparently such a big story at the time that Arthur Miller wrote a play about it.

These two pictures show the most famous thing about so many P-40s and Kittyhawks. The shark’s mouth nose art:

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On a P-40, the first people to use this design seem to have been the Chinese Nationalist Air Force although they seem to have thought that they were using a big cat, insofar as they were dubbed “The Flying Tigers”. They were still the most famous of the Shark’s Mouth aircraft though:

So just treat yourself to a little bit of the film “The Flying Tigers”. John Wayne at his very best:

In this film, “The Duke” actually speaks Chinese. Two words, “Ding Hao”.

In case you don’t know, “Ding Hao” means good luck, or good day or very good or fantastic and so on. Not as universally applicable a word as “Mao” in “The Deer Hunter” but not bad. It’s quite impressive when one single word is an entire language:

 

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