About a Flying Turtle

Clarence Simonsen has been a precious contributor to the mission I started in 2009 to preserve the past… Every time I get a chance to share and add more information I do.

Today I have an update for you to read at the end of this original story about a flying turtle posted in 2014.


Hello Pierre,

This is in fact three stories in one. Group Captain Dunlap was an outstanding RCAF Officer, who served [exchange duty] with the RAF in 1935, and for this reason understood the British and thinking of the pre-war RAF. He was one officer who was not afraid to express his true point of view and give a blunt reply to everything. He was in fact – “a man’s man” and did everything he could to serve and take care of the members under his command. When he arrived in North Africa and was informed [by RAF Command] the best landing strips had been taken by the RAF, he was determined his Canadians would not take second best or fly at night from the mountainous regions the British had picked for him. By the use of the barter system and some booze, he persuaded a Major in the American Engineers to build two dirt strips next to the RAF units, then informed the RAF Command to supply his three RCAF squadrons. This saved Canadian lives, [including French-Canadians] and showed the British the type of Canadian officer who was in total command of his RCAF squadrons.

The creation of No 420 and 425 Wellington desert nose art began at these two dirt landing strips, thanks to LAC Skip Rutledge. In a crazy twist of fate, the official war artist [Paul Goranson] also recorded the same Wellington nose art as painted by Rutledge. This would make an impressive educational display if we only had a nose art museum. Other paintings by Goranson capturing the air war in the desert are in storage in the War Museum but will they ever be shown? This is a simple case [but very rare] where unofficial nose art and official war art can be combined to educate.

The power of nose art can be clearly seen in the little slow Wellington bomber, which set a record in No. 425 with 46 consecutive operations. This was all due to the fact the French Canadian ground crew took extra care of their “Slow but Sure” bomber. My replica turtle painting has never been published before.

Over to you Pierre.

All my best in the New Year.


Here is another gem post from Clarence Simonsen. This time it’s about RCAF Squadrons in Tunisia in 1943.

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy

On 22 June 1942, an organization order was issued authorizing the formation of Canada’s fifth RCAF Heavy Bomber squadron in England. No. 425 squadron came into existence three days later at R.A.F. Station Dishforth, Yorkshire, England, a unit in No. 4 Group of Bomber command. What made this squadron unique in the wartime RCAF history is the fact it was formed as a French Canadian unit and its ranks filled by French Canadian air and ground crews. They picked the motto “Je te plumerai” [I shall pluck you] and the nickname Alouette, the official badge showing a sky lard bird in the hovering position.

logo escadron 425

Centuries before, their French ancestors the Gauls, used this same lark bird image as the official tribe emblem and engraved it on their battle helmets in time of war. No. 425 began training in the Vickers Wellington B. Mk. III bombers in August 1942, with eight crews flying the first operation to Aachen, Germany, on 5 October 1942. On 1 January 1943, the French Canadian squadron joined eight other squadrons to become No. 6 [RCAF] Group of RAF Bomber Command. By April 1943, the Alouette Wellington aircraft had successfully bombed Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Bochum, Hamburg [2], Cologne [2], Essen [2] and a third trip to Duisburg, Germany, on 26 April 43.

On 3 April 1943, the British Air Ministry asked the Canadian Government to approve the use of three experienced Wellington RCAF squadrons for the invasion of Sicily, named Operation “Husky.” On 10 April, No. 420, 424 and 425 Squadrons were selected to become part of No. 205 [RAF] Group, 331 Wing, flying new Wellington Mk. X bombers which were tropicalized for use in the heat, sand, and frequent dust storms of Tunisia. No. 331 Wing was officially formed on 7 May 1943, under command of Group Captain Clarence Larry Dunlap, a pre-war RCAF officer.

All my best in the New Year.

Group Captain Clarence Rupert Larry Dunlap 1943

Upon arrival in the theatre of operations [21 June 43] G/C Dunlap was informed it would be impossible for the Canadians to operate out of the planes of Tunisia, as this space had been claimed by three squadrons of the RAF under No. 331 Wing.

No. 70 RAF Squadron had taken over Kairouan/Temmar on 25 May 43, No. 40 RAF Squadron had moved 10 miles north to occupy Kairouan/El Alem, on 28 May 43, while No. 37 RAF Squadron was located south at Kairouan/Allami on 30 May 1943.

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No. 331 Wing RAF in West Kairouan May 1943

The new Canadian RCAF commander of No. 331 Wing was not impressed when the British informed him he would be operating further south-west in the mountainous region between Algeria and Tunisia. Thanks to some lost poker cash and a few bottles of Scotch whiskey, two new RCAF dirt airfields were constructed in four days by a Major in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. G/C Dunlap then informed RAF Mediterranean Air Command Headquarters the RCAF would be located in the Tunisian plains and the RAF should find the means to supply his Canadian squadrons with fuel, ammunition and food. The British reluctantly agreed, and the Canadians prepared for air war in North African.

The Canadians of No. 424 Squadron moved into Kairouan/Pavillier, while members of No. 420 and 425 Squadrons took over the new landing strip at Kairouan/Zina on 23 June 1943. The two new dirt landing air strips were only ten miles apart and thirty miles from the Mediterranean coast city of Sousse, much safer for the Canadians returning from night time operations.

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (9)

By 25 June 1943, No. 425 Squadron was declared operational and flew their first operation on 26/27 June 43, when they joined No. 420 Squadron attacked the airstrip at the town of Sciacca, then continued with raids on other ports in Sardinia and Sicilian airfields.

 

 

Rutledge

photo Floyd Rutledge

LAC Floyd “Skip” Rutledge joined the RCAF on 17 October 1940, and after training as an air engine mechanic was posted to No. 3 SFTS at Calgary, Alberta, for practical experience in his trade. In April 1942, he was posted to his first active squadron No. 420 [Snowy Owl] at Waddington, Linc. , England. Here he painted his very first RCAF nose art on a Handley-Page Hampton Mk. I bomber, which featured a native Indian in full head dress.

Skip arrived at Kairouan/Zina air strip on 23 June 1943, and began working on the new Wellington Mk. X aircraft in the extreme 120 F desert outdoor conditions. During his tour in North Africa he painted at least five Wellington aircraft with RCAF nose art. [Possibly including Wellington bombers in No. 425 Squadron, he could not recall?]

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Stork Stork Clarence Simonsen

This impressive stork with the tail of a Wellington bomber was painted for No. 420 [Snowy Owl] Squadron at Kairouan/Zina, air strip in August 1943. [photo Floyd Rutledge] The 2003 scale replica was painted by Simonsen and today hangs in the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta. This original stork sketch done by Skip in North Africa 1943, was also donated to Nanton in 2010 by Simonsen.

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (7)

In August 1943, official war artist Paul Goranson painted this Wellington nose art of No. 420 Squadron bomber “Scarlet Harlot” which he titled “Bombing Up a Blockbuster.” This was sketched at Kairouan/Zina featuring pinup girl painted by nose artist “Skip” Rutledge. This painting is today in the War Museum collection or photo PL47565.

This is the original Wellington nose art by Skip Rutledge, photographed by him in August 1943, North Africa, Kairouan/Zina.

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (6)

The three RCAF Squadrons based at Landing strip Kairouan/Pavillier [No. 424] and Kairouan/Zina [No. 420 and 425] would produce impressive Canadian Wellington nose art paintings.

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (5)

S/L Joe McCarthy, DFC, No. 424 Squadron, Kairouan/Pavillier, 28 September 1943. [PL18385]

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (4)

F/Sgt. Art Jackson [Vancouver, B.C.] F/Sgt. B.H. Tremblay, [Montreal] and F/Sgt. Joe Ross, [River Bend, Quebec] admire their No. 425 Wellington Mk. X bomber “Chat-an-ooga-choo-choo” nose art. 31 August 1943. [PL18303]

 

From the very first operation flown on 26/27 June 43, one “Alouette” Wellington Mk. X bomber code “X” for X-Ray, HE978, immediately acquired a reputation for being very slow, most often the last bomber to land at base, but always coming home. Night after night this Wellington KW-X flew different crews to Mediterranean targets, always returning very last, but never acting temperamental like some bombers in the squadron. The air and ground crews began to feel a kind of condescending confidence in this slow aircraft, with the ground crew slowly getting over their feelings of inferiority. Soon they were lavishing extra hours of repair work and attention to the engines of their slow bomber.

Wellington ground crew –

Cpl. Andre Lupien from Lac a la Tortue, Quebec.

LAC Yvon Monette from Montreal, Quebec.

LAC Eric Merry from Vancouver, B.C.

LAC C. Schierer from Ponoka, Alberta.

After each operation the ground crew painted a small orange bomb for night operations, and as the bombs mounted, they spoke with subdued pride of ‘their’ aircraft. When the Wellington was shot up the same ground crew worked all the next day to have her ready for the next night operation. When the Sicilian campaign ended their bomber had not missed one single operation, a 425 Alouette record of 32 consecutive trips to Sicily, which they proudly boosted about. Pilot Officer Armitage from Miniota, Manitoba, was the bomb aimer on many operations flown in the Wellington bomber, and he dreamed up the idea of giving her a nose art name “Slow But Sure” taken from Aesop’s fable of “The Hare and the Tortoise.” Next came the nose art image created by P/O Armitage, who was assisted by all the ground crew in painting the new art on the left nose area. The nose art became a winged turtle holding one large bomb in her claws.

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (3)

With the capture of Sicily, it was intended that No. 331 Wing would be disbanded and return to Britain by the end of July 1943. This date was moved back to 15 September 1943, and the Wing would now take part in the invasion of Italy.

Wellington “Slow But Sure” was now flying day time operations bombing the Foggia Italian airfields, railway yards in Naples, and rail and road junctions of Salerno. These targets were now painted with white bombs on her nose, and she was no longer looking new, with her life span now measured in hours. The big surprise was the fact her bomber performances kept improving and in her last four operations, she was in the first group of bombers to return to base. On 15 September 43, the little “Turtle with wings” made her 46th consecutive operation to bomb Italy, but on return her bearings were worn out. She was taken off operations and ordered to a salvage unit. While looking at their bomber, the ground crew decided she should be given a D.F.C. for all those record making operations. Between the last row of bombs a DFC ribbon was painted with her nose art.

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (2)

 

[Photo PL18351] records the top left [ground crew LAC C. Schierer] four aircrew and bottom ground crew – L to R LAC E. Merry, Cpl. A. Lupien and LAC Y. Monette. These were the very proud ground crew who painted the impressive record of 46 operations [32 night and 14 day] plus the little “Turtle with Wings” nose art.

 

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (10)-001

On 30 September 1943, the three RCAF Squadrons of No. 331 Wing pull up tents and move to Landing Ground #33 at Hani East, Tunisia.

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (10)-002

This RCAF “Moving Day” was captured in another official water color by war artist Paul Goranson, 30 Sept. 1943. Today this painting remains in storage in the War Museum collection in Ottawa. [photo image PL47563]

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (10)-003

No. 425 Wellington B. Mk. X, “Blues in the Night.” Left to Right – P/O J.E. Leigh, F/Sgt. R.S. MacKay, Ferdinand le Dressay and P/O C. L. Spooner, 31 August 1943, [PL183303]

The nose art images on the Wellington bombers of No. 425 Squadron continued their fight until early October 1943, when the Germans retreated further north in Italy and the front line was stabilized. On 27 October 43, the members of RCAF No. 331 Wing boarded their troop ships and returned to home bases of Dalton, Dishforth and Skipton in England. Their trusty Wellington Mk. X bombers with Canadian nose art was left behind for the RAF units and forgotten.

The little “French Canadian Turtle with Wings” was slow but sure, and to the men who flew in her and came home, she was no Aesop’s’ fable, but a large part of No. 425 [Alouette] Squadron history in North Africa.


Update

Source: http://www.hillmanweb.com/150/8bcatp.html#40

This little story of the Flying Turtle begins in the spring of 1943 at the Wellington squadron in Yorkshire England. While on one of my leaves from the squadron the rest of my crew volunteered me to go to North Africa as a replacement crew for one the 3 squadrons that were already there for the Africa Campaign, Since the wheels were already in motion I could not back out. This meant that I had to change my plans to get married (that is another story) since they wanted me to get ready to go right away after embarkation leave.

My crew and I arrived at a base in southern England and were equipped with tropical gear and khaki uniforms and a brand new Wellington aircraft, so new in fact that we had to put a number of flying hours on it in order to iron out the bugs. Our route was from the southern tip of England across the bay of Biscayne, which was patrolled by German long range aircraft, around Spain and make landfall at Port Lyauti in Morocco, North Africa. After refueling and equipping the engines with sand filters we took off for Algeria which was to be our main base.

From our main base we were taken by truck to our squadron which was on an old lake bed in the desert with sand runways. All the “buildings” were tents of various sizes and the latrines were holes in the ground with a fence around them. Not a very inspiring site having left the comforts of England a couple of days ago. We even had to pitch our own tent which held four and was to be our home for an indefinite period. Water was a scarce commodity which had to be trucked in from a town about 10 miles away, Needless to say showers were few and far between until were able to rig up a pump to a well built by the Germans (the previous owners).

The next day I was “introduced to my aircraft,” a beat up dusty Wellington that had seen better days in contrast to the shiny new one I brought down (no doubt a senior officer had that). We “air tested” our new X for Xray and confirmed it was not in very good shape. A check of the records showed that it had suffered some damage on a previous operation and was very slow compared to other aircraft, however it did fly and the engines sounded good.

After a few raids over Italy it was confirmed that it was slow with a bomb load but seemed ok after we dropped our bombs and we could keep up with the rest of the squadron. I then suggested that we should take off a little earlier than everybody else in order to get there at the same time, The CO granted my request. My bomb aimer suggested we should name the aircraft the Turtle. We all agreed and had an “artist” on the squadron design and paint a picture of a turtle with wings carrying a bomb and the inscription “Slow but sure.” A picture of a bomb was added for each operation the aircraft made. The whole operation was such a success that after about 46 trips we decided that the “old lady” deserved the DFC so it was painted on her nose along with the bombs. It was pointed out later that the stripes on the DFC were angled the wrong way but I don’t think the old lady would mind.

The Flying Turtle was retired when her engines were “time expired” and due for an engine change. After the war I heard a group of children commenting on a comic book about war exploits and about a flying turtle. Sure enough it was about my aircraft. A war correspondent that was covering the North Africa campaign heard the story and submitted it. Along with a couple of pictures.

Hope this is what you want. If not I will try again. Good luck on your project.
Ex F/L H. Elliott CD
2000/09/04


1943 Kairouan

Pilot Officer (in 1943) Hewitt Elliott’s crew
Armitage L. K. J/21471 P/O Bomb Aimer
Cairns K. Sgt. Navigator
McPhadden S. S. Sgt. Wireless Air Gunner
Ouellette D. Sgt. Rear Gunner

Piquing My Curiosity

I guess Clarence Simonsen piqued my curiosity last week when he sent me his manuscript about the research he had done on an artist who had worked for Wernher von Braun in Peenemünde, and later in the U.S.

Usually Clarence sends me about a 20 to 30 pages Word document with images to copyedit and format on WordPress. This time it was much more, somewhat in the range of 200 pages, and much more controversial since noboby ever bothered to look into tail art on A4 or V-2 rockets.

So I got reading, and copyediting…and formatting his manuscript to put on the blog. The problem is that the contacts he had made had stopped replying to his emails.

So Houston, we might have a problem…

How to tell Clarence Simonsen’s story about an artist who probably painted most of the A/4 (V-2) tail arts in Peenemünde, and later in the U.S., tail arts that Clarence painted replicas of?

I hope I am piquing your curiosity…

“At the home of Baron Magnus von Braun in Wirsitz, in the Prussian province of Posen, life was filled with zest for serious reading, classical music and good conversation in any of half a dozen languages,” according to Wernher von Braun biographer Erik Bergaust.1

The baron was Wernher’s father and the books that his son liked to read best were science fiction. Stories by 19th century writers like Jules Verne fired von Braun’s imagination. In fact, von Braun also tried writing science fiction. One story, “Lunetta” (Little Moon) was published in a distinguished magazine. The story “concerned a rocket flight to a space station during which the crew wore space suits and observed the heavens through special windows,” wrote Helen B. Waters, another von Braun biographer.2

1. National Space Society, Wernher von Braun, 1912-1977, p. 3.
2. Helen B. Waters, Wernher von Braun, Rocket Engineer, (New York, 1964), p. 18.

Art of the Image

wpid-dsc07898.jpg

 

RCAF German nose art – Death Comes At Night – Redux

Editor’s  notes

You  are  probably  wondering  why I  posted four links  yesterday.

I  wanted to show  you something Clarence  Simonsen sent me.

Death Comes At Night was written  by Clarence Simonsen, and  I posted this story in December 2014. Little  did  I know there was more to this story than history  had recorded…

Original  post

On the warm summer night of 17/18 August 1943, RAF Bomber Command conducted a precision attack on the German V-2 rocket test site at Peenemunde. This operation was code named “Hydra” [RAF Operation order #176] and used an advance decoy raid to Berlin in an attempt to draw away the German night fighters from the main target on the Baltic coast, 150 kilometers north of Berlin. The raid was unique in many forms, as it was conducted in very thin cloud cover on a bright moonlight night, with the bombers flying at a low altitude of 8,000 feet. The force of 596 RAF bomber aircraft would attack the V-2 site in three separate waves. It took time for the German defenders to understand the main target was Peenemunde and not Berlin, and this allowed the first two waves of bombers to strike with full force. As the final wave of bombers arrived over Peenemunde the German night fighters had arrived in force, thus the majority of the 40 bomber casualties [243 killed, 45 POW] lost over Peenemunde came from the last wave. The Canadian No. 6 RCAF Group was part of the last wave and they suffered the highest casualty rate [19.7] in Bomber Command that night, when twelve of their 57 aircraft failed to return, and sixty were killed.  Three RCAF squadrons [419, 428 and 434] each lost three aircraft over Peenemunde and this is the story of the loss of one new Halifax Mk. V bomber from No. 434 squadron, which carried rare newly painted nose art with German words “Todt Kompt Bei Nacht”. No photo image was ever taken of the nose art.

RCAF German nose art - Copy

Lloyd Christmas was born in Hamilton, Ontario, on 21 July 1919, and during his youth, drawing and painting became a major part of his life. In High School Lloyd received his first instructional art lessons, which were interrupted due to the depression and family problems. Like many Canadian youth of this period, Lloyd was forced to leave school and go to work to support their family. He became an apprentice in a silk screen printing company, where the pay was poor, but jobs were hard to find and it gave him experience in the graphic arts.

Lloyd’s career in the RCAF began at a Manning Depot in Brandon, Manitoba, in early February 1941. He reported to Toronto Manning Depot the following month, and then two months guard duty at Camp Borden in June. In August he reported to Trenton – “they tried to make everyone a Wireless Air Gunner.” Lloyd was soon on a west bound train to No. 2 Wireless School in Calgary, Alberta. “Not finishing High School caused me many problems in the RCAF, long on art, but short on the math.” Lloyd failed the course and returned to Trenton, where he was sent for Air Gunner training, arriving at No. 6 Bombing and Gunnery School, just before Christmas 1941. Sgt. Christmas graduated Air Gunner on 2 February 1942, leave, marriage, and report overseas to Stormy Downs, Wales, advanced Gunnery course beginning on 24 May 42. On 28 June he crewed-up with P/Sgt. R. Wright at No. 22 O.T.U. Wellsbourne, flying Wellington aircraft. 1 October 42, conversion to Halifax bomber at No. 1652 H.C.U., joined No. 408 RCAF [Goose] squadron on 24 October. Lloyd flew his first squadron air to sea test firing [rear gunner] in Halifax DG239 on 26 November 1942. Beginning operations on 6 February 1943, Sgt. Christmas flew seven night operations as rear gunner with pilot Sgt. Wright, the last completed on 26 February, Halifax “J” DT769 to Cologne. This original crew was suddenly broken up due to the burn out of their pilot.

Sgt. Christmas next flew three night operations as fill-in for other crews. 4 April – Halifax “S” pilot P/O Harty, [rear gun] 10 April – Halifax “D” pilot F/Sgt. Wood, [rear gun] and 27 May – Halifax “R” pilot F/O Smith [mid-upper gun]. On 11 June 1943, Sgt. Christmas was assigned to fly to Dusseldorf with the crew of pilot Gregg McIntyre Johnston, from Rosetown, Saskatchewan. This veteran combat crew had  their original mid-upper gunner killed and after this operation, the pilot ask Sgt. Christmas if he would join their band of comrades. Lloyd agreed to remain as their mid-upper gunner until the end of their operational tour. The following night the new crew flew Halifax “T” to Bochum.

In July 1943, three experienced aircrew were sent from No. 408 [Goose] squadron to help form the nucleus of No. 434 [Bluenose] Squadron. The crew of P/O Gregg Johnston became one of those selected for transfer.

“I do believe we thought up the nose art idea of painting something while we gathered in a pub at Leeming, which was adjacent to 408 Squadron. It never came to fruition until we received a brand new Halifax “G” EB276, on our transfer to No. 434 [Bluenose] Squadron.” “We had quite a bit of free time while No. 434 was getting itself organized. We went on leave and I was able to go hunting on the squadron property. After training flights in our new Halifax, I had time to paint my very first [and last] bomber nose art. We had kidded with the idea of using the call sign “G” for German and that led to the idea of painting nose art using German names – “Death Comes at Night”.

I had to first scout around the base to find someone who could give me the German words needed, and I still don’t know if they were correct? I also had much difficulty painting with the coarse brushes, which I borrowed from other ground crew. When I finished the painting, the black German letters TODT KOMPT BEI NACHT appeared in a white circle and the middle of the circle contained a white skull and crossed bones.” “I will now describe what I remember about 17 August 1943. It was a rare beautiful sunny day and the flight engineer [RAF Keith Rowe] and I had ridden my motorcycle into a nearby town. Near lunchtime we returned to the sergeant’s Mess, which was alive with speculation we were going to the ‘Big City’ – BERLIN. When it came time for briefing the big wall map was opened, revealing the tape stretching from Flamborough Head, due east across Denmark and then a right angle turn south in direction of Berlin. The thing that surprised us most was that it went only a little distance south and then turned back west toward England. I do recall we were warned that if we failed to destroy the target on this first try, we would go back as many times as it took to get the job done. That was the first time any of us had heard a statement like that. I remember as we taxied out and started our take-off, I noticed there was an unusually large crowd of personnel lined up parallel to and back from the runway. Because of the light, the sun was just going down; they all looked like a big line of crows. I felt a sense of foreboding.”

“Over the channel we test fired our guns and sure enough two of my 303’s refused to fire. I was still working on them when we arrived over the target. We came in north over the Baltic coast and turned flying north to south over the target, dropped our bombs, then turned west on a course home. We were now attacked three times by three different German night fighters. The first attack came shortly after we left the target; a single engine fighter was spotted by our husky French-Canadian rear gunner Doug Labelle. He quickly gave Johnny instructions to corkscrew to starboard and we lost him. Immediately a twin engine, Bf110, attacked us and again we lost that one with a corkscrew.

Suddenly from far below and off to the port side, obscured by a dark patch of ground, a third aircraft fired cannon shells that arched up like big orange balls, directly into our port inner engine, just below me. Our Halifax seemed to shake and then flame poured from the engine and soon spread along the complete wing. Pilot Johnny gave the order to bail.” “Pilot Gregg Johnston maintained control long enough to allow his crew to escape; but he could not get out and was killed on impact. The crew was captured and the following morning the Germans took rear gunner Labelle to the crash site, to identify his pilot who was lying in the nose section of the Halifax. He was promoted to Pilot Officer posthumously and cited for valor.”

During the raid the Germans used their new “Schrage Musik” 2 x 20 mm cannon weapons for the very first time. The Bf110 aircraft was fitted with twin upward-firing cannons and this is what destroyed the Halifax Mk. V. The bomber crews had no idea they now faced danger from a night-fighter flying below them. Few aircrew saw the night-fighter, just tracer markers in the sky, then it was too late.  Two of the new Schrage Musik Bf110 aircraft found the bomber stream and they shot down six bombers, including “Death Comes At Night.”

 RCAF German nose art - Copy (4)

The deadly upward firing 2 X 20 mm canons aimed at 70 degrees.

When Sgt. Lloyd Christmas painted his little nose art on Halifax Mk. V, serial EB276, code WL-G, he had no idea how true his words ‘Death Comes At Night’ would become to the future Peenemunde history.

This first precision raid of WW II was conceived by the RAF to not only destroy the Peenemunde testing facility, but it was also directed at the living and sleeping quarters of the many technical and administrative staff and families as possible. The first RAF wave would bomb the 80 residential buildings at Karlshagen Housing Estate located on Usedom Island, home to the top 500 German scientists and their families. Because of the inaccuracy of the early Pathfinder aircraft, most of the first wave bombers [two thirds] dropped their bombs on the camp at Trassenheide, [two miles south] which housed [forced labor] foreign prisoners of war, killing 555. Although this part of the raid was not effective, two key figures, Walter Thiel and Erich Walther were killed together with their families, along with 50 residential buildings destroyed.  The raid cost the lives of 735 on the ground but only 178 of the over 4,000 in the residential area were killed. The attacks came too late to effect the development of the A-4 rocket and gave the Germans the opportune time to move the rocket production to the infamous Mittelwerk center in the Harz Mountains. This would have a major effect on the future of man in space, American Russian cold war, the creation of NASA, and man on the moon.

 

At the same time as Operation Hydra, a group of nine Mosquito bombers conducted Operation Whitebait, the dropping of Pathfinder markings over Berlin. This was a complete success and tricked over 200 German night fighters to the defense of the German capital city. During this confusion, the Luftwaffe Chief of Staff, General Hans Jeschonnek erroneously ordered Berlin’s air defenses to open fire on the German night fighters. On 18 August 1943, General Jeschonnek committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

The total Housing Estate was home to 1000 rocket scientists and over 3000 rocket personnel. If the first wave of RAF bombers had struck the intended target [F], the war and future space travel would have been altered. However the mistaken attack on the workers camp at Tassenheide [between rings #3 and #4] allowed all but one top German scientist to escape death. Only 178 rocket personnel were killed in the residential area, out of 4,000, which had little effect on future A/4 rocket development. This unusual operation left its mark in history, but never became the turning point it should have been. The continuous raids [post 18 Aug, 42] by RAF and American 8th Air Force against V-2 supporting facilities had a much larger effect on the A/4 future then the single attack on Peenemunde.

The Water Thiel family lived in apartment Hindenburg Road 56. They had escaped to the trenches in front of their home, but it took a direct hit by RAF bombs. Top rocket engine scientist Walter Erich Oskar Thiel was killed with wife Martha, daughter Sigrid, and son Siegfried. This one death did in fact cause a major setback to the future A/4 rocket development at Peenemunde. Eric Walther, Chief of Maintenance Workshops and family were also killed.

RCAF German nose art - Copy (3)

This post card shows the self-living model village housing estate constructed at Peenemunde, known as Karlshagen Siedlung. The construction was completed in October 1937, and housed 500 of the most brilliant German rocket scientists. Only one-quarter of the first wave bombers stuck this target late, destroying 50 of 80 residential homes. The occupants had escaped to bomb shelters, where only one top scientist [Thiel] and family received a direct bomb hit.

Had the RAF Pathfinder aircraft correctly marked this primary target, many experts technical and administrative, would have been killed. Three-quarters of the first wave bomber force struck the forced labor camp at Trassenheide, killing 555 prisoners of war. In total 18 of 30 wooden sleeping huts were destroyed. This mistake allowed the German A/4 rocket experts to escape to the bomb shelters and only two key figures were killed, Walter Thiel and Erich Walther. Post war interviews with German technicians [Helmut Zoike] even suggest the raid came at an opportune time, allowing the rocket production to be moved to the infamous Mittelwerk center.

In April 1943, Arthur Rudolph had endorsed the use of S.S. forced labor in the production of the A4 rockets in Peenemunde. In early June 1943, the first of 600 French and Russian prisoners of war arrived and began assembling A4 production machinery.

The RAF primary object was to kill as many expert A/4 rocket personnel as possible, including women and children, and this became a complete failure.

The facts in regards to the mistake of marking the wrong target have been covered in many publications by many authors. The RAF Pathfinders were the very best and on this moonlight night with light cloud covering they could not find the correct target? Is it possible one of the lead Pathfinder crewmembers could not bring himself to kill thousands of German women and children as they slept in their beds? The first causality in war is always the truth and the answer to my question may never be known. However, this bombing error did affect the future of world space travel, the Russia – American cold war, landing on the moon in 1969, and today’s space station.

A total of 243 airmen lost their lives that night over Peenemunde. The British lost 167 , Canada came second with 60, Australia 10, New Zealand 3, USA 2, Rhodesia 1, Trinidad 1, and Southern Ireland 1. Of the British total, 69 bodies were recovered from crashed bombers or washed ashore to be interred  in British Berlin cemetery. Twelve bodies drifted east in the Baltic and were interred  in Poland.  

Today 125 aircrews are still listed as “Missing in Action.”

This story is dedicated to the unknown names and forgotten foreign prisoners of war who died on 18 August 1943. Their sacrifice changed the future world of space travel forever.

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British R.A.F. map of the Rocket Base at Peenemunde 17-18 August 1943. Main targets marked in red.

A – Test stand VII, the main A/4 launch pad.

B – Peenemunde south, Production plant, where forced labor worked.

C – Dock for oxygen plant.

D – Test pad

E – Peenemunde East, development works

F – This area housed over 6,000 rocket engineers. The north section was known as settlement I;     further south was the Karlshagen Estates, which housed the 500 most brilliant scientists. This was the primary target, but they bombed two miles south in ring 4.

Was this an error as recorded by all historians?

The Packard Merlin Rolls-Royce Engine and Avro [Canadian] Lancaster Bomber

Research and article by Clarence Simonsen

Packard Merlin Rolls-Royce Engine - image 1

This classic 1939 British poster celebrates fifty years of British aviation design and aircraft production, as the topless English lady looks to the beginning of her dark war-torn future. The next five war years will bring together the development of British and American aircraft and aero-engines which will effect combatant air forces until the end of the hostilities in May 1945. My story will be told by poster ads used in that time period, also demonstrating how the Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X bomber idea was created and constructed using North American engines and parts.

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This pre-war British ad possibly appeared in 1938, when the first production Spitfire Mk. I fighters were delivered to No. 19 and 66 RAF Squadrons. The prototype Spitfire was fitted with the first Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and flew in March 1936, setting a world record of 342 mph [547.2 km/h]. A total of 305 Spitfires were built before the war and over 21,000 during the war years, which appeared in 29 different versions. Over 730 were supplied to the U.S. Army Air Force under reverse “Lend-Lease.” This British aircraft design combined with the Rolls-Royce engine made it a front ranked WWII fighter of all time.

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Rolls-Royce Ltd. was established on 15 March 1906, with aero-engine works at Derby, Crewe and Glasgow. They specialized in the production of high performance liquid cooled aircraft engines named the Merlin and Griffon. This 1940 ad promotes the new type Griffon engine which was produced with the outbreak of war in September 1939. This engine was also drawing large interest from the American aviation industry and Government Defense agencies.

In June 1940, the American Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau Jr., held discussions with Henry Ford’s son Edsel, regarding the building of the British Rolls-Royce aircraft engine in the Ford Motor Company plant. Edsel tentatively agreed to produce 6,000 Rolls-Royce engines for Great Britain and 3,000 for the United States. In mid-July, Henry Ford called off the entire deal when he refused to manufacture any engines for Great Britain to support their war effort.

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Get the facts

LIFE magazine 2 December 1940

The American Defense Advisory Commission subsequently turned to another car manufacturer located in Detroit. In September 1940, an agreement for $130,000,000.00 was signed with the Packard Car Company and this turned out to be a very good choice for the future war effort, Great Britain, the United States and British aircraft manufactured in U.K. and Canada. The Packard built Merlin Rolls-Royce aircraft engines are sometimes confused with the American Packard built Marine engines used in the U.S. Navy PT-Boats.

In 1939, the U.S. Navy contracted the Huckins Yacht Corporation and Electric Launch Company [ELCO] to design three different high speed boats [P.T.] and these were constructed in eight different boats, designated PT-1 to 8. In testing they were found to lack the speed and capabilities the Navy sought. The ELCO company made a trip to England and procured one high speed 70 foot British Hubert Scott-Paine constructed power boat. This British boat was used on an experimental basis and designated PT-9 on 17 June 1940, by the U.S. Navy.

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On the left is the British built [Hubert Scott-Paine] experimental PT-9 boat sporting the new Walt Disney designed “Mosquito Fleet”. On the left is Lieutenant Earl S. Caldwell, Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C., the officer who wrote to Walt Disney requesting the new Patrol Torpedo insignia.

The U.S. Navy was pleased with the British design and ordered ten examples to be constructed by ELCO and they were given the designation PT-10 to 19. These new boats were installed with three Packard built Marine gasoline engines of 1,350 horsepower each. These engines were built by Packard’s chief engineer, Jesse Vincent beginning in 1929, and were not part of the British Rolls-Royce contract. The first ten boats were built at Bayonne New Jersey 70′ and the first PT-10 was launched on 20 August 1940. PT-10 was transferred to the Royal Navy on 11 April 1941 and became H.M.M.T.B. 259.

The most famous ELCO constructed boat with Packard Marine engines became Bayonne New Jersey 80′, launched on 20 June 1942 and designated PT-109, skipper John F. Kennedy.

Located by deep-sea explorer Robert Ballard on 22 May 2002, the remains are 1,200 feet down in the South Pacific. Can you imagine the American historical value to this Walt Disney created insignia on PT-109 if it were recovered? This is the second Navy art image which promoted Disney to create a five-man design team which produced over 1,200 insignia during WWII.

PT boat

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LIFE magazine 13 January 1941, shows the very first PT-10 which was launched on 20 August 1940. In eleven months 12 PT Boats will open fire on Japanese attackers at Pearl Harbor and for months later these same boats were the only front line defense against possible Japanese invasion. Packard built over 14,000 Marine 4M 2500 engines, at their East Grand Ave. plant, Detroit, which were not part of the Merlin Rolls-Royce aviation engine built under contract from England.

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This early 1941 ad features the P-40 fighter and the PT Boats but the engines were two different designs.

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The Packard Car Company began by redrawing all the British blueprints from first-angle projection to American third-angle projection used in the United States, including manufacturing specifications in American terminology. Several significant American improvements were also incorporated into the Packard engines, and a most significant change involved the crankshaft bearing material. This had been developed by General Motors Pontiac Division to prevent the corrosion of auto crankshaft bearings, a common design adapted and used in the manufacture of large American radial aircraft engines.

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This ad appeared on 20 April 1942, showing the war production drive of General Motors in America. Lost in this drawing is the fact that the crankshaft bearing material improvement invented by General Motors would make a significant change to the American built Packard aircraft engines. The original British Rolls-Royce crankshaft used a lead bronze with a lead-indium flash finish. Packard engines introduced the General Motors silver with lead-indium flash finish which prevented corrosion from all lubricating oils, even low grade oils. This new bearing coating also improved the break-in time for a new Packard Rolls-Royce engine and boosted the load-carrying ability of the surface, giving the engine a longer life-span.

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This ad promotes the American built Allison engine, however it also demonstrates the General Motors invention of the main crankshaft bearings manufacture using silver with a lead-indium flash, which improved the Packard engines.

 

The first Packard built Rolls-Royce Merlin engine was test run in August 1941, and received the U.S. Army designation V-1650-1 which was equivalent to the Merlin 28 or 29 single stage with a two-speed supercharger.

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The early Merlin 28 engines built by Packard were installed in the Kittyhawk Mk. II [P-40F] and the British built Lancaster Mk. I and Mk. III.

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The Merlin 28 engines built by Packard were first installed in the Canadian built Hurricane Mk. X aircraft [490 built] constructed by Canadian Car and Foundry Ltd. Later the Packard Merlin 29 engine was installed in the Canadian built Mk. XI, [150 built] Mk. XII and XIIA Hurricane fighters. In total 1,451 Canadian Hurricane aircraft were built, which were also installed with American Nash-Kelvinator Corporation Hamilton Standard propellers that could not accommodate the British spinners. The trade mark Canadian built Hurricanes flew without spinners.

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The Merlin 31 Packard built engine [V-1650-1] was first installed in the Canadian built Mosquito Mk. VII aircraft, all of which remained in Canada. The next Canadian model Mk. XX, received the Packard built Merlin 31 and 33 engines, delivered to England in August 1943, and saw action on 29 November 43 attacking Berlin. Later in the war the Packard built Merlin 225 [same as British Merlin 25] was installed in Canadian built Mosquito Mk. 25, Mk. 26, and dual-control Mk. 27 trainer aircraft.

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The 1,400 h. p. Merlin 68 [V-1650-3] was installed in the American Mustang P-51B and C models, entering service in early 1943. This long-range fighter could now escort the 8th Air Force deep into Germany, and saved thousands of American lives.

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American nose art “Sky Clipper” City of Packard War Workers, on a P-51B donated by the Packard war workers.

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The P-51B-NA, serial 43-12484 flew with the 354th Fighter Group, 355th Fighter Squadron.

Due to the tremendous war time production pressures Rolls-Royce faced, particularly in 1940 and 41, the British had been unable to introduce a two-piece cylinder bank into their engine manufacture. Packard became the first to manufacture a two-piece cylinder head and bank assemblies. American manufactured magnetos were used and the AC Delco units were designed to be interchangeable with British counterparts.

Several other important improvements were incorporated into the Packard engines, such as the far superior Bendix fuel injection carburetor. [the British used Skinner’s Union carburetor of Morris Group] The Packard team made a significant change in the redesign of the supercharger drive for the two-stage engines. The epicyclic gearing drive which was patented by Wright Aeronautical was also used on the two-stage engines.

The Packard engines manufactured for Canada and installed in the Hurricane, Mosquito, and Lancaster Mk. X were produced with the standard British propeller shaft used by Society of British Aircraft Constructors.

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Thousands of American Packard built Merlin 38 engines [V-1650-1] were installed into the British Lancaster Mk. I & III’s. These were the same as the British Rolls-Royce Merlin 22 with 1,390 h. p. at 3,000 r.p.m. The painting shows No. 44 Squadron Lancaster code KM-T, but the serial is not known. The squadron lost five Lancaster bombers with the code “T”, serial L7548, [17 Apr. 42] W4106, [23 Mar. 43] W4778, [3 Aug. 43] DV331, [21 Dec. 43] and ME699, [5 July 44]. Lancaster PD422 survived the war, off-charge on 14 Dec. 1945.

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The superior Bendix fuel injector carburetor and the Bendix “Eclipse” Aircraft Engine Starter were installed in the American P-51 plus the Canadian built aircraft, including the Lancaster Mk. X.

The World War Two historical achievements of the British built Avro Lancaster bomber has been recorded in many books, on film, and today appear on many aviation internet websites. To a lesser extent, the history of the Canadian Lancaster X’s built at Malton, Ontario, by the Victory Aircraft plant tend to be combined with the total production of 7,377 bombers built during World War Two. Last summer, [2014] the Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X serial FM213 [painted as Mynarski Lancaster KB726] made a famous return to England and joined her British built Lancaster cousin. An American pilot-friend [B-25] ask me if the two Lancaster aircraft were in fact manufactured the very same. I informed him the Lancaster Mk. X was totally Canadian production, thanks to the cooperation of “Uncle Sam” and the United States War Industry.

 

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The original design and manufacture of the Canadian Lancaster Mk. X’s were identical to the British Lancaster Mk. III, the first 75 aircraft [KB700 to KB774] received the Packard built [USA] Rolls Royce Merlin 38 engines, which produced 1,390 h.p. at 3,000 r.p.m. Lancaster Mk. X, serial KB775 onwards were installed with the American-Packard Merlin 224 engines. These were manufactured in Detroit by Packard and based on the British Rolls-Royce Merlin 24. They were given the “2” prefix and became the Packard Merlin 224, producing 1,620 h.p. at 3,000 r.p.m.

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Altogether during World War Two over 150,000 Merlin Rolls-Royce engines were manufactured in Great Britain and the United States. The Packard Car Company manufactured 55,873 engines in Detroit which were installed in American, British, and British aircraft manufactured in Canada. The Packard engines built for North American Aviation and Curtiss were constructed with the American SAE No. 50 propeller shaft, while the engines supplied to England and Canada were built with the Society of British Aircraft Constructors standard British propeller shaft.

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By the fall of 1940, the British still stood alone in the fight against Hitler and the war situation had worsened, which greatly affected the British Aircraft Production Industry. The United States had not yet entered the war, while the Dominion of Canada aircraft production and construction of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan were still in the early stages. The British urgently needed to speed up aircraft production and place it out of the reach of German bombers. This was all accomplished in a special meeting held in the offices of the British Supply Council in Washington, D.C., on 18 September 1941. The production in Canada of the British heavy bomber [Lancaster] would soon begin, with the official order announced in December 1941. This was combined with a sudden crippling attack by the Japanese on the United States naval and air forces at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, quickly changed the tempo of the world war. The entry of the United States into World War Two would also change the Canadian Lancaster manufacture and parts supply switched from British to North American. In January 1942, the British Lancaster bomber blueprints had arrived at the Aircraft Division of the National Steel Car Corporation at Malton, Ontario. This Aircraft Plant had been constructed for the new [N.S.C.C.] Aircraft Division and opened on 1 February 1938. In 1941, a large extension to the plant was constructed due to a contract to build the American Martin B-26 Marauder bomber. The Marauder contract was cancelled and the Canadian Lancaster Mk. X manufacture took its place. On 25 August 1942, American pilot Clyde Pangborn, piloted British built Lancaster Mk. I, serial R5727, from England to Ottawa, [Rockcliffe] Canada, making the first east to west crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by a Lancaster. This event was reported to American and Canadians in the 28 September 1942 issue of LIFE magazine. The Lancaster first stopped for fuel at Gander, Newfoundland, and then headed to Ottawa, [Rockcliff] where these American photos were taken.

Note the rubber life rafts and survival supplies in the bomb bay of Lancaster R5727 [above] for this first historic Atlantic crossing.

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American pilot Clyde Pangborn had a rich aviation history which involved many long distance flights. He was the chief test pilot for Bellanca Aircraft Corporation when the Second World War began. Pangborn officially offered his services to the Allied war effort in 1940 and helped the Royal Air Force establish the early Ferry Command of American aircraft to Great Britain. He piloted the delivery of 175 Atlantic Ocean crossings of British aircraft including the first flight of Lancaster R5727 from England to Rockcliffe, Ontario.

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This [American] LIFE magazine photo was taken at RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, where the Lancaster was demonstrated to RCAF Ottawa high command, including Minister for Munitions and Supply in the Canadian Government, the Right Honourable C.D. Howe. The Lancaster was next flown by pilot Ralph Bell and passenger C.D. Howe to Malton, Ontario, on 31 August 1942.

In September 1942, work began immediately on the new Lancaster production line and R5727 became the master tool and pattern standard aircraft model. This produced a variety of serious [infighting] management problems, which resulted in the National Steel Car Company Aircraft Division being taken over by the Canadian Government. The new Crown Company was renamed “Victory Aircraft” which later [1 December 1945] postwar became A.V. Roe Canada Ltd. or commonly called Avro Canada. British built Lancaster R5727 was later acquired by Trans-Canada Airlines, modified with 10 seats, extra fuel tanks, and began ferrying passengers, air mail, and freight on trans-Atlantic service beginning 22 July 1943.

The initial plans for the building of the Lancaster in Canada begin in early 1942 and involved Sir Oliver of the Churchill War Ministry and Canadian Minister of Munitions and Supply, Hon. C.D. Howe. The British Conservative Coalition Government under P.M. Churchill was formed in 1940 and remained until the elections in 1945. The Churchill War Ministry appointed special members to control the war against Germany in these crucial years of battle. Sir Oliver  [below] was appointed the Minister of British War Production in March 1942 and remained in charge until May 1945.

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Oliver Lyttelton, 1st Viscount Chandos

On 4 June 1942, Sir Oliver arrived in Washington, D.C. for a special meeting with President Roosevelt and the American Joint War Production board members. On 9 June 42, Sir Lyttelton toured the huge Ford Willow Run B-24 factory and stated -“If Hitler and Goering had made this trip with us through these plants, they would “cut their throats.” The Philco radio company placed this ad in LIFE magazine.

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On 16 June 42, Sir Lyttelton departed Washington by train for Ottawa, and a meeting with P.M. Mackenzie King and the Canadian War Production chiefs. At these meetings the details for the building of the Canadian Avro Lancaster Mk. X bomber were formalized. A major challenge was the manufacture of interchangeable parts made in the United States and Canada to that of the British design. While the American built Packard engines high-quality of engineering had been a complete success, other obstacles had to be overcome to build the Lancaster bomber. The manufacture of the Canadian/American parts for the Lancaster can be seen in the following ads.

All Lancaster instruments, radios, ball bearings and a completely new electrical fuselage wiring system came from [North American] Canadian and American companies.

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The new novel Canadian wiring system could quickly be converted from a one-wire to a two-wire circuit by pulling out a plug and converting the system, allowing repair and replacement of battle damage without costly repairs being shipped from Canada. Even the Canadian lighting systems were manufactured to be interchangeable with the British production.

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The Bendix Aviation Corporation supplied two major improvements for the Packard Rolls-Royce engine plus Lancaster Mk. X precision pilot instruments.

Bendix

This Before This

The seats came from New York.

seats

The Canadian Good Year Rubber Company [New Toronto] received the contract to produce the Lancaster Mk. X tires.

 tires

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Nash-Kelvinator manufactured the Lancaster Mk. X propeller blades.

In March 1941, Nash-Kelvinator was contracted under license [U.S. Government] to build 1,500 Hamilton Standard Hydromantic variable pitch aircraft propellers per month. By 1945, they had built and assembled 158,134 three blade propellers, plus 85,656 spare blades. A large number of these propellers were shipped to England and installed on the British Lancaster bombers. Other propellers were sent to Canada and installed on British built aircraft, including the 430 Lancaster Mk. X aircraft built at Malton, Ontario.

The arrival of KB700 [15 September 1943] and shortly after KB705 [used for component mating tests] allowed the British Ministry of Aircraft Production to test the new Canadian built Lancaster X and all major components were successfully mated with the British counterparts. KB705 went to British Rolls-Royce for testing [interchangeable test] in January 1944. The British were both surprised and impressed with the Canadian workmanship and the joint Canadian/American parts manufacture.

The first production order of 300 Lancaster X’s received the serial numbers KB700 to KB999, produced between August 1943 and March 1945. The first 154 bombers were finished with the gun positions faired over, flown to England where the standard British .303 guns were installed.

The forward turret – two .303 machine guns F.N.5. [Frazer-Nash]

The mid-upper gun turret – two .303 machine guns F.N.50.

The rear gun turret – four .303 machine guns, F.N.20.

During the complete war the British Bombers carried enormous bomb loads combined with highly inflammable aviation fuel, incendiary bombs, and oxygen tanks. The crews flew long hours of combat endurance, only escaping death in seconds by the famous ‘corkscrew’ manoeuvre, which was far inferior to the speedy night-fighter attacks. The aircrew always knew they were outpaced and outmanoeuvred by the German fighters but they also understood they were outgunned by the German fighters, who could stay out of range of the British .303 cal. machine guns [450 yards] and pump 20 m.m. cannon fire into the huge black slow flying bombers. A number of surviving RCAF air gunners expressed the simple cause for the majority of Bomber Command losses was the refusal of the RAF to upgrade to the .50 cal. machine guns. They were sitting ducks.

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The Americans took a much different approach and installed a high muzzle velocity and larger caliber machine guns in all their bomber aircraft, giving them a much stronger destructive power, and crew survival.

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The most widely manufactured high power upper turret gun used by American aircraft during WWII was the Martin 250 CE-7 to 23 series, which fired twin .50 cal. Browning M2 machine guns. These guns packed a very destructive force and had a full field of fire traversing 360 degrees, with a range of 800 yards.

Lancaster Mk. X. serial KB783 [below] arrived in England in October 1944 and was sent to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down. This Canadian Lancaster was fitted with the .50 Cal. Martin turret and used for flight gun trials, which proved to be very successful. Due to the new gun weight gain the Martin turret had to be moved further forward to correct the aircraft balance.

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Beginning with Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X, serial KB855, [below] the American manufactured twin .50 cal. Martin 250 turret was installed in all the bombers that left the plant in Malton, Ontario.

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The Canadian installed Martin 250 CE-23 turret was mounted in the middle of the Lancaster fuselage [in front of roundel] while the old British Frazer Nash 50 was mounted closer to the rear [behind the roundel]. This was due to weight gain, however it also gave much better protection for the complete top of the bomber, which had a 360 degree of fire with two feeds of 800 rounds of .50 cal. ammo. [two ammo boxes on each side, right and left supplied 400 rounds each for a total of 1,600 rounds.

These Canadian Lancaster Mk. X’s were the only RAF bombers to use two .50 cal. machine guns during WWII and this saved many RCAF lives. The range of the British .303 cal. machine gun was best at 450 yards, compared with the .50 cal. American range of 800 yards. Can you imagine the surprise when a German night-fighter pulled into what he believed was a safe distance, then was blasted out of the dark sky by a Canadian Lancaster .50 cal. mid-upper gunner.

Many RCAF veterans believed the Canadian built Lancaster Mk. X manufactured with American Packard engines and North American parts was the safer bomber, and in the case of the mid-upper gunner, it was far more advanced with American .50 cal. fire-power.

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LIFE magazine 1944 shows Martin turret fire power.

Tail-end Charlie – another story by Clarence Simonsen -redux

Always nice to get a feedback from a post…

Thank you for writing/posting this. I’m glad to read that my Grandpa made such a lasting impression that you felt compelled to share this so many years after his death. I love that the story captured his humour and personality.

Again, thank you.

ORIGINAL

Hello Pierre,

Here is another story on a very special person, rear gunner Doug Penny. During his whole life he did so much for Canada and fellow Canadians, but his WWII history and nose art needs to be displayed.

This 1942 cartoon which appeared in an issue of aeroplane magazine tells the true story.

 

 

cartoon

While most rear gunners were proud of their RCAF slang, they also understood it was the most dangerous of all bomber crew stations, the most detached, and they were the least lucky to survive a night attack. Located in the rear, all alone, they will become the first into the air as the bomber tail lifts off the runway in Yorkshire, England.  Then for the next six to eight hours they search and search the night blackness for any movement or shape which might be a German night-fighter. The “Tail-end Charlie” frequently died in his isolated world, shot to death by a night-fighter he couldn’t even see. This lone man also made the decision that could save his entire crew when he screams out “Corkscrew left or right”, then fires his four Browning machine guns at the shape in the darkness. To fly night after night as a rear gunner, you needed a special kind of courage and sometimes just pure luck to escape a rendezvous with death.  F/L Douglas Richard Penny flew 37 operations as a rear gunner and he told me during one operation, he survived only because of his training and luck.

Doug Penny was born near the Qu’Appelle Valley of Abernethy, Saskatchewan, on 22 December 1923. He applied for the RCAF in the fall of 1941, but was not taken on strength until after his 18th birthday, officially dated 23 April 1942. This delay was caused when he contacted scarlet fever while in training at Brandon Manning Depot and spent two months in hospital. He stated “The rats in the hospital were as big as alley cats.” He was posted to No. 2 Wireless School at Calgary, Alberta, but washed out [29 March 1943] where he was informed his Morse Code was not good enough. He always felt his grades were OK, it was the simple fact they needed “tail-end Charlies”  due to the high gunner loss rate.

Doug was next posted to No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery School at MacDonald, Manitoba, and graduated course #50A as a F/Sgt. and attained his A/G Brevet on 14 May 1943. 

“After the usual embarkation leave [30 days] I ended up in the UK at Bournemouth, just in time to get strafed by a couple of German Me109s, while we were lying around the bowling green. I then went to Operational Training Unit at Stratford and crewed up with Wellingtons. During this training period I was slated to go on a fighter affiliation flight in an old Halifax Mk. II. I had just purchased a new bicycle and was late reporting, missing the instruction flight. During a corkscrew by the pilot, the old bomber broken apart and all the crew and new air gunners were killed. It was my first escape from death but not the last. We were posted to No. 420 [Snowy Owl] Squadron and heading for North Africa [late September 1943] when the campaign in Italy ended.”

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“We were posted back to a Heavy Conversion Unit at Croft and Dishforth, then back to No. 420 Squadron at Tholthrope, where we flew three operations in Halifax aircraft. Out pilot [above center] was asked to go on a trip to Berlin as second “Dicky with another crew and was killed in action.” 

“Our crew headed back to Wombleton-in-the-mud looking for a pilot who would take us.  They would meet a Canadian pilot S/L Maurice William Pettit, DFC, who had completed a tour of 27 operations with No. 128 RAF Squadron, flying Stirling bombers. Penny – “He was a super Canadian pilot, also one of the great beer drinkers in the RCAF.” “I  finished my first tour with him at 432 Squadron, East Moor, Yorkshire, a few trips to Berlin, D-Day, and wrapped it up in early August 1944.”

On 18 March 1944, they began operations with No. 432 [Leaside] Squadron, and received a new Halifax Mk. III aircraft serial LW596, QO-D, call sign “D for Dog.” This inspired the new nose art painting, which had appeared in an issue of Saturday Evening Post magazine.

 

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This Doug Penny photo clearly shows the gas-operated Vickers”K” nose mounted gun in Halifax Mk. III, LW596 and the early nose art painting before name “Devastating Dog” has been applied, operation number three.

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This was the photo Doug proudly called “Penny, spending a Penny.” The British term for urinating in a toilet was “spend a penny” as the use of a public toilet in England cost one penny. Before each operation Doug Penny would “spend a penny” while holding onto his tail guns, just for good luck. He always left his bed unmade, also for good luck, as he  would make it upon his return from the operation. 

In June 1944, No. 432 [Leaside] Squadron began to received new Handley-Page Halifax Mk. VII aircraft and the older Mk. III Halifax bombers were transferred to the No. 434 [Bluenose] Squadron. Halifax serial LW596 joined No. 434 Squadron coded as WL-Z and possibly flew with the same original nose art “The Devastating Dog.” 

The new Halifax B. Mk. VII, serial NP692, was assigned to the crew of S/L Maurice Pettit and tail-end Charlie, Doug Penny. 

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Flight/ Sgt. Doug Penny in his new office, which had a better rear turret heater.

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Halifax B. Mk. VII, serial NP692, “D for Dog”  received the same nose art and name as LW596.

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NP692, The Devastating Dog at her hardstand after thirteen operations. 

On 28/29 July 1944, Doug Penny was flying his 33 operation, and this attack on the German city of Hamburg involved almost the entire force of 234 aircraft from No. 6 [RCAF] Group. The bomber stream was allotted a four thousand height band between seventeen and twenty-one thousand feet over the target city. This would prove to be a night the Canadians would never forget as the night-fighter attacks were intense over the target, then the German fighters continued to attack the bombers on the homeward journey. The bombers of 6 Group would have twenty-two aircraft shot down, including Halifax LW596, [The Devastating dog] flown by F/O I. Alexander and crew in No. 434 Squadron, all killed in action.

 Doug Penny recalls -“It was a long stressful trip home in total darkness, then I felt the most welcome slow descent and I knew we were approaching the English coast and home.  As we approached four thousand feet, I began to relax, removed my oxygen mask and reached forward for my thermos to have a cup of hot coffee. Suddenly, in the blackness I saw a movement, dropped my thermos and fired my four machine guns. At the same time the darkness was alight with the return fire of a German night-fighter. The German fighter had followed the Halifax bomber across the English Channel and both Penny and the German pilot had opened fire on each other at the exact same instant. The German shells missed Doug Penny by six feet, but Doug scored a direct hit on the Ju-88 fighter, which dove straight into the sea, witnessed by several bomber crews. In the morning light, F/Sgt. Doug Penny looked at the damage on his Halifax wings and realized he had escaped death by pure luck, combined with his skill as a rear gunner.

 

 Tail-end Charlie 2 - Copy (5)

 

The Halifax tail wing damage caused by the German night-fighter [Ju-88]  on 29 July 1944. [Doug Penny]

 

 

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 Damage caused to Halifax NP692 main wing, almost reaching the fuel tanks. [Doug Penny]

 

For his actions in saving his crew, Doug was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and received the Distinguished Flying Medal. He returned to East Moor and instructed gunners in No. 432 and 415 Squadrons on combat and night vision tactics. During this time he also completed four more operations with Wing Commander J. K. MacDonald who was the C. O. of No. 432 Squadron, finishing his tour in early October 1944. He continued to train new gunners until the spring of 1945. 

 Tail-end Charlie 2 - Copy (7)

After completing 37 operations, F/L Douglas Penny arrived at Gransden Lodge, Bedfordshire, in April 1945, to begin his second tour flying with No. 405 [Vancouver] Squadron, under No. 8 [Pathfinder] Group of the RAF. The C.O. decided he had not been screened long enough and he was ordered to Canada and 60 days leave. During his leave, the war in Europe ended and he was sent to instruct at No. 7 Bombing and Gunnery School at Paulson, Manitoba. Doug – “That’s where I lounged until September 1945, when I was discharged from the RCAF.”” I left the service an older and wiser Air Gunner, then returned to finish my schooling in Regina, Saskatchewan.”“I was only 22 years of age.”

On 8 October 1949, Doug began a career in the oil and gas industry as a salesman for Imperial Oil Ltd, in Edmonton, Alberta. From 1952 to 1955 he served as Adjutant with No. 418 [Auxiliary] “City of Edmonton” Squadron, flying the North American Mitchell Mk. II and III aircraft. He was a member of many service organizations, including the Masonic Lodge, Associated Canadian Travellers, and a member of the Royal Canadian Legion for over sixty years. He served as National President of the Air Gunners Association, spending his personal time and money visiting members in the United States and Canada, acting as M.C or Speaker for many of the National Reunions. He always presented himself in a manner which made him most popular with all membership. Doug was big supporter of the first formed Lancaster Museum of Nanton, Alberta, now named the “Bomber Command Museum of Canada. 

After a lengthy battle with cancer, F/L Douglas [Doug] Richard Penny passed away at the Sarcee Hospital [Calgary, Alberta] on Friday, 9 February 2007. 

 Tail-end Charlie 2 - Copy

My first meeting with Doug Penny occurred in the summer of 1980, when he drove to my farm located six miles east of the village of Acme, Alberta. Doug introduced himself and during our chat he ask if I would paint his nose art for him. That began a friendship that last until 2004, when I ask him to autograph this third replica painting of his Halifax nose art. Today this hangs in the nose art section at the Bomber Command Museum at Nanton, Alberta, however it contains little information of the two RCAF Halifax aircraft that carried this nose art or the man who flew as the “Tail-end Charlie” in both.

In 2009, I attempted to create a section in Nanton Museum that would tell this history and honour the forgotten WWII men who painted nose art during the war. The Directors of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada took a vote and said – “NO”. 

This story was created to honour Doug Penny and record the history of the nose art painted on the two Halifax bombers he flew rear gunner in World War Two. 

 

 written by Clarence Simonsen