Flight Engineer's station on Short Sunderland

Flight Engineer's station on Short Sunderland

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Short Sunderland Squadrons of World War 2, Jon Lake. A look at the service carrier of the most successful British flying boat of the Second World War, and a key component in Coastal Command's battle against the U-boat. Covers the introduction of the aircraft, its role in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, West Africa and other theatres.

Flying boat

A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water, that usually has no type of landing gear to allow operation on land. [1] It differs from a floatplane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections (called sponsons) from the fuselage.

Ascending into common use during the First World War, flying boats rapidly grew in both scale and capability during the Interwar period, during which time numerous operators found commercial success with the type. Flying boats were some of the largest aircraft of the first half of the 20th century, exceeded in size only by bombers developed during the Second World War. Their advantage lay in using water instead of expensive land-based runways, making them the basis for international airlines in the interwar period. They were also commonly used as maritime patrol aircraft and air-sea rescue, particularly during times of conflict. Flying boats such as the PBY Catalina and Short Sunderland played key roles in both the Pacific Theater and the Atlantic of the Second World War.

The popularity of flying boats gradually trailed off during the Cold War era, partially because of the investments in airports during the conflict that eased the introduction of larger, and faster, land-based airliners. Despite being largely overshadowed, limited use of the type continued with some operators, such as in the case of the Shin Meiwa US-1A and the Martin JRM Mars. In the 21st century, flying boats maintain a few niche uses, such as dropping water on forest fires, air transport around archipelagos, and access to undeveloped areas. Many modern seaplane variants, whether float or flying boat types, are convertible amphibious aircraft where either landing gear or flotation modes may be used to land and take off.


When the Allies invaded Normandy on D-Day, Royal Air Force Airfield Construction Service engineers were among those in the initial assault waves. Their mission was to rapidly construct forward operating airfields, known as Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs), on the European continent. As the Allied armies advanced across France and into Germany, several hundred airfields were built or rehabilitated for use by the allied air forces.

For security reasons, the airstrips were referred to by a coded number instead of location. In the United Kingdom, USAAF installations were identified by three digit (AAF) numbers ranging from AAF-101 to AAF-925. After D-Day, continental airfields in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) were also assigned coded numbers. American airfields were given A-, Y-, or R-, prefixes and numbered consecutively from 1 to 99. Both "A" and "Y" designated airfields could be found in France, however many "Y" fields would also be in Netherlands Belgium and occupied areas of Germany. "R" coded fields were usually located in occupied Germany. British airfields on the continent were also consecutively numbered, but with a B-prefix.

The numbering system for airfields was sequentially assigned as airfields were allocated, not by location or by date of operational use. A-1, Saint Pierre du Mont, was declared operational on 13 June 1944 A-3 Cardonville on 14 June. However A-2, Cricqueville-en-Bessin, was declared operational a few days later on 19 June.

Also many of these airfields had no combat air group or squadron attached to them. They were designed for casualty evacuation and supply transport and consisted of a quickly built runway manned only by a small complement of station personnel with little or no infrastructure other than tents. As the ground forces moved east, wounded would be sent to the airfield to be picked up by C-47s and taken to hospitals in England or other rear areas. Also supplies would be airlifted to the fields and unloaded, to be quickly transported to the front line units. These were normally known as S&E Fields (Supply and Evacuation).

Once completed, airfields were usually utilised by the combat groups or squadrons within a day or so of being declared operational for military use by the IX Engineering command engineers. They would be used for perhaps a few days to a week, to several months, depending on the location, use, and operational requirements. Once the combat units moved up to the next assigned ALG, they could be utilised as S&E Fields, or deconstructed quickly and abandoned, with the land being released back to the landowners or civil authorities in the area.

The mission for constructing ALGs was placed in the hands of the Airfield Construction Service of 2TAF, Royal Air Force, whilst the USAAF's Ninth Air Force and its specially created engineering arm, the IX Engineer Command, were responsible for ALG's in the US sector of operations. Each aviation engineer battalion in the command (of a total of sixteen) was composed of sufficient men and equipment to quickly construct an airfield or landing ground for a single tactical fighter or bomb group unit. [1]

ALGs were selected in two ways. First, existing enemy military or civilian airfields which were captured as the ground forces advanced were noted by engineers assigned to ground units. Second, engineers noted areas in grid locations where an airfield was desired, that had flat terrain, good land drainage, and where an airfield could be constructed quickly. [1]

Captured airfields could be restored for use as advanced landing field in one to three days depending upon the amount of damage and the number of mines and booby traps encountered. [1]

Dry-weather advanced landing fields were constructed by a single battalion at a favourable site in flat terrain in from one to three days, including time for reconnaissance. At less favourable sites, where more clearing and grading were required, or all-weather fields which also needed additional infrastructure, the time varied from three to ten days. [1]

ALGs were equipped with an access road that was connected to the existing road infrastructure a dump for supplies, ammunition, and gasoline drums, along with a drinkable water and a minimal electrical grid for communications and station lighting. Tents were used for billeting and also for support facilities. Time was the all-important factor and ALGs serve its purpose if available for only a few days. As the forward area became the rear area, an advanced landing field could be improved for medium bomber use, but initially they primarily served fighter and transport groups. [1]

Based on the experience obtained in the North African and Italian campaigns, fighter groups required an airfield 120 feet x 3600 feet long, and fighter-bomber groups required fields 120 feet x 5000 feet long. Medium bomb groups required 120 feet x 6000 feet runways. [1]

Runway types Edit

Instead of using rough, unimproved dirt strips, engineers used surfacing material necessary to strengthen the soil to support the weight of the aircraft and as a measure of insurance against the wet weather. Airfields were initially single runway landing strips which were laid down east–west (09/27) unless local conditions dictated a different runway direction. [1]

ALGs laid in the UK were of Sommerfeld Tracking a form of stiffened steel wire mesh.

The surfacing material selected for the building of advanced landing grounds during the first weeks after the Normandy invasion was known as square-mesh track (SMT). SMT, a British development, was material composed of heavy wire joined in three-inch squares. It was chosen over other surfacing materials because it was very lightweight, allowing sufficient quantities to be transported across the English channel on over-tasked landing craft. Easily workable, a SMT landing mat for fighters could be laid like a carpet in about one week.

After the initial batch of airfields was completed using SMT, the Army aviation engineers switched almost exclusively to another surfacing material known as prefabricated hessian (burlap) surfacing (PBS). Light and easily transportable, PBS did not create the dust problem encountered with SMT fields. Made of an asphalt-impregnated jute delivered in rolls 300 feet in length and 36 inches or 43 inches in width, PBS was laid in overlapping layers to produce a dust-free fair weather surface. It was also common to build airstrips using both SMT and PBS, laying SMT on top.

To provide an all season durable airfield for the RAF's 2TAF and the USAF Ninth Air Force's medium and light bombers, a third type of surfacing material known as pierced steel plank (PSP), or Marsden Matting was introduced on the Normandy bridgehead in July 1944. It consisted of 10-foot-long (3.0 m), 15-inch-wide (380 mm) steel planks joined together and laid perpendicular to the line of flight. Long used in other theatres, PSP would have been ideal for all airfields on the continent, but its limited availability and greater weight made this impractical. Moreover, because of supply problems, construction of even a PSP fighter-bomber field could take a month or longer, while similar PBS and SMT fields could be constructed in two weeks and one week, respectively.

In addition, Sod and Earth runways were built for Emergency Landing Strips (ELS) and Refuelling and Rearming Strips (R&R). Captured airfields contained a wide variety of runways, most commonly Asphalt Concrete Macadam or Tar-Penetrated Macadam. [1]

Airfield types Edit

There were five main types of airfields built by the USAAF combat engineers on the continent. These were:

Consisted of a rough, graded runway approximately 2000 feet long to provide a place for emergency belly-landings of damaged aircraft.

Usually a rough graded runway near the front line or an airfield in the rear that was used by C-47s for transport of casualties to the rear, or delivery of supplies and munitions to the front line.

Consisted of a runway and an aircraft marshalling area on each end of the runway. It was designed to provide an airfield near the front lines upon which aircraft based in rear areas could land, be refuelled and rearmed, and take off again on a mission without having to return to their home field in the rear. Also could be used for dispersal or for when services other than refuelling or rearming was required. These airfields could be expanded into advance landing grounds by the addition of dispersal and other station facilities. Generally if an R&R strip was built, it would be sited wherever possible with a view to further expand it later into an ALG.

An advanced landing ground could be constructed as such from the beginning or by development from an R&R Strip by the addition of dispersal facilities, expansion of the road network and other additions to the station and technical area in order for it to be used over an extended period of time.

A number of ALGs were expanded into tactical air depots by the addition of hangars, shops, more dispersal hardstands, roads, and other facilities. Some were developed from the beginning.

Four main designations were given to ALGs on the European Continent:

  • "A" ALGs were located in France. They were constructed and used by Ninth Air Force units during the Invasion of Normandy (6 June – Mid July 1944) and during Operation Cobra, the break-out from Normandy, starting on 25 July 1944 until 25 August 1944. Those in Normandy were mostly decommissioned after their combat use, however others in Central France were used in various non-combat roles until the end of the war. [3]
  • "B" ALGs were built by American or British combat engineers for Royal Air Force use. Some of these were also used by USAAF Troop Carrier Groups and Command and Control organisations. [3]
  • "Y" ALGs were initially located in Southeastern France, built by Twelfth Air Force engineers as part of Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France. Initially uncoded, they were given "Y" designations when they came under IX Engineering Command control in late 1944. ALGs were also coded "Y" in Northeastern France, Belgium The Netherlands and Occupied Germany, after "A" coding reached 99 November 1944. [3]
  • "R" ALGs were located in Occupied Germany. Many more were constructed than are listed here, consisting primarily of Supply and Evacuation airfields either laid down quickly in agricultural areas or on captured Luftwaffe airfields. "R" coding began after Y-coding reached 99 in April 1945. [3]

An unforeseen development was the extraordinary demand for transport, supply, and evacuation fields as the Allied armies pushed past Paris toward the German frontier. In late 1944, supplies could not keep pace with U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower's forces, and to help lessen the supply shortage airfields for C-47 Skytrain cargo planes became a priority. Bringing in ammunition of all types and especially gasoline on the trip to the ALGs on the continent, the C-47s on the return trip evacuated wounded to the rear. [1]

By 15 September 1944, IX Engineer Command had placed over eighty ALG airfields in operation, while British engineers had constructed 76 airfields in their zone. In Southern France, another twenty or so fields had been built by American engineers from Twelfth Air Force from the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO). In October these uncoded airfields were assigned to the ETO and given ALG code numbers. [1]

The stabilisation of the front lines in the Netherlands, Belgium, and eastern France in mid-September 1944, which would last into the new year, allowed aviation engineers a chance to reorganise and prepare for the upcoming winter season. As expected, they could not build new PHS and SMI airstrips during the fall rain and winter snow seasons because of the moist ground. Besides concrete, the American-made PSP was the only available surfacing material that could be laid down during this inclement weather in Europe. [1]

To keep the supply lines open, selected airfields in Belgium and France were therefore "winterized" with PSP. Because of the limited supply of PSP, however, only a limited number of airfields could be winterised, making it necessary to base two group sized units per airfield. But sufficient fighter-bomber and medium bomber airfields were completed that winter to ensure 2TAF and Ninth Air Force aircraft could continue flying combat missions. [1]

The major problem affecting airfield construction in early 1945 was not the surprise German Ardennes counteroffensive (which caused the abandonment of only one airfield – Y-39, Haguenau). Rather, an early February thaw threatened to make airfields inoperable due to the mud and water. Using local civilian labour, engineers performed extensive maintenance on the threatened airfields and successfully resolved the crisis. [1]

The renewed allied offensive in early 1945, following the Battle of the Bulge, was supported in earnest by the building of tactical airfields in occupied Germany. Trier (Y-57), became the first operational tactical American airfield on German soil on 10 March 1945. When a crossing over the Rhine River was spearheaded at Remagen, Germany, a supply and evacuation strip was quickly set up to support the bridgehead. As Allied tank columns struck out rapidly into the heartland of Germany, the airfield "clutches" of the Ninth Air Force's tactical air commands moved east of the Rhine river within range of virtually any target in Germany. [1]

Scores of former Luftwaffe sod and hard surfaced airfields were captured in the lightning advance through Central Germany, virtually undamaged, lessening the requirement for SMT, PHS, and PSP prefabricated surfacing. The relative lack of German military opposition in late March, April and May 1945 lessened the need for close air support and produced a greater demand for supply airstrips to keep the offensive moving. Every opportunity was used to clear captured German airfields for use along the armies' route, allowing C-47s and other transports to land with food, gas, and ammunition. The supply effort received top airfield priority. By V-E Day, 9 May 1945, 76 of the 126 airfields made operational east of the Rhine river were strictly supply and evacuation fields. [1]

USAAF Engineers constructed or rehabilitated over 280 continental airfields in the ETO from D-Day to V-E Day. In the summer months that followed, a few new airfields were constructed, but the vast majority were abandoned and turned over to local landowners or civil governments. Throughout Western Europe, as well as the airfields built by Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces in the MTO, a significant number were developed into permanent, civilian airports or NATO military bases after the war. [1]

The airfield coding system remained in effect until after the Japanese surrender in the Pacific, when, on 14 September 1945, the system was officially discontinued. Thereafter, airfields were referenced by their geographic name. [1]

Only active combat ALGs are shown. Dedicated S&E, Liaison, Transport, and other non-combat airfields are not listed. Runway types are listed as follows:

  • ASP Asphalt
  • BRK Brick
  • CON Concrete
  • ETH Compressed Earth
  • MAC Macadam
  • PHS Prefabricated Hessian Surfacing
  • SMT Square-Mesh Track
  • SOD Sod
  • PSP Pierced Steel Planking
  • TAR Tar-Penetrated Macadam

Runway dimensions are in feet.

United Kingdom (Kent) Edit

Advanced Landing Grounds were built in Kent during 1943 and 1944 for several reasons. The first being a requirement by the allies to station short-range fighters close to the English Channel coast so missions could be undertaken to attack enemy coastal fortifications road and rail networks and other military targets in Occupied France prior to the invasion of Normandy. Also construction of the ALGs provided necessary engineering and construction training as well as providing practical experience in the development of forward airfields which would be necessary on the Continent after the invasion. The ALG's laid down in Kent had two runways, while the ones laid down in France after the invasion generally had only one strip laid down east–west for speed of construction

Due to their temporary nature, the airfields were torn up and salvageable components were re-used on new ALGs in France after the assigned units were moved forward onto French ALGs after the invasion of Normandy.

ALG In use
RAF Ashford (AAF-417) August 1943 – September 1944
RAF Brenzett (AAF-438) September 1943 – December 1944, used for anti V1 operations
RAF Headcorn (AAF-412) August 1943 – August 1944
RAF High Halden (AAF-411) April – September 1944
RAF Kingsnorth (AAF-418) August 1943 – September 1944
RAF Lashenden (AAF-410) August 1943 – September 1944
RAF Staplehurst (AAF-413) August 1943 – July 1944
RAF Woodchurch (AAF-419) July – September 1943

Normandy Campaign Edit

Airfields in France used in support of the invasion and establishment of Allied forces in Normandy, France, during Operation Overlord and the immediate aftermath, 6 June – 24 July 1944

Runway: 5000x120, SMT, (09/27) [1] Used by: [4]

  • A-9 Le Molay-Littry (Le Molay), France
  • A-11 Saint-Lambert, France
  • A-12 Lignerolles, France
  • A-13 Tour-en-Bessin, France
    , France
    , France

Cotentin Peninsula/Brittany Breakout Edit

  • ELS Avranches, France
  • A-7 Azeville, France
  • A-8 Picauville, France
  • A-10 Carentan, France
  • A-14 Cretteville, France
  • A-15 Maupertus-sur-Mer (Maupertus), France
  • A-16 Brucheville, France
  • A-17 Méautis, France
    , France
  • A-19 Saint-Georges d' Elle (50) (La Vieille), France
  • A-20 Lessay, France
    , France
    , France
    , France
  • A-26 Gorges, France
  • A-27 Rennes/St-Jacques, France
  • A-29 Saint-James, France
    , France
  • A-31 Gaël, France
  • A-32 Nantes/Chateau-Bougcn, France
  • A-33 Vannes, France
  • A-51 Morlaix, France

Northern France Campaign Edit

The US marks the "Northern France Campaign" from the break-out following the invasion of Normandy to September 1944.

Drive to the Seine River Edit

  • A-28 Pontorson, France
  • A-35 Le Mans, France
    , France
    , France
  • A-38 Montreuil, France
  • A-39 Châteaudun, France
  • A-40 Chartres, France
  • A-41 Dreux/Vernouillet, France
  • A-42 Vélizy-Villacoublay (Villacoublay), France
  • A-43 Saint-Marceau, France
  • A-44 Peray, France
  • A-45 Lonrai (Lonray), France
  • A-46 Toussus-le-Noble, France
  • A-47 Orly, France
  • A-48 Brétigny, France
  • A-49 Beille, France
  • A-50 Orleans/Bricy, France
  • A-53 Issy les Moulineaux, France
  • A-57 Laval, France

Pursuit to the German border Edit

  • A-36 Saint-Léonard, France
  • A-52 Étampes/Mondesir, France
  • A-54 Le Bourget, France
  • A-55 Melun/Villaroche, France
  • A-56 Le Hamil, France
  • A-58 Coulommiers/Voisins, France
  • A-59 Cormeilles-En-Vexin, France
  • A-60 Beaumont-sur-Oise, France
  • A-61 Beauvais/Tille, France
  • A-62 Reims/Champagne, France
  • A-63 Villeneuve/Vertus, France
  • A-64 Saint-Dizier/Robinson, France
  • A-65 Perthes, France
  • A-66 Orconte, France
  • A-67 Vitry-En-Artois (Vitry), France
  • A-68 Juvincourt-et-Damary (Juvincourt), France
  • A-69 Laon/Athies, France
  • A-70 Laon/Couvron, France
  • A-71 Clastres, France
  • A-72 Peronne/St Quentin, France
  • A-73 Roye/Amy, France
  • A-74 Cambrai/Niergnies, France
  • A-75 Cambrai/Epinoy, France
  • A-76 Athis, France
  • A-77 Sainte-Livière, France
  • A-79 Prosnes, France
  • A-80 Mourmelon-le-Grand, France
  • A-81 Creil. France
  • A-82 Verdun/Etain, France
  • A-83 Denain/Prouvy, France
  • A-88 Maubeuge, France
  • A-90 Toul-Croix De Metz Airfield, France
  • A-91 Sedan, France
  • A-94 Conflans-en-Jarnisy (Conflans), France
  • A-95 Nancy/Azelot, France
  • A-96 Toul/Ochey, France
  • A-98 Rosieres En Haye, France
  • A-99 Mars-la-Tour, France
  • Y-1 Tantonville, France
  • Y-2 Luneville, France
  • Y-3 Avril, France
  • Y-4 Buc, France
  • Y-28 Verdun/Charny, France
  • Y-31 Bulgnéville, France
  • Y-33 Thionville, France
  • Y-34 Metz, France
  • Y-35 Compiegne/Margny, France
  • Y-39 Haguenau, France
  • Y-42 Nancy/Essey, France

Southern France Campaign Edit

  • Y-5 Ambérieu-en-Bugey (Ambérieu), France
  • Y-6 Lyon/Bron, France
  • Y-7 Dôle/Tavaux, France
  • Y-8 Luxeuil, France
  • Y-9 Dijon/Longvic, France
  • Y-11 Cannes/Mandelieu, France
  • Y-12 St. Raphael/Frejus, France
  • Y-13 Cuers/Pierrefeu, France
  • Y-14 Marseilles/Marignane, France
  • Y-15 Aix/Les Milles, France
  • Y-16 Salon, France
  • Y-17 Istres/Le Tube, France
  • Y-18 Le Vallon, France
  • Y-19 La Jasse, France
  • Y-20 Sisteron, France
  • Y-21 Montelimar/Ancone, France
  • Y-22 Crest, France
  • Y-23 Valence, France
  • Y-24 Satolas, France
  • Y-25 Lyon/Loyettes, France
  • Y-26 Lons-le-Saunier, France
  • Y-27 Besancon/Thise, France

French Noncombat Support ALGs Edit

  • Y-30 Le Havre/Octeville, France
  • Y-36 Cognac, France
  • Y-37 Bordeaux/Mérignac, France
  • Y-38 Toulouse/Blagnac, France
  • Y-40 Strasbourg/Entzheim, France
  • Y-45 Condé-sur-Marne, France
  • Y-48 Auxerre, France
  • Y-49 Bourges, France
  • Y-50 Avord, France
  • Y-52 Nice, France
  • Y-53 Colmar, France
  • R-51 Cazaux/Bordeaux, France

Benelux Liberation Edit

  • A-78 Florennes/Juzaine, Belgium
  • A-84 Chievres, Belgium (AAF-181)
  • A-85 Senzeilles, Belgium
  • A-86 Vitrival, Belgium
  • A-87 Charleroi, Belgium (AAF-184)
    , Belgium
  • A-92 Sint-Truiden (Saint Trond), Belgium
  • A-93 Liege/Bierset, Belgium
  • A-97 Sandweiler, Luxembourg
  • Y-10 Le Culot/East, Belgium
  • Y-29 Asch, Belgium
  • Y-32 Ophoven, Belgium
  • Y-41 Virton, Belgium
  • Y-44 Maastricht, Netherlands
  • Y-47 Namur, Belgium
  • Y-55 Venlo, Netherlands

Western Allied invasion of Germany Edit

Airfields captured or established to support combat operations during the Western Allied Invasion of Germany (1 February – 8 May 1945). This section lists those used during the war ones used during the occupation period of Germany are listed in the Army of Occupation ALGs section.

Rhineland Campaign Edit

  • Y-43 Duren, Germany
  • Y-46 Aachen, Germany
  • Y-51 Vogelsang, Germany
  • Y-54 Kelz, Germany
  • Y-56 Moenchen Gladbach, Germany
  • Y-58 Cologne, Germany
  • Y-59 Strassfeld, Germany
  • Y-60 Dunstekoven, Germany
  • Y-61 Krefeld,, Germany
  • Y-62 Mendig (Niedermendig), Germany
  • Y-63 Koblenz, Germany
  • Y-64 Ober-Olm, Germany
  • Y-65 Chantilly, France
  • Y-66 Gollheim, Germany
  • Y-70 Maitzborn, Germany

Central Europe Campaign Edit

  • Y-67 Gelnhausen, Germany
  • Y-68 Lachen/Speyerdorf, Germany
  • Y-69 Mittelbrunn, Germany
  • Y-71 Eudenbach, Germany
  • Y-72 Braunshardt, Germany
  • Y-74 Frankfurt/Eschborn, Germany
  • Y-75 Frankfurt/Rebstock, Germany
  • Y-77 Babenhausen, Germany
  • Y-78 Biblis, Germany
  • Y-79 Mannheim/Sandhofen, Germany
  • Y-81 Ailertchen, Germany
  • Y-82 Kirchhellen, Germany
  • Y-83 Limburg (Limburg an der Lahn), Germany
  • Y-85 Ettinghausen, Germany
  • Y-87 Nidda, Germany
  • Y-88 Wertheim am Main, Germany
  • Y-89 Mannheim/Stadt, Germany
  • Y-92 Dörnberg, Germany
  • Y-93 Munster, Germany
  • Y-94 Munster/Handorf, Germany
  • Y-95 Bracht, Germany
  • Y-97 Paderborn, Germany
  • Y-98 Lippstadt, Germany
  • Y-99 Gütersloh, Germany
  • R-1 Wenigenlupnitz, Germany
  • R-2 Langensalza, Germany
  • R-3 Röhrensee, Germany
  • R-4 Gotha/North, Germany
  • R-5 Crailsheim, Germany
  • R-7 Weimar, Germany
  • R-8 Eisfeld, Germany
  • R-9 Erfurt/Bindersleben, Germany
  • R-11 Eschwege, Germany
  • R-12 Kassel/Rothwesten, Germany
  • R-13 Hessich/Lichtenau, Germany
  • R-15 Oschersleben, Germany
  • R-16 Hildesheim, Germany
  • R-17 Göttingen, Germany
  • R-18 Kölleda, Germany
  • R-19 Nordhausen, Germany
  • R-20 Esperstedt, Germany
  • R-21 Rochau, Germany
  • R-22 Rodigen, Germany
  • R-23 Leipzig–Altenburg Airport, Germany
  • R-27 Sachsenheim, Germany
  • R-28 Fürth-Atzenhof, Germany
  • R-30 Fürth/Industriehafen, Germany
  • R-31 Merseburg, Germany
  • R-32 Köthen, Germany
  • R-33 Gardelegen, Germany
  • R-34 Stendal, Germany
  • R-35 Völkenrode, Germany
  • R-36 Wesendorf, Germany
  • R-37 Brunswick/Waggum, Germany
  • R-38 Brunswick/Broitzem, Germany
  • 52°14′58″N 010°29′21″E  /  52.24944°N 10.48917°E  / 52.24944 10.48917  ( R-38 Brunswick/Broitzem )
  • R-39 Helmstedt, Germany
  • R-41 Schwäbisch Hall, Germany
  • R-43 Nuremberg, Germany
  • R-44 Göppingen, Germany
  • R-46 Roth, Germany
  • R-47 Oettingen, Germany
  • R-48 Ingolstadt, Germany
  • R-49 Hailfingen, Germany
  • R-52 Leipzig/Mockau, Germany
  • R-53 Zwickau, Germany
  • R-55 Salzwedel, Germany
  • R-58 Friedrichshafen, Germany
  • R-59 Leipheim, Germany
  • R-60 Neuburg
  • R-61 Eutingen
  • R-62 Mengen
  • R-63 Weiden
  • R-64 Cham
  • R-65 Risstissen
  • R-66 Regensburg/Prufening
  • R-69 Landau
  • R-73 Ergolding, Germany
  • R-75 Schleissheim Germany
  • R-76 Pocking, Germany
  • R-79 Schongau, Germany
  • R-80 Salzburg, Austria
  • R-83 Mühldorf, Germany
  • R-84 Augsburg, Germany
  • R-86 Bad Aibling, Germany
  • R-88 Innsbruck, Austria
  • R-89 Plzeň, Czechoslovakia
  • R-90 Wels, Austria
  • R-93 Holzkirchen/Marschall, Germany
  • R-94 Nellingen, Germany
  • R-97 Regensburg/Obertraubling, Germany

Army of Occupation ALGs Edit

ALGs used by American forces in Occupied Germany and Austria after the German Capitulation on 7 May 1945. Primarily used for storage of captured German weapons, aircraft and equipment before their destruction. Also for garrisons of Army or Army Air Force personnel.

  • Y-57 Trier, Germany
  • Y-73 Frankfurt/Rhein-Main, Germany
  • Y-76 Darmstadt/Griesheim, Germany
  • Y-80 Wiesbaden, Germany
  • Y-84 Giessen, Germany
  • Y-86 Fritzlar, Germany
  • Y-90 Giebelstadt, Germany
  • Y-91 Hanau/Langendiebach, Germany
  • Y-96 Kassel/Waldau, Germany
  • R-6 Kitzingen, Germany
  • R-10 Illesheim, Germany
  • R-14 Detmold, Germany
  • R-24 Wurzburg, Germany
  • R-25 Schweinfurt, Germany
  • R-26 Bayreuth/Bindlach, Germany
  • R-29 Herzogenaurach, Germany
  • R-40 Bremen, Germany
  • R-42 Buchschwabach, Germany
  • R-45 Ansbach, Germany
  • R-50 Stuttgart/Echterdingen, Germany
  • R-54 Landsberg/East, Germany
  • R-56 Nordholz, Germany
  • R-57 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • R-67 Memmingen, Germany
  • R-68 Straubing, Germany
  • R-70 Kaufbeuren, Germany
  • R-71 Lechfeld, Germany
  • R-72 Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany
  • R-74 Oberwiesenfeld, Germany
  • R-77 Gablingen, Germany
  • R-78 Landsberg, Germany
  • R-81 Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
  • R-82 Munich/Riem, Germany
  • R-85 Munich/Neubiberg
  • R-87 Horsching, Austria
  • R-91 Erding, Germany
  • R-92 Vienna/Tulln, Austria
  • R-95 Tempelhof, Occupied Berlin
  • R-96 Erlangen, Germany
  • R-98 Bad Kissingen, Germany

Royal Air Force ALGs Edit

Advanced Landing Ground airfields built by the Royal Engineers or 2TAF's Airfield Construction service for the Royal Air Force were given "B" designations. Some of these were also used by USAAF Troop Carrier Groups and Command and Control organisations. [3]

On the 30th April 2021, whilst I was using the special Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) callsign of VI100AF, I made contact with Mike G0WKH on the 20m band.

Mike followed up with a very interesting email to me which reads as follows:-

I was pleased to make contact with you today. I thought you might be interested to know that my family played host to a number of servicemen during WW2. We had a large house as there were 13 in the family of 3 generations. There was a mobile extra population of service men from all the Services and those with large houses were compelled by The War Department to make room for them. In some cases the whole property was requisitioned. Amongst 3 men who were billeted with us when the Australian 461 Squadron of Sunderland Flying Boats came to Poole was one Louis (Doc) Watson. He was flying as an airgunner on anti submarine patrols in the Channel and the Bay of Biscay. He was well liked by my family. I was 11 at the time and I think he was glad to talk to and play with me. The squadron eventually moved to Pembroke on the coast of Wales and we lost touch with him as,indeed, we did with practically all our’Guests’. Some years ago some enterprising people in Poole set up a club called the Friends of the Poole Flying Boats. They have extensive archives on activity covering these aircraft both civil and military. At a meeting some years ago I gave their Secretary a lot of info. From memory about our contacts which included Doc. She subsequently came back to me with the sad news that he had been shot down and killed on a patrol over the Bay of Biscay. His plane was attacked by 6 Junkers88 and there were no survivors. Included in the material she gave me was the fact that his home was in the Mile End area of Adelaide. I believe there might be some sort of Memorial to Aussies in Thebarton. A long story but it seemed to be appropriate!

As a result of Mike’s email I decided to do a little research on Louis ‘Doc’ Watson.

My first stop was the website of the Friends of the Poole Flying Boats.

Louis Stanley Watson was born on the 12th day of February 1918 at Adelaide, South Australia. His parents being William Henry Watson (1881-1954) and Mabel Wilhelmina Watson nee Rogers (1880-1964).

At the age of 22, he enlisted with the Royal Australian Air Force at Adelaide on the 21st day of May 1940. His locality on enlistment was recorded as Mile End, South Australia. His next of kin was recorded as his father William Watson.

Louis attained the rank of Sergeant in the RAAF, with his service number being 26588. He served with 461 Squadron.

The No. 461 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was a maritime patrol squadron during the Second World War, which operated under Royal Air Force control. The Squadron was formed on the 25th day of April 1942 and was disbanded on the 20th day of June 1945, following the end of the war in Europe. The role of 461 Squadron was to protect convoys and deter submarine attacks. They flew over miles of the Atlantic to hunt and destroy U boats, the German submarines. Personnel were drawn from many countries of the British Empire, although the majority were Australians.

The Squadron were originally based at Mount Batten and then located to Hamworthy. In 1943 the Squadron was relocated to Pembroke Dock in Wales.

The Squadron consisted of Sunderland flying boats. The Sunderland was a slow flying aircraft and often came under attack by enemy German fighters. As a result, ground crew modified the Sunderlands with twin gun nose turrets and galley mounted machine guns. As a result, the aircraft became known as the ‘Flying Hedgehogs’.

Throughout the war, the Squadron was credited with destroying a total of six German U-boats, and operated mainly in the Bay of Biscay and Atlantic. RAAF 461 Squadron lost a total of twenty (20) Sunderlands to enemy action and accidents. A total of 86 Squadron members were killed on operations, including 64 Australians.

At about 12.55 p.m on Wednesday the 2nd day of June 1943, a Short Sunderland GR3, serial number EJ134, with its famous callsign of “N for Nuts” took off from the Royal Air Force Base Pembroke Dock, under the command of the Captain of the aircraft Flight Lt. Colin Braidwood Walker. The flight was described as ‘a normal A/S (anti submarine) patrol in the Bay of Biscay.’ Sergeant Louis Stanley Watson was the Rigger aboard the aircraft.

Their mission that day included to look for a civilian aircraft, a DC-3 Dakota which had failed to arrive in Bristol and was suspected to have been shot down by the Luftwaffe. Aboard the aircraft was the British actor, Leslie Howard.

The crew did not locate any sign of the missing Dakota. At about 6.45 p.m. EJ134 was patrolling over the Bay of Biscay at a height of 2,000 feet in are area known as ‘Tiger country’. It earnt this name due to the number of lone aircraft which had been shot down by German fighters in the area. It was at this time that eight JU 88 German aircraft rapidly closed in on the aircraft and the Sunderland came under attack.

The Junkers Ju 88 was a German WW2 Luftwaffe twin engined multi-role combat aircraft.

In what followed, the crew of EJ134 won their places in aviation history. In a prolonged attack by the Luftwaffe, the Sunderland lost one engine and its tail turret. Despite this, EJ134 managed to shoot down three of the eight German fighters. Of the remaining five JU 88’s which were damaged by EJ134, only two returned to Bordeaux in France. The remaining three JU 88’s are presumed to have crashed into the sea.

During the firefight, Sergeant Louis Stanley Watson was in the nose turret of the aircraft.

A number of the crew sustained injuries, while Edward Charles Ernest ‘Ted’ Miles, the First Flight Engineer, aged just 27 years, was killed.

The severely damaged Sunderland EJ134, with about 500 holes, most of the bridge destroyed with all radio and some flying instruments destroyed, made the 350 mile journey back to Cornwall. It did not make it to Pembroke Dock, and made a forced landing in the shallows on the shores of Cornwall, at Praa Sands.

Sir Charles Portal, Chief of Air Staff sent the following to the crew:

“I have just read the account of the flight by Sunderland N/461 against 8 JU88 on 2nd June. I should like Flight Lieutenant Walker and the surviving members of his gallant crew to be told of the admiration and pride I felt on reading the details of this epic battle which will go down in history as one of the finest instances in this war, of the triumph of coolness, skill and determination against overwhelming odds. I am sure that not only the heavy losses inflicted on the German fighters but above all the spirit and straight shooting of the crew will have made a profound impression on the morale of the enemy in the Bay of Biscay and will thus greatly assist in the war on the U Boats. From Sir Charles Portal, Chief of Air Staff.”

Four of the crew of EJ134 (and a BBC staff member) recording the story of the encounter with the JU88’s in a BBC studio. Sergeant Watson is in the middle. Image c/o

Many of the crew of EJ134 were all back to operational flying from the 8th July 1943 and completed a further 4 operational flights together. In August 1943 they shared in the sinking of U-106 with a 228 Squadron Sunderland. However Sergeant Watson was not to be so lucky during August of 1943.

At 7.08 a.m. on Friday the 13th day of August 1943, a Short Sunderland Mk III, serial number DV968, took off from the Royal Air Force Base Pembroke Dock for an anti-submarine patrol over the Bay of Biscay in the Atlantic Ocean.

Nothing was heard from the aircraft until 2.47 p.m. when a signal was received which stated that the aircraft was being attacked by six JU 88’s.

It is suspected that the Sunderland was shot down by one of the JU 88’s and crashed into the Bay of Biscay. Louis’s aircraft was later claimed by Lt. Artur Schroeder of 13/KG 40. Kampfgeschwader 40 (KG40) was a Luftwaffe medium and heavy bomber wing and the primary maritime patrol.

The following day, Sunderland JM683 patrolled the area where it was suspected the aircraft was shot down, however no dinghies or survivors were located.

An extract from Herrington J (John) book entitiled ‘Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, read as follows:-

“Flying Officer Dowling of No. 461, leading the gallant crew which under Flight Lieutenant Colin Braidwood Walker (404610) had won the heroic struggle against eight Ju-88’s on 2nd June, failed to return from patrol on 13th August after reporting enemy fighters approaching his Sunderland.”

The crew members of DV968 were:

  • Flying Officer Wilbur James Dowling (400788) (Pilot)
  • Flight Sergeant Alfred Eric Fuller (576061) (RAF) (Wireless Air Gunner)
  • Flying Officer David Taylor Galt DFC (400976) (First Pilot)
  • Warrant Officer Ray Marston Goode DFM (407499) (Air Gunner)
  • Flying Officer James Charles Grainger (400411) (Second Pilot)
  • Flight Sergeant Albert Lane (414701) (Wireless Air Gunner)
  • Flight Sergeant Charles Douglas Les Longson (415338) (Wireless Air Gunner)
  • Warrant Officer Harold Arthur Miller (405083) (Wireless Air Gunner)
  • Flight Lieutenant Kenneth McDonald Simpson DFC (403778) (Observer)
  • Flight Sergeant Phillip Kelvin Turner (26697) (Flight Engineer)
  • Sergeant Louis Stanley Watson (26588) (Flight Mechanic / Air Gunner)

Not flying that day in DV968 were James Collier Amiss and Colin Braidwood Walker who were aboard EJ134 during the 2nd June incident.

Louis was just 25 years old. His body was never recovered.

Louis is remembered at the Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England. He is also remembered at various other locations including the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and the National War Memorial of South Australia in North Terrace, Adelaide.

Air Crew Remembered, 2021, <>, viewed 1st June 2021.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 2021, <>, viewed 31st May 2021.

Virtual War Memorial Australia, 2021, <>, viewed 31st May 2021.

How a Forgotten South African Became the UK’s Top WWII Ace

Pilots of No. 33 Squadron, RAF, relax near a Hawker Hurricane at Larissa, Greece. Squadron Leader Marmaduke Thomas St. John Pattle is circled.

South African pilot “Pat” Pattle’s star burned brightly over North Africa and Greece during his meteoric combat career.

April 20, 1941: one week before Greece capitulated to German and Italian invaders. As waves of Luftwaffe Ju-88s and Do-17s rained bombs down on Allied shipping at Piraeus, the port of Athens, a Royal Air Force Hurricane pilot swooped to the aid of a lone comrade who had recklessly charged into a swarm of escorting Me-110s. Although unable to save his friend from the Messerschmitts’ cannon fire, the Hurricane pilot shot down the lead Me-110 in flames. In doing so, however, he sealed his own fate. Seconds later, Squadron Leader “Pat” Pattle, the RAF’s Balkan top scorer, lay slumped over the controls of his stricken fighter as it plunged into the sea.

Born into a British military family in South Africa’s Cape Province on July 3, 1914, young Marmaduke Thomas St. John Pattle honed his marksmanship during tough hunting safaris across the African veldt. Rejected for pilot training by the small South African Air Force in 1933, he had almost given up hope of a flying career when in March 1936 he saw a newspaper ad for short service commissions in the RAF. Pattle had to pay his own fare to England, but by late June he was undergoing basic flight training at RAF Station Prestwick, Scotland, soloing after 6½ hours’ dual instruction. Advanced training at Ternhill in England was followed by armament training at Penrhos in Wales. Assessed as a “phenomenally good shot” with exceptional flying skills, Pilot Officer Pattle was selected for the elite No. 80 (Fighter) Squadron at Debden in Essex, flying Gloster Gauntlet biplanes.

The Gauntlets were replaced in 1937 by the derivative Gloster Gladiator, powered by a Bristol Mercury IX radial engine that gave it a top speed of 257 mph. The RAF’s last biplane fighter, the Gladiator was also its first with an enclosed cockpit. Armed with four .303-inch Browning machine guns, the responsive Gladiator was a pilot’s delight.

Squadron Leader "Pat" Pattle, commanding officer of No. 33 Squadron, and Flight Lt. George Rumsey stand by a Hawker Hurricane at Larissa. (IWM ME(RAF) 1260)

In April 1938, the squadron was posted to Ismailia, Egypt, assigned to provide air cover for the Suez Canal. Meanwhile, as intelligence sources monitored the expansion of Italian air power in nearby Libya, No. 80 found itself periodically involved in policing tribal insurgents. Many of these Arabs were expert marksmen who had learned deflection shooting from Lawrence of Arabia during the World War I campaign against the Turks, and they regularly scored hits on the engines and fuel tanks of overflying RAF aircraft. Forced landings in the desert were common. After one such emergency, due to an engine failure, Pattle was rescued by the doughty warriors of the Black Watch regiment. When their convoy was ambushed on the way back to Jerusalem, the diminutive Pattle grabbed a rifle and, yelling Zulu war cries, joined in a headlong bayonet charge that routed the rebels.

At the outbreak of war with Germany in September 1939, Pattle was stationed at Helwan, Egypt, where training continued with renewed urgency. During exercises defending Alexandria against mock air raids by the Bristol Blenheims of No. 211 Squadron, the obsolescent Gladiators had difficulty making more than one attack on the faster Blenheims. New tactics were plainly needed to deal with the Italian and German bombers.

When Italy finally declared war on June 10, 1940, 80 Squadron’s B Flight was scrambled to investigate an unidentified aircraft flying southwest of their base at Amriya. Eager for action, and with the sharp-eyed Flight Lt. Pattle leading them, the Gladiator pilots rapidly converged on the intruder. But their elation turned to disappointment when their quarry turned out to be a lumbering Egyptian airliner.

The squadron’s first actual combat of the war came on June 19, when Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes, piloting one of the Hawker Hurricanes with which the squadron was briefly equipped, joined four Gladiators from No. 33 Squadron patrolling around Sollum. In a clash with Fiat C.R.42 fighters of the Regia Aeronautica (RA), Wykeham-Barnes shot down two, while one Gladiator was lost.

The open-cockpit C.R.42 Falco, which the RAF Gladiators would frequently encounter in the coming months, was the Italian counterpart of the British biplane in all but the details. Slightly faster but fractionally less maneuverable, it was fitted with a variable-pitch prop that gave it a significantly better rate of climb and higher diving speed than the Gladiator, with its fixed-pitch airscrew. Against the Gladiator’s four machine guns, however, the C.R.42 mounted only two 12.7mm weapons, firing explosive ammunition that detonated on impact with virtually no penetration. And unlike the Gladiator, the C.R.42 had no radio.

In late July the eight Gladiators of Pattle’s B Flight relocated to the forward airfield at Sidi Barrani, 60 miles from the Libyan border. After they had refueled, four aircraft led by Pattle went looking for trouble near the border. Failing to find the enemy air force, they devastated an Italian road convoy with tracer fire.

Pattle’s baptism of fire in the air came on August 4. Assigned to escort a Westland Lysander on a reconnaissance mission, his four Gladiators were 30 miles inside Libya when the Lysander fired a Very light, signifying it was under attack. Diving to its rescue, Pattle and his wingman, Pilot Officer John Lancaster, at first failed to spot the enemy flight of Breda Ba.65 ground-attack aircraft escorted by Fiat C.R.32 biplane fighters, heading home after striking a British road convoy. But the other section leader, Peter Wykeham-Barnes, saw them and led his wingman, Sergeant Kenneth Rew, into an attack. Only then did Pattle observe the seven Ba.65s closing in on the Lysander. Wykeham-Barnes sent one Breda down in flames, and the others scattered northward toward the Italian base at El Adem. Rew was bounced by a C.R.32 and killed during the attack. Lancaster, with all four guns jammed, was wounded in the left arm by an explosive bullet. He returned to base with his right thumb clamped against his left radial artery, holding the stick between his knees.

Gloster Gladiators of 80 Squadron await their next mission at RAF Ismailia in Egypt. They soon acquired camouflage as the threat of a world war loomed. IWM (H(AM) 188)

No sooner had Pattle opened fire on the fleeing Bredas than two of his guns jammed. Pressing home his attack regardless, he sent one Breda down to crash-land in the desert. When the C.R.32s joined in the fight, Wykeham-Barnes accounted for one before his Gladiator was badly damaged and he was wounded. After taking to his parachute, he began a long trek across the desert. He was eventually rescued by the armored cars of the 11th Hussars.

Now alone, Pattle was 10 miles southeast of El Adem when five C.R.42s pounced, attacking independently from different directions. One of the Fiats fell to a close-range deflection shot from Pattle’s two remaining guns, but then another gun jammed. Turning for home some 40 miles inside enemy lines, he was beset by a dozen C.R.42s and three Ba.65s. Soon defenseless when his last gun jammed, Pattle was attacked from all angles, his rudder controls were shot away and he was forced to bail out.

Walking through the desert night toward what he thought was the Egyptian border, Pattle was dismayed to find at daybreak that he had actually been marching farther into Libya. He began retracing his steps, and was lying exhausted by the track when an 11th Hussars officer happened by and asked him, “Are you doing this for fun, or would you like a lift?” Back at Sidi Barrani the supposedly bush-wise South African endured much leg-pulling, particularly as city boy Wykeham-Barnes had returned to base well before him. But Pattle had scored his first aerial victories, and that, as well as avenging the ignominy of being shot down by the Italians, was all that mattered.

Having lost three Gladiators and a pilot, No. 80’s Squadron Leader Patrick Dunn decided that the best way to restore morale was to mount a squadron-strength sortie into the triangle regularly patrolled by the C.R.42s around El Adem. Thirteen Gladiators duly took off from Sidi Barrani on August 8, heading west toward the Libyan border. Approaching Bir el Gobi, they spotted a formation of Falcos estimated at 27 strong. The perfect ambush was about to be sprung.

Placing themselves in the classic 6 o’clock high position above the Italian aircraft, the Gladiators under Pattle’s tactical command prepared to attack. After a shattering first pass, British and Italians became locked into a monumental reenactment of a World War I dogfight. It was every man for himself as machine guns chattered and the biplanes swooped, climbed, looped and dived. Quickly engaged, Pattle dispatched a C.R.42 from 50 yards, firing two short bursts that sent it spinning down to explode in flames. Five other aircraft had already been shot down—but whether British or Italian, he could not tell. Sighting a lone C.R.42 close below, Pattle stall-turned his Gladiator to come down directly behind the Italian. A brief machine gun burst turned the Falco into a mass of fiery debris.

Back at Sidi Barrani, the exultant RAF pilots claimed nine confirmed kills and six probables, for the loss of two Gladiators and one pilot. (Actual Italian losses were four destroyed and four crash-landed.) The encounter confirmed to the British that sound tactics and flight discipline, enhanced by radio coordination, would always prevail over the purely aerobatic skills at which the Italians excelled. As it happened, the Italian unit most closely involved in the engagement, the elite 73a Squadriglia, which lost five C.R.42s during the first pass, had formed the nucleus of the last prewar RA aerobatic team.

A lull followed during which the chastened Italians seemed to be avoiding the RAF’s patrolling Gladiators and Hurricanes. Pattle’s last North African combat came on September 15, when he damaged a Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79 trimotor, one of a gaggle attacking Sidi Barrani during the ultimately unsuccessful Italian invasion of Egypt. Although the South African set one of its engines on fire, the bomber escaped thanks to its superior speed.

After reequipping with Gladiator Mk.IIs, and with a Bristol Bombay to transport its ground personnel across the Mediterranean, 80 Squadron set out from Egypt for Greece, via Crete, landing at Eleusis, near Athens, on November 18. Their task was to provide fighter cover for one Vickers Wellington and two Blenheim squadrons sent to reinforce the small Greek air force, which had fought valiantly on the Albanian front since the ill-timed Italian invasion of Greece on October 28. Anxious not to antagonize the Germans, the Greeks were initially reluctant to let the RAF use their northern aerodromes, a severe operational handicap during the short winter days.

The British presence in Greece was a reflection of Winston Churchill’s determination to take the fight against the Axis back onto European soil after the Dunkirk evacuation and the Norwegian debacle. There would eventually be 62,000 British and Commonwealth forces on the ground.

Moving up to Trikkala, in the central mountains, 80 Squadron flew its first mission between the snow-capped peaks into Italian-occupied Albania on November 19, four days after a successful Greek counterattack had driven the Italians 60 kilometers back across the border. In combat with Italian fighters that swarmed up from Koritza, the Gladiator pilots claimed nine destroyed. Pattle himself accounted for two C.R.42s, for his ace-making fifth and sixth kills.

Grounded by rain until November 25, the squadron seemed to shoot down Italians almost at will after that. On December 2, flying from Yanina, Pattle downed two Meridionali Ro.37 reconnaissance planes. Two days later he destroyed three C.R.42s. In the bitterly cold air, the pilots sometimes flew with the stick between their knees while banging their hands together to maintain their circulation. The Italian pilots, in their open-cockpit C.R.42s, no doubt fared even worse.

An S.M.79 and an S.M.81 fell to Pattle’s guns on December 20. The next day he sent a Falco down in flames during a savage dogfight over the Albanian front that claimed the lives of, among others, Squadron Leader William Hickey, who died after his parachute caught fire.

On January 28, 1941, Pattle shared credit for the destruction of a Cant Z.1007bis trimotor during an offensive patrol between Kelcyre and Premeti in Albania. With him was redoubtable Flying Officer Nigel Cullen. Nicknamed “the Ape” because of his phenomenal strength, Cullen was a former motorcycle racer and Spanish Civil War veteran who favored head-on aggression over aerobatic subtlety. He would soon rack up an impressive number of kills.

The new commanding officer, Squadron Leader Edward “Tap” Jones, led an offensive patrol into the strategically important Tepelene area on February 9. A series of individual dogfights soon developed, with Pattle destroying a C.R.42 after closing to within 50 yards during a rooftop chase. Cullen claimed two victims, as did two other British pilots. Pattle later learned that he had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the citation noting “he has been absolutely fearless and undeterred by superior numbers of the enemy.” Throughout the following weeks, Pattle’s score increased steadily, in line with his reputation as an inspirational fighter leader and tactician.

Yanina itself came under Italian attack the following day, with 150 heavy bombs falling on the airfield before the raiders were driven off in a series of furious engagements. Pattle claimed a Z.1007 and a Fiat B.R.20 damaged in what turned out to be his last fights in a Gladiator. Shortly after that, the first six Hurricanes arrived, and Pattle was given command of the monoplanes as a detached flight based at Paramythia, home to No. 211 Squadron’s Blenheims. Situated in mountains 30 miles southwest of the frontier, Paramythia airfield was a rough, stony landing ground without any permanent buildings.

Pattle and his pilots immediately took to the Hurricane, although they missed the Gladiator’s acrobatic abilities. Declared operational on February 20, the flight was tasked to escort a strong force of Blenheims and Wellingtons in a raid on the Italian base at Berat. When a group of Fiat G.50s attacked the bombers, the six Hurricanes led by Pattle rushed down to their defense. Pattle’s destruction of the lead aircraft was later described by a Blenheim gunner: “A G.50 came for us and in a flash a Hurricane just shot it off our wingtip. It was wizard.” On a similar mission the next day, the South African destroyed another C.R.42.

In late February, intent on gaining as much ground as possible before German forces joined in the hostilities, the Italians mounted another massive offensive. Its eventual catastrophic failure would finally convince the Germans that they had no alternative but to assist their faltering ally.

Meanwhile, February 28 saw eight Hurricanes and 19 Gladiators involved in a sprawling dogfight over Albania that resulted in the RAF claiming 27 victories, its largest single tally of the Greek campaign. Pattle himself accounted for two C.R.42s and two B.R.20s, with another Falco probable. That brought his personal score to over 20, plus numerous probables, and 80 Squadron’s tally to more than 100. Ape Cullen claimed five enemy aircraft in the encounter.

On March 4, alerted to an impending raid by the Italian navy on the Greek-held Albanian port of Himare, 15 Blenheims took off from Paramythia to strike the warships. The bombers were escorted by 17 Gladiators and 10 Hurricanes, with Pattle’s flight protecting the right flank. When G.50s attacked the fighters, Pattle destroyed three, and later probably downed a C.R.42. But his wingman, the seemingly indestructible Cullen, was shot down by a G.50 and killed.

A week later Pattle was promoted to squadron leader, to command 33 Squadron, a unit of cosmopolitan individualists rather than a closely integrated outfit like 80 Squadron. By Pattle’s demanding standards, the men lacked flying discipline, a point he rammed home by trouncing one of No. 33’s best pilots in a mock dogfight. Lingering doubts about his command ability were removed when, leading the squadron for the first time on March 23, he destroyed a G.50 in the air, plus one probable, and three more on the ground. That mission coincided with the award of a bar to his DFC, when his official score stood at 23 confirmed.

On April 6, having finally lost patience with their Italian ally, the Germans invaded Greece from Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. On that same day, during an offensive sweep over Bulgaria, Pattle’s Larissa-based Hurricanes first encountered the mighty Luftwaffe. In the arterial Rupel Pass, they engaged a formation of 20 Me-109s, quickly shooting down five, without any losses. Pattle’s wingman later said: “I never had a chance—we came up right behind this pair of 109s—Pat gave them a left and a right and it was all over. Both went down in flames.”

Soon the greatly superior German ground and air formations drove back the stubborn Greek and British ground forces. For the RAF, the retreat held depressing reminders of the fall of France, with exhausted ground crews constantly moving from one makeshift landing ground to another and then, as bases on the Larissa Plain became untenable, relocating to beleaguered airfields around Athens. Their improvisation skills were tested to the limit by the lack of spares, and maintenance was carried out under the constant threat of strafing by marauding Luftwaffe aircraft from Salonika. Pattle himself was almost continuously in action, despite suffering from influenza as well as exhaustion.

During the chaotic period when the British fighter squadrons fell back on Eleusis, Pattle certainly destroyed many more enemy aircraft, although from this point on it becomes increasingly difficult to validate the precise number. Ignoring his weakened state, he continued to lead his usual high number of sorties. Between missions he lay on a couch, feverishly sweating under a pile of blankets. From April 7 to 12, he reportedly claimed three Do-17s, a Ju-88, He-111, Me-109, Me-110 and an S.M.79 destroyed. On April 14, he claimed two Ju-88s plus an Me-109, Me-110 and S.M.79.

This Messerschmitt Me-109 from Jagdgeschwader 77, one of two shot down by Pattle on April 20, 1941, crash-landed on the airfield at Larrissa, The pilot, Unteroffizier Fritz Borchert, was captured. (IWM CM 873)

When Flying Officer Roald Dahl, the future author, joined 80 Squadron at Eleusis, he wrote of Pattle, “He was a very small man and very soft spoken, and he possessed the deeply wrinkled face of a cat who knew that all of its nine lives had been used up.” Time was indeed running out for Pattle, but he was back in action again on April 19, destroying three Ju-88s and three Me-109s, and sharing in downing a Henschel 126.

On April 20, after he destroyed two Me-109s in the early afternoon, the by now very sick Pattle insisted on taking off again with the defiant remnants of Nos. 33 and 80 squadrons to intercept more than 100 German aircraft homing in on Allied shipping anchored around Athens. After destroying a Ju-88 and gallantly shooting a Me-110 off the tail of Flight Lt. William “Timber” Woods over Eleusis Bay, Pattle was himself shot down and killed.

By late April, the war in Greece was over. The most experienced fighter pilots had flown the surviving Hurricanes to Crete, while other fliers were evacuated to Egypt. Meanwhile RAF Blenheims and Short Sunderland flying boats ran a shuttle service to Crete for ground crews and army personnel. Despite the air and sea evacuations, 14,000 British servicemen were captured.

Exactly how many enemy aircraft Pattle destroyed will probably never be known. All official records of the last few weeks in Greece were lost, although the 33 Squadron operations book was partially reconstructed later from intelligence summaries and personal recollections. Unofficial sources indicate he destroyed at least 44 confirmed, with 50 as a possible final total. Of those, 27 were authenticated through Italian and German records. It should be noted that Pattle himself never worried about his score in the modest South African’s mind, the efficiency of the squadron and the safety of his pilots were always uppermost.

Although Pattle may well have been the RAF’s ace of aces, today he is hardly known outside aviation circles. This unfortunate historical oversight is largely attributable to the early Middle Eastern and Greek campaigns being widely regarded as sideshows, lacking the fascination of the Battle of Britain, El Alamein, the Normandy invasion or the Pacific War. There is no doubt, however, that in a combat career of only nine months Pat Pattle earned himself a lasting place among the immortals of air combat.

RAF veteran Derek O’Connor recommends for further reading: Ace of Aces, by E.C.R. Baker and Wings Over Olympus, by T.H. Wisdom.

Originally published in the November 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.

The Belfast Blitz – Inside the Deadly 1941 Luftwaffe Raids on Northern Ireland

THE BELFAST BLITZ was a series of four air raids over Northern Ireland during the spring of 1941.

Between April 7 and May 6 of that year, Luftwaffe bombers unleashed death and destruction on the cities of Belfast, Bangor, Derry/Londonderry and Newtownards. By the end of the attacks, between 900 and 1,000 people were dead and thousands more were injured, homeless and displaced.

Government apathy, a lack of leadership and a belief the Luftwaffe could not reach Belfast lead to the city lagging behind in terms of basic defences. At the time of the first attack in April 1941, there were no operational searchlights, too few anti-aircraft batteries and scarcely enough public air raid shelters for a quarter of the population.

The fall of France in June, 1940, enabled the Luftwaffe to establish airfields across the north of the country, leaving Ulster within reach of bombers. Still, many in Northern Ireland believed no Luftwaffe attack would come. Under the leadership of Prime Minister John Miller Andrews, Northern Ireland remained unprepared. But the Luftwaffe was ready.

For more than six months, German planes had flown reconnaissance flights over Belfast. Heinkel He 111 and Dornier Do 17 planes fitted with Zeiss cameras captured high-quality aerial imagery. As well as photographs, the Luftwaffe gathered information on landmarks, potential targets and defences or lack thereof.

On Nov. 30, 1940, a lone Luftwaffe plane flew across the Ards Peninsula unobserved and reported back to Berlin. An earlier flight on Oct. 18 allowed the crew to plot several targets in the city. Maps and documents uncovered at Gatow Airfield near Berlin in 1945 showed the level of detail involved. Targets identified included:

the Belfast power station and waterworks

the Connswater Fuel Depot

Other maps uncovered following the Second World War also showed the parliament and city hall, Belfast gasworks, a rope factory and the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. Most of the objectives laid out by the reconnaissance crews were of either military or industrial importance.

Government ministers in Northern Ireland began to realise the Luftwaffe may launch an attack, but it was too little, too late.

“Up to now, we have escaped an attack,” said John MacDermott, the Minister for Security, Belfast, on March 24, 1941. “So had Clydeside until recently. Clydeside got its blitz during the period of the last moon. There [is] ground for thinking that the… enemy could not easily reach Belfast in force except during a period of moonlight. The period of the next moon from say the 7th to the 16th of April may well bring our turn.”

Authorities had noted Queen’s Island in the city as a vulnerable point as early as 1929. The area included the Harland and Wolff Ltd. Shipyard, the Short and Harland Ltd. Aircraft Factory, and the airfield at RAF Sydenham. Nearby were the city’s main power station, gasworks, telephone house and the Sirocco Engineering works.

The shipyard was among the largest in the world, producing merchant vessels and military shipping. The wartime output of the yard included aircraft carriers HMS Formidable and HMS Unicorn, cruisers such as HMS Belfast and more than 130 other vessels used by the Royal Navy. Added to this was the repair and refitting of 22,000 more vessels.

Also, on Queens Island, stood the Short and Harland Ltd. Aircraft Factory. The firm had produced Handley Page Hereford bombers since 1936. By 1941, production of the Short Stirling Bomber and the Short Sunderland Flying Boat was underway. Around 20,000 people were employed on the site with 35,000 further along in the shipyard.

This part of Belfast was the only one required to provide air raid shelters for workers. And even then, Westminster stated it was not ample provision Stormont still worried about the costs to industry. By 1940, Short and Harland could shelter its entire workforce and Harland and Wolff had provision to shelter 16,000 workers. These shelters were vital as these factories had many employees working late at night and early in the morning when Luftwaffe attacks were likely.

As well as these two major targets, other firms in Belfast produced valuable materials for the war effort including munitions, linen, ropes, food supplies and, of course, cigarettes.

Despite the military and industrial importance of the city, the Luftwaffe described the defences as “weak, scanty, insufficient”.

“We were in exceptional good humour knowing that we were going for a new target, one of England’s last hiding places,” said one pilot of the raid. “Wherever Churchill is hiding his war material we will go. Belfast is as worthy a target as Coventry, Birmingham, Bristol or Glasgow.”

Protection of the city fell to seven anti-aircraft batteries of 16 heavy guns and six light guns. Compared to other cities, Belfast was virtually undefended. Liverpool, for example, protected by 100 guns.

On the 60th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz, Luftwaffe Pilot Gerhardt Becker spoke to BBC Northern Ireland about his mission over Belfast in 1941.

“I was definitely one of the first over the target and as I flew in there was no great defence because there were not a great many aircraft over the target at that point,” recalled Becker. “And then naturally as I was over the target, I did pick up flak but I have no sense of exactly how weak or how strong it was, because every bit of flak you get is dangerous.”

In his interview, Becker stated that only military objectives were aimed for. He believed that key targets identified across the city were hit. In clear weather, targets were easily identifiable. Looking back on the Belfast Blitz, Oberleutnant Becker signed off with the following words:

“A war is the worst thing that can happen to Mankind. The past doesn’t change, it’s just over.”

What happened in 1941 changed the city forever. Many of those who died as a result of enemy action lived in tightly packed, poorly constructed, terraced housing. The working-class living close to industrial centres suffered more than anyone over the course of the four raids.

Despite the attacks, Belfast continued to contribute to the war effort, and within less than a year the city witnessed the arrival of thousands of American troops. The Luftwaffe never attacked the city after May 1941, but it would be many years before life returned to normal for many in the city.

Flight Engineer's station on Short Sunderland - History

RAAF aircraft of World War Two Page 2

Hawker Demon The Hawker Demon first flew in February 1933. Australia enduring an economic depression in the 1920s and '30s delayed plans to expand the Royal Australian Air Force, but in January 1934 an initial delivery of 18 Hawker Demon two-seat fighter bombers arrived to replace the Westland Wapitis of 1 and 3 Squadrons. Other squadrons were subsequently equipped with a total of 54 Demon I and ten Demon II aircraft.
J unkers G31 In 1919, Junkers of Germany produced the world's first successful all-metal transport aeroplane, the Junkers F13. An improved version, the Junkers W34, appeared in 1926 and a further development was the Junkers G31 with three 525 hp Hornet engines. The G31 was primarily a passenger aircraft, but four aircraft were modified as freight carriers for New Guinea operations. In March 1942, as the Japanese advanced towards New Guinea, several Junkers aircraft were destroyed by enemy action and the RAAF impressed three others from Guinea Airways.
Lockheed P-38 Lightning The Lightning was designed in 1937 as a high-altitude interceptor. The first one built, the XP-38, made its public debut on February 11, 1939 by flying from California to New York in seven hours. Because of its unorthodox design, the airplane experienced "growing pains" and it required several years to perfect it for combat. Late in 1942, it went into large-scale operations during the North African campaign where the German Luftwaffe named it "Der Gabelschwanz Teufel" -- "The Forked-Tail Devil." Equipped with droppable fuel tanks under its wings, the P-38 was used extensively as a long-range escort fighter and saw action in practically every major combat area of the world. A very versatile aircraft, the Lightning was also used for dive bombing, level bombing, ground strafing and photo reconnaissance missions. By the end of production in 1945, 9,923 P-38s had been built.
Lockheed Lodestar The Lockheed Model 18, or Lodestar, was built as a civilian airliner in 1940 and was developed from the Model 10 Electra, the Model 12, the Model 14 Super Electra and the unbuilt Model 16. The Lodestar, in turn, was the forerunner of the Lockheed Ventura. 10 Lodestars were allotted to No 37 Sqn RAAF, and later to Nos 1 and 4 Communications Units. On January 26 1945, A67-6 crashed and burnt, but the remaining nine Lodestars gave good service until they were sold to civilian operators in 1947. In addition, five Lodestars (LT 931/935) were transferred from NEI to No 37 Sqn early in 1944.
Lockheed Ventura Between May 18 and August 19 1943, 20 Venturas were lend-leased to the RAAF. Also, between June 23 1943 and July 2 1944, 55 PV-1s were lend-leased under the RAAF. The Ventura Mk II was heavier and more powerful than the Mk I, whilst the Ventura GR 5 had extra long-range tanks, and some versions were fitted with the Mk IV nose radar. The Venturas operated with No 13 Sqn mainly, but several also served with Nos 4 and 11 Communications Units.
Lockheed Vega Just one example of this famous high speed light transport served in RAAF colours, being impressed for service from its civilian operator MacRobertson Miller Aviation in November, 1942 as A42-1. Although it served with 24 and 33 Squadrons, as well as 3 Communications Unit, it only logged 46 flying hours before being scrapped in October, 1945.
Martin PBM Mariner Late in 1943, 12 Martin Mariners (PBM-3R versions) were lend-leased to the RAAF. These transport flying boats were delivered without armament or search radar, and were modified for personnel and freight tasks. They provided long-range support for the RAAF during the island hopping campaigns against the Japanese. The Mariners operated in conjunction with the Sunderlands of No 40 Sqn, and they superseded the Empire Flying Boats and Dorniers in No 41 Sqn.
Miles Magister Ordered in quantity by the RAF, only one Magister served in RAAF colours and was purchased for comparison with the Tiger Moth and the CAC Wackett. The sole representative of its type served with No.1 Flight Training School at Point Cook, from May 1940 and was transferred to the Engineering School in July that year. It was converted to components later that same month
Noorduyn Norseman The Canadian Noorduyn company designed and built the Norseman in the 1930s as a rugged bush utility transport. Fourteen of these 10 seat aircraft were supplied to the RAAF in late 1943 and served with Nos 1 (at Essendon), 2 (Mascot), 4 (Archerfield), 5 (Garbutt) and 7 (Pearce) Communications Units. By the war's end six had been written off or reduced to components, and the remainder were sold to civilian operators between 1947 and 1950.
Northrop Delta In February 1939, on conclusion of his fourth Antarctic expedition, the famous explorer, Lincoln Ellesworth, sold his ship, the "Wyatt Earp", to the Australian Government. The sale included two aircraft, a Northrop Delta 1-D (ex NR-14267), and an Aeronca Model K Seaplane (ex NC-18888). In 1940, the Delta was registered as VH-ADR, and was used by DCA for checking navigational aids. In December 1942, VH-ADR was impressed by the RAAF as A61-1, and was issued to No 35 Sqn. Six months later, the Delta was transferred to No 34 Sqn and later to No 37 Sqn. On September 30 1943, the aircraft swung on take-off, apparently due to the collapse of the tail wheel strut. The Delta was damaged beyond repair and was dismantled in 1944
Republic P-43 Lancer In 1942 eight Lancers were delivered to the RAAF to augment the Buffaloes and Lightnings of the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. Six of the aircraft, were received on August 31 1942, and the remaining two arrived on 10th November 1942. The Lancers operated with PRU until the following year when A56-1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8 were transferred to the US 5th Air Force at Charters Towers. Of the remaining two Lancers, A56-6 was taken off strength on 8th March 1943, and at the time, A56-7 was officially listed as "Missing. Aircraft left Wagga on 28th April 1943, and has not been sighted since". This mystery was solved 15 years later when Lancer A56-7 was located in 1958 in the Healesville Hills, north-east of Melbourne.

In April 1942, eighteen Kingfisher seaplanes were shipped to Australia and assembled at RAAF Rathmines as A48-1 to A48-18. After a working-up period, the Kingfishers were allocated to No 107 Sqn which was formed at Rathmines on May 10 1943. At the time, enemy submarines were operating in Australian waters and the Kingfishers carried out numerous patrols and attacks and recorded a "probable damage" against a German U-boat. Unfortunately, the Kingfisher bore a marked resemblance to the Japanese Rufe seaplane and many of the squadron's early sorties were carried out against gunfire from both friend and foe.

More precise detail can be obtained from RAAF Museum Research section

Statistics : Over 35 million page visitors since 11 Nov 2002


Origins Short Stirling_section_1

In the 1930s, the Royal Air Force (RAF) was interested primarily in twin-engine bombers. Short Stirling_sentence_14

These designs put limited demands on engine production and maintenance, both of which were already stretched with the introduction of so many new types into service. Short Stirling_sentence_15

Power limitations were so serious that the British invested in the development of huge engines in the 2,000 horsepower (1,500 kW) class to improve performance. Short Stirling_sentence_16

During the late 1930s, none of these were ready for production. Short Stirling_sentence_17

The United States and the Soviet Union were pursuing the development of bombers powered by arrangements of four smaller engines, the results of these projects proved to possess favourable characteristics such as excellent range and fair lifting capacity and in 1936, the RAF also decided to investigate the feasibility of the four-engined bomber. Short Stirling_sentence_18

The Air Ministry published Specification B.12/36, for a high-speed, long-range four-engined strategic bomber aircraft, that would be capable of being designed and constructed at speed. Short Stirling_sentence_19

The bomb load was to be a maximum of 14,000 lb (6,350 kg) carried to a range of 2,000 miles (3218 km) or a lesser payload of 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) to 3,000 miles (4,800 km) (very demanding for the era). Short Stirling_sentence_20

It was to have a crew of six and was to have a normal all-up weight of 48,000 lb, while a maximum overload weight of 65,000 lb was also envisioned. Short Stirling_sentence_21

The aircraft would have to be capable of cruising at speeds of 230 mph or greater while flying at 15,000 ft (4,600 m), carrying three gun turrets (located in the nose, amidships and rear positions) for defence. Short Stirling_sentence_22

The aircraft should also be able to be used as a troop transport for 24 soldiers and be able to use catapult assistance for take off when heavily laden. Short Stirling_sentence_23

The concept was that the aircraft would fly troops to far corners of the British Empire and then support them with bombing. Short Stirling_sentence_24

To help with this task as well as ease production, it needed to be able to be broken down into parts, for transport by train. Short Stirling_sentence_25

Since it could be operating from limited "back country" airfields, it needed to lift off from a 500 ft (150 m) runway and be able to clear 50 ft (15 m) trees at the end, a specification most small aircraft would have a problem with today. Short Stirling_sentence_26

Aviation author Geoffrey Norris observed that the stringent requirements given in the specification for the prospective aircraft to be able to make use of existing infrastructure, specifically the specified maximum wingspan of 100 feet, adversely affected the Stirling's performance, such as its relatively low ceiling and its inability to carry anything larger than 500 lb bombs. Short Stirling_sentence_27

In mid 1936 Specification B.12/36 was sent out to Supermarine, Boulton Paul, Handley Page and Armstrong Whitworth. Short Stirling_sentence_28

In August the Specification was issued to the rest of British industry. Short Stirling_sentence_29

Left out of those asked to tender designs, Shorts were later included because the company already had similar designs in hand while possessing ample design staff and production facilities to fulfil production commitments. Short Stirling_sentence_30

Shorts were producing several four-engined flying boat designs of the required size and created their S.29 proposal by removing the lower deck and boat hull of the S.25 Sunderland. Short Stirling_sentence_31

The new S.29 design was similar to the Sunderland: the wings and controls were the same, construction was identical and it even retained the slight upward bend at the rear of the fuselage, which had originally been intended to keep the Sunderland's tail clear of sea spray. Short Stirling_sentence_32

As originally designed, the S.29 was considered to be capable of favourable high-altitude performance. Short Stirling_sentence_33

Following a Tender Design Conference in October 1936, the S.29 was low down on the short list of designs considered. Short Stirling_sentence_34

Vickers Type 293 submission was first followed by the Boulton Paul P.90, Armstrong Whitworth's AW.42, the Supermarine Type 317 and then the Short S.29. Short Stirling_sentence_35

The Supermarine was ordered in prototype (two aircraft) form in January 1937. Short Stirling_sentence_36

An alternative design to the Supermarine was needed for insurance and Shorts should build it as they had experience with four-engined aircraft. Short Stirling_sentence_37

The original design had been criticized when considered and in February 1937 the Air Ministry suggested modifications to the design, including considering the use of the Bristol Hercules radial engine as an alternative to the Napier Dagger inline, increasing service ceiling to 28,000 ft (carrying a 2000 lb of bombs) and reducing the wingspan. Short Stirling_sentence_38

Shorts accepted this large amount of redesign work. Short Stirling_sentence_39

The project had added importance due to the death of Supermarine's designer, Reginald Mitchell, which had generated doubt within the Air Ministry. Short Stirling_sentence_40

Two prototypes were ordered from Shorts Short Stirling_sentence_41

The S.29 used the Sunderland's 114 ft (35 m) wing and it had to be reduced to less than 100 ft (30 m), the same limit as that imposed on the P.13/36 designs (Handley Page Halifax and Avro Manchester). Short Stirling_sentence_42

To get the needed lift from a shorter span and excess weight, the redesigned wing was thickened and reshaped. Short Stirling_sentence_43

It is often said that the wingspan was limited to 100 ft so the aircraft would fit into existing hangars but the maximum hangar opening was 112 ft (34 m) and the specification required outdoor servicing. Short Stirling_sentence_44

"The wing span was limited by the Air Ministry to 100 ft" The wingspan limit may have been enforced as a method of restricting the designer into keeping the weight down. Short Stirling_sentence_45

In June 1937, the S.29 was accepted as the second string for the Supermarine 316, now revised as the 317 and formally ordered in October Shorts and Supermarine were issued with instructions to proceed. Short Stirling_sentence_46

Prototypes Short Stirling_section_2

The Air Ministry issued Shorts with contract number 672299/37, under which a pair of prototype S.29s were ordered. Short Stirling_sentence_47

However, prior to this, Shorts had decided to undertake a successful practice which had been performed with the earlier Empire flying boat in producing a half scale version of the aircraft, known as the S.31 (also known internally as the M4 – as per the title on the tailfin), to prove the aerodynamic characteristics of the design. Short Stirling_sentence_48

The S.31, which was largely composed of wood, was powered by an arrangement of four Pobjoy Niagara engines and featured a retractable undercarriage, operable bomb bay doors, and other measures to realistically represent the larger production aircraft. Short Stirling_sentence_49

It was constructed at Short's Rochester facility. Short Stirling_sentence_50

On 19 September 1938, the S.31 conducted its maiden flight, piloted by Shorts' Chief Test Pilot J. Short Stirling_sentence_51 Lankester Parker. Short Stirling_sentence_52

Impressed with its performance, on 21 October 1938, Parker flew the S.31 to the RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, where it was evaluated by the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment and received mostly favourable reviews. Short Stirling_sentence_53

There was one notable criticism amongst the feedback from pilots, being that the length of the take off run was considered to be excessive and that improvements would be desirable. Short Stirling_sentence_54

Fixing this required that the angle of the wing to be increased for take off however, if the wing itself was modified, the aircraft would fly with a nose-down attitude while cruising (as in the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley) making this change was also complicated by the fact that work on the production line had already reached an advanced stage. Short Stirling_sentence_55

Thus, Shorts lengthened the undercarriage struts to tilt the nose up on take-off, leading to its spindly gear which in turn contributed to many take off and landing accidents. Short Stirling_sentence_56

The S.31 also received the lengthened undercarriage in order to test this subsequent trials found that there was no need for further modification in this respect. Short Stirling_sentence_57

Other modifications made included the adoption of a larger tailplane with conventional elevators to improve aft controllability. Short Stirling_sentence_58

The sole S.31 was scrapped after a take off accident at RAF Stradishall, Suffolk in February 1944. Short Stirling_sentence_59

Meanwhile, prior to the maiden flight of either of the prototypes had flown, the Air Ministry had decided to order the S.29 into production "off the drawing board" in response to reports of further increases in strength on the part of the German Luftwaffe. Short Stirling_sentence_60

On 14 May 1939, the first S.29, which had by this point received the service name "Stirling" after the Scottish city, performed its first flight. Short Stirling_sentence_61

The first prototype was outfitted with four Bristol Hercules II radial engines, and was reported as having satisfactory handling in its two months of flying. Short Stirling_sentence_62

However, the entire programme suffered a setback when the first prototype suffered severe damage and was written off as a result of a landing accident, in which one of the brakes locked, causing the aircraft to slew off the runway and the landing gear to collapse. Short Stirling_sentence_63

A resulting redesign of the undercarriage led to substantially stronger and heavier struts being installed upon the second prototype. Short Stirling_sentence_64

On 3 December 1939, the second prototype made its maiden flight. Short Stirling_sentence_65

During its first sortie, one of the engines failed on takeoff but the second prototype managed to land with relative ease. Short Stirling_sentence_66

Production Short Stirling_section_3

Prior to the Munich Agreement of 1938, Shorts had received a pair of orders for the Stirling, each for the production of 100 aircraft however, as a result of Munich, the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) enacted 'Plan L', under which Stirling orders were rapidly increased to 1,500 aircraft. Short Stirling_sentence_67

In addition to contracts extending the projected work at Rochester and Belfast some of the additional contracts were placed with Austin Motors to be produced at their Longbridge facility and with Rootes, who were to manufacture the type at their new shadow factory in Stoke-on-Trent. Short Stirling_sentence_68

At its height, manufacturing activity on the Stirling was being performed at a total of 20 factories. Short Stirling_sentence_69

According to Norris, while the aircraft's design had incorporated an inherent ability for production of the Stirling to be broken down in practice, strict supervision of the work remained necessary. Short Stirling_sentence_70

In order to coordinate the dispersed production approach adopted for the Stirling, Shorts and MAP operated a travelling team of 600 production engineers and draughtsmen that routinely travelled throughout the United Kingdom to the manufacturing facilities involved. Short Stirling_sentence_71

On 7 May 1940, the first production Stirling, conducted its first flight. Short Stirling_sentence_72

According to Norris, initial rates of production were disappointing, and were in part due to delays in the delivery of machine tools and forgings. Short Stirling_sentence_73

It has also been alleged that production of the Stirling was negatively impacted by a decision by Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister of Aircraft Production, which had ordered a change in priority from four-engined bombers towards fighters and twin-engined aircraft to replace those lost during the Battle of Britain. Short Stirling_sentence_74

In August 1940, series production of the Stirling commenced at the Rochester factory. Short Stirling_sentence_75

Production of the Stirling was delayed by the ongoing bombing campaign of the Luftwaffe. Short Stirling_sentence_76

The area, which included a number of major aviation firms, was heavily bombed in the opening days of the Battle of Britain, including one famous low-level raid by a group of Dornier Do 17s. Short Stirling_sentence_77

A number of completed Stirlings were destroyed on the ground and the factories were heavily damaged, setting back production by almost a year. Short Stirling_sentence_78

Some production was moved to Austin's Longbridge factory at Cofton Hackett just south of Birmingham, the Longbridge production line eventually produced nearly 150 Stirlings. Short Stirling_sentence_79

From this point on, the Belfast factory became increasingly important as it was thought to be well beyond the range of German bombers. Short Stirling_sentence_80

However, Belfast and the aircraft factory were subjected to bombing by German aircraft during the Easter week of 1941. Short Stirling_sentence_81

To meet the increased requirement for its aircraft during the war, satellite factories near Belfast were operated at Aldergrove and Maghaberry, producing 232 Stirlings between them. Short Stirling_sentence_82

In 1940, bombing damaged Supermarine's factory at Woolston and the incomplete Type 316 prototypes. Short Stirling_sentence_83

In November 1940, development of the 316 was formally cancelled, leaving the Stirling as the only B.12/36 design. Short Stirling_sentence_84

The first few Stirling Mk.Is were furnished with Bristol Hercules II engines, but the majority were built with more powerful 1,500 hp (1,100 kW) Hercules XI engines instead. Short Stirling_sentence_85

Proposed developments Short Stirling_section_4

Even before the Stirling went into production, Short had improved on the initial design with the S.34 in an effort to meet specification B.1/39. Short Stirling_sentence_86

It would have been powered by four Bristol Hercules 17 SM engines, optimised for high-altitude flight. Short Stirling_sentence_87

The new design featured longer span wings and a revised fuselage able to carry dorsal and ventral power-operated turrets each fitted with four 20 mm Hispano cannons despite the obvious gains in performance and capability, the Air Ministry was not interested. Short Stirling_sentence_88

In 1941, it was decided that the Stirling would be manufactured in Canada and an initial contract for 140 aircraft was placed. Short Stirling_sentence_89

Designated as the Stirling Mk.II, the Hercules engines were to be replaced by 1,600 hp (1,193 kW) Wright GR-2600-A5B Twin Cyclone engines a pair of prototypes were converted from Mk.I aircraft. Short Stirling_sentence_90

However, it was decided to cancel the contract in favour of manufacturing other aircraft thus, no production Mk.IIs were ever completed. Short Stirling_sentence_91

Shorts also pursued the development of the Stirling for potential use on the civil market. Short Stirling_sentence_92

Designated S.37, it was a full-furnished transport aircraft that was capable of seating 30 passengers and was constructed to conform with civilian standards. Short Stirling_sentence_93

A single prototype, known as the Silver Stirling, was converted from a Mk.V aircraft however, partially due to greater levels of interest being expressed for a more promising civil version of the Handley-Page Halifax, the proposal met with little official interest. Short Stirling_sentence_94

In 1941, Short proposed the development of a new variant of the Stirling, the S.36, which was nicknamed "The Super Stirling" in a company publication. Short Stirling_sentence_95

This aircraft would have featured a wing span of 135 ft 9 in (41.38 m), four Bristol Centaurus radials and a maximum takeoff weight of 104,000 lb (47,174 kg). Short Stirling_sentence_96

The projected performance estimates included a speed of 300 mph (483 km/h) and a 4,000 mile (6,437 km) range, along with a weapons load of 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) over 2,300 miles (3,700 km), or 23,500 pounds (10,700 kg) over 1,000 miles (1,600 km). Short Stirling_sentence_97

The defensive armament of the S.36 was to be an assortment of ten .50 BMG machine guns that were set into three turrets. Short Stirling_sentence_98

The S.36 was initially accepted for testing under Specification B.8/41, which had been specifically written to cover the type, and an order for a pair of prototypes was placed. Short Stirling_sentence_99

However, Arthur Harris, as commander of Bomber Command, felt that achieving bulk production of the type would take too much time and that the effort would be better expended on outfitted the existing design with improved Hercules engines with the aim of providing a higher operational altitude ceiling. Short Stirling_sentence_100

However, despite the Air Staff having initially found the proposal to have some attraction, it was eventually decided to favour increased production rates of the rival Avro Lancaster instead. Short Stirling_sentence_101

In May 1942, Shorts were informed that the Air Ministry would not be continuing the project in August 1942, Shorts decided to terminate all work. Short Stirling_sentence_102

Explore our past: 1940 - 1949

BOAC assumed responsibility for the general administration of the Air Transport Auxiliary. The ATA finally ceased to function as a ferry organisation on 30 November 1945 after delivering 308,567 aircraft of 147 types since 1940.

BOAC made its first experimental flight from Prestwick to Ramenskoye (near Moscow) with a Liberator, taking 13 hours 9 minutes for the flight.

Lord Brabazon of Tara chaired a committee to make recommendations for post-war development of civil aircraft. Among the recommendations were specifications for the Bristol Brabazon, the Vickers Viscount, the De Havilland Comet 1 and the De Havilland Dove.

Explore our past: 1943
February BOAC began a service over enemy held Norway between Leuchars and Stockholm with de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers bringing back cargo of vital ball bearings.
March BOAC introduced Short S25 Sunderland III flying boats on the UK to West Africa route. The route was withdrawn on 25 October when the Sunderlands opened a UK-Cairo-Karachi service. Because of its operation through military areas, aircraft and crews were given military status.
May Lord Knollys became Chairman of BOAC.
July BOAC began a new Cairo-Wadi Halfa-Khartoum weekly service, with Lodestars. BOAC also introduced a five times per fortnight service by Ensigns between Cairo and Takoradi.
August BOAC’s UK to Gibraltar service resumed, which was operated twice weekly with DC-3 aircraft. The BOAC UK to Moscow service via North Africa and Iran began flying, using converted Liberator bombers. During the first six months of the year BOAC made about 270 flights in the Western Desert. During the year it also introduced Douglas DC3 aircraft into service between the UK and Lisbon and Gibraltar and in North Africa.
Explore our past: 1944
20 May The first BOAC service commenced from Lyneham to Cairo, via Rabat and Tripoli, operated by Avro York G-AGJA Mildenhall.
June BOAC rerouted its Cairo-Lydda-Habbaniyeh-Teheran Lodestar services to fly via Damascus and Baghdad to meet the Syrian government’s requirement for a Damascus-Baghdad connection.
September BOAC completed the 1,000th crossing of the North Atlantic Return Ferry Service.
21 September No 110 Wing, RAF Transport Command, began daily UK to Paris, Brussels and Lyons services. Subsequently, the Lyons service was extended to Marseilles and Naples and new services were begun to Athens, Prague, Warsaw, Copenhagen and Oslo.
November Douglas DC3 aircraft were introduced on the Leuchars to Stockholm route upon which the Mosquitos were withdrawn.
Explore our past: 1945
April BOAC Lancastrian G-AGLF made a Hurn to Auckland proving flight in a time of 60 hours. The first BOAC survey flight to South America was completed by Lancastrian aircraft G-AGMG Nicosia. A thrice-weekly Bermuda to Baltimore service by Boeing 314 aircraft was started and a Lancastrian service to Australia was also inaugurated.
1 November The new Labour government announced plans for post-war air services which would be provided by three state corporations: BOAC to continue to operate routes to the Empire, Far East and North America, British European Airways (BEA) to operate services to Europe and domestically within the United Kingdom and British South American Airways (BSAA) to operate new services to South American and Caribbean destinations.
10 November A joint BOAC and South African Airways Springbok service was inaugurated, using Avro York G-AGNT Mandalay. The route was Hurn-Castel Benito-Cairo-Khartoum-Nairobi-Johannesburg.

British European Airways Corporation (BEA) took over the services operated by the British European Airways Division of BOAC operating shorthaul routes from Northolt. BEA operated the unpressurised Douglas DC-3 and the Vickers Viking, developing a large flying programme that for several years made Northolt one of the busiest airports in the world.

BOAC began services to Hong Kong with Hythe flying boats (Dragon service) and return fares were introduced on all BOAC routes.

Sir Harold Hartley was appointed Chairman of BOAC.

A twice-weekly London to Karachi service commenced using Handley Page Halton aircraft, replacing the charter service operated by Skyways


Today British Airways operates its most modern aircraft on the route. The A380 can accommodate 469 customers in four cabins First, Club World, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller. It does the journey from OR Tambo to Terminal 5 in 11 hours. Its franchise partner, British Airways operated by Comair offers daily flights to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg.

In 1948 a return ticket on the flying boat service cost £300,12s about £10,695 or R224,595 in today’s money. This week British Airways’ is offering a special, with World Traveller return tickets from Johannesburg to London starting from R10,540. The equivalent Club World (business class) fare is R45,42. The special is available for booking until 9 May for travel until 8 December in Club World. Dates for travel in World Traveller are 3 May to 21 June and 12 September to 8 December.

Although the scenic stopover at the Victoria Falls wasn’t enough to save the flying-boat service, as faster, more efficient aircraft were introduced on the route, there’s still plenty of demand for the 𠆏light of angels’, with various charter companies offering flights over the Falls. Contrary to what visitors may think, the term wasn’t coined tourism brochure copywriters, but David Livingstone, the first European explorer to see the Falls. He wrote in his chronicles: “It had never before been seen by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

Watch the video: Sunderland Flying Boat Story - Part 1 (July 2022).


  1. Beluchi

    Prompt, where I can find it?

  2. Ballinamore

    You are mistaken. I can prove it. Write to me in PM, we will communicate.

  3. Maudad

    Added to bookmarks

Write a message