Author Topic: Report from Skewer -somewhere in East England chasing WW2. It's a big one...  (Read 543 times)

Offline AKA_Skewer

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Skewer reporting from somewhere in East Anglia.
WARNING - it’s big, so get a brew and get comfy or run away.   (If the pics don't show, at least you have an idea what I have been up to then I will do the pics from home in a few weeks...

<S> Gents - Thought I would pop in a few aeroplane related comments from my tour.
The Group Captainess and myself have been ambling northwards from the heel of Italy (Apulia) to the northern lakes then from Southern England (Hawkinge) up the east coast to Whitby where James Cook started his impressive sailing career.
She loves the winding dickensian cobbled alleys (as do I) but I get to visit every air museum, WW2 airfield and anything that flies on the way.

What is below:
>>> Aeronautica Regione museum just north of Rome - The Macchi M.C.72 ! Could this beautiful Italian speed monster have changed the course of WW2 and the BOB???
>>> in the footsteps of BOB - winding through the airfields and museums honouring the pilots of the Battle of Britain:
>>> Hawkinge RAF and the Kent Battle of Britain museum
>>> Manston RAF and the BOB memorial museum
>>> Parham USAAF airfield - 390th B17s
>>> London and the Churchill War rooms
>>> RAF Cottishall RAF and commorating USAAF including 36th and 458th Liberators, and special ops.
>>> RAF Scampton  617 (Dambusters) and Red Arrows

The story so far:
1 Italy - picked up rental and scurried out Rome to the Italian Air Force museum (Museo storico dell'Aeronautica Militare di Vigna di Valle) on a lovely lake to the N.E. A lake you cry? Yes a significant early development of the Aeronautica Regione was in flying boats- not so many airfields about then, but rivers, harbours and oceans all over the place. Some amazing aerial feats too including a Balbo - (named after Italo Balbo the leader of this mass world tour in 1933) popping into the USA and impressing the socks off FDR with whom he had lunch .
 
My BOB interest here, surrounded by astounding feats of Italian aviation engineering, included;:
The pestilential CR 32 and upgrade CR 42 which myself, Red and Goshawk have wasted many precious .303 rounds on in CLOD (lL2 Cliffs of Dover), or running away from which I have had to do. Very well constructed and versatile:



The Macchi C202 and C205 with the BMW 801. The C205 was heavier but with cannons, and said to rank with the top fighters of its period.


But my my attention was really captivated by the Schneider Trophy entries which were highly capable and especially the amazing Macchi MC72 for which I have a “what if” to pose and titivate your grey cells:
So here are the three different entries together, the furthest away being the M39 with which, the company won the trophy in 1926 at 396 MPH!. The nearest kite is the MC72 which did NOT make it to the time slot allocated in the final Schneider race in 1931 due to technical problems - it had a very narrow temperature range to get top performance. Supermarine almost didn't make it either when the British Government withdrew funding. In stepped the redoutable Lady Houston with her 100,000 pound donation (around $6,300,000 US bucks today!), and they had the new Rolls Royce R (which became the superb Merlin). The UK was the only country to make it to the start (says Wiki) so they won, but did make a good showing at 380 MPH and later in the year breaking 400 mph barrier.
First check out the construction - astounding engineering - the I will lay down my ‘whatif’
 

OK - my poser: In 1933 once the MC72 was tickled up and sadly, on its 3rd pilot, it set the world speed record for all aircraft which stood for 5 years and still holds the fastest piston seaplane ever at 440.7 MPH.
!!! WHATIF the MC72 made it to the start and performed OK. It would have walked away from the Supermarine and its RR-R, the UK - and Supermarine - would not have won the trophy in perpetuity (forever) having done it 3 times in a row, and MAYBE Mitchell would have had a much harder time getting funding for his new fighter than even the limited development it did achieve. Would Supermarine have invested in the type 300? The Air Ministry had rejected both of Mitchell’s early offers for the fighter specification… No Spitfires for the BOB which was won on a knife edge (yes, the wonderful Hurris did the heavy lifting, but the Spits allowed them to be more effective) - outcome: German air superiority, invasion and a different story for History.
Whaddayathink? All comments welcome, but remember the Regimental Sgt Mjr gets all posts :)
Here is the beast - what would happen if you lined up two Merlins in a SuperSpit?





Off to England and the BOB airfields.

Started at RAF Hawkinge
Every bump is well known to me (and you!) from CLOD so I had to see what is was really like. Sorry to shatter the mood, but progress has achieved what the Hun bombers could not - the destruction of this airfield, significant for being the front line - closest to France… It is now a housing subdivision - a victory in its own way with swords turned to ploughshares as we would wish.
But there was the wonderful Kent Battle of Britain museum run by a passionate life long enthusiast David Brocklehurst (MBE!) and telling the personal stories of so many who gave their lives. Many shattered Merlins and their histories leave a very strong impression, and there are lots of other bits and pieces, 3 ‘gate guardian’ Hurricanes done in 32 Squadron livery, a complete but crashed 109 and more.
I was pleased though to stumble on a painting of the very Hurricane I have been assigned in my ACG CLOD squadron, trusty GZ-V P3522. There it was - but I could not photograph it as some plonkers were using cameras to take pics to defeat the security and had stolen a number of rare and valuable items (FW109 control column etc) so no cameras allowed now - More on this painting later.
I asked Dave if the annoying bump on the eastern side of the airfield was actually there, and he insisted it was real (well done IL2 CLOD!) - I had planned to find it and ceremonially relieve myself on the spot, but thought better of splashing one on number 42 Spitfire Way’s letterbox! A must-see if you are down this way (yes the museum. The letterbox is unexciting).
I was allowed pics of the Hurris under supervision...



BTW - how white are the ‘White cliffs of Dover? Really white! And again well portrayed in CLOD.

Headed for London but on the way called in to pay my respects to RAF Manston which is still there, and bumped into the Battle of Britain memorial museum on its edge.



Small but interesting, with a Hurricane IIC and Spit XVI on display - no, neither took part in the BOB (10 Jul 1940 – 31 Oct 1940) both being later developments, but I did stumble on a the original photograph of ‘my’ Mk1 Hurricane posed with some lads of 32 Squadron! It had been taken at Hawkinge and used in publicity in the 1940s to help reassure the public that their fighter boys were on top of things and bearing up well. Here tis:

Aint I chuffed!
And colourised to commemorate the squadrons of the BOB and the oh so young lads thrust into mortal combat.
But felt pretty sad at the losses and once again angry at the elites who make war and expect others to pay for it.


Puttered north through East Anglia visiting bomber airfields that are once again wheat fields and potato patches. Parham hosted the 390th B17s whose first mission was to ‘bomb’ Holland with much needed food supplies as the Germans were starving them.
  <<<< Parham airfield today...



RAF Coltishall though still had an active airfield, and a museum (last remaining BOB airfield to be upgraded. The opinionated Douglas Bader was here) and they commemorated others including 36th and 458th Squadron Liberators, and others. Interesting tale of the ‘Judas goat’ assembly ship ‘First Sergeant’  - zoom in the pic and read for yourself…







I had better post this or I will be home before you get it!!
So, a quick wrap up…

Churchill War rooms in London - His underground war rooms for times when above ground was a bad idea. 
Fantastlc not just for the war frozen in time (It was sealed up straight after the war) but for the comprehensive museum added aftewards. MUST DO if in London.
The map room as it was then and now.


The bombs away story in a graph presented late in the war - Really lopsided - eventually.
Zoom into the bottom left graph in particular...


Chain Home radar aerial Stenigot (Lincolnshire)
The last remaining RAF Chain Home radar was spectacular - 110 M tall and standing proud. Impossible to underestimate the importance of these to not losing the BOB - Along with Dowding and Parks information network and brilliant management of fighter deployment, the radar was a multiplier that made the significantly fewer Spits and Hurris have the impact of (my opinion) 3 or 4 times that number. Even on their last legs when Churchill popped in to Fighter Command during a large raid and asked ‘ what are your reserves at this point?’ and got the chilling answer ‘none sir, they are all up…!’ the RAF still made the German flyers think that the allies had an inexhaustible supply of kites and pilots.
640 = The number of aircraft that RAF Fighter Command had to take on the Germans in July, 1940
2,600 = The number of Luftwaffe aircraft British pilots faced that month   http://www.itv.com/news/2015-09-15/the-battle-of-britain-in-numbers/



617 Squadron, Scampton RAF
The wing-commander herself hit me with a delightful surprise : She had arranged in NZ for a visit to the active RAF base at Scampton (Norwich) for a guided tour of the Dambusters quarters, briefing rooms history of the field from WW1 on etc and popped it on me a few days before the actual visit. It had to be done early for security checks to be made as it is an active base. A wonderful 3 hours with an excellent guide. Amazing raid and conception, with the highest proportional losses of any raid, but it was a morale booster and black eye for the Germans at a useful time.
The Red Arrows aerobatic team live there but were not active on this day. The newest recruit was there though :)


Don't think they'd accept a recruit with that look though! Cheeky... To put the record straight, here are three Tall boys, and yes, I am the tallest one! Barnes Wallis genius bombs were all on display - Titanium was used for the penetrating so they are still worth a lot of cash! Tallboy large (22, 000 pounds) and Tallboy medium (12,000 pounds) as modelled in the pic. The one at the back - Two pounds ten and sixpence ha'penny, at least.


Looking forward to being back and doing my bit in the AKS and hope you are still keen on Cliffs of Dover - I am further amazed at how well the landscape and environmental designers did in capturing the English countryside. It may look a bit cutsey in CLOD but that is how it is. 
I saw this field which looks identical in all ways to my last crash landing in England.


All the best, see you in the air (about 2 weeks time for me).

Regards
Pete

Offline AKA_Relent

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Sounds like you’re having fun Skewer - thanks for the pics and observations from your trip!

Enjoy the remainder of your trip.


Offline AKA_Goshawk

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The ACSM has been poking around your hut, Skewer.
We've been telling him you're on a secret mission behind lines, but
it's likely one of the blokes will snitch you off sooner rather than later.
(not to mention any names, but Taipan, uhhh, never mind)
Enjoy your trip and then get your arse back here and get one up pronto!!

Gos


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Offline AKA_Taipan

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MESSAGE READS...
Have a pint at Duxford and Hendon STOP
Great pictures STOP
The ACSM has been informed of your disposition STOP
Safe travels STOP
Your on charge STOP

Cheers

Tai

STOP ;)


Sink your teeth in...Let go only when dead.

Offline AKA_Ramstein

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WoW!! very nice!   :o ;)

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Offline AKA_Skewer

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Ha! Thanks for the replies (and the grin) gents.
Busted, it seems. Will happily clean latrines, with Gos' toothbrush, but I hear he is as overactive in 'other' departments as he is in the air, so I will have to be somewhat naughtier before I qualify for his.
STOP
Will follow orders regarding ceremonial booze, of course.
<S>
Skewer.

Offline AKA_Goshawk

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"Will happily clean latrines, with Gos' toothbrush,"

Ah-Hem!!
I'll thank you to kindly refer to that as a BEAK brush, thank you very much!
Secondly, I'd spank you severely upon your return for using it, but I fear you'd
simply find it pleasurable.
Me thinks it's time to have my way with your chilly bin while you're off bowling round
across the pond.

Hurry back. You're missed!

Gos



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Offline Recon

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Great pictures - fantastic!