We have recently been sent a number of very interesting photographs of the Montgomery crew (97 Squadron) which we will display on the website shortly. However, one particular detail on one of the photographs immediately jumped out in view of our recent posts on carrier pigeons. This photograph was taken at Woodhall Spa prior to the La Spezia operation on 13 April 1943. The crew are waiting to board the aircraft and with them are two boxes for carrier pigeons. This answers some of the questions posed on our page A Lancaster is Going to Germany.
Before flying on ops, gunners got into their electrically heated flying suits, and it seems this process required quite a bit of help. A recent acquisition for the Archive is an Illustrated London News drawing which shows a Nissen hut in December 1943 where the gunners are undergoing their last preparations before the take-off. Some are already fully dressed up, wearing their parachute harnesses and flying helmets, and carrying their parachute packs. Others are being ‘valeted’ into their extraordinary clothing. See new page: Lancaster Gunners Hotting Up
During the massive clear-up of the office, this amusing little document turned up in a stray copy of EVIDENCE IN CAMERA, the wartime RAF photographic publication.
The document is Transport Command, not Bomber Command, but whoever drew up the spoof sheet clearly was fond of Pilot Officer Prune and his navigator Flight Sergeant Offtrack. There is no date but it seems to have been written sometime before November 1943, when 267 Squadron moved to Italy.
The journey details appear to be based on a real flight, and Warnham Clock Tower definitely existed, and still does.
Further to yesterday’s post, we have now included a page on TEE EMM, with two rather wonderful cartoons of Pilot Officer Prune, one with his dog.
As we said yesterday, we were checking up on the identity of the man in the magazine cover. John Clifford at the Pathfinder Collection has said that this is Flight Lieutenant Leslie Ronald Barr DFC*, a pilot with 7 Squadron of the Pathfinders, who was unfortunately killed on 7 September 1942 along with his Second Pilot and four other members of the crew. One of the surviving crew members evaded and the other became a prisoner of war.
Pilot Officer Prune was a fictional character, hapless and inefficient, who mainly starred in TEE EMM, the technical memorandum which was circulated in the Air Force.
It is the dog who is being called Pilot Officer Prune in the magazine cover below, not the chap. This copy of the cover is at RAF Wyton, and the chap is thought to have been in the Pathfinders, but we are checking up on this.
“The experts on the Air Staff who turned down the Mosquito as a type in the early days might be interested in the argument which subsequently became current to the effect that one Mosquito was worth seven Lancasters. For those mathematically minded, here is the exercise: A Mosquito carried a little over half the bomb load of a Lancaster to Berlin. Its casualty rate was about 1/10th of that of the Lancaster. Its cost was 1/3rd of the Lancaster, and it carried two people in its crew instead of seven.”
Nothing to do with the Pathfinders but also about a flying dog, this time in the wartime USAAF, which raises an interesting point connected to today’s earlier post on Pathfinder Pets
If these dogs were flying with their owners, how did they cope at high altitude without oxygen?
Perhaps Paradog Salvo was not flying above the altitude which requires oxygen – 8,000 feet – but Bomber Command aircrew certainly were and any dog they took with them would have had to do this too.
It is hard to imagine Bomber Command crew members having the time to keep an oxygen mask over a dog’s face during high altitude flying, and the idea of there being dog oxygen masks seems slightly preposterous, So perhaps the whole thing of dogs flying on Bomber Command operations is just a myth. Clayton’s spaniel had his own logbook, but that may have been in a supporting, ground crew type of way.
The lure of flying for people growing up in the 1920s and 1930s is hard to appreciate now when commercial flying is so commonplace. Then, flying was ultra-modern and incredibly glamorous, and airshows (as in the photograph above) fed this fascination. Many of the boys who were aeroplane-mad in those years grew up to join the RAF and the Pathfinders. For more on this see our new page on the Lure of Flying.
Bad weather killed many experienced crews, including those who were only carrying out training duties. Icing could be particularly lethal. Today we have added a page about certain aspects of ICING as it affected aircrew, sometimes lethally. A reporting system was vital, so Air Ministry orders made it a duty for a pilot who had encountered ice formation to report this when he landed.