Wingleader Magazine - Issue 3

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INGLEADER

MAGAZINE

DIGITAL ISSUE THREE

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1 The exciting new historic aviation magazine from Wingleader

DIGITAL ISSUE THREE

BIRTH OF AN AIR FORCE

LIVING THE DREAM

ZERO TO HERO

COVER STORY - HEINKEL 177 TS439 PHOTO ARCHIVE


IN THIS ISSUE Managing Director: Simon Parry (Co-Founder) Editor and Design Director: Mark Postlethwaite (Co-Founder) Technical Director: Wesley Cornell (Co-Founder) Contributors to this issue: Jonny Cracknell Andrew Thomas Simon Parry Roger Tisdale Arvo Vercamer Amy Shore Editorial Submissions: If you have any editorial content (news, comment, articles etc.) that you would like us to consider for inclusion in the next edition of Wingleader Magazine, please email us at editorial@wingleadermagazine.co.uk

Advertising: advertising@wingleadermagazine.co.uk T: +44 (0)845 095 0346 E: hello@wingleadermagazine.co.uk W: www.wingleadermagazine.co.uk All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Š Wingleader Magazine Ltd 2019. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. Wingleader Magazine is published by Wing Leader Ltd (08559824), registered in England and Wales. Registered office: 12 Jordan Street, Liverpool, L1 0BP, United Kingdom. All information contained in this magazine is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Wingleader Magazine cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. Any material you submit is sent at your risk and, although every care is taken, neither Wingleader Magazine nor its employees, agents or subcontractors shall be liable for loss or damage. The views expressed in Wingleader Magazine are not necessarily the views of Wing Leader Ltd, its editors or its contributors.

W

elcome to the Digital Issue 3 of Wingleader Magazine. Once again we’ve got four very different articles for you, all backed up with some outstanding images including some rare WWII colour. These four articles will now be combined with those from digital issues one and two to form our first Printed Compendium edition which will be published at the end of March. These collectable printed editions are for those of you, like myself, who still prefer the look and feel of real books! They will be published quarterly and are available directly from our website, see the back page for details.

LIVING THE DREAM

HEINKEL 177

ZERO TO HERO

BIRTH OF THE EADF

We hope you enjoy this issue, look out for digital issue four, publishing on 1st April! Mark Postlethwaite February 2019.

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LIVING THE DREAM

IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE TO BUY AND FLY YOUR OWN HURRICANE?

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RESTORATIONS

A long lost Great Aunt has left you £20m in her will, what do you do? Many aviation enthusiasts would tell you that they would treat themselves to a warbird and then learn how to fly it. But in the real world, how easy is it to fulfil that dream? James Brown did just that, although without the aid of a philanthropic geriatric relative! Jonny Cracknell asked James to describe his journey from making Airfix Hurricanes to actually owning and flying the real thing.

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f someone were to grant every WW2 aviation enthusiast a wish, it would probably be to buy their own historic warbird, and then learn to fly it. Successful business entrepreneur James Brown recently proved that anything is possible by fulfilling that very own childhood dream. On the 30th September 2015 James purchased the iconic, historic and then sole flying Battle of Britain veteran MkI Hawker Hurricane, which helped defend Britain’s skies during the dark days of 1940. Hurricane R4118 (G-HUPW) was and is one of the most precious aircraft on the planet and has a special connection to a monumental part of not just this country’s, but world history. Left: James Brown savours the moment after completing his first flight in his Hurricane at Duxford on 17th November 2018. (All photos by the author unless specified)

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RESTORATIONS

Three long years after purchasing R4118 and following hundreds of hours of study and flying training - James finally took to the skies in his pride and joy from Duxford Airfield. Like most enthusiasts – James grew up with just a natural passion for aeroplanes. He fondly remembers making Airfix models which hung from the bedroom ceiling and sitting in the garden watching aircraft fly over. He also remembers that very first time he heard a Merlin engine roar to life whilst at White Waltham in the 70’s. The dream was to be a pilot, and despite limited time between work and family commitments, he managed to fly when time permitted. The software company James had built was successful enough that it eventually allowed him to buy his own Cessna 182 and over the course of 15 years he steadily managed around 500hrs of flying between his Cessna and PA28 aircraft. The business continued to grow, taking up most of his time, but his mind was always elsewhere: ‘My passion for aeroplanes still burned brightly and my daydreams remained filled with the planes I wanted to fly next’. He ambitiously wondered if one day he could eventually ‘purchase one of the warbirds of my childhood dreams: A Spitfire, or - even better to my eye - the rugged Hurricane.’ Fate was to play her part in 2015. The full-time running of his software company meant very little spare time and almost weekly visits to the US. It was on such a trip across the Atlantic in February 2015 when browsing a copy of ‘Flyer’ magazine, James saw the headline How to Fly a Hurricane.

Vacher to express my interest in his beautiful aeroplane.’ Arrangements were made to visit Peter and James recalls, ‘We walked out to his hangar and he turned the lights on and there in the middle stood this magnificent aeroplane which was just absolutely mind-blowing, and I still feel that way whenever I see it now’. It was the first time James had really been up close to a Hurricane and he admits, ‘I was just besotted with this aeroplane’. With dreams of potentially flying her one

At the end of Keith Dennison’s expertly written first-person style walkthrough of a full Hurricane sortie there was an advertisement at the bottom pronouncing Hurricane R4118 for sale. Most of us would have smiled wistfully and dreamt of long lost Great Aunts but James didn’t need one. A month previously his company had been approached by a potential buyer, which if agreed would possibly enable James to achieve his life-long ambition. ‘I flipped open my laptop again and wrote a short, caveat-laden, email to owner Peter

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James Brown with his ‘new’ Hurricane. R4118 is an authentic Battle of Britain survivor having flown operationally with 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron, shooting down five enemy aircraft during the Battle. (Darren Harbar Photography)

day, the concept of the challenge was never underestimated. ‘I got to sit in her and the gulf sitting in a Cessna 182 compared to R4 - it felt almost inconceivable that you could bridge that gap’.

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RESTORATIONS Mid-2015 saw lots of uncertainty, but everything finally aligned and the day following the sale of the company, James finally bought his beloved Hurricane. The end of the 2015 flying season and the subsequent period of winter maintenance allowed James time to begin to construct a training regime and to deconstruct how he could convert from hundreds of hours of

most importantly, himself, so that he would feel totally prepared if and when the time came to be able to fly his Hurricane. Valuable and experienced pilot advice was that training in a Harvard (circa 50-70hrs), particularly from the rear seat to experience poor forward visibility on landing would provide the best platform for Hurricane training. Hurricane Heritage promptly added a 1942 Harvard

nose-wheel flying into the necessary tail-wheel experience required. He had formed his new company ‘Hurricane Heritage’ and secured an experienced team with the specialist knowledge to continue the safe and successful operation of R4118. With the Hurricane then based at Shuttleworth, James began his training regime which would satisfy all required parties, and

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Above: James Brown flew 150 hours solo in his Harvard before stepping up to the cockpit of his Hurricane.

to their “fleet” from Sweden. Initial training began in a Cub, followed by around 30 hours on the Chipmunk with experienced pilot Peter Tuplin, and then onto the Harvard.


Just 5 days later, the long wait would be at an end and the hundreds of hours of preparation would be put into action. On the run up to the 17th November James had spent a lot of time flying the Harvard, again from the back-seat, flying circuits and practising run and breaks - which was solid preparation to set the scene for landing in the Hurricane. He added,

‘I must have spent the best part of 10hrs sitting in the aeroplane just getting familiar with where everything was and touch drills. The Hurricane now felt familiar, (having spent so much time in the Harvard), compared to the huge gulf when I very first sat in her.’ Weather had curtailed the opportunity to fly her earlier that week - and on the day itself visibility wasn’t ideal and had delayed morning proceedings. However, the moment finally came just after 13.00hrs as the weather cleared sufficiently and James strapped in, brought the beautifully smooth, purring Merlin engine of R4118 to life and taxied her to the end of the runway.

Left: In August 2017 R4118 was grounded when faults were found with the engine and propeller hub. Below: Fully restored, James Brown conducts his walk round of R4118 before climbing aboard for his first flight. Looking on is Battle of Britain veteran Hurricane pilot Archie McInnes.

All was going well until August 2017 when there was a huge set-back. Whilst preparing R4118 for a routine display, the team discovered a problem. A small drop of blue coolant, less than a millimetre wide was noticed when re-panelling the engine. As the team began to pull the engine to pieces, it uncovered a cascade of further problems. Both cylinder banks were cracked, the coolant header tank had holes, there were leaks in both the radiator and oil cooler and a problem with the propeller hub. It turned out to be a hugely fortunate discovery as going further unnoticed could have resulted in much more catastrophic consequences - but the result was R4118 had to be grounded for 15 months. She was quickly transferred to the hugely experienced Aircraft Restoration Company (ARC) at Duxford to carry out the necessary work.

James recalls a sad day in early 2018: ‘The aeroplane had its wings off, had no engine and it was in pieces on a flatbed truck - and I honestly thought this may be too big a job!’ Whilst hugely disappointing and frustrating, James turned the situation into a positive opportunity by gaining further valuable flying experience, ‘That was a real low, but that time allowed me to put another 100hrs on the Harvard - and in retrospect I needed that extra time.’ Indeed, by the time R4118 was ready to take-flight again, James had flown over 150hrs solo on the Harvard. R4118 began post-restoration engine runs during mid-October 2018 and had her first successful test-flight from Duxford on the 12th November in the very capable hands of

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RESTORATIONS

John Romain. The long road back was finally complete, and James was both astounded and truly grateful for the professionalism and precision of ARC’s work: ‘The guys at ARC did the most amazing job putting her back together – she’s back now better than ever’.


RESTORATIONS

When asked what was going through his mind at that point, ‘You can have all the preparation and policing in the world - but on the day of the flight there is no choice but to sit at the end of the runway and commit – just open the throttle and go for it’. At Plus 3 boost (3,000RPM) James accelerated down the Duxford runway and within a few seconds the front wheels lifted from the grass, and his long-awaited moment had arrived. Instantly noticing the aircraft was very unstable in pitch, he climbed to around 3,000 ft heading north with the sun behind and spent time getting a feel for her. With full concentration and total focus there wasn’t time to take a moment to himself - but knows there will be plenty of opportunities for that to come. The first flight wasn’t the time to sit back or let concentration levels slip. The twenty-minute sortie consisted of practising slowing the aircraft down, dropping the flaps, the undercarriage and getting her into landing configuration at altitude. ‘That felt comfortable and generally felt familiar.’ Upon heading back to Duxford into poor visibility, he carried out the textbook run and break, practised so often in the Harvard, and bought R4118 safely back down onto the hallowed Duxford turf.

Left: James presses the starter button and brings R4118 to life in preparation for his first flight in her.

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RESTORATIONS

‘My knees were shaking, and it was all a bit overwhelming and I did just take a moment to think that is just a momentous occasion for me. I was most pleased to bring the aeroplane back undamaged. I must have played it back in my head a thousand times now and tried to deconstruct what went well and what didn’t’. Adding to what was already a momentous occasion for James, also in attendance to watch his quite incredible achievement was veteran Battle of Britain and North Africa Hurricane pilot, 99yr old Flt Lt Archie McInnes. Archie had been invited by James and ARC to visit Duxford and see R4118 up close and have a tour of the ARC facilities - which he thoroughly enjoyed. Having not been overwrought by the pressure of such a high-profile spectator, James reflected, ‘The thing that really made it so special for me was Archie being there. It turned what was going to be a great day into the most incredible experience. It was just magical to have him there on the day that I got to fly the aeroplane. Almost the last person that shook my hand as I went off to fly the aeroplane was Archie, and virtually the first person to

congratulate me when I landed again was him. It was the most moving, incredible experience and it was such a privilege to have Archie there. There are very few people that have had their very first solo in one of these warbirds in the presence of somebody who actually fought in them during the Battle of Britain and then subsequently in North Africa – it was just an amazing experience. In some ways it made the day’. Asked if Archie gave any words of wisdom prior to the flight, ‘He said, she’ll look after you and it proved right’.

‘One of the things I’m personally proud of is the way I’ve done it is the way they would have done it back in the 30s/40s. I did go and fly a Tiger Moth to experience that, and then worked up to the Harvard and had loads of time in the Harvard’. James is incredibly humble and appreciates how privileged he is, taking the responsibility of owning R4118 incredibly seriously,

James reflected further on achieving his boyhood dream -

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Above: Airborne at last!

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RESTORATIONS

‘I genuinely view her as a national treasure and an absolutely iconic bit of British history which is totally irreplaceable. It doesn’t feel like ownership, it simply is custodianship hopefully for a very long time’. His personal satisfaction comes equally from making R4 accessible and available for enthusiasts and the general public, ‘The joy is sharing her at air shows and seeing people’s enthusiasm for her. People are just delighted to watch R4 fly and listen to her Merlin engine - it’s an amazing privilege’. James’s passion and enthusiasm is abundantly evident, and he is truly appreciative for all of those who have helped make things possible on his incredible journey, ‘One of the things you realise doing something like this is that you simply cannot do it without the generosity of loads and loads of people around you, who give up their time, help, expertise and advice. And there is nothing in it for them, its pure altruism and it’s quite humbling. You can’t do this without the help of the community and I’ve met lots of lovely people and had great people around me who have been willing to give up their time and help’. In terms of what’s next, James is in no rush, ‘I just want to enjoy the aeroplane and not put any pressure on myself. I’m looking forward to those gorgeous, still summer days where I can just enjoy being up in her. Next year (2020) is the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain and I’d love to potentially be able to display her myself.’

Left: Having just completed his first Hurricane flight, James was welcomed back by veteran Hurricane pilot Archie McInnes.

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Photo Archive :-Heinkel 177 TS439 11

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

A fine study of TS439 banking away from the camera aircraft. The mottled camouflage on the fuselage sides is clearly continued under the wings.

In September 1944, the Allies ‘nicked’ a Heinkel 177 from southern France and flew it back to Farnborough for tests. This huge German bomber was a bit of an enigma as several had been shot down over England but all had ended up in tiny pieces. The photographers soon got to work and produced these photos that are probably the most comprehensive study of any one of the 1000+ He177s built during WWII.

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he Heinkel 177 was probably the closest the Germans came to having a truly ‘heavy bomber’ equivalent of the Avro Lancaster or B-17 Flying Fortress. It was almost identical in size to the Lancaster and also had four engines, albeit paired together in each wing to drive a single propeller. It was plagued by technical problems throughout its service life which resulted in it failing to fulfil its undoubted potential. It first flew operationally on the Russian Front and appeared over England in early 1944 during Operation Steinbock. Its loss rate was extremely low at this time due to its high speed and the few that were shot down all blew up on impact, leaving the RAF with little information on this new threat. After the invasion of France, it became clear that the French Resistance could probably ‘liberate’ a He177 from a repair facility in southern France and so a plan was formed to fly one back to England. Remarkably, the plan worked and in September 1944, F8+AP became TS439 and the He177’s secrets were revealed.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

The Heinkel was flown from France to England by Farnborough chief test pilot Roland Falk on 10 September 1944 . Because it was to fly over the Channel, it was given a full set of invasion stripes and French markings to emphasise which side it was now on! These two photos show the aircraft shortly after arriving in England with the French markings. Note how the sunlight and different film stock (or filter) used in the photo above, makes the fuselage sides look very pale, proving how difficult it is to interpret colours from black and white photos.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE Another two photos that were taken at the same times as the previous two. Again the differences in light and tone can clearly be seen, especially in the roundels. Both locations are Farnborough in September 1944.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

A close up of the rear fuselage of the He177 at Farnborough giving a good close up of the random brush strokes for the mottled camouflage. The F8 code is the original German code carried on the aircraft to signify that it belonged to KG40. The aircraft’s full code was F8+ AP, but the (larger) AP codes have been hidden by the invasion stripes.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

Side, front and rear views taken at Farnborough.

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Within a week or so, the Heinkel had been repainted with a full set of RAF markings and took to the air for a series of test flights and photographic sorties. It also received the ‘prototype’ marking, a yellow P in a circle, just forward of the fuselage roundel, and an RAF serial number TS439.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

ONE BOMBER - FOUR OWNERS

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He177A-5/R6 W.Nr. 550062 RAF Air Intelligence had been aware that the main location for the repair and servicing of He177s was at the airfield of Toulouse-Blagnac in the south of France. As soon as practicable after the invasion of France a plan was put in place to ‘capture’ a He177 and fly it to Farnborough. Troops parachuted into the Toulouse area on 17th August 1944, as the region came under the control of the French Resistance. With the help of the Special Operations Executive one was secured from the French engineers working for Ateliers Industriel de l’Air, who had been sub-contracted by Heinkel to maintain KG40’s He177s based at Bordeaux Mérignac. At this time it carried the fuselage code F8+AP of 6/KG40 and had the number 60 painted on its fin in yellow. Its radio call-sign was KM+UK. To get the He177 to the UK, Group Captain Hards - Commanding Officer of Farnborough, flew a Hudson carrying RAE Chief Test Pilot Wing Commander R J ‘Roly’ Falk, who would fly it back assisted by Squadron Leader Pearce. On 2nd September the Hudson with a fighter escort provided by two Beaufighters set off, but both fighter pilots lost their bearings and came down in France. The Hudson, however, made it to Blagnac and eight days later, on 10th September 1944, Falk and Pearce flew to Farnborough in just 2 hours and 45 minutes. By this time the Luftwaffe markings had been over-painted with French Armée de l’Air markings and the words ‘Prise de Guerre’ (Prize of War) had been painted in small letters on the rear fuselage. Upon arrival at RAE Farnborough the French markings were over-painted with full RAF markings and the aircraft was given the RAF serial number TS439. It made its first test flight from Farnborough on 20th September with Squadron Leader A F Martindale at its controls. Over the next five months it made 18 more test flights, totalling 17 hours 55 minutes flying time, to assess many design features including the bombsight and heating system. Among its pilots was Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown who remarked that the cockpit was ‘like an outsized goldfish bowl’. Its last flight was from Farnborough to Boscombe Down, but the inevitable finally happened and one of its troublesome engines failed. TS439 remained at Boscombe Down where it was dismantled, awaiting shipment to America. The Americans had ambitious plans to fly their own He177A-3 (W.Nr. 550256 GP+RZ) from Orly Airfield near Paris in February 1945, but an accident on take-off wrecked this aircraft. The RAF offered them TS439 which arrived at Freeman Field, but remained in a dismantled state and was allocated the code FE-2100. It was last recorded, still crated for storage, at No. 803 Special Depot at Park Ridge, California, on 4th October 1946 and then ‘vanished’ presumably broken up for scrap in the 1950s.

A rare underside view showing the impressive wingspan of the type, almost identical in length to the Avro Lancaster.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

The RAE test pilot slowly brings the He177 closer to the camera aircraft. Although the photographic sortie took off from Farnborough, the airfield below is actually RAF Hartfordbridge, soon to be renamed Blackbushe.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

Many modellers over the years have painted the rudder red on TS439 after it received its RAF markings and admittedly, the tone of the rudder does seem to match the red of the roundel exactly. However what would be the logic of painting it red? Clearly it covers the French markings that were originally applied, in fact the blue stripe is still faintly visible in the inset photo. You’ll also notice on the inset photo that with a different film stock or filter, the rudder now no longer appears to be the same tone as the roundel red.. Our best guess is that the groundcrews were simply told to paint out the French markings and apply the RAF versions. With the French fin flash not being covered by RAF markings, it’s more likely that they used a green or grey to match the upper surface camouflage or even just their best match to the light blue fuselage sides.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

Two views of TS439 low over the fields of Hampshire. The aircraft incorporated many advanced features such as a remotely controlled gun turret. This turret is visible on top of the fuselage just forward of the leading edge of the wings. The gunner controlled the turret from the observation dome just behind the cockpit.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

A nice final view of TS439 as it banks away from the camera aircraft. Note the three pylons, one under each wing and one just behind the ventral nose gondola, which could each hold a Fritz X guided bomb.

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ADVERTISING

PAI N T ING THE HEINKEL 1 77 by Mark Postlethwaite

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his month’s cover painting features the mighty Heinkel 177 in service with KG40 during Operation Steinbock. The He177 is quite a challenge to paint with its very long wings and oversized tail so the natural solution is to paint it from the front, reducing the impact of the tail, and to cut the wings out of the frame. The latter is usually not a good idea in aviation art as it breaks the

illusion of flight, (almost as if someone is holding the wingtip of the ‘model’ out of frame). In my experience, the way round this problem is to include smaller complete aircraft in the background. I followed the same concept when painting the cover art for Osprey’s

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He177 Units book (left) which was even more of a challenge due to its portrait format. Again I’ve included a complete aircraft in the background to give the sense of flight and used quite a strong perspective to reduce the size of the tail.

PRINTS ARE AVAILABLE OF THIS MONTH’S COVER PAINTING: MORE INFORMATION

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ADVERTISING

T HE L AS T BLITZ

READ THE FULL STORY OF OPERATION STEINBOCK WHEN THE HEINKEL 177 FIRST APPEARED OVER ENGLAND In December 1943, the Code-breakers at Bletchley Park received intelligence that the Luftwaffe’s bombers were gathering for a major new operation. This new campaign, codenamed Operation Steinbock was to involve over 500 bombers, including 46 He177 ‘Greif’ four-engined heavy bombers making a debut over Britain. On the evening of 21st January, 227 bombers took off bound for London, their target marked by Pathfinders from KG66. On their return to base, those bombers still serviceable were refuelled and rearmed and in the early morning 220 aircraft repeated the attack. For the next four months attacks continued on London, Hull, Bristol and other targets. Casualties in Britain totalled 1,556 killed, with 2,916 seriously injured. The Luftwaffe lost 330 aircraft and their crews – for every five people killed on the ground, the raiders lost one bomber and four trained crewmen killed or captured. This is the first book dedicated to Operation Steinbock and features: Detailed analysis of each raid. Full listing of all Luftwaffe aircraft and crew losses with detailed crash investigations. RAF combat reports and interrogation reports. Comparison with RAF Bomber Command operations for the same period. Size 250mm x 170mm 432 pages approx 150 b/w photos Hardback RRP £30

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ZERO TO HERO

How the RAF’s unwanted batch of Airacobras went on to see action around the world

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WORLD WAR II

The Bell Airacobra was the first American day fighter to enter Royal Air Force service, and arrived with great anticipation. Unfortunately it proved a great disappointment. Although heavily armed and with several innovative features, its lack of supercharger meant that its altitude performance was woefully inadequate. Andrew Thomas looks at what happened to the unwanted RAF Airacobras and finds that they redeemed themselves in a very unexpected way.

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he Bell P-39 Airacobra was a genuinely innovative aircraft that incorporated many new ideas and concepts. The most significant difference between the P-39 and its contemporaries was the placing of the engine in the mid-fuselage, behind the pilot. This was done to allow the fitting of a heavy cannon to fire through the propeller spinner. This unconventional layout left no room for a fuel tank in the fuselage which meant its range would always be limited to what fuel it could carry in the wings or with drop tanks.

Left: 601 Squadron lined up for the press at Duxford, showing off their exotic American nosewheeled fighters. (ww2images.com)

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Thus on 6 October Flt Lt Jaroslav Himr in AH589/UF-L led AH583 flown by Sgt Briggs, Plt Off Jiri Manak in AH 595/UF-M, Sgt Scott flying AH581 and Sgt Reynolds in AH591 from Duxford at 14.40 for the 25 minute flight to Manston. Bad weather prevented any ops flying so Reynolds returned to Duxford later in the afternoon. An operation was planned

WORLD WAR II

The Airacobra was also one of the first fighters to have a tricycle undercarriage, making it quite an exotic beast when it first arrived in the UK. 601 Sqn under Sqn Ldr ‘Jumbo’ Gracie was nominated as the first to be re-equipped and its first two Airacobra Is, AH576 and AH577, were delivered to Matlaske on 6 August amid much excitement. 601’s pilots were keen to receive them as was the Air Ministry due to the political importance of having American fighters in service. A press day was held at Duxford to where 601 moved on 16 August where the sleek looking Airacobras were photographed in an impressive lineup whilst AH577 showed off its paces in the air. From the start 601 was disappointed with its new mount and regarded being the pioneer squadron as a somewhat dubious honour. Nonetheless, they were keen to get into action with them.

Right: No 601’s CO was 30 year-old Sqn Ldr ‘Jumbo’ Gracie seen here climbing into his Airacobra using the side-opening door. (author’s collection) Below: A rare photo of one of the 601 Sqn Airacobras UF-B at Matlaske just before the squadron moved to Duxford. The barrel of the nose mounted 20 mm cannon is prominent in this view. (via M W Payne)

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WORLD WAR II

Sqn Ldr Gracie’s aircraft was AH601 which wore the winged sword in place of the aircraft letter. Although seen here being re-armed it never in fact fired its guns in anger and was lost in a crash landing on 12 December 1941. (P J Hulton)

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However, that afternoon, the Airacobra finally had its combat debut when at 17.45 Flt Lt Himr in AH583 and Sgt Briggs flying AH881 left Manston on a Rhubarb. They flew low over the Channel to Dunkirk where they shot up some enemy troops on the pier and then ‘… severely hurt the feelings of a trawler!’ They arrived back at 18.20 hours. The CO, ‘Jumbo’ Gracie, noted: ‘…it was not much, but it was a start.’ The next morning, 10 October, Briggs flew AH581 to Duxford and Sqn Ldr Gracie arrived at lunchtime in AH583. Shortly before that Plt Off Jiri Manak set off in AH595/UF-M and flew to France where he shot up several barges in the canals behind Dunkirk before arriving back at 13.00 having been up for just 45 minutes. Then at 1325 the CO flew a Rhubarb but found nothing of interest, returning to Manston after a 30 minute flight whilst 10 minutes after him Sgt Scott flew his first operational Airacobra sortie in AH581 which was also uneventful. There was no further operational activity in the day due to the weather but in the late afternoon Manak flew back to Duxford, later returning in the company of Plt Off Chivers who flew down in AH584.

Right: Flt Lt Jaroslav Himr, a Czech pilot, led the operational detachment to Manston on 6 October 1941 and led the first operational mission three days later. (Z Hurt) Below: One of the four Airacobra Is used on operations was AH595/UF-M which is seen at Manston soon after arriving on 6 October. Plt Off Jiri Manak flew two operational sorties in it. (Z Hurt)

Early on the 11th Jaroslav Himr flew a weather check over the Channel in AH583 returning at 07.20 with the news that things looked suitable for operations. Accordingly, at 08.00 Himr in AH583, Manak in AH595/UF-M and Chivers flying AH584 took off as escort

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WORLD WAR II

for the following day but fog again prevented it happening. Fg Off Chivers then flew down in AH591 to join the detachment. Manston remained fog bound on 8 October too so the following morning Chivers in AH591 and Manak flying AH595/UF-M flew back up to Duxford.


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The clean lines of the Airacobra are well illustrated in this view of 601 Sqn’s aircraft lined up at Duxford. The red winged sword on the fin flash had been proudly carried on all the squadron’s aircraft over the years. (ww2images.com)

“Proceedings commenced with a before breakfast sweep up the ‘single man’s side’ of the coast to Ostend with 3 Airacobras of No 601 Sqn. Nothing of interest was seen except flak.”

to eight Hurricanes of 615 Sqn led by Flt Lt ‘Dutch’ Hugo for a shipping reconnaissance off Boulogne. Unfortunately, the formation found nothing and so returned to base though the Airacobras did experience some accurate light flak, but were undamaged. No 615 Sqn recorded the only ever Airacobra escort thus:

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In the event, that final statement was a requiem for the Airacobra’s operational service in the RAF. At 14.35 ‘Jumbo’ Gracie in AH581

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led Manak, Briggs and Himr back to Duxford where they landed at 15.15 so ending the first, and only, operational detachment for the RAF Airacobras that flew just eight sorties. In early 1942 601 Sqn was re-equipped with Spitfires and most RAF Airacobras, and those undelivered from the British order were shipped to Soviet Russia or transferred to the USAAF as the P-400.


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Pacific action Following the entry of the US into the War many aircraft from the RAF Airacobra order were transferred to the USAAF. However, because of significant detail differences they were designated as the P-400. To halt the relentless Japanese advance south, substantial US forces were sent to Australia and from March 1942 the 8th Pursuit (later Fighter) Group with a mix of the P-39D and P-400 was pushed forward to airfields around Port Moresby, New Guinea. From the end of April they were in action against the JNAF, claiming some success as well as sustaining losses. One of the first known P-400 victories was claimed by 1/Lt Tom Lynch in a 35 FS aircraft who claimed two Zeros of the Tainan Kokutai destroyed over Waigani early on 20 May. Six days later he was escorting some transports to Wau that at 11.30 were intercepted by Above: RAF contract Airacobra I BW114 was one of many transferred to the USAAF where they were designated as the P-400. It was shipped to Australia and used by the RAAF for training duties at Lowood, Queensland, being damaged on 10 February 1943 and written off shortly afterwards. (RAAF) Below: A section of P-400s taxy out at Turnbull Strip, Port Moresby for another mission over New Guinea in late 1942. (Krane via John Stanaway)

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WORLD WAR II

Above: P-400 Airacobra BW167 ‘6’ and others of the 67 FS after arrival at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal on 22 August 1942. (Bell Textron via John Stanaway) Left: Capt Curran ‘Jack’ Jones of the 39 FS claimed the first P-400 victory over New Guinea, probably in BW102 by which he is standing in June 1942. (C L Jones via John Stanaway)

16 A6M Zeros south west of Mount Lawson. Using his height advantage, Lynch turned into the enemy and he and his wingman each claimed one destroyed. The 39th FS began Airacobra operations at the start of June and soon achieved its first victory. Flying a P-400 (believed to have been his regular mount, BW102 ‘Flaming Arrow’) on the 9th, 1/Lt Curran ‘Jack’ Jones led an escort to a B-26 raid on the Japanese base at Lae. They were intercepted by some Zeros but Jones got on the tail of one that he hit and saw the doomed pilot jump out. He was believed to have been the 15-victory ace Ens Satoshi Yoshino. However, these were largely isolated successes as at this stage Allied pilots had difficulty coping with the nimble Japanese fighters. By August the 80th FS had moved up to New Guinea and on the 26th Lt Danny Roberts was in a flight of ‘shark’s teeth’ decorated P-400s Wingleader Magazine - Download your copy FREE at wingleadermagazine.co.uk

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over Buna that dived on a section of Zeros as they was taking off. He hit one badly on the first pass and others in the Flight then sent two more down. Roberts turned into the others and he shot two more down as the Airacobra’s cannon armament proved devastating on the Zero’s light structure. By then the Americans were heavily embroiled in bitter fighting on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and on 22 August the first five P-400s of the 67th FS arrived at Henderson Field led by Capt Dale Brannon. Two days later he led a flight that intercepted a raid by Aichi ‘Val’ dive bombers and along with Lt Fincher, shot one down to claim the unit’s first victory. However, during a heavy fight on the 30th, Zeros shot down four P-400s, though two Zeros were claimed in return. The P-400s still suffered at altitude and gradually


Red Star Hero In the wake of the huge losses inflicted on the Red Air Force during the early weeks of Operation Barbarossa, Winston Churchill had promised to send Stalin fighters; but with Spitfires in short supply, initially Hurricanes were sent. US fighters allocated to Britain under Lend Lease were also diverted, amongst them the unwanted Airacobras. These included the 84 aircraft serialed BW100-183 that were also divided between the USAAF and Soviet Air Forces and the 300 Airacobras of the batch BX135-434. For the Soviets the 266 ex-RAF Airacobras, 44 of which were sunk en route, were the first of many thousands of P-39s delivered from US production. Christened Kobra by the Soviets, the first of the ex-RAF Airacobras delivered was AH628 that was despatched with the first batch to Archangel in November 1941. It was evaluated at Kol’tsovo and twenty more aircraft were taken on charge by 22 ZAP (Reserve Aviation Regt) at Ivanovo (to the north east of Moscow) for training. The ex RAF Kobras entered operational service in May 1942 with 19 GIAP (Guards Aviation Fighter Regt) at Afrikanda, near Murmansk and were soon in action over the far northern Front. They retained their RAF serials and camouflage but with the Soviet red stars in place of the overpainted roundels. Capt Pavel Stepanovich Kutakhov who commanded 19 GIAP’s 1st Eskadrilya (squadron) conducted the first test flight of

an Airacobra I on 19 April. Despite the novel features that were new to the Soviet pilots, they were soon won over by the Kobra. Soon afterwards Maj Georgii Aleksandrovich Kalugin (who had changed his name from the Germanic sounding Reifschneider) led the 19th back to Shongui with 16 Airacobra Is (and ten Kittyhawks) and flew their first operational sorties on the evening of 15 May. The patrol of four Kobras encountered a mixed formation of Messerschmitt Bf 109s and 110s over Lake Tulp’yavr west of Murmansk and during the subsequent dogfight Pavel Kutakhov and Snr Lt Ivan Bochov (both future aces) each claimed a victory. Their victims were identified as ‘He 113s’ (clearly, Messerschmitt Bf 109s) but the Kobra had been blooded over Russia! Bochov was successful again the next day which also saw the first Kobra loss. Airacobra I AH660 was damaged by a Bf 109 and was force landed in a forest by Snr Lt Ivan Gaidaenko. Despite the aircraft being shredded by the trees he was uninjured. A week later Ivan Bochov force landed AH692 ‘12’ near Shongui on 22 May. Six days later the newly promoted Maj Kutakhov was also shot down during a fierce battle, but survived unscathed.

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they were replaced throughout the Pacific theatre by later model P-39s or other more effective types. Nonetheless, the RAF rejects had proved a useful addition to the USAAF in a time of genuine need.

Above: Airacobra I BX237 ‘12’ of the 19th GIAP wears an impressive victory list of four solid ‘individual’ and 25 outline ‘group’ victories. It is a suitable backdrop to some of the pilots, left to right - Regiment CO, Maj Georgii Aleksandrovich Kalugin and next to him the CO of the 1st Eskadrilya Capt Pavel Stepanovich Kutakhov and the (unknown) commanders of the 2nd and 3rd Eskadrilyas. Below: On 22 May 1942 soon after 19 GIAP began operations Snr Lt Ivan Bochov had to force land Airacobra I AH692 ‘12’ near its Shongui base. (both images via George Mellinger)

The first major action by the ex RAF Kobras with the Luftwaffe came a month later when on 15 June six of them intercepted a similar number of Ju 88 bombers escorted by 16 Bf 110s as they headed towards Murmansk. In a whirling fight the Soviet pilots claimed nine shot down for no loss with Ivan Bochov being credited as bringing down one of each type whilst Capt Konstantin Fomchenkov claimed two. The 19th GIAP continued in action flying its ex-RAF Kobras over the Murmansk Front for the rest of the year, in November coming under command of Maj Aleksei Efimovidn Novozhilov. One of the Regiment’s last actions

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WORLD WAR II Above: One of the most successful early Kobra pilots with 19 GIAP was Snr Lt Ivan Bochov though Airacobra I ‘16’ behind him was the usual mount of fellow ace Lt Efim Krivosheev. (via George Mellinger) Left: The last Airacobra to be flown in British colours was undoubtedly AH574 that was used at RAE Farnborough for deck landing trials of a tricycle undercarriage aircraft. Among others it was flown by the renowned test pilot Lt Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown and is seen here at RAE in 1948. (J D R Rawlings)

of 1942 came on 10 December when six Airacobras, with Bochov at their head waded into a large formation of Stukas and their Bf 109 escort. In the first pass two of the dive bombers fell and then in the following short fight, three more went down without loss. One was credited to Bochov who in early 1943 became a Hero of the Soviet Union (HSU) but on 4 April 1943 the 28 year-old fell in a battle Wingleader Magazine - Download your copy FREE at wingleadermagazine.co.uk

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with five Bf 109Gs so allowing has damaged wingman to escape. Among the aircraft that Bochov flew were AH962 ‘12’, AH726’36’ and BX168 ‘15’. The ex-RAF Airacobras continued to be used successfully by 19 GIAP and amongst the other successful pilots to fly them were Capt Ivan Gaidaenko who had 29 personal and shared victories who flew AH636 ‘33’ and Maj Aleksandr Zaitsev. Another was Snr Lt Efim Krivosheev who eventually gained a total of 20 victories flying the Airacobra, regularly flying BX320 ‘16’. On 9 September 1942, having shot down a Bf 109, Krivosheev saw his CO, Capt Pavel Kutakhov, under attack by another German fighter and having used all his ammunition deliberately rammed the enemy fighter, albeit at the cost of his own life; he was subsequently made a Hero of the Soviet Union. Pavel Kutakhov, a veteran of 367 sortie and 79 air battles during which he scored 14 personal and 28 shared kills, survived the war and in 1969 became a Marshal Aviation, and Commander in Chief of the Soviet Air Force. He died in 1984. Also flying the ex-RAF Airacobra on the northern front against the Germans and Finns in Karelia was the 30th GIAP (formerly 180 IAP) whilst 153 IAP also converted to the Airacobra I at Ivanovo. In the 28th GIAP (formerly 153 IAP) Lt Nikolai Pas’ko used ex-RAF Airacobra BX 254 to gain some of his 15 victories. Thus, the RAF’s Airacobras had found their niche over the frozen wastes of the Russian Front. It remains one of the strange dichotomies that the P-39 series that was deemed so mediocre in the West should find such success in Russia and be the weapon of choice for some of the leading Allied aces of the War. And so, over the frozen Arctic tundra and endless Steppes, the ill-loved ’Cobra had become the much loved Kobra and been transformed from zero to hero!


THE BIRTH OF an Air Force

THE AIRCRAFT OF THE ESTONIAN AIR FORCE 1919 - 1926 35

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BETWEEN THE WARS

The end of the First World War saw many new countries emerge in Europe, all of which would soon need an air force. With little in the way of money or trade links, these countries, borrowed, stole, traded and salvaged a wide variety of airframes to get airborne. Roger Tisdale and Arvo Vercamer explore the British, German, French and Russian types that were cobbled together to form the Estonian Air Defence Force.

T

he origins of the Estonian military (Air Force, Army and Navy) can be traced back to the Russian (Bolshevik) revolution of 1917. During this time, the Province of Estonia was granted a moderate degree of autonomy within the “new Russia” - including the right to establish Estonian-manned armed forces. On 24 February 1918, between the period where Russian military forces retreated out of Estonia, and German military forces entered,

On 2 May 1919, through an order of the day, all Estonian military airplanes were ordered to be numbered sequentially. The ex-RAF Be.2c, British serial number C.6981, was thus given the number “6” in the EADF. While in Estonia, RAF Flight Lieutenant Claude Scudamore Emery used this aircraft to train new Estonian pilots. C.6981 was removed from service in Estonia in 1925.

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HENRI FARMAN HF 30

Estonia’s Henri Farman HF-30 was captured by Estonian cavalry and infantry forces near the City of Narva from the Bolsheviks, on 19 January 1919. It was the only Estonian aircraft to carry the first Estonian Air Defence Force insignia design - a plain, black square. When it became known that Turkey already used that symbol, the Estonian black square was changed to a triangle in the colours of the Estonian national flag. In July of 1919, the Allied powers ordered Estonia to transfer the HF-30 over to the White Army of General Yudenitch.

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BETWEEN THE WARS

Estonia declared its independence. Until 11 November 1918, the ongoing German occupation of Estonia did not permit the Estonians from (openly) organizing anything that the Germans in Estonia considered a threat to their authority and rule. No sooner had the 11 November 1918 armistice been signed, than the Estonian Provisional Government came out of hiding and declared Estonia to be an independent nation. One of the first official acts of the new Estonian government was creation of a military aviation department. On 21 November 1918, Colonel Voldemar Victor Riiberg, the Commander of the (Estonian) Engineering Battalion, ordered Lieutenant August Roos to organize a flight unit - The Estonian Aviation Half-Company (Lennupoolrood) of the Engineer Battalion. Numerous abandoned and non-flight-worthy German land and seaplanes were immediately seized in Tallinn, but it was not until January of 1919, that the first operational aircraft was acquired – a Soviet-marked Henri Farman HF.30 was captured near the City of Narva. On 22 November 1918, the Soviet Red Army, not recognizing Estonia’s declaration of independence, attacked and invaded Estonia. Within a short period of time, 75% of Estonia was under Soviet control. The newly created Estonian Army (along with the Aviation Company and Navy), with foreign (overwhelmingly British) assistance, organized a counter-attack in early January 1919. Success was with the Estonians, as most of Estonia (and even neighbouring Latvia) was quickly cleared of Soviet forces. Estonian Aviation, primarily Avro 504’s, Airco DH.9s, Short 184’s and German DFW C.V’s, completed a number of combat missions in support of the Estonian Army during Estonia’s War of Independence.


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SOPWITH STRUTTER

In February of 1920, a peace treaty with Soviet Russia was signed. Estonia had won her War of Independence. Although, the Estonian Army was demobilized after the peace treaty was signed, the Aviation Half-Company was retained and it was even expanded. With the delivery of more aircraft from abroad, the Aviation Company (Lennurood) was now reorganized and upgraded to an Aviation Regiment (Lennuväe rügement) - containing a land-plane squadron, a seaplane squadron, a flight school (headed by an RAF pilot with his Sopwith Camel) and workshops. More airbases and seaplane stations were built in and around Estonia. Estonia was a poor nation in the 1920s. She spent 25-30% of her GDP on defence. Some Airco DH.9s were purchased from Poland -

On 31 January 1919, Rudolf Piirile, a Bolshevik pilot of Estonian heritage, defected to Estonia with his Sopwith 1½ Strutter ex-RAF s/n A.2409, near the Võõpsu settlement in Estonia. Piirile had been serving with the Soviet 10th Rifle Corps at the time of his defection. Though in poor condition upon arrival, Estonian mechanics were able to re-skin and repair the Strutter - which received the number “3”, while she served in the EADF. In December of 1921, she was no longer airworthy, and was removed from active service.

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where Poland accepted scrap steel in lieu of cash/precious metals for payment. The 1929 global stock market crash did not make things any easier for Estonia. Of importance to note is that some Aviation Regiment pilots were involved in the pro-Soviet coup d’etat attempt on 1 December 1924 - but this coup attempt was crushed within hours. By 1925, most of Estonia’s WWI surplus fighters, bombers and trainers had reached the end of their expected life spans. As these older aircraft were withdrawn from active service or relegated to training roles, newer military aircraft were purchased from abroad (mostly from France and the United Kingdom).


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BETWEEN THE WARS

SOPWITH CAMEL

Sopwith 2F.1 Camel, RNAS s/n N.6616, was the personal mount of Flight Lieutenant Claude Scudamore Emery, who in 1919 was assigned by London to help train the next generation of Estonian pilots. N.6616 had previously served aboard the British aircraft carrier, HMS Vindictive. In Estonia, Captain Emery (promoted in Estonia) was very protective of “his” Sopwith Camel. The Camel however became a total loss, when Estonian student pilot Aleksander Vernik was at the controls, and crashed the aircraft. Estonia’s Henri Farman HF-30 can be seen behind the Camel and behind the HF-30 are two Be.2cs.


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DFW C.V Right: DFW C.V, EADF nr 10: On 8 June 1919, Estonian ground forces downed the DFW C.V, B/N 371/18, assigned to FA 16 near the City of Narva. During Estonia’s War of Independence, 1918-1920, this aircraft was operationally very active against German Landeswehr and Bolshevik/Soviet forces. It crashed on 2 July 1925, as a result of a training accident.

Below: DFW C.V, EADF nr 11: This aircraft was captured from the German FA 427 on 21 June 1919, which was fighting Estonian and Bolshevik forces in southern Estonia. It was shot down near Auciems, Latvia, by Estonian ground forces and seized relatively intact. During the Sovietinstigated coup d’etat attempt in Estonia on 24 December 1924, when the coup failed, EADF nr 11 and its pilot defected to the Soviet Union, landing at the village of Moloskovitsh. Not being able to convince Soviet authorities of a pro-Soviet coup d’etat attempt, the pilot, Karl Fiskars, was jailed and the plane seized. Both were returned to Estonia in 1925.

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Left: Avro 504K; EADF Number 23: This aircraft entered service with the EADF on 8 December 1919. It was immediately deployed as a mail courier between Tallinn and Helsinki. In 1920, it was involved in a serious crash - but was repaired and made airworthy again. In its later years, nr 23 served in its original role as a training aircraft for the next generation of Estonian pilots. It was withdrawn from service in 1928. Below: Avro 504R “Gosport”; EADF Number 112: This Avro 504R “Gosport” initially served with the 9th Squadron of the EADF after delivery in 1930. It then served as a training aircraft with the EADF until the Soviet occupation and annexation of Estonia in August of 1940. EADF nr 112 was involved in a number of minor accidents/crashes - but none were severe enough to have it removed from active service as a trainer.

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AVRO 504

Right and photo: The RAF’s Avro 504K, s/n E.9467, was delivered to Estonia in 1919, and received the number 15 in the EADF on 2 September 1919. Estonia was one of the first nations in the world to establish an airmail service and postage stamps - and nr 15 was used to ferry airmail between Tallinn, Estonia, and Helsinki, Finland. The RAF serial number E.9467 was retained on the lower wing, until the aircraft was withdrawn from service in 1929/1930.


BETWEEN THE WARS

AGO C.VII AGO C.VII, EADF nr 35: Only one example of the AGO C.VII was ever constructed - and that one aircraft wound up in the EADF after World War I. On 3 October 1919, the German merchantman S/S “Stadt Memel” departed from Stettin, with two DFW C.Vs and one AGO C.VII aboard bound for Estonia. The latter was accepted as an operational aircraft on 4 October 1919, and was retired in 1929.

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In 1924, Estonia purchased a number of military aircraft from France, including the two SPAD C.VIIs depicted in this photograph. Estonia’s two SPADs were equipped with Chauviere propellers. They were both used as unarmed training aircraft, with number 78 being written off in 1925 after a crash.

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BETWEEN THE WARS

SPAD C.VII


BETWEEN THE WARS

NIEUPORT Right: Estonia’s Russian Dux-built Nieuport 17, c/n 1797, was numbered 46 in the EADF. She was obtained from the White Army of General Yudenitch, who was fighting the Soviets/ Bolsheviks in north-eastern Europe. On 6 July 1921, RAF Captain Claude Scudamore Emery, who was training new Estonian pilots, performed the first test flight of number 46. From then, until 1925, it was used as a training aircraft to teach Estonian pilots how to attack enemy aeroplanes and how to perform aerial dogfights.

Below: Nieuport 10; EADF Number 51: This aircraft was obtained from the Russian “Northern Army” (c/n 1501) and was added to the EADF roster on 7 July 1920. In very poor condition when obtained, it was nevertheless made airworthy by Estonian aviation mechanics by 10 June 1922. On 24 February 1923, Captain C. Emery, carried out a flypast over the Estonian Independence Day ceremonies and parade with this aircraft. It was withdrawn from service in 1925.

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Above: Estonia’s DH.9s, H.9153 and H.9133, both arrived in Tallinn, Estonia from Great Britain on 23 August 1919 aboard the Estonian steamer, “Kodumaa” (Homeland). H.9133 received the number 17 in the EADF. In late November 1919, and early 1920, number 17 participated in numerous combat and reconnaissance missions against the invading Bolshevik/Soviet armies during Estonia’s War of Independence. It was retired from active service in 1925. Left: Estonia’s DH.9, EADF number 71, had an interesting history. It was originally the Polish 26.15, before being purchased by Estonia in 1923. As Estonia was very cash-poor in those days, Poland accepted scrap metal deliveries as payment. Number 71 was painted in Polish Air Force colours throughout its career in Estonia, being withdrawn from active service in 1933.

Above: DH.9 D.660 Estonian number 30, crashed on landing following a flight from Helsinki to Tallinn carrying the first load of bank notes for the newly created Estonian Republic and was written off on 11 February 1920.

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BETWEEN THE WARS

DH.9


BETWEEN THE WARS

SEAPLANES

The EADF acquired eight Short 184 seaplanes in 1918. N.9134 Number 41, (above) was withdrawn from active service in 1925. RAF s/n N.9132, Estonia’s number 40, (right) was obtained from the Royal Navy in1920, and entered service with the EADF in 1921. It was one of the longest serving aircraft in the EADF, being finally written off on 2 November 1933 after a crash-landing at sea. The pilot and the observer clung on to a broken pontoon for 17 hours in the ice-cold waters of the Gulf of Finland, before being rescued. Friedrichshafen FF 41AT; EADF nr. 53/55: Throughout their occupation of Estonia in 1918, the German naval authorities based and stored a number of FF-41AT seaplanes along Estonia’s shorelines, but especially in hangars at Tallinn. After the German surrender on 11 November 1918, Estonian military officials quickly seized “Marine 997” from the Germans. Though in very derelict condition, the Estonians managed to refurbish the seaplane somewhat. Though technically assigned the number 1 in the EADF, long ongoing repairs caused it to be re-numbered as EADF 55. It was withdrawn from service in January of 1923.

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Above and right: Norman Thompson NT.2B; EADF Number 8: On 25 April 1919, two NT.2B seaplanes were delivered from the UK to Estonia aboard the steamer “Svanholm”; N.2286 and N.2287 respectively. These two seaplanes also served as training airplanes in the EADF, as they had previously with the RNAS. Number 8 was withdrawn from service in 1922.

Left and below: Grigorovich M -11; EADF Number 54: Numerous M -11 seaplane fighters served with the Imperial Russian forces in the Baltic Sea during the First World War. In early 1918, Russian Bolshevik troops abandoned one M -11 in Estonia, as German forces pushed the Bolsheviks further east. When the First World War ended, Estonians seized this one M -11 from the Germans, before they had chance to destroy it. Never in good mechanical and structural condition, it was withdrawn from service in 1928.

Above: Grigorovich-Shchetinin M -16; EADF Number 4: During the First World War, as well as the following Russian Civil War, a number of Grigorovich-Shchetinin M -16 seaplanes were based at the (old) “Brigitovka” (Pirita) Naval Air Station near Tallinn and Haapsalu in Estonia, as well as in Helsinki and Turku in Finland. In 1918, the Russians withdrew all surviving M -16’s to Helsinki, to prevent them from falling into German hands. Estonia purchased one of these M -16’s for 25.000 (Estonian) Marks in late 1918, and the aircraft was delivered to Estonia in early 1919. On 25 May 1919, it was involved in a crash, in close proximity to the British light cruiser “Caledon”. Only two pontoons survived the loss of the seaplane.

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SEAPLANES


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