Why is OUR NATIONAL LIBRARY (!!!) using peculiarly American spelling? Has the Museum's staff been overrun by expat Americans who insist on using THEIR spelling at our expense? I just KNEW it would come to this! David D
So far as I know, the history of this Catalina is fairly well known in a general sense (including its adventures when it was hi-jacked during early service with Cathay Pacific), but due to the length of time it spent in PNG as a firefighting practice hulk, and the fact that it had been grounded for years, I doubt that any official paperwork on its earlier history was in existence by this time. It was of course originally a USAAF OA-10A from memory (amphibian) but was later modified (in Australian service) to a pure flying boat, although some of the structural members from its amphibian days could still be seen if you looked carefully at the lines of rivets around about the location of the mainwheels (visible in published photos of it in PNG after fire damage). I have never seen any details of its military service with the USAAF, although I believe it was a fairly late production model. Incidentally these remnant structural members were completely deleted during the re-skinning process at Base Auckland. In case of doubt, the Museum is lucky enough to have Smokey Dawson on its staff these days. Simon keeps a watching brief on this website so he may be able to put me right if I have erred in any way in this brief summary. David D
Harking back to the comments re the wood-burning stove in the Li-2 (is that REALLY a true story? However one does hear of such things occurring in postwar railway carriages in India (and occasionally in civil airliners in same country, including Viscounts, although usually smartly stamped out by cabin crew!), the original DC-3 and C-47 had (believe it or not) a STEAM-powered heating system installed as standard equipment from fairly early in its history until well into WW2 (1944). This remarkable device, which relied on a small boiler heated by the engine exhaust system, was not exactly praised for its reliability, and was subsequently removed for post-war civilian usage in temperate climates. I think a less controversial and more conventional hot air system was introduced in later C-47s, and was common postwar on routes that requited such a device.
Tom Ramsay was a longtime guide at the RNZAF Museum. Grew up in Akaroa, where his father was a passenger bus operator on the route to Christchurch. Tom trained in NZ on Tiger Moths, thence to Canada in March 1942, where he completed his pilot training (at 7 SFTS) as multi-engine pilot at the end of July 1942. He then completed a flying instructor course (2 FIS) and subsequently served as instructor with an Oxford-equipped (RAF) SFTS from about Oct 1942. He converted to the Mosquito in Canada with 36 OTU (where he convinced the resident engineer officer that the Packard Merlin was NOT immune to icing up in flight, and also proved that his legs were too short to fully control the Canadian trainer version of the Mosquito on take off and landing, inadequate horizontal adjustment available for pupil's seat), and then moved to the UK in late March 1944. He completed his Mosquito operational training with 60 OTU between June and August 1944 (presumably also crewing up with his Navigator (W) at this time), and was posted to 23 Sqdn (RAF) for his one and only operational tour of duty August 1944 to end of Feb 1945. Subsequently he was posted to 54 OTU (almost certainly as an instructor for pilots under conversion). He returned to NZ in early August 1945, and to the reserve in early November. Tom reckoned the most unusual sights he saw in WW2 was a V-1 being launched from an He 111, and a V-2 launching in Holland, both seen from low altitude in his Mosquito and at night (but on different occasions). However he did not realize what he was looking at for some time, and only pieced it all together with hindsight. The V-2 took off right in front of Tom and his Nav (W) before disappearing through a layer of cloud. Tom also featured in a high speed crash landing in the UK after being hit by flak and loosing quite a chunk from one wing (some hasty experiments with minimum control speed provided information that the aircraft almost went out of control at about 130/140 MPH, which occasioned choice of aerodrome and the high speed approach). Luckily the aircraft remained controllable and it slithered to a halt after a very long slide on its belly (it was a write off). Tom was a classic extremely pleasant, helpful and unassuming gentleman to boot. David D
Many thanks for refreshing my memory (such as it is!) on these two accidents. I thought that thee was something about the Dunn crash to do with the tow rope which I could not clearly recall. Bit of a coincidence that Skylark 3F GCB (wondered what happened to that one! - it was overall white with red registration letters) was also one of Fred Dunn's "babies" (he assembled it, note the c/n prefix). David D
NZ2032 was definitely an aircraft of 2 (GR) Squadron, delivered to Nelson 11/1/42 ex Whenuapai coded UH-B (although the "UH" unit was not painted on in the early days, just the single aircraft letter). Also clearly visible in the film is 2014 "W" (letter applied in a very strange style, guess they had no professional sign writers on strength at this time, just amateurs). Exact period of history would probably be late 1941/early 1942 - looks like summer, with all the khaki drill on parade. Also the style of roundel is the original ones applied at factory - Type A1, etc, although note lack of roundels under mainplanes, a peculiarity insisted on by the Air Ministry at the time, although they never did explain to the RNZAF why this should be so! Should not be too hard to look for "Bonds for Bombers" advertising in papers for this period, to see if it pops up.
Initial Hudsons delivered to the squadron from the pre-Pearl harbour deliveries were NZ2007, 08, 09, 10, 11, 14 (first Hudson delivered to Nelson, 28/9/41), 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 36. NZ2017 (turretless) arrived Nelson 13/3/42, a swap for turret-equipped NZ2008 with 4 Sqdn in Fiji. Later arrivals (May - July 1942) were 2046, 47, 48, 66. 67, 68, 69, 75, with 2083 and 89 arriving Sept 1942, ex 3 Sqdn. Maximum strength at any time with this squadron was 18 Hudsons, plus 4 Oxfords(although up to nine Oxfords were stored at Nelson as a reserve from July to October 1942). Also interesting to glimpse (approx. 1.16 - 1.25) the highly secret radar antennae located on the fuselage sides - seems to have slipped right by the censor! And note that proper depth charges seem to be absent in New Zealand at this time - just standard 250 pound GPs in use. The primitive style of bomb loading is also noteworthy - manpower all the way.
Having spent many Christmas holidays in Stoke (near the airfield) in mid 50s to early 60s, that looks mighty like the rugged and steep hills of Nelson in background to me! David D
Wow, seems to have been a very lucky escape from death there! How common are structural failures in gliders in New Zealand? Thought they would by pretty rare, but can think of the Fred Dunn (with an "e"?) crash in a Slingsby Dart 17R in about 1967 at Christchurch (some sort of fault, cannot recall details) and another one in late 70s/early 80s flying from Omarama after being caught in severe turbulence (rota, spelling?) during a cross country. Pilot baled out but killed after landing (in St Bathan range?) due to being dragged about through rocks before he could release his 'chute, name Andy something, an engineer with Air NZ at Harewood. Me and a friend were camping next to him in a nearby camping ground - all I can remember was the sight of his poor little Austin A35 sitting waiting patiently next to his tent for its master to return! A very unusual and sad incident. David D
The serial number of the Walrus in your list has a superfluous digit Dave, think it should read K5774 only. Also did not see any Whitney Straights, think that was the Percival Gull alluded to by Errol M in the summary. David D
NZ1159 Philip Kenning Fowler, born 10th June 1896. Served with RNAS 30/4/16 - 31/3/18, RAF from 1/4/18. NZAF (Territorial) 4/6/23 - 29/3/32, then Wing HQ (Territorial) 30/3/32 - 14/9/38, Retired List 15/9/38 - 16/9/40, Wigram 17/9 - 23/10/40, appointed CGI (Chief Ground Instructor) @ Ohakea 24/10/40 - 15/3/42, then OC RTS (Recruit School School) Harewood 16/3 - 14/7/42. Appointed CO, Auckland Wing, Air Training Corp 15/7/42, appointed CO, Air Training Corp Auckland Wing 27/9/43, appointed Commandant Air Training Corps HQ, ATC Wellington 13/4/44; Transferred to Reserve Class B Section I 6/3/45. Ranks, etc, were Flight Sub Lt 30/4/16, F/L 1/10/17, to RAF as Captain 1/4/18, to NZAF (T) as Captain 14/6/23, to S/L 8/8/30. Re-employed as F/L (Honorary S/L) from 14/9/40 in A&SD Branch, to S?L 1/11/41, to Acting W/C 13/4/44, to W/C 6/3/45 (on transfer to Reserve). David D
Ah, I think we are getting closer to the truth now Dave; having excellent quality b&w photos of the "sharp end" of aeroplanes is a big help in deciphering these mysteries - I don't have a lot of such photographs as a reliable reference, so these pictures are a big help. Seems that varnished wooden hubs were all the rage for a while, but blades were, in most cases, fabriced and doped/painted, almost invariably with brass reinforced leading edges, and rear faces of most props (at least on single-seat aircraft) were painted matt black. Would be interesting to see rear faces of props on Singapore IIIs and other multi-engine RAF types of thirties. Not many multi-engine monoplanes in RAF at that time, practically all biplanes such as Vickers Virginia and HP Heyford night bombers, and the large Vickers troop carriers, plus several types of large flying boats, with the Boulton Paul Sidestrand and Overstrand day bombers being unusual. Only multi-engine monoplane during this period would have been the "Fairey Night Bomber", later known as the Hendon. The "night bombers" were invariably finished in overall "Nivo" (dark green) finish, so possibly had their props finished in something like this colour, or black. If certain types of props were applicable to both single and multi-engine aircraft it would probably have been sensible to paint all rear faces of blades black. David D
The June 1944 "shot" of NZ4616 was just one of a series taken whilst operating from Whenuapai, could have been up to a dozen or more exposures including some taken as the aircraft banked away. The aircraft was a brand new one, so its finish was fairly immaculate at the time. David D
Harking back to the question of propeller colouration, decided to do a quick survey of photographs of RAF aircraft of the 1920s and 30s, and would you believe it, I will now have to try and explain that my general conclusions in previous posts will need some serious rectification! The black propeller fetish indulged in by the RAF from about 1937 onwards really did happen, but prior to that it seems that the policy (if there was one) was somewhat more complex. Again I will not touch on the situation in WW1, but certainly in the 1920s and 30s, black was NOT the predominant colour for propellers at all; rather it looks as though something like light grey was the thing in most cases, but with the rear face sprayed with black paint (presumably to reduce reflection from a following sun annoying the pilot). Our original Vildebeests were almost certainly equipped with propellers with this type of finish. Also found a photo of a (RAF) Singapore III which seemed to have WHITE finished props, although this did not seem typical for this type of aircraft and may have been a one-off for some special occasion. The all-metal Fairey-Reed propeller was quite widely used on RAF aircraft from the early 30s onwards, particularly on Gordons and other Fairey aircraft (no surprises there), and also on a lot of seaplanes, and these were usually left in their natural bare glory apart from having black-painted rear faces. Some aircraft had wooden propellers with a dark painted hub portion but with lighter coloured blades, and a few had all-dark coloured blades, so there seems to have been a somewhat complex policy for prop colouring, or perhaps no policy at all, but with the propeller manufacturers patenting their own finish specifications and having the Air Ministry approve them for service and/or civil use. However I could find no obvious evidence that clear varnished wooden props were ever used by the RAF, but this does not prove that there were not any in use. For instance, how were the props on Hawker Tomtits finished on delivery to the RAF, or the NZPAF for that matter? A propeller finishing policy would have to include special provision for those fitted to marine aircraft, and another for those for aircraft operated in extremely hot climates. Wooden items were of course very vulnerable to the effects of higher temperatures, and even spares kept in covered accommodation were prone to warping, which would render them unusable. David D
Yep, it is a fake all right, although I was not aware of this one before. Funnily enough the RNZAF itself did actually take an almost identical view of one of its own PV-1s in about June 1944, NZ4616 from memory, and it was a beauty too! However we do not know the identity of the photographer. Would have been funny had it been Leo himself. David D
I think that the outer protective fabric covering on many older British wooden propellers which survived the war and ended up in public or private collections, after deteriorating over the years, have been stripped back to the wood and brass, and then re-varnished. They definitely look good, but is it authentic? Look for photographs of all the early wooden props on prewar (and wartime) RAF (and Commonwealth air forces) aircraft and try to find one with a varnished finish revealing the laminations, and not black! Include prop blades on wartime aircraft which had proprietary wooden blades (on metal hub, such as Rotol), as fitted on Hurricane, Spitfire, Halifax, Wellington, etc. Pretty well without exception, these will be black, with mandatory yellow tips. Sometimes company-owned prototypes of military aircraft retained for trials could be fitted with non-standard civil finishes, such as light grey or silver. World War one aircraft had varied finishes (I have only seen a few of these), so I will that particular subject to the experts! Incidentally, also shown well in the Vincent photograph is the high-gloss finish of the metal parts, and particularly the spats. Seems incongruous for military aircraft, but there it is. IN fact these were not painted items, it was the patented anodisation process (ant-corrosion) employed by Vickers on these aircraft. Of course the original Harvard IIs delivered to the RNZAF in 1941 had an overall glossy finish too, but that was simply paint. Probably chosen on premise that as these were only training aircraft on the other side of the world from hostilities, then gloss was better for many reasons, mostly durability. David D
Just checked Dave, photo is printed in reverse, code is YH (21 Sqdn RAF, first squadron to operate the original Ventura model in RAF), noticed the individual letter code of foreground aircraft (as repeated on nose) was back-to-front, so realized what the problem was! David D
Education trips were few and far between when I attended a tiny school on Banks Peninsula in the late 1950s/early 60s (in fact I only recall one, in which a few local parents took us to Christchurch to see the Queen Mother being driven around Lancaster Park in a very shiny Landrover in 1958. However I think this was more a "British Empire" thing than being concerned with learning about local industries or the wielding of political power and the operation of democracy. However I well remember our only other trip, which occurred in 1964 when I attended Hoon Hay School in Christchurch for a year, I still have the itinerary for this trip, which was a visit to the NZ Capital, with a return voyage there and back (both at night) by the USS Coy's MAORI from memory, a great adventure. I do remember that we visited Parliament (although nothing much going on there, but we were given brief explanations as to how it was all supposed to work), and a visit to Wellington Zoo, where I took some of my first photographs, including the local pelican, as well as the large head of a very inquisitive emu, who seemed to find camera lenses very interesting. Also a visit to the weather station well up on a hilltop (name escapes me, but was a very important place at the time, stated with letter K?) I think we also visited the Wellington Railway Station which was considered to be a bit of an architectural marvel, and it did indeed impress us all. Will have to dig out this old stuff sometime. However the main point is that I had never heard of airports ever being considered of any interest to the general public, not being worthy of serious study. Of course some kids by that time were being taken (usually by Dad) to local airports or even topdressing strips to see aircraft in action, and thousands were visiting their local airport anyway as just a part of normal life, picking up and depositing relatives from other parts of the country, much like bus stations or seaports. And the airports at that time often went to the trouble of providing viewing areas for visitors to "watch the action" as well as waving to arriving or departing relatives. Those were the days! David D
Those Canberras appear to be turning over a "drowned" volcano, so must have been a fairly well known (and spectacular) feature near Kong Kong, then and now. Does anybody know what its name was? David D
Very impressive Dave. However I have one suggestion to make re colours. The wooden propellers of British aircraft by this time (and probably since the end of WW1, if not earlier) were invariable finished with a fabric covering, and then sprayed with protective dope or special paint, with later ones having a type of tough plastic finish. Thin brass sheet was used for reinforcing leading edges of course, secured by counter-sunk brass screws. Clear varnished wooden props on British aircraft, in my opinion, were probably quite rare, although I must admit that I have not made much of a study of civilian aircraft of the inter-war period. Actual colouring of the fabric covered props for service aircraft was frequently semi-gloss black (thinking here of Tiger Moths, Oxfords, Vincents, Walrus, early Spitfires and Hurricanes), but other, lighter colours MAY have been used. However clear coats of varnish attempting to protect the integrity of the props and revealing the wooden laminates is a thing more often seen these days on vintage aircraft. I think this clear-finishing using various materials was also a feature of some very early propellers too. As usual, further comments from the really knowledgeable are very welcome. David D