Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

One for the Spitfire fans as another is saved

For such a small aviation museum run by volunteers, the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum punches above its weight, and is an impressive performer.

It’s a long time since I’ve been there, but I have watched its steady progress online.

Slightly irritatingly, I learned that before I made my visit I had regularly spent days within sight of the museum, but did not realise it was there. This was in the days when I used to (try to) fly RC helicopters, and attended annual fly-ins held on the old airfield runway.

Oh well…

The museum’s most recent success is the restoration of a World War II Spitfire that saw service in the Battle of Britain, but crashed during a training flight from Ayr in 1941, killing the Czech pilot.

The plane was finally salvaged from of Loch Doon in 1982, following a four-year search by divers after the museum’s founders commissioned the salvage project in 1977, not long after the museum opened.

This article covers the recovery operation: The Loch Doon Spitfire is Found

Since then, it has taken 35 years of work to restore the aircraft’s bodywork – although an expert (from Yorkshire) was able to restore the fuselage, it seems ill-health prevented further work, but the museum was able to raise fund to buy wings, and allow this part of the work to be completed.

However, there remains much to be done – while the exterior has been largely completed, the interior remains as the next stage of restoration.

Via: Loch Doon Spitfire goes on display in Dumfries

Longer story appeared later: Spitfire recovered from Loch Doon put on display

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540 – Pic via BBC News

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July 17, 2017 Posted by | Aviation, military, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

Angus Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee blocks Spitfire Way

Spitfire and pilotIt’s sometimes hard to follow the logic of some council decisions, and the rejection of a proposal to give an unnamed road in Montrose a memorable one is possibly one such example.

However, reading into the media articles issues on the matter, it would seem that while the finger is easily pointed at the council, the truth appears to be undue influence of Angus Council’s infrastructure services committee, and the Town Hall bureaucrats it empowers. Cue the jokes about committees, all of a sudden, not so funny. Notably, all four Montrose councillors,  David May, Bill Duff, Paul Valentine, and Mark Salmond, were in favour of naming the road Spitfire Way, as a tribute to the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre.

The town is home to the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, which has made great progress over the years and grown into a substantial museum and collection, with increasing numbers of visitors seeking to find it. And I use the word ‘seeking’ intentionally, as it was many years before I ventured into the centre. Located in an industrial estate formed from a collection of wartime buildings left behind after the original air station was abandoned the war, the centre is not prominently located to attract passing trade, or visible from the main road as it passes the estate at the north end of the town. There are signs on the road, but to be honest, they’re easy to miss and be past the road that leads down to the centre. I have to admit to having done this many times, and only made my first visit to the centre while attending a Classic Car event taking place on the adjacent shore-land.

See Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre. Britain’s first operational military airfield.

The local Montrose Review carried a brief item on the rejection:

Angus Council’s infrastructure services committee

However, when I had another look, I found a longer and more detailed story on the subject:

deadlinenews

The bureaucrats from the Town Hall claimed the reason was the cost of new signs, and objections from business on the road.

But it has been claimed the signs would only have cost £200, and while one business on the road did register an objection to the naming, at least three were in favour.

The Deadline article reports:

Peter Davies, secretary of the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, is particularly angry because the council asked them to come up with a name for the nearby road.

But after suggesting “Spitfire Way”, the SNP-controlled council’s infrastructure services committee rejected the idea, claiming businesses on the unnamed road would face “significant” costs such as new stationery.

Mr Davies said: “All it is is two signposts which would cost around £200, nothing more. No-one has objected except one business. Everyone thinks it’s a bloody farce – they’re talking about it in the town. I have never heard such nonsense that if an unnamed road has a new name it needs a new postcode.

He joked: “There are some people who think the council wants to call it Alex Salmond Way. I wouldn’t say there’s a political motive but it does make you wonder.”

The museum’s membership secretary Neil Wernick said: “As a group we think they’re potty!”

Terry Beedie, manager of Howden Joinery in the estate, was one of at three firms to back the plan.

He said: “There’s not any cost to us. I’m a local guy born and bred and it would be great to have a bit of nostalgia. The council has never contacted us. It’s just red tape getting in the way as is so often the case.”

And a spokesman from Royal British Legion Scotland joined in the criticism, saying:

“It is unfortunate that Angus Council feel unable to consider renaming the street outside Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre as Spitfire Way,” he said.

“The site is of considerable historical significance as the UK’s first airfield and it seems regrettable that cost appears to be the obstacle. The Royal British Legion Scotland hopes that a way can be found around this either now or in the near future.”

Independent councillor for Carnoustie on the committee, Brian Boyd, said he was uneasy about the scheme because of the council’s need for cutbacks. He said:

When times are hard we shouldn’t be burdening companies with extra costs, and there are also financial implications for the council through the time of officials. I just feel we’ve got more to worry about and I don’t think we should go ahead with this.”

Granted, the figure of £200 quoted above is probably considerably less than it would actually cost the council to install the road signs, I doubt it would cover the materials and takes no account of the labour, but on the other hand, I doubt the council is so poor it cannot afford to install these signs purely on a financial basis, especially as the street name would attract tourists, and the Scottish Government did ask that everyone do what they can to pick an additional 50% from tourist pockets by 2015: Has “50% by 2015″ been forgotten and forsaken?

If nothing else, I’d say they are missing (another) trick here.

Other Spitfire roads

For what it’s worth, a quick search found two streets (in England) named after the Spitfire, and I might add that you will find other roads in Scotland named after wartime aircraft. Have a look at the area around Prestwick Airport, for example.

00042UTBBU000 | Street Record | Street Record Spitfire Road Norwich Norwich City Council

0012X8NZBU000 | Street Record | Street Record Spitfire Way Hawkinge Kent

 

June 26, 2013 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, council, World War II | , , | Leave a comment

Surprising connection to PLUTO revealed in Inverness

I still find that some of the items which come to light about World War II arrive as something of a surprise, especially when they tie together subjects which show just how widespread some activities were. Here we have a building/business in Inverness, which played a vital part in Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of France scheduled for June 6, 1944, D-Day.

Essential for this success of this invasion plan was PLUTO (not Pluto, which is a planet), the PipeLine Under The Ocean. PLUTO was vital, as the D-Day landings could easily have stalled and come to a dead stop had there been no fuel for the vehicles involved. Without it, a massive shipping operation would have been needed in order maintain fuel supplies, supplemented by any supplies which could have been captured on the other side of the Channel – a need the German forces would surely have thwarted, as they would sooner have destroyed what scant reserves they had by then, rather than allow them to be captured. Reliable and continuous fuel supplies were fundamental and essential.

The pipeline would stretch across the English Channel, and be almost 80 miles long. And, it was not a single pipeline, with some 20 ultimately be laid across the Channel. Two different designs – a flexible type for the ends, and a less flexible steel type for the central section – were laid while the Allies were advancing towards Germany.

Clyde tests

Test were carried out in the Firth of Clyde (it really was a busy place during the war), when sections of pipe were laid by the Post Office cable ship Iris during 1942. These tests proved invaluable, as they showed that the pipes had to be pressurised,  not only during laying, but also during manufacture (at 7 bar or 100 psi). Additionally, the Clyde test showed that none of the existing cable-laying ship ships were large enough or powerful enough to handle the PLUTO pipeline. Merchant ships were quickly stripped out and converted to handle the job, using specially designed gear to handle the massive pipeline.

On the south coast of England, pumping station feeding the pipeline were disguised to look like ordinary cottages, garages, and shops. And even ice-cream parlours.

In order to feed the pipeline, more than 1,000 miles of pipeline were constructed to connect ports to the pumping stations. This was all constructed during the night, to avoid detection on photographs taken by German aerial reconnaissance patrols.

In terms of numbers, January 1945 saw 300 tons of fuel being pumped to France per day, increasing to 3,000 tons per day by March, and reaching a peak of 4,000 tons (almost 1,000,000 Imperial gallons) per day. By VE day, a total of more than 781,000 m³ (equivalent to a cube with sides more than 92 metres or 300 feet  long), 0r over 172 million imperial gallons of fuel had been pumped to the Allied forces in Europe.

Inverness welders

So, where did Inverness figure in all this?

Welders in Inverness worked on the fuel pipeline that eventually supported the D-Day landings and subsequent advance towards Germany.

It has just been reported that attempts to secure funding for the renovation of the former AI Welders premises in Academy Street, Inverness, were unsuccessful.

It seems that the factory also made parts for Spitfires, and welded  the hubs into which carried the propeller blades.

Workers also made parts for the Pipe Line Under The Sea, also known as Operation Pluto.

The operation involved laying pipelines in the English Channel to supply fuel from pumping stations on mainland England and the Isle of Wight to stores on France.

Delivering fuel by ship was deemed too risky. Allied commanders feared the vessels would be sunk by German submarines and aircraft.

There were also concerns the ships would get in the way of other Allied shipping.

Many of the pumping stations were disguised in an effort to prevent the sites being attacked. One station was built to look like an ice cream shop and another as a fisherman’s cottage.

Unsuccessful bid for funds to restore Inverness building

The AI Welding building

It took me a while to track down the actual building this story referred to, as the factory referred to began life as the offices of the Rose Street Foundry.

AI Welding is no more, and the building, or the ground floor at least, became Deeno’s – described as “Sport’s Bar”, or more likely a pub for football supporters. If the online stories are anything to go by, a place to steer well clear of, or it would be, had it not closed some years ago.

Fortunately, someone has shared pics, so we can see the building, and the surviving detail on the fascia, dating from its original life as part of the Rose Street Foundry. Originally a series of three murals decorated the upper fascia, but now only two survive. The one on to the left was already obscured when the building was photographed in 1988, so this is not a recent loss. Although it was not recorded, it seems to have at least some features visible in the pictures seen here, which date from 2011. In the 1998 picture, it was blank, having apparently been painted over. The two remaining mural are in reasonable condition, given that this building dates from 1894:

There’s little to be seen of the mural on the left, but the centre and right hand side items can still be seen and photographed:

Although I have referred to them as AI Welding’s mural, this is purely in the context of this article about the wartime use of the building, as the mural subject clearly relate to the work of the Rose Street Foundry.

May 18, 2013 Posted by | Transport, World War II | , , , , | 2 Comments

Memorial service in Glen Nevis for Canadian Spitfire pilot

Spitfire and pilotNews of another memorial service related to a Spitfire, this time for a young (21) Canadian pilot who lost his life on May 16, 1943, while returning to RAF Fraserburgh after a photographic reconnaissance mission over the west of Scotland.

Flying Officer John McDonell, from Smithers in north west British Columbia, was a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot flying with the RAF.

He died while flying in low cloud, when his aircraft struck Meall an t-Suidhe, a hill near Ben Nevis.

The memorial service will take place  in Glen, on May 16, 2013, with members of the RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team in attendance.

Via Spitfire pilot’s death in the Highlands to be marked

 

May 10, 2013 Posted by | World War II | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unveiling of Grangemouth Spitfire memorial promised for May 9, 2013

Spitfire and pilotOne of the items we latched on to some time ago (as in 5 years ago), was the arrival of a full size replica Spitfire in Grangemouth, due to be erected on the site where RAF Grangemouth had operated during World War II.

This was way back on Saturday,  September 13, 2008, when the unveiling of the replica was set to coincide with the opening of a memorial garden dedicated to those from the airfield who had died during the conflict. At the time, the unveiling was to take advantage of the Leuchars Airshow, (taking place on the same day) when the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight – Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire – would carry out a flypast at the unveiling, in tribute to air cadets killed while training at Grangemouth, and remembering the contribution of the hundreds of Polish pilots who developed their skills there as members of 58 Operational Training Unit (OTU).

The full-size replica Spitfire is described as an exact copy of the aircraft flown by 58 OTU Sergeant, killed in 1941 when his Spitfire came down in Avondale Estate in nearby Polmont. The replica will bear the distinctive markings and colours of the Polish 303 Squadron, which was the highest scoring foreign squadron in the Battle of Britain.

Unveiling ceremony 2013

At the start of April 2013, there was news that the replica had been joined to its wings, and the Grangemouth memorial would finally be unveiled on Thursday, May 9, 2013:

Every Remembrance Day Air Training Corps cadets from Grangemouth lay wooden crosses and poppies on the graves of Spitfire pilots and other air crew who died while flying with 58 Operational Training Unit.

Chairman of the Grangemouth Spitfire Memorial Trust Iain Mitchell said: “It’s fantastic what’s been achieved. The cadets managed to raise the money to crate the base for the Spitfire.

“She will really be going home again, I suppose you could say.”

The Spitfire is to be installed on Bo’ness Road, near what remains of the airfield.

Via WWII Spitfire memorial gets its wings at RAF Grangemouth

Ceremony completed on schedule

Thanks to one of commenters, Colin, we can confirm that the ceremony was successfully completed on the day:

The Spitfire was unveiled by cadets of 1333 (Grangemouth) Squadron Air Training Corps during a very impressive ceremony today, with representatives from Australia, Poland Defence Forces, Lord Lieutenant of Stirlingshire,  Provost of Falkirk District, the Central Band of The Royal Air Force, and the Queen’s Colour Squadron RAF.

In the news later:

The idea for the memorial came from cadets in the 1333 (Grangemouth Spitfire) Squadron Air Training Corps. It cost £100,000 which was raised through campaigns led by the Grangemouth Spitfire Memorial Trust.

Chairman Iain Mitchell said: “The young men who trained at Grangemouth were among the bravest the world has ever seen, and it is a huge honour for us to be in a position to commemorate their sacrifice with this stunning memorial. It’s the first of its kind in Scotland and we can’t wait to share it with everyone.

“This project has been five years in the making for us. Ever since the memorial wall went up in 2008 we’ve been trying to raise the funds to have the replica put up so to see it finally happen is a proud moment for all involved.

“The effort the cadets have put into this has been astonishing. This would not have been possible without them.”

The memorial aircraft is a replica of a Spitfire flown by 23-year-old Polish Sergeant Pilot Eugeniusz Lukomski who crashed and died in the Avondale estate in Polmont during a training flight in November 1941.

Via Grangemouth unveils Spitfire memorial to 71 pilots killed in WWII | Dundee & Tayside | News | STV

Supermarine Spitfire Mark 1 was unveiled by 100-year-old former aircraft mechanic John “Dinger” Bell in a public garden in Grangemouth, close to the site of a former RAF airfield.

Via Spitfire replica tribute unveiled in Grangemouth – Heritage – Scotsman.com

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Aviation, World War II | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Info sought on Seafire trials on the Clyde

I don’t have any details on the pic below, other than the note that came with it asking if we had any more info, and saying that it was of a Supermarine Seafire landing on HMS Illustrious while taking part in trial on the Clyde during World War II.

The Seafire (a shortened version of the name Sea Spitfire) was a version of the Spitfire which was modified in various ways to make suitable for use at sea and on carriers.

Most notable of the changes were folding wings to allow the aircraft to be stowed, and an arrester hook to assist with deck landings.

From what I’ve read to date (and that is little) it seems that the creation of Seafire was not the best idea someone had ever had. While the idea of a short-range interceptor was a great idea on land, the very elements that made it so were a liability at sea, and many of the developments made to the Seafire were based on overcoming those problems. Short range, limited weapons load, and short endurance are significant disadvantages at sea, but easily dealt with on land. The Spitfire was a tail-dragger (as opposed to having a tricycle undercarriage), which made it hard to land at low speeds on deck, as such aircraft want to glide on and on forever – the configuration also resulted in restricted forward visibility for the pilot (many would open the cockpit and look out of the side to get an idea of where they were, there simply being no forward vision when taxiing. You can in fact see this problem clearly illustrated in the photograph below. The narrowness of the original undercarriage did not help stability, and it seems the engine was so powerful that the draft made the aircraft swerve on deck, even with full opposite rudder applied to counteract such adverse yaw effects arising from the engine.

But it was war, and such aircraft were needed at sea to help defend against enemy aircraft, so even with its problems, the Seafire still had a job to do while specialised aircraft were being developed for the job.

I can vouch for all the landing problems with a tail dragger, after ‘learning’ to fly in Flight Simulator (always in full realism mode and with all the toys/aids turned off). When you are used to seeing the runway ahead at all times, and to landing with a flare, coming down in my first tail dragger was a nightmare. The runway disappeared from view as the angle of attack rose to as the airspeed fell, and the very first time I tried this exercise I thought I was never going to touch down as the glide just carried on and on and on, seemingly forever (you end up in ground effect, a phenomenon that acts to reduces the aircraft’s stall speed, extending the glide yet further, particularly in low wings), until I rotated the aircraft slightly and killed the lift and set it on the ground. Anyone who could bring a Seafire down onto an aircraft carrier and catch the arrester wires had to be an expert. It seems that many failed – coming too fast. If they were lucky, they missed and could go around for another try. If not, they would catch the wire… and ended up tearing the tail off the aircraft.

It looks like a subject worth reading into.

However, our interest is more in the local events that may have taken place on the Clyde while trials were carried out on the Seafire.

If anyone has pointers to where further information, and maybe even some more pictures may be found, we’d be grateful to hear of them.

It’s just occurred to me that there was a DLT (deck landing training) school at HMS Condor, the FAA (Fleet Air Arm) Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Arbroath, which would probably have been in involved in some of the early training. At such schools, deck landings could be practised in relatively safe circumstances, using land based decks created on the runway. Pilots might still have accidents while trying to catch the arrester wire, but at least would not end up in the sea as a result.

With no features to give the location away, this picture could be almost anywhere, but according to the info that came with it, it is a HMS Illustrious carrying out Seafire trials on the Clyde:

Seafire Clyde trials

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Aviation, Maritime, Naval, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

Memorial for pilot who shot down first enemy bomber

Spitfire and pilotA number of historic ‘firsts’ relating to World War II took place on October 16, 1939.

It was the date of the first German air raid to take place in British air space, when Luftwaffe bombers targeted ships of the Royal Navy anchored in the Firth of Forth.

It was also the date of the first shooting down of an enemy aircraft, when one of the bombers was brought down near Prestonpans, East Lothian.

On that day, Flight Lieutenant Patrick Gifford, a lawyer and councillor from Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway, was one of a number of Spitfire pilots who engaged a flight of Junkers Ju-88 bombers, and was credited with shooting down the first enemy aircraft of the war. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and was promoted to Squadron Leader for his efforts.

A few months later, he lost his life when he was shot down while flying a Hurricane over Belgium, on May 16, 1940. Unfortunately, his body was never found and he has no known grave.

On Sunday, May16, 2010, a memorial plaque will be unveiled in his home town of Castle Douglas, on the 70th anniversary of his death.

A biography of Mr Gifford was also published this week, in memory of his action.

The BBC recalled the event earlier this year: BBC NEWS | Scotland | South of Scotland | The lawyer who shot down bombers

This web site also included a number of accounts related to the raid in the Firth of Forth: Jack Steele, HMS Mohawk, 1st Air Raid of World War II

May 15, 2010 Posted by | Aviation, military, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

Full size model Spifire lands in Moffat

Edinburgh Airport Spitfire © Simon Johnston

Edinburgh Airport Spitfire © Simon Johnston

Not the most common of sights in someone’s front garden, a full size model of a Spitfire has been constructed in the front garden of former GP Hamish MacLeod at his home in Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway. The model was completed last week, with the help of friends. (That’s not his model in the pic, just an example from RAF Turnhouse, now Edinburgh Airport).

Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding was born in the town of Moffat, and is credited with masterminding the Battle of Britain through the summer of 1940, when Fighter Command resisted the attacks of the Luftwaffe, and thwarted Germany’s attempt to gain air superiority over Britain.

Every year, a special service which includes a Spitfire flypast, is held in his honour.

Dr MacLeod plans to leave the model to the town of Moffat, and hopes the replica can be sited at Dowding’s House in the town’s Well Street, where a memorial with plaque was erected to Dowding .

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Aviation, World War II | , , , , | 1 Comment

Spitfire memorial for RAF Grangemouth

Taking advantage of the Leuchars Airshow, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight – Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire -will carry out a flypast on Saturday 13th at the unveiling of a full-sized replica of a Mark 1 Spitfire which has been installed in tribute to air cadets killed while training at Grangemouth’s former RAF base, RAF Grangemouth, and remembers the contribution of the hundreds of Polish pilots who developed their skills there as members of 58 Operational Training Unit (OTU), during World War II. By the end of 1939, RAF Grangemouth was used solely as a Battle of Britain satellite airbase, strategically vital for the protection of the Forth Bridge and Rosyth Docks, where many of the Royal Navy fleet were based or repaired.

The full-size replica Spitfire being unveiled is an exact copy of an aircraft flown by 58 OTU Sergeant Eugeniusz Tadensy Lukomski, killed in 1941 when his Spitfire came down in Avondale Estate in nearby Polmont. The replica will bear the distinctive markings and colours of the Polish 303 Squadron, which was the highest scoring foreign squadron in the Battle of Britain.

The event also marks the opening of a memorial garden to those who died, and is located on ground granted on the perimeter of the original airfield, and has a wall featuring the names of each of the Polish fighter pilots who died at Grangemouth.

The commemoration has been organised by the 1333 (Grangemouth) Squadron of the Air Training Corps who began a campaign to trace the former cadet’s families in 2006.

Update

The original article above contained the following note:

Sadly, it seems that many who test flew the planes were killed during training as a direct result of the poor condition of the aircraft, which had been so badly shot up, but had to be used since new aircraft had to be sent straight into action to replace losses in battle.

This was based on material published by The BBC and the The Scotsman online, both of which contained the statement “Many of these planes had been badly shot up, one of the reasons that so many were killed in training accidents, and which both attributed the statement to Flying Officer Tom McMorrow, commanding officer of the 1333 (Grangemouth) Squadron of the Air Training Corps.

Further to correspondence and research detailed below, we are pleased to report that this statement was incorrectly attributed by those sources, as follows:

I have now received an official explanation! It appears that the C.O. Grangemouth A.T.C. in an interview quoted an extract from a book relating to accidents at another airfield flying elderly Blenheim Bombers. This is the basis of the story, He states that at no time was Grangemouth and its Spitfires implicated. Regretably this erronious version still is circulating on the Web. I received also a fulsome apology for the frustration felt by myself and ex-collegues relating as it did to our wartime service.

A. Paterson.

Secret testing at Grangemouth

Doing a little background reading, I found a report that the base had also been used for secret operations involving the spraying of gas, using Lysanders of 614 Squadron. The whole area around the base became a restricted area due to the stockpiles of mustard gas and the secrecy of the missions carried out. The restricted area took in the nearby town and the docks, and special passes were issued to all residents.

Although the name suggests mustard gas is the harmful component, it is in fact a liquid which can be dispersed as an aerosol, and persists where it lands, denying access to an area, and remaining dangerous for some some, being absorbed through the skin if picked up directly or on clothing, and not displaying any significant symptoms for some hours, by which time it is generally too late for effective treatment to be administered.

Employed during World Wars I and II, mustard agents are now regulated under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Three classes of chemicals are monitored under this Convention, with sulfur and nitrogen mustard grouped in Schedule 1, as substances with no use other than chemical warfare.

September 13, 2008 Posted by | Aviation, World War II | , , , , | 36 Comments

   

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