Lesser Known Bits and Pieces
Send us your jewels via the Helpdesk. We will acknowledge you by your first name unless you request otherwise
1944-09-05 RAAF PILOT HAS THRILLING EXPERIENCE AND LANDS SANS TROUSERS
Somewhere in Burma.....
It is most embarrassing walking abroad, even in the jungle, minus trousers and boots, clad only in a short shirt.
A sense of humour helps a little, but not very much in this situation. Flight-Lieut. C. A. Crombie, DSO DFC, isn't a talking man. Before the war, he owned a sheep station outside Warwick (Queensland, Australia), and intends to return to the quiet open spaces, at the earliest opportunity, after Japan has cried enough.
A Beaufighter patrol was stooging along, far above the steaming heat of the Burma jungle. There were a few clouds about. It was very peaceful. Too peaceful indeed. Suddenly, four Jap 'Bettys' — Navy twin-engined machines — appeared out of the blue. The ''Beau' pilot took notice but the Nips, at least, for the time being, were the quickest on the trigger. In less time than it takes to relate, the Beaufighter had its port-wing blazing.
The flames spread and the observer baled out. The odds were not according to Queensbury rules, but the fact that his kite had been set alight, incensed the pilot. His blood was up. The fire was spreading rapidly towards the petrol tanks and the plane was about to explode, at any moment. The Nips did not realise what was in store for them.
The Beau pilot whipped the kite into position, and with his cannon and machine-gun blazing, three of the four bombers were blown out of the sky, within 45 seconds. About this time, the flames had spread, completely enveloping the Beaufighter. They lapped into the cocikpit. Suddenly, the port wing exploded, as the flames touched off the petrol tanks.
The pilot was not a very slow thinker, by any means, and he realised it was time to take to the 'silk.' He abandoned the kite, at 12,000 feet, as it disintegrated about him. Five minutes isn't very long, dangling in parachute harness but with a 'hot seat' it's half a life-time. The pilot's trousers and boots, were ablaze. Resourcefulness was still his. He had five minutes, and in that time, he plucked from his scorching hide the remains of his burning pants and boots.
F/Lt. Crombie landed safe in wind and limb, except for what he termed a few minor burns. Embarrassed as he was, in his state of semi-nudity — clad in his short shirt — and bootless, he made a 12 hour trek through the jungle, back to his station.
Crombie makes light of most things — so much so, that he will not talk about them. However, he has 12 enemy planes to his credit -- seven over Malta, two in the Middle East and three in Burma. Now he's attached to the operational training unit, where pilots are given a conversion course, into the world's fastest aircraft, the Mosquito. Crombie is still very loyal to the Beaufighters. They served him well. He admits that the Mosquito is a useful plane for its purpose, but the Beau...
1943-06-27 Northern Territories (Australia) Newspaper: Dutch Squadron's Air Millionaire
Somewhere in Australia: In the mess of a Dutch squadron stationed somewhere in Australia, no pilot ever 'shoots a line' about flying hours — it would be too ludicrous.
A member of the squadron now is Smirnoff; to Netherlanders, he needs no title, no initials. He is Smirnoff of KLM, the Dutch airline's ace pilot, who before this war had flown 24,000 hours, more than 1,000.000 miles. To become an 'Air Millionaire' Captain I. W. Smirnoff flew 22 years in civil aviation, shuttling back and forth across the globe for KLM.
Before that, he was a WW1 pilot with the Russian Air Force. He shot down at least 11 German planes. Ivan Smirnoff was Russia's fourth highest Ace in World War I. He was highly decorated as follows:- Croix de Guerre, Cross of St. George (when he was foot soldier), White Eagle of Siberia, Order of St. Anna, Order of St. George (equivalent to our Victoria Cross), Order of St. Stanislaus
When this war came, Smirnoff and other KLM pilots flew evacuees from Japanese-Invaded Dutch territories to Australia.
On 3 March 1942, Dutch Dakota DC-3 PK-AFV of the KNILM (Netherlands East Indies KLM) piloted by Captain Ivan Smirnoff, left Bandung in Java headed for Australia with a plane load of evacuees and a box of diamonds worth approximately 30,000 Sterling. They managed to escape Java just 3 days before the Japanese took the Bandung area. They were attacked by three Japanese Zeros about 80 kms north of Broome. Captain Smirnoff was wounded several times in his arms and hip. Smirnoff managed to put the Dakota into a steep spiral dive with the Zeros in pursuit and made a forced landing on the beach. The box of diamonds went missing after the crash. Water was rationed down to an eyeglassful each four times a day. Then the party split up, one section located natives. Throughout the subsequent rescue Smirnoff was in agony from his wounds.
Smirnoff's Dakota after being shot down
A sequel was the appearance in a West Australian court last month of three men on charges of stealing and receiving diamonds that had disappeared from Smirnoff's plane. The airman was flown across the continent to give evidence. The accused were eventually acquitted.
But in the mind of big-bodied airman Smirnoff remains a Broome Case he would like to settle in his own way. Next time he meets Jap Zeros, he will not be flying a defenceless airliner.
3lb Chocolate Goes A Long Way! Melbourne Australia Newspaper June 5 1945
Australian escapees and repatriated PoWs arrived back in England in all varieties of dress and in all manner of transport. One Australian returned with his own Renault car, transported by air, Brig. Eugene Gorman KC said tonight. The Australian with the car said that he had bought it on the Continent for 3 Ib. of chocolate. The pilot of the plane on which he had travelled, had offered no objection to transporting the car.
1942-03-13 DEATH AND THE JAPANESE
How an RAAF pilot literally came back from the grave, is graphically described in his diary, extracts of which, are given in a Department of Air bulletin.
While on a reconnaissance flight over New Guinea, he was attacked by Japanese fighters, and his aircraft dived in flames to the ground. With his companions, he was officially posted missing, believed killed. After a nine days ordeal, in which he suffered incredible hardships and adventures, he eluded Japanese troops who had landed, and reached his base.
The story of this airman's coolness as his aircraft hurtled to the ground, his determination as he stumbled through the jungle, half delirious, and his fears and alarms, is set out below:-
Wednesday, about.3 p.m.- At bottom of dive. Got big bump, as though all bombs had gone off together. Took violent avoiding action and attempted to see results. Gunner rushed forward and said, 'We're afire.' Fire quickly got worse. Cabin filled with smoke and flames, obscured wing, so I yelled, 'Go for your lives.' Beginning to get toasted.
Thought, 'No chance, better jump without 'chute.' Attempted to open escape hatch. Unable to locate crew in smoke. Put on 'chute and tried to climb out window. Got stuck and stood on 'stick.' Aircraft dived steeply, so climbed in again and pulled nose up. Could not see for smoke, but at last managed to get through pilot's window, and jumped sideways, shielding my head from the tailplane. Tumbled over and over, but couldn't reach rip cord, as 'chute was right out in front of me, and it was reversed, so that the toggle was on the left-hand side. Eventually found rip cord and stopped with a bump. Caught sight of a Hudson pursued by three fighters. Trees rushed up at me.
My 'Mae West' was choking me and my head was forced back, so I couldn't see the ground.Landed in trees. Realised I was choking, but was unable to undo jacket. Nearly exhausted when I managed to struggle up to a higher bough and ease pressure.
Heard twigs breaking beneath me, and almost resigned to being taken by Japs. Turned out to be wild pig. Found rip cord still firmly grasped in right hand. Lumps on my head, too, so I couldn't have missed the tailplane! Determined to make big effort to avoid capture. Climbed gingerly down 100-ft.tree to ground. Lost lots of skin and landed in dense, dark jungle. Heard twigs breaking. Hid behind tree. Another pig.
Wednesday, 4 p.m.- Walked on north-west course, until I became thoroughly confused. Sat down and waited for stars, then set off through jungle again. Checking again, found I had turned north-east. Mosquitos and Wild Figs
Sat down. Very thirsty. Only two matches in box and striker not much good, Mosquitos nearly drove me mad, and wild pigs getting on my nerves. By licking leaves, kept myself going till I found puddle. Drank cold water, which made me feel sick. Found track leading west, but struck mosquito- infested swamp. Drank more water, then climbed up bank and lay down. Awake all night, killing mosquitos. Began to feel weak and sick.
Thursday.- Started again at dawn and walked for hours. Followed dry creek towards coast, but time after time, got cut off by impenetrable sword grass. Climbed back up steep mountains and cliffs. Only water cupped in leaves and pockets of fallen trees. Forced to go north-west for hours, climbing over fallen trees, up steep banks, very high hills, and steep gorges. Made about six attempts to reach sea, but always blocked.Sun got too high to judge direction, so sat down and rested. Feeling weak from emptiness. Thought about the dangers of scratches turning into tropical ulcers, of malaria. I had to stop every half-hour, in a lather of sweat.
Always thirsty. Made determined effort to follow small creek of stagnant waterholes to sea, irrespective of direction. Heard sea, a long way off. An hour later.- Am not sure whether it is the sea I hear, or wind in the trees. Am thinking of crew and hope, if they were killed, it was instantly. Beach sea at last. Took off clothes and lay in water. Perfect. Carried clothes and walked naked along beach. Came to wide river.
Reached native village. They gave me bananas, pawpaws and water. Got very feverish and sick in the stomach. Natives frightened to help me.
Thursday, 6 p.m.- Set off again. Reached another village, very tired and sick. Got three tabs of quinine and set off again. Climb up and down steep track. No water. I get hotter and hotter. Every time I stop, I lie down before I fall down - feeling very dizzy. Stagger on. I suck a few leaves. Am all aches and can only just stop vomiting. Push on for hours. Almost Gave In
Thursday, 10 p.m. - Find small puddle and stagger down and drink. Find it full of pig marks, but can hardly prevent myself lying down beside it and staying there. Twice, I decide I must lie down and go no farther. But struggle on. Reach beach and find Japs are in possession. Hurry back into jungle, until I can go no farther. Lie down and shiver until morning.
Friday - Reach white man's hut, but no white man in it. Pillow torn.up and bed up-turned. Hundred yards on, find white man in cave. So I meet Bill---- Bill looked after me all day. Fed me on coffee and marvellous soup. We celebrate Friday the thirteenth, and wish the Japs an unlucky day. We discuss prospects, and he says he is going to stay - may be able to help other airmen.We meet Harold - and discuss getting out. A Hudson comes over and drops flares. Try to signal with flash which is hardly any good. Jap. destroyers have landed troops in these parts, and we are all a bit jumpy. We set out in Harold's pinnace. Keep sharp lookout for Jap. ships which, Harold says, have been operating here, since before Christmas. Monday. - Meet another white man, who gives us a bottle of beer - his last. - and a sumptuous meal and a bath. Life seems grand again. Weather continues unfavorable and I feel like giving it a go in a dinghy with oil drum flotation lashed in.
Tuesday. - Walk a mile to visit another white man. He is alone. We talk to him about his schooner and, spend some time camouflaging it.
Wednesday. - It is now just a week since life seemed so desperate, swinging in that tree in my 'chute. We have worked all day, loading the schooner. Near dusk, we begin to move. The wind is blowing hard and the crossing threatens to be hazardous.
Thursday. - The crossing is hazardous. Seas break over us, and it is difficult to hang on. There is a lot of water in the black hole of Calcutta we call the engine room. I am black with oil. The pumps won't work and we begin to bail. Water seems to be gaining. Weather seems to get worse.
Friday. - Dawn, and there is no sight of land. Sight land at 1 p.m. A pinnace rushes towards us. They might be Japs. But no, whacko, I can see Aussie hats. They point Tommy guns at us. We look so much like bushrangers they won't believe us. No wonder, I've got eight days' beard. Then we speak and they're satisfied. Their first words are 'What about a long cold one?' Oh boy, what about one? The diary then explains briefly how he was taken in a fast launch, back to the base from which, nine days earlier, he had set out on his reconnaissance flight. He is now enjoying a well earned rest before resuming duty.
1946 (?)-07-07 DEATH OF RAAF PERSONNEL 'IN INTERESTS OF SCIENCE' LOS NEGROS, (AAP.)
He had made no attempt to punish two Japanese medical officers who had dissected the dead bodies of Australian prisoners of war, because he understood the dissection had been carried out in the interests of medical research, Líeutenant General Fasataro Teshima told the War Crimes Court to-day. Teshima said it was some time after the execution that he heard about it, and about the dissection. Asked by the prosecutor, (Mr. C. Rooney), why the dissection had been carried out, Teshima said, 'I think it was in the interests of science.' Asked if he saw nothing wrong in that, Teshima replied, 'I did not think it wrong if it was done for the promotion of science.' Mr. Rooney: And you made no attempt to punish anyone for it? Teshima: Since I thought it had been done for medical research, I took no action.
Teshima is before the court, charged with five others with the murder of two RAAF men at Idore, Dutch New Guinea, in November, 1944.
Two medical officers, Yoshihira Kitamura and Tadao Taura, are also charged with mutilation of the dead. Teshima admitted that while he was the commanding general of the Second Army, he punished nobody, for the execution of the two prisoners. He said he had intended making an investigation through his chief of staff, who had returned to Japan, but the war ended and it was left unsolved. Teshima said he made no inquiries as to how the medical officers came to be present at the execution. When a diary, said to be kept by Teshima during the war, was produced, Mr. Rooney asked Teshima: 'Are you 'sure this diary was not written last year or this year?' Teshima replied that it was not.
Teshima admitted there was no reference in the diary to the' execution. He did not like such incidents as the execution, and he had made no reference to it. Teshima said there was no written record of the order he gave for an investigation of the killings. The former commanding general of the Japanese Eighth Area Army in Rabaul, Generai Hitoshi Imamura, who gave evidence in the Itsui case, was recalled to give evidence. Asked by the court, if the execution of prisoners should have been reported to the commanding general, unless the officer who ordered it, wished to conceal it, Imamora said, 'If the execution was ordered by the commanding general, it would be reported to the commanding general, unless the officer who ordered it, wished to conceal it. Imamura said: 'If the execution was ordered by the commanding general, it would be reported to him. If ordered by the chief of staff, it would be reported to him. He added that there were very few matters in which a chief of staff could act on his own discretion.
The defence counsel (Nakayama), made an application.for the withdrawal of charges of murder, against the two medical'-officers, which the court said it would consider.
1942-02-28 TERRIBLE INJURIES London
RAF medical officers are still puzzling as to how two RAF men ever lived to tell the story of their extreme injuries. Twenty five-year-old Flight-Sergeant-Harry Gill fell 1000 feet without parachute, from a plane, landed in a flax field, and regained consciousness after two hours, with a fractured pelvis, a broken jaw, and bruises. Gill said he lost consciousness while falling. The doctors presume that his muscles were therefore relaxed, and also presume that as his pelvis was broken, but his arms and legs uninjured, he probably landed in a sitting position. The other fortunate man is Sergeant Observer William Smith, of Vancouver, who was flung out of his plane and had his skull fractured, one eye knocked out of its socket, and both legs broken in twelve places. The bones in Smith's legs are bolted together so that he can walk, run, even play football. Gill and Smith have both fully recovered, farewelled each other in a north-west hospital, and are returning to their units.
1944-09-12 DRAMATIC EXPERIENCES OF RAF PILOT BEHIND GERMAN LINES LONDON (B.O.W.)
Adventures rivalling the most imaginative fiction are coming to light, with the release by the advancing Allied armies of RAF pilots brought down behind the German lines. As dramatic as any, were the experiences of Flying Officer Kenneth Dickie, of Dumfries. Scotland. He was the sixth pilot to show up in a week, at a Typhoon airfield in Normandy, and he arrived, after three months behind the German lines, living and fighting with the Maquis, who were led by a disguised British officer.
The latter had been dropped by parachute. When Dickie made a forced landing on June 7, in a flak-riddled Typhoon, 35 miles from the French coast, he was unhurt and found cover in standing crops two fields away from the wrecked aircraft. A young Frenchman caught up with him and motioned him to follow. At a nearby farmhouse, Dickie's uniform was taken and burned, and he was fitted with a pair of black pantaloons and a brown jacket and hidden in a loft. Soon, a man identifying himself as one of the Maquis, came to the loft to get a food cache.
Four hours later, the Maquis sent for Dickie. He and his escort reached a forest in which the Maquis formation had been camping for ten days. It was decided that the whole party should move, as there were signs that the Germans were preparing to search the area. Dickie's party arrived at an old mill 15 to 20 miles away, where it was decided that Dickie and some others should wait until the British advance caught up.
Three days later, the Germans camped round the mill and the party decided to return to hideouts near the woods they had left. When they got to the wood, they found the Germans camped right in it. Two Maquis were wounded, but two enemy guards were shot with Stens. 'We retreated after the shooting,' says Dickie, 'and decided to split the party. Four of us walked 15 miles to find a house we thought was three miles away. In the dusk, we could not find it, but by sheer luck, found another in which some Maquis lived. Germans were camped all around.'
GOT IDENTITY CARD 'Next morning a cart took me to a house where I was to stay five weeks. Three times, the cart was stopped by German soldiers, who asked the Frenchman for his identity card. Had they looked under the straw, they would have found me. 'Two weeks later, storm troops of the Adolf Hitler Division were billeted on the farm. I stayed in the attic most of the time. We fed well at the farmhouse. I listened to the Maquis' wireless and played cards. 'I was worried when five Wehrmacht officers were billeted in the house, I thought I would not get out of the attic for a long while, but two days later, I got an identity card as a French civilian. I became Marcel Gaston Robert Delivet. When I got it, I came down and nodded to the German officers. They were told I was dumb and had been bombed out at Caen, and I suspect the French told them I was still a bit unbalanced, from the bombing. I was astounded that the Germans never seemed to get wise to the French underground all around them:'
About August 7, civilians in the area were ordered out. The party in which he travelled, went to a farm 12 miles to the south and lived in barns with other refugees. Twice on the way, identity cards were checked by German soldiers and once after the farm was reached. On the 15th, the sound of battle came near. Bullets ricocheted off the farm building. Early that night, 200 Germans dug in at the farm and had two tanks for artillery support. 'I dug a small trench in the middle of a hedge and camouflaged it.' said Dickie. 'We were right in the line. The Jerries held the position all day, despite heavy fire, but drew out at night. At dawn, the leader of the Maquis and I went down the road waving white handkerchiefs.'
Posed as Deaf Mute A 23-year-old rocket-Typhoon pilot, Pilot Officer G. K. E. Martin (from Sydney, Australia) after being shot down near Lisieux, escaped capture by posing for two months, as a deaf mute refugee, during which, he lived among German soldiers and ate at the same table with SS. Gestapo men. Martin, who has now been freed by the Allied advance, told the story in a hospital in Normandy, where he is receiving treatment for a broken leg and other injuries received, when he was shot down. Though suffering considerable pain from his broken leg and bad burns, he succeeded in hiding from the Germans who searched for him. Martin was rescued by a French priest, who hid him in a barn where he was left alone for five days with little food as the Germans were active in the locality. Martin was delirious with pain, but later was taken to a farm and cared for. He decided to pose as a deaf mute refugee and lived for weeks on a farm. He was regularly inspected by German officers. One suspicious Gestapo officer fired a revolver behind him to see if he was really a deaf mute. 'I suppose it was not much of an act I put on, but it was good enough to get by.' said Martin.
1941-11-08 LONDON, Saturday. Blonde British Pilot And Russian Forces
Legendary stories are being told in Kuibyshev of a tall, blonde British pilot, who has joined a band of Russian guerrillas in the swamps and forests south of Lake Ilmen. A regimental commissar who has just spent a fortnight with guerrillas behind the German lines brought the story back to Kuibyshev.
The commissar says that the pilot parachuted to the ground when his Hurricane was shot down. He landed near five peasants who were wearing German army coats and who had not seen an Englishman before. Thinking him a German, the peasants attacked him and he, mistaking them for Germans, fought back, using his fists after he had fired all the bullets in the revolver. The peasants eventually overpowered him, but when searching him, they found a snapshot taken with Russian airmen. With much trouble, they then convinced the pilot that they were his friends and took him to a hut, where he recovered from his injuries. As soon as he was fit, he joined a guerrilla band and has been with it ever since.
An Air Ministry statement says that the RAF wing in Russia, so far has destroyed 15 enemy planes and possibly destroyed ten. The wing itself has lost only one Hurricane. If the Kuibyshev story Is true, it is the pilot of the one lost Hurricanes, who is fighting with the Red guerrillas. The Air Ministry says that Murmansk, which is in the area which the British planes patrol, has only once been raided since the wing arrived.
A Red Air Force general recently presented the wing with a cheque for 15,000 roubles, intimating that Soviet airmen receive 1000 roubles for each enemy plane shot down. The money has been sent to the RAF Benevolent Fund.
The general arrived leading a reindeer, which he presented as a mascot. The northern front is now in the grip of the Arctic winter and snow has converted the barren countryside into a deserted waste; The aerodromes are rolled twice daily, to keep the surface hard. The weather is so cold that air crews wear flying kit all day. Many are wearing Red Stars presented to them by Russian airmen.
1948-06-17 WOUNDED PILOT GREW ANOTHER BONE
Fred Alexander, Australian and former RAF Spitfire pilot, who arrived home today in Australia by the Strathaird, is regarded in medical circles as one of the war's surgical miracles.
After a Spitfire crash, Alexander said, he was 'rotting in hospital,' refusing doctors permission to amputate a badly-smashed left leg. Orthopaedic surgeon, Sir Reginald Watson-Jones heard of him, while visiting the hospital, and had him flown to his own private hospital. Alexander had 4 1/2 inches of bone missing, from the left leg, above the knee. Sir Alexander cleaned up the wound and left it alone for three weeks.
'He intended to graft bone from my right leg, into the gap, but at the end of the three weeks, he found that callouses had begun to grow and a graft was not needed,' Alexander said.
The callouses formed into bone.
Sir Reginald Watson-Jones looked at the healing leg and said: 'Old man, you grow bone like a factory,' and used him as 'Exhibit One,' before other eminent surgeons, Alexander added.
In a few months, Alexander said, he was walking, and he can now walk and dance with only a slight limp.
Modern Miracle Of Escape (told in 1946) An amazing thing happened out over the Atlantic to Flying Officer William L. Johnson, an RAF observer-navigator, who now is back in his old job in one of Quebec's largest stores. Johnson was blown out of his Mosquito by a shellburst from a U-boat, and he struck the water from mast height at a speed of more than 200 miles an hour. He bounced over the surface of the sea for more than a mile and lived to tell the tale.
LONDON, Sunday 1942: The story of a bomber crew rescue so amazing that it might have been lifted from a boy's ad- venture book is told by the Ferry Command. Flying across Greenland's waste of ice and snow, a Hudson bomber struck dense sleet and ice and an electric storm put the compass and radio out of action. One engine failed and with the petrol running low, the pilot attempted to land on the ice-covered lake. The wheels broke through the ice, but the silent engine miraculously revived and enabled the plane to take off for a second attempt to land. The plane again crashed through the ice and the crew was preparing to swim when they saw coming towards them, across the wilderness of snow and ice, a team of huskies, followed by a line of men. They were Americans who had been sent there to establish a post eight months previously.
'It was a million to one chance that we came down among them,' said the pilot. 'There were no other humans for 500 miles in any direction.' With bits and pieces salvaged from the plane, and others borrowed, the crew improvised a radio transmitter. Other planes of the Bomber Ferry Service heard the faint signals, which RAF experts finally plotted. A US Catalina flying-boat went to the rescue.
The Story of the RAF Escape Pencil
In 2015 the Cumberland Pencil Museum at Keswick, Cumbria (previously Cumberland) marked the 70th anniversary of V.E. Day, the end of the war in Europe, by replicating the special ‘map and compass’ pencils made in secret at the factory during WW2. The front of the museum and part of the former pencil factory can be seen below.
The story of the wartime Cumberland ‘map and compass’ pencils, the brainchild of Charles Fraser Smith (“Q” of the British secret service), is an extraordinary one. One day in 1942 a 'Man from the Ministry' turned up at the Cumberland Pencil factory at Keswick, Cumberland (seen in Photograph No 1 above). He introduced himself to the factory's management. He told them his name was Charles Fraser-Smith (Photograph No 2 above). Officially he was from the "Ministry of Supply Clothing & Textile Department". In reality, Charles Fraser-Smith was "Q" (the inventor of gadgets for the wartime British secret service). He was the real person behind much of the special equipment used by M.I.6, M.I.9 and the S.O.E. during the war.What then was the purpose of Charles Fraser-Smith's visit to Keswick in northern Lakeland, which was then the home of the Cumberland pencil? It was part of his plan to assist Allied airmen shot down over enemy territory or escaping POWs to find their way out of Occupied Europe. The ordinary pencil was a standard piece of navigation equipment for aircrew. This was surely the ideal place to hide a map and compass. The secret pencil would not easily be detected if it fell into enemy hands.
A small number of replica WW2 ‘map and compass’ pencils were manufactured in 1999 to mark the Millennium of the Common Era. After gathering together enough materials for a slightly larger production run the new set of replicas was manufactured in 2015. In addition, a booklet “Keswick’s Airmen” and a DVD about the secret life of Charles Fraser Smith, “The Real Q” (made by his son) have also been made and are available for sale in the museum’s gift shop [Photograph No. 2].
During WW2 the secret map and compass pencil was an aid to airmen who had been shot down in Occupied Europe. The modern replicas come in a wooden box and have a complete pencil as well as all the component parts that make up the secret pencil [Photograph No. 3]. However, the replica map is of the Cumbrian Lake District rather than one of Germany or N.W. Europe as in WW2. The second replica pencil avoids the need to break open the complete pencil.
Written inside the lid of the wooden box is the story of the secret pencil in the following way:
'Printed on very fine paper, the maps were rolled and inserted into the pencil barrel cavity. 4 maps were printed detailing escape routes through Germany and west to the Netherlands, Belgium and south to Switzerland. The metal ferrule, compass and eraser were then fitted. A stamped code denoted which map was enclosed. Pencils were issued to Bomber Command Aircrew in the Royal Air Force and sent to P.O.W. camps. They were a vital part of the wartime escape network.'
British film actor Cyril Raymond, best known as the loving husband that Celia Johnson doesn't leave in the movie 'Brief Encounter', was an RAF fighter controller through the Battle of Britain.
He was known for running a very well managed unit. He was said to be very tactful and a very calming influence.
He mainly worked in the same capacity throughout the war, as he did such a good job, reaching the rank of Wing Commander.
It may surprise you to learn Sabu 'The Elephant Boy' (Sabu Dastagir) actually flew 42 missions in bombers during WWll and was highly decorated for his bravery, receiving the American DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), 5 Air Medals and a Presidential Unit Citation for exemplary service.
After becoming an American citizen in 1944, Sabu joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as a tail gunner and ball turret gunner on B-24 Liberators. He flew several dozen missions with the 370th Bombardment Squadron of the 307th Bomb Group in the Pacific.
Bar room chat with an Australian WWll bomb aimer. This is a first person account of the early uses of H2S ground mapping radar used by Allied night bomber streams to pinpoint targets.
You possibly read the obituary for Vesna Vulović and you might have thought that her remarkable experience must be unique. Vesna worked as an air hostess for the Yugoslav airline JAT. She wasn’t supposed to be on Flight 367 from Copenhagen to Belgrade but there was a mix-up in the schedules with another girl called Vesna. It was 26th January, 1972 when the DC-9 took off from Copenhagen and climbed to its cruising altitude of 33,000 ft. An hour into the flight a bomb exploded in the baggage hold and the aeroplane disintegrated. The wreckage was scattered over a hilly area of Czechoslovakia. Vesna was trapped in a part of the fuselage which fell onto a heavily wooded slope, crashing through pine trees into a thick coating of snow. Pinned down by a catering trolley and with a dead colleague lying on top of her, Vesna had survived the explosion, the sudden decompression and the deprivation of oxygen in the early part of the fall. How many people can survive falling from the sky without a parachute? We have our own story of such a miraculous event with Sgt. Alkemade Lancaster DS664. And a bit of research has found a surprising number. Check out this site.
Immensely Moving Remembrance
We all remember the visually stunning images of those millions of poppies tumbling over the ramparts of the Tower of London and of Queen Elizabeth winding her way slowly through, alone with her thoughts of those who gave their lives for their country. Artists, great artists, have the ability to arouse deep feelings of compassion and sadness at the sheer scale of the suffering that took place that we might be free. In Slimbridge Churchyard in Gloucestershire, in the west of England, an artist has created a vision that does exactly this. I doubt anyone can unsee these images of soldiers looking down on their graves once you have viewed them. (With thanks to the Oddbods Association of Australia)
Much Loved British Comedy Actress Hattie Jacques
Hattie's father was Robin Rochester Jaques (1897-1923). He was born in the Heaton area of Newcastle, the son of a billiard room manager and was a keen sportsman. As a semi-professional footballer, he signed to Clapton Orient and Fulham FC but his career was cut short when he died young.
He had joined the Middlesex Regiment as a private and served in France during the First World War. He rose to 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Fusiliers before joining the newly formed Royal Air Force. Posted to RAF Spittlegate as a trainee pilot in 100 Squadron, on 8th August 1923 Flying Office Jaques took off for a solo trip in an AVRO 504.
Flying at 10,000 feet and attempting some aerobatic manoeuvers he stalled the aircraft. At 300 feet control was lost and he was killed instantly when the aircraft hit the ground. A court of inquiry judged he had not used the controls of the aircraft correctly owing to over-confidence in a sad but all-too-familiar case of pilot error.
Robin had married 20-year-old nurse Mary Adelaide Thorn less than three years earlier at St Luke’s Church, Chelsea. She had borne him two children. Their son Robin was three years old and daughter Josephine was just 18 months when they lost their father. Young Josephine showed promise at dancing and acting. She worked as a hairdresser and then followed in her mother’s footsteps as a Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse until World War Two broke out.
Josephine and her brother changed their surname from Jaques to Jacques, to make it sound more French. Josephine, whose nickname was Hattie, went on to become one of Britain’s best loved actresses, starring in most of the Carry On series as well as alongside top comedian Tony Hancock.
The Woman Who Discovered the V1 at Peenemunde
Constance Babington Smith was one of those polymaths produced by Britain's gentry. Her knowledge of aircraft took her into the WAAF in the Second World War where she served with the Central Interpretation Unit (CIU) at RAF Medmenham. Serving alongside was her brother, Bernard Babington Smith (1905-1993), who was also a photo interpreter (PI) at Medmenham. Another fellow PI present at Medmenham was Winston Churchill's daughter, Sarah Oliver.
Working on the interpretation of aerial reconnaissance photographs, Constance was credited with the discovery of the V1 at Peenemünde, Germany.
In 1942 she made an uncredited appearance in the Air Ministry feature film Target for Tonight
(the film about Operation Jericho, the Mosquito raid led by Wing Commander Pickard VC) along with her fellow Medmenham colleague, Sqn Ldr Peter Riddell. In 1942, Babington Smith was Mentioned in Dispatches for her work and in 1945 she was awarded the MBE.
She was portrayed in the 1965 film Operation Crossbow by Sylvia Syms.
After VE-Day Constance was attached to USAAF Intelligence in Washington, D.C. to continue her work on photographic interpretation, this time for the Pacific theatre. In 1946, the United States awarded her the Legion of Merit.
Her war memoir Evidence in Camera was the first comprehensive narrative of British photographic reconnaissance in the Second World War. She appeared in several episodes of the 1977 BBC TV series The Secret War, where she discussed her wartime work as a photo interpreter as it related to the subject of the episode.
Babington Smith was a founder and director of the Mosquito Memorial Appeal Fund, now the de Havilland Museum Trust.
The missing Spitfire pilot
Mystery of US airman who took off for Malta with his squadron but never landed... only to be found in Britain after WWII
- Bud Walcott was an American pilot and part of 603 Squadron when he was flying a Spitfire over Malta in 1942
- But his plane was the only one which failed to arrive and a signal to London stated the pilot intended to desert
- He vanished before being found in Britain and a collection of vintage photographs detail his life in a new book
Anyone know any more details?