With a little help from our friends – part 2: Operation Wildhorn III and the V2 missile


THE FIRST PART this post looked briefly at the work of Frenchman Michel Hollard and his contribution to British Scientific and Technical Intelligence in understanding the V1 flying bomb, an example of which is in the Imperial War Museum in London. This post concentrates on the V2 weapon.

The story of the contribution made by Polish Home Army ((Armia Krajowa – the most well-known internal Polish resistance group) to the understanding and subsequent defeat of the German V1 and V2 weapon programmes is long and valiant.

For simplicity I will concentrate on just one important aspect, OPERATION WILDHORN III.

Let me start by saying that the story of Allies (particularly Britain) and Poland is still controversial in some quarters.

I know very little about the context – a few days in Warsaw doesn’t count in my view – and so I will simply say that there are no doubt many excellent resources both in print and on the internet that will put the cases of all concerned far better than I am able to.

The WILDHORN operations (also called MOSTY – meaning ‘bridges’ – in Polish) were a series of SOE Polish section sponsored flights to and from Poland to bring Home Army field commanders to London for meetings with the Polish Government in Exile. I believe there may have been a small amount of supplies or agents delivered but this was mainly handled by other means (known as RISPOSTE missions).

As a file at the UK National Archives shows (1), the first of the WILDHORN flights occurred in April 1944 after considerable difficulties gaining a suitable aircraft and a suitably trained crew.

Planning appeared to have started in late 1943 and an undated (but probably written in or before January 1944) document in the file lists the requirements for a landing area – frozen ground, snow no deeper 5 cm, a wind less than 10 mph – and a suggestion that it should be in the Lublin area. Security and ground operations are not detailed but ‘appear satisfactory’. The operation gained approval on 21 January with a request three days later for an aircraft to be assigned so that it could be completed in February.

Then there political problems outside the scope of this post. Suffice to say ‘discussions’ between Polish and British senior officers and centred around taking an aircraft off Special Duty operations (those connected with the Resistance) in France and sending and then basing it in Italy from where it would fly to Poland.

By early February it was clear that an RAF aircraft and crew from Britain could not be spared and it was suggested that a Polish crew be trained and an aircraft (a Lockheed Hudson light bomber and maritime patrol aircraft) be allocated from the Mediterranean Allied Air Force based in Italy.

From 14 March onwards a series of dates were proposed and cancelled for various reasons including the harsh weather.

V2 facility Peenemunde A © IWM (C 4782)

Test Stand VII at the Army Research Centre Peenemunde, Usedom Island, Germany. At the bottom centre (inside the elliptical earthwork) is a V2 rocket on its trailer and light anti-aircraft positions on top of the pre-launch assembly hall at upper right. Image © IWM (C4782). Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205022367

V2 facility Peenemunde 2 © IWM (C 4783)

The same area after heavy bombing attacks RAF Bomber Command in 1943. At the time this air reconnaissance image was taken (September 1944) the V2 programme had been moved to Poland. The arrows point to where the anti-aircraft guns were sited previously. Image © IWM, catalogue no C4783. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205023436

From 13 June 1944 London endured V2 attacks and there was an urgent need for as much intelligence on the missile as possible.

On 25 July it was agreed that V2 parts would be sent to London with senior Polish commanders and a Polish courier.

Having found a suitable landing ground, suitable crew and a Douglas Dakota aircraft from No. 267 Squadron RAF based in Italy all the elements were in place.

However fate was to intervene.

The landing ground (codenamed MOTYL – BUTTERFLY) was a boggy meadow, with substantial German forces nearby.

Although the aircraft landed and was quickly loaded for take-off with its human cargo and V2 material – missile parts (reported 25.000 including a new guidance system), drawings, photographs and analytical reports – it was found that the brakes were locked and the aircraft had sunk into the soft ground.

Frantic efforts were made to free the aircraft. German units were reported to be a mile (800 metres) away.

The passengers were made to get off and the V2 material unloaded.

Everyone – passengers and members of the Home Army ‘welcome team’ responsible for the aircraft landing loading and despatch – dug furiously. The crew prepared to burn their maps and other papers. Even the hydraulic lines to the brakes were cut to release the brakes.

Eventually, the hard work paid off. The aircraft was reloaded and wobbled into the air, just clearing a stone wall around 20 foot (7 metres) high.

With no hydraulic lines the reservoirs were filled with ‘liquid’ (accounts vary as to what this was) to ensure enough pressure to retract the undercarriage by hand and, having lost an hour from their schedule, they had to fly a direct route through an area known to be patrolled by German fighter aircraft.

They landed at Brindisi (on a runway being built) safely just before dark and after repairs the aircraft was flown to London via Morocco, arriving on 27 July (2).

There (according to R V Jones) the Polish courier – who spoke no English – made it apparent that he would only release his vital V2 parts to one of two Polish Officers he knew and trusted in London. In the meantime he threatened anyone who came near the parts with a knife

This obstacle was overcome when General Bor appeared ‘told our gallant Pole that it was alright for him to talk to us and show us his treasures’

The propulsion unit of a V2 missile being inspected amid damaged houses © IWM (HU 44973)

Damage caused by a V2 ballistic missile at Limehouse, East London. In the foreground, a man inspects the propulsion unit of the rocket. Image © IWM (HU 44973). Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205019013

Jones goes on to write that the Pole’s information – not just what he brought but what he had observed – was instrumental in understanding the way the missile was launched and flew (3)


(1) File reference HS 4/183, UK National Archives viewed 1 April 2017

(2) https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2015/09/08/operation-most-iii/ – accessed 17 July 2017

(3) ‘Most Secret War’ by R V Jones, third edition May 1978, pages 438 – 439.

Rupert Shepherd and his ‘Women in Industry’ series of paintings for the Ministry of Information, 1943


BORN IN HIGHBURY, North London and educated in Swanage and Derbyshire, Rupert Norman Shephard would become a draughtsman and towards the end of the war an official War Artist.

In a three-part oral history online interview recorded in 1978 with IWM’s James Mellen (1) (who also interviewed a number of other artists active during the Second World War) he describes his early life, his artistic influences and how he would sketch workers on the factory floor after his day job as a draughtsman.


Second World War First Aid Post, with Three St John Ambulance Brigade Men in a Domestic Setting by Rupert Shephard, oil on canvas, 1940. Collection of the Museum of the Order of St John.  Image from https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/first-aid-post-with-three-st-john-ambulance-brigade-men-in-a-domestic-interior-135514/search/venue:museum-of-the-order-of-st-john-6474/sort_by/object.lifecycle.creation.date.earliest/order/asc/page/4

At one time Shephard was a jig and engineering tool draughtsman at EMI in Hayes, Middlesex when the factory was engaged on war work manufacturing things like their Capacitance Altimeter fitted to the RAF bomber force for blind landings and low-level anti-shipping torpedo attacks (2).

The pressures of work and his artistic endeavours caused him a breakdown in 1943.

This however enabled him to concentrate on a new career as an official war artist, selling work to the War Artists Advisory Committee.

Established by the Ministry of Information part of its purpose was to ‘to draw up a list of artists qualified to record the war at home and abroad. … to advise on the selection of artists on this list for war purposes and on the arrangements for their employment’.

Approximately half of the 5,570 pieces purchased by the Committee are in the collection of the Imperial War Museums (3).

Shephard painted industrial scenes in Britain and amongst over work made a series of five paintings entitled ‘Women in Industry’ with a series in 1943 of tasks in traditional factory settings.

Three of these – ‘A Girl Feeding an Automatic Machine’, ‘A Girl Tending an Automatic Machine’, and ‘Drilling and Milling’ – are in the Imperial War Museums’ collection. Two other paintings – ‘Three Women Drillings’ and ‘Girls Drilling’ – complete the 1943 series.

Papers in the IWM Collection indicate that he received 30 guineas – a guinea being one pound and one shilling sterling, with 20 shillings making a pound – for the ‘Women in Industry’ series (4).

He also painted a number of works showing workers in both aircraft manufacturing and repair factories.

A painting entitled ‘A Nose section after Repair: Girls fitting supports to take the bomb aimer’s window’ – was purchased for 15 guineas on its own. It shows female workers fitting the seal of the bomb aimers’ window to the the bottom of the nose blister of a  Lancaster bomber.

It is possible that this was at the A V Roe (Avro – makers of the Lancaster) repair facility at RAF Bracebridge Heath, a former First World War airfield near Lincoln (5) (6) .

A Nose section after Repair: Girls fitting supports to take the bomb aimer’s window. IWM catalogue reference Art LD 4141

On one of the images of Lancasters under repair by Shephard in the RAF Museum’s art collection the No. 50 Squadron RAF code ‘VN’ can be seen.

Shephard, Rupert, 1909-1992; Lancaster Fuselage Section

Shephard, Rupert; Lancaster Fuselage Section; Royal Air Force Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/lancaster-fuselage-section-136073

The painting below (‘Filming a Practice Launching of a Rubber Dinghy in a Training Pond’ in the Imperial War Museums IWM Catalogue LD 4647) was made in May 1944.

It appears to show an instructional training film for Lancaster crews being made. Of interest is the fact that the bomber is incomplete (missing its tail unit) and also the line of figures behind the camera crew who appear to be operating a wave-making device.

‘Filming a Practice Launching of a Rubber Dinghy in a Training Pond’ in the Imperial War Museums’ collection, IWM catalogue reference Art LD 4647. Image from Art UK website ( https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/filming-a-practice-launching-of-a-rubber-dinghy-in-a-training-pond-7369/search/actor:shephard-rupert-19091992/page/1/view_as/grid )

After the war Rupert married and moved to South Africa with his South African wife where he continued to paint. Returning to the UK in 1962 he turned his attention to producing finely textured lino cut prints, often of London scenes.

The River Lea (1975) part of the series “London, The Passing Scene.” Image from Gwen Hughes Fine art ( http://gwenhughesart.co.uk/artworks/the-river-lea/ )

His son Ben, a military and medical historian, worked on the well-known 1973 British television documentary series ‘The World at War’ (7).


(1) http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80003184 IWM catalogue reference 3198 – retrieved 18 July 2017

(2) http://www.emiarchivetrust.org/capacitance-altimeter/ – retrieved 18 July 2017

(3) http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-secret-purpose-of-the-war-artists-advisory-committee – retrieved 18 July 2017

(4) http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1050001072  IWM catalogue reference ART/WA2/03/228 – retrieved 18 July 2017

(5) http://www.raf-lincolnshire.info/bracebridgeheath/bracebridgeheath.htm – retrieved 18 July 2017

(6) http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1510959&sort=4&search=all&criteria=Bracebridge&rational=q&recordsperpage=30 – retrieved 18 July 2017

(7) https://web.archive.org/web/20070923050354/http://ccw.politics.ox.ac.uk/people/bios/shephard.asp – retrieved 18 July 2017

A little-known memorial a few hundred metres from Imperial War Museums’ Churchill War Rooms


GIVEN ITS LOCATION in the heart of central London, Imperial War Museums’ Churchill War Rooms and Museum – to give its full title – is (unsurprisingly) surrounded by monuments and memorials.

Although only a short walk from CWR on Horse Guards Parade – the place where the annual Trooping of the Colour ceremony takes place – is the little known and often ignored Royal Naval Division Memorial Fountain, by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Lutyens was an architect responsible for a variety of building, bridges and war memorials in France, India, Ireland and the United Kingdom, where he is best known for the Cenotaph on near-by Whitehall, the place where Britain’s annual commemoration of its war dead is held.


The Royal Naval Division Memorial before the Admiralty Citadel was constructed. Image by Horace Nicholls, © IWM (Q 45787)

His design produced an elegant and most ‘unmilitary’ memorial at a time when realistic and heroic statues of ‘Tommies’ were fashionable.


“Your family will never forget you or your sacrifice…” A family tribute a century later. Image © R Maddox 2017.

On a recent wet and windy visit I found a small number of fading tributes commemorating (amongst others) Lieutenant the Honourable Vere Sidney Tudor Harmsworth who died on 13 November 1916, the first day of the Battle of Ancre and James McDonald a member of the Royal Naval Reserve who became a machine gunner.

Having previously served in the Royal Navy until a hearing problem caused him to be discharged in May 1915, Lieutenant Harmsworth volunteered for the Division and after capture in Antwerp escaped to serve at Gallipoli and then on the Western Front (1).

His father (later Lord Rothermere) later funded the 63rd Royal Naval Division memorial in Beaucourt, on the bank of the Ancre river in France (2).


The faded Cross of Remembrance for William McDonald, a resident of Deptford, south London. Image © R Maddox 2017.

The faded Cross of Remembrance honours machine gunner Able Seaman James McDonald.

Serving with 189 Machine Gun Company and the Royal Naval Division’s Hawke Battalion, he would die of wounds on 29 October 1917.

Married to Susan Edith McDonald, they lived in Deptford, south London around six miles (10km) away (3).

Winston Churchill (who had formed the Division in 1914) unveiled the monument on 25 April 1925, the tenth anniversary of the Gallipoli landings (4).

Originally situated in its present location, next to the Old Admiralty Building (OAB) it was disassembled and placed in storage – leaving only its plinth in place – to enable the construction of the adjacent Admiralty Citadel, designed as an operations centre. In the event of a German invasion it would become a strongpoint for the defence of this historic and very important part of London.

Later it became a Royal Navy communications centre.

In 1952 the stored fountain pieces were installed at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, south east London (and not far from where James McDonald had lived).

After the Royal Navy left the site, the memorial returned in 2003 and re-erected on Horse Guards Parade (5) – although now looking somewhat squeezed between the OAB and the massive fortress-like Citadel.

Churchill was very appreciative of this example of Lutyens’ work. In his unveiling address he commented:

“Everyone, I think, must admire the grace & simplicity of this Fountain, which the genius of Lutyens has designed. The site is also well chosen. Here, under the shadow of the Admiralty building, where, 11 years ago, the Royal Naval Division was called into martial life, this monument now records their fame and preserves their memory… Doubts and disillusions may be answered by the sure assertion that the sacrifice of these men was not made in vain. And this Fountain to the memory of the Royal Naval Division will give forth not only the waters of honour, but the waters of healing and the waters of hope (5).

His thoughts on the Citadel were less complimentary, calling it:
“That vast monstrosity which weighs on the Horse Guards Parade” (6).


A view of the Citadel taken on 18 May 1945. Image by Lieutenant C J Ware, official Royal Navy photographer. The building has been since covered in ivy to soften its appearance. © IWM (A 28702)


More details about the Memorial and the Royal Naval Division are available at the link below: https://greatwarlondon.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/royal-naval-division-memorial/ – Retrieved 27 July 2017


(1) http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2016/november/07/161107-cadet-to-be-remembered-on-the-100th-anniversay-of-his-death – Retrieved 27 July 2017

(2) http://www.webmatters.net/txtpat/?id=191 – Retrieved 27 July 2017

(3) http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/153221/McDONALD,%20JAMES – Retrieved 27 July 2017

(4) https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1392454 – Retrieved 27 July 2017

(5) https://c20society.org.uk/war-memorials/london-royal-naval-division-memorial-fountain/ – Retrieved 27 July 2017

(6)  http://www.churchill-society-london.org.uk/chtruste.htm – Retrieved 27 July 2017



Beatrice Shilling and how she helped RAF pilots to fight another day


BEATRICE SHILLING was born into a middle-class family in Waterlooville near Portsmouth in Hampshire, England in 1909 before moving with her family to Surrey in 1914.

Deciding in her early teens that she wanted to be an engineer, Beatrice left school and became an apprentice with Margaret Partridge who ran an electrical engineering company. Her company had a number of contracts with local authorities installing both domestic and industrial wiring and generators. It became apparent that her apprentice had a great talent for engineering (1).

Margarete was a member of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and would become its president for 1944 – 1945(2). The Society was formed in 1919 to press for women to continue to work in industry (as they had done during the First World War) and ultimately to be regarded as equal to their male counter parts.

In 1929 after three year of working with and being mentored by Margaret and after WES had helped her get her applied mathematics to the required level and given her an interest-free loan for her studies, Beatrice applied to the Victoria University in Manchester.

She was one of two women enrolling on the Electrical Engineering degree course that year – the first time the course had been open to women. She would graduate with honours in 1932 and do a post-graduate MSc in Mechanical Engineering the following year. (3)

Beatrice became a research assistant to Dr G F Mucklow in 1934, helping with his work concerning supercharging single-cylinder engines.


Beatrice in a publicity photograph used in the 1935 Norton catalogue. Image © Anne and Dennis Lock via https://www.raf.mod.uk/news/archive/the-b-in-the-rafs-bonnet-18082015.

Before going to university she had ridden and maintained her own motorcycle. At Victoria University she modified a Norton M30 500cc motorcycle by adding a supercharger and gained a Gold Star award for lapping the Brooklands motor racing circuit in Surrey at 106 miles an hour.

Joining the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) on 25 April 1936 as a Technical Author, she would spend six months in the Technical Publications Department before transfering to the Carburettor Section of the Engine Experimental Department. (4)


Dark days ahead; Spitfires in Flight. Image © R Maddox 2017

As the RAF went into sustained combat operations in May 1940 a problem with the Rolls Royce Merlin engine equipping their latest fighters emerged.

The designers of the engine – fitted to both the early marks of Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire aircraft – had decided to use a carburettor rather than fuel injection as their German counterparts at Daimler Benz had done for the engine powering both the Messerschmitt bf 109 and Messerschmitt bf 110 fighters.

Carburettors are a vital component that ensures that fuel and air are mixed and delivered to the engine’s combustion chambers to provide optimum performance. Fuel injection does the same task but in a different way.

This design choice meant that an increase in the fuel/air density of carburettor-fed engines as opposed to their fuel injector counterparts resulting in a higher horse power to weight ratio.

However it also meant that when diving in combat the engine of the British fighters could misfire and cut out under negative gravitation as fuel pushed the carburettor needle closed. If the dive was continued then the pressure of the fuel could force the needle open and the fuel flood the engine’s combustion chambers.

Although the RAF pilots had a ‘work round’ of half rolling into the dive it was clear that a more effective solution was needed so they could fully utilise their aircraft’s potential.

Beatrice designed a restrictor plate – looking similar to a metal washer – that prevented flooding.  This together with modifications to the needle and an improvement to the float chamber to prevented the fuel and float from surging under negative gravity helped alleviate the problem.

Miss Shilling married George Naylor, an RAE mathematician (and later a pilot with RAF Bomber Command) September 1938. It is said that she would only accept his proposal after he too had lapped Brooklands racing circuit at a speed greater than 100 miles an hour!

She continued working at RAE on a variety of projects before retiring in 1969 as Head of Engineering Research Division.


Beatrice receiving her Honorary Doctorate at Surrey University in December 1969.
Image from University of Surrey Archives & Special Collections Blog.

Over the course of her career she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Surrey University (5), was a Chartered Engineer as well as being a member of WES and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

For her wartime work she was awarded an OBE in 1947.

Away from work she and George continued to race both motorcycles and later cars until health problems intervened. Then they took up target shooting.

She died in 1990 and was survived by her husband for another six years.


(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_Engineering_Society retrieved 12 July 2017
(2) https://thrustvector.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/beatrice-shilling/ retrieved 12 July 2017
(3) https://ww2aircraft.net/forum/threads/spitfire-engine-failure-in-dive.12768/ retrieved 12 July 2017
(4) https://www.raf.mod.uk/news/archive/the-b-in-the-rafs-bonnet-18082015 retrieved 12 July 2017
(5) http://www.wes.org.uk/content/history/presidents-past-present retrieved 12 July 2017
(6) https://blogs.surrey.ac.uk/archives/2017/03/08/international-womens-day-the-inspirational-beatrice-shilling-2/ retrieved 12 July 2017

Captain Ernest Shackleton’s gift to the Imperial War Museum


SEARCHING THROUGH A PILE of Second World War ex-prisoner of war questionnaires at the National Archives in Kew, England, I saw one by a ‘Captain Ernest Shackleton’.

Clearly not the polar explorer (he died in 1922) this Ernest Shackleton had joined the British Army with a Territorial Army commission in 1926.

An engineer by profession, he was  serving  in the Royal Corps of Signals when he was captured on 12 June 1940 at Saint Valorie-en-Caux, around 60 kilometres from Le Havre in France.

After spending three months in hospital – he says on the questionnaire he wasn’t ‘seriously’ injured but he was unwell enough to occupy a hospital bed – he was transferred to the first of four PoW camps, the last being Oflag (Officer’s Camp) IX A/Z at Rotenburg en Fulda in the German state of Hesse.

During this time he wasn’t in a work camp (officers were generally exempt from having to work). He didn’t have any serious illness and any medical attention he did receive (presumably related to his original injuries) was judged to be adequate.

I turned the page.

No escape and evasion lectures before capture, no ‘unusual’ interrogation techniques used.

He knew of no collaboration by his fellow prisoners or of any war crimes.

In fact there were only two comments.

The first, his response to the question about whether he made any escape attempts gets a ‘No’.

Almost as an afterthought is written immediately underneath ‘Was employed from August 1941 (with minor breaks) on radio operations, design and construction of radio apparatus’.

And then on the final page above his signature is the last question;

‘8. Have you any other matter of any kind you wish to bring to notice?’

His response is shown below and reads:

‘I especially request permission to return to OFLAG IX A/Z ROTENBURG to remove radio apparatus locally constructed and other incriminating gear, documents etc & to destroy or remove for Imperial War Museum hides [word unclear] and gear. The Senior British Officer endeavoured to obtain this permission but was unable owing to urgency of evacuation. This OFLAG was identified as intact whilst flying over during the evacuation’.

Scribbled in soft black pencil beside his request at a later date beside is ‘Already redeemed by Shackleton’ with a further note scribbled out.

The final question on Captain Shackleton’s POW questionnaire and his request for permission to return to a former POW camp and retrieve radio apparatus for IWM. Image © R Maddox 2017.

And that is a small part of the story of why an unlikely looking  radio receiver –  a collection of toilet roll tubes dipped in wax, thermometer cases, toothbrush handles, a cotton reel, bits of tin can, a Bakelite ashtray, wire ‘liberated’ from the camp’s occupational department with values and capacitors from a German cine projector – all cobbled together with its own power chassis, hidden under floor boards and operated by knitting needles pushed through the cracks from above – came to be IWM Catalogue Number COM 504, described as ‘Wireless Equipment, Receiver (POW constructed), British’ in the possession of the Imperial War Museums.

Wireless Equipment, Receiver (POW-constructed), British (COM 504). A wireless radio receiver manufactured by Captain Ernest Shackleton at Oflag IXA/Z, Rotenburg during the Second World War, using materials salvaged from the camp. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30005281

The Imperial Camel Corps Memorial – A tribute to the ‘Ship of the Desert’ beside the Thames


VILLIERS STREET GARDEN (one of four public gardens making up London’s Embankment Gardens) is not far from Charing Cross railway station, Trafalgar Square, various Government offices in Whitehall and numerous other sites of employment in the western part of the capital.

It is a lunchtime oasis for nearby office workers, a pleasant commuter ‘rat run’ for those walking to and from work or a green gem for London visitors or tourists to get their bearings.

History and fame are never far away.

The York Water Gate shows where the waters of the Thames used to extend to, the Gardens being reclaimed land with the much deeper modern Thames being 150 metres or so further south. The Savoy Hotel has its rear entrance very near the Gardens, statues of Robert Burns and composer Arthur Sullivan gaze unseeingly before them.

It’s also the site of the Imperial Camel Corps Memorial, a small Portland stone plinth topped with a beautifully modelled statue of a camel and its uniformed rider, sculpted by Major Cecil Brown who served in the Corps.

Detail of the rider and camel sculpted by Cecil Brown. Image © R Maddox 2017

The Imperial Camel Corps Memorial with the Australian casualties and the engagements of the Corps. Image © R Maddox 2017

The Memorial commemorates by name 346 members of the Corps who died of all causes between when the 1916 (when the Corps was founded just after Gallipoli action) and 1918 while serving in Egypt, Palestine and Sinai together with the actions they took part in.

The vast majority of casualties were Australian troops – 191 commemorated on the eastern plaque – with soldier from the United Kingdom (106), New Zealand (41) and the Indian sub-continent (9) being named on the western plaque.

The north and south sides have additional bronzes depicting dismounted soldiers running and officers with a camel (1).

At its height the Corps had 4,150 men and 4,800 camels. Three of its four battalions were disbanded in mid-1918, the final (2nd) battalion survived until May 1919 (2).

Unveiled on 22 July 1921, the ceremony was attended by (amongst others) the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand and General Sir Philip Chetwode, the Corps first commander – and later the father-in-law of poet Sir John Betjeman(3) with the memorial being dedicated by the Bishop of London(4).

It stands on the site of… (ironically, given the fact that the Corps operated in the desert and the camel’s ability to store water)… a late 19th century drinking fountain(5).


(1) https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/imperial-camel-corps retrieved 11 July 2017

(2) https://www.londonremembers.com/subjects/imperial-camel-corps?memorial_id=1299 retrieved 11 July 2017

(3) http://www.thefield.co.uk/country-house/the-imperial-camel-corps-31175 retrieved 11 July 2017

(4) http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/11347 retrieved 11 July 2017

(5) https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000844 retrieved 11 July 2017




THE TRAGEDY THAT BEFELL HMS TRINIDAD is perhaps made even more poignant by the fact that had the events of 1942 happened a year later it is not inconceivable that HMS Belfast could have shared a similar fate.

Belfast was known to be a happy and lucky ship (notwithstanding November 1939 when she was mined).

Trinidad did not share in that good fortune.

HMS Trinidad from WW2.com

In March 1942 HMS Trinidad, a Royal Navy Colony Class Cruiser was on escort duty with an Arctic Convoy en route to Russia. Progress was slow and dangerous;  100ft waves, constant darkness, incessant and effective attacks from the German Air Force and U-boats posed a constant and deadly threat to the 800 men on board; and all the time the ship was fighting the most incessant enemy of all – the bitter arctic seas.

Trinidad came under attack from three German destroyers. She fired three torpedoes, but two of them froze in the launching tubes; the third misfired, the bitter cold had affected the gyro of the torpedo and it came full circle to strike Trinidad in her port side.

The force of the explosion ripped a 60ft hole in her side.

32 men perished, 9 of whom were members of the Royal Marines working in the Gunnery Transmitting Station, deep in the bowels of the ship.

Trinidad underwent temporary repairs in Murmansk and attempted to return home under her own steam, but following another devastating Luftwaffe attack on 13th May 1942, the crew were taken off under the most horrendous conditions and the order was given for HMS Matchless to sink her with torpedoes.

As Trinidad slipped beneath the waves, she flew the signal ‘I Am Sailing to the Westward’.


SURVIVORS OF HMS TRINIDAD ARRIVE HOME AT THE SCOTTISH PORT OF GREENOCK. 19 MAY 1942. (A 10321) Survivors from HMS TRINIDAD on arrival at Greenock. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205144038


One of only three survivors from the Royal Marines detachment was a young Royal Marines musician by the name of George Lloyd.

Royal Marine Bandsman George Lloyd. Image from exroyalmarinebandsman.net

Following the sinking, George Lloyd suffered terrible mental illness (what we would now call PTSD) but found solace and hope in music. He spent many years in the country growing carnations and mushrooms. Eventually his health improved.

He went on to compose no less than 12 symphonies, 4 piano concertos, 21 violin concertos, 3 operas and a cantata. In 1977 his first eight symphonies were broadcast by the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra under Sir Edward Downes.

His march ‘HMS Trinidad’ which he composed for the ship soon after the outbreak of war was performed at the Last Night of the Proms in September 2013, in the presence of the last remaining survivor of the tragedy; one of the very few military marches ever to be honoured in this way.


“I’m Sailing to Westward now,
Waves wash away my darkest fears,
No-one can hurt me,
Duty has called me,
To celebrate my days.”

Text taken from the narration to ‘Am sailing to Westward’ (Comp: Harvey © Chevron recordings) and from the sleeve notes to ‘Harrison’s Dream’ © Chevron recordings

With a little help from our friends – part 1



Image: A still from a Ministry of Information film of a V1 exploding close to Westminster in London. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament can be seen on the right. © IWM ([MOI] FLM 2000)

FOR MANY VISITORS the German V1 and V2 weapons are ‘must see’ items at IWM London.

Launched in 1944 soon after the Allies landed in France, the weapons brought a new kind of warfare not just to Britain but also Belgium and Holland just as D-Day was raising hopes of a quick end to the war.

Many thousands of people were involved in the campaign to defeat the ‘vengeance’ or ‘retaliation’ weapons – fighter, bomber and reconnaissance pilots and crew, together with their controllers like Lilian Buchanan (see a previous post), anti-aircraft gunners, engineers and scientists.

They had come from Occupied Europe, the Commonwealth as well as here in Britain and some had fought against the weapons long before the first V1 fell from the skies over Swanscombe in Kent on 13 June 1944.

This is s little about one of them.

Michel Hollard was a French Résistance worker who would be awarded a British DSO for the information he supplied and the personal risks he took obtaining it.

Hollard, was 43 when France fell in 1940 and headed a Resistance of more than 100 in Northern France passed information to Britain about German military activities in the region between 1941 and 1944.

V1 FLYING BOMB (C 4430) Aerial view of a V1 'ski' launching site in Northern France under attack. The long narrow ski-shaped storage buildings, which gave the sites their name are clearly visible at lower left. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205022378

Image: Aerial view of a V1 ‘ski’ launching site in Northern France under attack. The long narrow ski-shaped storage buildings, which gave the sites their name are clearly visible to the left. © IWM (C 4430). Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205022378

His network was able to provide location details of a large number of V1 launch sites enabling the RAF to attack the ski sites (as they were known to British intelligence  because of the shape of some of the buildings as seen from the air) to London via the British Embassy in Berne and Hollard made the journey across into Switzerland on at least 50 times – his network didn’t use radio communications, the post or telephones as a security measure.

According to R V Jones’ book ‘Most Secret War’ on one occasion he mamaged to gain access to a site under construction. Already dressed in workman’s overalls he found a wheelbarrow in a ditch and simply walked onto the site.

He saw that there was a clear runway-like structure being built. Jones notes in his book ‘he was the sort of man who always carried a compass’ and Hollard took a bearing on the mystery structure.

That night he worked out it was pointing at London.

Next he persuaded one of his Résistance contacts to get a job as a draftsman on the site.

Over time André Comps succeeded in copying the plans for every building and structure on the site and these were taken to London via Berne. This was clearly very dangerous – no more so than when on one occasion he removed a set of plans from a German engineer’s coat to copy them.

Hollard was also able to clamber over and measure an operational V1 weapon parked in a railway siding.

Despite the good internal communications security in his group Hollard was betrayed and arrested on 4 February 1944. After torture by the Gestapo he was sent to Neuengamme concentration camp.

By the spring of 1945 he had been transferred to a prison ship in the Baltic and on 3 May the ship was attacked and sunk by the RAF.

Hollard survived.

He was awarded many decorations, including a DSO by the British (Jones contributed to his citation for the award) and the Legion d’Honneur by the French.

He and his group were credited with passing documents that showed the locations of 104 V1 sites.

He died on 16 July 1993, just over a month after his 95 birthday.

In April 2004, Hollard’s son Florian was at a ceremony at the Eurostar terminus in London (then at Waterloo station, near to IWM London) where a Eurostar train was named after his father.


‘Most Secret War’ by R V Jones published 1978.




(in French):


How ‘MONICA’ was tricked into failing to protect RAF bomber crews


ARI 5664 ‘MONICA’ was an active radar device designed to protect the rear of heavy RAF bombers. Mounted below the rear turret it sent out a radio signal in a cone shape for 1,000 yards behind the aircraft. When this signal was interrupted by another aircraft, it also picked up the resulting ‘echo that bounced back.  

This ‘echo’ was translated into a ‘beeping’ tone that was heard in the crew’s earphones, warning them of the approach of an attacking Luftwaffe night fighter. Many of the attackers would approach from the behind and below as that was judged to be the most vulnerable area on the bombers, as it was undefended and a blind spot for all the crew.

So far so good. Except MONICA had fatal flaws.

It registered ALL aircraft with the same sound – it could not distinguish between enemy attackers and fellow bombers – and the constant beeping of surrounding friendly aircraft in a bomber stream of many hundreds often drove the crews to distraction,

Some turned the radar off, relying on their wits and eyes as they did before MONICA was introduced.

This meant that it was possible for the night fighter to ‘hide’ amongst the traffic of the bomber stream. And no approaching aircraft warning increased the chances of a collision between bombers in the often moonless and blacked-out skies of Europe.

Image: The shattered rear turret and amaged tail of Lancaster LM535, No. 207 Squadron RAF. The aircraft was in a collison over the target on 19/20 May 1944. Flying Officer Trevor Smart managed to bring the aircraft and his crew safely back to Britain and was awarded an immediate Distingiushed Flying Cross for doing so. He and his crew were lost on a raid to Wesseling near Cologne just over a month later on 20/21 June 1944. Image and more information at http://www.207squadron.rafinfo.org.uk/lm535/lm535_manston.htm The MONICA antenna (looking like a bent coat hangar) can be seen hanging down near the bottom of the frame.

And worse was to come.

As always happens, examples of MONICA fell into German hands as RAF aircraft were shot down and the wreckage scrutinised. German scientists worked out what the equipment was for and then developed Flensburg, a passive radar detector – one that simply received pulses and does not emit signals.

Then the pendulum swung the other way.

Seventy-three years ago, at 04:25 on 13 July 1944 a Junkers Ju 88 G-1 night fighter made a navigational error and landed at RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk.

This was a complete surprise for all concerned.

The German crew (who were very low on fuel) thought they had landed in Germany and the airfield believed an RAF Mosquito had landed – the truth only becoming apparent to all when transport for the ‘Mosquito’ crew arrived at the aircraft and the quick thinking RAF driver drew a flare pistol and arrested the Germans!

According to an RAF Air Intelligence report (1), the Junkers carried a variety of radars and detectors not seen by the British before and they quickly set about analysing the equipment’s capabilities.

What they found was unpleasant answers to a number of questions.

The Lichtenstein SN-2 radar was an improvement of the original Lichtenstein radar encountered by the RAF. SN-2 was immune to jamming by standard WINDOW foil. It could be jammed by the improved SPECIAL WINDOW foil strips that reflected a different part of the signal spectrum.

However SN-2 used part of the frequency spectrum where Freya ground-based early warning radars also operated, so even if the airborne radar’s pulses where picked up by RAF aircrew they would appear to be Freya signals.


Image: The Woodbridge Junkers Ju 88 G-1 (werk nummer: 712273) now in RAF markings on a test flight over Britain. The  different sets of Flensburg aerials can be seen on the leading edge of the port wing and above and below the starboard wing. Image  http://www.airwar.ru/image/idop/fww2/ju88g/ju88g-6.jpg

Also on the aircraft was Flensburg and another passive device called Naxos. And these provided perhaps the greatest shock of all.

Wing Commander Derek Jackson (a former scientific colleague of the Director of Scientific Intelligence at the Air Ministry, R V Jones) tested the captured aircraft against a Lancaster bomber using MONICA over the UK.

Using Flensburg, he tracked it for a distance of 130 miles. Next he flew against a loose formation of five MONICA equipped Lancasters and was able to identify each as an individual aircraft.

His final test was against a group of seventy-one Lancasters, each with MONICA working and orbiting between Gloucester and Cambridge. Again Flensburg was able to pick out individual bombers.

Naxos was first used operationally in September 1943 and was designed to home in on the signals of H2S – an air-to-ground radar that was being used to identify targets through cloud and on moonless nights.

Naxos could find H2S from about 35 miles. Because of this relatively close range – giving about 5 minutes warning in the approaching German aircraft – and the fact that it could not identify an individual aircraft (only a general signal), the crew described it of little practical use.

Initially fitted to ‘Pathfinder’ aircraft, H2S was first used operationally in early 1943 and an example of this device was recovered from a Short Stirling bomber shot down over Holland on the night 2/3 February 1943 – the second raid it was used on.

Codenamed Rotterdam Gerät – ‘Rotterdam Device’ or ‘Rotterdam Apparatus’ it provided a model to develop Naxos from.

Previously H2S was switched on as soon as the aircraft climbed to operational height over the UK.

Later it was discovered that Naxos was coupled with Wurzburg radars dishes to produce Naxburg – a radar that could track the bomber formations over the UK and thus give advance warning of a raid setting off.

On learning of the results of trials Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command ordered MONICA not to be used and the sets removed from all aircraft carrying it and H2S to be used for short intervals only.

Writing about Harris’ decision regarding MONICA, in his book Night Fighters: A development and Combat History the late aviation historian Bill Gunston wrote:

This supposed guardian of the bombers was probably responsible for more bomber losses than any other device, Allied or enemy, until in August 1944 (nearly two years later) crews were told not to use it’


(1) Air Intelligence 2(g) report No. 242 dated 16th July 1944
http://www.ww2.dk/misc/captured.pdf retrieved 25 April 2017