The first, the last and an ‘almost’ – HMS Warrior, the USS Des Moines and HMS Gambia at anchor in Grand Harbour Malta, circa 1951

Richard Maddox

WITH THE WARSHIPS HMS Warrior, USS Des Moines and HMS Ganges at anchor, a gangle of colourful dgħajjes water taxis are busy plying their trade in Malta's Grand Harbour. Note the dgħajsa on the left of the frame that appears to have a two Royal Navy sailors aboard - one of whom seems to have an injured arm. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 32044. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162973

WITH THE WARSHIPS HMS Warrior, USS Des Moines and HMS Ganges at anchor, a gangle of colourful dgħajjes water taxis are busy plying their trade in Malta’s Grand Harbour. Note the dgħajsa on the left of the frame that appears to have a two Royal Navy sailors aboard – one of whom seems to have an injured arm. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 32044. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162973

LOW SUNLIGHT reflects off the steel flanks of three warships in Malta’s Grand Harbour and bounces of the water as brightly decorated local dgħajjes – a type of small boat, the design of which may date back to the Phoenicians – bob around them.

This is an interesting picture not just because of the naval units it captures but also because it gives an insight into a different life when Malta was more financially dependent on the Royal Navy than on tourism. (1)

Completed too late to see war service the aircraft carrier HMS Warrior (R 31) would see serve on loan with the Royal Canadian Navy, before being commissioned into the Royal Navy. It would join United Nations forces in Korea before becoming as a trials ship and testing many innovations destined for use by the Royal Navy. In 1959 the ship was commissioned as Argentina’s very first aircraft carrier. (2)

Another image taken at around the same time from the the air of the same three ships shows part of Warrior’s flight deck (ahead of the forward lift) stacked with stores a number of the carrier’s aircraft parked midships.

GRAND HARAN ELEVATED VIEW showing (left to right) HMS Warrior, USS Des Moines and the Crown Colonies class cruiser HMS Gambia. Note also the floating dock with a large merchant vessel aboard. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 32043. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162972.BOUR from the air showing (left to right) HMS Warrior, USS Des Moines and the Fiji-class cruiser HMS Gambia. Note also the floating dock with a large merchant vessel aboard. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 32043. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162972.

AN ELEVATED VIEW showing (left to right) HMS Warrior, USS Des Moines and the Crown Colonies class cruiser HMS Gambia. Note also the floating dock with a large merchant vessel aboard. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 32043. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162972.

Behind HMS Warrior is the US Navy cruiser USS Des Moines (CA 134). It operated in the North Atlanitic and Meditteranean and was one of the last all-gun cruisers in the United States’ Navy. (3)

It was deccommissioned in 1961 and placed in reserve until it was taken to be scrapped in 2006. (4)

The final ship in the line-up (on the far right of the image) is HMS Gambia (C 38).

Affectionately known as FREDFearless, Reliable, Efficient and Dependable by her crew – HMS Gambia was a Crown Colonies Class light cruiser, a class of ship similar to HMS Belfast but differing in size and armour. (5)

Looking for a suitable example of the British MK XXIII 6-inch gun and its turret to add to the museum’s collection, a team from Imperial War Museum visited Portsmouth Naval base on the south coast of England in April 1967.

HMS Gambia was awaiting disposal and was looked over. While inspecting the ship the team realised that there was the chance to preserve a whole light cruiser and not just a single turret.

However one of the deciding factor in favour of HMS Belfast being aquired and preserved – first by the Belfast Trust which operated between 1975 and 1978 (6) and then by the Imperial War Museum – was that that ship was structurally in better condition than Gambia. (7) (8) 

HMS Gambia went to be broken up in December 1968. (9) 

Sources

(1) https://www.maltauncovered.com/culture/maltese-boats-luzzu/ – retrieved 13 March 2019

(2) https://www.militaryfactory.com/ships/detail.asp?ship_id=HMS-Warrior-R31– retrieved 13 March 2019

(3) https://www.goldstarmuseum.iowa.gov/about/ussdm – retrieved 13 March 2019

(4) https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/ca-134-program.htm – retrieved 13 March 2019

(5) http://hmsgambia.org/ – retrieved 13 March 2019

(6) https://beta.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-details/?regid=268074&subid=0 – retrieved 13 March 2019

(7) http://hmsgambia.org/last.htm – retrieved 13 March 2019

(8)  https://britainatwar.keypublishing.com/2018/11/30/hms-belfast-a-national-treasure/ – retrieved 13 March 2019

(9) http://hmsgambia.org/last.htm – retrieved 13 March 2019

 

Through sun-lit skies: Gloster Meteors of No. 66 Squadron, RAF Duxford … from Britain to Australia

Richard Maddox

THROUGH SUN-LIT SKIES. Gloster Meteor F4 aircraft of No. 66 Squadron Royal Air Force, July 1949. Based at Duxford from 1946 until October 1949 when it moved to RAF Linton-on-Ouse, the squadron was equipped with the Meteor until December 1953. Note that the VT139 (LZ-D) MAY be sporting a coiled snake emblem derived from the Squadron's official crest - which shows a coiled rattlesnake - just below the cockpit windscreen. Image Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference MH 28313. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205215749.

GLOSTER METEOR F4 aircraft of No. 66 Squadron Royal Air Force, July 1949. Based at Duxford from 1946 until October 1949 when it moved to RAF Linton-on-Ouse, the squadron was equipped with the Meteor until December 1953. Note that the VT139 (LZ-D) MAY be sporting a coiled snake emblem derived from the Squadron’s official crest – which shows a coiled rattlesnake – just below the cockpit windscreen. Image Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference MH 28313. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205215749.

SEVENTY years ago the skies over what is now IWM Duxford was pierced by the sound of jet engines as the Royal Air Force replaced its piston-engined fighters, examples of which had fought in the same skies during the Second World War.

No. 66 Squadron Royal Air Force had already spent much of its time at RAF Duxford and operated the Meteor at the airfield from 1947 until October 1949 when it moved to north to RAF Linton-on-Ouse taking it Meteors with it. (1)

In 1953 with even the latest versions of Britain’s jet fighter out-classed as an interceptor, No. 66 Squadron Royal Air Force was one of eleven squadrons that was re-equipped with the Canadair CL-13 Sabre F4 aircraft, a Canadian licence-built version of the North American F-86 Sabre. (2)

Both the United States Air Force Sabre and Meteor F8 aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) had seen combat with Russian-made MiG 15 fighters during the Korean War, which confirmed that the British-made aircraft was no match as a fighter for the single-engined swept-wing American and Russian designs. RAAF Meteors did however find a role as a ground-attack aircraft. (3)

Both VT139/D and VW273/E – the first and second aircraft from the camera – were part of a batch converted to Meteor U15 target drone aircraft by Flight Refuelling at Tarrant Rushton airfield in Hampshire, England. (4)

They were both used by No.1 Air Trials Unit RAAF at Woomera, Australia for testing various missile systems.(5)

VT139 – and possibly VW273 – would end its days in an Australian scrapyard. (6)

The third aircraft shown would not see Australian skies.

VT138/F was lost on a training flight over north Yorkshire on 21 July 1953 and pilot Pilot Officer Denis Sharp RAF killed. (7)

He was twenty-three years old. (8)

Sources

(1) https://www.rafweb.org/Squadrons/Sqn066-70.htm – retrieved 24 May 2019

(2) https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2016/01/08/raf-sabres/ – retrieved 24 May 2019
(3) https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/history/conflicts/korean-war/events/stalemate-war-19521953/migs-versus-metors – retrieved 24 May 2019

(4) http://www.hampshireairfields.co.uk/tarmet.html – retrieved 24 May 2019

(5) https://www.goodall.com.au/australian-aviation/lincoln/avrolincolnsraf.html – retrieved 24 May 2019

(6) http://www.adf-serials.com.au/Woomera%20Meteors.htm – retrieved 24 May 2019

(7) http://www.yorkshire-aircraft.co.uk/aircraft/planes/dales/vt138.html – retrieved 24 May 2019

(8) http://veterans.mod.uk/roll-of-honour.php?SerialNo=R2968 – retrieved 24 May 2019

The craftsmen of Detmold… not so much swords into plough shares but German aircraft into candlestick and children’s toys

Richard Maddox

THE AIRFIELD AT DETMOLD in northern Germany was home to a small number of Luftwaffe flying units as well an aircraft maintenance facility.(1)

The Structures Laboratory of the Focke Wulf aircraft company was also located at Detmold.(2)

A FORMER MEMBER of the Luftwaffe strips aluminium from the wing of a Messerschmitt bf 109. The metal will be used to make candlesticks and other objects. Interestingly the original caption to this image on the IWM Collections website states that 'The metal will be used to make candlesticks and christmas toys for the children of British airmen stationed at Detmold in Germany'. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference CL 3544. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205207496.

A FORMER MEMBER of the Luftwaffe strips aluminium from the wing of a Messerschmitt bf 109. The metal will be used to make candlesticks and other objects. Interestingly the original caption to this image on the IWM Collections website states that ‘The metal will be used to make candlesticks and christmas toys for the children of British airmen stationed at Detmold in Germany’. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference CL 3544. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205207496.

The airfield site was chosen to construct the Ta 154 Moskito night fighter, an aircraft that – like the British De Havilland Mosquito – used a large amount of wood in its construction. (3)

A furniture producing area, Detmold was chosen because of the woodworking knowledge and skills that existed locally. (4)

However the programme ran into a number of construction problems including problems with the plywood bonding process. (5)

In addition with finished production aircraft failing to show the performance promised by the prototypes and Allied air superiority and the threat of bombing, only a very small number were built. (6)

Captured by US forces, Detmold became part of the British Sector when Germany was divided to be administered by each of the Allied Four Powers – USA, USSR, France and Great Britain – after the end of the Second World War.

The Allied Control Commission’s Air Division Headquarters – concerned with the disarmament of the Luftwaffe – was also based at Detmold. In addition there were also miscellaneous RAF units such as a section of the RAF’s Missing Research Enquiry Service  – a unit specifcally formed in 1944 to determine the fate of 42,000 personnel listed as ‘ missing, believed killed’ and RAF bomb disposal based at the airfield.

Later the site became the British Army’s Hobart Barracks before British forces left in 1995.(7)

A GERMAN BLACKSMITH in Detmold makes wrought iron candlesticks from metal salvaged from German military equipment. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference CL 3546. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205207497.

A GERMAN BLACKSMITH in Detmold makes wrought iron candlesticks from metal salvaged from German military equipment. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference CL 3546. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205207497.

RAF CORPORAL S Peachey buys candlesticks made from metal salvaged from German military equipment in a British forces shop at Detmold. Behind the counter are (from the left) Leading Aircraftman J Browning, RAF and Aircraftman D F Payne, RAF. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference CL 3547. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205207498.

RAF CORPORAL S Peachey buys candlesticks made from metal salvaged from German military equipment in a British forces shop at Detmold. Behind the counter are (from the left) Leading Aircraftman J Browning, RAF and Aircraftman D F Payne, RAF. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference CL 3547. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205207498.

A GERMAN WORKER in Detmold paints children's toys made from materials salvaged from German military equipment. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference CL 3548. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205207499.

A GERMAN WORKER in Detmold paints children’s toys made from materials salvaged from German military equipment. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference CL 3548. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205207499.

Sources

(1) https://www.forgottenairfields.com/airfield-detmold-441.html – retrieved 7 April 2019

(2) http://www.muzeumlotnictwa.pl/index.php/digitalizacja/katalog/1869 – retrieved 7 April 2019

(3) http://www.cmchant.com/focke-wulf-ta-154 – retrieved 7 April 2019

(4) https://www.forgottenairfields.com/airfield-detmold-441.html – retrieved 7 April 2019

(5) https://m.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-ii/they-tried-to-copy-the-raf-mosquito-it-failed-the-focke-wulf-ta-154-moskito.html – retrieved 7 April 2019

(6) https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=473 – retrieved 7 April 2019

(7) http://www.baor-locations.org/hobartbks.aspx.html – retrieved 7 April 2019