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BOAC Liberator II Landing At Prestwick

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  • Lazy8
    Adrian Constable
    • Apr 2012
    • 563

    AM259's incident at Prestwick on 15 May 43 does not seem to have been recorded in any log of major accidents. That's not necessarily saying it wasn't a significant prang, but it doesn't appear to have been. The reason for a long lay-off is more likely to have been shortage of spares. It was not unusual for a simple CofA renewal during wartime to last three or four months, with some being six or seven.BOAC Ensign G-ADSR landed with the undercarriage up at Lagos in September 1942 - she was not badly damaged, but repairs kept her out of service for over a year. Combine that sort of timescale with Consolidated's reluctance to support and provide spares for the LB.30s in the first place and it's easy to see how serviceability rates would have been rather low.

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    • ianwoodward9
      Rank 5 Registered User
      • Aug 2010
      • 806

      Thanks, Adrian. That all sounds entirely logical to me - a 'small' accident, a wait for spares, getting the C of A renewal and so on - it would all take time. And, if AM259 was involved in transporting high-ranking officials to that major conference, then they would be extra careful about preparing it for the trip, too. I presume it would have stayed at Prestwick during this period.

      From what i can gather, there were three aircraft involved in going to the Moscow meeting from Britain. Of course, it could have been three trips by the same aircraft but that seems a tad unlikely. I guess that they would have used Liberators and I suspect they would have left from Lyneham or Northolt. but not from Prestrwick. The passengers being important people, the closest airfield to London seems likely. Confirmation of this would be welcome. Maybe there is some newsreel footage of them leaving and/or returning or contemporary press coverage...

      I'm really tied up for much of the rest of this week and this is likely to extend into next week, so I won't be able to do much digging or posting for a while. If you find any additional information,please post it it, as I'll try to look in on this site in the meantime..

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      • ianwoodward9
        Rank 5 Registered User
        • Aug 2010
        • 806

        The Moscow conference lasted from 18 October 1943 into early November. I found this bit of newsreel footage quite quickly:

        https://www.britishpathe.com/video/moscow-conference-8

        The American delegation arrived in a C-54 (232937) and, depending on the camera angles, there may a second one lurking in the background.

        The British delegation arrived in a Liberator. Which one cannot be made out but it carried RAF roundels.

        At the end, Eden arrives back at Paddington station. Does this suggest that the return, at least, was to Lyneham? Thoughts, anyone?


        FINAL OFF-TOPIC COMMENT/QUESTION:

        There were a number of conferences in WWII, on different dates and in different places. I have it in my head that Eden went to one of these [maybe more] in a York. Does anyone know more about this?
        Last edited by ianwoodward9; 6th February 2019, 11:12. Reason: I've omitted reference to shots from different sides of the arriving Liberator because I think I was wrong.

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        • ianwoodward9
          Rank 5 Registered User
          • Aug 2010
          • 806

          The other question is the route taken. Though it was winter, my guess would be the summer (southern) route. Flying such people across enemy-held territory, which would be necessary if the the northern route were used, would be far too risky.

          That, in turn, raises the question of an initial survey flight for the southern route. When was this carried out and using which aircraft?

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          • ianwoodward9
            Rank 5 Registered User
            • Aug 2010
            • 806

            I've 'brightened' the shot of the arriving Liberator.
            Attached Files

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            • ianwoodward9
              Rank 5 Registered User
              • Aug 2010
              • 806

              And I've pieced this together (rather inexpertly, I'm afraid, but I'm short of time) from four frames at the start of the newsreel:
              Attached Files

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              • Lazy8
                Adrian Constable
                • Apr 2012
                • 563

                The first BOAC operation on the southern route was on 10 June 1943, flown by AM262 / G-AGHG. Lyneham-North Africa-Cairo-Habbaniyeh-Pahlever (Iran)-Astrakhan-Moscow. I have not (yet) found reference to a separate survey flight. If there was one it is possible it was flown by the RAF, as not only were BOAC very short of aircraft at that time, but there was also some disagreement as to who was responsible for such flights. Since the route only involved a comparatively short extension to a 'well trodden' path, it is equally possible they just went and did it.

                One of the outcomes of the northern route survey flight to Moscow in October 42 was an instruction to remove the black undersides from most BOAC aircraft. This obviously took a good long while to be acted upon, but it could suggest that at least one of the aircraft in the film might have been an RAF aircraft.

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                • ianwoodward9
                  Rank 5 Registered User
                  • Aug 2010
                  • 806

                  Nils Mathisrud, in his book The Stockholm Run", says that Liberators were introduced on that route from October 1943 and that, before this happened, BOAC wanted their undersides to be painted black, like the Dakotas and the Mosquitos, and requested this change by letter to the Air Ministry dated September 1943. He says the Air Ministry had no objection to the change and adds that this colour was then applied to the Libs on the Cairo route, too. He says that the lower surfaces were "Night".

                  Ho also says that, on the initial trips to Cairo, the Libs had "Alumnium" lower surfaces. The well-known photos of Liberators and Dakotas at Lisbon show the former with lighter lower surfaces, presumably Aluminium.

                  Comment

                  • ianwoodward9
                    Rank 5 Registered User
                    • Aug 2010
                    • 806

                    The Liberator in the background during the opening few seconds of that newsreel footage (Post # 263) is an American Air Force one, by the way.

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                    • ianwoodward9
                      Rank 5 Registered User
                      • Aug 2010
                      • 806

                      A little bit of digging suggests that three Liberators were used to transport the British contingent to the Moscow Conference in October 1943 and back in November 1943.

                      One of these does appear to have been AM259, as I mentioned before, though possibly marked up as G-AGCD.

                      AM262 / G-AGHG seems a likely contender, as Adrian mentioned above (see Post # 267) that it had been used earlier in the year on a service to Moscow.. Information sent by Matt some time back said that it had flown the North Atlantic in late July 1943 and then formally returned to the RFS in August 1943.

                      The other one appears to have been AM263 / G-AGDS, as the information from Matt said that it was used on the Russian service, leaving Prestwick on 7 October 1943 and returning to Lyneham on 9 November 1943. I suppose a trip for a conference, being a one-off, doesn't really constitute a 'service', but be that as it may..

                      Do you have any further information, by any chance. Adrian?
                      Last edited by ianwoodward9; 16th February 2019, 14:33.

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                      • ianwoodward9
                        Rank 5 Registered User
                        • Aug 2010
                        • 806

                        Adrian mentioned the code name 'Festoon' in Post # 257. Some time back, Matt sent me some information drawn from research undertaken by Tony Doyle in the Air Ministry archive - to be precise, in the notes, often handwritten, in the files of the Intelligence Section of the Air Ministry Department of Civil Aviation. Tony had combined this information with other reports and the entry for June 1943 starts as follows:

                        "Code words on the Russian service. 'Sealyham' = British service to Russia, southbound route; 'Festoon' ditto, northbound route; 'Goodwill' = Russian service to UK northbound flight; 'Medoc' ditto southbound flight".

                        Tony gives the source of this information as: "Mr Colbeck's report on flight to Russia"

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                        • ianwoodward9
                          Rank 5 Registered User
                          • Aug 2010
                          • 806

                          This report from July 1943 presumably relates to the Moscow service provided by G-AGHG, as mentioned by Adrian in Post # 267:
                          Attached Files

                          Comment

                          • Lazy8
                            Adrian Constable
                            • Apr 2012
                            • 563

                            Thank you for identifying what 'Festoon' was, Ian. It would appear that the two flights I found (both Ramenskoye-Stornoway) with that word appended should actually have been 'Sealyham', as 'Festoon' referred to that route but in the other direction!

                            I don't have anything further to add at the moment, other than noting that the report you attached in #272 (Flight, 22 July 1943, if I'm not mistaken) would have caused apoplexy in BOAC headquarters. There were many memos flying back and forth during the war years concerning how the company should have been styled, and one common thread was that 'BOA' was completely unacceptable!

                            Comment

                            • ianwoodward9
                              Rank 5 Registered User
                              • Aug 2010
                              • 806

                              Adrian, my understanding of Tony Doyle's note was that 'Festoon' applied to all flights to Moscow, in both directions, on the northern, winter route (the one on the map I posted in #258) and that 'Sealyham' applied to all flights to Moscow using the southern, or summer, route, which would have been across North Africa, via Cairo to the Middle East and then 'up' to Moscow.

                              As for 'Goodwill' and 'Medoc', were there any reciprocal services from Moscow and back flown by Russian aircraft? If there were, I don't recall mention of them and would like a bit more information.

                              As for 'B.O.A.', that foreshortened acronym seems to have got quite wide usage at the time and, with no advertising by the corporation in the war years, it would have been difficult to establish the long-form version.
                              Last edited by ianwoodward9; 18th February 2019, 08:05.

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                              • Lazy8
                                Adrian Constable
                                • Apr 2012
                                • 563

                                Sorry, I picked the wrong word - obviously I meant 'Goodwill', but your interpretation makes at least as much sense.

                                I'm unaware of any reciprocal Russian service, and I struggle to think of any aircraft with which they might have flown the Northern route. On the southern route, with plenty of stops, an Li.2 or C-47 would have been quite possible, but as I say I've never seen any mention. As speculation, I'd suggest any Russian flights might have gone only as far as Teheran (from where they could connect with other means of transport), as they would not have wanted at the time to 'get involved' in either the Middle East or North Africa.

                                Comment

                                • ianwoodward9
                                  Rank 5 Registered User
                                  • Aug 2010
                                  • 806

                                  The two newspaper reports in the image are from mid-July 1943. You may find the second, in particular, a touch amusing.
                                  Attached Files

                                  Comment

                                  • Lazy8
                                    Adrian Constable
                                    • Apr 2012
                                    • 563


                                    When is an airline not an airline? Is it a metaphorical 'line in the air'; is it the entity which runs airliners; is it something else again?

                                    Going way off topic, the earliest use of the word I've come across was in 1903. Nothing to do with aviation at all, it was to be a luxury railway between New York and Chicago, built to such high standards that it would feel like riding on air. Apparently they ran out of money after building the first 15 miles...

                                    Comment

                                    • ianwoodward9
                                      Rank 5 Registered User
                                      • Aug 2010
                                      • 806

                                      There appears to be more than one dictionary definition of the word 'airline'. The more common one refers to the operating company but the other refers to the route taken by air between two places. The latter, it would seem, can be rendered as one word ['airline'], two words ['air line'] or as a hyphenated word [air-line']. As the second newspaper report was based on a radio broadcast, it is not possible to determine exactly what was meant.

                                      In pre-war Britain, operating companies generally used the word 'airways' in their titles. The exception that comes to my mind [there may be others] is Spartan but that was called 'Spartan Air Lines' - that is, three words, not two.

                                      In Scotland, Scottish Airways was formed in 1937 and absorbed into BEA in 1947. In 1946, Scottish Aviation started Scottish Airlines [two words, not three}, presumably so-named to distinguish it from Scottish Airways. And mention of Scottish Airlines brings us back to the civilian use of Liberators.

                                      Comment

                                      • Lazy8
                                        Adrian Constable
                                        • Apr 2012
                                        • 563

                                        Comment

                                        • ianwoodward9
                                          Rank 5 Registered User
                                          • Aug 2010
                                          • 806

                                          Although this 1943 advert placed by Consolidated Vultee [below] refers to Liberators used by the Air Force, it concentrates on its non-bombing roles, referring specifically to the C-87 Express, so may be of interest, here, if only peripherally:

                                          Here are the images
                                          Attached Files
                                          Last edited by ianwoodward9; 18th February 2019, 18:26.

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