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BOAC Liberator II Landing At Prestwick

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  • Graham Boak
    Rank 5 Registered User
    • Nov 2008
    • 951

    Bothas were built at Dumbarton, although I don't know where they flew from after assembly. I know of bases at Squires Gate Blackpool and MIllom Cumbria, and there were Coastal OTUs on the west coast of Scotland, so an overfly of Prestwick is well within their reach. A quick Google brought up a few photos, although the only one with numeric codes had them before the roundel. The most common photos are of 1.M and 1.F, with the code aft of the roundel on the port side of the fuselage.

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    • Lazy8
      Adrian Constable
      • Apr 2012
      • 562

      No.3 Radio School, with Bothas, was based at Prestwick throughout 1942.

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      • Graham Boak
        Rank 5 Registered User
        • Nov 2008
        • 951

        No 3 RS was formed in 1940 including 9 Bothas on strength for ASV training, including L6078 coded L6. It became N. 2 Radio Direction Finding School in August 19452, moving to Hooton Park in December.

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        • ianwoodward9
          Rank 5 Registered User
          • Aug 2010
          • 800

          Thank you, both. Getting responses such as yours is something I really appreciate. Thanks again.

          Let me try another question. What are those 'markings' at the rear of the Liberator in this still from the newsreel posted earlier by longshot?
          Attached Files
          Last edited by ianwoodward9; 13th March 2019, 00:17.

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          • Lazy8
            Adrian Constable
            • Apr 2012
            • 562

            That appears to be "36". I don't know precisely when and where this is, but for a while some of the BOAC / AtFerO LB.30s in similar paint had the last two of their military serial painted in various places, in white, in about that style and size, with the extreme nose and tail being the favourite spots. However, BOAC didn't (formally) have ownership of an LB.30 with the last two "36", and the two options, AL536 and AL636 don't have any connection with the Ferry that I've unearthed (other than that they must have been ferried over at least once!) Difficult to be certain, but that rear fairing does look like one of the very early 'turrets' with the glazing at the top, which I think would make this a Mk.I Liberator. I wonder if this is actually AM263 - I grant you it's a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but it wouldn't be the only known case of someone painting two digits in the wrong order...

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            • ianwoodward9
              Rank 5 Registered User
              • Aug 2010
              • 800

              Could '36' be a c/n?

              The following chronology, sent to me by Matt, might indicate that AL538 c/n 36 was at Prestwick over the summer of 1942. If so, perhaps the 'scene' was set up especially for the filming, using 'any old Liberator' that was to hand. AL538 may not have been on the ferry service but it happened to be available on the day in question. Just a thought.

              And perhaps SAL painted an aircraft's c/n on its rear end end while they were working on it. Thoughts anyone?

              I am happy to have such notions thoroughly debunked but, meanwhile, here's the extract I mentioned:


              AL538 c/n 36;
              TOC Dorval 16.11.41;
              Gander - Prestwick 23.11.41;
              SAL, Prestwick, 23.11.41;
              SAL - 51 MU 5.12.41;
              1653 Flt 16.3.42;
              ground accident, ROS 21.3.42;
              SAL 6.9.42;
              1445 Flt 18.10.42;
              on night delivery flight from Prestwick to Lyneham 18.10.42, overshot in bad visibility and crashed at Clyffe Pypard;
              SOC next day;
              to Prestwick by road, arr 6.11.42, as Cat E for reduction to produce.

              Comment

              • Lazy8
                Adrian Constable
                • Apr 2012
                • 562

                That's interesting. In BOAC correspondence about individual Liberators, and about spares provision, they are always referred to by either their British or American military serials, or UK civil registrations when they got them. I'm not saying SAL wouldn't have used the c/n, but I don't think anyone else did.

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                • IAIN43
                  Rank 5 Registered User
                  • Jan 2012
                  • 28

                  As regards Bothas with a code behind the roundel, I have attached a relevant image, apparently taken at West Freugh, 1939/1940. The photo is in my photographic collection and I am unfortunately unable to determine the source of the image. Click image for larger version

Name:	L6337 West Freugh 1939.jpg
Views:	218
Size:	431.2 KB
ID:	3855807

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                  • ianwoodward9
                    Rank 5 Registered User
                    • Aug 2010
                    • 800

                    Thank you, Iain, for the photo. That seems to settle it, i reckon.

                    And, Adrian, it is just a theory on my part regarding the c/n but here are a few other thoughts ---

                    [1]. I can't recall the details but I seem to recall that SAL mixed up two Liberator c/ns at one stage. perhaps it was a potential problem that they tried to guard against.
                    [2] The '36', if that's what it is, seems to be stencilled on, rather than painted on, which suggested to me that it might have been applied temporarily.
                    [3} I'm pretty sure that, some years ago when I phoned the BA Archive about BOAC Lodestar flights to Sweden by in WWII, I was told that BOAC allocated their own code numbers to aircraft; Could they have been applied to aircraft at any time, do you know?

                    But, again, just a theory or two.

                    Comment

                    • Lazy8
                      Adrian Constable
                      • Apr 2012
                      • 562

                      Those BOAC code numbers are called Chart Serials. The charts they refer to are the 'Slip Charts' - taken from 19th century railway practice, I believe - which record the disposition of the fleet. The charts are on large sheets of paper, and each one refer to a particular route for a month, generally for a single aircraft type, although there are exceptions. For each fleet, the chart serials start at 1 for the first aircraft to be taken on charge (not necessarily the same as 'delivered', and certainly bearing little relationship to the operation of a first service) and going up sequentially as far as it gets. Sadly neither the charts for the Liberator operations, nor the cards that reference the Chart Serials have survived. Although it is possible that as many as 40-odd Liberators were in some way associated with BOAC operations, some of them were only used post-war and others only on the South Atlantic route. I don't see any way a Liberator 1, with that early camouflage still applied, would have had a Chart Serial higher than maybe 12 or 15, and probably only in single figures. Aside from the odd letter arranging administrative items such as a change of base, I've seen no mention of the Chart Serials other than the charts themselves - it's just a shorthand so that the charts don't get any more cluttered than they need to. Certainly at the time, and in some cases even now, other airlines painted fleet numbers on their aircraft, but I've never seen any indication that Imperial or BOAC ever did so.

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                      • ianwoodward9
                        Rank 5 Registered User
                        • Aug 2010
                        • 800

                        Thanks, Adrian.

                        I tried to look up 'slip charts' but only found use of the phrase in connection with project management - that is, how much slippage there had been in time between the planned completion date and the actual completion date.

                        From that earlier telephone conversation, I rather had the impression that there was one run of numbers covering all aircraft types in the fleet. Clearly, if each aircraft type had its own run of numbers and, more than that, if each run of 'aircraft type' numbers was allocated only to aircraft of that type operating from one particular base, then, as you say, it is very unlikely that '36' was such a code number or chart serial. I assume that, in the case of the Liberators used on the North Atlantic run, the base would have been Dorval, where Ferry Command's HQ was located.

                        If the BOAC code numbers / chart serials theory can be discounted, does anyone have a view on the 'c/n' theory?
                        Last edited by ianwoodward9; 15th March 2019, 10:17.

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                        • ianwoodward9
                          Rank 5 Registered User
                          • Aug 2010
                          • 800

                          I think I've said before that I have a number of non-aviation demands on my time and this coming week is one of those periods when the other demands will be high. Thus, I will not be able to contribute anything in this period, though i will do my best to keep a watch on this thread.

                          Meanwhile, i think i have also said that back in my youth, an interest in aviation resulted in some older enthusiasts giving books, magazines, photos and the like. Much of this 'stuff' has been kept and it includes two matching photographs taken at Dorval. The two photos show the 'hind quarters' of BOAC Constellation G-AHEK. For this thread, it is what can be seen under the tail of the Constellation, on the tarmac, that may be of interest. The two photographs were taken from either side of G-AHEK, so there is a fair number of aircraft to be seen, including a number of Liberators..

                          The date stamped on the back of the two photographs is 10 May 1946
                          Attached Files
                          Last edited by ianwoodward9; 17th March 2019, 20:49.

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                          • Lazy8
                            Adrian Constable
                            • Apr 2012
                            • 562

                            Well, that's interesting, Ian, because G-AHEK wasn't taken on charge by BOAC, at Dorval, until 12 May 1946 (edit: oops! read the wrong card - that should be 1 May). That, of course, means I have no idea of its movements prior to that date - I had assumed that it flew in on that day for formal delivery, but apparently that's not the case.
                            The Liberator in the middle of the first photo is clearly a BOAC aircraft (don't know which one, though!) The others appear not to be.
                            Last edited by Lazy8; 18th March 2019, 08:49.

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                            • ianwoodward9
                              Rank 5 Registered User
                              • Aug 2010
                              • 800

                              My assumption (theory?) is that BOAC would not just take an aircraft on charge without first getting the technical people (and maybe a flight crew) to check it over first, particularly as it was the first of its type for the airline (wasn't it?). Perhaps G-AHEK arrived a few days before being taken on charge for this purpose.

                              I can't do it now, so it will probably be quite a few days ahead, but I will locate the photos and double-check the date on the back.

                              Meanwhile, I've isolated the Lib in question and the image is attached. being in the background of a photo, it is out of focus but perhaps someone has 'gizmo' that will sharpen it a bit.
                              Attached Files

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                              • ianwoodward9
                                Rank 5 Registered User
                                • Aug 2010
                                • 800

                                And what about the Liberator on the left of the first photo (largely hidden by the Dak)?

                                Were 'slip charts' still being used in 1946? If so, did they survive and are they are held at the BA Museum? And, if all the 'ifs' get positive responses, would it be possible to identify which of the BOAC Liberators were at Dorval that day?
                                Attached Files
                                Last edited by ianwoodward9; 17th March 2019, 22:20.

                                Comment

                                • Lazy8
                                  Adrian Constable
                                  • Apr 2012
                                  • 562

                                  The majority of the slip charts do survive, in the BA archive, and they carry on well past 1946. The Liberator charts are not amongst them. I assume, as you say, that this is because the operation was run out of Dorval, so the paperwork never came back across the Atlantic.

                                  My apologies, I made an error with the date. 049 Constellations deliveries were G-AHEJ 26 April, G-AHEK 1 May, G-AHEL 12 May, G-AHEM 23 May, G-AHEN 31 May, all "To Montreal for training purposes", and they all stayed there on training until July or later. I don't know the handover procedure for the initial Constellation fleet in detail, but for the Stratocruisers only three years later all the technical checking, etc., was done at the Boeing factory (or in flights around the local area) prior to handover. The Connies would have been similar; despite being pre-owned they were refurbished by Lockheed. I doubt either party would have wanted the added complication of an aircraft being a couple of thousand miles from the factory in another country while the customer still had the option of declining to take delivery.

                                  I've had a play with the picture in post 314, and if it is a BOAC aircraft I could convince myself this is AL592. The window configuration is right, and the rather-more-than-usual tail-down 'sit' seems to be a particular characteristic of that aircraft - or is it taking off in that picture, caught just at the moment of rotation? I can't decide. On the other hand, the layout of the markings, and particularly the rearward location of a somewhat under-size roundel, is not something I've seen in other photos of BOAC aircraft. There appears to be something painted above the roundel, which I can't make out to be a company title, and is in the wrong place for one anyway. What I initially though was the Speedbird on the nose, when sharpened up looks more rectangular - I'm wondering if it's a window, which might mean it's not a BOAC aircraft at all. The other Liberator in post 315 also has that small roundel further back than usual.


                                  Comment

                                  • ianwoodward9
                                    Rank 5 Registered User
                                    • Aug 2010
                                    • 800

                                    As I said, I've been otherwise engaged this past week and the coming week is quite full, too.

                                    I checked the photos - 10 May 1946 is the date on their reverse side.

                                    It is eminently sensible that the Connies would be checked out earlier than I suggested.

                                    Thinking about BOAC documentation for WWII in general, were slip charts also produced for the services to Stockholm and to Lisbon, for example? .Or did BOAC use a different method of recording the disposition and movements of the aircraft that operated from these other bases?

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                                    • longshot
                                      Rank 5 Registered User
                                      • Aug 2008
                                      • 1655

                                      Looking through some notes a contact made in the Hatton Cross days of the BA/BOAC archive there are references to the Liberator ops in 1942-1943 charts titled intially 'North Atlantic Landplane Operations', then 'Montreal Base Operations' and later 'Liberator Operations' .

                                      Comment

                                      • ianwoodward9
                                        Rank 5 Registered User
                                        • Aug 2010
                                        • 800

                                        Thank you, longshot. It's good to hear that some details of the Liberator service across the North Atlantic may have survived in the BA archive. Having recently been concerned whether some of my own (non-aviation) material survived a house move a while back (a matter still to be resolved), I hope that details of the BOAC Liberator flights in WWII will see the light of day.

                                        Comment

                                        • ianwoodward9
                                          Rank 5 Registered User
                                          • Aug 2010
                                          • 800

                                          I thought I'd better clear something up.

                                          Earlier, in Post 309 [Point 1], I mentioned recalling that SAL had once mixed up the construction numbers of two Liberators; I've now had the chance to check. It actually occurred post-war, in the middle of 1951 and it may not have been caused by SAL The two aircraft involved were c/n 90 (ex-AL592) and c/n 101 (ex-AL603) and it is apparently unclear whether this happened at Prestwick or at Tollerton. Whichever, the mix-up continued for the better part of a year, it seems.



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