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BOAC Liberator II Landing At Prestwick

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  • ianwoodward9
    Rank 5 Registered User
    • Aug 2010
    • 806

    In Post # 163, longshot wrote the following and asked about AM260:

    Jack Bamford in his book 'Croissants at Croydon' describes AM260 as the first RFS Liberator and flown down from Prestwick to Heston with a Spitfire escort for conversion by Airwork at Heston. He records its first trip back over the Atlantic was from Squires Gate as the Prestwick runway wasn't ready. Has Bamford got it all wrong?

    Peter Berry wrote this of AM260: "Delivered St.Hubert-Gander-Squires Gate 5/6 April 1941 cracks found in tailplane at Gander on 28 March. Tailplane of AM915 fitted. First westbound BOAC RFS service from Squires Gate, 4 May 1941".

    The reference to the tailplane issue is out of chronological order, which doesn't help but compare and contrast Berry's information, then, with that from another source (the Oughton book, I believe):

    25 Mar 1941 = TOC at St Hubert;
    28 Mar 1941 = St Hubert > Gander - delayed by bad weather;
    5 April 1941 = Gander > Squires Gate;
    6 April 1941 = Squires Gate > DGRD Heston ;
    4 May 1941 = returned to St Hubert - presumably Heston > Squires Gate > (possibly Gander) > St. Hubert
    -- May 1941 = at St Hubert, considerable cracking found in tail unit; tail section of AM915 fitted to AM260;
    8 June 1941 = began RFS service

    From the above, it would appear that AM260 did fly to Heston on first arriving in the UK (as stated by Jack Bamford) but whether there was "conversion by Airwork at Heston" is unclear. If DGRD carried out testing and development work at Heston, then perhaps some modifications were undertaken by Airwork there.

    Both sources agree that AM260's first trip back to North America was from Squires Gate on 4 May 1941. Again, this accords with Jack Bamford's account.

    As for Prestwick's runway, work on the main one (6600 feet) began in March 1941 but was not completed until 21 September 1941. Transatlantic flights did arrive there, however, when it was still a grass airfield. Its early use by Hudsons is well documented. Hudson T9426 had arrived (somewhat unexpectedly) on 29 November 1940 and T9464 made the first (planned?) Gander - Prestwick crossing on 11 February 1941. From March 1941, Fortresses began to be delivered across the Atlantic, some using the hard runways at Ayr/Heathfield but some landing at Prestwick. The last of the first batch of 20 Fortresses (AN518) arrived at Prestwick on 14 June 1941.

    Liberators were also delivered to Prestwick before the hard runway was completed: AM258 (on 5 May 1941), AM920 (13 May), AM918 (14 May), AM261 and AM263 (both 2 June) and AM915 (5 August). AM262 arrived on 27 May 1941 but at either Ayr/Heathfield (one source) or at Prestwick (a second source, that gives its return flight as from Ayr, however). Only AM259 and AM260 were delivered to Squires Gate (on 14 March and 6 April 1941, respectively). Some Liberators were delivered to Ayr/Heathfield even after Prestwick's hard runway came into use. (In all cases, I have given the likely date of arrival in the UK).

    In short, the lack of a hard runway at Prestwick does not appear to have been the issue in respect of AM260's first flight back to North America, as suggested by Jack Bamford. AM260 flew from Squires Gate on 4 May 1941 but AM258 flew into Prestwick on 5 May 1941. Maybe the switch from Squires Gate to Prestwick was made over that night.

    As ever, comments, corrections and even brickbats are most welcome.
    Last edited by ianwoodward9; 29th March 2019, 22:54.

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    • longshot
      Rank 5 Registered User
      • Aug 2008
      • 1676

      Prestwick, but a change from Liberators....TWA's Boeing Stratoliners flew more than 100 Atlantic transport trips for the USAAF ATC before replacement by C-54s https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/i...ject/205383866

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      • ianwoodward9
        Rank 5 Registered User
        • Aug 2010
        • 806

        Great find, longshot. Since first reading Peter Berry's book on Prestwick, I have wondered about these "TWA for the USAAF" flights to Prestwick in WWII.

        Though clearly marked "N-19908" (see image), it appeared as NC19908 in the wartime logs for Prestwick, where it first arrived on 18 April 1942 {EDIT - probably 20 April 1942 - see post 327 below] , departing on 23 April 1942. It made a further 10 or so trips to Prestwick in the next three months. I believe that the Stratoliners acquired military serial numbers later in the year - can anyone confirm this?.

        The IWM caption notes that there is a censor's stamp on the reverse and that the photo was cleared for publication. I assume that the squiggles to the left and right of the aircraft were made by the censor to indicate those parts of the photograph that were to be 'painted out' before publication. Is my assumption correct.?

        And the car on the right looks more American than British.
        Attached Files
        Last edited by ianwoodward9; 3rd April 2019, 23:15.

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        • ianwoodward9
          Rank 5 Registered User
          • Aug 2010
          • 806

          The caption to the image brought to us by longshot in Post # 321 says that it was cleared by the censor on 12 August 1942. It was published in the 13 August 1942 issue of THE AEROPPLANE SPOTTER as a very small image with a high degree of screening but it is the same photo. And, yes, all the background was removed.
          Attached Files

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          • ianwoodward9
            Rank 5 Registered User
            • Aug 2010
            • 806

            Here's the panel from AEROPLANE SPOTTER showing the Stratoliner alongside some other U.S. 'heavies'. Though the drawings are not exactly to scale, they are pretty close and they give some idea of its size.

            Despite its outward markings, the civilian Stratoliner was surely a lot more comfortable an aircraft in which to travel than the Liberator conversions. No wonder the U.S. top brass chose them; among those who flew across in the Stratoliners were Generals Arnold, Eisenhower and Marshall. The first-named must have been Gen. Henry 'Hap' Arnold who initiated the 'Arnold Scheme' for training British pilots in the U.S.A. - not to be confused with Col. William Arnold of Ferrying Command, after whom the 'Arnold Line' transport service across the North Atlantic was named. The first of these arrived at Ayr/Heathfield on 3 July 1941 in the shape of a B-24 with the serial number 40-702.
            Attached Files
            Last edited by ianwoodward9; 2nd April 2019, 21:41.

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            • longshot
              Rank 5 Registered User
              • Aug 2008
              • 1676

              Ian In the Peter Berry Prestwick book there is a 17MAY42 photo of another TWA /ATC Boeing 307 'Zuni' N19907 credited IWM ref CH.17433 but I can't find it in the excellent IWM online collection

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              • ianwoodward9
                Rank 5 Registered User
                • Aug 2010
                • 806

                [1] Further to Post # 323 above, the arrival date of the Stratoliner NC19908 / N-19908 'Apache', the first of its type to come into Britain, is given as 20 April 1942 in two other sources The 18 April 1942 date came from a caption to a photograph of 'Apache' in a book on Prestwick Airport by Peter Berry, who seems to have based his information on a WWII log that is presented rather confusingly.at that particular point.

                [2] The log is also only a partial record of comings and goings at Prestwick. For example, it does not note the arrival of Stratoliner 'Zuni' on 17 May 1942, to which longshot refers in the preceding post.

                [3] If you refer to the photograph of Stratoliner 'Apache' in the link provided by longshot [iin Post # 322] it has the numeral '4' on the nose just below 'Apache'. It does not bear any relation to the U.S. military serial number allocated to ';Apache' [42-88626], its manufacturer's construction number [c/n 2000] or its the TWA fleet number [403], Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

                [4] I attach a photograph of another TWA Stratoliner,[NC19907 'Zuni'] back in TWA's own colours - down to bare metal and devoid of its 'warpaint' - yet it still bears its military serial number [42-88625 or, rather, 288625]. Can anyone explain this?
                Attached Files
                Last edited by ianwoodward9; 4th April 2019, 00:03.

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                • ianwoodward9
                  Rank 5 Registered User
                  • Aug 2010
                  • 806

                  To illustrate the question posed in Point [4] above, please view the image below which shows the nose markings of four of the five TWA Stratoliners taken into military service during WWII. They are 'Navajo', 'Cherokee', 'Commanche' and 'Apache'.. The 'missing' one is "Zuni", which is presumably No. 5 but for which I could find no image showing its nose.

                  I guess that these are code numbers allocated by the Air Force but would welcome any further (more authoritative?) suggestions.
                  Attached Files
                  Last edited by ianwoodward9; 4th April 2019, 13:22.

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                  • ianwoodward9
                    Rank 5 Registered User
                    • Aug 2010
                    • 806

                    Here's a better-focused shot of the nose of TWA-USAAF Stratoliner 'Navajo', the numeral '1' being clearer.

                    You may notice the 'line' between the camouflage paint on the upper surfaces and the lower surfaces has changed.
                    Attached Files
                    Last edited by ianwoodward9; 7th April 2019, 13:49.

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                    • ianwoodward9
                      Rank 5 Registered User
                      • Aug 2010
                      • 806

                      The image of the nose of 'Navajo' in the previous post was taken from what appeared to be a publicity photograph. In trying to establish when it was taken, I found it in an American newspaper published on 17 March 1942., which was interesting because R.E.G. Davies gave a much later date for it acquiring military markings.. In his book on 'TWA - An Airline and its Aircraft', he wrote that it was bought from TWA by the USAAF on 17 December 1942, long after the transfer of the other four TWA Stratoliners. This would appear to be an error and it seems more likely that the date was 17 March 1942 rather than 17 December 1942.

                      Comment

                      • Lazy8
                        Adrian Constable
                        • Apr 2012
                        • 563

                        I know nothing about TWA's operation of the 307s, but in my experience Ron Davies didn't make silly mistakes. Is it possible that Navajo was initially loaned to TWA, when their operation of it was a success the other aircraft were transferred, and the different status of the first aircraft was 'resolved' at a later date?

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                        • longshot
                          Rank 5 Registered User
                          • Aug 2008
                          • 1676

                          THe Archivist at the Croydon Airport Society once mentioned that there was talk of extending the TWA/ATC Stratoliner flights beyond Prestwick to Croydon...no idea of when in WWII or who's idea it was and I don't think it happened.

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                          • ianwoodward9
                            Rank 5 Registered User
                            • Aug 2010
                            • 806

                            Adrian, I have no doubt that R E G Davies had a source for that date but I can only report on what I have found.

                            The US War Department announced on 26 January 1942 that TWA had "turned over to the army its fleet of five Boeing stratoliners". The Associated Press news agency carried the story on its wire service and I have found short articles in two U.S. newspapers published the following day and credited to AP.. The photo of 'Navajo' (to which i referred before and which I now attach) was published in a different U.S. newspaper on 22 March 1942 and shows it with its military paint job. Therefore, the change took place on some date between late January 1942 and mid-March 1942.

                            The changes were not just cosmetic, however. The initial War Department/AP story had explained that the aircraft would be stripped of their 'luxurious fittings' to increase their load-carrying capacity and to extend operational range. In fact, to save weight and achieve the latter, the pressurisation equipment (unique for airliners at that time I believe) was removed. Clearly, if this were done to 'Navajo' in the period I've indicated, it could not have been flown by TWA on commercial services later in 1942.

                            On 11 April 1942, AP reported that, in the period since the five Stratoliners were 'turned over' in January, a further 25 airliners had similarly been ceded to the Army by other airlines. No details were given.

                            I would be interested to learn the source of the date given in the Davies book.
                            Attached Files
                            Last edited by ianwoodward9; 9th April 2019, 16:52.

                            Comment

                            • ianwoodward9
                              Rank 5 Registered User
                              • Aug 2010
                              • 806


                              I have no special knowledge, expertise or experience here, nor do I wish to undermine anyone else's contributions. This is very much a learning process for me and I would be pleased if going through this process adds to the body of knowledge on the subject.

                              Further to my previous post, the attached image is from the March 1942 edition of a TWA staff publication. The caption states that the photograph was taken on the day of the inaugural flight of a TWA Stratoliner in military service.

                              An article in the same issue says that the last TWA Stratoliner used on a commercial flight landed at 'LG' (La Guardia, presumably) on the evening of 14 March 1942 and that the transfer of Stratoliners to the U.S. Army "was near completion". This strongly suggests that all five Stratoliners were handed to over the Army by the end of March 1942.

                              The article goes on to say that, "in the meantime, the first Stratoliner had taken off with its TWA crew for foreign fronts" and goes on to say that the inaugural flight was seen off by "Civil Aeronautics Board members, TWA officials and other dignitaries", which must be the scene in the attached photo.

                              The article also lists, by name, the "crew members on the epochal opening flight of the foreign courier service". They are exactly the same people as in the photograph in the previous post (Post # 333) It is therefore my contention that the two photographs were taken on the same day and that, moreover, 'Navajo' was the aircraft that made the inaugural flight in March 1942.

                              On this basis (and bearing in mind what I have posted previously), I find it difficult to accept that 'Navajo' was bought from TWA by the U.S. Army as late as December 1942, as stated by R E G Davies.

                              That said, he would not have plucked that date out of thin air. There must have been some basis for his using it and I would very much like to learn what that was.

                              Meanwhile, comments and criticism always welcome.
                              Attached Files
                              Last edited by ianwoodward9; 9th April 2019, 22:39.

                              Comment

                              • ianwoodward9
                                Rank 5 Registered User
                                • Aug 2010
                                • 806

                                I should have added that,the logo to the aft of the roundel, shown in the photo in the previous post) is the insignia of the ACFC (Air Corps Ferrying Command) "for whom the newly created Intercontinental Division of TWA is operating under contract". Its motto can apparently be translated as "from west to east with greatest possible speed"

                                Comment

                                • ianwoodward9
                                  Rank 5 Registered User
                                  • Aug 2010
                                  • 806

                                  The attached report, which is is from a TWA newsletter of June 1944, gives the start date of the company's contract with the Army as 26 February 1942.

                                  In point of fact, the advertisement to which the article refers, which appeared in various American newspapers at the end of May and beginning of June 1944) clearly states that 26 February 1942 was the date of the first flight under that contract.

                                  From the preceding few posts, there are, at the least, indications that 'Navajo' was the aircraft that made that flight.
                                  Attached Files
                                  Last edited by ianwoodward9; 11th April 2019, 23:39.

                                  Comment

                                  • ianwoodward9
                                    Rank 5 Registered User
                                    • Aug 2010
                                    • 806

                                    And, if 'Navajo' was the first of the TWA Stratoliners to fly in USAAF service, I guess it makes some kind of sense that it would be No.1 in the numerical sequence, as covered in earlier posts.

                                    But this is where it gets really intriguing. The advertisement mentioned in the previous post, says that first TWA-USAAF flight, on 26 February 1942, was 'across the Atlantic' but it also says that " ... the first TWA Stratoliner winged its way from Washington to Africa on February 27, 1942" If this second TWA-USAAF flight was across the South Atlantic on 27 February, then it follows the first TWA-USAAF flight, the day before, must have been across the North Atlantic.

                                    As the first Stratoliner reported at Prestwick ('Apache' not 'Navajo') arrived in April 1942, where exactly on this side of the ocean did the first TWA-USAAF flight land?
                                    Last edited by ianwoodward9; 12th April 2019, 08:42.

                                    Comment

                                    • ianwoodward9
                                      Rank 5 Registered User
                                      • Aug 2010
                                      • 806

                                      I recently came across an article about the various international conferences and meetings held in 1942 that involved the participants travelling by air. The Liberator flights were included, as one would expect, but there was also a couple of references to Stratoliners:

                                      [1] "April 8 : President Roosevelt's close adviser Harry Hopkins and US Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall flew to London using a Boeing 307 Stratoliners and a Boeing 314 Clipper"

                                      [2]."July 18 : Hopkins, Marshall and American Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest King flew to London aboard a Boeing Stratoliner"

                                      Comment

                                      • ianwoodward9
                                        Rank 5 Registered User
                                        • Aug 2010
                                        • 806

                                        Stratoliner NC19908 was noted arriving at Prestwick from Gander on 17 July 1942 with "Gen Marshall" on board but there was no reference to the other two gentlemen. NC19908 left Prestwick late on 18 July and flew back to Gander overnight. Whether it had flown Marshall and/or the others down to London before returning is unclear. Another Stratoliner, NC19907, arrived at Prestwick from Gander on 18 July..

                                        Comment

                                        • Duggy
                                          Flight SIM Pilot
                                          • Mar 2012
                                          • 1142

                                          Some better quality photo's.
                                          Boeing C-75 Stratoliner Navajo on the ground eight unidentified TWA crewmen in uniform pose standing in a line in front location unknown.

                                          Boeing Type 307 Stratoliner C-75 "Cherokee".

                                          Boeing Type 307 Stratoliner C-75 "Comanche.".

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