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The plane that saved Britain


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Jez Saunders14/04/2018 16:01:46
110 forum posts

And to keep things going I will throw the Mustang into the discussion, gave a lot of support to bomber crews and did a lot of damage to Hitlers war machine, no one aircraft won ww2 but the Spitfire was one of the most beautiful aircaft in its appearance ,performance and sound.

Gordon Nicol14/04/2018 16:18:36
69 forum posts

didn't RCME do an article about how the mustang started off as a British inspired fighter , was improved by the British , etc a few years back, something to do with Chuck Yeager getting upset because someone said it had a British Merlin

Or it may have been in one of the other Magazines

Timo Starkloff14/04/2018 19:08:24
235 forum posts
545 photos

Another interesting one, although slightly off topic: The plane that would have to save Britain in case of an invasion was the Westland Whirlwind. Only built in small numbers, but during the first years of WWII it was the only British fighter equipped with cannons and therefore with a chance to fight against tanks.


thomas oliver 115/04/2018 20:02:45
88 forum posts
23 photos

When war ended in 1945, ground crew of my Squadron - 159, were ordered to run up the engines of half the Liberator bombers without oil until they seized up, then attach chains to the U/C and drag them outwards with the petrol bowsers,. and they were then just abandoned as they lay.on their bellies. We were then flown in the remnants to a new unit at Poona to work on transport Liberators. The remainder of the bombers were I believe given or sold to the Indian Airforce, and I have a list of them somewhere. In 1947, the last job I ever did in the RAF was when I was sent to Jaipur in India. There lined up were hundreds of Mustangs and yellow Harvards. I was allocated about 20 Mustangs and given a sledge hammer and ordered to drop the oil filters to remove the oil, remove the cowls and batter the engines about a bit then do the same in the cockpit. then I was to run up the engines until seized. These were brand new machines. I wonder how much this little lot would fetch today if put up for sale. It has always grieved me to know how these lovely aircraft were butchered. I have read that the day the First world war ended , pretty much the same thing had happened. The Sopwith factory just completely stopped production and left the half completed aircraft standing abandoned.

John Stainforth15/04/2018 20:20:17
194 forum posts
38 photos


Thanks for sharing extraordinary history. Why is it, given half a chance, human beings love to smash things? Surely the "problem" of excess Mustangs had a better "solution" than the sledge hammer?!

Edited By John Stainforth on 15/04/2018 20:20:42

Edited By John Stainforth on 15/04/2018 20:21:10

Geoff Sleath15/04/2018 20:59:54
2664 forum posts
199 photos

It's always sad when fully operational equipment of any kind is destroyed, especially beautiful aeroplanes but what else could have been done at the time? I suspect the relief that the killing was over meant that decisions were taken that were regrettable in hindsight.

I read somewhere (possibly in the write up I got with my Flair SE5a kit) that SE5as were up for sale after WW1 and some pilots who never got to fly one during the war bought one filled with fuel, took one flight from the aerodrome (Brooklands?) landed and sold it back. They regarded the loss they made as worthwhile for the opportunity to fly the plane. Possibly not true but it made a nice story.


Tom Sharp 215/04/2018 23:53:20
2946 forum posts
16 photos

The American planes were on Lend/Lease. At the end of hostilities Britain had to pay for serviceable equipment but not for irreparably damaged stock.

Nigel R16/04/2018 09:53:30
1296 forum posts
287 photos

"didn't RCME do an article about how the mustang started off as a British inspired fighter , was improved by the British , etc a few years back, something to do with Chuck Yeager getting upset because someone said it had a British Merlin"

Produced for a British contract and/or spec, and the prototypes rejected due to performance problems at altitude, with the original Allinson engine. The Merlin was the solution for the altitude performance and at that point they were then bought/lent/leased by RAF squadrons.

Apologies if my (very shaky) history is wrong.

Didn't Mustangs (along with Airacobras) have one of the earliest attempts at a laminar flow section?

J D 816/04/2018 11:21:18
851 forum posts
53 photos

The first RAF Mustangs were Allison engine and performed well at low level. In fact the RAF wanted more Allison ones for that roll but by that time the Merlin had taken over and going back was not an option.

There is a story that somewhere some squadron had a dead Hurricane with a good engine and a Mustang with no engine. An in the field conversion was done and the results were good. A R.R. representaive took note and a proper experimental installation done.

Frederick Barlow16/04/2018 11:21:37
1 forum posts
Yes the mustang had a laminar flow wing, iv got an interesting book on the mustang with all the development history, I don't have the title to hand but it's a good read,
A fellow club member was a flight engineer in shorts Stirlings and he told us lots of stories from the war but the one thats apt for this thread is near the end of the war he had to fly stirlings to be scrapped from the factory, I can't remember where they took them but when they landed they pulled the fuses and retracted the undercarriage at the side of the taxiway, he also said they were belly landing shorts Sunderlands to break the keel ready to be destroyed by bulldozers
Manish Chandrayan16/04/2018 13:08:13
427 forum posts
56 photos

On the theme of perfectly serviceable equipment being destroyed, an IAF Dakota pilot narrated how all the Dakotas in service were flown to an airbase in south of India for scrapping. And all these years there was not a single serviceable one in the country. But that's soon to be rectified when the Dakota restored in UK lands in India and joins the IAF's vintage fleet of serviceable Tiger Moth and Harvard

J D 816/04/2018 14:58:28
851 forum posts
53 photos
Posted by J D 8 on 16/04/2018 11:21:18:

The first RAF Mustangs were Allison engine and performed well at low level. In fact the RAF wanted more Allison ones for that roll but by that time the Merlin had taken over and going back was not an option.

There is a story that somewhere some squadron had a dead Hurricane with a good engine and a Mustang with no engine. An in the field conversion was done and the results were good.

A Rolls Royce. Man Ronald W Hacker championed a Merlin in a Mustang and a proper experimental installation was done with great results.

thomas oliver 116/04/2018 15:00:50
88 forum posts
23 photos

The later mustangs were fitted with American made Packard Merlins, and with drop tanks could escort bombers to Europe targets and back.

Tom Sharp 216/04/2018 20:12:08
2946 forum posts
16 photos

The only trouble with the US Merlins was they would not fit in planes made for British built Merlins. And Vice Versa .

Peter Beeney19/04/2018 13:18:33
1491 forum posts
59 photos

It’s always seemed to me that whilst great acclaim is made for all these aeroplanes, and rightly so of course, occasionally there maybe some scope for giving rather more credit to the men whose ideas led to these aeroplanes in the first instance. Clever men with long range forward vision.

The Mosquito was a good case in question; Geoffrey de Havilland and his team designed it and Wilfrid Freeman ensured that ultimately it was built and went into service. Although this did require some considerable tenacity to achieve on their part however, because reading between the lines of many of the wartime history chronicles there was much infighting at times between various departments and personalities. Nothing changes much, even in wartime. To start with Geoffrey de Havilland had to fund it himself as a PV (Private Venture) right up until the first orders were placed. Wilfrid Freeman also had enough faith in the project to ignore orders from Lord Beaverbrook to cease work on the development of the Mosquito at least three times; it also seems as though some others weren’t convinced either; indeed, for a while the embryo plane was known as Freeman’s Folly… However, once they started flying in earnest they soon proved their worth. For at least the first eighteen months they were the fastest planes in the air; at least until the later variants of the Focke Wulf 190 began to play catch-up. They went on to prove that they could deliver bombs at very long range with pin point accuracy for the lowest loss rate in Bomber Command. They’ve also been credited with being the most successful photo reconnaissance vehicle ever. And that’s from more than one source, I believe. I remember reading somewhere too, a little story about Geoffrey de Havilland in the early days visiting an American Airbase to give a ‘spirited demonstration!’ in a Mossie. Unfortunately the article didn’t describe too many of the manoeuvres that he performed but it did mention vertical upward rolls from ground level on one engine… Doubtful if there’s any film record, and perhaps even the Yanks were rendered speechless for a while… Maybe Bob Hoover was watching… Today’s H&S inspectors would still be having nightmares… Much later on a 12 foot long 57mm 25 round rapid fire Molins cannon was slotted into a few Mossies and used as submarine hunters in the Bay of Biscay; which they did with great aplomb… So from starting with no armament at all right up to becoming a flying howitzer and all the time performing as a high performance bomber and aerial camera cab in between… An extremely efficient and versatile aeroplane if ever there was one!

Sir Geoffrey de Havilland and Air Chief Marshall Sir Wilfrid Freeman were both giants in their own fields. The author Anthony Furse describes Wilfrid Freeman as The Genius behind Allied Survival and Air Supremacy, 1939 to 1945; …and that all sounds about right to me.

Wilfrid Freeman had an interest in the development of the Merlin but the Mustang was also one of his favourites. He submitted the original spec. to North American Aviation, fortunately the president there, one J. H. ‘Dutch’ Kindelberger, also had his eye on the situation in Europe and could see what was happening; he’d had already done some ground work in anticipation and thus was able to get a prototype ready quite quickly; more forward vision again. The first Mustangs arrived at Liverpool in November 1941 and one soon found it’s way to Duxford where Wing Commander Ian Campbell-Orde, CO Air Fighting Development Unit (AFDU) immediately rang Ronald Harker giving him an opportunity to come and fly it. Ronnie Harker was a Rolls-Royce service liaison pilot at the RR Experimental Flight Test Establishment at Hucknall, he flew as a test pilot in an evaluation and troubleshooting capacity, particular on the Merlin engined planes, but with a sideline in flying all their competitors and other brands that he could get his hands on as well, including enemy types if they became available.

Mr Harker was suitably impressed with the Mustang, in his subsequent report he included the paragraph -

‘The point which strikes me is that with a good and powerful engine like the Merlin 61, it’s performance should be outstanding, as it is 35 m.p.h. faster than the Spitfire V at roughly the same power.’

This quickly went up the line to reach the ear of Wilfrid Freeman and thus the rest, as they say, is history.

The Mustang was originally designated the NA-73, the Americans went on to name it the Apache but the RAF decided it was a thoroughbred Mustang; the Americans then fell into line with this.

I’ve no evidence of course, but I’ve always liked to have had a little suspicion that Air Chief Marshall Sir Wilfrid Rhodes Freeman, 1st Baronet, GCB, DSO, MC, FRAeS might just have had a small input in this minor but very appropriate detail too…


Nigel R19/04/2018 14:47:35
1296 forum posts
287 photos

Interesting stuff PB.

"All modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics.".

Geoff Sleath19/04/2018 17:32:09
2664 forum posts
199 photos

Very interesting, PB. Unfortunately politics is always a big part of any engineering development ... and perhaps in some cases that's not always a bad thing. Engineers (like any creatives) can too easily become so engrossed in their project that they miss the bigger picture. I've been there ... as an engineer.

Unfortunately the "RR Experimental Flight Test Establishment at Hucknall" where I did a lot of model flying (and even once a full-size flight to Bristol on business) is now a housing estate and I don't think any test rigs are operational on the RR site either.


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