Category Archives: History

1940 updates

You might be aware of my 1940 aircraft obsession. 2020 was the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. It had been arranged for me to take part in a display of models at the IPMS UK Scale Model World exhibition in Telford, but a certain pandemic virus put paid to that.

It didn’t stop me building models, though. In fact, what with one personal thing and another, gluing together plastic aeroplane kits rather helped keep me more or less sane during the lockdowns.

Pilot and instructor compare notes after a training flight.

Various aircraft from my ever-growing collection of kits made their way to my workbench during the year. The rather sweet Airfix new tooling of the classic De Havilland Tiger Moth was improved by an after-market photo-etched set of rigging wires.

It is a tiny model, but exquisite. While not a perfect rendition, I am pleased with the final model. It joins my collection of RAF training aircraft, so of which can be seen in the background of the photos.

Potez 63-11, No. 156, 2 Escadrille, GR II/33, Athies-sous-Laon, winter 1939-40. Azur 1/72nd scale plastic construction kit with resin and photo etch brass details. Painted with ColourCoats enamels.

Having pretty much exhausted the single-engined single-seat fighters of the French air force of 1940, I made a start on the twin-engined types. The Potez 63-11 was an ungainly looking plane, designed for reconnaissance and fighter control. A crew of three was carried. The pilot sat high up in the fuselage, accompanied by his radio operator/rear gunner, while in splendid isolation in that huge greenhouse nose was the observer. The 63-11 was not a huge success, and most were lost or destroyed during the invasion of France in May and June 1940.

Potez 63-11, No. 156, 2 Escadrille, GR II/33, Athies-sous-Laon, winter 1939-40. Azur 1/72nd scale plastic construction kit with resin and photo etch brass details. Painted with ColourCoats enamels.
ANF Les Mureaux 117
ANF Les Mureaux 117

The Potez 63-11 replaced the Mureaux 117 during the start of 1940. The 117 was the last of a long line of parasol wing monoplane reconnaissance aircraft that first entered French air force service in 1935.

An Italian Expeditionary Force was despatched to Belgium in September 1940, following Italy’s declaration of war on Britain.

In September 1940, the Italian Air Force sent an expeditionary force of fighters and bombers to German-occupied Belgium. The big twin-engined Fiat BR.20M bombers were accompanied by the oddly antiquated Fiat CR.42 sesquiplane and Fiat G.50 monoplane fighters. While the bomber force was actually quite effective, attacking the port of Harwich a couple of times, the fighters were less so. Lack of communication equipment, and pilots ill-suited to the autumnal weather conditions took their toll. The Corpo Aereo Italiano soldiered on until May 1941 before being withdrawn to warmer Mediterranean climes.

Grumman Martlet MkI, Fleet Air Arm No 804 Squadron, Hatston NAS, Orkneys, October 1940. 1/72nd scale plastic construction kit by AZ Models.
Fairey Fulmar MkI, N1868, 7L, Fleet Air Arm No 808 Squadron, Wick, Scotland, August 1940. Airfix 1/72nd scale kit.

The Britmodeller forum held a group build to commemorate the Battle of Britain 80th anniversary. I entered the Italian aircraft shown earlier, plus two planes representing the Fleet Air Arm. The FAA was part of the Royal Navy. Nos 804 and 808 Squadrons were land-based during the Battle, and for a time came under Royal Air Force Fighter Command control. Because of that, both squadrons appear in the official Order of Battle alongside the more expected RAF fighter squadrons flying Hurricanes, Spitfires and Defiants.

Fokker D.XXI

The spring of 1940 saw the German army sweep across Western Europe, invading Belgium, France and Holland. As part of my obsession, I have collected aircraft representing all the countries that had offensive and defensive aircraft that took part at the time. The Fokker D.XXI was the main Dutch fighter at the time, and while desperately outnumbered by the invading forces gave a good account of themselves.

Junkers Ju52/3m, 3U+MT, 9./ZG 26, France, 1940.

ZG 26 was a Zerstörer (Destroyer) squadron flying Messerschmitt Bf110s. The Ju52 “Tante Ju” would have been one of the support aircraft on squadron strength to move personnel and equipment to new airfields. 1/72nd scale plastic model kit, Kovozády Prostejov boxing of a Heller moulding.

The Mureaux and the Ju52 were entries in another Britmodeller group build, celebrating the Heller classic kits. Both kits originally date from the 1970s, as did the next and final aircraft in this post.

De Havilland DH.89a Dragon Rapide

The De Havilland DH.89a Dragon Rapide was a smaller development of the DH.86 Express, a four-engined biplane. Both shared the same straight six-cylinder Gypsy Six engines, as well as some fuselage and wing components. With two engines developing 200hp each, the Rapide was capable of nearly 170mph and could carry six or eight passengers, depending on the cabin fittings.

Originally called the Dragon 6, the name was changed to Dragon Rapide, and eventually just to Rapide. The DH.89 was introduced in the summer of 1934, and proved popular with many small airlines in the UK and abroad. Flaps and a nose-fitted landing light were added to the aircraft, becoming the DH.89a. These features were gradually retrofitted to already-built Rapides over time.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Rapides in the UK continued civilian airline duties, but many were impressed into military service. De Havilland continued to build the type, and in military service it was christened Dominie—a Scottish word meaning “teacher”—and used for training, ferry and ambulance duties. 727 Rapides and Dominies of all types were built, and following the end of hostilities in 1945 many were sold on to form the backbone of resurgent civilian airlines across much of Europe and beyond. Eighteen Dominie/Rapide aircraft survive around the world, though not all are in airworthy condition.

G-ADBW was impressed into RAF service on 15 July 1940, and given the military serial Z7265. The aircraft had been one of a pair that had been supplied to Jersey Airways Ltd in 1935. All but one of the Jersey Airways’ fleet of De Havilland aircraft had been flown back to the UK mainland from Jersey airport in June 1940—just before the Channel Islands had been occupied by German forces.

It does appear that G-ADBW, although painted in the standard camouflage colours befitting a training aircraft, didn’t carry its military serial and continued to carry the civilian registration. The aircraft was used by an RAF flying school for navigational training. Sadly, barely a month after starting its military career, on 30 August, the plane was involved in an accident at Staverton. I think this refers to what is now Gloucestershire Airport, but which was an RAF training airfield in 1940. The records go quiet at this point, and I haven’t been able to find out if the plane was salvaged and returned to service or not. The records do show it lingered until it was struck off charge on 17 November 1941. I wonder if it ended its days as an instructional airframe, or as a donor for parts.

Trying to educate and inform

I want to try and outline the events of 1940 via the medium of scale model aeroplanes, but I can’t quite work out the structure that would work. Perhaps this particular blog isn’t the correct medium, and I would be better off creating a whole new blog or web site to do what I want. In the meantime, posting here will remain sporadic. I am really trying hard not to be angry—one of the reasons I cleaned out all the angry posts and links last year—but there’s just so much to be angry about these days. Enough. Thanks for reading. Comments are not turned on, but you can communicate with me through other means.

More YouTubing

I have a love-hate relationship with London. I love the concept, the idea, the history of the city. I hate having to actually visit the place. Too many people, too much noise, too much dirt. From where I live in the south-east of England, London forms an impenetrable lump of stuff that must be driven around in order to go almost anywhere else. Horrible place.

That’s probably why I find various YouTube channels about the city fascinating. That’s probably why I am providing links to them here. I hope this blog doesn’t become a link farm!

The first is called Joolz Guides. A dapper chap in a bowler hat leads you on walks around London. Along the way, he points out interesting buildings, talks about events and people, and educates and entertains. I simply adore this kind of stuff. Joolz is just the kind of genial guide to a place that makes actually having to visit in real life worth all the effort.

The next is called Londonist. It does what it says on the tin. As well as the channel, they have a web site with lots of fun information. Like Joolz, the presentation is witty and knowledgeable. I particularly liked the Underground series.

Anyway, that’s all for this post. Thanks for looking. More soon, I hope.

Well, what’s new?

Hello there. It’s been far too long since I posted anything worthwhile here. I’ve been over the reasons in previous posts, so I won’t go over them again. So, what’s new?

I have spent an afternoon patiently going through my entire blog deleting all the rants and random news stuff. Enough negativity from me! I have edited posts referencing my now long-defunct Facebook page. Change is afoot.

My plan is to continue posting updates on life, the universe and everything. I want to continue sharing my photography—when I get back to it!—as well as linking to the photography of others. Long-time readers will note a few model aircraft have appeared over the years, and I intend to expand on that. Let me explain.

2020 is the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the epic aerial battle that took place in the skies over southern England during the summer of 1940. The Battle, and how events from the 1920s transpired to reach that tipping point, is something I’ve been fascinated by for over 40 years. Starting out with an ambition to build models of the main aircraft flown by Britain and Germany during the Battle, things have since got slightly out of hand—I now plan to build examples of every plane that was operating during the whole of 1940, from all the countries involved at the time!

What I hope to do is post something about an aircraft, or a series of aircraft, with some explanatory text and images of the models. I have reached the conclusion that 1940 was a pivotal year in the Second World War, a year where many things were still in a state of flux, and the stage was being set for the rest of the conflict. The scope of my interests covers the Battle of Norway in the early spring, through the so-called Phoney War in France, through the invasions of Holland, Belgium and France, the Battle of France through to the armistice, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, and into the day and night Blitz over the British mainland.

Not being content with that, I hope to then cover the Mediterranean and North Africa theatre. So, I have my work cut out, and all the while I am still supposed to be building railway models for clients!

There remains unresolved the technical issues I have experienced with this site. I am unsure as to how to fix them, but I will soldier on with things for now. I will generally not be allowing comments on posts, so apologies for that if you like to express opinions. You can find me in other places to do that!

Thank you for you patience, and I hope to be back to blogging about life at Snaptophobic Towers soon.

The London Sound Survey

I’ve always loved sound, from a very early age. I loved to record ambient sound—still do, in fact—and I acquired an extensive collection of sound effects records over the years. I find sound can evoke something in me that pictures with sound doesn’t. I can’t explain why that might be.

Anyway, following a link posted on Facebook by Say No To Estuary Airport, I discovered the London Sound Survey.

The home page intro says:

Welcome to the London Sound Survey, a growing collection of Creative Commons-licensed sound recordings of places, events and wildlife in the capital. Historical references too are gathered to find out how London’s sounds have changed.

If you have good speakers on your computer, turn the volume up and explore the sounds of London. If I wasn’t busy at the workbench, I fear I would be able to waste the entire day just soaking up the audio landscape of our capital city and surroundings.

Sixty years, eh?

Today, 7 September 2013, is apparently Cassette Store Day. Six decades ago, Philips revealed the Compact Cassette to the world at the Berlin Radio Show. Folk who really ought to know better (and some weren’t even born when I was playing with compact cassettes in the 1970s and 1980s!) think we should be celebrating this fact, and have persuaded numerous musicians and bands to release their music on this supposedly defunct medium.

It took a while for the format to become mainstream. Early cassette tapes were of mediocre quality, but as the technology improved so did the sound quality. As a youngster, I fell in love with recording tape—my parents owned an ancient reel-to-reel recorder that I played with for hours, even learning to edit tape with sharp things and sticky tape. My sister and I would make rude noises, create silly sound effects and play about with the speed controls. It was a hoot, and I still fondly remember such antics. As I began to earn a disposable income, I began to buy records, and eventually I acquired a reasonable quality cassette recorder so I could still listen to them in my car.

Amazing stuff.

I always wanted to be a radio DJ when I was younger. I’d still jump at the chance if it came my way today, if I’m honest. While I waited, as a callow and spotty teen, for my big break into wireless, I created my own radio show which I lent out to friends. I bought a second-hand Akai 4000DS MkII reel-to-reel recorder (YouTube link to a young fan demonstrating his 40-year-old machine), and a second stereo cassette recorder. I learned to  multitrack using the “bounce” technique, where you played back one tape and recorded it on a second machine with a second soundtrack. It was all very basic and limited, but I had a ton of fun. Eventually it spawned the Ticky Radio Show.

IMG_6761

The Ticky Radio Show was a three-hour über mix tape, consisting of home-made jingles, favourite tracks from my collection, interspersed with snatches of comedy recordings. It was very much a shallow copy of my hero, the sadly missed Kenny Everett. The show was lovingly crafted, with musical selections to educate and entertain—many tracks were “flip sides” of hit singles, if I recall—and presented in two 90-minute cassettes with custom inserts designed by yours truly. Also included was a comprehensive track listing, carefully outlining the artistes, record label, recording number and so on.

Originally, the TRS was in mono only, a legacy of the technology available to me. Then came a breakthrough: I could produce everything and record the show throughout in stereo! Sadly, this high-tech marvel was the last show I ever made, dating from 1985. I do still have those final recorded tapes (and one of the much-chopped-about seven-inch reels somewhere) of the last two shows I made. Having recovered them from their dusty storage to take their photo for Cassette Store Day, they will be rewound to the start of side A, returned carefully tape side down to the plastic case, and put back in the drawer once more. I do not wish to listen to them, as my rose-tinted memories of the hours spent in my home-made studio making the things will be much better than the real thing.

Oddly, I didn’t buy much music on cassette. I preferred the LP until quite late in the 1980s. Eventually I bought a CD player, and began to buy new copies of my existing record collection, as well as add new material. I still made copies on cassette, simply because my car had a cassette player. I was one of those people who invested in the MiniDisc, too, and it was quite a while before I was persuaded that an MP3 player was a worthy replacement. Making mix-discs from CD to MD was a fun exercise, especially with a proper stereo mixer and a pair of CD players, but I digress.

I still buy the occasional CD, but most purchases nowadays are a click away on the internet. The pleasure of selecting music, carefully timing everything to fit into the 46 minutes available, and then painstakingly writing out the playlist on the insert, is something I will fondly remember for many years. The utterly linear process would be completely alien to many today. Having to sit through a track as it’s recorded, and repeating that process to fill a whole tape, must seem such a strange thing to do. Everything is so instant these days, the concept of having to wait while something is recorded in real time seems so very old-fashioned.

I wouldn’t want to go back there, though. I’ve been there, still got my record collection, and some mix tapes to prove it. I just wish I could have had the technology I have today back when I was a teenager lovingly making those “radio shows” in my bedroom.

My love of audio recording is still there. I am currently considering acquiring a digital audio recorder to match with the DSLR for location sound. While I could use my MiniDisc recorder for such a purpose, I have grown to dislike having to replay the sound back in real time to get it into another digital form. If my 17-year-old self could hear me now!

BBC News – WWII Dornier bomber raised from English Channel

A German World War II bomber has been raised from the bottom of the English Channel.

The Dornier Do-17 aircraft was shot down off the Kent coast more than 70 years ago during the Battle of Britain.

via BBC News – WWII Dornier bomber raised from English Channel.

Now the long haul up to Cosford, and the long haul of preservation begins.

For other blog posts here about this story, search for “Dornier”.

Incidentally, it’s been mildly annoying hearing all the female news presenters pronounce Dornier like their favourite cosmetics company.

A Trip on the River

The end of October into the start of November 2012 sees a celebration of Kent’s coastal heritage. Sponsored by Kent County Council, numerous events are happening, ranging from exploring nature reserves to gaining access to things often not open to the public.

One of the events was a trip on a preserved tugboat, the MT Kent. The South Eastern Tug Society owns, maintains and operates the Kent to promote festivals around the south east and near continental ports.

MT Kent was built in 1948 by Richards Ironworks in Lowestoft for JP Knight Ltd of Rochester. She worked on the Medway, and was deployed as far afield as Scotland and Ireland under contract. She retired in 1988, and was eventually acquired by the SETS, who then spent four years restoring the vessel to working order.

Since she is not a passenger ship, trips aboard the Kent are quite rare. There is no accommodation, apart from a small galley and the wheelhouse, so if the weather is inclement any “pleasure” trip may be called off. Luckily, though slight rain was forecast, today we set sail from the Chatham Marina on St Mary’s Island, and headed out for Rochester. We turned at Bridge Reach, in sight of Rochester Castle and Cathedral. We headed back towards Hoo Marina, before turning once more and heading back to Chatham Marina.

I mainly shot video of the trip, though I did find time to fire off a few shots with my compact camera. The edited video will take a while to prepare, but be assured it will be mentioned in due course.

We were cold, windswept, smothered in diesel fumes, but we all enjoyed every minute of the trip. The volunteers and crew of the MT Kent made us all very welcome, and were very happy to explain any aspect of the vessel’s history. I have lived around the Medway Towns since the late 1980s, and while I have spent a good deal of my spare time by the River Medway taking photographs, this is the first time I have travelled on the river itself. I hope it won’t be the last.

Click here to visit the MT Kent web site.

Avebury – a set on Flickr

A set of photos from my first ever visit to Avebury. I must go back one day. It’s a place that really needs to be lived in or near for a while so you can learn its moods. A couple of hours dodging other tourists is not the best way to understand something so large and so ancient, in my opinion.

What’s Avebury? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avebury

Link to Flickr for those not blighted by Flash.