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.
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.
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.
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.
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 The Corpo Aereo Italiano soldiered on until May 1941 before being withdrawn to warmer Mediterranean climes.
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.
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.
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.
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.