Category: Aircraft

Mitchells approach Dunsfold film discovered

Original footage courtesy of Imperial War Museum

Searching for more information on the operations of 180 Squadron I chanced upon an obscure reel of unedited film shot by the RAF Film Unit. It sits in the Imperial War Museum archive and it is poorly labelled, dated 1944, without specifics of the content. However certain sequences are unmistakably Dunsfold in the very early years of operations. There is a sequence of bomb loading crew working on Mitchell B-25s and followed a sequence of landing filmed from the bomb aimers seat of a Mitchell. The aircraft approaches from the South-East banking to align with the main runway. The newly built A281 and truncated fields are below and the Dunsfold aerodrome technical areas are seen to the North. Blackdown Hill is in the far distance. Most significant is the give-away “experimental” runway part built parallel to the main run way. This has previously only been seen in distant aerial photographs.

We have taken the raw footage and re-edited into a coherent piece, perhaps as originally intended when the photographer shot the material.

Still from the archive film: F/S Cyrille ‘Cy’ Poissant RCAF

Whilst most of the scenes look to be Dunsfold the air to air scenes look to be the South Coast with a group of Mitchells seen over Ovingdean heading East, an unidentified kinked coastline, and then returning over the Seven Sisters.

Aircraft that are seen include Serial no. FW184 Mitchell II – this aircraft was lost in France on 11th June 1944 and FL207, lost in 1943.

98 Squadron RAF – aircraft code VO

98 Squadron were posted to Dunsfold in August 1943 to take part in pre-invasion attacks on Northern France and on V1 launch sites in the Pas-de-Calais. After the Normandy landings the Squadron operated in close support of the advancing Allied armies, and from October 1944 was based at Melsbroek in Belgium, moving to Achmer, Germany just days prior to VE Day.

180 Squadron RAF – aircraft code EV

The Squadron was equipped with Mitchells at RAF West Raynham It then flew its first raid from RAF Foulsham and suffered heavy losses including the aircraft of the squadron commander. After supporting the breakout from the Normandy beachhead in June 1944, the squadron re-located to Melbroek. It supported the allied advance across Europe and from April 1945 it operated from Achmer, Germany.

320 Squadron (Dutch) RAF – aircraft code NO

320 Squadron (Dutch) had a NO code and orange inverted triangle marked beneath the cockpit.

On 30 March 1943, the squadron moved to RAF Attlebridge then was reassigned to Second Tactical Air Force on 1 June with the squadron attacking enemy communications targets and airfields. The squadron relocated to RAF Lasham on 30 August and to RAF Dunsfold on 18 February 1944. From these airfields the squadron participated in many ” Ramrod” and “Noball” operations and bombing attacks on construction works, railway yards, fuel dumps and V-1 Flying Bomb sites in the North of France, in advance of Normandy Landings on 6 June 1944 (D-Day).

After D-Day the bombing of tactical targets continued and changed from France to the Dutch coast of Zeeland, and in September 1944 the squadron was involved in bombing German troops in the surroundings of Arnhem. In September the squadron started bombing targets in Germany along the Rhine for the advancing allied troops. In October 1944 the squadron was transferred to Melsbroek in Belgium. From there the bombing of bridges and airfields in the east of the Netherlands and Germany continued. During 1943 and 1944 the squadron took heavy losses. On 30 April 1945 the squadron moved to Advanced Landing Ground B.110 at Achmer, Lower Saxony in Germany.

All three squadrons were part of 139 Wing.


You can find the 14 minutes of original footage film here.https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060021114


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Avro 707B

Avro 707B VX790 c1953 – This second prototype was painted bright blue.

The Avro 707, was the first British aircraft with a delta-wing – a research aircraft to prove the concept of delta wings for the 3 times as large Avro Vulcan that was to follow.

The first Type 707 aircraft (serial VX784) made its maiden flight on 4 September 1949 at Boscombe Down. Tragically, test pilot Eric Esler lost control of the aircraft at low speed on 31st September and fatally crashed near Blackbushe.

The loss of the first prototype resulted in work on the second Type 707 aircraft being suspended for a time, until a number of modifications were introduced to save time and simplify the construction. The long pointed nose section intended for the Type 707A was grafted onto the fuselage, resulting in the new aircraft being 12 ft (3.66 m) longer than the original. Redesignated Type 707B (serial VX790), the maiden flight took place at Boscombe Down on 5 September 1950.

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Harrier Story – Presentation by John Farley

Former Dunsfold Chief Test Pilot John Farley’s presentation of his story of the Harrier development from 1951 to 2015. This hour long presentation is a unique insight into the early development of the “jump jet” and the evolution of Hawker’s prototypes P.1127 to the Harrier as a military aircraft. This recording was made by the Brooklands Museum Trust in 2015.

Video Copyright Brooklands Museum Trust ©2015 (digitally remastered 2020)

Video Copyright Brooklands Museum Trust ©2015 (digitally remastered 2020) The original slightly longer video is here.

The Harrier story – transcript of 2015 presentation

Now the Harrier story goes back to 1951 and the meeting at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Now 1951 is a long time ago. I mean that’s 64 years, isn’t it? And to try and get ourselves in the sort of mindset to thinking how long ago that was. It was two years later that our queen came to the throne. It was two years before Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing wandered up Everest and it was two years before the Supreme allied commander in Europe, Dwight Eisenhower now became president of the United States. That’s a long time ago. It’s also one year after I started my engineering apprenticeship at the Royal aircraft establishment. Now in those days, the main gate looked like that. And in the evening, this is the sort of thing you saw, people went to work on their feet in buses or on bikes. There were very, very few cars and indeed the number of bike sheds that Farnborough was astonishing. 

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Evolution of Harrier – in Newsreels

The evolution of the Harrier from prototype to the last variants has generated press interest from the early 60’s onwards. Pathe Newsreels visited Dunsfold on a regular basis to tell the story.

1963 Hawker P.1127 XP831 1st prototype at Dunsfold. Pilot Bill Bedford ©Pathe News
1962 Farnborough Airshow first sight of the Hawker P.1127 XP972 (the 3rd prototype ) and G-APUX Hunter. Air to air filming and XP831 (1st prototype) STOL demonstration ©Pathe
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Kestrel returns home

XS694 arrives in the UK. Photo from https://www.facebook.com/wingskestrel/
Museum number 1: Wings Museum’s 10,000sqm building situated off the Dunsfold – Alfold road. The curved roof design is now not part of the proposal.

Warbirds Magazine reports the “return home” of the crash damaged Kestrel XS694 that has been languishing in the USA for many years. But the question is – coming home to where? The Wings Museum, who bought the airframe some years ago, are based in Balcombe Sussex and don’t have space in their agricultural building that is packed with their current display artefacts. The Warbirds report skirts over the huge elephant in the room that Wings Museum have plans to build a 10,000sqm warehouse to the South of Dunsfold aerodrome as part of their ambitious plans to move their museum from Sussex to Dunsfold.

A restored Kestrel would make an excellent centre piece to this new museum, but with supporters being asked for donations to help with the restoration it begs the question: what about the money earmarked to construct the new Museum? Professional estimates indicate there will be little change out of £10m to build the museum – and that’s without factoring in the operating costs. Half of the proposed museum space is destined to be telling the Dunsfold Story but so far the Kestrel appears to be the only item in their catalogue that has any link with Dunsfold.

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Last Harrier flying in civilian hands

Art Nalls has announced he wishes to sell his two Sea Harriers. Art currently flies his FA.2 formerly XZ439 originally from Dunsfold and now the oldest Sea Harrier in existence, as well as a two-seat Harrier T.8 (ZD993). Neither aircraft would be permitted to fly in the UK. http://warbirdsnews.com/warbird-articles/art-nalls-hawker-siddeley-harrier-fleet-for-sale.html

You can find more about Art’s passion for Harriers here.

Dunsfold: 439 as FRS2, before pitot change. Photo: Andy Lawson, BAe Systems

VC10 open day 12th October

Brooklands are hosting another open day this month where you can visit the VC10 at Dunsfold.

https://www.brooklandsmuseum.com/whats-on/vc10-za150-open-day-at-dunsfold-aerodrome

We understand their Napier Railton will also be on display. https://www.brooklandsmuseum.com/explore/our-collection/cars/napier-railton

In 1951 the car was sold to the GQ Parachute Company of Woking. GQ had the car modified and fitted with test equipment capable of deploying an aircraft braking parachute at high speed and then retracting the parachute when the speed had dropped to about 30 knots. These experimental trials were carried out on Dunsfold airfield and proved to be most successful.

Hunter Production at Dunsfold

A number of interesting images from the early 1950’s has been recovered recently. Many thanks for the contribution by Russell Powell.

Hunter 1. Hunter Erection Line No. 2 Bay Left hand view, neg number H2453 21-06-1954.

Hunter 2. Hunter Erection Line No. 2 Bay Right hand view, neg number H2452 21-06-1954.

Hunter 3. Hunter Erection Line No. 1 Bay, neg number H2451 21-06-1954.

Hunter 4. Hunter Aircraft cleared Flight line preparing for Delivery, neg number H2454 21-06-1954.

Hunter 5. Production Apron aircraft preparation for flight tests, neg number H2450 21-06 -1954.

 

In this last photo it looks like WT591. Aircraft on charge of the RAF DFLS (Day Fighter Leader’s Squadron). It skidded on ice on landing on 24/1/1957 at RAF West Raynham, Norfolk. Aircraft overshot and hit the boundary fence, shearing off the starboard undercarriage leg.

Struck off charge as Cat5(G/I): Allocated to Ground Instructional Airframe use as 7411M at 1 SoTT at RAF Halton on 23/4/1957. Not used as such, instead re-classified as Cat.5(c) at 19 MU RAF St. Athan on 26/4/1957. Re-classified Cat.5(scrap) struck off charge and moved to fire dump 17/5/1957.

WT581 is at the back left. A tragic story is associated with this aircraft. It ran out of fuel at the end of an air test including aerobatics and manual landings. Crashed 1 mile west north west of Leuchars after the engine cut on final approach. Pilot – Flying Officer Alan MacKillop-Watkinson – ejected too low (at 250 – 500 feet) did not separate from the seat, and was killed.

Could Red Arrows ‘come home’ to Dunsfold?

Many will have seen the news last week that the RAF is closing Scampton – the airbase which, among other things, is the home of the iconic Red Arrows display team. Those with an interest in UK aviation history, including neighbours living around Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, will probably also know that the Hawk trainer jet which is used by the Red Arrows was developed, assembled and first flown at the Dunsfold Aerodrome in 1974.  More than a few people are therefore asking the question – is now the time to consider offering a new base for the Red Arrows, at the historic home of the Hawk, Dunsfold Aerodrome?

Hawk 168 in 1985 over Dunsfold: Image by Andy Lawson/ BAe Systems

Red Arrows and BAe aircraft in 1985 at Dunsfold: Image by Andy Lawson/ BAe Systems

Red Arrows at Dunsfold 2010. Photo courtesy Karen Sutton www.limelight-marketing.co.uk

By coincidence (or may it be providence?), a rare example of a Hawker Hunter fighter jet which has for many years been on public display in a shopping street in Woking, is also looking for a new home. ‘XL623’ was the last Hunter T.7 to be built, and it is believed it first flew at Dunsfold.

T7 Hunter XL 623 as art in Woking
T.7 Hunter XL 623 as art in Woking Photo Courtesy Neil Randell

T.7 Hunter XL 623 being removed from Woking, July 2018 Photo Courtesy Carol Fenton-Balch

XL623. Royal Air Force Hawker Hunter T.7 at RAF Leuchars. Image copyright Jim Cain

Having been donated to Brooklands Museum, and with the help of the Hawker Association, restoration of Hunter T7 XL623  is about to begin – very fittingly at Dunsfold Aerodrome! How good would it be if that aircraft could also find a permanent home at the Dunsfold site?

Dunsfold Aerodrome is also the semi-permanent home of the Brooklands-owned VC10 aircraft, which although not fit to fly, regularly starts up its engines for a short taxi round the runways. In addition, it is a base frequently used by a WW2 Dakota painted in D-Day landing colours.

In the past year, the Aerodrome has benefitted from a flurry of Listings of buildings on the near-intact and still operational airfield.   During 2017, Historic England listed as Grade II;

VSTOL Blast Pads

Engine Running Pens

Royal Observer Corps Monitoring Post

Canadian War Memorial

So are we about to see a resurgence of interest in Dunsfold Aerodrome becoming a living museum as the home of a VC10, Hunter XL623, and – possibly? – a base for the Red Arrows flight of Hawk jets?    Well, while the threat of obliteration of the aerodrome under housing development remains, this would seem a remote dream. But, surely, the site owners, who often cite their interest in the flying history of the airfield, would do well to consider how popular such a proposal might be, and how many tourists the new museum could attract? It may, just, be time for the planes to come home to Dunsfold.

Banner Image: Red Arrows at Dunsfold 2010. Image courtesy of Gareth Stringer

Collection of Photos from heyday of Dunsfold

Eric Hayward had worked at Dunsfold for many years and over that time was able to take photographs of the activities and aircraft that he saw.   His whole collection has been scanned and assembled into an album on Flickr.  Whilst it is a diverse collection, in no particular date order, many images are from Dunsfold, and some are of very significant aircraft.

If you can assist in identifying aircraft and locations, please do add the detail in the comment section.

Eric Hayward. Mainly Dunsfold

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