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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 RAR 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.


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


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Harrier – Part 1 of 3: Origins

Part 1 of 3 articles researched and written by Greg Goebel of www.Airvectors.net. All images and text republished courtesy of Greg Goebel.

Prologue: The Flying Bedstead and the SC.1

* Studies of “vertical takeoff or landing (VTOL)” aircraft began late in the Second World War, with German engineers coming up with a series of concepts that never got out of the paper stage. That was probably fortunate, since the postwar history of VTOL technology strongly suggested that converting such paper plans into practical flying machines was a real challenge.

Various nations began to work on flight-worthy VTOL machines after the war, though initially these aircraft were purely experimental in nature. In the UK, Rolls-Royce began work on Britain’s first VTOL aircraft, known by the bland name of “Thrust Measuring Rig (TMR)”, apparently as a dodge to conceal the real nature of the project from those who might have thought it too far-fetched. It was designed to evaluate hovering flight using raw jet thrust, the vehicle having no capability for serious horizontal flight.

The first of two TMRs was rolled out in 1953. It hardly looked like an aircraft at all, consisting only of a frame with four legs, mounting twin Rolls-Royce Nene centrifugal-flow turbojet engines arranged exhaust-to-exhaust, with the exhausts tilted downward through the TMR’s center of gravity. There were reaction jets — “puffers” — on arms out to each side, fed by exhaust bleed from the engines to provide maneuvering capability during a hover. The pilot sat perched on top, with little protection if the clumsy-looking thing decided to flip over. It was referred to as the “Flying Bedstead” due to its appearance; more or less the same nickname was applied to comparable VTOL evaluation rigs developed in other countries.

Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig
The “flying bedstead”
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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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400 Squadron Mustangs

This is a curious piece of propaganda, “Train Busting Mustangs” – a Pathe newsreel. Whilst not identified this film is dated 1943 and noting the names and aircraft serials it appears to feature Mustang I’s of 400 Squadron. 400 Sqdn. had their Tomahawks replaced with Mustangs in July 1942. Whilst the gun-camera footage looks to be from a variety of different sources, some of the ground scenes look to be Dunsfold.

Two notable names are Flight Officers “Bitsy” Grant and J Morton:

MORTON, F/L John Alexander (J7451) – Distinguished Flying Cross – No.400 Squadron

GRANT, F/O Duncan Marshall (J5982) – Distinguished Flying Cross – No.400 Squadron


RCAF Squadron 414 History

RCAF Squadron 414 History – RCAF Base Dunsfold 

414 Squadron Crest

No.414 Squadron RCAF was formed at RAF Croydon in August 1941 and was the twelfth RCAF unit formed overseas. It was also the second Canadian squadron to be designated in the Army Co-Operation role along with the 400 Squadron RCAF, both squadrons formed No.39 Army Co-Operation Wing. 414 Squadron took the name “City of Sarnia Imperials” and became known as the Black Knight Squadron. Their badge was a Black Knight upon a White Horse on a cloud with the motto is “totus veribus” (With all our might).

At the time of formation, 414’s first aircraft were Curtiss Tomahawks (and some Westland Lysanders), and during the first year it was mainly undergoing training for its future reconnaissance and ground attack role. In June 1942, the Tomahawks were replaced with the new North American Mustang Mark IA. This aircraft performed very well at low height and was suited to its future role of reconnaissance at low levels. The Mark IA had cameras mounted directly behind the cockpit. 

As an Army Co-operation Squadron, their purpose was to supply Allied Army Intelligence with information regarding enemy locations, movement and facilities. Photos and pilot reports after a sortie became highly valued data, particularly in the months leading up to D-Day and on the advance across Europe.

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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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Peacetime Aircraft Accidents

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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