In 1940 no. 320 (Netherlands) Squadron RAF was formed by members of the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service, who had flown from the Netherlands when it was invaded. On 12 June 1944 Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands visited Dunsfold to award medals. In all, 320 Squadron were awarded the Dutch Military Order of William four times and the Dutch Airman’s Cross, 176 times.
The Queen arrives in a fairly rare aircraft the De Havilland DH95 Flamingo. The film also shows how extensive were the dispersal areas to the South and East of Dunsfold airfield.
February 3rd 1963. Here is XP831 on the deck of HMS Ark Royal after Hawker Test Pilot Bill Bedford had completed the deck landing. This was the first ever vertical landing of a fixed wing aircraft on an aircraft carrier and the last of significant milestones in the proving the prototype’s potential. 3 months later XP831 would crash at the Paris Airshow.
It was late in a sunny warm Sunday afternoon in August 1978.
XZ450 just at start up for the first Sea Harrier flight at Dunsfold. the photo was taken by Dunsfold Photographic Dept. John Farley is in the cockpit, Trevor Davies is sitting on the ground and I’m standing with the cine camera.
Dick Poole, formerly of Dunsfold Flight Test Department
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.
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.
This is a fascinating audio recording of an interview with Fred Clarke and Holly Hills – both 414 Squadron Mustang pilots. The interview explores their story of the famous Dieppe raids in August 1942. Engagement with FW190’s and decisions to bail or head home are described in this engaging story. Thanks to Chris Clarke for providing this recording of his father and his wing man.
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
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.