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.
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.
Donald Riches, was a Squadron Leader in the RAF. He was posted to Singapore in the early 60’s and subsequently to Devon and then Norway.
In August 1968, Don Riches completed his posting with the Norwegian Air Force 336 SKV at Rygge and took up his new posting at Dunsfold with Hawker Siddeley as Squadron Leader on secondment from the RAF due to the belief that both the Navy and Air Force would be purchasing Harriers and Sea Harriers in the future. After a couple of years, he was asked by Hawker Siddeley if he wanted to give up his RAF career and continue as a test pilot for them.
Don was test flying the Harrier and the Hawk. He flew at the Paris and Farnborough airshows. His contemporaries at his time at Dunsfold were Andy Jones, John Farley, Dick Whittington, Jim Hawkins and Duncan Simpson.