Bader, Goodwood and another Battle of Britain commemoration

Another of the stories with which the S&G was regaling all and sundry at the 2015 Goodwood Revival surrounded the statue of Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, one of the Battle of Britain’s best-known heroes, which stands before the Garden of Remembrance and, in its own way, commemorates one of the many historic links between Shell and Goodwood.

In 2015, the Goodwood Revival commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain with a spectacular gathering of wartime aircraft in the Freddie March Spirit of Aviation display and flying programme, supported by Shell as Official Fuel and Lubricants Partner to the event. It was therefore appropriate to look back upon the incredible life of Sir Douglas Bader, the ‘ace’ who later became Managing Director of Shell Aircraft Ltd.

Bader’s statue at Goodwood anchored the military vehicle area at the 2015 Revival

Lord March commissioned the statue in 2001 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Bader’s final operational sortie, on August 9 1941, when he led his wing of Spitfires from Goodwood (then RAF Westhampnett) towards occupied France. Recent research has shown that another Spitfire, in the heat of battle near Le Touquet, accidentally shot down Bader’s aircraft in northern France. Forced to bail out of his stricken machine, the RAF’s celebrated airman was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War.

The German medical officer who examined him exclaimed: “My God, you have lost your leg.” Soon afterwards they realized that this was in fact the famous British pilot who flew with two ‘tin legs’.

Bader had graduated from the RAF College in Cranwell in 1930, where he captained the Rugby team and was a champion boxer. A year later, however, he crashed his Bristol Bulldog fighter and both of his legs were amputated as a result.

Although discharged from the RAF, Bader was determined to keep flying and had artificial legs made, learning to walk again while taking a role working for Shell.

After considerable lobbying by Bader – something for which he was famous –the RAF agreed to take him back as a regular flying officer in 1935. Upon the outbreak of war, Bader was once again tireless in his efforts, this time to get posted to a frontline squadron, and duly arrived at 222 Squadron, flying Spitfires, in time to help provide air cover to the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Bader (centre) and the men of 242 Squadron at Duxford, September 1940

On his first operational sortie, Bader shot down a Messerschmitt Bf109. He was promoted to Squadron Leader during the Battle of Britain and given command of 242 Squadron, flying Hawker Hurricanes in Cambridgeshire – away from the most intense fighting, much to Bader’s chagrin.

Once again, Bader relentlessly lobbied his superiors, demanding that they employ a ‘Big Wing’ tactic, namely a massed formation of up to 70 fighters that Bader believed would hit the German bomber formations harder. Once again, Bader got his way.

This remarkable period of service came to an end in captivity after Bader had been credited with a total of 23 victories – although, in captivity, another chapter then began. Soon after his capture, a parcel was dropped by parachute during an RAF bombing raid with a note attached to it, which read:

“To the German flight commander of the Luftwaffe at St Omer. Please deliver to the undermentioned address this package for Wing Commander Bader, RAF prisoner of war, St Omer, containing artificial leg, bandages, socks, straps.”

Thus restored, Bader set about causing the Germans as much trouble as he had his RAF commanders. He tried repeatedly to escape and was eventually incarcerated in Colditz, where his captors confiscated his legs each night to prevent further escape attempts.

After the war, he rejoined Shell and travelled the world as Managing Director of Shell Aircraft Ltd. providing guidance on air operations and flight standards to Shell group companies worldwide.

Douglas Bader with the Miles Gemini he flew with Shell in the 1950s

Throughout this time, and through his retirement in 1969, Bader also worked tirelessly to establish and raise funds for the Douglas Bader Foundation, which provides help to disabled people who want to achieve seemingly impossible goals.

He was knighted for his work on behalf of the disabled, adding to the Distinguished Service Order that he was awarded twice, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Mentions in Dispatches, the Legion d’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre.

Interestingly, the Bonhams auction at this year’s Revival was supposed to star Douglas Bader’s personal transport throughout the war years: his black MG Midget. In the end the car was withdrawn from the sale during the week before the event, but it was nevertheless heartening to see this fine motor car looking in such good trim.

The Battle of Britain: an untold story

The S&G was called upon by Shell at this year’s Revival to tell a few stories to support its ongoing partnership with Goodwood. The first of these was a timely and unsung tale of how Shell developed fuels that made their debut in the aircraft of Fighter Command in the summer of 1940.

One might have thought that the arrival of a new fuel grade that boosted the power and endurance that was made available to fighter aircraft defending Britain in the summer of 1940 might have merited the occasional mention before now. Indeed, it did – in a rather colourful tome called Time’s Forelock: a Record of Shell’s Contribution to Aviation in the Second World War, written by Wing Commander George Kerr in 1948.

The skies over Sussex were in dramatic form

The skies over Sussex were in dramatic form at the 2015 Revival

It’s an astonishing piece of work, and sets the scene that, with a little bit of Transatlantic archive plundering, produced the following story:

National commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, including those at the Goodwood Revival, are an opportunity to reflect not only upon the heroic efforts of the men and machines of RAF Fighter Command throughout the summer of 1940, but also those who serviced and supported their great endeavours. The pilots who flew into battle were immortalised by Winston Churchill as ‘the Few’, but those who worked tirelessly away from the fighting were the many – and among them was Shell.

Developing innovative products for the aviation industry has been Shell’s mission from the outset of powered flight. In 1919, Shell engaged Harry Ricardo to investigate the fundamental properties needed to make aviation fuels more effective. Improving the fuels became a process that ran parallel to improvements in engine technology, identifying the correct blends to deliver optimum performance that became known, from 1930 onwards, as the fuel’s octane number.

Throughout the 1930s, in laboratories spanning the UK, Netherlands and USA, Shell scientists created blends of various octane levels and with specific lean and rich running properties to suit a variety of roles, with an 87-octane blend becoming the global industry standard through the 1930s. Nevertheless, further increases in the octane rating of aviation fuel were sought, led by the world-famous air racer and manager of the aviation department of Shell in the USA, Jimmy Doolittle.

General Doolittle (in uniform) visiting Shell’s laboratories in 1945

As a direct result of Doolittle’s insistence, Shell constructed a dedicated plant producing 100-octane fuel in the USA by 1934. The 100-octane blend provided high performance aircraft with a 15 to 30 percent increase in power over a compatible engine burning 87-octane fuel, with measurable increases in terms of shorter take off runs and faster rate of climb as well as overall reduced fuel consumption – qualities that would prove invaluable for the fast response of interceptor aircraft like the Spitfire and Hurricane during the Battle of Britain.

The Royal Air Force had agreed to a limited supply of 100-octane fuel in 1938, but the outbreak of war placed supply routes under threat until the USA invoked a revised Neutrality Act in late 1939; allowing large quantities of 100-octane fuel to be shipped from the United States. Those supplies began to reach front-line squadrons in bulk through the first half of 1940 and would see its first use in battle in defending the evacuation of Dunkirk, immediately prior to the Battle of Britain.

Delivering those supplies was a fleet of tankers that was forced to brave not only the rigours of the North Atlantic but also the concentrated attacks of submarine and surface vessels. In total 29 fuel and oil tankers were sunk in the Atlantic during the period of the Battle of Britain, with the loss of 260 merchant sailors. Their sacrifice in attempting to deliver desperately needed fuel to the front line cannot be forgotten.

The Shell tanker Pecten, sunk on 20 August 1940 delivering 100-octane fuel to the RAF

As a result of using 100-octane fuel, the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines fitted to the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire were able to make maximum use of their increased power and range.

With 100-octane fuel, the supercharged Merlins of the RAF fighters could, once adjusted, be “boosted” from +6.25 lbs/sq.in. to +12 lbs/sq.in., increasing peak power from 880 hp (656 kW) to 1,310 hp (977 kW). This increased power substantially improved the rate of climb for Britain’s first line of defence, especially at low to medium altitudes, and increased top speed by up to 45 mph in level flight.

The development of aviation fuels would be accelerated dramatically throughout the next five years at war. Octane levels rose from 100- to 130- and finally 150-octane by the war’s end, by which time the piston-engined aircraft was at the limit of its development. But as early as May 6 1941, Shell scientists had been on hand to witness their kerosene at work in the first flight of an aircraft using an all-new form of aero engine: the jet.

By then the Battle of Britain had been declared a victory by the British Prime Minister and ‘the Few’ had been garlanded. In those 16 weeks, the Royal Air Force had beaten off the threat of surrendering control of the skies over its homeland, and the ‘Few’ of Fighter Command were justifiably the heroes of the hour.

A great blog for a momentous anniversary

Contrails filled the sky over England - and elsewhere - 75 years ago

Contrails filled the sky over England – and elsewhere – 75 years ago

We are fast approaching the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, meaning that much will be said, written and broadcast between now and October – including here at the S&G. An abundance of Spitfires and Hurricanes, a Blenheim and some Gladiators will take to the skies and much will be said about ‘The Few’ – no matter how inaccurate some of those comments will be. Air raid sirens will wail and Churchill’s words will growl.

Before we hurl ourselves into the occasion, however, feel free to savour a truly remarkable blog about another campaign in the summer of 1940, during which the fate of an island nation was plunged into jeopardy – and with it the course of human kind: Malta GC 70.

Malta became a target for bombers in the summer of 1940

Malta became a target for bombers in the summer of 1940

In 2011 the enterprising individual behind this blog began putting up posts that told the reader exactly what had happened on the same day 70 years earlier – how many bombs fell, how many aircraft flew, how many shells were fired and how many casualties there were. This was to mark 70 years since the peak of the Battle of Malta and to build towards the commemorations of 70 years since the Maltese were recognised with the George Cross.

Now the blog is back in action, adding to the story by putting up daily details of the first weeks of the siege, to mark 75 years since the moment that Mussolini belatedly declared war on Britain and attempted to restore the Roman empire in the Mediterranean.

It is an astonishing body of work that tells far more than the legend of Faith, Hope and Charity. It brings to vivid life the daily realities for the Maltese, British and Empire nationals who were caught up in the maelstrom – and, thanks to the option to receive posts by email, provides a thought-provoking and entirely welcome window on the past almost every day of the week. Enjoy – and do come back to the S&G when you have a moment!

RAF Museum raises the last Dornier Do17

Well, they said that they’d do it and now they’ve done it. The RAF Museum has raised the last Dornier Do17 on Earth from its resting place on the Goodwin Sands.

The last of Goering's 'flying pencil' bombers breaks the surface of the English Channel

The last ‘flying pencil’ bomber breaks free of the English Channel

There were setbacks and dramas during the lift period, but the corroded and barnacled hulk was lifted almost complete after almost 73 years lying under the rampant tides of the Channel. The tyres were still inflated and there was still grease in the propeller gear, but one could divine a certain sense of disappointment among the attendant media that this was all that they were going to see.

Bringing home the booty: the Dornier under tow

Bringing home the booty: the Dornier under tow

Now the Museum’s job is to stabilise the metalwork before it can go on display, unrestored, for future generations to marvel at.

Gladiator Survivors #3: What Hope for Faith?

The story of ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’, the defenders of Malta, is probably the most enduring legend of World War 2 in the Mediterranean. It began in March 1940 when 18 Gloster Sea Gladiators (believed to have consecutive serial numbers N5518 – N5535), were unloaded on the Island in packing cases, bound for the carrier HMS Glorious.

Three of these cases were shipped back to England and the aircraft took part in the failed defence of Norway. Three more went to Egypt. Four of them were sent on to the carrier HMS Eagle to give her some defensive cover in anticipation of Italy joining the war.

Gloster Gladiators on Malta which staved off the Regia Aeronautica

Gloster Gladiators on Malta which staved off the Regia Aeronautica

After a bit of dithering which resulted in the aircraft being assembled, taken apart ready for onward shipping and then finally reassembled once again, the remaining aircraft formed the Malta Fighter Flight.

When Mussolini finally committed Italy to war against Britain it was these fighters which stood alone against a vast armada of Italian fighters and bombers based 60 miles away in Sicily.

For just under two weeks they flew in flights of two or three at a time and became known as ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’. Whether they were so christened by the deeply religious Maltese, by members of the RAF or by some bright spark in the propaganda unit has never been satisfactorily answered.

N5520 Faith seen with Blenheim engine and propeller fitted

N5520 Faith seen with Blenheim engine and propeller fitted

These outdated and outnumbered little aircraft and the valiant defence that they mounted truly has the stuff of legend about it, but the name stuck in the popular imagination. To this day the three longest-serving of the aircraft – N5520, N5519 and N5531 – have become known respectively as Faith, Hope and Charity.

Charity was shot down on 29 July 1940 and its pilot, Flying Officer Peter Hartley, was badly burned. Hope was destroyed in an air raid on 4 February 1941. By this time the surviving Faith had been joined by survivors from HMS Illustrious after she had limped, blazing, into port for emergency repairs in January 1941.

None of the aircraft remained completely intact, with much ‘bodging together’ of spare parts taken from damaged machines in order to keep the fittest survivors airworthy. Engines were sourced from Blenheim bombers, suitably modified, and fitted with three-blade propellers to try and boost their performance to get on terms with the Italian Fiat and Macchi fighters – and even keep up with the bombers.

Perhaps the most spectacular of all these aircraft was the fabled ‘Bloodiator’: a hybrid beast to which an additional pair of machine guns was fitted on top of the upper wing in the hope of being able to hit Stuka dive bombers as they pulled out of their bombing runs. This aircraft was destroyed by bombs on the ground before anyone had the chance to try it in anger – but when the experiment was replicated back in Britain it proved more hazardous to the Gladiator than to enemy targets.

Faith_09_43

By the summer of 1943 the siege had been broken and Malta had acted as the bridgehead to invading Sicily, but from the old airframe dump in the quarry near Luqa airfield the skeletal remains of N5520 Faith were retrieved and presented to the people of Malta by Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park on behalf of the British governor Lord Gort in recognition of their shared sacrifices and gallantry through the years of siege and hardship.

Faith has been kept on display in the depths of the ancient Fort St. Elmo for most of the intervening 70 years. In 1974 she was partially restored by a detachment of RAF volunteers, in which state she remains to this day, on view in the Malta War Museum.

Faith as she is seen today in the Fort St. Elmo war mueum

Faith as she is seen today in the Fort St. Elmo war mueum

In 1996, Malta’s then Minister of Justice and the Arts suggested that the specialists of the Malta Aviation Museum might be able to build some wings and restore Faith to her former glory. After trawling the air museums of Britain, Sweden, Finland and Norway the Aviation Museum team had assembled almost all the parts needed for the job – but then all hell appeared to be let loose.

There has been an impasse between the Malta Heritage-run War Museum and the volunteers of the Malta Air Museum over what work should be carried out, what is deemed necessary for the preservation of Faith, who should do the work and where she should ultimately be kept.

70 years after her presentation to the Maltese, Faith is still making headlines

70 years after her presentation to Malta, Faith is still making headlines

The Malta Aviation Museum states that what is left of Faith is deteriorating in the cellars of the old fortress, getting ravaged by damp and not being given the care that she deserves. The opposition states that it was entrusted with Faith and that the attentions of the volunteers are unwarranted and unwelcome.

While the war of words rages on between the museums, Faith remains wingless with a curious little propeller and a crude tail unit cut out of wood – but still drawing thousands of tourists every summer. Rightly so, too, as both the War Museum and Aviation Museum offer a wealth of exhibits and expertise and should be on anyone’s bucket list of places to visit – along with the rest of Malta and Gozo.

Here at the Scarf and Goggles we hope that there will be plenty of Faith in the future

Here at the S&G we hope that there will be plenty of Faith in the future

It would be wonderful to see this old girl back in one piece, representing a truly heroic chapter of Malta’s history to best effect. Although the signs are not encouraging at this moment in time, hopefully both sides can find the way to accommodate each other’s expertise to ensure that the story of Maltese endurance and resistance through the siege of 1940-42 continues to enthrall generations to come.

Last Dornier Do17 to be raised next month

The Goodwin Sands, a 10-mile sandbank off the coast of Deal in Kent, have always been a place of mystery. Shakespeare declared that ‘the carcasses of many a tall ship lie buried’ on them – and now it seems the last Dornier Do17 ‘flying pencil’ bomber is also there too.

A Dornier Do17z 'flying pencil' in flight

A Dornier Do17z ‘flying pencil’ in flight

The bomber was discovered in 2008 and confirmed as a Do17 in 2011. It has been confirmed as Dornier 17 Z-2, serial number 1160, of number 7 squadron, III/KG3, which was shot down by a Boulton Paul Defiant of 264 Squadron on 26 August 1940 and made an emergency landing in the sea.

Two of the four crew members died and two – including the pilot – survived to become prisoners of war. Three of 264 Squadron’s ‘turret fighters’ were also shot down in the engagement by defending Messerschmitt 109s.

The tragic story of 264 Squadron is key to the Goodwin Sands aircraft

The tragic story of 264 Squadron is key to the Goodwin Sands aircraft

Despite the water being only 50 feet deep, the Dornier turned turtle as it sank and came to rest on the bank. The sands quickly covered it and there it has lain in tranquility – until now. The RAF Museum is preparing to raise this last surviving ‘Flying Pencil’ and conserve the wreck in its current state.

Subject to weather and equipment serviceability the operation to recover the Dornier will take place in May-June 2013, from where it will be transported to the RAF Museum’s Conservation Centre at Cosford. A bespoke lifting frame will be employed to retrieve the Dornier from the seabed, with the modular structure also being employed as a transport cradle.

The RAF Museum's plan of how it will raise the Do17

The RAF Museum’s plan of how it will raise the Do17

Very few Do17s survived the war and those which did were quickly scrapped. The Finnish air force retained several until the 1950s but these were also scrapped, making this the last of the type left anywhere in the world.

‘Mad Jack’ and the Shuttleworths

The Shuttleworth Collection is one of Britain’s best-loved transport museums: a haven where the exhibits really do come to life and the only place in the world where you can often see a real 1909 Bleriot monoplane take to the air. But while its living, breathing artefacts are well-known, perhaps its ‘founding father’ is a little less so.

Ivan Berryman captures 'Mad Jack' in action - available here

Ivan Berryman captures ‘Mad Jack’ in action – available here

The Shuttleworth family originally came from Dogdyke in Lincolnshire, where this corner of the industrial revolution saw Joseph Shuttleworth ally his boat-building business with his brother-in-law Nathaniel Clayton’s iron foundry. Together they began to build steam engines and the new agricultural machinery that began to mechanise the British landscape in the late 19th Century.

The Claytons and Shuttleworths bequeathed a thriving business to their children, with Joseph Shuttleworth’s younger son Frank enjoying a privileged upbringing and education in Germany and France and becoming an accomplished yachtsman. His chosen career was as an officer in the cavalry, while also becoming a successful steeplechase jockey; buying an estate at Old Warden in Bedfordshire from which to breed horses.

The Clayton and Shuttleworth factory today

The Clayton and Shuttleworth factory today

At the ripe old age of 57 he settled down and married Dorothy, the beautiful 23-year-old daughter of Old Warden’s vicar, in 1902. The couple were blissfully happy, despite the age gap, taking a round the world trip in 1906 before Dorothy gave birth to a son, Richard, who was born in 1909.

Frank died just four years later, but his legacy of adventure and adrenaline lived on in his young son. Richard developed an abiding passion for aviation, enhanced no doubt by the fact that the Clayton and Shuttleworth factories were given over to war production during World War 1. Clayton and Shuttleworth became a major aircraft constructor and, in so doing, built a wide range of machines from the nimble Sopwith Camel fighter to the gigantic Handley Page 0/400 bomber.

The mighty Handley Page 0/400

The mighty Handley Page 0/400 was built by Clayton and Shuttleworth

Perhaps in anticipation of an inherited reckless streak, Richard’s father had ensured that his inheritance was to be held in trust until he turned 23. This prompted some inventiveness from the young scion to ensure maximum thrills on a tight budget – he chose to buy and tun old cars, taking part in the London to Brighton Run from the age of 19 at the wheel – or tiller – of a variety of pioneering pre-1906 machinery.

This was often done in the company of boisterous friends and peers, while Shuttleworth’s ebullience at the controls gave nim the nickname ‘Mad Jack’ which was to become very much part of his persona. Once he turned 23, however, Richard’s massive resources allowed him to indulge all his passions, and he immediately learned to fly, buying the Bleriot and Deperdussin monoplanes which remain at the heart of his collection today.

Aircraft were one passion but motoring was another. As his contribution to the family business, Richard invested heavily in Noel Macklin’s new Railton sports car marque. For his own motoring ambitions, meanwhile, he bought a Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix car and won the Brighton Speed Trials.

Shuttleworth at the 1934 Mannin Moar (pic The Bugatti Trust)

He upgraded the Bugatti to a brand new Alfa Romeo P3 in 1935. The green-painted Alfa won the Brooklands Mountain Championship and ran competitively alongside the works cars of Scuderia Ferrari in Europe, but Shuttleworth’s finest hour came in the inaugural Grand Prix held at Donington Park circuit in Leicestershire at the end of the season.

It was a weekend of foul weather and the ‘crack’ Ferrari-entered Alfas of Giuseppe Farina and Raymond Sommer held sway through the early stages of the race. Shuttleworth ran in fourth but spun while attempting to remain on the lead lap and appeared to be out of the running completely.

In desperation he ditched the blue and white cork crash helmet and visor, opting instead to race bare-headed in just a pair of goggles as he attempted to fight his way back into contention. ‘Mad Jack’ was to the fore, powering the Alfa through the many bends of the parkland circuit in a string of lurid slides with his hair blowing in the wind… meanwhile the works Alfas hit trouble, leaving the British drivers a clear field.

The two Bugattis of Earl Howe and Charlie Martin looked to have the race sewn up, but Shuttleworth kept charging and when the more experienced men spun in the aqwful conditions he was able to pounce, In the end he finished 45 seconds clear of Howe’s Bugatti to claim a memorable victory – and his finest racing achievement, taking home the Donington Park Challenge Trophy and £400 for his efforts.

Early in 1936, Shuttleworth took his Alfa to South Africa and entered the East London Grand Prix. He lost control of the car at speed and suffered career-ending injuries – preferring to dedicate himself to aviation, except for his outings on the annual London to Brighton jaunt.

Fairey Battles on a training flight over England

Fairey Battle bombers on a training flight over England

At the outbreak of World War 2, Richard joined the Royal Air Force. For all his enormous experience, however, he was killed in an accident while piloting a Fairey Battle bomber over Oxfordshire while practicing night flying.

His mother, although devastated by the loss of her son, set up the mansion as a Red Cross Convalescent Home for injured airmen and created a small chapel, dedicated to Richard. In 1944 she decided to place the estate in a charitable Trust in memory of her son; she wanted to ensure that it would continue as one entity to be used for the purpose of agricultural and aviation education, two interests that Richard was especially keen on.

Shuttleworth College first opened its doors to students in 1946 and remains as part of the modern Bedford College. Richard’s collection of historic aircraft and cars were also preserved in working order, opening to the public in 1963. The Collection has since grown in scale and stature, while the family home at Old Warden Park is now also a renowned conference venue and is also home to the English School of Falconry.

Shuttleworth's 1912 Deperdussin in action today

Shuttleworth’s 1912 Deperdussin in action today