Category: War

OTD: Spitfire Maiden Flight

On this day in March 1936 one of the most iconic World War 2 era fighter aircraft took to the skies in Southampton. The aircraft,  prototype Supermarine Spitfire K5054, was the first of over 22000 aircraft that would be a firm favourite of pilots, aircraft buffs, small boys with notebooks, old men who fought in wars and even German pilots who tried to outfly this thoroughbred aircraft. 

There is so much to say about the Spitfire that it could take ages and  reams of paper to catalogue, and even then some stuff would be left out. Southampton is really the home town of the Spitfire, and the manufacturers Supermarine, would be plunged into fame as they built the aircraft that helped to win the Battle of Britain. There are a few places in Southampton that celebrate the birth of the legendary aircraft and I catalogued some of then in a post that I created way back in 2013  and since then I can safely say I have added a few Spit sightings to my collection, although have yet to see one in flight!  The most obvious reference to the Spitfire in Southampton is the sculpture of the original K5054 that may be found on a roundabout at Southampton Airport. Formerly Eastleigh Aerodrome, it was the site of the first flight of the aircraft in March 1936.

 

At the nearby Solent Sky Museum in Southampton there was only one example of the real aircraft, a MK24 (PK683), was one of twenty seven converted from MK22’s. It would have been powered by a Rolls Royce Griffon engine.

 
 Interestingly enough, the museum also houses Supermarine S6A.
My next close encounter of the Spitfire kind happened at the RAF Museum in Cosford where they have the MKI (K9942) on display, and it is the oldest surviving example of its type in the world.
The Spitfire in the image below is quite an  interesting one too, as it was the end result of a TV Program called James May’s Toy Stories. In this particular episode James May and his helpers successfully constructed a 1-1 replica of an Airfix model of a Spitfire. The pieces were built out of fibreglass but unfortunately the fibreglass pieces couldn’t support their own weight without internal supports, which were added to ensure it would be strong enough so that it did not collapse.  I saw the show 2 years ago and it was fascinating viewing. I just wish I had taken a better look at the plane at the time. 
My next Spitfire was found in London at the Imperial War Museum.  This particular lady is a MK 1a that was built at Southampton in 1939 and  was issued to No. 19 Squadron at RAF Duxford in April 1940. You can read her story at the IWM page dedicated to her.
My next Spitfire is not really a Spitfire. It is a reproduction that goes around to war related events and it appears as if she is based on the aircraft that Johnnie Johnson flew (MKIX EN398). More information on the “Spitfire Experience” may be found on their website. 

And yes, the engine did run while I was there and it was awesome. Unfortunately it did not run at full power, but it was really something to experience.

There is also a Spitfire at the London Science Museum  and she is a MK1a and is serial P9444, a Battle of Britain veteran. Unfortunately lighting in that gallery is poor so decent pics of the aircraft are really difficult to get. The Spitfire is also in close proximity to the Supermarine S.6B, serial S1595, that won the Schneider cup in 1931. The S.6B was designed by Reginald Mitchell, the Spitfire’s father. 
One more Spitfire that I wish to mention is not in the United Kingdom but back home in South Africa at the “War Museum” in Johannesburg. I remember seeing this silver machine when I visited the museum way back when I was in primary school and drooling over her back then. The Museum’s Supermarine Spitfire Mark FVIII was a high altitude version with extended wingtips and was fitted with a tropical air filter on the carburettor for operation in hot and dusty climates. This aircraft was built in 1942 and came to South Africa at the direct request of Field Marshall Smuts for a special exhibition in 1944. Unfortunately she is very difficult to photograph because you cannot get far away enough from her and of course the stupid regulations about taking photographs in the museum. 
And that more or less concludes my Spitfire collection for now, I do want to close off with an image that I found amongst some junk from a friend of mine that he must have taken when he was doing his National Service. I stand corrected but I think this aircraft was “Evelyn”, sadly she left South Africa in the 80’s, and was  exported to the USA, purchased by Rolls Royce and donated to a museum in Brazil.
She was Spitfire HF. IXe MA793, and was restored in South Africa.  Unfortunately the museum where she is has closed but it appears as if she is well looked after and will be part of a new museum to be built. 
And that concludes my small tribute to the Spitfire.  Had we known back then how rare these aircraft would one day become it is possible that more would have been saved, but alas there are only so many Spits left in the world, and not too many of these are in a flying condition.  And while the aircraft is still famous today we must spare a thought for those who fought in the air in them, and the men and women that built them and kept them flying, as well as those who continued to improve the basic aircraft. RJ Mitchell would have been very surprised had he known much his iconic design would become famous throughout the world.  Without his design the world may just be a different place altogether.
 
DRW © 2020. Created 05/06 March 20020
Updated: 22/03/2020 — 10:39

OTD: The Bombing of Reading

On 10 February 1943, Reading was bombed by the Luftwaffe in an incident involving a single aircraft. Four 500kg bombs were dropped killing 41 people and injuring 150.  I visited the town twice to do gravehunting although I did not fully explore it, concentrating more on the old cemetery. Up till today I had not really known the details behind the bombing and the plaque that was affixed to the side of a building next to St Laurence Church. 

Only 37 of those killed were ever identified and the youngest casualty was a boy of 10 years old. Amongst the survivors was Michael Bond, the author of the Paddington Bear books. 

St Laurence Church

The bombs fell in a line from the north bank of the River Kennet to just outside Reading Town Hall, with the first landed on Simmonds Brewery, the second bomb penetrated the offices of the Reading Labour Party in Minster Street and exploding in Welsteeds Department store across the road. The third bomb landed on a Victorian arcade linking Broad Street and Friar Street and exploded outside the People’s Pantry in Friar Street and the fourth landed on top of the People’s Pantry and detonated outside the town hall, bringing down the front of Blandy and Blandy Solicitors and damaging St Laurence Church.

The Town Hall

The plaque in the image above is affixed to the wall of the building where Blandy and Blandy Solicitors are, and that is next to St Laurence Church.  I am sure that some of the victims of that incident are buried in the old Cemetery in the town. 

The Cenotaph in Reading is behind the churchyard of St Laurence at the entrance to Forbury Park

DRW © 2020. Created 10/02/2020. Most of the text and information comes from an article published on the getreading pages of 10/02/2020

Updated: 15/02/2020 — 08:57

OTD: The Victoria Cross is established

On the 29th of January 1856 Queen Victoria issued the royal warrant that established the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system.  Prior to the 1850s, there was no official standardised system for recognition of gallantry in the British armed forces and the courage of ordinary British servicemen highlighted the issue that their bravery went unrewarded. 

It is the premier award for gallantry, and is available to all ranks, to cover actions since the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854. It is described as a cross patteé, the obverse is a lion guardant on the royal crown, with the words “FOR VALOUR” on a semi circular scroll. The reverse is a circular panel on which is engraved the date of the act for which the decoration was awarded. The cross is suspended on a ring from a seriffed “V” attached to a suspension bar decorated with laurel leaves hanging from a crimson ribbon. The reverse of the suspension bar is engraved with the name, rank and ship, regiment or squadron of the recipient.  The medal was originally made from the bronze of Russian guns captured in the Crimean War, but guns captured in other conflicts have been used at various periods.

A number of South Africans have been awarded the VC, and many were issued during the Boer War to Imperial soldiers and officers. I have an extensive section on allatsea dedicated to the Victoria Cross and the graves that I have personally seen and photographed.

The list below covers South Africans, South African born, buried in South Africa or with links to South Africa.  I also have a page for VC graves in South Africa.  

  • 21. Lance Sergeant JOSEPH MALONE VC., 25th October 1854, buried St. Andrew’s Churchyard, Pinetown, Natal, South Africa. VC location, 13th/18th Hussar’s Museum, Barnsley, Yorkshire, England.
  • 36. Lieutenant FREDERICK MILLER VC., 5th November 1854, buried Ossuary Garden of Remembrance, Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa. VC location, not publicly held.
  • 97. Colour Sergeant JAMES CRAIG VC., 6th September 1855, buried St. Mary’s Cemetery, Valley Road, South End, Port Elizabeth, Cape Province, South Africa. VC location, Scot’s Guards RHQ, Wellington Barracks, London, England.
  • 153. Lt-Col JOSEPH CROWE VC., 12th August 1857, Grave relocated on 5 February 1977 to the Moth Garden of Remembrance in Uitenhage, South Africa. VC location, destroyed in a fire at his sister’s farm, it is not known if an official replacement was issued.
  • 302. Private THOMAS LANE VC., 21st August 1860, buried Gladstone Cemetery; RC Section, Row 4, Grave 23. Kimberley, South Africa. VC location, Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum, Winchester, Hampshire, England.
  • 332. Private WILLIAM GRIFFITHS VC., 7th May 1867, buried in unmarked mass grave, Isandlwana, Natal, South Africa. VC location, South Wales Borderers Museum, Brecon, Wales.
  • 345. Lt TEIGNMOUTH MELVILL VC., 22nd January 1879, buried with Lieutenant Nevill Coghill, Fugitive’s Drift, below Itchiane Hill, South Africa. VC location, South Wales Borderers Museum, Brecon, Wales.
  • 346. Lieutenant NEVILL COGHILL VC., 22nd January 1879, buried with Adjutant Teignmouth Melvill, Fugitive’s Drift, below Itchiane Hill, South Africa. VC location, South Wales Borderers Museum, Brecon, Wales.
  • 351. Assistant Commissary JAMES DALTON VC., 22nd/23rd January 1879, buried Russell Road RC Cemetery; Plot E. Port Elizabeth, South Africa. VC location, RLC Museum, Deepcut, Camberley, Surrey, England.
  • 368. Sergeant ROBERT SCOTT VC., 8th April 1879, buried Plumstead Cemetery; Allotment EA, Grave 88. Wynberg, South Africa. VC location, Manchester Regiment Museum, The Town Hall, Ashton-under-Lyne, England.
  • 369. Trooper PETER BROWN VC. . 8th April 1879. Buried Woltemade Cemetery, Cape Town. Grave 81594A but grave has been reused, now bears the name Abrahamse). VC Location: Amatole Museum, King William’s Town
  • 371. Surgeon Major EDMUND HARTLEY VC, 5th June 1879, buried Brookwood Cemetery; St. Judes Avenue, Plot 2, Grave 193293. Cemetery Pales, Woking, Surrey, England. VC location, Army Medical Services Museum, Mytchett, Surrey, England.
  • 373. Captain HENRY D’ARCY VC., 3rd July 1879, buried King William’s Town Cemetery; Section D, Grave 32-33, family plot. Cape Province, South Africa. VC location, not publicly held.
  • 374. Sergeant EDMUND O’TOOLE VC., 3rd July 1879, no known grave, died in Harare, Salisbury, Zimbabwe. VC location, not publicly held.
  • 381. Lieutenant WILLIAM DICK-CUNYNGHAM VC. , 13th December 1879, buried Ladysmith Cemetery, Natal, South Africa. VC location, Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen, Scotland.
  • 389. Surgeon JOHN McCREA VC., 14th January 1881, buried Kokstad Cemetery, Transkei District, Cape Province, South Africa. VC location, The Ashcroft Collection.
  • 391. Trooper JOHN DANAHER VC. (or DANAGHER), 16th January 1881, buried Milton Cemetery; Plot M, Row 1, Grave 6. Milton Road, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. VC location, National Army Museum, London, England.
  • 413. Trooper HERBERT HENDERSON VC.. 30 March 1896. Buried Bulawayo Town Cemetery, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. VC Location: National Army Museum London, England.
  • 414. Trooper FRANK WILLIAM BAXTER VC. 22 April 1896 Buried Bulawayo Town Cemetery, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. VC Location Imperial War Museum, London, England
  • 415 Captain RANDOLPH NESBITT VC.. 19 June 1896. Cremated, ashes interred at Anglican cathedral, Harare, Zimbabwe. VC Location: National Archives of Zimbabwe.
  • 429. Lieutenant RAYMOND de MONTMORENCY VC., 2nd September 1898, buried Molteno Cemetery, near Dordrecht, South Africa. VC location, not publicly held.
  • 436. Captain CHARLES MULLINS VC., 21st October 1899, buried Grahamstown Old Cemetery, South Africa. VC location, Imperial War Museum, London, England.
  • 440. Cpl. JOHN DAVID FRANCIS SHAUL VC.. Born 11/09/1873 Kings Lynn, Norfolk. Died 14/09/1953 in Boksburg, South Africa. VC gazetted 28/09/1900.
  • 446. Lieutenant FREDERICK ROBERTS VC., 15th December 1899, buried Chievely War Cemetery; Plot 136. South Africa. VC location, National Army Museum, London, England.
  • 449. Sergeant HORACE MARTINEAU VC., 26th December 1899, buried Andersons Bay Soldiers’ Cemetery; Returned Serviceman’s Area, Block 73, Plot 16. Dunedin, New Zealand. VC location, The Ashcroft Collection.
  • 450. Trooper HORACE RAMSDEN VC., 26th December 1899, cremated at The Maitland Crematorium, Woltemade, Cape Town, South Africa. VC location, The Ashcroft Collection.
  • 452. ROBERT JAMES THOMAS DIGBY-JONES VC.Born 27/09/1876 Edinburgh. Died 06/01/1900. Buried Ladysmith Cemetery, Ladysmith. KZN. VC Location: Goredon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen, Scotland.
  • 454. Trooper HERMAN ALBRECHT VC., 6th January 1900, buried in mass grave, Waggon Hill Cemetery, South Africa. VC location, Museum of Military History, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • 457. Lieutenant FRANCIS PARSONS VC., 18th February 1900, buried Driefontein Cemetery; an isolated grave on the battlefield. Orange Free State, South Africa. VC location, Essex Regiment Museum, Chelmsford, Essex, England.
  • 458. Sgt ALFRED ATKINSON VC.. Born 06/02/1874 Leeds. Died 18/02/1900. Originally Buried in an unmarked grave at Gruisbank British Cemetery, Petrusberg District, Paardeberg, Free State.
  • 468. Driver HORACE GLASOCK VC., 31st March 1900, buried Maitland Road No. 4 Cemetery, Cape Town, South Africa. VC location, The Ashcroft Collection.
  • 478. Captain DAVID YOUNGER VC., 11th July 1900, buried Krugersdorp Cemetery, Halgryn Street, Krugersdorp, South Africa. VC location, not publicly held.
  • 497. Private JOHN BARRY VC., 7th/8th January 1901, buried Belfast Cemetery, East of Johannesburg, South Africa. VC location, The Ashcroft Collection.
  • 500. Corporal JOHN CLEMENTS VC., 24th February 1901, buried Town Cemetery; Dutch Reform Section. Newcastle. South Africa. VC location, The Ashcroft Collection.
  • 507. Lt. ALEXANDER YOUNG VC. 13 August 1901, No known grave, commemorated on Thiepval Memorial Pier 4, face C. VC Location, The Ashcroft Collection.
  • 503. Lt GUSTAVUS COULSON VC. 18 May 1901, Buried Lambrechtfontein Farm Cemetery near Bothaville. VC Location: King’s Own Scottish Borderers Museum, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Northumberland.
  • 558. Bandsman THOMAS RENDLE VC. 20th November 1914, buried Maitland Road No. 1 Cemetery; Family Plot No. 24598. Cape Town, South Africa. VC location, Duke of Cornwell’s Light Infantry Museum, Bodmin, Cornwell, England.
  • 642. Captain PERCY HANSEN VC, DSO, MC, Born 26 October 1890 in Durban, South Africa, died on the 12th February 1951. There is reference to his funeral been held in London, his ashes were interred in the family vault, Garnisons Kirkegard, Copenhagen. Section R. Row K. Grave 3. VC Location, The Ashcroft Collection.
  • 731. Private WILLIAM FAULDS VC. 18th July 1916, buried Pioneer Cemetery, Remembrance Drive, Harare, Zimbabwe. VC location, unknown, medal stolen from National Museum of Military History, Johannesburg, South Africa in 1994.
  • 746. Captain WILLIAM BLOOMFIELD VC. (born BROOMFIELD), 24th August 1916, buried Ermelo Cemetery, Ousthuizen Street, Transvaal, South Africa. VC location, with recipient’s family.
  • 775. Sergeant FREDERICK CHARLES BOOTH VC.  : 12 February 1917.  Buried Bear Road Cemetery, Brighton, Sussex. VC Location: Rhodesia Native Regiment, Harare, Zimbabwe.
  • 783. Captain OSWALD REID VC., 8th to 10th March 1917, buried Braamfontein Cemetery; Section EC, Plot 22932. Johannesburg, South Africa. VC location, Museum of Military History, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • 883. L/Cpl WILLIAM HENRY HEWITT VC., 20 Sept 1917, Cremated in Cheltenham, ashes scattered off Hermanus, Cape Townl. VC location, Framlingham College, Suffolk.
  • 891. Captain CLEMENT ROBERTSON VC., 4th October 1917, buried Oxford Road Cemetery; Plot III, Row F, Grave 7. Near Ypres, Belgium. VC location, not publicly held.
  • 919. Acting Lieutenant Colonel JOHN ‘BOMB’ SHERWOOD KELLY VC., 20th November 1917, buried Brookwood Cemetery; Block 86, Grave 196296. Cemetery Pales, Woking, Surrey, England. VC location, National Museum of Military History, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • 937. Acting Captain ARTHUR MOORE LASCELLES VC 03 December 1917. Emigrated to South Africa in 1902 and joined the Cape Mounted Rifles as a Trooper. Buried Dourlers Communal Cemetery, France. VC Location Durham Light Infantry Museum, Durham.
  • 955. Acting Captain REGINALD HAYWARD VC., 21st/22nd March 1918, ashes scattered at Putney Vale Crematorium; Garden of Remembrance. Stag Lane, London, England. VC location, The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire & Wiltshire Regiment Museum, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.
  • 1029. Acting Captain ANDREW BEAUCHAMP-PROCTOR VC. (born PROCTOR), 8th August to 8th October 1918, buried Mafeking Cemetery; European Section, Grave 1050-2. South Africa. VC location, not publicly held.
  • 1040. Captain FERDINAND MAURICE FELIX WEST VC. 10 August 1918. Buried Holy Trinity Churchyard, Sunningdale, Berkshire. VC Location: The Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum
  • 1108. Temporary Lieutenant ROBERT GORLE VC., 1st October 1918, buried Stellawood Cemetery; Section K, Grave 144. Durban, Natal, South Africa. VC location, The Ashcroft Collection.
  • 1133. Lieutenant Colonel HARRY GREENWOOD VC DSO* OBE MC. 23/24 October 1918. Buried Putney Vale Cemetery, London. VC Location: King’s Own Yorkshire Museum, Doncaster.
  • 1170. CSM GEORGE GRISTOCK VC.. Born 14/01/1905 in Pretoria. VC Gazetted 23/08/1940. Buried in the War Graves Section (Plot Z.G.L. Grave 28), Bear Road Cemetery, Brighton, Sussex, England.
  • 1203. CHARLES GROVES WRIGHT ANDERSON VC. MC. Born 12/02/1897 Cape Town, VC gazetted on 13/02/1942.  Died Red Hill, Canberra, Australia 11/11/1988
  • 1214. Squadron Leader JOHN DERING NETTLETON VC Born 28/06/1917 in Nongoma, Natal. VC was gazetted on 24/04/1942. His aircraft was shot down on 13/07/1943 and his body was not recovered.
  • 1217. Sergeant QUENTIN SMYTHE, 5th June 1942, ashes buried on his farm, Nottingham Road, Natal, South Africa. VC location, original unknown, the official replacement is in The Ashcroft Collection.
  • 1293. Lieutenant GERARD NORTON, 31st August 1944, burial location unknown, died in Harare, Salisbury, Zimbabwe. VC location, not publicly held.
  • 1316. Acting Major EDWIN SWALES VC., 23rd February 1945, buried Leopoldsburg War Cemetery; Plot VIII, Row C, Grave 5. Limburg, Holland. VC location, National Museum of Military History, Johannesburg, South Africa.

DRW © 2020. Created 29/01/2020

Updated: 15/02/2020 — 08:57
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