OTD: Commemorating HMSAS Parktown

HMSAS Parktown was originally built for The Southern Whaling and Sealing Company of London by Smiths Dock Company of Middlesbrough. She was laid down and launched in 1929 under the name Southern Sky.  In 1936, she was  bought by the Union Whaling Company and registered in Durban as Sidney Smith for service in the whaling industry until 1940. When war broke out she was requisitioned for service in the South African Navy as a minesweeper on 8 August 1940 under the name HMSAS Parktown. 

HMSAS Parktown Memorial in Pieter Roos Park in the suburb of Parktown

On 10 June 1942, HMSAS Parktown arrived in Tobruk Harbour for magnetic minesweeping duties and for ten days she continued operations off the harbour while the 8th Army were being driven back by advancing German and Italian forces. On 20 June 1942  the Tobruk garrison was attacked from the south and south east and By 18H00, the Allies had been overrun and Allied ships were ordered to embark personnel for evacuation.   At 06:45 on 21 June, the lookouts of HMSAS Parktown sighted what they believed was an Italian “MAS” torpedo boat,  but according to German reports, the ship was engaged by a flotilla of German E-boats based at Derna. The Parktown attempted to fight off the attacks but she was out-numbered and out-gunned by the axis vessels.  Within 15 minutes Parktown was stationary with a hole in the boiler. Half of her crew, including her captain (Lieutenant (SAN) Leslie James Jagger) as well as evacuated soldiers were dead and the ship could no longer move and was on fire. 

The ship was abandoned and the survivors took to the sea. Some were saved by an Allied MTB as well as a tug that had been under tow by Parktown. The wreck was then sunk by depth charges.

The ship is Commemorated on a memorial in Pieter Roos Park in the suburb of Parktown in Johannesburg. 

Roll of Honour.

70457 Able Seaman Peter S  BROCKLEHURST
70265 Stoker 1c John COOK
70016 Lieutenant Leslie J JAGGER (Commander of HMS Parktown)
69686 Steward William A MCEWAN
71109 Petty Officer Arthur P TREAMER

The men are Commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in Devon.

Plymouth Naval Memorial

DRW © 2020. Created 15/02/2020. Image: “The Royal Naval War Memorial and Hoe Park, Plymouth Hoe” by Robert Cutts is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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

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