PREMIER SHIP

When it came to World War Two’s four-engined, long-range transports, the Douglas C-54 Skymaster was arguably in a league of its own — certainly, the best option for taking Winston Churchill on some of his last overseas visits as wartime Prime Minister. But its RAF service was brief

RAF SKYMASTERS

Winston Churchill steps off Skymaster EW999 at Berlin’s Gatow airfield, then the home of No 19 Staging Post, on 15 July 1945 prior to the Potsdam Conference
NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION
The prime ministerial Skymaster in flight, probably during 1944.
RAF MUSEUM

For an all-too-brief period from 1944-46 RAF Transport Command got its hands on a modern aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage, four air-cooled radial engines, a respectable payload and excellent range. With its attractive lines the Douglas C-54 Skymaster stood out alongside the command’s Avro York and Lancastrian taildraggers that were busily pounding the trunk route to the Far East and beyond. However, it was essentially a short-term, add-on extra for the units that used it, complementing their existing transport types. In the blink of an eye it had gone, whisked away again by the provisions of Lend-Lease under which it had been sourced from the USA.

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