BOAC Liberator II Landing At Prestwick

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Thanks, scotavia. I think I recall reading somewhere that RFS aircraft departing Prestwick would tend to gp round the southern end of Arran before heading off across the Atlantic. Your identification of the likely location of that photograph seems to indicate that those coming into Prestwick adopted the same practice, only in reverse, of course.

I show below the photograph that appears in HMSO's "Merchant Airmen" booklet, which seems to have the Liberator slightly further down the Arran coast. I also show the same photograph as it appeared in FLIGHT in 1945; the quality is lower but it shows a bit more of the coast, in case that helps. It also shows the photo reference number scrawled on. It looks like there is beach and a small jetty in the background

If the images are too small, just click on them to show them larger (or double-click to make them even larger).

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Hi, gents,

No time to post comparison shots, but my initial comparison links the photos to SANNOX, on the NE coast of Arran. I'll later post a Google Earth comparison. The Liberator would be flying northward, on a heading of 340-345 degrees. I think it will be clearer after I take a comparison shot in 3D. Too rushed at the moment -- sorry. This heading is not towards Prestwick. Possibly an outward leg to N. America, or the inbound landing pattern would have taken the Lib to the NW of Prestwick before turning and approaching the airfield from the NW.

Matt

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In "Merchant Airmen" (HMSO, 1946), the photograph is captioned:-

'COMING IN. A Return-Ferry Liberator flies low along the hilly, cloud-capped coast of Arran after a flight from Montreal. With a good tail wind she can do the west-to-east crossing - over 3,000 miles - in something under fourteen hours.'

In FLIGHT (22 March 1945), the caption reads:-

'HOME BOUND : A Liberator passing along the coast of Arran after flying the Atlantic from Montreal."

It is an Air Ministry photograph and it is possible that, originally, it was issued with a press 'blurb' attached (rather like the one at the start of this thread) and that the blurb identified the location as I've given it here. Does that mean that the 'blurb' was 100% accurate? I don't know but views are welcome.

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Comparison shots. Definitely the location is in the Sannox area of Arran. The modern satellite comparison, at an oblique angle, with a 1:1 vertical exaggeration factor for the relief (essentially an accurate portrayal of terrain), matches up nicely. The village of Sannox is approx. 24 miles from Prestwick.

If this is an inbound flight, as per the caption, then the Liberator is in a landing pattern which took it north of Prestwick, and a turn to starboard will bring it back towards Prestwick for the landing.

Cheers,

Matt

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Hi, gents,

No time to post comparison shots, but my initial comparison links the photos to SANNOX, on the NE coast of Arran.

The last shot looks very much like Glen Sannox. Just checked the 1927 OS map which confirms the scenery.

Cheers
Steve P

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Thanks, both, for the confirmation of the location. As I indicated in Post #18, my assumption has been that the two photographs showed the same aircraft on the same day but perhaps that was not the case. If my assumption was correct and the photos show the same aircraft, what route would it have taken between the two places, I wonder.

Flying north past Sannox and turning to starboard would indeed line up with the main runway at Prestwick, as you show in one of your images, Matt. It would have been a long run-in but perhaps they did so for the benefit of the photographer.

Incidentally, this looks to be the same runway and from the same direction as AL528 in the photograph I showed in Posts #1 and #2.

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There is one other photograph of a Liberator in HMSO's "Merchant Airmen" booklet. For those who haven't seen this booklet, I have posted the photograph below

The aircraft is flying at a higher altitude, there is no land mass in sight, the photograph is taken from a very different angle and has no caption but it does precede Section VI, "ATLANTIC STORY", of the booklet.

It is possibly the same Liberator as the one flying near Arran in the photos posted earlier.

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Many thanks for the tip about the Don McVicar memoir, "Ferry Command".

I said that I'd look out for this book and, today, a more-than-decent second-hand copy, complete with dust jacket, popped through the letter box. It cost all of 82 pence plus postage, so I'm very pleased indeed and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Thanks again.

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Enjoy! It's a very good read. The only problem is... you might find you would like to read his other books as well :D

(North Atlantic Cat, A Change of Wings, Mosquito Racer, More Than a Pilot. See here for more about him: http://www.donmcvicar.com/)

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Mc Vicars book's are excellent, I have all the ones listed above. His website implies that more were published about his 1950's/60's exploits. However I have never come across any, has anybody else?
Rob

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I usually have several books 'on the go' at any one time, so I had put Don McVicar's "Ferry Command" in the small pile but, last night, I decided to read the opening chapter as a taster.

It was amused to read that, as he took the taxi from the railway station in Montreal to Dorval, the taxi driver knew all about the supposedly 'secret' flights across the North Atlantic. It reminded me of something once written by Ralph Gleason, who was a well-known jazz writer (etc) based in San Francisco. In WWII, he had worked in the Office of War Information and, at one time, had to fly from Lisbon to Britain in one of BOAC's flying boat. Once again, everything about the flight was supposed to be secret' -except that, when the flying boat took off from the Tagus, everybody in Lisbon could hear it, including the German legation.

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and as another aside regarding Secrets...the Harriers in Germany deployed to camoflaged field sites for exercises, all told to keep locations secret, but local taxi drivers knew which woodland area to go to !

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His website implies that more were published about his 1950's/60's exploits. However I have never come across any, has anybody else?

I think that he originally had a different distribution of stories and titles in mind and set up his website as such. Perhaps Airlife, when they came to publish his stories, rearranged them to fit in the five books as they were published. If you look at the reviews for 'More Than a Pilot' on that site you'll see that they refer to 'his four previous books'. That leads me to believe that these five were all of them. The only thing that doesn't compute is that there are also reviews for a novel by his hand. Perhaps the books were initially published on a small scale in Canada only.

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Since we've got to the question of what is really secret and what is not, I've dug out the Ralph Gleason article with his views on "TOP SECRET EQUALS BRITISH MOST SECRET". You'll notice a odd bit of jazz terminology here and there.

The part about the BOAC flying boat service from Lisbon is at the bottom of the first column. I hope it's legible.

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http://www.rquirk.com/RAFLiberators/Oughton/OUGHTON%20Lib%20book%20NOTESVer1.pdf

The retention of full RAF markings on the aircraft tells us that this was, perhaps, a convenient fiction to keep the more dove-like elements in the US Congress happy. After the US entered the war, and as the RAF built up their own pool of long-range experience, it was not uncommon for RAF crew members to supplement their BOAC colleagues on the RFS flights......
.

The retention of military serials on the RFS Liberators was possibly to placate the US airline lobby who would be opposed to a British civilian landplane regular service across the Atlantic. The BOAC civilian registered Boeing 314 service was presumably regarded differently as the Boeings had been purchased from Pan Am. There is plenty of evidence of commercial suspicions between the British and American establishments in the operations between West Africa and Cairo even after December 1941.
At the top is a huge pdf of comments/corrections to the Oughton Liberator book here...but steering clear of the RFS/BOAC Libs

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Longshot,

I compiled that info on Oughton book errors, etc. -- but that 2009 version is a bit outdated. Not sure when I can get a revamped version on-line.

I was not steering clear of RFS/BOAC Libs. It's just that my main research focus has been on bomber variants, mainly in the Far East, and so most of my comments relate to 159 Squadron and other bomber units.

Regards,

Matt

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It may be "a bit outdated" but it is certainly a very full and thorough piece of work in its own right. I pretend no great knowledge of the subject but it impressed me. [An aside: as I type this, a Tiger Moth from the nearby airfield is practising aerobatics overhead].

I include two images. Both are from FLIGHT magazine for 22 March 1945, forming part of a series on "B.O.A.C. Wartime Services".

The first image is of a Liberator. It is a fairly similar shot to the one in Post # 28. The Liberator appears to be lower and there is water and maybe a bit of land beneath it. It is even possible that there is land beyond it, in the background, but that isn't too clear. The photo reference number has been written on and I've included the caption, which says that this is at the start of a flight west.

The second image is of a Lancastrian off-loading at Prestwick. Again, the photo reference number is inscribed and the caption is shown. The latter makes no reference to it being a Trans-Canada Airlines aircraft.

Not great scans but clicking on them will make them re-appear but larger.

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Hi, Ian,

Thanks for the kind words. Labor of love...you know...a.k.a. obsession. I need maybe two months of painstaking work to update that document, or I'll just wave my magic wand and update it in a flash. On second thought, if my magic wand is that powerful, I'll use it for other things instead.

Thanks, also, for your latest photos. This angle of the Liberator seems to be attractive and popular. Here's an almost identical image from page 114 of the Oughton book, showing Liberator AL627, plus my Google Earth comparison. Nothing great here, just a bit of fun.

I sent you a PM regarding some info I'm offering to you. Kindly let me know if you want it, or write by email to feb2944 AT aol DOT com (making the obvious changes).

Cheers,

Matt

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Thanks, Matt, for the photo of the Liberator approaching Ailsa Craig. For at least a decade of my life, the latter was a regular if distant site for me. Sometimes, I would change my route home after work in order to drive down the hill from Dundonald to Loans just for the view across the Firth of Clyde to Ailsa Craig and Arran.

The photo leads me to wonder again if the authorities sent up a Liberator to fly around the Firth of Clyde for air-to-air photography in order to gain some official photographs of the Return Ferry Service in operation. In other words, are all these photographs of the same Liberator 'simulating' first an outward 'westbound' journey and then a return 'eastbound' one?

Thanks, Longshot, for the photo of the TCA Lancaster. The caption says it was taken at Ringway and that it came from the Avro Company, whose factory was nearby. I have three BOAC photographs of G-AGSU, the Tudor Mk.II. Two of these have captions attached. One shows "B.O.A.C.'s newest passenger air liner ... during a test flight at Manchester". The other shows it "flying very low on a test flight at A.V.Roes aerodrome, Manchester". Both are dated 3 April 1946. Did Avro use both Woodley and Ringway at the time?

I should add that an old (1963) Air-Britain publication with an outline history of TCA says that they began their own Atlantic service on 22 July 1943 using a government-owned Lancaster, the first transport modification of the Lancaster. This was CF-CMS. It doesn't actually say that this modification was carried out by Avro itself but the photo you posted suggests this was so. The A-B publication goes on to say that it was followed "by more highly modified versions". It lists eight, offers almost no information on the first two but says the last six were converted "by Victory Aircraft Ltd., being the first Lancastrian conversions".

I shall post an RFS-related photograph separately