BOAC Liberator II Landing At Prestwick

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This photograph, from a book entitled "Britain At War - The Royal Air Force - From April 1942 to June 1943", is headlined "PLOTTING THE TRIP" and shows "the nerve centre of the Atlantic Ferry Service, where the position of each aircraft is plotted hour by hour". The position of those plots is quite interesting. I have also uploaded the movements board separately and a bit a darker. The board seems to show that some aircraft, such as the Liberators and the Hudsons, were delivered in pairs. Both the serial numbers and call-signs are chalked up, plus specific delivery information. I think the fourth column is the name of the captain (I see a "Wilde" and a "Paton", for example) but I could be wrong. Someone reading this may even be able to hazard a date the photograph was taken. I assume "BASE M" is Dorval but I'm not sure about the others. I bet some of you here would just love to get hold of the large record book on the desk in front of the Movements Board. I hope this is not a common photo and thus of interest. You can make the images larger by clicking on them. Double clicking will make them even larger, though the photographic screening makes the second image a bit less clear when double-clicked.

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I'm in a bit if hurry at the moment but I think that someone mentioned rivalry/concerns over commercial interests regarding Atlantic traffic. The following two extracts from newspaper articles in August 1941 give a flavour of this. The first extract is the American newspaper's initial comment and the second extract is the British riposte the following day. I hope you can read them OK.
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Thank you for that article, wieesso. I am otherwise engaged for the next day or two but I've printed it and will snatch a chance to read as and when I can. My quick scan has already shown it to be an interesting article, as you say. My own interest in this subject stems from my reading "Merchant Airmen" several decades ago (a booklet I still have) and this interest has been reactivated somewhat in recent times. So much research has been carried out in the intervening period.
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longshot, shall I send you the pdf by email? Martin
Martin..Cancelling my PM, I switched to Chrome browser and the PDF downloaded fine...thanks anyway

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Two quick points. [1] Looking at that Movements Board in Posting # 42 above, I think the details of the aircraft are fictitious. Perhaps some one could confirm this. If so, I guess it is hardly surprising in wartime. It would mean that the photo was 'posed', not unlike what I've suggested for some of the photographs of Liberators in flight to and/or from Prestwick. [2] I've been away for a couple of nights and took the McVicar book with me. It made for an interesting and entertaining read just before sleep. I'm about half-way through so far. Thanks for pointing me towards it.
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Ian, There may be more than I know to the way individual aircraft were identified on that board, but I don’t have the answer. Speaking only of the eight Liberators listed, I can see that each serial number (in the 2nd column, which is headed by the text "SERIAL NO." or "SERIAL #" -- it's not clear enough for me to make out the second word/symbol) begins with "AG". But there were no AG-coded Liberators. My gut instinct is that this isn't made-up info, and that there probably is meaning to "AG" that has nothing to do with the serial number. The eight Liberator "serials" appear to end in: 973 974 975 982 983 985 992 993. IF the "AG" is incorrect but the three digits do correspond to actual Liberator serial numbers, then a perusal of serials in the Oughton Lib book shows that "BZ" would be the first code to link to these numbers. (The earlier AL and AM serials don’t go as high as 973.) Here are the delivery dates for these BZ-coded Libs: BZ973: Goose Bay - Prestwick 20.11.43 BZ974: Gander - Prestwick 1.12.43 BZ975: Gander - Prestwick 7-8.12.43 BZ982: Goose Bay - Prestwick 22-23.11.43 BZ983: Gander - Prestwick 27.11.43 BZ985: Gander - St Angelo [?] 12.1.44, St Angelo [?] - Prestwick 13.1.44 BZ992: delivered to Dorval 29.11.43; via Azores to India, arrived Karachi 17.12.43 BZ993: delivered to Dorval 2.12.43; via Azores to Middle East, arrived Cairo 12.5.44 But all of these are later than the “April 42 – June 43” window, based on the title of the book where the photo appears (“Britain At War - The Royal Air Force - From April 1942 to June 1943”). So I don’t comprehend the meaning of these numbers. The next 973-to-993 codes go with EV-serialed Libs which were not flown across the Atlantic until March 44 and later. Cheers, Matt

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The column headings for the MOVEMENTS BOARD - IN FLIGHT appear to be as follows: AIRCRAFT SERIAL NO. [I think, as the '#' symbol was not much used in Britain back then] CALL SIGN PILOT ?????? [unreadable because it's a longish word but possibly DEPARTED as it's a list of times] FROM E.T.A. TO LANDED ??????? [also unreadable nut more difficult to guess as there are no entries in the column] I assume the photo was taken at Prestwick and would suggest that, as Prestwick was a staging post between the place indicated in the "FROM" column and the place in the "TO" column, the final column would show the time that the incoming aircraft left Prestwick for the ultimate destination. Just a thought. I am still of a mind that the information on this MOVEMENTS BOARD is a fabrication but there is one element that might suggest otherwise. If you look at the first entry for a Hudson (the aircraft that is headed for "BASE X"), there is some additional information written above the word "HUDSON" in the first column. If one were writing fictitious information on the board for the purposes of the photograph, why bother to add this additional and unnecessary information? The book from which this image is taken has no publication date (nor even a year of publication) that I can find. It is possible that, while the text covers the period stated in the title, some of the "400 illustrations" cited on the title page post-date the period in question. I've looked at one of the second-hand book websites and the two UK-based sellers either give no date or state "date unknown" while a bookseller in Germany says "(ca.1944 - 1946) 1944". Incidentally, one of the UK booksellers is Bookcase in Carlisle, a shop I knew well. It is spread over several floors with thousands and thousands of books. Why mention it here? Well, it uses the former head office of the state brewery company, set up in Carlisle in the First World War under the State Management Scheme to control the sale of alcohol in the area and reduce the drunkeness of workers in the nearby explosives and armaments factories. As well as the brewery, it ran the pubs in the area and one of the rules forbade the buying of rounds of beer for others. They demolished sub-standard pubs, renovated others and built some new ones. The design of the new pubs influenced pub design across the country. The State Management Scheme only ended in the early 1970s, long after the exigencies of war!
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Correction on my part. FL-coded General Reconnaissance Liberators passed through Prestwick in early 1943: FL973: arr Prestwick 20.3.43 FL974: arr Prestwick 10.3.43 FL975: arr Prestwick 2.3.43 FL982: arr Prestwick 11.3.43 FL983: arr Prestwick 28.4.43 FL985: arr Prestwick 6.3.43 FL992: Canada to the Bahamas, not Prestwick, arr 28.2.43 FL993: Canada to the Bahamas, not Prestwick, arr 28.2.43. I haven't been through all serial nos yet. I do have a research friend who might have more records on Liberator flights to Prestwick. If I learn anything more, I'll post it. Cheers, Matt

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Thanks, TonyT. It was new to me and very interesting.

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FLIGHT magazine for 23 July 1942, which I have just seen on-line, has a six-page article entitled "Ferry Command Birthday". The main photograph on the opening page has the same photograph that we have been discussing - the one with the MOVEMENTS BOARD in it. The photograph is captioned: In the "operations room" of the main eastern terminal of the R.A.F. Atlantic Ferry Command This confirms, to my satisfaction anyway, that the location is Prestwick. It also shows that the photograph must have been taken in 1941 or, more likely perhaps, in 1942. The magazine shows the photo reference number as CH 5542 (which might be a digit short) but previous photographs I have seen with "CH" prefixes have been from the Air Ministry. The article has some photographs attributed to "Flight" magazine itself and here is one of them:

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Thank you, wieesso, for that link, not only the particular page you showed but also for some of the other pages on the site. I've barely skimmed the surface this morning but it is all been good so far. Gander is the first place I ever set foot on North American soil (or, rather, concrete). It was in the mid-1960s, a student charter flight, an ex-Pan Am DC-7, an unplanned stop to re-fuel (caused by headwinds, I believe) and my memory of it is fairly limited. Nevertheless, I have an affection for the place and reading all these bits and pieces about Ferry Command and the Return Ferry Service has a certain resonance. Also, as well as visiting Prestwick Airport several times in my teens (my first night in Scotland was spent sleeping in an armchair in the old terminal building), I later lived quite close to the airport for a number of years. Thanks, again.

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This piece of silent video is apparently made up of the out-takes from a Pathé News item about the expansion of Prestwick Airport in 1944. http://www.britishpathe.com/video/expansion-of-prestwick-airport The notes do not mention Liberators but you do briefly see one being worked on in one of Scottish Aviation's hangars - to me, it looks like one of the Return Ferry Service machines but perhaps someone here could confirm that or otherwise. In one of the shots, you can see what appears to be a Coastal Command Liberator taxiing. There is also a couple in the background as a B-17 takes off and also perhaps in the background of some of the views from the control tower. There are various other 'period' aircraft to be seen - B-17s parked, a Lancaster too, Daks and C-54s (still and moving), a Beaufighter flying low (presumably after take-off) and so on. The film lasts just over 3 minutes and is well worth watching. It can be viewed full screen, too. It makes me wonder if the original Pathé News newsreel is still availble to view. Does anyone know?
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Some of you might find this interesting. Consolidated LB-30 Liberator Mk IIs including AL507 (5th built for the RAF's Coastal Command) @ San Diego's Lindbergh Field ca. '41. (Note longer nose section a la the B-24D and Curtiss Electric props.) AL507 was later re-designated G-AHYC and served as a BOAC freighter for ferrying RAF aircrews to the US to pick up later RAF Liberators. After the war, it was converted into a commercial transport and served until bellying in @ RAF Ayr / Heathfield (near Prestwick) in 1946. http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii120/Duggy009/Duggy009-1/Consolidated%20LB-30%20Liberator%20Mk%20IIs%20including%20AL507.jpg
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Working outside...San Diego, CA...I love it. Thanks for the excellent photo, Duggy. Here's AL507's robust history, from the Oughton book: AL507 Construction Number 5; First flight or acceptance date 9.8.41; retained for trials in USA; detained by USAAF 10.12.41 after Pearl Harbor; Taken on charge by USAAC 29.12.41; returned to RAF, flew Detroit - Dorval 4.3.42; allotted to Scottish Aviation Ltd 13.3.42; departed Dorval - Gander 11.3.42, Gander - Prestwick 16.3.42; Scottish Aviation Ltd 19.3.42; Telecommunications Flying Unit 20.3.42; 233 Sqn 25.3.42; Scottish Aviation Ltd for turret installation 16.4.42; 120 Sqn 6.5.42; Telecommunications Flying Unit 16.5.42; 120 Sqn 18.5.42; to Prestwick 19.5.42; Prestwick - Gander 22-23.5.42 and to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston MA 11.6.42 for special duties; fitted with SCR.517 ASV Mk.III (air to surface vessel radar) in 'Dumbo' radome under nose; Departed Dorval 8.10.42, returned to Scottish Aviation Ltd 15.10.42; 224 Sqn [Z] 19.11.42; 59 Sqn [1:Z] 29.7.43; 511 Sqn 22.10.43; Scottish Aviation Ltd 16.4.44; to BOAC 17.5.44; Prestwick - Goose Bay 19.5.44; converted to transport by Trans Canada Airlines; on Return Ferry Service 30.6.44; registered G-AHYC to BOAC; Certificate of Registration #10448 issued 19.8.46; Certificate of Registration #8301 issued 2.10.46; operated by Scotish Aviation Ltd; radio call sign OLZA; left Prestwick 13.11.46 for Montreal (Dorval) but experienced undercarriage trouble and circled for ten hours (!) to use fuel; made successful forced landing with wheels up at Ayr, the crew and three pasengers not being injured; registration cancelled 28.2.47; written off 23.5.47 and reduced to product (scrapped) at Prestwick.

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Thanks for the photograph, Duggy, and for the aircraft history, Matt. A J Jackson's "British Civil Aircraft 1919-59" said that it crashed at Prestwick on 13 November 1948 and was scrapped in December 1948. This was clearly a mistake (possible a misreading of a handwritten note) because G-INFO says it was withdrawn from the register on 28 February 1947, as Matt states. Jackson combined its fate with G-AHYE (c/n 27) which was indeed withdrawn on 13 December 1948 as "REDUCED TO PRODUCE". Meanwhile, here's Consolidated's factory in San Diego - in 1943, I think, when it was being extended.