BOAC Liberator II Landing At Prestwick

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Ian,

I've darked up the photo and played with contrast, in the hope that the background detail would reveal something distinct. No luck, so I'm clueless as to its location. Hold on while I scour the world in Google Earth to try to find it, though. See you in 2027...

Matt

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Perhaps I can clarify some of the issues raised in Ian Woodward's Post #42, 16th April 2017, regarding the RAF Control Room photograph "Plotting the Trip".

A high resolution copy is available from the Imperial War Museum (image CH_005542).

The image is of the Trans-Atlantic Control (TAC) Centre which was established in Redbrae House, adjacent to Prestwick Aerodrome, and came into full operation in November 1941. The Flight Lieutenant leaning over the table is my late father.

I was told that the image is a posed publicity photograph and the information on the "Movements Board" is fictitious. Some of the names in the "Pilot" column are actually those of the control room staff. For example, my father became a B-17 pilot for a day, flying Fortress "AL736". In reality, this number was later? allocated to a Boston III. The date at the head of the board is 19 March 1942, but I don't know whether or not this is genuine.

The photograph was published in Flight magazine, 23 July 1942, page 87, headlining the article "Ferry Command Birthday". This publicised the first anniversary of the creation of RAF Ferry Command on 20th July 1941 and its assumption of nominal control over its predecessor, the Canadian "Atlantic Ferry Organization" (ATFERO). This came about because in May 1941 President Roosevelt agreed that, in order to free up delivery bottlenecks and release civilian and RAF crews for duties on the North Atlantic, the USAAC would become responsible for delivery of American aircraft, destined for the RAF, from the factories to Montreal. This arrangement, however, was contingent upon the aircraft being delivered to a military, rather than a civilian organisation.

The same photograph also appeared in the "Aeroplane" magazine, presumably at about the same time, but I don't know the actual date as it has been trimmed from the cutting that I possess.

A similar photograph, showing the date 17 June 1942 on the Movements Board, was also published in "Illustrated" magazine, 27 June 1942, in an article "The Crossways of the World" which again featured Prestwick (although again not identified as such for security reasons). Here my father takes on the role of a Hudson pilot! This article can now be seen on the Gander Airport Historical Society website, http://www.ganderairporthistoricalsociety.org/_html_war/RAF%20FC%201942.htm.

In a further post, #61, 23 April 2017, Ian Woodward attached a photograph of the extended Consolidated Aircraft factory on Lindbergh Field, San Diego, attributing a date of 1943 to the extension. The original plant was constructed in 1935 and the first phase of its extension, shown in the photograph, was actually completed between March and July 1940 (See SDASM Archives, Flickr.com: images 10-004392 and 10-004389).

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David,

Sorry to be so slow to pick up on your contribution. I have been otherwise engaged of recent weeks.Thank you very much for filling in the background on some of my previous posts.

I recall that, on balance, I had concluded that the information on the Movements Board, in whole or in part, was likely fabricated. Your confirmation is appreciated.

Similarly, the date of the San Diego photograph is also appreciated. I was uncertain, as I think I indicated. The photo was taken from a book entitled American Warplanes In Action by Sydney E. Veale, published by "The Pilot Press" (First Edition - January 1944), printed in Great Britain by W.S.Cowell Ltd. of London and Ipswich.The photo is credited to the "Consolidated Aircraft Corporation" but the caption did not provide a date.

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In the middle of 1945, a BOAC fleet list was published as of March that year. Here is the extract relating to the Return Ferry Service:

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On 6 August 1946, at Airways House in London, the BOAC chairman gave a press conference describing the progress made by the corporation since his previous report at the start of 1946. One element of his statement went as follows:

"The Liberator Return Ferry Service reached its 2,000th Atlantic crossing in February and is now nearing its 2,500th".

He also commented that "The first London to New York service opened on July 1".

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Ian:

There is a newly-posted image of AL595 at Sydney, NS, en route to Gander for its transatlantic crossing. As you will see, the USAAF cockade has been over-painted with an RAF roundel and the '10' painted out with black paint.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/156388...57692742757854

I wonder if AL595 was given US markings in anticipation of it being taken back by the USAAF, given that 50 of the 139 of what became Liberator IIs purchased by Britain were retained... but not AL595.

Does anyone know if there were IARC movement cards for these retained Liberators, operated with their British serials as illustrated earlier in this thread? If so, acquiring the one for AL595 should clarify if it was assigned to a USAAF unit prior to being delivered to Britain.

Robert

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AL595 is one of several that were initially retained in the USA but were released to the UK after only a few months - April 1942 in this case. Source Jim Oughton's The Liberator in RAF and Commonwealth Service, by Air Britain. Unfortunately he has no information on what this (and several other) airframes were doing in US service.

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Perhaps worth noting that the second Liberator photo is of a different aircraft (has bare metal bomb doors and oval cowlings , and turret!) (therefore not an LB-30)

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Robert,
Yes, there is a USAAF movement card for LB-30 AL595.
Air Force Historical Research Agency reels Nos. ACR-11 and ACR-12 contain the movement cards of some of the "repossessed" and "Reverse Lend-Lease" aircraft operated by the USAAF that retained their RAF serial nos.
There is no USAAF serial no shown on AL595's card and judging from Air-Britain's tomes on the Liberator and on Lend-Lease none were assigned to the batch AL507 to AL641.

Brief transcript as follows.. (dates - month, day, year)
British Repossessed 1-17-42.
Model: R LB-30. Serial No. AL-595.
A.C. Order No. British F-677. Date received 12.10.41. Manufacturer: Consold/Air.
From the left hand columns of movements, age and hours, etc.
AL595 Long Beach 2 - 12. (Dec 1941)
AL595 Fresno 2 - 12.
AL595 Long Beach 2 - 1. (Jan 1942) T
AL595 Albuquerque 2 - 1.
AL595 Long Beach 2 - 2. (Feb 1942)
AL595 Tucson 2 - 2.
AL595 Albuquerque 2 - 2.
AL595 Wayne Co. 2 - 3. (Mar 1942)
AL595 Albuquerque 2 - 3.
AL595 Wayne Co. 2 - 4. (Apr 1942)
AL595 Britain 2 - 4. (Total hours 2,764)

From the right of columns of assignments.
Fresno 12-10-41.

Tucson, Ariz 1-7-42.
DA AG

Albuquerque 1-17-42. (May relate to the Ferry Command Training school, operated by T.W.A.)

Alburq. 3-23-42.
AB File.

Wayne Co. 4-11-42. (May be Wayne County Airport aka Romulus, MI. An AAF Ferry Group base)

Britain 4.20.42.

Hope this is of so help, Tony

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Thanks, Tony. Interesting stuff.

Appears to indicate that AL595 was initially one of those considered taken back - "repossessed" - by the USAAF but subsequently became one of the 89 (139 purchased less 50 taken back) delivered to Britain. This back and forth 'horsetrading' as it was referred to by British negotiator AVM John Slessor was not unusual in the early days of America's involvement in the war.

I think something may be amiss with 'Total hours 2,764' - that's a lot of hours in a four-month period. Perhaps two hundred and something...?

Not an expert but memory tells me training airframes for types like the B-17 and B-24 were marked with large identification numbers like the '10' on AL595, so your Albuquerque reference coupled with the high number of flying hours makes sense.

There's a second unidentifiable LB-30 behind AL595 in the Dorval photo with the same markings and an unreadable numeral on the nose. Both aircraft appear well used. So looks like AL595 was not unique in its activities prior to delivery to the UK.

In my experience with the Fortress, Wayne County was a jumping off point for deliveries of American types to Britain from Dorval.

Have not been able to identify the Liberator III in the other photo mentioned by 'longshot'.

Robert

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Just been reading thru' this thread and the awesome amount of info it contains, exceptional work indeedy !,
Its probably a long shot but I'm trying to find a photo of G-AGDR (AM918). Reason for asking is I have a prop hub with two badly bent blades from this A/C and I'm looking for any pics that I could add to a small story-board to go with the assembly.
I've had the prop for a while and its about to undergo a comprehensive stabilisation and sympathetic restoration process, not to make it look like new, but to stop any further degradation in preparation for display.
Any help gratefully appreciated !!

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AM918 was rather camera-shy, it seems! It flew the North Atlantic route several times in 1941, but only apparently wore it's civil registration when detached to fly out to Cairo, from which operation it did not return. There's a window of some six weeks from allocation of the civil registration to the loss, so it's possible that it might be the civil Liberator lurking in the middle of this line-up:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdasmarchives/14520979945/
but that's just speculation. Although BOAC/RFS Liberators did act as 'shepherds' for various trans-Atlantic deliveries, there doesn't seem to be a record of that many British Liberators all crossing at once, so it's an open question as to why they're all parked together there, and thus dating it is well-nigh impossible. I think that photo was taken at Gander, but would be happy to be corrected if anyone knows different.

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Hey, thanks for the additional info and likewise for the photo.
While looking into to her history, I came across this thread that has a whole heap of info about the incident. Very interesting reading !

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Adrian:

There was a three-day period in May 1941 - May 12 to 14 - over which seven Liberators departed Gander for the UK for the first time, AM918 being one of them. It departed on May 13 under the command of Capt Cripps of BOAC

There may have been other brief periods when there were that many RFS Liberators at Gander but this was one for sure.

AM918 made eleven transatlantic crossings and was the first Return Ferry Service Liberator to fly Dorval to Prestwick direct, on December 29-30, 1941.

Robert

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Thanks Robert, I hadn't gone as far as trying to add up the various day-combinations. The photo kind of makes sense as being May 1941, except that AM918 *shouldn't* have been in civilian markings that early...

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Adrian:

I may have missed it in this thread but when did the civilian markings come in?

Robert

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Robert,
I wish I could give a straight answer to that question! The North Atlantic Return Ferry Service, generally known as simply RFS, began on 4 May 1941. At this point it was run by the Atlantic Ferry Organisation (AtFerO), which was part of the Ministry of Supply. However, the almost all the available aircrew with long-range, four-engine experience belonged to BOAC, who were reluctant to let them go. There followed several weeks (or months) of confusion (or "intense negotiation", depending on your viewpoint) during much of which the aircraft were owned by BOAC but still operated under MoS control, before the RFS became an entity in its own right, operating entirely under BOAC control. Even then, the aircraft would have retained their RAF markings and serials and - perhaps - had a small Speedbird and "British Airways" titles on the nose. The tricolour stripes underlining the civil registration could not have been applied to an aircraft that was not on the civil register, simply because there would have been no letters on the airframe for them to underline. In AM918's case, it became G-AGDR on 3 January 1942
https://cwsprduksumbraco.blob.core.windows.net/g-info/HistoricalLedger/G-AGDR.pdf
and was shot down on 15 February. So, assuming date on the registration document is correct, and not just a case of paperwork catching up with reality, then G-AGDR would only have been marked thus for a touch over six weeks.

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Thanks, Adrian. So perhaps a later chance gathering of RFS Liberators at Gander. Am going to touch base with a wartime Gander specialist in Newfoundland to get his input.

The ferry flight listing I have refers to AM918 by its Air Ministry serial for its final flight rather than G-AGDR. The compiler is no longer with us so unable to check the exact source at TNA.

Robert

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I have not been able to contribute here for quite a while but appreciate the postings that have been made in the last couple of weeks. Thanks.

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My contact in Newfoundland says:

I would rule Gander out as a location for the photo. The two Ferry Command hangars (which still exist) were of a different shape and style. There were other hangars on the USAAF and RCAF sides of the airfield, but again, I'm not seeing a match, and no treeline ran that close to any of them... I suppose if the a/c got diverted because of wx, for example, it could be another airfield in Atlantic Canada.

Robert