BOAC Liberator II Landing At Prestwick

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[ATTACH=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"large","data-attachmentid":3862414}[/ATTACH] There's a bare-metal RFS Liberator in the foreground in this 1944ish photo at Prestwick (from Mark Allen M on WIX forum) https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/...74843b37_o.jpg

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Just excellent.

I scanned this from a book. It was taken on the same day but the bare-metal Lib has moved nearer the camera. Perhaps (just perhaps) it would be possible to read its serial number on the original photograph.

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Here are the two previous photographs together:

EDIT: I hadn't realised, until I looked at the image this morning, that it looks like a 'Spot The Difference' competition - but, In terms of the aircraft, only the bare-metal Liberator has changed, I think.

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This aerial view was obviously taken on a different day but I have marked the spot where (more or less) where the photographer was positioned to take the above two shots.

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And here's the bare-metal Lib in close-up. Are those code letters on the nose?

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If that's 'ZM' on the nose, then it would seem that it is AL529, which had 'OLZM' as its call-sign.

The photograph attached shows AL529/ZM at Dorval and the code letters on the nose read '29' and 'ZM'. The Lib in the photo above (Post # 350) seems to have 'ZM' on the nose but I'm not sure that it is '29' above the 'ZM'.

Also, I can't see a BOAC 'Speedbird' logo on its fuselage. This is a lesser concern, if intriguing, but the photos is not too clear on this, anyway..

Comments, anyone?

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The image from the WIX Forum that longshot posted is so much clearer than the one I had scanned from a book I had a go at counting the number of aircraft shown.

Excluding the B-17s first of all, I make it 25 aircraft: 1 Wellington, 1 C-54, 12 Daks, 5 Liberators, 5 Lancs and, in one of the Dak line-ups, a B-25, I think . [Forgive me if I'm wrong about the identifications - my spotting days are well past me now]

Counting the B-17s is not easy but I got to 33 and I think there may be one or two others way back in the pack.

Overall then, close to 60 aircraft are in this photograph, if not actually 60.

And we know, if only from the aerial photograph of Prestwick (in Post # 349) that there may well be other aircraft in parts of the airfield not shown in the photo posted by longshot.

If you care to attempt this for yourself, here is longshot's posting again, with the tones lightened and showing just the aircraft.

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RFS LB.30s usual presentation on the nose was the last three of the military serial above the last two of the Transport Command callsign. I have no reason to suspect that a particular callsign was assigned to more than a single aircraft, but a comprehensive list does not seem to have survived. (More has survived relating to the Dakota fleet, but it doesn't give one the feeling that this was the result of the most coherent application policy you've ever come across...)
I think this might be AL614 OLZN. This could well be the first photograph I've seen of that aircraft, and aside from records of Atlantic crossings I know little about it. It appears unusual in a number of respects. There seems to be no anti-glare panel. There are quite extravagant 'moustaches' on the side of the nose, instead of the small aerial masts one usually sees on all Liberators - that could explain why you can't see the Speedbird, which was quite small in any case. The tail in the second photo might belong to AL529, just to confuse matters.

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I think you may very well be right, Adrian. I attach two images:

[1] a similar image to the one in Post #350 but slightly cropped and with the tonal range adjusted
[2] a much tighter crop with the lighter tones unrealistically high

It looks like the upper line of the code ends in "4" and the lower line looks more like an "N" now

AL614 / OLZN looks like the right call to me. Any dissenters?

And, of course, they could indeed be different bare-metal Liberators in the two photographs. That raises the question of how close in time the two photographs were taken. Apart from the elusive bare-metal Liberators, the only changes I've found are in the positions of the people and the 'disappearance' of one lorry.

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I have a suspicion that this may not be 1944, but some time after VE Day. Look at the B-17s: they have a variety of unit markings as well as some unmarked - I think they're on their way home. They're certainly not shiny new airframes just arrived. The Lancasters are a bit more of a puzzle, as one or maybe two of them have front and rear turrets and three certainly don't, but again I don't think they've just arrived. Possibly since the bulk of the RCAF Lancaster squadrons hurried home to prepare for being part of Tiger Force, these are 'spare' aircraft following on a bit later. From before D-Day, I think, the bulk of RAF Liberator deliveries were going via the southern route and across Africa to India, so the GR's parked there could be going back to the US at the end of Lend Lease too.
Or I could be putting two and two together to get five.

As to the sequence of the photos, the picture of what we now think is AL614 has a crew walking from the aircraft to the 'terminal' (and no-body else, which might also suggest it's post-war) so I think it's just arrived. The photo of the tail of what could be AL529 is clearly close to the other one in time, and with the aircraft parked in front of the terminal I think it's loading, about to depart. That would mean the AL529 photo was first and the other one afterwards.

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From what I can gather, Peter Berry's research indicated that the call-sign 'OLZN' was used between December 1944 [see EDIT note] and February 1946. Earlier than this, AL614 was recorded.

EDIT: I think I have misread the dating and December 1944 was actually December 1945

Do we know when 'warpaint' gave way to bare metal on the RFS?

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I've yet to come across an instruction to strip the paint off. With very few exceptions the photos of the RFS fleet are undated, or the dates are vague enough that you just know the caption-writer is really saying "your guess is as good as mine". Best I can do is some time betweeen May and November 1944. Quite conceivably it took all of that six months to strip the whole fleet. The only photo I've found of a natural-metal airframe without nose codes is of AL547, which had a non-standard nose anyway.

Incidentally, your photo of AL614, in post 129, shows the 'moustaches' on the nose, as on the aircraft in the photo we're currently discussing. I've never seen them on another aircraft, so I think that confirms the identification. I wonder what they're for?

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Oughton says that AL614 was taken on charge at Dorval on 8 May 1942 and used for a couple months by Ferry Command's Communication Squadron. On 31 August 1942, it was allocated to BOAC for the Return Ferry Service and its first eastbound flight was on 1 September 1942. Berry's research says it arrived at Prestwick from Gander on 2 September 1942. The latter's research shows multiple Atlantic crossings, plus a few flights elsewhere.

One incident is noted in this period, though the accounts differ.

Oughton says of AL614: "burst tyre on take-off Prestwick for Gander 24.8.43 and belly-landed at Ayr". Berry says: "Aug 23/24 Liberator Gander - Ayr. Belly-landed Pwk. RFS. AL614", suggesting it left Gander on 23 August en route for the UK, where it crashed. From other reports, what appears to have happened is this. AL614, returning from Dorval en route to Prestwick, stopped off at Gander. As it took off from there, around 8.00 in the evening of 23 August, a tyre burst and the undercarriage was damaged. It continued its journey and belly-landed at Heathfield (Ayr) around 8.30 on the morning of 24 August 1943.

Oughton goes on to say that, on 7 September 1943, AL614 went for repair to Scottish Aviation Limited. It was moved from Heathfield to Prestwick late on the morning of that day. As well as the repairs, it apparently had modifications to meet 'A.I.D. requirements'. I'm not sure what those are but perhaps it explains the 'moustache' noted by Adrian in the preceding Post. Oughton says it was returned to BOAC at Prestwick on 16 November 1943. To add to that, there was a radio check on 15 November, a 'nose wheel shimmy damper' problem on 16 November, a further radio check on 17 November and, it would seem, a test flight on 18 November.

Oughton says AL614 was back in service westbound on 19 November 1943. Berry's research shows it left Prestwick on 19 November 1943 bound for Gander. It left very early that day, around one in the morning, and stopped off at Gander, arriving at Dorval in the early evening. It remained at Montreal until almost the end of December 1943, during which period the cabin was modified in some way. It then left Montreal on 29 December 1943 for Gander, where it stayed for more than a day, awaiting an 'anti-air pump' and its 'load'. It got back to Prestwick on Hogmanay (31 December).

Now for a bit of speculation on my part. My suggestion is (with no basis in fact) that the photograph of AL614 in Post #129 (repeated below) was taken by SAL in mid-November 1943, just prior to their returning the aircraft to BOAC.

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Can anyone help with the matter of the "A.I.D. requirements?

What are they?

...and ...

Would meeting these requirements result in any outward change to the aircraft?

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Ian... I would say A.I.D. is the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate which monitored the quality of Government purchases...Duggy P.E.I. presumably Prince Edward Island off Canada.

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Terrific photo, Duggy.

It seems that AL522 served with various RAF units, the last being 511 Squadron, before being allocated to BOAC in July 1944. It operated on the Atlantic ferry service from March 1945 to June 1946, which fits well with the date ascribed to the photograph.

I’m not quite sure why it would visit an RCAF training school, though most of its ‘graduates’ apparently went on to join Coastal Command, so experience of a Liberator might have been useful. Alternatively, perhaps AL522 was diverted to Summerside because of bad weather elsewhere. Does the source of the photograph clarify this in any way, Duggy?

AL522 later became G-AHYD, but was used for spares before being restored and, in September 1947, Scottish Aviation began to convert it for in-flght refuelling trials. BOAC was anxious to emulate BSAA in this regard. These trials took place between February and May 1948. BOAC had also acquired some TCA Lancastrians or Lancasters for this purpose. I imagine that the literature on the subject will provide more details as to where these trials took place. Flight Refuelling Limited didn’t move to Tarrant Rushton until June 1948.

The attached photograph shows G-AHYD undertaking in-flight refuelling trials by night.

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Some of my other activities include trawling newspaper archives and the following comes from a British newspaper report in February 1943 concerning some discussions in the House of Lords about the activities of BOAC in the 1942 calendar year: I hope it may be of some interest to others.

OVERALL STATS:

BOAC flew some 10,000,000 miles in 1942, providing a capacity of some 21,600,000 ton-miles (1941: 12,587,294 ton-miles) and operated 26 'different types', logging 67,250 hours in the air and carrying some 43,000 passengers, 950 tons of mail and 2,250 tons of cargo. This was approx 91,000,000 passenger-miles.

NORTH ATLANTIC SERVICES

Since taking over the North Atlantic ferry service in 1941, BOAC had made 217 eastward and 218 westward flights. A footnote says the primary objective of the service is to take delivery pilots and crews back to North America but the eastbound services are used for "official passengers and freight".

BOEING 314A SERVICES

Three services every 30 days are in operation between Baltimore and the U.K.

OTHER SERVICES

Services between the UK and, respectively, Durban, Calcutta, and Montreal are noted, plus several services within the Middle East and Africa. A new service to Madagascar is mentioned. The rest of BOAC's services are subject to security considerations.

AIRCRAFT TYPES

I'm not sure what the reported 26 'different types' are but the following is the only mention of aircraft types other than the "Boeing 314A Clipper flying boats" .

"Short flying boats, converted Armstrong-Whitworth Whitleys and Vickers-Armstrongs (sic) Wellingtons are the only British aircraft at present in service, the rest being American-built 'planes".

The mention of the BOAC Wellingtons was quite a surprise when i read it, because i thought this a little-known use of the type, but perhaps the Government was keen to 'maximise' the use of British aircraft by BOAC to the public..

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Hmm, I can't think about 23 US types in operation. I can add Hudson, Lodestar, DC-3, Catalina and CW-20 (briefly) to the Clipper and the Liberator. It would seem a rather tight timescale that excluded the Ensign and the Mosquito, though presumably the surviving Atlantas were in Air India's hands, when not being operated by the RAF on coastal patrol duties..

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It is indeed a surprising figure, Graham, and, on reflection, it's unexpected enough to be suspect in my mind. It just has to be less straightforward than it seems on the face of it.

From my long-ago working life, the task of counting things or counting people in largish organisations, and placing them in categories or particular groups, was rarely as simple as it seemed. The result could depend on who did the counting, on what dates they did it, how they classified the things or people being counted and what outcome was expected or hoped for in the first place.

It is perhaps worth saying, in respect of the article, that the reference to the 26 'different types' was in an earlier part and that the question of where the aircraft were made came much later - and may just have concerned BOAC's overseas services. Therefore, the bits of information that are difficult to reconcile could have come from different sources or different respondents, using different criteria and answering different questions asked at different times.

If, for example, the '26' figure referred to all the different aircraft types on BOAC's books, not just those employed on overseas passenger, mail or cargo services, then several British aircraft types could be added. BOAC inherited a range of aircraft from its predecessor airlines. You mention the Atalantas and the Ensigns but, as you are aware, there were several others - the Albatross, Flamingo and Dragon Rapide come to mind and there were probably others. I also seem to recall that BOAC used Oxfords for training purposes and also evaluated other aircraft for its possible use. Was the Albermarle one of these or is my memory playing tricks? Perhaps there were several of these 'one-offs' on BOAC's books.

I'm not even sure how 'aircraft type' was defined. How many 'aircraft types' are covered by the phrase 'Short flying boats' for example? Even though the S.23, S.30 and S.33 were Empire flying boats (C-class), they might have counted as three types, as they had different power plants and different all-up weights. Around the time the article was written, Shorts were converting Sunderland Mk.IIIs for BOAC use and there were also the S.26 G-class flying boats (Golden Hind, Fleece and Horn). I don't know but perhaps (and I stress perhaps), 'Short flying boats' could encompass five different aircraft types.

And BOAC had aircraft all around the world, not just in Britain, and some of those might be called unusual. Weren't there some captured aircraft based in Cairo that BOAC used for 'communication' and similar purposes, for example?

Anyway, it is probably more complicated than the article suggests. Perhaps someone could help clarify the statements in the article.

In the meantime, I checked I had transcribed the figures correctly from the article and took the opportunity to copy the relevant sections, which are attached.

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