Tuesday, April 21, 2015

'The Wind' - the Luftwaffe's bombing of Rotterdam

In May 1940 the German Luftwaffe deliberately chose to bomb the city of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940 with the sole objective of breaking the Dutch will to fight. After effectively razing the mediaeval city centre, the threat of bombing Utrecht was enough to cause the Dutch Government to surrender.

"The German ultimatum ordering the Dutch commander of Rotterdam to cease fire was delivered to him at 10:30h on 14 May 1940. At 13:22h, German bombers set the whole inner city of Rotterdam ablaze, killing 814 of its inhabitants." The photo was taken after the removal of all debris. [Source, Via Wikipedia Commons: http://www.archives.gov/research_room/arc/ ARC Identifier: 535916; U.S. Defense Visual Information Center photo HD-SN-99-02993]

While this was not the first bombing of a city by a long way, it was in many ways the precedent that unleashed the dreadful bomber war where millions of civilians (engaged in war work or not) as well as the military were killed, disabled or made homeless in the pursuit of destroying a nations will to fight.

This was the 'wind' that 'Bomber' Harris referred to when he stated that, quoting the Bible:

"The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everybody else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put that rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now, they are going to reap the whirlwind."

Today, in Rotterdam, a forthcoming exhibition "The Attack, May 1940" is centred around a post-W.W.II Spanish CASA 2111 bomber, descendant of the Luftwaffe's bombers of May 1940, specifically the Heinkel He 111.  This example is on loan from a German collection.

For the reasons above, this is one of the most important exhibitions about W.W.II.

Exhibition details here: http://museumrotterdam.nl/tentoonstellingen/de-aanval
Translated details here: http://translate.google.com.au/translate?hl=en&sl=nl&u=http://museumrotterdam.nl/tentoonstellingen/de-aanval&prev=search

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tiger Club Redhill 1987

Back to the good old days of the Tiger Club's airshow at Redhill in 1987.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Finding the Fury

It's always rewarding when you can track back the origin of an image. Dr Brett Holman shared this poster on his blog Airminded recently [here] and after some discussion and internet searching, I was able to find the original photograph used by the artist of the Friends' Peace Committee as his model, and confirm the aircraft illustrated was, in fact, a Hawker Fury I.

The image looks like a standard Hawker Aircraft publicity image with the Brooklands racing track in the background obscured in the darkroom. However I'd be interested if anyone can confirm the image origin or other details.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Director Howard Hawks in Aviation

Howard Hawks, the notable US golden-age film director had trained in the US' Army to go to Europe as a squadron commander, but the war ended before he went overseas. He had other stories of his experiences later, including this one, taken here from the website 'Parallax View', of a 1976 interview with Hawks.

"One critic said that usually I was pretty much to be relied on, but when I made a picture called Only Angels Have Wings, now that was just too much for anybody to believe. I wrote him a letter and said that—I kept a copy of this letter and I’m thinking of publishing this letter—every single thing in that picture was absolutely true, there wasn’t anything I invented. I invented how to use it. I got back a very nice letter.

"The whole story was about … I was down in Mexico hunting with a bush pilot. You know, there weren’t any landing fields; they land anywhere. He had some homemade things that he dropped, and smoke would come out, and he could see which way the wind was blowing. And we’d go down and land and run our wheels on the ground to see whether it was mushy and marshy or what. And I went to dinner, and there was a guy there whose face had been burned in flying. All scarred. No expression on his face. Just talked to ya—nothing happened on his face. There was the cutest girl. The dinner was for a pilot and this girl. They were married, and they met in exactly the same way that the two people in Only Angels Have Wings met. And the only thing I couldn’t use was the fact that the fellow with the burnt face got up and said, “A year ago tonight you were married. You went to bed about ten minutes to two. You got up at two o’clock. There was a pause of about 15 minutes, then you repeated this thing,” and the girl said, “Damn you, you were peeking!” And they brought out a German machine used to keep the hours on flying; and it recorded when the motor started on a scroll, it recorded the takeoff run and recorded in the air, change of altitude, and landing bumps, so that they had a complete record of the time. And he’d hung it under their bed. Instead of being angry, the girl was so pleased and so proud of it, she put it up over the fireplace…."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Small World of DITC

Today's November 11. I generally don't set out to do anything in particular on this day, or Anzac day either, given that what I do most of the year involves a good degree of sharing military history. But I often end up doing something appropriate anyway as part of the normal run of things.

Today was a pretty special day. Volunteering at the RAAF Museum we had a tour with the DITC (Defence International Training Centre). The DITC's own definition of its role is "... to provide training and support that enhances Defence cooperation and cross cultural awareness between members of the Australian Defence Organisation and foreign militaries."

We get a remarkable range of officers from militaries literally all over the world (today from as close as Papua New Guinea, and as far as Holland, as well as Pakistan, China, India, Vietnam, and many more). We had army, navy, air force and one marines officer.

Experience was diverse. One officer had trained at the Empire Test Pilot's School, Boscombe Down, in the UK, one of the real elite pilot training schools, and had been mentored by one of the ETPS instructors who just happens to also be a pilot for The Shuttleworth Collection, thus someone I know, and today's 'small world' moment.

Pointing out the RAAF Museum's DHC Caribou on display, I was able to tell them that this actual aircraft, in its 45 years of service, had operated in several of their countries (from memory it had operated in Pakistan for the UN, Vietnam during the war there, and Papua New Guinea on many humane works).

If we can facilitate better understanding, experiences and co-operation between so many countries, as well as highlighting the cost of military history, then that is a good thing. There's a good chunk of 'lest we forget' here, but also works for building for a better future.

Friday, July 11, 2014

It's not all work...

For last Sunday's Interactive Flying Display at the RAAF Museum, I was lucky enough to get a flight down from closer to home thanks to a ride in Matt Henderson's CT-4. We were led in formation by Murray Wallace in his CT-4, with Barry Maclean as passenger.

This shot was taken as we ran in over RAAF Point Cook, with the museum's external-store aircraft* below, and the base water-tower and parade ground further up, the You-Yang hills on the horizon.

*L-R Bristol Freighter, C-130E, C-130H, HS 748 & DHC Caribou.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

That Grumman Duck Flying

I remember cutting this together on VHS video from the film, because it was one of the best bits of warbird stunt flying ever, and it was one of my all time favourites - the Grumman J2F Duck. Thanks to Roger Soupart for bringing this bit of online film to my - and now our - attention.

Many years after playing with it in analogue movie form, I came across a set of magnificent 35 mm slides from the filming of the Duck in Frank Tallman's hands at the British Film Archive library off Totenham Court Road, London. Despite eye-watering repro costs we ran a selection in 'Airside' a Warbirds Worldwide special issue. Great days.