Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wandering Wellington

It is interesting to explore the story behind some of the evasive, censored wartime publications. This 1940 Vickers-Armstrongs advertisement from Flight magazine is an interesting case in point. The original text in the middle reads:

"A Vickers 'WELLINGTON' has made the longest non-stop reconnaissance trip of the war, a journey of well over 2,000 miles to Narvik and back. The machine was piloted through wind, rain and snow by a New Zealander, and his colleagues were all members of the R.A.F. New Zealand Bomber Squadron."
(The Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, 8-5-40).

Thanks to the knowledge of my friend Dave Homewood in New Zealand, he was instantly able to fill out the background to the story. Dave:
'The reconnaissance trip referred to will be the one carried out by Aubrey Breckon and his crew to Narvik, Norway and back. This took place on the 12th of April 1940, and though they were a No. 75 Squadron crew they flew to Wick and then got into a No. 215 Squadron Wellington specially modified for the trip. It was L4387. and was coded simply LG. It was actually a training machine rather than an operational Wimpey that they used. Also aboard with Aubrey were LAC E.P. Williams, Lt Comm F.O. Howie RN, P/O D.J. Harkness, Sgt R.H. Hughes and AC T.L. Mumby. It was a cold trip. Breckon wrote in his report later that "for a long tme we had 27 degrees of frost." The trip lasted 14 1/2 hours and covered well over 2,000 miles!'

The photos are of interest as well, for although they are excellent shots, by doyen of the aviation photographers Charles E Brown, they have nothing to do with the subject, being pre-war examples fitted with the original, inadequate Vickers Armstrong turrets. According to the book on Brown's photography, Camera Above the Clouds Vol 1, by Anthony Harold, they are 9 Squadron machines photographed en route to (or from) the 1939 Brussels Aero Exhibition. Soon after, in September 1939, this squadron and probably several of these aircraft took part in the RAF's second bombing raid of the war.

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