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  1. The night before the humiliations of a previous war were symbolically exorcised in a railway carriage at Compiègne, an Avro Anson took off from RAF Wyton and headed north. The crew of two consisted of a pilot, Flight Lt. (as he then was) H. E. Bufton, and a radio operator Cpl. Dennis Mackie - neither of whom had been briefed as to the true nature of their mission. What these two men achieved in the night sky on June 21st, 1940 (itself a culmination of intelligence efforts on the part of many unheralded individuals) was as critical to the war effort as the mission report was dry and undemonstrative: 'I. There is a narrow beam (approximately 400 to 500 yards wide) passing through a position 1 mile south of Spalding, having dots to the south and dashes to the north, on a bearing of 104O(284OT). 2. The carrier frequency of the transmissions on the night of 21/22 June was 31.5 mc/s, modulatedat 1150 cycles andsimilar to Lorenz characteristics. 3. There is a second beam having similar characteristics but with dots to the north and dashes to the south synchronized with thes outhern beam, apparently passing through a point near Beeston on a bearing lying between 60°+ and less than 104°.' In one of the earliest SIGINT missions, Bufton and Mackie had picked up signals emanating from German Knickebein radio transmitters used to guide Luftwaffe raids on Britain. The story is well known - not least to those of you like myself who can recall first hearing about it in William Woollard's memorable depiction of these events for the BBC-TV series The Secret War back in 1977 - yet the existing historical narrative of this flight remains largely the same one repeated over and over in print and electronic media with the same hackneyed phrases re-arranged. The best background narrative is the original one provided by R. V. Jones in his extraordinary memoir Most Secret War, whilst a good (and accessible!) technical description of the radio principles involved in this and later 'battle of the beams' technology is covered in a detailed series of articles by D. V. Pritchard in Ham Radio magazine, June-Oct 1989. Think about that June night for a moment: It was a Friday - the summer solstice of 1940, the remains of an Army had returned from Dunkirk at the start of the month and the continent was now closed-off. Invasion was expected and massed air raids a certainty. At all levels of civilian and military structures people were regrouping, fearing, training, imagining and researching ways to survive. We can't ourselves imagine what that slow realization of a 'total war' engulfing a nation must have felt like to wake up to each morning - and how each person would have been forced to confront it in individual ways. It was during this period that Bufton and Mackie rose not knowing why into a summer sky, bathed in radio and starlight, methodically collecting and transforming the former into something tangible that helped to alter the course of events in ways that they could not themselves conceive. Breakfast in the mess the next morning was probably no different from the previous morning, and the one before that. Except that now between them they had helped to change the world. I've long been fascinated by that flight and frustrated by the poor manner in which it has been recorded historically and so have tried to track down the exact aircraft flown by Bufton and Mackie that night in order to build it. Not an easy proposition. It is an Anson Mk.1, potentially one of three loaned from the Boscombe Down to the Y-Service flying out of Wyton in June 1940. I have a copy of Michael Cumming's Beam Bombers on order as @corsaircorp most kindly forwarded me an excerpt from it that @BS103 had been kind enough to dig out (isn't that always the way of things on here? Somebody knows something that somebody else passes on... ) From Ray Sturtivant's superb The Anson File I've cross referenced the airframes as follows: L7967: SAN* / BATDU**, transferred to RCAF in March 1941 N9938: BATDU, transferred to RCAF in Dec 1940 N9945 BATDU/WIDU***, crashed Stechford, Birmingham Nov 1940. *School of Air Navigation **Beam Approach Training and Development Unit *** Wireless Intelligence Development Unit. All three aircraft then were in BATDU during their secondment from Boscombe to Wyton to be re-wired with Hallicrafters radios for these beam missions. My understanding is that on 30th Oct 1940 BATDU became WIDU, before in turn becoming 109 Squadron later in December 1940. That narrows it down to three aircraft, but which one were Bufton/Mackie flying the night of the 21st? At the moment I can find no record confirming a specific serial number - even delving into the likes of the RAF Historical Assocation yields no clue. I do have feelers out in the hope of contacting a member of Bufton's family to see if this is recorded in his log books but have heard nothing as of yet. What I don't know at all either is what would be the likely aircraft code letter &etc. for an aircraft in BATDU in June 1940 - before it became WIDU - as I can find no record for either of these units. Were they such short-lived (or secretive, given the nature of the missions) units that they weren't assigned individual codes? Two of the aircraft appear to have gone straight to BATDU from the factory so must have had something on them? Here's the kit: According to Scalemates this is the 1974 boxing, the same version I made back then as a 9 year old. The instructions are succinct and rich with the Proustian smell of a warm mid-seventies Saturday morning. Have a sniff: Extras I'm going to be using as some Eduard early RAF seatbelts, an Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah from Engines & Things, necessary as the original ones won't support a 'reveal': Some hefty grinding out needed there. I can't wait to use the (typically gobsmacking) etch from Flightpath as well. It's not until you open the packet that you realize what super quality David's stuff really is, including four pages of detailed documentation! When I originally bought the kit secondhand I should have checked the contents closely as this was nestled inside it: Both canopy and turret! That was a lovely surprise and will be used as Aeroclub are another of my favourite manufacturers. For some reason there were additionally two of the original Airfix canopies in the box as well if anybody wants/needs them at all. So as it stands I'm going to build an Anson that I don't know either the serial number or aircraft codes for. Promising eh? .
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