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Wilhelmshaven Wellingtons


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Hello, Everyone,

It's been quite a while since I last posted here, and I must say that I am glad to be back. I suppose that my visit to ScaleModelWorld 2011 at Telford last weekend was a major motivator!

During my visit to England I picked up the book "Bomber Command" by Max Hastings. In the prologue he describes the Wilhelmshaven Raid of December 18, 1939. Three squadrons of Wellingtons took part, one of them being 9 Sqn, RAF. One of the 9 Sqn pilots was a Canadian. P/O William Macrae, who survived the raid. I'd like to build a model of his aircraft based on the 1/72nd scale MPM offering of the Wellington Mk. IA. In particular, I'm looking for references to provide the following information:

a. the aircraft letter and serial number of Macrae's Wellington (my ancient Harleyford "Aircraft Camouflage and Markings, 1907-1954" gives me 9 Sqn code as "WS");

b. specific demarcation lines of the disruptive camouflage pattern;

c. modifications required to backdate the MPM kit to a slightly earlier version if necessary (for example, the kit provides a two-gun nose turret, but the prologue seems to refer to a single gun installation in the nose turret on the raid); and

d any other references that you think might be useful for this project.

Thanks in advance for any assistance!

Edited by Gary
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Hello, Everyone,

It's been quite a while since I last posted here, and I must say that I am glad to be back. I suppose that my visit to ScaleModelWorld 2011 at Telford last weekend was a major motivator!

During my visit to England I picked up the book "Bomber Command" by Max Hastings. In the prologue he describes the Wilhelmshaven Raid of December 18, 1939. Three squadrons of Wellingtons took part, one of them being 9 Sqn, RAF. One of the 9 Sqn pilots was a Canadian. P/O William Macrae, who survived the raid. I'd like to build a model of his aircraft based on the 1/72nd scale MPM offering of the Wellington Mk. IA. In particular, I'm looking for references to provide the following information:

a. the aircraft letter and serial number of Macrae's Wellington (my ancient Harleyford "Aircraft Camouflage and Markings, 1907-1954" gives me 9 Sqn code as "WS");

b. specific demarcation lines of the disruptive camouflage pattern;

c. modifications required to backdate the MPM kit to a slightly earlier version if necessary (for example, the kit provides a two-gun nose turret, but the prologue seems to refer to a single gun installation in the nose turret on the raid); and

d any other references that you think might be useful for this project.

Thanks in advance for any assistance!

The best piece of advice I can give you is: if you haven't bought it yet, don't start with the Italeri Wellington. There are modellers on this forum still traumatised by unavailing attempts to wrestle it into submission. Go for the Trumpeter one: very nice except for exaggerated fabric effect and, more serious, too narrow undercarriage legs with weedy tyres. The Trumpeter Ic kit provides for the 2 x 2-gun turret installation: not sure what the Wilhelmshafen raid aircraft had.

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Bombing Colours by M J Bowyer gives the serials of the aircraft on this raid. 24 aircraft set out, 10 were shot down, two ditched after fuel leaks and three crash landed. From 9 Sq.:

N2964 WS.D

N2941 FTR

N2981 F

N2983 FTR

N2940 FTR

N2873 C crashed

N2872 FTR

N2871 B crashed

N2939 FTR

All these serials were Mk.IA with the twin-gun turrets. I have no knowledge of which was flown by your man - perhaps any specific 9 Sq history will say more?

The aircraft carried a standardised camouflage pattern which will be provided in the kit. Alternate aircraft had this in the mirror image. Codes would be in medium grey (possibly Medium Sea Grey) with the units codes aft of the roundel.

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Bombing Colours by M J Bowyer gives the serials of the aircraft on this raid. 24 aircraft set out, 10 were shot down, two ditched after fuel leaks and three crash landed. From 9 Sq.:

N2964 WS.D

N2941 FTR

N2981 F

N2983 FTR

N2940 FTR

N2873 C crashed

N2872 FTR

N2871 B crashed

N2939 FTR

All these serials were Mk.IA with the twin-gun turrets. I have no knowledge of which was flown by your man - perhaps any specific 9 Sq history will say more?

The aircraft carried a standardised camouflage pattern which will be provided in the kit. Alternate aircraft had this in the mirror image. Codes would be in medium grey (possibly Medium Sea Grey) with the units codes aft of the roundel.

Graham,

Thank you for this information. The Hastings reference indicates that Macrae's aircraft was one of the two aircraft from the port section of the formation to reach home. Sgt. Pett made a forced landing at Sutton Bridge, while P/O Macrae made an emergency landing at North Coates. I am not familiar with the abbreviations provided in the serial listings: B, C, F, and FTR. I would be grateful if you can clarify these for me, as it might narrow the listing somewhat as to P/O Macrae's aircraft.

Regarding the disruptive camouflage, I was not sure if the Dark Earth/Dark Green fuselage patterns extended completely down the fuselage sides at this early point in the war, or if they terminated well above the wing attachment points.

For Seahawk, Brewerjerry and Miduppergunner: my thanks to you for your responses. They are helpful, and most appreciated. The "Lost Bombers" website has helped me to eliminate three additional a/c from the list: N2872 (S/L Guthrie), N2940 (? Lines) and N2983 (Sgt. Ramshaw). Many thanks!

Edited by Gary
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Hi

Regarding the abbreviations, B, C, F, and FTR.

B,C, F will be the individual aircraft identification letter

i.e. N2871 WS-B, N2873 WS-C, N2873 WS-F.

FTR will be Failed to return... ( from operation ), i.e did not return to the UK.

Your two likely candidates for further research , from the info provided ,would be in my opinion :-

N2873 WS-C crashed

N2871 WS-B crashed

Cheers

Jerry

Edited by brewerjerry
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Hi, Jerry,

Thanks for this clarification. So far, the pieces of information I have are dovetailing together nicely. I'm down to four possibilities, thanks to replies so far: N2871-B, N2873-C, N2964-D, and N2981-F.

Also, I found this painting advertised on the 'net, showing the aircraft of Sgt. Pett. I'd be interested in any comment regarding the camouflage and markings depicted. I'm particularly interested in the full-fuselage application of the upper camouflage colours and the extended red/white/blue fin flash:

Wellington.jpg

Edited by Gary
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The painting shows the correct colour scheme and markings for the period, to at least as late as May 1940, although later the fin flashes shrank in size (but see below). Bowyer has a photo of N2912/LG.C and a drawing of P9297 KO.F in this scheme, with a photo of L1779 LF.P with the smaller fin flash, the last dated April/May 1940. Bowyer describes the black coming up the sides, initially partway, as being from July 1940.

The abbreviations B,F and C were those used by Bowyer: I agree that these will have been the individual codes. FTR was my abbreviation for Failed To Return, Bowyer actually says missing.

You may be able to get further help from RAFCommands.com, which dedicates a lot of threads to histories of RAF crew members, but I'm not sure what records they may have on aircraft that returned safely.

PS Consulting another source, RAF Bomber Command and its Aircraft 1936-1940, by Goulding & Moyes, suggests that the fin flash was not adopted until May 1940. It has a painting of R3000 WS.L to this effect, but only describes it as after November 21 1939 - the changer from red/blue to red/white/blue roundels. It had a photo of Wellington Mk.IAs lined up for delivery at Weybridge, and the aircraft still have underwing roundels.

Cross-checking this with Bowyer, he also dates the introduction of the finflash to May 1940 but in the specific context of the aircraft in France - he is vague as to its use on UK based aircraft but other photos show BC aircraft in early 1940 without the finflash. So I suspect the painting is wrong in this respect.

Edited by Graham Boak
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Regarding the disruptive camouflage, I was not sure if the Dark Earth/Dark Green fuselage patterns extended completely down the fuselage sides at this early point in the war, or if they terminated well above the wing attachment points.

It appears that in 1939 the camo colours extended down to almost the bottom of the fuselage and this remained so until perhaps June of 1940. Immediately pre war pictures show it thus. But of course the codes fro 9 Squadron were KA pre War and apparently changed to WS "In WWII" Bowyer says in "Squadron Codes" that 9 Squadron changed to WS in September 1939.

9 Squadron had Wellingtons from February 1939 according to the Moyes Book, Bomber Squadrons, and so whilst they may well have repainted the codes it is probable that they did not alter the colour scheme, raising the black. In Bombing Colours Bowyer records a Wellington in July 1940 at Mildenhall saying "the black has begun to creep up the fuselage sides". He goes on to say "by the end of August 1940 the black ... terminated higher on the fuselage" In July it appears to have been about the level of the wing and tailplane in a wavy line. By August it had risen to a (wavy) line level with the lower edge of the canopy, the top edge of the windows above The wing and just below the fin. Thus for 1939 I suggest it was "low down". The serial was possibly black (over the camo) because Bowyer comments that when the black had crept up the fuselage sides it was either reapplied in grey or left black in a "box" of the old camo colour.

I have been able to find this - this is N3000 -L near Honington "early 1940". With ventral gun turret.

9sqdnhonington40075.jpg

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Gentlemen, All,

You continue to provide me with excellent assistance, which I very much appreciate. I will be gratefully reviewing all of your information, matching it with what I already have and what other data I can collect. With two projects currently on the work bench, I do not expect to get started on the Wellington build until later in 2012, but I can certainly see the requirement to do some long term research on the accurate identification of the specific aircraft in question as well as determining the actual markings carried thereon. You have all given me much more of a head start than I expected. At the risk of going to the well once too often, I will continue my enquiries and return to this thread with the questions which will inevitably arise! Again, many thanks!

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To add to the above interesting posts that Chris Shores Fledgling Eagles(p.148) lists the Dec 18, 1939 9Sq Wellingtons as:

N2872 WS- Guthrie

N2939 WS-H Challes

N2941 WS- Allison

N2940 WS- Lines

N2983 WS- Hewitt

N2971 WS- Macrae

N2873 WS-C Petts

N2964 WS-D Grant

N2981 WS-F Purdy

Not sure which source is correct but Shores has N2871 as LF-E of 37Sq F/O Lemon.

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N2971 is not a Wellington - it is in a short black-out block.

N2871 is not recorded as serving with 37 Sq - it came to 9 from 214 and then went to 15 and 311 before serving in a series of OCUs and eventually being written off at Maripur in 1944.

This suggests that Macrae's aircraft was N2871.

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To add to the above interesting posts that Chris Shores Fledgling Eagles(p.148) lists the Dec 18, 1939 9Sq Wellingtons as:

N2872 WS- Guthrie

N2939 WS-H Challes

N2941 WS- Allison

N2940 WS- Lines

N2983 WS- Hewitt

N2971 WS- Macrae

N2873 WS-C Petts

N2964 WS-D Grant

N2981 WS-F Purdy

Not sure which source is correct but Shores has N2871 as LF-E of 37Sq F/O Lemon.

This is my first post at this forum and I've joined the discussion late, but I wanted to point out that 2 other pilots listed above were Canadians, also. S/L Archibald John Guthrie was from Reston, Manitoba and learned to fly at the Winnipeg Flying Club. F/O John Tom Irvin Challes was from St Catharines, Ontario. Gary's pilot, F/O William John Macrae, was from Regina. [Ref: Canadians in the Royal Air Force, by Les Allison.]

In addition, W/C John Francis Griffiths, who went along on the 14 Dec 1939 recce by 99 Sqn Wellingtons against Heligoland and Terschelling Islands, also was a Canadian (from Stamford Center/Niagara Falls). He was a graduate of Canada's Royal Military College at Kingston, Ontario. On the raid he flew with S/L McKee in N2958.

-David

Edited by D.F. Loop
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  • 1 month later...
This is my first post at this forum and I've joined the discussion late, but I wanted to point out that 2 other pilots listed above were Canadians, also. S/L Archibald John Guthrie was from Reston, Manitoba and learned to fly at the Winnipeg Flying Club. F/O John Tom Irvin Challes was from St Catharines, Ontario. Gary's pilot, F/O William John Macrae, was from Regina. [Ref: Canadians in the Royal Air Force, by Les Allison.]

In addition, W/C John Francis Griffiths, who went along on the 14 Dec 1939 recce by 99 Sqn Wellingtons against Heligoland and Terschelling Islands, also was a Canadian (from Stamford Center/Niagara Falls). He was a graduate of Canada's Royal Military College at Kingston, Ontario. On the raid he flew with S/L McKee in N2958.

-David

Hello, David,

Terribly sorry in being so long in answering your post. Thank you very much for your information. As noted earlier, this will be a 2012 project, as I have three others on the workbench right now. Accordingly, I have the time to gather this type of information on the raid and the aircraft. Thanks again for your input, and please accept my best wishes for a Happy New Year!

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McCrae's aircraft was Wellington 1a N2871, though the ORB typewriter does an abysmal job, so it would be easy to mistake it as 2971, hence the confusion. As Graham said N2871 was WS-B.

It force-landed at Northcoates Fitties, after flak damage caused a wing fuel tank to leak. The rest of the crew were P/O J.A. Pritchard, Sgt. C.T. Murphy, AC2 B.A. Fawcett, LAC F. Horry, AC2 R.W. Smith.

Edgar

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McCrae's aircraft was Wellington 1a N2871, though the ORB typewriter does an abysmal job, so it would be easy to mistake it as 2971, hence the confusion. As Graham said N2871 was WS-B.

It force-landed at Northcoates Fitties, after flak damage caused a wing fuel tank to leak. The rest of the crew were P/O J.A. Pritchard, Sgt. C.T. Murphy, AC2 B.A. Fawcett, LAC F. Horry, AC2 R.W. Smith.

Edgar

Hello, Edgar,

Thanks very much for your input, and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

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