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John

Defiant L6991, 141 Sqdn/5 OTU, RAF Grangemouth 1940

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I'm putting this here as a placeholder meantime, until I can decide what to contribute to this GB.

 

When I turn up at work of a morning at Falkirk Council's new £18M Technological WonderPalace (aka Carrongrange School) I'm slap bang on the site of the former Central Scotland Airport, later RAF Grangemouth. We're pretty much located in the yellow shaded area in this photo:

 

27331497988_613438af1c_c.jpg58-o.t.u.-operational-training-unit-grangemouth-airfield-w640h480 by John Walker, on Flickr

 

It doesn't look like that now, but the 2 pre-war hangars survive.

 

The new school was opened in August 2017, they had to do an explosive ordnance survey of the site before they could start piling operations - which could have ended interestingly!

 

26332325127_d5a33f8d19_c.jpgCarrongrange-ASN-Secondary-School-Grangemouth by John Walker, on Flickr

 

Grangemouth played host to Spitfires, Hurricanes, Masters, Lysanders, Gladiators, Whirlwinds, Defiants, Bleheims, Tiger Moths, Ansons, Harts and probably others so I'm spoilt for choice.

 

GmSpit.jpg

 

58 OTU Spitfire Mk1, May 1941.

 

John

 

 

 

 

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Interesting theme and background story.  Looking forward to seeing what you decide to build.........  how about the terminal building and hangar?  :wicked:

 

Mike

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26 minutes ago, bootneck said:

Interesting theme and background story.  Looking forward to seeing what you decide to build.........  how about the terminal building and hangar?  :wicked:

 

Mike

Been done :D

 

13691006_1106694399404927_67854902606151

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EXCELLENT!  :clap2:

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Built by Grangemouth ATC some years ago and on display at Grangemouth Heritage Trust. 

 

John 

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Well, we've also got this a couple of hundred metres from the school:

 

40316040895_a98eddeb64_c.jpgSpitfire-at-Grangemouth by John Walker, on Flickr

 

It's meant to represent X4859 as it appeared when it crashed in November 1941 but something seemed to go a bit James May with the colours and markings. Maybe we could look at something a bit more representative and give it to the Heritage Trust.

 

I'm also tempted by Spitfire L1047 XT-M, which was the first (of very many) fatalities at Grangemouth, in October 1939 but I think I'm going to build Defiant L6991, of 141 Sqdn/5 OTU. This aircraft crashed just beyond the airfield perimeter in May 1940. The pilot, Sgt Keene, is buried in the military plot of Grandsable Cemetery, just yards from where he crashed. AC2 Wightman of 141 Squadron was in the turret, but it isn't clear if he was a gunner or just along for the ride. Sadly he was killed as well and is buried in Lockerbie. 

 

John

 

 

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14 minutes ago, John said:

 

Well, we've also got this a couple of hundred metres from the school:

 

40316040895_a98eddeb64_c.jpg

 

I do hope someone puts a canopy on that poor spitfire. It will rot so quickly with the insides exposed. 

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L6991 is a project that's been at the back of my mind for a long time. I originally bought the Classic Airframes kit with this aircraft in mind but I was never happy with it. Subsequently, of course, we have the excellent new Airfix example and I was of my mark getting one when they came out:

 

27378813978_c54e24738c_c.jpgL69911 by John Walker, on Flickr

 

I'm sure we all know what the kit looks like but for GB verification purposes, this is the inside of the box. Note the surviving CA decal sheet as well:

 

27378814398_dd0c2645fc_c.jpgL69912 by John Walker, on Flickr

 

Since L6991 was lost quite early I'm assuming a Night and white undersurface with Type A roundels on the fuselage side and no fin flash. It seems to have been on the strength of 5 OTU rather than 141 Squadron at the time of its loss so no squadron codes either. It will look a bit different from later Defiant models.

 

John

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Posted (edited)

Grangemouth is a long way from home for a 5 OTU aircraft, which was based at Aston Down.  Whereas 141 Sq was even based at Grangemouth until Feb 1940, moving then to Prestwick and then to Turnhouse.  Air Britain's Serials  book for L6991 only gives service with 141 Sq.  It's of course possible that the aircraft had been officially transferred but hadn't quite made it.  Fighter Squadrons of the RAF only gives one individual Defiant code for 141 Sq and doesn't even include L6991 in its list.  Unit codes were TW.

 

Air Britain Flying Training and Support Units doesn't quote any markings for 5 OTU's first existence, before coming 55 OTU, but individual codes or numbers would be usual.  It only had four Defiants, including L7032 , but these included L6950, L6971, L6999, L7010, L7023, and L7032. according to the serials listing.

 

PS  Fin flashes were adopted on May 1st 1940, so it was quite likely to have carried them by the 15th.

Edited by Graham Boak

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On ‎03‎/‎04‎/‎2018 at 12:05, John said:

Been done :D

 

 

Terrific! I just popped along there since I was in the area and had a look and a chat with the guys there. It really looks like a 'Thirties' Terminal and I recognised many of the models/kits laid out there - most in 1/72? This is well worth keeping maintained (e.g. careful dusting).

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On ‎03‎/‎04‎/‎2018 at 18:07, Corsairfoxfouruncle said:

I do hope someone puts a canopy on that poor spitfire. It will rot so quickly with the insides exposed. 

I pass this regularly and the canopy has always been on when I've looked - maybe away for cleaning? I hope not a case of vandalism..

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32 minutes ago, Graham Boak said:

Grangemouth is a long way from home for a 5 OTU aircraft, which was based at Aston Down.  Whereas 141 Sq was even based at Grangemouth until Feb 1940, moving then to Prestwick and then to Turnhouse.  Air Britain's Serials  book for L6991 only gives service with 141 Sq.  It's of course possible that the aircraft had been officially transferred but hadn't quite made it.  Fighter Squadrons of the RAF only gives one individual Defiant code for 141 Sq and doesn't even include L6991 in its list.  Unit codes were TA.

 

Air Britain Flying Training and Support Units doesn't quote any markings for 5 OTU's first existence, before coming 55 OTU, but individual codes or numbers would be usual.  It only had four Defiants, including L7032 , but these included L6950, L6971, L6999, L7010, L7023, and L7032. according to the serials listing.

 

PS  Fin flashes were adopted on May 1st 1940, so it was quite likely to have carried them by the 5th.

Thanks.

 

John Adams has advised, some time ago, that L6991 wasn't included in Fighter Command Losses and that The Defiant File Honour Roll lists Sgt Keene with 5 OTU while CWGC lists both Sgt Keene and AC2 Wightman as on the strength of 141 Squadron. Clearly there was some sort of transition of both aircraft and staff around this period.

 

141 had a presence at Grangemouth and flew patrols from there for much of the Spring and early Summer of 1940, sharing for a time with the reformed 263 Squadron. L6991 certainly flew from there the day it crashed - the crash site is a matter of yards from the airfield perimeter.

 

Good point about the fin flashes.

 

John

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Interesting.  So perhaps Sqt. Keene was transferring to 141 Sq and out for a "learn the area" flight, rather than having called to collect an aircraft for transfer?  Could be either - is it known whether he was a pupil or an instructor at 5 OTU?  That would influence any opinion.  If not a gunner, Wightman could have been along for the ride as a guide, or just as a reward for some particular piece of work, but his being present on a transfer flight seems unlikely to me.

 

The comment about Fighter Squadrons wasn't meant to suggest that L6991 wasn't with 141, just lamenting incomplete information.

 

I'd forgotten about The Defiant File.  Oops.  It states that the aircraft was delivered to 19 MU 3.5.40, then to 141 Sq 3.5.40, then 5 OTU on 17.5.40, but immediately after describes the crash on the 15.5.40.  The Serials book also gives the 15th for the crash - I shall correct my typo above.

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The paper trail is far from complete, unfortunately. It looks like there was juggling going on to balance the demands for aircraft and aircrew in forming another squadron while maintaining a training element. 

I haven't found much out about Sgt Keene, beyond the fact that he was 27 so he could have been an experienced pilot but there's no way to know at the momenht. 

I do wonder if there had been a mechanical problem with L6991 and AC2 Wightman had gone along to either diagnose it or check it had been fixed as they didn't make it far from the airfield and weren't that high when they stalled. High enough, sadly. 

Although Turnhouse was the Sector station Grangemouth was bigger with considerable hangarage and accommodation. 13 Group used it for second line activities like re-equipping and reforming squadrons. Kept them out of the way of the operational units at Turnhouse and Drem, which were also further east and nearer the threat. 

They also kept mustard gas at Grangemouth. 

I'm going to work on the assumption that L6991 was delivered to 5 OTU and was in the process of being handed over to 141 Squadron when it was destroyed, and that the record card, filled in afterwards, has the dates back to front. 

I'll never get it built otherwise! 

 

John 

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Posted (edited)

Here is the info on the crash from Airfield Focus on Grangemouth

 

"Shortly afterwards it was decided that 141 Sqdrn would become the second in the RAF to be equiped with Defiants. The first was delivered in March 1940, two more in April and 13 at the start of may. Training as a night fighter unit began in ernest. 

On 15th of May one of the Defients (L6991) stalled in a steep turn at 700ft and spun into the ground at Mumrills Brae near Beancross."

 

Ernie Ferguson is quoted as saying

 

"The first Defiant loss at Grangemouth stalled and burst into flames in a field adjoining the aerodrome. I attended the funeral of Sgt Keene at a cemetry on the outskirts of Falkirk" 

 

So I would say he was on a training flight, to become a night fighter pilot, with 141 Sqdrn.

Edited by delta7

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The RAF casualty section has the loss attributed to 141 Squadron. The cause was a high speed stall on May 15th 1940 at 15.40 hours. 

 

Both burials took place on May 18th;  David Wightman interred at Lockerbie ( his family lived at Ashgrove Terrace ), however Stephen Keene was not returned to his home town of Westcliffe on Sea and as mentioned was interred at Grangemouth.

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Posted (edited)

Unfortunately there was a high loss rate due to training accidents. 

The local cemetry at grantsable has a section for those who lost their lives during the war flying from grangemouth

 

here is the air force cross

 

123_2350.jpg

 

and some of the gravestones, many from commonwealth and occupied countries 

 

123_2355.jpg

 

If interested I could check if  Sgt Keenes grave site was there or at another local site, his memorial would be detailed like this

 

123_2353.jpg

 

Edited by delta7

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Stephen Keene is buried at Grantsable, section 1, grave 11.

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I've been struggling with a stomach bug since Friday and even the arrival of a package from the Big H hasn't been enough to rouse me from my stupor until today:

 

41366534401_23c813e654_c.jpgP1010993 by John Walker, on Flickr

 

Since this model will probably end up in the heritage centre it seems worth pushing the boat out a bit. I might also have the Classic Airframes etch somewhere.

 

As far as the crash location goes I've spoken to the district archaeologist (the same Geoff Bailey who wrote Airfield Focus on Grangemouth) and he reckons the site is still visible within the Antonine Wall World Heritage Site. I'll go and have a looksee when I'm feeling a bit better and if the weather ever improves. The crash site is literally a couple of hundred yards from the cemetery.

 

John

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Sorry you aren't well John, I hope you can get back to modelling soon.

 

That does look like an exiting load of AM stuff you have there ...

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On ‎03‎/‎04‎/‎2018 at 18:07, Corsairfoxfouruncle said:

I do hope someone puts a canopy on that poor spitfire. It will rot so quickly with the insides exposed. 

 

On ‎05‎/‎04‎/‎2018 at 14:44, Ventora3300 said:

I pass this regularly and the canopy has always been on when I've looked - maybe away for cleaning? I hope not a case of vandalism..

Passed it again yesterday and the canopy is back on!

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We visited Sgt Keene's grave this afternoon:

 

41908419781_4ace4f5e43_c.jpgKeene by John Walker, on Flickr

 

Sgt Keene is buried beside the crew of Armstrong Withworth Whitley P5090 of 502 Squadron which crashed at in Fathen Glinne, Balquidder, on 24th November 1940 killing 5 of the 6 crew on board. All 5 are interred here.

 

Also in the same plot is Pilot Officer Victor Charles Arnold, RCAF, who was killed when his Miles Master crashed at Stenhousemuir on 5th May 1941. His instructor was badly injured but survived. PO Arnold came from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada:

 

41009203235_6fd304ac57_c.jpgkeene2 by John Walker, on Flickr

 

Unfortunately I didn't have time to get round to the crash site but I will as soon as I can.

 

John

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Finally - a start gets made.

 

Fuselage interiors given a first coat of Humbrol 120 to represent bright, fresh Grey Green. L6991 wasn't an old airframe:

 

40154100980_d89c75eec0_c.jpgL69915 by John Walker, on Flickr

 

A venerable pot of Matt Aluminium MetalCote provided a smooth finish for the wheel wells and inside of the main undercarriage doors:

 

40154100460_f280e1cb6a_c.jpgL69914 by John Walker, on Flickr

 

I'll probably do the turret next.

 

John

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Posted (edited)

Great to see progress, and that you've started building.  I'm following this with interest as I'm currently writing the history of the Defiant for Pen & Sword, and this Defiant was 141 Squadron's first Defiant fatal crash of the war. I've attached the casualty communication for this loss for reference. As to the crew, I drew a blank trying to find Wightmans family, but I have been given a couple of leads to the Keene family, now in Kent apparently. Keep up the good work, and keep us posted if you get to the crash site.

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/157796863@N06/shares/SLr4w8

Edited by AndyL

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