Collecting a Lancaster

Spitfire Site

I received the following photograph from Mr Don McNaughton, together with the following information and request for more info. “I have been doing some ...

I received the following photograph from Mr Don McNaughton, together with the following information and request for more info.

“I have been doing some research for a book I am starting to work on and came across your website on the Vickers Armstrong Spitfire/Lancaster factory at Castle Bromich. This is a photograph of a Lancaster crew that either picked up the 1st Lancaster from the factory (463 RAAF squadron and it would have to be sometime after 2/3 December if this crew picked it up) or were there to be congratulated for shooting down the 1st enemy a/c from a Castle Bromwich Lancaster (on 14/15 Jan 1944) and were then given the photo. For some reason they are standing under a Spitfire rather than a Lanc. I attach the photograph in case it is of interest. The writing has been added by me so is no evidence.

I was hoping someone could answer the following
What date did the 1st Lancaster leave the CBAF factory for a squadron? (this may rule out the 1st explanation) and would there be any record of who flew it out. I am almost certain it went to No. 463 squadron.

What mark of Spitfire is it?
Was it normal for the signatures to be put on the Spit props? Would this be done to all the finished aircraft?
Who are the factory reps behind the crew? I imagine they would be the bosses!”

Comments by the editor: The aircraft is almost certainly a Spitfire LF Mk. IX, which came into mass-scale production at CBAF in October 1943. Chalk marks on propellers were commonly used for annotation by production and ground crew, but unfortunately these do not seem to reveal the aircraft’s serial number. In any case, it looks like a machine fresh off the production line.

Coincidentally, the first CBAF-produced Lancaster was flown on 22 October 1943 by Alex Henshaw.

Further information welcome!
[Don McNaughton coll.]


By SPT.  |  2013-04-18 at 15:16  |  permalink

I don’t think that this was taken at VACBAF, it doesn’t look right. There isn’t enough information in the picture to say what Mark the Spit is, either, other than that it’s a MkIX/XVI. It’s either new or repaired. The railway in the background makes me think that it’s Cosford, which was in any case, an integral part of VACBAF. The chalk scribblings were used all over the airframe, both for official notes and just graffitti.
The centre of the three men is VACBAF’s GM, Dickson.
HK535 was flown by Alex Henshaw numerous times, on from 22/10/43 until his last on this a/c on 16/12/43. One must presume that the ATA took this machine away on, or shortly after this date.

By Don McNaughton  |  2017-03-21 at 04:09  |  permalink

I have dug a little deeper into this now and the reason the Trimble crew were at Castle Bromwich was to pick up HK535 after repair. The Trimble crew were shot up over Frankfurt in HK535 on the night of 14/15 Jan 1944 and returned with 3 engines and an injured RG. One Oleo leg collapsed on landing at a US base (which they used because they had lost so much fuel) so they badly damaged the plane but all walked away. The MUG was credited with shooting down a FW190 that night. I now have the original photograph of the crew under the Spitfire and it is signed on the back by the managing directer VA Ltd – J.V. Morton as presented to the gunner who 1st to shoot down a fighter from a Castle Bromwich Lancaster. Unfortunately it is not dated but must be some time after 15 Jan 44.

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