Saturday, 6 August 2022

International Naval Wargames Day with Kiss Me Hardy & To Covet Glory (Boston v Ambuscade, July 1793) and (Pelican v Médée, September 1796)

 
Today, August 6th 2022, is International Naval Wargames Day, an opportunity to promote the pleasures of naval wargaming to the wider gaming community and encourage more folks to expand their gaming curriculum into this interesting area of our hobby.

In support of this worthy objective I got together earlier this week with John and Bob here at JJ's HQ to run a couple of historical small-ship engagements from the French Revolutionary Wars, with a few objectives in mind, namely to play-test some new scenarios I've been working on together with the setup rules and victory conditions that apply to them, as well as supporting today's initiative.

It's midweek and the room is prepared to welcome my guests, John and Bob, in readiness to support International Naval Wargames Day with some historical small ship actions prepared. The table dimensions are designed to set the stage in the closing stages of either a Chase or Meeting Engagement scenario.

Since my adventure into building a collection of 1:700th model ships from the Warlord Black Seas range of Napoleonic era model warships, as well as developing a collection to facilitate the big historical battles of the era such as Trafalgar and Cape St. Vincent, I was keen to also develop a collection of the smaller types to allow me to focus on the much more common types of naval actions that characterised the period, with small groups or single vessels ranging in size from luggers, cutters and schooners to mighty ships of the line encountering similar opponents, whilst engaged in patrols away from the main battle fleets.


When considering these historical smaller types of engagements often between single ships from each side, there are two references I turn to for inspiration, William James and his Naval History of Great Britain, copies of which are readily available on the internet, and a more recent tome by naval historian Dr Sam Wills and his marvellous book on the subject of warfare at sea during the eighteenth century entitled 'Fighting at Sea', a book I reviewed here on JJ's back in January 2020

JJ's Wargames - Fighting at Sea, Book Review

Small ship engagements in the age of sail present the naval wargamer with some interesting challenges to recreate in a scenario format, something I have been working on now for the last three years as my collection has grown and I have gradually put together a format for playing these games that has led me to complete 50 of an initial planned 100 scenarios themes for using with my preferred rules, Kiss me Hardy and the below the rate addition, To Covet Glory.


Those of us interested in the more intellectual side of gaming, namely reproducing the challenges faced by the actual commanders on the day, as best we can, and comparing our results on the table with those seen in the actual fight as a means of assessing victory or defeat; rather than simply pitching our model ships at each other in a duel to the death type of game, which bears little resemblance to the sea-fights described in the histories and takes little count of the restrictions and drivers placed on the actual captains involved, need a structure to base our games in, that help recreate those drivers on the players.

The front page of the scenario book I'm developing, that will allow me to select any one from a hundred of these historical match ups to play, as and when, with victory conditions and set ups based around the structure of the Meeting Engagement and Chase, that tended to characterise these small ship actions. 

Over the three years of pulling together these types of games and several rewrites of the various scenarios, I have gradually developed a structure of additional rules, based around defining these actions into two distinct types, Chases and Meeting Engagements, with the possibility that a scenario starting as one type could easily develop into the other depending on how things develop in the game.

The classic meeting engagement scenario, that is where both opposing commanders have decided, usually based on their observations, but sometimes by prior agreement such as in a classic 'War of 1812' duel situation, to meet their opponent in battle or were forced to face the other through an inability to escape, might see an opportunity through manoeuvre at a later stage, perhaps having caused enough damage to a stronger opponent, to permit them to break contact and thus bring on a potential chase if their opponent then decides to try and prevent their departure. 

Likewise in the scenario that sees an obviously weaker opponent identify his predicament and decide to run from the start, bringing on the classic chase situation, might during that evasion have the opportunity to briefly turn and deliver a damaging response that weakens the pursuer enough to allow the previous quarry to turn on the pursuer and convert the Chase to the Meeting Engagement.

Over this layer of situations is applied the other layer of considerations for the players, namely what does the scenario demand from me to meet the victory conditions, which will usually compare the result and performance against the historical outcome as a gauge for the level of success or failure. So not just a simple win-lose, blow my opponent out of the water kind of game - well that's the intention! 

Thus with James providing all the background information on each of the historical actions which describes the ships involved, why they were there and what happened during and after the actions; with his acquaintance with a lot of the naval officers he refers to, from his letters to them, and from personal interactions with them, adding all the colour and drama to his descriptions mixed with his gloriously biased and nationalist prose that seems somewhat bold in this day and age, I then can balance the historical reality of the problems faced by the commanders involved by stripping away some of James' colourful descriptions and referring to Willis' guide to what each opposing commander would have likely been trying to achieve.

Sam Willis' quote 'no situation perhaps more difficult and demanding so much caution as the occasional meeting with a doubtful ship.' was well illustrated in our first game, Boston vs Ambuscade, 31st July 1793. Both commanders approached their opponent with caution in the opening moves, unsure of the identity and fighting strength of the other and seeking out that key tactical advantage with 'a doubtful ship' .

Sam Willis has some great guiding quotes that I refer to again and again when working on these scenario set ups, for example, his opening paragraph to his chapter entitled 'Contact'.

'Any sea fight necessarily began with the meeting of two ships or fleets. It was a critical time: it tested the seamanship and decision-making skills of the officers, dictated the tactics that would be most effective, and provided opportunities for tactical advantage to be won or lost. 

It was also a particularly delicate situation for the captains concerned. A captain needed to exercise prudence to prevent a potential enemy from taking advantage of any inaction on his part, and also to avoid assaulting friends and countrymen. Hundreds of lives, great wealth, and personal and professional reputations were at stake. To compound matters, it is equally clear that the identification of friend or foe was not straightforward. To be good at it required experience and skill, intuition and judgement.

One contemporary with considerable personal experience of the navy and of combat believed that there was in fact 

'no situation perhaps more difficult and demanding so much caution as the occasional meeting with a doubtful ship.'

So to our first scenario which followed a player briefing explaining how they could win the scenario that included the possibility of breaking off the action should either feel that they were likely to lose more heavily than their historical counterpart and how to prevent a break off should the other feel inclined to press home the advantage.

Boston vs Ambuscade, 31st July 1793 off Long Island, USA

Boston vs Ambuscade, 31st July 1793 off Long Island, USA

This first scenario was a meeting engagement described by James:

'On the 31st, at 3 a.m., a ship, apparently large, was descried coming down before the wind, in the direction of northeast by east. The Boston immediately cleared for action. At 3 h. 30 m. a.m. the strange ship passed about three miles and a half to windward, making signals with false fires. At 3h. 50 m. a.m. the ship was discovered to be a frigate, under French national colours. The Boston now hoisted the same colours; whereupon the stranger ran up at her peak a blue flag with a white cross, and thus made herself known as the Embuscade.

At 4 A.M. the latter wore to the eastward, and the Boston set her mainsail; as did also the Embuscade. At 4 h. 45 m. a.m. the Boston tacked, hauled up her mainsail, hauled down the French, and hoisted English colours; and was passed by the Embuscade, at about a mile and a half distance.

At 5 a.m. the Boston again tacked; when the Embuscade bore up, and at 5 h. 5 m. a.m. ranged along the former's larboard and weather side. The Boston thereupon fired her larboard guns; which were promptly answered by the starboard ones of the Embuscade, as the latter lay with her main topsail to the mast. The Boston then wore, and, on coming to on the starboard tack, laid her main topsail to the mast also; and an animated fire was kept up by both ships. At this time the high land of Neversink, in the Jerseys, bore north-west, distant four leagues.

The approximate setting for our first action off Long Island, New York

At 5 h. 20 m. a.m. the cross-jack yard of the Boston was shot away; and at 5 h. 45 m. a.m. her jib and foretopmast staysail, with the stays themselves, as well as all the braces and bowlines, met the same fate; consequently, she had no further command of those sails. 

At 6 h. 10 m. a.m. her main topmast, and the yard with it, fell over on the larboard side, and the mizen derrick was shot away. At 6 h. 20 m. a.m. Captain Courtenay, and Lieutenant James Edward Butler, of the marines, while standing at the fore-part of the quarter-deck, were killed by the same cannon-ball. At this time, too, the mizen, mizen topmast, and mizen staysail were shot away; the mizen-mast was also expected, every moment, to go by the Table, and the only two lieutenants, John Edwards and Alexander Robert Kerr, were below, wounded; the latter with the temporary loss of sight in one, and with total blindness in the other, of his eyes, and the former by a contusion in the head, which rendered him senseless.

At 6 h. 40 m. a.m., finding that the crew were in some confusion for the want of officers to give orders, Lieutenant Edwards, although still suffering greatly from the stunning effects of his wound, came on deck, and took command of the ship. At 6 h. 40 m. a.m. the Embuscade dropped a little astern, with the view of putting an end to the battle at once, by a raking fire; and which the Boston, having no use of her sails, with difficulty wore round in time to avoid. On coming to on the larboard tack, the Boston could not use many of her guns, because the wreck of the main topmast lay over them. Thus circumstanced, with her principal officers dead or disabled, the British frigate put before the wind, under all the sail she could set; and at 7 h. 7 m. a.m. the Embuscade, who, to all appearance, was nearly as crippled as herself, stood after her.

At 8 A.M., however, when about four miles off', the French frigate brought to with her head to the eastward and was soon lost sight of by the Boston.

The scenario set up as the two frigates close, trying to confirm the identity of the other, with Boston initially flying French colours.

Besides the long-gun establishment of her class, the Boston mounted six of those useless monkey-tailed 12-pounder carronades; making her guns in all 38. Her net complement was 217 men and boys; but, having sent away in a prize her third-lieutenant and 12 seamen, she had actually on board no more than 204. Out of this number, she lost her gallant commander, the lieutenant of marines, and eight seamen and marines killed, her two remaining lieutenants (already named), one master's mate, two midshipmen (whose names we are unable to give), and 19 seamen and marines (the chief of them badly) wounded; total, 10 killed and 24 wounded.

The Embuscade was armed like her class-mate, No. 7, in the table below, except in having but two instead of four carronades.


Her established complement was not above 280 or 300, but Captain Bompart, while lying in New York, had augmented the number to 340, and his ship's company, for effectiveness, far exceeded the generality of French crews of the same numerical strength. Deducting the 13 absentees on board the Boston, 327 remain: out of which number, according to the New York papers of the day, the Embuscade had 50 killed and wounded.

This long and close-fought action was viewed, from beginning to end, by crowds of American citizens, standing on the Jersey beach. The superior size of the Embuscade attracted the notice of everyone; and few among the spectators, on observing the Boston haul off, were so prejudiced as not to admit that, to all appearance, the British frigate had no hopes left of bringing the combat to a favourable termination.

Although none of the Embuscade's masts fell during the contest, on her arrival at New York the French frigate had to take all of them out; and her yards, rigging, and hull must also have been considerably injured, or the Embuscade, doubtless, would have continued the chase, in order to consummate her victory. The Embuscade lay at New York, from the 2nd of August to the 9th of October, getting in her lower masts, and repairing the damages she had sustained by the Boston's fire.

The Boston, after losing sight of the Embuscade, had a very narrow escape. She was about entering the Delaware to refit in that river, when the pilot gave information, that two French frigates (believed to have been the Concorde and Inconstante) were lying at anchor opposite Mud Fort. No time was to be lost, and the British frigate, discharging the pilot, hauled up for St. John's, Newfoundland; where, on the 19th, the Boston arrived in safety.' (James' History Vol I)

With both players briefed to keep the details of their ships secret from each other, the only information they could go on once they had set up was that they faced a likely enemy frigate which would need spotting before any action against it could be taken.

John, who was commanding the HMS Boston, was really caught up in the lack of precise information, and not knowing precisely what was faced, suspecting that even the French Revolutionary colours on the other ship was just a ruse, along with the date of the action, to lull him into not realising his enemy was American and that we were in fact fighting a War of 1812 scenario, given our location off New York.

Both players have set their respective headings and positioned their ships within their twelve square inch set up corners, with Boston left and Ambuscade right of picture

As the range started to close, both captains attempted to keep their broadsides facing the potential enemy, but, given the use of order-cards restricting the players options to predesignate whether they intended to turn, tack or sail straight on, placed faced down on the table, and prior to movement, never knowing exactly what the other player would do in the next opportunity to move or, given the chit draw activation, who would get to move and possibly fire first, even if they did identify the enemy.

Thus the situation and most of the uncertainties facing Captains Courtnay and Bompart were gloriously captured as the two model ships closed, leaving both players uncertain who might get the drop on the other.

The fact was that neither player knew both frigates were fairly evenly matched, being 32-gun types and both with average crews but with the British 'Jolly Jack Tar' rating giving them enough of an advantage to likely prevent the French ship recovering from a well directed broadside at close range, particularly from a stern or bow rake.

Captain Coutney's HMS Boston gets the drop on Ambuscade, managing to get across her bow and deliver a first broadside bow rake at short range, putting the British ship in the 'driving seat' from the first exchange of fire.

It was the Boston that grabbed the initiative as John took advantage of moving second together with having his fire chit in hand, and being astern of the Ambuscade took full advantage of a quartering wind after spotting the frigate was the enemy and, hoisting his true colours, used her speed advantage to turn in across the bow of the Frenchman and deliver a first larboard broadside bow rake at short range.

The Ambuscade passed the strike test that resulted from her being bow raked and with a cheer from his crew Bompart sniped away at the Boston as the latter attempted to wear around to resume the fight at close quarters and bring matters to a speedy conclusion, no doubt with a follow up boarding action.

Captain Bompart now with a bit of sea room and with his enemy on a reciprocal heading sees his chance to avoid the likely inevitable loss of his ship following the damage he received in the first exchanges with the Boston 

As the two ships turned away from each other and with the range between them having taken on a more pronounced distance through several moves to bring broadsides to bear, Bompart realised the error Courtnay had made giving the Frenchman enough sea room to take the chance to break contact and fight another day, all be it surrendering the action to the British, but escaping with his ship damaged uncaptured.

Ambuscade shows her damage that has already reduced her starboard
battery to half effect at the moment she chose to make her escape

Thus as the next turn began and before sailing orders were placed, Bob announced his intention to break contact, seeing John countering with his intention to chase.

In a break off attempt, the quarry ship can have two attempts to break contact only needing to succeed in one of them to evade a pursuit, but if failing to evade on the second attempt, forcing the quarry ship to haul down her colours; recreating the crew and commander recognising their situation and now, having thrown guns and stores overboard in their vain attempt to get away, leaving them defenceless to offer further resistance.

Boston relatively unscathed when her quarry evaded her attempts to finish things.

The test is an opposed die roll with no movement, but based on the current speed of each ship at the moment of testing, which saw the Frenchman on a quartering wind, the fastest option, and the British frigate on an opposing heading facing a bow wind, significantly slower.

The potential movement in centimetres is divided by three to determine how many dice to roll with the rolled dice generating 1 point or 2 points based on the scores rolled, to which are added points for the distance between the opposing ships, their headings and other associated factors to produce opposing totals. 

Ambuscade makers her escape to live to fight another day and with battle honours even

In the end Bob's roll beat John's by four points indicating the Frenchman's successful breakoff.

However escaping is one aspect of these scenario set ups, but victory outcome still has to be measured against the historical outcome.

It's 1794 in our Revolutionary Naval War campaign and it generated just one action that needed resolution to see if alongside the Toulon A squadron occupying the Grand Banks sea area for 6 victory points, the French frigate could grab commerce raiding points as a bonus by beating or at least driving off the British opponent, prevented by the result gained here by HMS Boston.
https://jjwargames.blogspot.com/2022/05/all-at-sea-french-revolutionary-war.html

In the end given that Ambuscade escaped still only carrying light damage as was Boston, as in the historical longer fight both ships retired with similar damage levels so leaving honours even when the respective victory points were added up, but as this was also a campaign action as part of our KMH French Revolutionary War Campaign meant that Boston had successfully stopped the French from claiming commerce raiding points for their occupation of the sea area off Halifax.

Pelican vs Médée, 23rd September 1796 25 miles NW of La Désirade Island, Guadeloupe


Our second scenario was another meeting engagement described by James:

'On the 23d of September, at daybreak, the island of Désirade bearing south-east by south distant six or seven leagues, the British 18-gun brig-sloop Pelican, Captain John Clarke Searle, mounting sixteen 32-pounder carronades and two long sixes, found herself close on the lee beam of an enemy's frigate. Not over-desirous of engaging where the odds were so decidedly against him, Captain Searle made sail to the north-west, and was followed by the frigate; who, having the weather gage, and sailing remarkably fast in the prevailing fresh breeze, rapidly approached the Pelican.

Pelican vs Médée, 23rd September 1796 25 miles NW of La Désirade Island, Guadeloupe

Having away in prizes her master and several of her petty officers and seamen, the brig could not muster, at this time, more than 97, out of her established complement of 121, men and boys; and some of the seamen appeared to hesitate about engaging a ship of such evident superiority of force.

But, when Captain Searle called to their recollection the frequent occasions on which they had distinguished themselves while under his command and expressed a hope that they would not sully their well-earned reputation, nor place less confidence in him than they had been accustomed to do, the fine fellows gave three cheers, and at once declared their resolution, rather to sink with their commander than forfeit his good opinion.


As soon as she had made all ready, the Pelican, to the great surprise, no doubt, of all on board the frigate, shortened sail and at 7 a.m., the French 36-gun frigate Médée, having arrived within gun-shot, opened her fire. The brig reserved hers until her carronades could reach with effect. Having at length got within the proper distance, the Pelican commenced a very brisk fire, and kept it up until 8 h. 53 m. a.m. ; when the Médée, whose crew appeared to be in some confusion, hauled on board her main tack, and made off to the northward under all possible sail. Having had every brace and bowline, all the after backstays, the main-stay, several of the lower shrouds, the topsail ties, and other parts of her rigging, shot away, her sails very much torn, and her mainmast, main topsail yard, and fore yard a good deal injured, the Pelican was not in a condition for an immediate pursuit ; and the Médée, being thus left to herself; soon ran out of sight. With all her heavy damage, the Pelican had no person killed, and only one slightly wounded.

Now thoroughly up to speed with calculating victory requirements and how to control an action once in a position of superiority to prevent any escapes, and on the back of a fortifying lunch, we commenced playing our second scenario, that given the significant differences in the two ships involved, very much emphasised the need for not revealing the strength of them to the opponent.

The decks are cleared and the models in position for our second scenario, HM Brig-sloop Pelivan vs French frigate Médée

This scenario took us a few play throughs to test the victory conditions, given the outcome achieved by Captain Searle and his robust 'Pelicans' as they turned to meet the Médée in this interesting Meeting Engagement.

Given the fact that the French 40-gun fifth rate was unable to prevail against the British brig armed with short range carronades, I rated Médée's crew as poor which meant her sailing qualities caused her to turn at the same rate as a 3rd rate ship of the line, whilst the elite Pelican was quite capable of tacking perfectly on a sixpence and waltzing around her larger opponent.

As the exact wind conditions and set-up are unspecified in James' account, this scenario requires the wind to be established using the table below with the Pelican set up first, two 'gates away from that through which the wind is blowing, then placing the Médée on the opposite gate, with the players setting up within twelve inches of said gate and on a heading of their choice towards an opposite gate of their choice.

Likely wind options for this part of the Caribbean

However should the French captain suspect the Pelican of being armed primarily with the short-range, hard-hitting, 32-pounder carronades, he would have an opportunity of taking apart the brig's rigging and masts from a relatively safe range, preventing any likely escape and allowing the brig to be easily overcome once in a crippled state.

The players were learning fast to behave like their historical counterparts by assuming nothing and approaching cautiously, prepared to break off just as readily as being prepared to engage and assessing the enemy based on how well they sailed or not as was the case of the Médée whose manoeuvring was hard to disguise.

The victory conditions generated by Searle and his formidable crew are a tough ask to replicate seeing the Pelican gain a decisive victory and administering heavy damage to the Médée before she made her escape.

As in all these games, until a suspected enemy is identified as being such, any approach has to be cautious as even a brig that spots first and gets its firing chit first with an opportunity to blaze away at close range can cause a lot of hurt, particularly one such as Pelican with a very nasty sting if not handled with care.

In the end Bob running the Médée got the first spotting success, clearly identifying the Pelican as an enemy man-o-war and getting in a telling medium range broadside to open her account

The Médée successfully identifies Pelican as a British brig and opens fire

With the Frenchman using his advantage of range and ability to hit masts and rigging at the longer ranges, Médée sought to use her speed advantage to keep the brig at distance whilst she sought to damage her ability to manoeuvre, whilst John replied with some very accurate sniping from the 6-pounder bow chasers until finally able to close, through being able to turn and tack more effectively than the French frigate, allowing the carronades to finally bear but, unfortunately for him, only with a partial broadside, as the frigate managed to keep its main mast out of the brig's broadside arc.

The Pelican snipes away with her 6-pounder bow chasers as she strives to outmanoeuvre the big French frigate into carronade range.

The scenario produced a long cat-and-mouse struggle as the Pelican moved into the fifty percent damage bracket forcing strike tests on every additional hit, but with the Pelican's elite fervently-determined crew unlikely to strike unless raked into submission or beaten into it by a French boarding action that was by no means certain to be won by the larger French crew.

In the end John tried to force such a boarding action but failed by one on the score required as the Frenchman fended off the attempted embrace, leaving us running out of time to continue play and assessing the result as a likely drawn fight, but seeing a minor French victory given John's inability to match that of Captain John Clarke Searle and his Pelicans.

Having chased the Médée around the table for several turns, John attempted to grapple and bring on a boarding action to avoid the Pelican from taking death by a thousand cuts as the frigate contented itself in picking away at the brig's battered hull and rigging. However with the sun dipping, and an immediate result unlikely, we called the game in favour of the Médée.

The likely butchers bill for the respective surgeons is borne out by the two ship record cards, with the Pelican seen below having taken a lot of hits on her relatively small hull from Médée's main deck battery of 12-pounders and her rigging much cut up as well.


However the hull of the Médée has been given a working over by Pelican's 6-pounder bow chasers and a partial broadside of 32-pounder carronades, which coupled with her poor crew attributes explains why Bob was quite keen to avoid being grappled.


Despite the disparity in tonnage 369 tons for the Pelican versus 1150 tons for the Médée as illustrated in the hull boxes for each model, the Pelican could deliver a punch well above her weight with a 369 ton broadside versus Médée's 290 tons and this disparity together with the crew qualities made this a fascinating little action which when glanced at by the average gamer might at first not seem to offer much in gaming potential.

We all agreed that the way the scenarios are set up, driving the players to behave more like their historical counterparts and bringing out the potential for the better sailed vessel to overcome a much larger but poorly sailed enemy means that no one scenario is likely to be much like another and I am looking forward to testing more of them at club going forward.


Additionally, based on the feedback from the chaps who played in my previous 'All at Sea' adventure, testing a scenario designed by Chris Stoesen for his forthcoming War of Jenkins Ear scenario and campaign book, link above. I got to try out my adjusted Ship Record Cards that illustrate this post, complete with a redesigned Ships Fighting Abilities section including deck plan to indicate where the various batteries of guns are positioned. 

Thanks to John and Bob for getting to grips with the games and various set-ups. There efforts produced much entertainment and really brought the scenarios to life and helped me work though the ideas behind them.


I'm moving on next to play-test another one of the scenarios, recreating an action in the Indian Ocean from 1796 between two British 74-gun third rates and six French frigates, entitled Sercey off Sumatra, that will be my presentation game for Clotted Lard in September.


Then in October I'll be running The Leeward Line scenario which I and some of the chaps from Devon Wargames Group will be taking to the Naval Wargames Society meeting at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, RNAS Yeovilton on the 15th October, just in time for Trafalgar week - so if you fancy coming to that you can come and see part of the the collection in action and say hello.

More anon - JJ

Saturday, 30 July 2022

Royal Air Force Museum, Midlands (RAF Cosford)


Earlier this month Mr Steve and I spent a very pleasant few days basing ourselves in the historic town of Shrewsbury to explore the neighbouring border towns of England and Wales together with various castles, battlefields and museums, one of which included RAF Cosford, part of the RAF Museums which includes the collection of historic aircraft held at RAF Hendon in London. (see link below)

R.A.F. Museums

I had visited the collection held in Hendon several times previously and know it to be the premier collection it has become with many rare examples of military aircraft from the history of the RAF and from around the world on display, but this was my first visit to the other part of the collection held at Cosford in the West Midlands and I was very pleasantly surprised to see the extent of this collection which compliments that held at Hendon very well, helping to fill the gaps of the other.

What follows is by no means a total overview of the aircraft and exhibits on display but attempts to give an impression of its extent and include those that caught my eye from an historical and in some cases an equally personal perspective.

I have long held an interest in military aircraft and flying in general from boyhood, joining the air cadets in my teens, where I gained my first experiences of flying, later going on to become a private pilot, completing my training at the local Exeter Flying club, based at Exeter Airport.

That personal perspective also includes my mum's wartime experiences as a young WAAF plotter in WWII having regaled me of tales of her square bashing in a winter seaside Morecambe in 1943 and of hearing the RAF pilots over the plotting room speakers that she had helped vector to their targets engaged in mortal combat somewhere over South West England or the English Channel.

That interest has complimented my wider passion for historical wargaming and has given me a more intuitive insight into the application of military aviation when applied to our hobby.

Only this year, I was able to complete my Target for Tonight bomber campaign recreating the exploits of Bomber Command in the Battle of Berlin and it was a lot of fun running those games and sharing the campaign system with other like minds and it is visits to collections such as Cosford that really feed the imagination and excites the mind to producing those kind of games.

The museum is situated on the airfield at Cosford with the majority of the collection under cover in three massive hangars but with several outside on the grass approaches around the large car parking area, some looking a little forlorn for this mistreatment, with much weathered and faded paintwork.

Hawker Siddeley Dominie T.1 designed by de Havilland as a small business airliner, it was in service with the RAF for 46 years up to 2011 as a flying classroom for navigation and other rear crew training.

Lockheed SP-2H Neptune, developed in 1941 and entered service with the US Navy in 1947, with more than 1000 built and exported to six countries and with the UK loaned aircraft to equip four RAF Coastal Command Squadrons (36, 203, 210 and 217) in 1952 until they were returned in 1957 with the introduction of the Avro Shackleton.

Nimrod R.1 The original design of this maritime patrol aircraft, that replaced the Avro Shackleton, was based on the civilian Comet airliner, and was in service from 1968 to 2011 with the last model MRA.4. being abandoned due to serious delays in production and budget overspend.

PBY 6A Catalina flying boat L866, ex US Navy later operated by the Royal Danish Air Force from Greenland. The prototype first flew in 1935 and more than 3,000 were built between 1936 - 1945, with 600 aircraft operated by eighteen RAF squadrons worldwide.

A De Havilland Heron (left) used for VIP transport with the Queen's Flight, RAF, entering service in 1955, next to a Percival Pembroke (right) introduced into the RAF in 1953 to replace the vintage Avro Anson for light transport duties.

The World Wars and Between Wars
One of the first exhibit cabinets on entering the first hangar at Cosford is this interesting selection of items pertaining to Bomber Command's war in WWII with a bomb sight, target camera, 'window' aluminium foil strips and information leaflets dropped over German cities during the Phoney War.


Certainly a controversial leader, but one that demanded respect and who with a single minded focus turned around the abilities of Bomber Command to take the war into the Nazi homeland, bomb with an accuracy at night using advanced tactics and technology never seen before, and help shorten a somewhat merciless conflict. The debate continues about the effectiveness of area bombing tactics, but I think most critics forget that hindsight is always 100% accurate, something those that had to fight a total war weren't able to rely on, and it is easy to criticise from the luxury of eighty odd years of peace in Europe that followed in the wake of the 55,000 young airmen from Britain and the Empire making the supreme sacrifice that helped grant the later generations the privilege of enjoying that peace in which they are able to proffer such criticisms.


The film 'The Battle of Britain -1969' recreated the scene of acting corporal Hearn's bravery when it showed a scene with the WAAF radar operator calling out the plot of the approaching Stuka raid on her station to the control room attempting to vector fighters to attack the raiders, just as bombs started to drop around her above-ground radar operator's hut. She is quoted below describing the attack on the 18th August 1940.
'The course of the bombers is only too apparent to me because the bombs are almost dropping on my head.'

Centre rear of the display cabinet is W.A.A.F. Flight-Sergeant Avis Joan Hearn's uniform jacket, that carriers her lightening bolt badge denoting her trade as a wireless operator. Around the neck area is the headset and microphone worn by plotters, like my mum, see picture and link below, and below the jacket is Flt. Sgt. Hearn's medal bar which, as well her Defence and War medal, includes the Military Medal awarded for her courage at staying at her post during the bombing raid of 18th August 1940. Only six WAAFs were awarded the MM during WWII.
 
My Mum was a WAAF plotter having volunteered in 1943 and passed the selection tests for either radar or plotting, choosing to don the headphones and grab the croupier instead of peering into a cathode ray tube. She recounted her experiences for the BBC recorded accounts on the fiftieth anniversary of the end of WWII as a public record of those who served the country in WWII and I did a post about her recollections in the link below.


Flight Lieutenant Ian Gleed points to his unique panel mascot on his Hurricane whilst serving with No.87 Squadron in 1940, based at Exeter during the Battle of Britain.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Gleed

The emergency exit hatch from the cockpit of Hawker Hurricane P2798, seen in the picture above, displaying the personal marking of Wing Commander Ian Richard Gleed, DSO, DFC nicknamed 'Widge', credited with 13 kills before being shot down and killed over Tunisia in 1942.

Ian Gleed in Huricane A-LK leads a flight from 87 Squadron over Exeter during the Battle of Britain

A 1916 example of a Sopwith Pup, recovered from France in 1960, and extensively rebuilt, last flying in 1976. This example was flown by Royal Naval Air Service pilots Canadian Flight Lieutenant, later Captain E. R. Grange and Australian ace R. A. Little. The Pup was highly regarded by the pilots that flew it as the 'perfect flying machine', being used extensively by both the RFC and RNAS.


A replica Sopwith 1½ Strutter, built in 1980 to original Sopwith factory drawings and flown briefly. It represents aircraft A8226, alloted to the Royal Flying Corps in France in April 1917 and used by C Flight of No.45 Squadron. It is fitted with an original engine loaned by the Science Museum.

 


Replica Bristol M1C undergoing a slight overhaul when we visited. First flown in 1987 this replica represents the 130 aircraft of this type built in WWI following the prototype flight on the 14th July 1916 that quickly demonstrated the speed gain of 30-50 mph over the contemporary German Eindecker and French Moraine Saulnier N monoplanes, but gaining distrust from pilots that struggled to land the aircraft on bumpy French airfields, seeing the type sent off to the desert strips of the Middle East.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Replica_Bristol_M.1C_C4994_(G-BLWM)_(8570420704).jpg


Ever wondered who first coined the term 'joystick' to describe the aircraft control column?

Sunbeam Arab I eight cylinder V-type water cooled engine, 208hp at 2000rpm. Just over 6000 of these engines were ordered in 1917 to principally power the Bristol F.2b fighter of which 1,311 were delivered. This is the only surviving example produced under licence in 1918 by the American Willys-Overland Company of Toledo, Ohio, USA.

Bristol F.2B fighter D8096 of the Shuttleworth Trust, powered by the Sunbeam Arab I engine seen above.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bristol_F2B_D8096_flying_1.jpg

A Japanese Ki-46-III, Allied code name 'Dinah', first flown in November 1939, the Ki-46 became the premiere Japanese Army high altitude photographic reconnaissance aircraft, with their success in the roll prompting the Japanese Navy to acquire them in small numbers as well. Later faster Allied fighters made these aircraft more vulnerable to attack, but they still managed reconnaissance flights over the heavily defended US airbases in the Mariana Islands used for massed bomber raids in 1944-45.

Yokosuka Ohka (Cherry Blossom) single seat rocket powered suicide attack aircraft. Used primarily against ships, being transported to the target area strapped to the underside of a twin engine 'Betty' bomber, the pilot entered the cramped cockpit from a hatch on the underside of the bomber. The aircraft was then released and dropped to glide towards the target, engaging its rocket in the closeing stages of the flight. Accuracy was low with many of the transporting bombers shot down by US fighters when first encountered on 21st March 1945. Limited success saw the sinking of the destroyer USS Mannert L. Abele on 12th April 1945 with the loss of 73 crewmen.

A rare example of the Kawasaki Ki 100, Japanese Army Type 5 Fighter, one of just 396 aircraft built in the last months of war in 1945, that saw the Japanese finally produce a new fast and nimble fighter able to intercept the long range B-29 Superfortress bombers and their escort fighters. An astonishing feat of engineering in the latter stages of the war considering the damage wrought on Japanese manufacturing capabilities. The fighter, being the last gasp of a defeated Japan came out so late that the Allies did not have time to give it a code name before the war was over.

The de Havilland Tiger Moth T6296, a development of the Gypsy Moth, provided the majority of RAF pilots with their first elementary flying training and were vital in turning out a consistent supply of new pilots throughout WWII 


Gloster Gladiator Mk 1. The Gladiator was the RAF's last biplane fighter and the first with an enclosed cockpit, seeing wartime combat service in the first years of WWII in the Battle of Britain, in Greece, the Middle East and over Malta. This aircraft K8042 was built in 1937 and was employed in trials and training duties. During the Battle of Britain No. 247 Squadron, with Gladiators, protected Plymouth and its naval base from RAF Roborough

Gladiator N2308 HP-B pictured at Roborough and operational from August to December 1940, when 247 Squadron were then reequipped with faster Hurricanes, better able to intercept the faster German bombers.


Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1, K9942 - This is one of the oldest surviving Spitfires, first flying in 1939 and allocated to No.72 Squadron and regularly flown by James Nicolson VC, the only recipient of the Victoria Cross in the Battle of Britain. Damaged in June 1940, K9942 was repaired and used for training during the Battle. 



Wing Commander James Brindley Nicolson VC, DFC - Awarded RAF Fighter Command's only VC for his action on the 16th August 1940 when his Hawker Hurricane was hit by an enemy aircraft. Despite sustaining serious injuries, and with his Hurricane ablaze, he continued to pursue and shoot down a Messerschmitt Bf110. As recorded in the London Gazette, 15th November 1940 - 'By continuing to engage the enemy after he had been wounded and his aircraft set on fire, he displayed exceptional gallantry.'

The 1938 pattern Irvin flying jacket worn by Wing Commander James Nicolson, was an item widely issued and worn by RAF aircrew during WWII.


Medal bar of Wing Commander James Nicolson 1939-45 from left to right Victoria Cross (replica), Distinguished Flying Cross, 1939-45 Star with Battle of Britain clasp, Aircrew Europe Star, Burma Star, 1939-45 Defence Medal, 1939-45 War Medal.

Hurricane IIC LF738 - This later version of the Battle of Britain Hurricane I saw action in Europe, North Africa and the Far East where it was principally used for ground attack

A Royal Air Force Hawker Hurricane IIC of No. 42 Squadron RAF based at Kangla, Manipur,India, May 1944, piloted by Flying Officer "Chowringhee" Campbell, diving to attack a bridge near a small Burmese settlement on the Tiddim Road. The bombs of the previous aircraft can be seen exploding on the target.



Hawker Hurricane Mark Is of No. 85 Squadron RAF in France at readiness at Lille-Seclin. In the foreground, two ground crew wait by a trolley-accumulator to start the engine.

Accumulator Trolley - Rapid refuelling and rearming of fighter aircraft was a vital component to keeping an ever ready fighter defence force. An essential part of that fast turn around and preparedness was the ubiquitous accumulator trolley seen plugged into RAF fighters at dispersal during the Battle of Britain and able to compensate for the small batteries in the aircraft to provide the power needed to start the engine and with the engine used to recharge the battery in the accumulator.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, in my opinion the 
unsung hero of the Battle of Britain who was vindicated in his decisions to 
move the RAF to monoplane fighters, preserve his fighters for home defence 
during the Battle of France and resist those of his subordinates who championed 
the 'big wing' theory. Poorly treated by those in command his later recognition 
was long overdue for the service he rendered in giving Nazi Germany it's first and perhaps
most important defeat. 
 

Uniform jacket of Baron Dowding of Bentley Priory, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding
As Air Officer Commander in Chief Fighter Command he is credited with creating the first integrated air defence system linking the means of detection to a clear and rapid method of communicating the information to all concerned, Fighter, Balloon and Anti-Aircraft Commands. Alongside the jacket are two other items associated with the Battle of Britain, a replica Operations Clock and an Air Ministry Bell, the latter item seen outside readiness huts in the summer of 1940 with aircrew asleep in deck chairs and a sign close by reading, ‘don’t come and tell, ring the bloody bell!’

Boulton Paul Mk1 Defiant night fighter N1671 of No. 307 Polish Squadron operating in the final months of the Battle of Britain as the first blitz night raid attacks started.


The Defiant turret fighter proved to be another theoretical concept that was found severely wanting when used in its designed for day time roll, proving too heavy and unmanoeuvrable when in combat with the Me109, but with its relegation to night fighter duties, like the twin-engine concept heavy fighter, the Me110 developed by the Germans, similarly moved from daytime to night time operations proved to be a useful stopgap plane until more useful types such as the Beaufighter and later Mosquito were available in numbers.

Once relieved of night duties and with its turret removed the Defiant would go on to serve as a useful target tow tug for preparing fighter pilots to contest the air with much more formidable types.




De Havilland Mosquito TA639 - This particular aircraft was delivered on the 13th April 1945 and survived the war and peacetime towing duties to star in the 1964 film 633 Squadron, before becoming the museum piece she is today. The squadron codes AZ-E are those of Wing Commander Guy Gibson's aircraft, a Mk XX, in which he was shot down and killed on the night of 19th September 1944.

Nine real Mosquitos were acquired in 1964 to make the film 633 Squadron five of which were used for the flying sequences
https://www.cinemaessentials.com/2018/09/633-squadron-cliff-robertson-de-havilland-mosquito-war-film-review.html



Various gun armaments used by RAF fighter types from .303 inch machine-guns to the larger cannons

The Molins 6-Pounder gun was fitted to a Mosquito Mk FB XVIII and named the Tsetse Mosquito with its 'increased bite'. No.248 squadron would go on to operate from Cornwall out into the Atlantic attacking U-boats

https://www.keymilitary.com/article/mosquito-added-bite

The unique auto loading feed mechanism for the 6-pounder shells developed by Molins

A U-boat dives under attack from a 248 Squadron Tsetse Mosquito

The Hawker Tempest was a development of the Hawker Typhoon and was one of the most powerful and fastest aircraft of the Second World War, excelling like its predecessor the Typhoon in the ground attack role and with the raw speed (442 mph at 15,000 feet) to be able to chase and intercept the German V1 Flying Bomb, better known at home as the 'Doodlebug'. This example is a Tempest Mk II which differs from its predecessor the Mk V in having a radial 2520hp, Bristol Centaurus engine instead of the inline Napier Sabre of the Mk V. All Mk II's were tropicalised with extra dust filters and most of them were sent to Asia to fight Japan, with this example ending up in what is now Pakistan, before transferring to the Indian Airforce and then returning to the UK in 1979. 

An Avro Anson Mk XIX Series 1 built in 1946 represents the series of aircraft that were designed in 1934 and served the RAF throughout WWII, starting its service life as a Coastal Command Reconnaissance and Attack aircraft before assuming its primary  role as a light transport and training aircraft.

Earlier version of the Anson in flying condition and seen in typical wartime trim
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CF15_Avro_Anson_ZK-RRA_040415_01.jpg

The Anson continued to serve the RAF through to 1968, with this particular example retired to museum duties in 1963

Rolls Royce Merlin 28 engine, built under licence by the US Packard Company and who built 56,000 merlin engines during WWII for both British and American use. The 12 cylinder, 1390hp, water cooled Merlin 28 entered service in 1941 and was used to power the Avro Lancaster, Hawker Hurricane and Curtiss Kityhawk. The Merlin 61 engine was built by Packard to power the Mustang P51D fighter which increased the speed of the American designed fighter from its original 390mph at 15,000 feet with its original Allison engine to an astonishing 440mph at 28,100 feet, thus creating the fighter that would give the Allies air superiority in Europe in 1944-45.

The versatile and exceptional German Focke-Wulf Fw190A-8, became the principle German day fighter alongside the Messerschmitt Bf109 in all theatres and its radial engine powerplant made it superior in most respects to the Spitfire V, keeping its advantage until the arrival of the Spitfire IX in 1942. It's versatility meant that the Germans were also able to use the high performance of the aircraft in the ground-attack role, fitting bomb racks under the fuselage and wings, and later still it was used as a nightfighter, specialising in 'freejagd' radar unguided attacks over the bombers target, using searchlights to help the pilots make their attacks.

Captured Mistel combination with added RAF roundels

This particular FW190 was intended for a Mistel (Mistletoe) combination, that consisted of an unmanned bomber, such as the Ju88 seen above, with the entire nose section filled with high explosive, with the idea that the fighter pilot would fly the whole combination to the target, disengage the bomber to allow it to fall onto it and hopefully destroy it, whilst the fighter returned home!



Messerschmitt Bf109 G-2 - This particular aircraft 'Black 6' was abandoned by the Germans near Tobruk in the retreat from El Alamein in 1942. It was later used by the RAF in flight testing and trials work under its new management.

The Me109 G-2 has a Daimler Benz DB 605A twelve cylinder inverted V liquid cooled engine delivering 1,475hp and giving the aircraft a top speed of 385mph at 25,000 feet, able to climb to a maximum altitude of 36,000 feet and armed with one 20mm MG/FFM engine mounted cannon and two 7.92mm MG 17, machine guns mounted on the fuselage above the engine cover

Ju 88R-1 night-fighter is a very rare example of this type and was flown to RAF Dyce in Scotland by a defecting German crew in May 1943. The opportunity for British scientists to study the German radar equipment it carried helped in the development of RAF countermeasures to help protect the bombers operating over Germany.

Powered by two BMW 801MA, fourteen cylinder, 1,600hp radial engines, this aircraft could reach a maximum speed of 341mph and climb to 30,000 feet, and was armed with three 7.92 MG 17 machine guns in the nose, one 20mm MG151/20 cannon in the nose and two 20mm MG FF cannon in a ventral gondola beneath the nose.


Messerschmitt Me410A-1/U2 Hornisse (Hornet) represents the last in a series of twin engine 'destroyers' as part of the Luftwaffe concept of a heavy fighter. In the end, like its predecessor the Me 110 and the catastrophic failure of its direct predecessor the Me 210, these aircraft found themselves used in multiple roles and 1100 of this type were produced between March 1943 to September 1944. Two DB 603A engines enabled the Me 410 to reach 388mph at 21,980 feet and was armed with four forward firing 20mm MG151 cannon and two 20mm 7.92mm MG 131 machine guns in remote controlled barbettes firing aft.

Although designed as a fighter, the type was used as a light bomber, photo-reconnaissance work and anti-shipping, with heavily armed Me410's used against daylight raids of US Eighth Airforce Flying Fortresses and Liberators, achieving limited success until the introduction of American escort fighters in ever increasing numbers caused the losses of this type to rise alarmingly leading to their withdrawal in the autumn of 1944. A novel feature was the use of electrically powered, remotely controlled defensive machine guns in aft firing gun barbettes seen here on the sides of the fuselage and aimed by the rear gunner using a reflector sight.

This little aircraft seen here and above is the Focke Achgelis Fa-330 Bachstelze rotary winged kite. An ingenious machine designed to be towed at a height of 400 feet behind a surfaced U-boat, thus enabling the Fa-330 pilots to spot Allied ships over a 25 mile radius, a considerable improvement over the 5 mile field of view from the deck of a U-boat.

Once aloft the pilot could speak to the crew via a telephone link, but if the submarine was forced to crash-dive, the kite was released, the rotors jettisoned and the pilot left to parachute into the sea in the hope of being picked up later by the returning U-boat. It is believed that the Bachsteize was used on long-range Type IX U-boats patrolling in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Thirty of these aircraft were captured at the end of the war with only five thought to have survived here in the UK today.

Fiesler Fil56-C7 Storch army cooperation aircraft - originally designed in 1935 to perform casualty evacuation, army cooperation and liaison work, the Storch (Stork) was noted for its remarkable STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) performance. Slots on the leading edge of the wings, and flaps extending along the full length of the trailing edge, enabled the Storch to fly at speeds as low as 32mph.

Gran Sasso Raid, with Skorzeny Commando's escorting Mussolini to his awaiting Storch.

Notable flights of this aircraft and its ability to operate from very small and unprepared airstrips include the rescue of Mussolini from detention in a hotel in the Italian mountains and a flight to the centre of Berlin, made in the last days of the war in Europe, carrying General von Greim to a meeting with Hitler

The invention of the jet engine simultaneously in Germany and Great Britain heralded a step change in military and eventually civilian flight, and the Germans were first to use jet fighters operationally with the introduction of the Messerschmitt Me 262 used against high flying RAF reconnaissance Mosquito aircraft. 

Me 262 A-1a Schwalbe (Swallow), W.Nr.112372, the primary production model used as a fighter and fighter-bomber. Maximum speed 560mph, range 650 miles, service ceiling 37,570 feet, rate of climb 3900 feet per minute. Armament included four 30mm Mk 108 cannon and could include 24 x 55mm R4M rockets or 2 x 1,100lb bombs. 





As well as the start of the jet age, WWII saw the dawn of rocket technology with the ballistic and intercontinental missile that were the technologies that would put a man on the moon and herald the era of the cruise missile.

With Nazi Germany leading this march into the future of modern warfare and reeling under the blows inflicted by the Allied bombing campaign, it was natural that the first of these 'Vengeance Weapons' would be aimed at Britain with the first V1 doodlebugs droning their way into south east England soon after D-Day, to be followed in the autumn by the V2 seen below.

The V2 dominates the display of rocket technology developed by Nazi Germany in WWII. This A-4 Rocket codename V2 was built by Mittelwerke/Mittleblau in Germany 1943 and is a liquid fuel surface to surface missile with inertial and ballistic guidance, using fins and graphite control vanes in the rocket exhaust. With a range of 200 miles and a peak altitude of 50 miles, although one missile launched on the 20th June June 1944 reached an altitude of 109 miles, the rocket travelled to the target at 3,580 mph delivering a payload of 1,600 pounds of high explosive. Up to 3,000 missiles were launched at London, Antwerp and Liege from September 1944 causing an estimated 9,000 deaths from those attacks.

The liquid fuel rocket of the V2 burned 2,860lbs of fuel per second
generating 55,880lbs of thrust, propelling the rocket to the edge of space. 
The flame temperature is higher than the melting point of the steel chamber
and to mitigate this problem, one of the fuels (alcohol) is forced between
the inner and outer walls of the combustion chamber seen in the cut
through section above.

This particular rocket, mounted on its transporter unit known as a Meilerwagen was built after WWII by German technicians working for the British forces. The graphite control vanes are visible that provided the guidance system.

The FI 103 V1 built by Fiesler in Germany in 1942 was a surface to surface missile with a range of 150 miles, a gyroscopically controlled autopilot and propelled by a pulse jet that gave the rocket it's intermittent buzzing sound when in flight, giving rise to it's other nickname, the 'buzz-bomb'. The rocket carried a 1,870lb warhead of high explosive


In the summer of 2012 Carolyn and I stayed near to Dieppe in Northern France and visited one of the preserved V1 launch sites in woodland, close to the town. 

In the pictures you can see the preserved launch ramp, together with a mocked up V1, one of the rusting tractors used for delivering the rockets to the ramps from the protected blast bunkers and close by the operational control bunker for overseeing the launch.


My paternal grandparents were forced to leave London and move to Devon during the height of the V1 offensive in 1944 and I well remember they and my parents describing the effect of hearing these missiles overhead and the dread caused by the cut out of the motor that heralded the crash to earth and massive explosion.

The V1 was arguably the first cruise missile and the first to be used for mass bombardment. The first rocket was launched on the 13th June 1944 and fell on Swanscombe in Kent, and the last one fell on Orpington in Kent on 27th March 1945, with 6,725 being launched at Britain, with 2,340 hitting London and killing 5,475 people, mainly civilians and injuring another 16,000.

V1 having its wing tipped by an intercepting Spitfire

The casualty count might have been much higher had it not been for the air defence system using high speed fighters to attack the bombs in the air or tip their wings under the V1 to crash it prematurely over open ground, the introduction of proximity fuses to antiaircraft gun batteries that proved very effective and the blackout of news back to Germany of where the bombs had actually landed, by the help of the press feeding false information that caused German launch crews to alter the settings based on these false reports and causing many bombs to overshoot and undershoot London, thus landing in the more rural outskirts of the city. 

These tactics and an aggressive offensive in the air and on land to destroy the launch sites and drive them further away from the British mainland helped to minimise the threat only to be replaced later by the V2.


As well as the Vengeance Weapons, Germany developed several tactical systems, with the first anti-shipping missiles being a notable addition to its technologically advanced arsenal.

The Hs293 air to surface missile, built by Henschel in 1943, used a liquid fuel rocket that fired for ten seconds to glide the bomb to the target and carried a payload of 650lbs of high explosive. It was air launched from a bomber whilst out of range from surface gunnery and guided to the target by radio control from the launching aircraft.

An Heinkel III bomber demonstrates the dropping of its Hs293

HMS Egret on anti U-boat patrol was the first ship to be attacked and sunk with the Hs293
 in the Bay of Biscay on 27th August 1943, this after HMS Bideford had been
hit by a similar weapon on 25th August but with the bomb failing to explode.



Post WWII and Cold War 
The fall of the Berlin Wall on the 9th November 1989 marked the end of the Soviet Union and its Communist empire that had since the end of the Second World War in 1945 and up until then been a constant threat to the free democracies of the world, forcing billions to be spent on military commitments to maintain the threat of mutual destruction should a cold war have ever have turned hot.

This was the world that I and my generation of 'baby-boomers' inherited from perhaps the greatest generation that had defeated Hitler and the Axis allies of Japan and Italy and that bequeathed an era of NATO, fast jets and nuclear weapons and taxes designed to pay for our way of life and its security as well as paying off the national debt incurred from the massive borrowings that financed the winning of WWII.

Air Training Corps 1408 Dorking Squadron, circa 1974-75, Cadet Jones awarded 'Most Promising Cadet' (The RAF Phantom Jet) trophy. Note cadets, even in the late 1970's, were still wearing Battledress (BD) or No. 5 Uniform. 

It feels very strange to see the vehicles of my youth now consigned to the museum hall and to be living with generations of younger folks who have little concept of the threat of mass nuclear destruction that reached its climax with the Cuba Crisis of 1961 and, as we later found out, the trigger twitching that occurred in the mid to late eighties as the Soviet edifice started to crumble, and I can now appreciate more clearly how my parents generation must have felt seeing the vehicles of their youth similarly consigned, whilst rubbing shoulders with us youngsters of their time, with little concept of the sacrifices made by the generations that had fought the two world wars of the twentieth century. 

The aircraft and vehicles held in the Cosford collection provide a concise snapshot across the period from 1945 to 1989 and with some of them now appearing in the much more contemporary military conflict in Ukraine, sadly a reflection perhaps of a lot of unfinished business as the regimes of the Russian Federation, China, North Korea and perhaps even Iran start to feel the pressure of greater global liberty spread by the internet.

At first glance the aircraft below, sitting with the WWII collection of aircraft might appear to be the mighty four engine Avro Lancaster of Bomber Command that spearheaded the RAF night bombing offensive, however after a closer inspection and its lack of gun turrets reveals the plane to be the Cold War version of its illustrious predecessor, the Avro Lincoln, produced at a time when austerity Britain was being told to prepare to face the new threat to the world, the Soviet Union, as Churchill announced an 'Iron Curtain' had been drawn across Europe. 

Avro Lincoln B2 was the replacement for the Avro Lancaster in 1945 seeing service with the RAF until 1963 when it was retired in favour of the jet powered, nuclear armed, V-bomber force.

The Lincoln would lead to further developments that saw the long range maritime patrol version or Shackleton, and seeing Avro turn to civilian designs such as the Avro Tudor.

Avro Shackleton AEW2 696 Squadron, RAF St Mawgan, Cornwall.
I can well remember, as a young boy, watching these mighty aircraft taking off
over Newquay and heading out into the Atlantic in the late 1960's,
during summer holidays in Cornwall. These aircraft later replaced by the
Nimrod, seen at the top of the post.


The Avro Lincoln would play an early part in the Cold War using its carrying capacity for supplying Berliners with food and fuel in the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49 instead of delivering bombs.

The Cold War started to 'gear up' with Stalin's blockade of Berlin that was undone by the Berlin airlift from June 1948 to May 1949, but the cold war was to soon turn a lot hotter as the period of 'war by proxy', that would come to dominate the era, got going in Korea.

This war fought by the United Nations, itself a body created in the fire of WWII and representing the free nations of the world, saw the first incarnation of the new weaponry that would build on that encountered in the latter stages of WWII with fast jets making propeller driven equivalents obsolete.

The Soviet MiG 15 came as a rude shock to allied pilots who encountered it for the first time in the skies over Korea 1950 -1953, displaying a simple but advanced concept that gave this aircraft a better rate of climb, ceiling and high altitude radius than any allied jet aircraft at that time

The MiG 15, in service from 1949-1970, with one Kimov VK-1 jet engine delivering 5955lbs of thrust and a maximum speed of 688mph, and with an armament of one 37mm N-37 cannon and two 37mm NR-23 cannon


MiG fighter jets would dominate the Soviet Cold War arsenal and the principle all-weather single seat interceptor fighter, post 1960 would be the MiG 21, with more being built than any other type, and with Soviet, Chinese, Indian and Czechoslovakian production estimated at 13,500 aircraft.

The MiG 21 was used by fifty-six air forces, took part in thirty wars and at the height of its service use outnumbered any other type of individual warplane.

The MiG 21PF Powered by one Turmansky R-13-300 jet engine, giving a maximum speed of 1,385mph at 36,000 feet and armed with a 200 round Gsh-23L 23mm belly gun pod and a versatile package mix of either four AA-2 Atoll or A2-2 Advanced Atoll air to air missiles or four UV-16-57 rocket launchers or four S-24 240mm air to surface rockets or four 500kg/250kg bombs.


Air to air guided missiles became the next major development in Cold War air fighting, although the experience of Phantom pilots in the Vietnam War would reveal that such missiles needing range to allow them to lock on to their target didn't negate the need for the additional cannon or gun armament to back them up when the ranges got closer and when the old dogfighting skills of an earlier age were then required.

The Molnya now Vympel R60 (NATO codename AA-8 'Aphid') a light weight air-to-air missile developed for Soviet aircraft including MiG 21, 23, 25, 27, 29 and 31 fighters and Su-17, 24 and 25 ground strike aircraft. It is infrared guided and carries a 6.5lb expanding rod high explosive warhead and can be fitted with proximity and radar head fuses. The missile has been supplied to over twenty-five air forces and has been used in a number of armed conflicts.

The General Dynamics F-111F deep strike interdictor, was the first combat aircraft to introduce the variable-geometry wing which is swept forward for low speeds and back for supersonic flight. The aircraft has a maximum speed of 1640mph delivered by two Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-100 turbofans and is armed with one 20mm multi-barrel cannon and up to 31,500lbs of bombs, missiles or fuel tanks.


Before the Royal Navy assumed command of the UK's nuclear deterrent with the introduction of the Polaris missile armed submarine fleet able to cruise the worlds oceans undetected and ready to strike back in response to any nuclear attack on the homeland, the nation's nuclear response through the 1950's until then was based upon the V-Bomber fleet of aircraft, later replaced in the early 1960's by the Blue Streak land based ballistic missile system, which given its vulnerability to a first strike in such a small country like the UK was only ever likely to be a stop-gap measure.


The V-bomber force itself was made obsolete by the improvements in Soviet air defence capability and by the 1970's it became increasingly obvious that such a force was very unlikely to penetrate Soviet airspace; that saw the Valiant retired due to stresses in the airframe and particularly the wings, the Victor relegated to fuel tanker work and the Vulcan maintained as a heavy bomber with nuclear Blue-Steel stand off capability.

A Victor fuel tanker from 55 Squadron that supported the Vulcan's in Operation Black Buck
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:H.P._Victor_K.2_XL188_55_Sqn_FFD_13.07.85_edited-2.jpg

The last hurrah of the V-bomber force would be in the Falklands War in 1982 with Operation Black Buck when Vulcan aircraft from 44, 51 and 101 Squadrons took part in a series of raids, seven in total, supported by Victor fuel tankers from 55 Squadron staged from Ascension Island in the Atlantic to bomb the Port Stanley Airport, the longest range bombing attacks at that time, flying some 6,600 nautical miles in a round trip of sixteen hours.

The nose of the mighty Vulcan B2 XM598 juts out over the display hall below. This particular aircraft served as a backup plane during the Black Buck raids in the Falklands but was never required as all the mainforce aircraft were able to press home their attacks.

The general characteristics of the Vulcan - Powered by four Bristol Olympus turbojet engines giving the aircraft a maximum speed of 646mph, cruising at 567mph and with a service ceiling of 55,000 feet and a range of 2,607 miles, capable of carrying 21 x 1,000lb conventional bombs, or one of seven different models of nuclear gravity bomb.

Vickers Valiant B1 XD818 - Vickers Valiants armed with conventional bombs attacked Egyptian airfields during the Suez Crisis in 1956

The four Bristol Olympus turbojet engines are seen to advantage, here on the Vulcan. The roar from these engines had to be heard to appreciate the noise levels these beasts could generate on take off, an experience I had when one passed low over my car when taking off from RAF Chivenor in North Devon back in the early eighties. Talking of RAF Chivenor, the aircraft above the Vulcan is a side-by-side trainer version of the Hawker Hunter, an aircraft also operated out of Chivenor during the Cold War in the 1960's, and an aircraft I well remember scudding across North Devon skies back then.

Above the Valiant can be seen the tail area of another aircraft in Bomber Command's Cold War inventory, the Short Brothers Canberra XH171, this one a PR9 (Photo Reconnaissance) and these aircraft were in service with the RAF from 1951 to 2006 

The Hawker Siddeley Blue Steel air-to-surface stand off one megaton atomic bomb, 1963 -1970. An early form of cruise missile, providing the main weapon carried by Vulcan and Victor aircraft of the V-bomber force. After launch the missile would climb to 70,000 feet and fly to the target at supersonic speed.

Air Training Corps, Dorking Squadron, Summer Camp to RAF Binbrook, Linconlshire circa 1975-76, squadron picture in front of one of the operational Lightnings that were regularly intercepting Soviet bomber intrusions towards British airspace at that time, out over the North Sea. Now corporal Jones kneeling second right.

A 'stuffed Lightning' at Cosford, bringing back memories of hearing these fast jets roaring off into the blue at RAF Binbrook in the Seventies with the red after glow from those twin tail jet pipes as the afterburner was introduced on scramble. The nose of the Gloster Javelin can be seen beyond

The Gloster Javelin FAW1, XA564, 1951 to 1968 represents the world's first twin-jet delta-wing fighter.
The aircraft was powered by two Armstrong Siddeley Saphire 7R afterburning turbojet engines giving it a maximum speed of 710 mph at 40,000 feet and a service ceiling of 52,800 feet. It was armed with four 30mm ADEN cannon and up to four de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles.

Another British first in jet fighter design is the VSTOL Vertical Short Take Off and Landing Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR.3, operational 1969 - 1996 and another Falklands War veteran, in this the 40th anniversary of the war. Powered by one Rolls Royce Pegasus 103 Turbofan with four swivelling nozzels giving a top speed of 730 mph and a ceiling of 51,200 feet, the Harrier was armed with two 30mm ADEN cannon pods under the fuselage and five pylons for up to 5,000lbs of a combination of bombs, rockets and missiles, or a reconnaissance pod and two extended range drop tanks.

The Harrier was first stationed in West Germany during the Cold War, with its ability to take-off and land vertically meant that it could operate from short rough strips rather than airfields. The tactics of landing and hiding in unusual places from where they could locate and attack enemy forces was employed in the Falklands conflict where GR.3s operated from carriers and landing strips on the islands as required.

BAC (British Aircraft Corporation) Bloodhound Surface to Air missile, fitted with Thor ramjets and four solid fuel boosters, a guidance package which include a continuous wave radar to improve its success at low level. The weapon provided the defence system for bomber bases and the UK industrial heartland. With a range of just under 120 miles the missile could reach a speed of Mach 2.7 and carried a proximity fuse warhead. Production saw 783 Mk 1's and 2's built between 1958 - 1991.

With the Falklands War commemorations front and centre, the British Aerospace Rapier surface to air missile system is a weapon that is readily recognisable to those of us who were around during this conflict. Developed by the British Army to replace its Bofors 40mm/L70 anti-aircraft guns, entering service in 1971 and has been replaced by the newer CAMM Sky Sabre system and the Starstreak high velocity missiles that have made such an impact in providing air defence for the Ukrainian forces. The Rapier had a less than stellar performance in the Falklands mainly due to a series of mishaps that interfered with its air defence role over San Carlos Bay, ranging from poor siting of the weapons landed, to the spares and ammunition being destroyed aboard Atlantic Conveyor, the failure to include proximity fuses, and even interference from Royal Navy radar emissions. The final tally of downed Argentine aircraft has been downgraded to four, with only one, a Dagger A of FAA Gruppo 6 definitely confirmed as a Rapier kill, however despite the success rate, their deterrent value during the war has been readily acknowledged.

As well as the offensive and defensive capabilities developed by the Royal Air Force since its creation under Lord Trenchard on the 1st April 1918, air transport has been another significant capability which with the development of heavier and more powerful types of aircraft has enabled the projection of British power around the globe to manage and protect the nation and its allies interests.

The Battle  of Britain Memorial Flight Dakota ZA947 demonstrating an airborne drop for the D-Day 75 Anniversary flypast over Normandy.

The Douglas DC3 Skytrain, seen below, or Dakota as it became know in RAF circles was perhaps the first real contender for this role, that developed alongside the British Army Airborne Forces created in the wake of German para-troop successes in the first years of the Second World War, designed to fill the need for a purpose built transport making use of the original civilian aircraft design, that first flew December 17th 1936, as the Germans had done with the Junkers JU52.

Post WWII would see this type of military transport aircraft get ever larger with much greater load carrying capacity, but the use of para-troops would give way to helicopter borne troops with additional support helicopter gunships that soon followed to provide close air support to the landed troops.

Douglas C47 Dakota KN645 makes a stunning display when viewed above the other later RAF transport types that would replace this the first of its type, reverting to civilian use after WWII. Even the Soviets and Japanese built 2,000 unlicensed copies of this versatile aircraft.

The principle rival to the Douglas Dakota was the Junkers Ju52/3m and in its time was used by the airlines of thirty countries and several air forces. It was the last in a series of aircraft from Junkers that used a corrugated metal skin and the first aircraft fitted with a single engine flew in 1930 and with the first three engined version, the Ju52/3m flying in April 1932, able to carry 17 passengers or, in a later military role, 18 troops. Three were ordered by the pre-war British Airways in whose colours the present example is displayed, going through a slight refit. 

This type was in action in Spain in 1934 with the newly formed Luftwaffe flying them as bomber-transports with the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War carrying 14,000 of General Franco's troops from Morocco to Spain in August 1936. The aircraft became the Luftwaffe's standard workhorse and was affectionately known as the 'Tante Ju' (Auntie Ju) adding air-ambulance and mine clearance to its repertoire of roles, which in the latter saw it fitted with a large metal hoop that when charged with an electric current could be used to explode magnetic sea mines. This aircraft is one of 170 Ju52s built under license by CASA in 1954 and used by the Spanish Airforce, serial number T2B-272. 

The mighty Short Brothers Belfast serial number XR371 is one of just ten aircraft built of the original thirty planes ordered that entered service in January 1966. The aircraft illustrates well the rapid increase in size and carrying capacity of these types of aircraft as with the introduction of the helicopter to provide battlefield lift capability, the rear area transport duties could be fulfilled with much larger but more cumbersome and certainly less battle fit types such as this, a process that continues to this day

Short Brothers Belfast of 53 Squadron at Farnborough in 1964, shows off its high mounted wing with four Rolls Royce Tyne turboprop engines and was the first aircraft to be designed to be fitted with a fully automatic blind landing system equipment. Given their size all ten Belfasts were named after legendary giants, hence Enceladus seen on the nose of XR371 seen above.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Short_SC5_Belfast_C.1_XR364_53_Sq_FAR_12.09.64_edited-2.jpg

The loading bay of the Belfast demonstrates its load carrying capacity, capable of carrying 150 fully equipped troops or a Chieftain tank, or two Wessex helicopters, as seen below, with enough room to accommodate two single deck busses. The aircraft performed special flight duties for the armed forces until it was phased out of service in 1976.

Westland Wessex HC2 serial no. XR525 represents the turbine powered British production of the American Sikorsky S-58, with the Wessex HAS Mk1 entering service with the Royal Navy in 1961 and the RAF version seen here, first flown in January 1962, which was a high performance development that saw the inclusion of two coupled Bristol Siddeley Gnome turboshaft engines. The HC2 entered RAF service in January 1964 with 18 Squadron, performing the role of transport, ambulance and general purpose duties, capable of carrying 16 fully equipped troops or 4,000lb underslung load such as a 105mm pack howitzer, or perform ground attack support with Nord SS-11 anti-tank missiles and machineguns. The last RAF Wessex helicopters were Cyprus based and retired in 2003.

One of the newest additions to the Cosford collection is Chinook HC6A 'Bravo-November' serial no. ZA718, a Falklands War and indeed Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran which was one of the first 30 aircraft ordered by the RAF in 1978 and in service ever since, before arriving at Cosford in March 2022 in time for the Falklands commemorations. Four of Bravo November's pilots have received the Distinguished Flying Cross whilst on operations and at her controls and she serves as a remarkable memorial to the courage and self-sacrifice of British service personnel in the period this aircraft served.

The Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Low III or Stallion, nicknamed the 'Super Jolly Green Giant' represents the ongoing development of the helicopter as tactical transport and close air to ground support, with this particular type originally employed as a long-range combat-search and rescue helicopter but further developed for its use in covert operations and special forces insertion and extraction. The MH-53 can carry 27 troops, with a range of 600 miles and a top speed of 165mph and is armed with a combination of three 7.62mm mini guns or .50 calibre machine guns mounted on left and right sides and on the ramp.

This aircraft was one of nine MH-53H's converted to MH-53J Pave Low III, Enhanced standard; providing uprated engines, more armour, forward-looking infrared, a global positioning system, Doppler navigation systems, terrain following and terrain avoidance radar, onboard computer and integrated avionics. Pave refers to the all-weather sensor system, Precision Avionics Vectoring Equipment. This particular aircraft was withdrawn from service in Iraq in September 2008.


As indicated, my early life included a growing interest in flying and the Cosford collection has examples of two aircraft that featured in my interest together with a model of another and it brought back memories for me seeing them.

The de Havilland Comet seen below, as well as representing another British first in aviation, being the first jet airliner for civilian use and heralding the start of modern global air transport we have today, has a special place in my own heart as it was the first aircraft I ever flew in when, as a callow youth, I managed to persuade my parents to fund my growing enthusiasm to fly by coughing up the money for me to go on a thirty minute air experience flight organised by my school to attend a Saturday morning flight on board a Dan Air Comet flying out from Gatwick and a quick spin over the Channel before returning to terra firma.

The de Havilland Comet 1XB represents the beginning of civilian airliner jet flight with the first aircraft flying on the 27th July 1949, and with a cruising speed of 450mph and a range of 2,500 miles, this jet powered, pressurised-cabin aircraft offered unprecedented levels of comfort and speed to 36-40 passengers. Fatigue failure of the pressurised cabin at the corners of the original square passenger windows led to several well publicised and tragic crashes in the early 1950's until the problem was diagnosed and dealt with by the now standard use of round or oval cabin passenger windows. A later development of the aircraft saw its adoption into the RAF as the Comet 4 transport and further development into the Nimrod Maritime Patrol aircraft.

Another landmark aircraft in the flying career of 'yours truly' is another de Havilland type, the dear old Chipmunk seen below which is one of the longest serving RAF types and featured in my Air Training Corps flying opportunities as part of its duties as the main type used for air experience flight for cadets.

I have very happy memories of strapping on a WWII era seat parachute on a cold early Saturday morning at RAF Abingdon after a pre-flight briefing on how to abandon the aircraft in an emergency and the reminder that any 'puke' thrown up in the rear cockpit would no doubt congeal in the cables of the control system under the offending cadet's feet and would have to be cleaned up by the offending cadet when the aircraft landed, so better to use the sick bags provided.

However perhaps my happiest memory of flying in the Chipmunk was going up on a sunny summer evening flight during our camp at RAF Binbrook with the Station Commander captaining the aircraft and watching the Vulcan bombers of 617 'Dambusters' Squadron taking off and landing at RAF Scampton as we performed a few loops and turns out over the Lincolnshire Wolds below.
 
The Canadian designed de Havilland Chipmunk serial number WP912 replaced the Tiger Moth as the RAF's initial pilot trainer aircraft offering 'modern' features such as flaps, brakes, radio and an enclosed cockpit. They were retired from flight training in 1993 but carried on to 1996 offering air experience flights for Air Cadets. An aircraft ever close to my heart! 

Finally my last 'rave from the grave' came when I saw this model of the Slingsby glider, another aircraft that influenced my early flying with the air cadets which included several flights in these wooden open cockpit gliders that had the cadet perched in the best seat, namely the one in the front, with the sound of the wind buzzing over the high wing as the ground winch took up the strain and hoisted the aircraft aloft, before the nose inevitably dropped at the top of the winch and the pilot behind pulled the toggle to release the hook under its nose.

Another great love of my life, the Slingsby Cadet glider that has left an impression of RAF Tangmere that I have treasured aver since.

All our flying was done at the old Battle of Britain forward air station at RAF Tangmere still, in the late seventies, sporting its original concrete blast-pen walls around the dispersal areas that would have protected the Hurricanes and Spitfires only some thirty-five years previously.

My abiding memory of one flight was being tapped on the shoulder by my enthusiastic pilot to see if I was up for beating up the airfield, to which I joyfully assented, that promptly saw the nose drop and found me staring almost vertically at Tangmere below with the noise of the airflow of the wing behind, building up to what seemed like a scream, or perhaps that was me!

We came hammering in over the downwind perimeter fence and levelled out low and fast past the outer blast pen walls to come barrelling in for an exhilarating landing, only to be partially matched in later years as I flew solo over Exeter bringing in my Cessna 152 low and fast, practicing making flapless approaches and landings doing circuits and bumps on summer Sundays.

As well as the collection of aircraft covering the Cold War era, the museum holds a small collection of military and civilian vehicles that captures the post WWII developments that take us up to the modern day.

The Centurion tank was progressively upgunned from the 17-pounder, 20-pounder until the classic 105mm L7 that saw this tank serve as Britain's post war main battle tank until 1967 when it was replaced by Chieftain. With up to 152mm armour to the front, the tank was powered by the Rolls Royce Meteor derivative of the Merlin aircraft engine designed for and used on the late WWII cruiser tanks, Cromwell, Challenger and Comet, with its only major weakness being a road range of just 118 miles and much less cross-country. 

World War II on land was the war of mobility restored to the battlefield after the imposition of machine guns that dominated no-mans land on the Western Front to be broken by the new British secret weapon, code named the Tank.

Tank warfare came of age in the Second World War as Britain had to relearn lessons she had forgotten during the interwar demobilisation that would lead to the gradual adoption of combined arms battle groups and tactics together with a gradual move away from cruiser tanks and infantry tanks to the main battle tank that was able to combine rapid mobility with heavy armour.

Sadly for the allies these lessons really only came to fruition in the closing days of WWII as the heavy German tanks became a rarity on the battlefield but came just in time to face down the Cold War threats of Soviet Russia and the growing threat of Communist China.

The first British main battle tank was the Centurion that finally brought together the big gun, medium to heavy armour, high power mobility combination that is the main battle tank today and would gain its first real battle honours against the Chinese in the Korean War, 1950 - 1953.

A vehicle very much in the news today, the Soviet era BMP, this being the BMP-1, went into production in the early 1960's marks a step change in the tracked armoured personnel carrier, able to offer high mobility with tracks and amphibious capability, fully armoured protection to the troops carried, together with a combat capability offering a level of anti-tank support which allowed the vehicle to operate in close support of the Soviet tank formations.

Like Russian designed tanks from WWII and since, crew comforts are not high on the list of benefits and the cramped conditions of the BMP have to be seen to be believed and claustrophobic doesn't really adequately describe the 'tin of sardines' effect this infantry compartment evokes, imagining soldiers in full battledress crammed inside.  

As with the Centurion previously, this Alvis Saladin armoured car produced between 1958 to 1972 shows all the learning gleaned from WWII with the six wheels giving excellent mobility particularly in desert conditions where the vehicle found ready customers in the Middle East, and with up to 32mm of armour around a 76mm L5A1 rifled gun with 42 rounds, allowed the vehicle to provide a modicum of armoured support with a heavy punch augmented by the addition of two Browning M1919 A4 machine-guns with 3,500 rounds of ammunition. Powered by a 170hp Rolls Royce B80 Mk6a petrol engine the Saladin could rock along at some 45mph

The Alvis FV101 Scorpion was designed to meet the needs of the British forces to have a fully tracked armoured reconnaissance vehicle and light tank, that led to the later development of a family of seven CVR(T), Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance Tracked armoured vehicles. Introduced in 1973, more than 3,000 vehicles of this type were produced up to 1994 and Scorpion holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest production tank recorded doing 51.10 mph on a vehicle test track in 2002. Produced with cast aluminium armour and armed with, as here, the ROF 76mm L23A1 gun and later the 90mm Cockerill Mk3 M-A1 gun on the Scorpion 90, together with a coaxial 7.62mm L43A1 machine gun, Scorpions saw action in the Falklands War and served with the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War.

In the 1960's Britain took on the defence of Norway and NATO's northern flank which required troops to become proficient in the Norwegian conditions together with a range of tracked articulated vehicles designed for working in them. The Haggland und Soner Bv202 Over Snow articulated tracked vehicle was produced by a subsidiary company of Volvo, Bolinder Munktell, between 1964 to 1981 and carries a driver and commander in the front unit and 8-10 troops in the trailer unit, able to transport troops through snow or bog-lands with ground pressure less than a skier and fully amphibious. Many friends and former Royal Marine 'Bootnecks' at the DWG will be very familiar with this type of vehicle.

Perhaps the epitome of everything that was wrong with the imposed Soviet Communist way of life was their utter failure to be able to compete with the technological developments in the West that followed WWII, so well captured by the Trabby or Trabant car designed and built in East Germany to meet the demand in the Eastern Bloc for car ownership. This demand was never fully met by the three million models built between 1957 to 1991, ranging from the little 500-600cc two cylinder two stroke air cooled model to the 'sumptuous' 1043cc, four cylinder water cooled type, with a maximum speed of 78mph and with bodywork built of a composite material 'Duraplast' because of a shortage of steel, probably being used to build all the 'flipping tanks'! Its amazing that some folks in the world still think that Communism is a good idea.

The Test Aircraft (The Good the Bad and the Ugly)
Before any of the amazing aircraft featured in this collection were fit and able to take their place on the front line, someone had to come up with the idea and basic design of the test aircraft that, through testing and refinement, would lead to the thoroughbred machines they would become and I have lived enough years now to have seen these concept aircraft featured in various news articles of the time announcing the new next generation of combat aircraft, usually given a code name or number, until its adoption by the forces and given its final name; hence I remember the Panavia Tornado arriving on the scene in the early seventies and given the catchy title of MRCA or Multi Role Combat Aircraft which immediately made me think 'Jack of all trades, but master of none'.

RAF Tornado GR4 - Photo: Corporal Mike Jones/MOD
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RAF_Tornado_GR4_MOD_45155233.jpg

Some test beds lived up to my first impression of the MRCA, fortunately the Tornado turned out to be somewhat better than that, retiring from RAF duties in 2019 but serving remarkably well during the Gulf War of 1991 through to Afghanistan displaying its multi role capability throughout that stands in stark contrast to the aircraft below, the TSR2, which ironically it was designed to take the place of .

The British Ministry of Defence has an unenviable record when it comes to overspends on procurement of new major weapons systems probably only matched by other large government departments in their management of public funds. I have already alluded to the cancelled BAE Nimrod MRA4 Maritime Patrol Aircraft upgrade that was begun with a replacement request from the RAF in 1993 as a replacement for Nimrod MR2 and after a series of delays in development and cost overrun disputes was finally cancelled in 2010 and an estimated waste of 3.4 billion pounds of taxpayers money.

However Nimrod is by no means a unique debacle as that exemplified by the development of TSR2 otherwise known as the Tactical Strike Reconnaissance aircraft conceived in 1956 as a replacement for the aging Canberra.

Designed by BAC the TSR2 was intended to be able to deliver both conventional and nuclear weapons, able to penetrate well defended frontline areas at low altitudes and high speeds to attack high value targets in the rear areas as well as filling the fast reconnaissance role of the old Canberra.

Again cost overruns and inter-service squabbling over future defence needs conspired to force a government decision to scrap the project in 1965 with an estimated cost of some £1,700 million spent over fifteen years prior to the decision to order the American swing-wing FIIIK (featured above with the F111F) instead, an order that was subsequently cancelled in 1968 to eventually see the role intended for TSR2 covered by Phantom and Buccaneer types followed by the SEPECAT Jaguar in the mid 70's and finally the Panavia Tornado.

The second prototype TSR2  XR220 was planned to demonstrate the low level all weather flying capabilities of the aircraft together with its sophisticated navigation system. Its flight was set for 2nd April 1965 but damage to the fuselage during final production caused the deadline to be missed, and four days later the Government cancelled the TSR2 programme.

The Experimental Aircraft Programme or EAP is not the most catchy title for an aircraft that would lead to the Eurofighter Typhoon, but this testbed design built by British Aerospace flew between 1986 to 1991 and demonstrated the capabilities of the cranked delta wing and canard foreplanes, married to the fin tail and engines of the Panavia Tornado displaying an agility that took full advantage of the aircraft's natural aerodynamic instability but able to control the effect using its new fly-by-wire technology for its flight controls and sophisticated electronic cockpit displays.

Another successful testbed is this SEPECAT Fly-by Wire Jaguar ACT from 1975, a collaborative venture between the UK and France with this particular aircraft a former GR.1 ground attack aircraft taken back to the factory to have alterations made to its flying controls, electronic systems and the addition of leading edge strakes, plus additional ballast that whilst making the aircraft unstable in the transonic speed range, markedly improved its overall performance, but demonstrated the need for computer control to prevent the aircraft from stalling or entering a spin. This testing led to the development of the flying systems used on the EAP above and subsequently the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The Hawker Siddeley Kestrel FGA.1 is the final test version of the VSTOL design P.1127 and was one of nine such aircraft ordered for final evaluation by the Tripartite Evaluation Squadron TES consisting of military pilots from the UK, USA and West Germany to evaluate the vertical take off Kestrel in near service conditions. The test was so successful that its successor the Harrier would make its first flight in little over a year later, serving in the RAF until 2011.

Model Collection
An interest in aircraft by any young boy often stimulates an interest in building model aircraft and I can say the painting and modelling skills I have developed and brought to historical wargaming began as a boy building Airfix kits in the main, but never quite to the standard on display in the models here.

Even to this day I love to admire the skill of expert model makers and often take time out at shows like Colours in Newbury where the local scale model makers display their talent and allow folks like me to grab ideas for getting my tabletop wargame models to look even better.












As mentioned, Airfix kits are where I first got started in modelling and the Spitfire was of course a favourite build and a kit I have built several times in the past, with the 1a Battle of Britain type still my favourite alongside its stablemate the Hurricane 1.

However I was blown away to discover the 1:1 full size Airfix Spitfire built by James May and friends in 2009 for a TV series celebrating one of Britain's best loved toys and with parts displayed in the hanger on their sprues before assembly and painting, although if I was to be a bit picky, those upper wing roundels would not do on any kit of mine, see picture below for reference.



Now that's what you call an Airfix Spitfire!

The collection at Cosford is a must see if you are the slightest bit interested in military aircraft and particularly types used by the RAF over the years since its formation in 1918 and together with those held at Hendon in London forms a very comprehensive collection that displays the history of the Royal Air Force and some of the enemy types it has encountered.

For me personally, it was such a thrill to be reminded of and reacquainted with aircraft I have a personal memory of, if a little sad at seeing them 'stuffed' and consigned to the display hall for future generations to marvel at and scoff at folks daring to fly such arcane contraptions.



Mr Steve and my adventure to the Welsh borders and Shropshire continues in this series of posts with the Wars of the Roses, English Civil War and the the history of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) regiment among other stuff - more anon.