Wednesday, 1 March 2017

March Newsletter

Welcome to the next edition of the Whirlwind Fighter Project newsletter.

Firstly I must apolgise for the delay in getting this one out to you all but due to computer problems and illness within the WFP team not only have we been unable to get anything done but Mike also had serious problems at the airfield that needed sorting.

I am glad to say that that is all now behind us and work on the Whirlwind will start again soon.

The first thing to report is that the next AGM will be held at East Kirby the home of Just Jane, Andrew Panton has kindly agreed to us holding it there on Saturday the 3rd of June, timings to follow.

 Further details of the AGM appear in the Chairman's report below.

Which brings us back to one of the subject that Matt Bearman touched on during the last AGM at Fishburn.

The search for the holy grail...


Dartmoor update

Matt Bearman our intrepid explorer.

Caroline Belam was raised on the edge of Dartmoor, as was her mother Anne, and her family for generations before. All her life Caroline has been intimately involved with livestock farming and ponies in the area in which we believe the two aircraft came down in 1940. She grew up in Hexworthy, right under the path they would have taken according to the Brimpts Farm witness.
When Matt Bearman contacted Caroline she was immediately fascinated by the story and the apparent mystery of the planes’ disappearance. With the help of Professor Stone (see previous newsletters – Bob is conducting ongoing UAV work over the moor) Caroline unearthed the diaries of her mother Anne Belam, who was a teenager at the time.
On March 16th 1941, there is an entry: “Rode up to crashed planes. Twin British fighters. John went up in a carrier”
As Anne and her brother John were living in Hexworthy at the time, this certainly confirmed the area if not the precise location.
Caroline was not done yet. She immediately contacted people who used to ride with her mother over the moor – and two came back positive. Maintaining anonymity, witness A said Anne Belam had indicated a spot several times on trips over the moor. She described the route taken to reach it. Witness B said her future husband had identified wreckage that she could see from the track in the 1950’s as being from two RAF aircraft that came down in the war. The location she gave agreed with A. Contacting Witness B’s son, he was able to confirm on a map where this was said to be, though he had personally seen no wreckage.
On the morning of Sunday 19th February a party of project members set off to look for traces in the indicated area. Matt Bearman, Jim Munro, Ian ’The Mole’ McRae, Steve and Antonia Smith and Pete and Elspeth Chipping walked for two hours from the nearest road to find the spot, and spent another two hours searching it before the mist came down (navigation back was ‘blind’ with a compass – Steve got us back to the very spot we had left the cars). The ground was very difficult – uneven hummocks covered in very long grass and with sinking bog in between.

Sadly we found nothing at all. 

In March, Bob Stone will be returning to the area, armed with a new drone. Hopefully looking down through the grass rather than along it might reveal something. We are at least now certain of where to look.

If anyone happens to be going to Dartmoor in the meantime, we can share the grid reference on an individual basis.


Report from the Chair
2016 has been a very challenging year with negatives and positives some easy and welcome
others causing some confusion and a lot of delays to the project not of our doing.
As you will be aware the engineering for the project is being undertaken by the" Aircraft Restoration group"at their new museum and workshops site at Fishburn Airfield in County Durham. Around the
time of our last AGM things had been put into limbo with a major dispute between the airfield
operators and the airfield owners,this had put everyone on site, aircraft owners other company's on site and the museum project all at risk. Finally after eleven months things have been resolved and the operators have departed and the land owners now operate the site themselves and have re assured everyone that they can remain on site and ARG along with everyone else are now working with the landowners to get their lease in writing and move forward in the next few months with the erecting of the museum workshops that are waiting on the site to be put together.
The project has therefore suffered somewhat on the actual engineering side but work has continued
in the background on drawings,research and general information gathering.Also some major
progress has been made on seeking out the wrecks of some wartime Whirlwind incidents.(see article above)
The future is very promising for the project and interest is growing in it and its aim to produce a full
size all metal example of this iconic fighter.To this end we are looking at going beyond the web site
currently open to all and creating a Whirlwind Fighter Supporters club.This will be accessible for a fee and the members will receive a goodies pack and access to special events,the workshops etc.This
is to be discussed at our up coming AGM and we anticipate it being launched following the AGM and this will kickstart the major push to assemble and complete the aircraft and will give members the opportunity to contribute to the project and also to get something in return besides just the finished aircraft on display.
An exciting venue has been selected for our AGM and with the support of the Lincolshire Aviation heritage Centre our AGM will be at the home of Avro Lancaster "Just Jane" and we shall have access to the workshops and museum site and a buffet .We hope to have a talk from one of the team working on the project to return Just Jane to the skies.
The AGM will be on Saturday 3rd June 2017  and we shall be asking for a dontaion of £5 per member attending to cover the admin costs and fees for the use of the premises etc at East Kirkby.
More in the news letter from Chris on this I hope to be able to see as many of you as possibly can make it to East Kirkby on 3rd June.
looking forward to a very positive 2017
Mike Eastman

On the  11th of February we lost Len Bartlett who was a Flight Commander on 137 Squadron, Rob Bowater has kindly put together this brief history of his wartime career.

Len Bartletts Operational career.
Leonard Harold Bartlett was born in Muswell Hill on 20 June 1916, and worked as an assistant Buyer at Smithfield Market before joining the RAFVR in May 1939. Called up on 1 September 1939, following training at No.7 OTU Hawarden, he was posted to No.17 Squadron at Debden as a Sgt Pilot on 15 July 1940. The Battle of Britain was in its early stages, but he was quickly in action and on 21 August 1940 made his first claim in Hurricane P3673. Several more claims followed – Ju.88 destroyed (shared) on 28 August; He.111 probable (shared) in Hurricane P2994 on 5 September; Ju.88 destroyed (shared) in Hurricane V7241 on 19 September; enemy aircraft destroyed in Hurricane P3868 on 28 October; Ju.87 destroyed and a second probably destroyed in Hurricane V7658 on 8 November and again on 11 November. Then on 17 March 1941 his luck almost ran out when he was shot down over Chiddingly, Sussex and abandoned Hurricane II Z2704 by parachute.
He was Commissioned in July 1941 and on 10 February 1942 was posted to 137 Squadron at Matlaske as A Flight Commander. This was two days before the Squadron lost 4 pilots during the Channel Dash debacle. He made one claim whilst flying Whirlwinds – a Ju.88 damaged on 6 July 1942 in P7111 and flew 109 Ops (138 hours) on the twin. The 137 Squadron ORB noted that he was, ‘Very popular with all ranks, and a very efficient Flight Commander.’ In September 1942 he was posted to Command No.253 Squadron at Hibaldstow, and two months later led it to North Africa. He made his final claim on 10 January 1943, a Ju.88, in Hurricane HV968. In October 1943 he led his Squadron to Montecorvino near Salerno but in January 1944 he was taken off Ops. His next command was the airfield on Vis off the Yugoslavian Coast; next he became Military Commander of the Island itself. His next post was the supervision of the construction of a landing strip at Zemonia-Akos, before becoming PSO to the AOC, Middle East in 1945
Awarded a DSO on 3 March 1944 and the US Legion of Merit for organising the rescue of USAAF aircrews from the Adriatic Sea, he was one of the Group Captains who escorted Winston Churchills coffin.
He retired from the RAF on 20 June 1966 and settled in Australia. He passed away on 11 February 2017 aged 100.


Further cleaning up of the parts recovered from the crash site of P7015 north of Morlaix, Brittany have been carried out by Gildas over in France, to view these please click on the dropbox link below.
Thanks to Gildas for the photographs.



The following are available from our online shop just click on  WFP webstore

Other items including a nice range of polo shirts are also available.


P7056 Pride of Yeovil Side Profile - Limited Signed Edition Print.



This fantastic side profile has been exclusively produced for The Whirlwind Fighter Project by renowned artist Richard Caruana 

A3 size, the profile shows P7056 in the colours of 263 Squadron in late summer 1943. Her pilot, Robert Beaumont, was also the artist who painted the 'Gremlin' figure below her cockpit.

Copyright Rob Beaumont

There is a brief profile of two of her pilots - John McClure DFC (137 Sqn) & Robert Beaumont (263 Sqn) 


Supplied rolled in a thick cardboard tube with certificate of authenticity


Convoy Patrol by Michael Daly MBS AGAvA - Limited Signed Edition


Painted exclusively for The Whirlwind Fighter Project by renowned artist Michael Daly MBE AGAvA, 'Convoy Patrol' portrays P7056 Pride of Yeovil in 137 Sqn codes, protecting the vital merchant ships

58cm x 43cm (23" x 17"), printed on Giclee Fine Art Textured Paper and supplied rolled in a thick cardboard tube with certificate of authenticity


This print is also available as greetings cards, unsigned print and the original painting.


 A big thank you for bearing with us over the last few months
The WFP team

Contact details


Saturday, 17 September 2016

Copyright Westland archives
   October Newsletter

Welcome to the second of the quarterly newsletters.

This issue is a little early due to Holidays.

Unfortunatly we are still having real problems getting the workshop set up at Fishburn airfield and untill this is ironed out we are unable to get on with the build which is not only frustrating for the team but disapointing for you the members, please be sure that we are doing all we can to get this situation sorted out as soon as possible.

In the mean time things are still happening behind the scenes.

A thank you to Roger Rasmussen from Norway for his kind donation to the project.

There has been an exploration of Fox Tor on Dartmore by Drone to examine the area and see if there is any evidence of the crash site of two Whirlwinds details of which can be found below.

The sale of the limited edition Profiles by Richard Caruana has gone very well and enabled us to add some more money into the kitty for when we are able to start the build again. As a way of saying thanks to Richard for his kind donation of the Profile we presented him with one of the limited edition prints.

Note from Richard.

The postman has just delivered the Whirlwind print and I'm really impressed with the way it turned out.
Many thanks for this copy which within an hour or so will be at the frame makers to hang in my studio.
Give my sincere thanks also to all those working so hard on the Whirlwind project, and hope to live to see it being rolled out one day!
My compliments on a job well done, and would be most pleased if it will bring in funds for the project.
Kindest regards,

This is an  article by Jim Munro on the progress of his film on the Whirlwind.

We had a very positive 2-hour meeting in London earlier this summer with a Production Company having a strong pedigree in Documentaries & with links to TV organisations both in the UK & internationally. 

There is a tacit understanding that the film will be made and right now a search (with drones) is taking place for a missing Whirlwind on Dartmoor as a possible key event (if WW located) on which to trigger the launch the film.

Meantime work on developing the film storyline has been proceeding apace with the 2nd of the two logical 'parts' of the overall story now showing more promise having earlier proved to be something of a Cinderella.   That 2nd part starts after the first 6 Whirlwinds were awaiting the German invasion of Britain........which never materialises, thereby providing a natural and useful hiatus in the storyline of our film.

Current state of play is that there is plenty of work to be done on further working up the detailed storyline/prospective screenplay.  At the same time we have been chasing down interesting leads on an opportunistic basis & these have included a)meeting up with S/Ldr Robert Woodward's daughter Roberta for the very first time, also b)getting closer to finding out which 'diminutive' ATA girl pilot 'upset' Alec Torrance by waltzing all over the sky in a brand new Mustang she was ferrying, back in 1942/3!      And John McClure (Ontario, Canada) has been helping Dodge Bailey (Chief Test Pilot at the Shuttleworth Collection) with some details of techniques employed for flying the Whirlwind, since possibly relevant to other types flown from Old Warden.

Informal contact has also been established with the New Zealand based team responsible for putting a Mosquito into the air (it now resides in the USA) and now working on others, the second being expected to fly any day now.

Cheers Jim

Copyright Westland archives

From the shop

Following their successful launch at the AGM, we now have the following new products available in the shop.

'Convoy Patrol' painted exclusively for the WFP by renowned artist Michael Daly MBE AGAvA has been reproduced as a limited edition fine art print signed by the artist and Whirlwind pilot John McClure DFC

The original exclusive acrylic-on-canvas painting is also available

A limited edition A3 side profile drawn exclusively for the WFP by renowned artist Richard Caruana and signed by Whirlwind pilot John McClure

Both prints are also available unsigned

'Convoy Patrol' has also been reproduced on greetings cards, available in packs of five, whilst there is also an adhesive free static cling windscreen sticker.

Please visit the shop on our web site to find other goodies for sale.

Many thanks for your continued support
The Whirlwind Fighter Project Team

Copyright Westland archives


Dartmoor Survey Project

Anyone who has followed the Whirlwind story to any extent will be aware of the almost legendary pair of Whirlwinds that disappeared over Dartmoor in appalling weather on December 29th 1940, with tragically fatal consequences to F/Lt Wynford O.L. Smith and P/O Donald M. Vine.

Though the two pilot's bodies were found and given decent burial in Exeter, the location of the two aircraft was quickly forgotten, except to some local witnesses who remained clear and consistent in their claim that one or both were in Foxtor Mire – a dangerous and remote stretch of semi-liquid bog that was the inspiration for Conan Doyle's horse-and-rider-swallowing 'Grimpen Mire' in the Hound of the Baskervilles.

In searching for these aircraft, the WFP have been very lucky
to now have on board Robert Stone and his team of Birmingham University Engineers
Copyright Robert Stone

Robert is in fact Professor Robert J. Stone Bsc(Hons), MSc, C.Psychol, AFBPsS, CergHF, FIEHF Academician (IHEAS, Moscow), Chair in Interactive Multimedia Systems and Director of the Human Interface Technologies Team at the University of Birmingham -

There is a 'team within a team', who's very appropriate logo is at the foot of this article, who are focussing on work in the 'Digital Heritage' arena. This includes compilation of data into models that aid the understanding and ultimately the preservation of our heritage.
Via Dutch WFP member Bas Coolen, himself a specialist in UXO detection and battlefield archaeology, Matt Bearman made contact with Robert. Bas alerted Matt to the fact that the team had been testing their remote-sensing drones over Dartmoor already, and when Bas told Bob what might be there at very short notice they performed some extra passes on our behalf over the area 'most likely' to have been where the two aircraft ended up.

Having obtained records of eye-witness accounts from Gareth Jones, a well known aviation archaeologist who had researched the Dartmoor Pair a decade ago, as well as Rob Jones (author of the definitive book on Dartmoor air crashes), Ian Macrae and others, along with met reports and the surviving 'official' documentation, Matt had already postulated on the (differing) approximate locations of the two at the WFP AGM. In August Bob and team returned to Dartmoor, this time specifically to take some high resolution (4k) video from a very low altitude at these locations.

There was one nasty moment – in an unintended bout of 'practical experimental archaeology' the drone did impact somewhere near the middle of the mire on the first day of the survey, thus replicating the fate of the aircraft that can't have been too far away. In an operation that read like the tracing of a space probe on an alien planet surface from the last gasps of battery power, the drone was located and an intrepid team of Bob and student set of into the Grimpen mire to recover it from its calculated position. To everyone's relief, they found it. 

Copyright Robert Stone

There have been some potentially interesting results, but to prevent anyone traipsing over the mire – which is a very dangerous pastime – or digging it up, which could result in some quite severe legal repercussions, we will not be detailing much here at his stage – especially as no-one wants to look daft when things turn out to be interestingly-shaped stones, or even sheep bones.

Copyright Robert Stone

In the meantime, here's an example of an interestingly-shaped stone or bone from Bob Stone's lone drone

Matt will be hiking to the most promising spots that are NOT in the squishy bit in the week 24th-28th October. If anyone wants to join in the 'field walk' please do, but there won't be room in Matt's camper with the wife and two kids – and please bear in mind these are PROBABLY NOT Whirlwind bits at all. Matt is really going to rule stuff OUT, not in.

The really exciting part of the 'Mires Project', as it is now rapidly becoming, is yet to come. Bob has really taken the bull by the horns, and he now has his PhD students designing specific instruments to detect aircraft parts in the mire, as part of their academic work. Very specifically the plan is to devise a sensitive, reliable yet lightweight metal detector that can be hung onto a drone and flown at very low altitude over the key locations in the impassible squishy bit. Frankly, if there's a large body of metal in Foxtor Mire, it really can only be one thing.

A HUGE thanks to Bob and team for all of this – we are a lucky bunch of amateurs to have such extremely professional and dedicated help.

 Contact details---------------------

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