Monday, 1 September 2014

September news

Chris Hayward
Welcome to the September newsletter for the Whirlwind Fighter Project. 

Message from Mike Eastman

Hi guys trying to get back into circulation and trying to make sense of a new computer system. We are now at the first stage in building the rear fuselage frames using Gunnars drawings and creating frames to start with in light card to see if we have any issues or lack of information before we apply it to metal.We now have the first four to a stage we are happy with.

Only the infamous Former 10 to look at and play about with.Once we are happy and have worked out the best way to manufacture said brute then we will be applying the lot to aluminum so the plot is by the end of September the frames should be well in hand if not built hopefully we will have some frames ready for the BAPC conference in October which is called "Stopping the rot".

Mike E.

The shop is now open again and is ready to take orders, please visit our Shop .
Christmas is coming just think of all those lovely Whirly presents that would be something different for the family.

Meeting of the BAPC at Doncaster

 As part of the accreditation process, the British Aircraft Preservation Council invited the Whirlwind Fighter Project to present on their aims and objectives at the 189th meeting of the Council, held at the South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum in Doncaster on Saturday August 16th.

The museum volunteers were excellent hosts, and an enjoyable meeting was held, including a very entertaining and informative demonstration and discussion of the ‘Village Inn’ radar gunnery system by Dr. Mike Diprose. 

Matt Bearman gave the WFP presentation ‘Recreating the Whirlwind’, and there was a lot of interest in the room, although as the meeting was already over-running by 40 minutes the Q and A was necessarily curtailed. 

Matt now has a slide set and a prepared talk on the Whirlwind, the WFP and our methods which he 
is happy to give to other groups should anyone be interested.

Please remember that we are always looking for donations whether it's money or parts so please help us if you can 

                                    The Channel Dash

                          Operation Cerberus 

Operation Cerberus took place in February 1942. It was the name given to a dash up the English Channel by three major warships of the German Navy – the Scharnhorst, the Gneisenau and the Prinz Eugen. They had been effectively trapped in Brest harbour by the British but Hitler ordered that they should return to Germany. Any run through the English Channel was seen as being fraught with danger – but a Fuhrer Order had to be obeyed.

By March 22nd 1941, the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst had sunk 22 British merchant ships in the Atlantic – totalling 115,000 tons. Such losses simply could not have been sustained and destroying the two ships was seen as critical if the British were going to win the Battle of the Atlantic. Both formidable ships returned to Brest harbour for repairs after their triumphs.

Brest was an unusual choice for a refuge as the ships could easily be trapped by the British Home Fleet if they attempted to sail back to Germany or by the fleet in Gibraltar if they attempted to get the Mediterranean. Brest was also in reach of RAF bombers. When it became known that both ships had berthed in Brest, Bomber Command made them a primary target following an order from Winston Churchill. Several bombing raids had damaged the two ships but did not disable them. In one raid, Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell of No 22 Squadron hit the Gneisenau with a torpedo – but to no avail. Campbell was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery. In June 1941, the Prinz Eugen joined both ships in Brest.

In April 1941, the French Resistance had gained information that the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau were about to break harbour and make a dash for Germany. The Royal Navy covered this threat with ‘Operation Fuller’ should it have taken place. In fact, there was no dash for Germany but the addition of the Prinz Eugen made the force even more formidable.
Prinz Eugen

The Royal Navy assumed that Raeder, the head of the German Navy, would not tolerate three ships remaining in harbour and not doing anything. The Royal navy therefore assumed that the three ships would make a dash. It concluded that:

Ø      The three ships would make their dash at night

Ø      They assumed that this would be done on a cloudy night to give the ships cover and make it impossible for bombers to operate

Ø      The assumed that any dash would be as near to the French coast as was possible for such large ships so that fighter cover could be called if the Germans needed it – night time or not.

Admiral Ramsey’s force at Dover was suitably strengthened for any attempt by the Germans to get to Germany. The Royal Navy and the RAF worked in unison on the plan to destroy the German ships – a plan that involved the Fleet Air Arm, Coastal Command, Bomber Command and Fighter Command. Though Bomber Command would not fly at night, it made plans for any attempt by the three ships to make a daylight dash.

In June 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa – the attack on Russia. While the attack was massively successful in its initial stages, Hitler became more and more obsessed with defending his northern flank – believing that the Allies would launch an attack via Norway or land men and equipment in Murmansk. He therefore ordered that all three ships should return to Germany rather than risk yet more damage from bombing raids in Brest. Hitler had already ordered the massive Tirpitz to Norwegian waters. The addition of the Prinz Eugen, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would make for an awesome naval presence there. On January 12th, 1942, Hitler gave the order for them to return to Germany.

The British very quickly became aware of increased Germany activity not only in Brest but also along the French northern coastline. The French Resistance reported that former French coastal airbases were being more and more used by the Luftwaffe. The Royal Navy concluded that they knew the ships would be leaving Brest at night – they just did not know when! In response to this, the Royal Navy tried to predict the route the ships might take and laid more mines – a total of 1000+ British mines were already placed in the English Channel.

A study of weather predictions led the Navy to conclude that the ships would sail between February 10th and 15th 1942, as cloud cover would make such a journey much safer. Coastal Command, the Fleet Air Arm, Fighter Command, etc were all put on the alert. A submarine, the ‘Sea Lion’, had been positioned off of Brest – its task was to watch the harbour as opposed to attacking the ships.

The Germans had put a great deal of thought into Operation Cerberus. British coastal radar had been jammed as a matter of course – but by February 1942, the success of the jamming had become extensive. Vice-Admiral Ciliax, commander of the battle-cruisers, could also sail knowing that the Luftwaffe could provide a total of 280 fighter planes to give aerial cover for the duration of the journey. Colonel Adolf Galland, charged with the task for the Luftwaffe, had mostly formidable Me 109’s and FW-190’s at his disposal, along with Me-110’s. From the start of the journey, Ciliax could expect a minimum of 16 fighters covering his force and a maximum of 32. When he got near to the Straits of Dover, this number would be increased significantly.
The convoy, which included 6 destroyers, left Brest harbour at 22.45 hours on February 11th 1942. The Sea Lion had ended its watch at 21.35 hours as it assumed that the ships would not leave after this time on that day as they would not get to the Dover Straits in darkness. Nine German naval vessels and their supporting ships left Brest without being seen – a Hudson spotter plane using radar had swept past the convoy but faulty radar was common in early 1942 and it ‘saw’ nothing. Any visual contact was impossible due to the cloud cover. Other spotter planes also suffered from radar failure, allowing the convoy to round the Brest peninsula unseen.
By dawn next day, February 12th, the convoy was sailing off Barfleur, south of the Isle of Wight. Fog had assisted in camouflaging its movements. Both Coastal Command and Fighter Command had failed to pass on to Admiral Ramsey at Dover Castle, the fact that their surveillance had been hindered by faulty equipment. On February 12th, Ramsey still believed that the German convoy had yet to sail and he stood down the forces that had been brought together to attack the Germans.
For three large warships and six destroyer escorts, to sail up the English Channel undetected for 300 miles seems incredible. However, the weather and faulty radar equipment served the Germans well and gave them 13 hours at sea undetected. Ramsey’s defence force was also in disarray. His MTB (motor torpedo boat) force based in Ramsgate had been in action the previous night and was still recovering from this; Bomber Command’s planes would have found it nearly impossible to operate because of the weather conditions and the Bristol Beaufort squadrons based around the coast were forced to use different air strips because the one they wanted to use (North Coates) was snow bound. One patrol pane had flown directly over Ciliax’s force but had not broken radio silence and only passed on its information when the plane had reached its base – by which time the convoy was steaming passed Beachy Head in Sussex. 
At Dover, the gun batteries based there engaged the Germans. However, their shells fell short simply because they had to guess the exact whereabouts of the ships because of the poor weather conditions. MTB’s from Dover attacked but they could not get near to the ships and had to fire their torpedoes from a distance of 2 miles – none hit. German fighter cover was ferocious. An attack by torpedo-carrying Swordfish planes also failed. All six planes were lost in the attack and their commander, Lieutenant-Commander Eugene Esmonde, was awarded the Victoria Cross.
As the German convoy continued to steam towards its base, there were more British attacks, some of which turned out very badly for 137 Squadron who at this time were based at RAF Manston in Kent, poor weather, poor communications and a curious desire for secrecy even among the British forces fighting during the attack all played a part in the Germans successfully getting through.
Yellow section comprising of P/O’s Haggberg, DeHoux with W/O Robertson and F/S Mercer were withdrawn from training duties and instructed to provide escort for five Royal Navy ships of the 16 and 21 Destroyer Flotillas, due to the afore mentioned desire for secrecy they were not informed of the presence of the 3 German Battle Cruisers or their escorts.
Having caught sight of several naval vessels through a break in the cloud they dived down to investigate only to be attacked by 20 Me109’s with yellow noses from 111/JG.2 and found themselves in a dog fight, which resulted in the loss of P/o Haggberg and W/o Robertson, of the remaining pair of yellow section, Mercer who was flying “Bellows Argentina One” was attacked by two Me109 and managed to avoid them by diving to sea level he then landed at Ipswich where he found that he had received damage to the port tyre and port engine nacelle. P/o DeHoux attacked a 109 but saw no results. During this combat a Whirlwind was seen to be in a dive trailing smoke.
The operation was also joined by P/o’s Martin, Sandy, LaGette, Bryan along with Sgt Ashton, they were tasked with attacking the E Boat screen but attacked the Gneisenau instead, of these four Martin and Sandy were shot down by 109’s, Bryan and Ashton failed to find the German Fleet and escorted some Royal Naval ships instead.

137 Squadron lost 4 pilots on that day. 

The bad weather (cloud at 700 feet) meant that bombers could not get to the 7000 feet they needed to drop their armour-piercing bombs if they were to be effective – they simply could not see their targets. Of the 242 bombers involved in the engagement, only 39 are known to have dropped their bombs – and none of them found their target. British destroyers sent out from Harwich to attack the Germans were attacked by planes from the RAF as no-one had told the RAF that destroyers from Harwich were being sent into action.
At dawn on February 13th, the German convoy sailed into port. The Scharnhorst had hit a mine but Ciliax was eager to contact Berlin that their operation had been a great success. The Germans had lost just one of their minor escort ships and seventeen fighter planes. The British response to the breakout from Brest had been ineffective from a military point of view. However, there were few recriminations as the Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen and Scharnhorst were now all bottled up to the east of Britain where they could play no part in the Battle of the Atlantic. Even the commander of the Kriegsmarine, Admiral Raeder, stated that the Germans had won “a tactical victory (but) had suffered a strategic defeat.” Roosevelt contacted Churchill to congratulate him on what had occurred:

What happened to the three ships Hitler so desperately wanted back in Germany? The Gneisenau was hit by Bomber Command just 2 weeks after the 'Channel Dash' and never went to sea again; the Prinz Eugen was sunk during post war tests in the Pacific and the Scharnhorst, hit by a mine, and was out of action for eight months for repairs – but was sunk in December 1943 in what became known as the battle of Boxing Day.

The four Whirlwinds are believed to lie within the yellow oblong on the above map

Many thanks to the History learning site for much of the above information also to Rob Bowaters book “The Whirlwind Years” and to Bas Coolen for the Map.

                                                      Whirlwind Stories

Unknown source


Arrived at 51MU on the 17th of July 1941, on the 17th of January she was delivered to 137 Squadron at Matlaske and coded SF-A on the 12th of February she was shot down during the Chanel Dash her pilot was Ralph Haggberg who was killed.

                     Total Operational hours 26:00hrs total flying hours were only 29:45. 

                                          Fellowship of the Bellows part two
                                                            By Matt Bearman

                  Which Whirlwinds were called Bellows, and why?

Presentation Whirlwind P7121, 137 Squadron 

It’s known that there were a lot of Whirlwinds marked as ‘Bellows’, ‘Bellows Uruguay’ ‘Bellows Argentina’ etc – and that 263 Squadron was known as the ‘Bellows Squadron’. However, the details of how and why aircraft were at various times marked ‘Bellows’ are quite complex. Initially, several subscription aircraft were delivered to both squadrons with a full inscription (‘Fellowship of the Bellows’, “Bellows Argentina I, II  etc). It seems that word got back to Buenos Aires that a squadron was being equipped entirely from the Argentinian contribution, where of course the reality of aircraft allocations, movements, losses and replacements was a lot more complicated. What is known is that In June 1942, presumably for the sake of PR, someone somewhere decided to announce that 263 was a new squadron, formed with Bellows sponsorship. 
The Buenos Aires ex-pat journal, of which more below, proudly reported “June 17th  1942 – The first Whirlwind squadron, paid for by the United Fellowship of the Bellows, takes to the air” All was well until a Movietone camera crew turned up in November 1942 to make a short film for the benefit of the Argentinian Bellows organisation. In the resulting footage the hastily-added ‘Bellows’ under the cockpits of the featured aircraft can very clearly be seen!

Squadron Leader Woodward climbing into P7105 (not a presentation aircraft) for the cameras

So, who were the ‘Bellows’ anyway?

At the outbreak of World War II there was a mature British ex-pat community across all of South America – in the case of Argentina there was a large and established Anglophone business community in Buenos Aires.

Argentina maintained its neutrality throughout most of the conflict (finally declaring war on the Axis powers in March 1945), though the government did display German sympathies for the most part. In this period, the British ex-pat community set about being as disruptive to the Nazis as possible, while preserving an image of eccentric harmlessness that seemed to have had the strong German presence completely taken in. At the same time, the impulse was to support Britain in what was, at the time, a desperate struggle for survival.

Several ad-men of the Ernst Berg advertising agency got together at the English Club to form the ‘Fellowship of the Bellows’, led by William Rumboll (self-styled ‘High Wind’ of the ‘Air-nonymous Fellowship of the Bellows’). These were advertising copywriters by trade, and it showed in everything the Bellows did – all was double-meaning, punning and irony. Even the name was code for what this apparently whimsical ex-pat social club was really about – Bellows create ‘More Air Force’ . ..and they also ‘Put the Wind Up’. 

The Bellows organisation spread across South America, with contributions coming in from as far afield as Uruguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico and even the Falklands. The basic money-donation scheme grew subtler, with sums being payable according to the official enemy aircraft claims of the Air Ministry – a self-set rate per aircraft, the minimum being 1 Centavo.
They had a secret finger-rotating signal to identify themselves to each other, and they had an intricate system of rankings – ‘Whiffs’ (joiners), ‘Puffs’ (payers) and ‘Snuffs’ (non-payers). The Secretaries were ‘Whirlwinds’, while the treasurer was ‘Receiver of the Windfalls’..

This was only one of the activities of this community – there was much work for British intelligence as well – Bill Rumboll himself operated a secret radio broadcasting details of German shipping movements, and later became a fully paid-up member of MI6.
Bellows Argentina was formally wound-up with a big party in Buenos Aires in 1946. I believe any remaining funds were put to local good causes.

When the Fellowship of the Bellows was wound up the total amount collected was Pesos 9,542,734.58 (approx. £600,000) of which Argentina was responsible for Pesos 3,140,000.00 (approx. £200,000). This had been sent to the Ministry of Aircraft Production through the British Patriotic Fund. In addition, Pesos 747,228.60 (approx. £50,000) was sent to the RAF Benevolent Fund, and Pesos 16,298 (approx. £1,000) was used to assist Argentine scholars abroad. The total number of Fellows was estimated to be over 200,000 including 56,000 in Argentina and 35,000 in Uruguay. On September 7th 1945, the ‘Fellowships of the Bellows’ blew themselves out at a mammoth ‘Deflation Party’ at the Plaza Hotel, Buenos Aires attended by more than 1000 ‘fellow bellows’, including specially selected young ladies to represent each of the many Latin American countries that had raised funds in this way. Nearly 10 million Pesos (approx. £600,000) had been raised at a time when a Spitfire cost £5,000. The founders of the Fellowship of the Bellows maintained their anonymity throughout their lives and eschewed any publicity. However, the identity of the principals can now (2014) formally be made public. The High Wind was E A (Bill) Rumboll, who was with Ernst Berg & Cia (Advertising Agency) and also worked for British Intelligence in Buenos Aires until he had to flee to Britain when his cover was blown.
 Some countries involved were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and the Falkland Islands. Uruguay had a Whirlwind of its own.

Fiji was not a Bellows organisation, it was the Governor and his wife, Mr and Mrs. Ellis.

Interestingly 'Pride of Yeovil' P7056 was a presentation aircraft - from the local 'Buffalo' lodge, Yeovil branch - which was called the 'Pride of Yeovil' Lodge.


Photo DescriptionRef Numbers (AM or other)  NOTES
  Artificial Horizon 6A/599 Artificial Horizon, Mk. I
 20. ASI Correction Card plus holder 6A/387 or 6A/409
 21.  Engine Speed Indicators 6A/776 Mk. IVA3500 rpm
24. x1 Oil temp gauges 6A/157 (20') Mk1A11.5' to Engine bay, therefore 20'
Luminous orange bezel
 28. x2 Coolant temp gauges  6A/494 (10') Mk. VIIIH  6' distance to Radiator, therefore 10' capillary would do?
Blue bezels fitted to earlier instruments, green used for most of the war.
 34. Spade Grip Dunlop pattern AHO 2040Same type as used on Hurricane, including brake lever
 113.  Fuel pressure Indicators5C/1638Lamp unit

 The parts coloured green we already have, so if anyone finds any of the instruments above can you please let us know.

Contact details are as follows----

The Secretary, 57 Bramblefield Lane, Sittingbourne, Kent, ME10 2SX

                                  Copyright The Whirlwind Fighter Project 2011/2014

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