Tuesday, 31 March 2015

April Newsletter

Every so often something surprising turnes up, we always thought that the UK was the only country to operate the Whirlwind apart of course, the USA that had one for evaluation. So to all our shock it has been discovered that the Whirlwind was in overseas service with the Botswana Defence Force, There don't appear to be any photographs available but I have been able to find a profile of the said aircraft. I have no idea who drew it but I reproduce it here for you to see and draw your own conclusions. We have been trying to find out the aircrafts serial number but as of yet to no avail so if anyone can help we would be very interested.

Profile from the web


Our 2nd AGM will be held on the 30th of May 2015 and will be held at the...
Premier Inn, The Phoenix Center, Millennium Way West, Nottingham, NG8 6AS.
Start time will be 1300hrs and tea and coffee will be available.
This year we have been able to arrange a number of speakers each doing about 20 minutes.

Jim Munro on "Ghosts of the Whirlwind".
Dave Birch from the RR Heritage Museum on the Peregrine.
Mike Coghlan on his father Humphrey who flew with 137 Sq.
Roger Bailey from the Shuttleworth Trust.

There will of course be a raffle to raise funds for the project.
Can you please let me know if you plan to attend by sending an email to the address at the bottom of this issue.
All are welcome.

Don't forget, it's never to late to donate

Your Whirlwind needs you

You can donate via Paypal at the shop site. 


And talking about donations I would like to take this opportunity to thank the following for their kind contributions to the project. without their generosity it would be more of a struggle than it is now.

Philip Cooper
David Taylor
Robin Cole-Hamilton.

Flying the Royal Air Force Westland Whirlwind

by Group Captain Arthur H. Donaldson, DSO, DFC, AFC, RAF, Ret.
 The design of the Whirlwind started in 1935 in response to Air Ministry Specification F .37135 under the direction of W.E. Petter, Chief Designer for the Westland Aeroplane Company. (Mr. Petter also designed the Canberra Bomber, the Lighting Fighter, currently RAF Fighter Command's front line defense, and the Folland Gnat, the RAF's present trainer.) The low wing, twin engine monoplane was of all metal construction with stressed-skin covering. It was just over 32 ft. in overall length and had a wing span of 45 ft. Overall empty aircraft weight was 8300 lbs, while the loaded weight varied between 10,000 and 11,000 lbs, depending on the mission and weapon stores carried. Test flown in October 1938, the first orders from the Air Ministry were placed for 200 Whirlwinds in January 1939. It entered RAF service in June 1940 when the initial deliveries were made to 25 Squadron at North Weald, but these planes were shortly after reassigned to 263 Squadron at Drem. Due to production delays of the engines, full squadron strength was not reached until early 1941. Although basically designed as an interceptor fighter, the Whirlwind arrived in service at the same time as the later modified versions of the Supermarine Spitfire. As an interceptor fighter, its performance was very similar to the Spitfire, though it could not quite reach the same altitude, and having twin engines it could not compete with the Spitfire from an economic standpoint. However, the Whirlwind had one vital asset which, at that time, no other aircraft possessed; its armament consisted of no less than four 20rnm cannons fixed in its nose and firing forward. This armament was superior to any other aircraft in the fighter role (the Hurricane and Spitfire started with 303 caliber guns, though the later Spitfire had two 20mm cannons fitted). In addition, the Whirlwind could carry two 500 lb bombs under the wings. Thus, the Air Ministry realized that its true value was as a Ground Attack Fighter or Fighter Bomber. The Whirlwind had excellent one
engine performance, though it was a little handicapped in this respect in that each engine had its own fuel supply system so that in the event of engine failure, it was impossible to use the fuel from the tank of the dead engine on the remaining live engine. It was a very robust aircraft. On one occasion I was shot up by ground flak, 40mm Bofors type. My helmet was torn from my head and I received head injuries; the cockpit canopy was smashed and there were over 100 holes in the aircraft, yet it brought me safely home across 120 miles of sea, although I had to land with my undercarriage up because it was too damaged to let down. The speed of the Whirlwind was similar to the Spitfire and the Luftwaffe's Fw 190. It was certainly as maneuverable as the 190, and probably more so. I can remember being attacked from the rear by a Fw 190, which I had no difficulty in shaking off by turning steeply. Another advantage enjoyed by the Whirlwind over most other fighters were the slats fitting to the leading edge of both wings. These came out at slow speeds thus increasing the lift and reducing the stalling speed. The aircraft was therefore able to land in a much shorter space than most fighter aircraft of that period. The obvious advantage in a dog fight was that as soon as one pulled back hard on the stick, the slats came out and one could tighten the offensive or evasive turn even more. The Whirlwind had two Rolls-Royce Peregrine 12-cylinder liquid-cooled engines, each developing 850 hp. Westland could have fitted a more powerful engine and improved the performance of the Whirlwind, but by then the jet engine had been invented and the Gloster Meteor fighter was entering service, so that the cost was considered prohibitive. All in all, I can honestly say that I consider the Whirlwind to be the finest plane I have flown, and I must have flown over 100 different types, both British and American. The Spitfire was nicer in some respects, but the fact that the Whirlwind had two engines made one feel very safe, especially when one had been hit over enemy territory. 

Stuart Lovell

Extract from “Tony Lovell: A very proper type”

...... Stuart Lovell was probably among that batch of 28 fully-fledged pilots who were posted to squadrons from Usworth on 9th December 1941.  He was the only British officer in the group, and one of only three British pilots. 

Apart from a Polish officer, two of whose comrades had flown into the ground while flying formation, the rest were mainly Canadians and Australian sergeant pilots, with a handful of Americans.  A number of others had been posted away as "unsuitable for fighter aircraft".

On 16th December 1941 Stuart joined 263 Sqdn (Whirlwinds), which was then on the move between Charmy Down and Colerne.  Perhaps because of this, he was able to spend Christmas with Alicia and his in-laws at Portstewart, and his New Year with Alicia at RAF Catterick, where his brother Tony - three years his junior - was then commanding 145 Sqdn (Spitfires).

Stuart and Alicia, Cromore, Portstewart

As the brothers did not get on particularly well in each other's company (although Tony had been Stuart’s best man at his wedding) it is tempting to see in Stuart's visit to Catterick an element of fraternal rivalry on his part; a demonstration that he too had joined the elite band of fighter pilots in which Tony had already won his spurs.  The fact that Tony already had a command was probably a bit galling to Stuart; on the other hand Stuart would have been able to exhibit Alicia as a trophy won from his brother.

New Year 1942 opened with a ball in the Mess at Catterick.  Tony attended, a gold silkworm badge on the lapel of his squadron leader's uniform, denoting his membership of the Caterpillar Club (he was one of those who owed his life to the silken canopy of a parachute - his sister-in-law Alicia referred to the badge as a wiggly worm).

It was a good party - Alicia remembered leading the station C.O. in a conga line - and the following day Tony came to see her where she was staying at the Catterick Bridge Hotel; for despite her marriage to his brother, Tony still looked upon Alicia as the confidante which she had been in their teenage years.

He now recalled how, on leave from Catterick before the war, he had bicycled over to Cromore from Portrush to see her.  They had chatted for an hour in front of the big house, and he had been flabbergasted (he said) to realise that the girl he had grown up with was actually capable of holding a serious discussion.

In the Catterick Bridge Hotel, on New Years Day, the two talked about marriage; and Tony told his sister-in-law that he had been thinking about getting married.  It was not, she felt, a subject he would have bothered to raise on a purely speculative basis; he actually had marriage in mind. 

No-one specific was mentioned, but she retained the impression of a pretty, dark-haired girl:

            "He must have kept it very quiet.  He knew it would hurt his mother's feelings terribly.... how disappointed she'd be if he didn't become a priest."

(Tony was not as indifferent to female charms as some of his fellow-pilots and others believed; Norman Ryder and Bill Stapleton both thought that he was not the type to have anything to do with women - Stapleton making the point that Tony was not disinterested, just too moral.)

Alicia knew that he was attracted to girls. She remembered one occasion when Tony's Aunt Kitty (O'Neill) had rearranged the placement on a pre-war cinema outing in Portrush, to prevent what she had considered an unnecessarily-close Tony/Doreen arrangement in the back row.  Doreen, who hovered around the edge of "The Gang", was not thought desirable by the forceful Miss Kitty O'Neill. 9

Meanwhile just before Christmas, 263 Sqdn squadron had spent four days at Warmwell on air firing practice, and on 30th December had gone down to Exeter to stand in for other squadrons which were covering a raid on Brest.

All this activity was missed by Stuart on leave; in fact it seems likely that he did not physically join 263 until after the new year, as the notice of his posting in December 1941 is noted as an addendum in squadron records for January 1942.

Between Charmy Down and Colerne the squadron was more or less non-operational: "All we did was a couple of air scrambles and some air firing at Weston Zoyland", says Jim Coyne, at that time a Canadian sergeant pilot.

Stuart and Alicia took digs in Bath.  At one particularly good party they gave for the Flight, a shortage of glasses meant that the pilots were drinking beer out of flower vases.  To the dismay of the people upstairs, celebrations continued until four in the morning, and Joe Holmes spent what was left of the night on the sofa in the sitting room.  10

No.263 Sqdn moved to Fairwood Common on 10th February 1942, tasked with convoy patrol down the Bristol Channel down as far as Lundy Island.  Each convoy was protected by a pair of Whirlwinds, circling tightly above at 1000-1500 feet to discourage low-flying Ju.88s.

This was quite a dangerous manoeuvre, as British ships of whatever sort had a tendency to blast off at any aircraft which came within range, regardless of whose side it was on: "fire first, ask questions later", was the Navy motto.

At this time the popular C.O., Tommy Pugh, was posted away as Squadron Leader Tactics at 82 Group HQ, and was replaced by S/Ldr Robert Woodward DFC from 137 Sqdn, a young ex-Beaufighter pilot with a Ju.88 and an He.111 already under his belt.

In less than a month - 1st March 1942 - Stuart was attached to 2DF Colerne as a delivery pilot.  Three weeks later he was transferred to 51 OTU and remained there five weeks. 11

Possibly he had been posted to the OTU as an instructor, but he hardly would have had enough experience for that.  It may be that he himself was in need of further training on twin-engined aircraft before he could  be trusted with a Whirlwind (there was no specific OTU for the Whirlwind, which was the only British twin-engined fighter of the time, and it was not until later that the squadron had a twin-engined Airspeed Oxford trainer of its own - as did the other Whirlwind unit, 137 Sqdn 12 - on which new pilots could be taught to fly asymmetrically). 

The normal procedure on 263 Sqdn was for each newcomer to be attached to an experienced pilot whose brains he would pick for a day or so.  Then at the appropriate time the flight commander would tell him to get his parachute and climb into a particular aircraft. 

Jim Coyne recalled that "The flight commander would stand on your wing for about 10 minutes going through the drill and asking you a lot of questions.... the first time I took off it was a bit of a hairy do. 

"At OTU" (he had also been at Usworth) "we'd heard all sorts of hairy stories about this aeroplane.  Its performance was 25% better than a Hurricane, but the engines heated very quickly because the radiators were in the wings.  But in fact it was very reliable, although it was the rattliest old aircraft in the RAF - the Whirlwind used to rattle its paint off...

"It was also very stable, an excellent gun platform.  We had four cannon and 60 rounds, which gave us about 10 seconds.  That was fairly hefty hitting power, with a lot of semi-AP and every fifth round an incendiary....."

A squadron photo of February 1942, captioned by Joe Holmes, shows Stu Lovell in the company of (A) Sgts Reed, Abrams, Kennedy, Jardine and Wright; (B) the engineer officer, P/Os Currie and Brandon, F/O King, F/Sgts Gill and Hicks; (C) P/Os Brearley and Holmes, F/O Crabtree, S/Ldr Pugh, G/Capt. Harvey, F/Lts Warnes and Bishop, F/O Harvey, P/O Blackwell; (D) Sgts Coyne, Prior, Ridley, Walker, McPhail, Stu Lovell with Ranee the Great Dane, and P/O William Lovell. 13

However Jim Coyne says that line (B) should read engineering officer ? Hay, Peter Ewing, Les Currie, Brannigan, Rex King, Don Gill, Colin Bell;  (C) should read Eddie Brearley, Joe Holmes, Norman Crabtree, Tommy Pugh, G.C. Harvey, Geoff Warnes, F/Lt Owen aka The Bishop, Tim Harvey, F/Lt Blackshaw; (D) should read Coyne, Mickey Muirhead, Ken Ridley, Johnnie Walker, Small, Stu Lovell and Bill Lovell.

From Fairwood Common 263 Sqdn went to Angle, near Milford Haven, on 18th April 1942, but it was not until 30th May that Stuart became operational on the Whirlwind.

The C.O. at that time appears not to have been as respected as his predecessor Tommy Pugh, or as his successor Geoff Warnes.  The news that he had given his pretty new wife a copy of Richard Hilary's book The Last Enemy as a wedding present was greeted with amazement on the squadron, and was held up as an example of his lack of common sense.

Said one pilot: "How could anyone be so stupid?  It wasn't bedtime reading..... He was a twit - we said there's no way he's going to make it.  He tried hard to be one of the boys but the guys had no confidence in him, and he was not sharp enough to notice....."

Although wives were not encouraged on squadron, the C.O.’s wife and Alicia Lovell lived in a small hotel near the RAF station.  When a boat race was organised by the two flights, the girls were given dungarees and scrapers and got down to preparing the boats for racing; B Flight maanaged to overturn their boat outside the harbour mouth.

Despite this episode, it was not widely known on squadron that Stu was married - Jim Coyne was unaware, as were Donald Tebbitt and Cliff Rudland. Tebbitt didn't even know that the C.O.'s wife was a camp follower.

Jim Coyne had wondered why Stu wasn't always around when the rest of the gang were whooping it up, because Stu was a great party enthusiast:  "The C.O. wasn't around a lot either; Geoff Warnes was leader of the gang."  (Another claim to fame of Geoff Warnes was that he was the first RAF pilot to be known to wear contact lenses).

Operations from Angle were similar to the convoy patrol tasks undertaken out of Fairwood Common, but the threat from Ju.88 intruders was now taken more seriously. 

To increase the chances of interception, 263 Sqdn mounted ‘pig-stick’ patrols in which all 12 aircraft flew line abreast at one-mile intervals, sweeping out into the Irish Sea in the hope of falling in with the daily Luftwaffe reconnaissance flight.

At Angle half the squadron would be on instant readiness, and the other half on 30 minutes.  Pilots of the standby flight would relax on the nearby beach, knowing that if the panic button went, the station Magister would take off over them and fire a red flare for their benefit.  The pilots would then clamber hastily up the cliffs.

The squadron moved to Exeter and then to Warmwell in Dorset, from where it was mainly engaged in anti-shipping attacks along the coasts of Normandy and Brittany. 14   One such operation was described by AVM "Birdy" Bird-Wilson in his diary for 7th Dec. 1942, when he was commanding 66 Sqdn (Spitfires) at Zeals:

            I led my first big show today.  Ramrod 45.  Ordered to prang some ships near Jersey.  No 66 Squadron led as anti-flak.  Eight Whirlwinds of 263 Squadron went in second and eight Spitfires of 118 Squadron as fighter cover.  Formation flew at zero feet to west of Guernsey and then headed for Jersey.  Sighted the convoy anchored outside and to the east of the harbour.  Two big ships and 10-15 barges and flak boats.  We picked our targets and went in like hell at sea level.  Took the ships completely by surprise and received no flak as we closed in.  Went for the bigger ship and saw my ammo well and truly home around the captain's cabin.  The chaps were wizard and gave the ships hell.  The Whirlwinds did very good bombing but lost two - Squadron Leader R.S. Woodward DFC the CO, and Warrant Officer McPhale.  No huns sighted, ack-ack very heavy and heavy artillery gave us a packet from the cliffs.  15
Stuart Lovell had been promoted to Flying Officer on 20th September 1942, but when the question of the command of his flight came up the following spring it was Jim Coyne, five months Stu's junior, who was appointed by the astute Geoff Warnes.

It does seem as though his fellow pilots were not over-impressed by Stu's enthusiasm; they did not, said Coyne, who claimed to have flown two sorties to each of Lovell's, regard him as a press-on spirit (although later, "Poppa" Ambrose of 257 Sqdn described Stuart in exactly those terms).

It may be that Stuart's age - he was older than most of the others - told against him, or his bad eyesight: when others pointed out some distant feature, Stu could be heard saying "Where?  Where?"  16.

It may be that he took umbrage at being passed over, and asked to be transferred; it may be that he was bored with flying Whirlwinds, and wanted to get his hands on a gung-ho Typhoon.  Perhaps it was simply that he could see the 257 Sqdn types on the other side of Warmwell aerodrome having more action and more fun.

Whatever the cause, Stu Lovell was posted across the airfield to 257 Sqdn and their Typhoons in April 1943:

            24.4.43  F/O S.J. Lovell reported from 263 Squadron Warmwell for flying duties.

By 1350 he was in the air for an hour in Hurricane V.6703, presumably re-familiarising himself with a single-engined aircraft, and again for 50 minutes later on in the afternoon: 

            Local flying prior to flying Typhoons

said the ORB....


9.  Kitty O'Neill was secretary of the Royal Portrush Ladies' Golf Club, a tireless collector on flag and flower days for such causes as the Hopefield Cottage Hospital, and was the Queen Bee of Portrush amateur dramatics.  With her dominant personality she ruled the roost in the Lovell household: "very few of us ever crossed Auntie Kitty" (John McConnell, pers. comm).  Local journalist Hugh McGrattan has also referred to her dominant personality, of which he became aware while collecting from her the results of the Ladies' Golf at Royal Portrush - "although she was always most helpful, and woe betide me if I got the names or scores wrong!"

10.  Mrs Alicia Johnson-Montagu, formerly Mrs Alicia Lovell. (pers. comm.).  Group-Captain Joe Holmes died in Jersey in 1993.

11.  PRO AIR 27/1547.

12.  G/Capt John Wray, Co, 137 Sqdn (Whirlwinds) - pers. comm.  "It was a very easy aircraft to fly", says G/Capt. Wray; "very fast, very manoeuvrable, and you'd got four 20mm cannon each with 60 rounds - although that wasn't really quite enough.  And it could pick up speed like no-one's business, although bombs and bomb-racks took 20mph off the top speed."  G/Capt. Wray is also on record as saying that to go to a Whirlwind squadron one had to (a) volunteer, and (b) be an above-average pilot ("Scramble to Victory", Norman Franks).

13.  G/Capt. Joe Holmes (pers. comm), from whom the photo.   A copy has been lodged with the Imperial War Museum.

14.  P/O W.E. Watkins (pers. comm).

15.  AVM Birdy Bird-Wilson in "Scramble to Victory" (Norman Franks).  Leslie Sinel in his Occupation Diary recorded:

‘About 2pm to-day British planes attacked a German convoy off Noirmont and inflicted heavy damage; two ships were sunk (one of them of 700 tons was comparatively new and had recently been brought from Holland); two barges were also sunk and another ship was brought into harbour very badly damaged, the whole of the gun-crew having been wiped out......The claims of the R.A.F. as announced by the B.B.C. were "one ship left sinking and two others on fire".  This has cheered us all up, and everyone is giving the "thumbs up" sign.....'

16.  Jim Coyne (pers. comm.)

Whirlwind Stories

Profile from the web


Joined 263 Squadron on the 7th of December 1940 on the 4th of may the following year while being flown by Cliff Rudland she suffered from a slat breaking off. After visiting various MU she ended up back at 263 Squadron and was coded HE-X. Again on the 21st of March 42 she had faulty flaps. On the 15th June 43 she was damaged by flack whils being flown by Ken Ridley. She was damaged again on the 4th of July and in October she crash laned at Warmwell due to flack damage.

Operational hours 81:40

From BBC news in Dorset

 The painting was found on the wall of a former YMCA hostel at RAF Warmwell

Campaigners have launched a search for the family of a World War Two airman whose painting remained hidden behind a shop's fridge for 70 years.
In 1942, Sgt Sidney Beaumont painted a gremlin in a plane on the wall of a former RAF hostel in Crossways, Dorset.
The artwork, which had come under threat amid plans to turn the building into a supermarket, was saved after a local campaign.
Local historians have said Sgt Beaumont's family tree is "a mystery".
Crossways was the site of former airbase RAF Warmwell and the shop, Tree Stores, was a YMCA hostel when airman Sgt Beaumont, of 263 Squadron, decided to paint on the wall there.
Colin Shaw and his wife Suzanne garnered support to save the unusual piece of wartime art via a Facebook page.
The artwork had been preserved over the years and was never painted over, but the bid to save it was launched when plans to turn the shop into a Co-op supermarket were revealed.

Sergeant Sydney Beaumont
Sgt Bob Beaumont
 Sergeant Sidney Beaumont also painted his gremlin on the nose of his Westland Whirlwind fighter
Following the campaign, a private company agreed in February to fund the removal of the painting, which was placed in storage while plans to display it in the village hall were discussed.
"Heritage means a lot to us as a village," Mr Shaw said.
The Shaws have said they now want to track down relatives of Sgt Beaumont.
Mr Shaw said: "I'm sure his family would be overwhelmed to see how much his artwork has meant so much all these years down the line."
Local historian Anthony Cooke said what happened to Sgt Beaumont remains a mystery as there are no official records of his death.
Gremlins, like the one depicted in Sgt Beaumont's painting, were a type of mythical bogeyman said to sabotage aircraft, Mr Cooke said.

Gremlin in a plane
 The artwork was safely removed and is currently in storage

Although he is called Sidney in this artical his full name was Robert Charles Beaumont otherwise known as Bob.

For further information on Sgt Bob Beaumont and 263 Squadron please visit this web site.


Jeff Beaumont, Bobs Grandson is a member of this project and is the publisher of the above web site so not very hard to find after all....

Shop talk

Print of signed Whirlwind Prototype
£25.00 plus P&P

 T Shirt
£10.00 plus P&P

 Baseball Cap
£9.00 plus P&P

£6.00 plus P&P

This book is available from Rob direct 
Please contact him at the email adress below.


For other items please go to the web shop at webstore

Many thanks must go to Stuart Lovell, Rob Bowater, Grp Captain Arthur Donaldson and of course the BBC for the use of text and photographs in this issue.

Contact details

The Whirlwind Fighter Project is a member of the BAPC.

Copyright WFP 2011/2015

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