By Dave O’Malley
Over the past ten years of Vintage News stories, there has been much research to verify facts and find images that help tell the remarkable stories of Canada’s aviators. Throughout that time, I have come across many spectacular images which, though beautiful, have no bearing on the story being researched. For many months, I simply viewed these images online and then moved on with my quest for illustrative photos.
Eventually, I started dragging these images into a new file folder and I called it Random Beauty. Into that folder, regardless of whether they were related to our stories or not, I dumped these powerful or revealing images, not quite knowing what I was going to do with them. Eventually, their numbers reached a critical mass and Vintage Wings ran a story—or rather a gallery of fifty or so of the best images—just for the sake of the image. I took the name of the folder on my hard drive where they were stored—Random Beauty—and that became the title of the article and indeed a repeating feature of Vintage News.
The images range from the dramatically sublime to the poignantly voyeuristic, to the almost artistic to the just plain quirky and even ones that simply offer me a chance to tell a unique and tiny vignette from the massively complex six-year span that was the Second World War. Critical mass was achieved earlier this year for the fourth time, and I knew that these photos should be shared even though they do not necessarily jive with our goal to promote Canadian aviation history. If for no other reason than that they paint a dramatic landscape of the beauty, the violence and the determination of military aviation, we present them here.
All photos in this group are from the Second World War since they were found during photo searches for that period. As well, since this past year I did a lot of research into naval aviation preparing for several stories still to come, I ran across many great naval air shots—many of which are to follow. A few are not for the faint of heart and capture a moment of extreme stress and even death. So a word of caution before you scroll down.
Throughout this past year, I have spent an unusual amount of time photo searching through the outstanding Photo Collection of the Imperial War Museum in Great Britain. This extraordinary site is a wonderful place to while away an afternoon—time well wasted as they say. In addition, some of my go-to websites for historical information are greatly represented, including such admirable sites as the photo-rich and through NavSource.org.
In addition, I have included a number of extraordinary photographs from the personal collection of aviation and editorial photographer Richard Mallory Allnutt, a passionate lover of history and culture, in particular the history of Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm operations during the Second World War. Richard scours the internet auction houses, looking for photographs, albums, record books, vintage publications and “objets” that he can acquire that help tell the story of these largely forgotten warriors. Often a seller, who has lost the emotional connection with a veteran’s story in his or her family, will break apart the photographs in a personal album, selling them individually for greater profit. Richard will try to purchase all the photos to keep them together where they tell a more powerful personal story and will help researchers in the future piece together the collective experience of the Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War.
These photographs became the nuclei of 85 or so 100–200 word stories and as such demonstrate the complexity and heroics of military aviation in the Second World War. Apart, they are each a vignette of that time, but together they let us peek voyeuristically through the lens of recorded history at the powerful visual drama of the time. They are but a drop in the sea of courage and suffering—not the whole story by any means, but small parts that deserve a read and a look. They make us smile, grimace, scratch our heads, and give us pause to reflect on the effort, the memories and the waste.
Let’s, as I always say, let the photos do the talking. Here’s my deepest gratitude to everyone caught on camera.
Caption for introductory image above: Not since some of the flying shots in Catch-22, have I seen such a revealing image of the tight confines of one of America’s medium bombers. Here one of my favourite aircraft of the era, a Martin B-26 Marauder, closes in tight to the photographer, while members of the crew get a real close look - and I mean real close! Given the quality of the lenses back in the 1940s, this was probably a lot closer than it looks. The mid-upper gunner cranes his neck between the pilots (who look like twin brothers), while the bombardier in the nose blister hauls nonchalantly on a fag. It’s a surprisingly intimate photo of men at work in a flying world where we almost always see only the aircraft. This Marauder is specifically a Martin B-26B-20-MA Marauder 41-31765 Fightin' Cock [Squadron Code ER-X] of the 450th Bomb Squadron of the 322nd Bomb Group of the 9th Air Force. Fightin’ Cock was written-off after crash-landing on August 12, 1944 at RAF Great Dunmow. It had received flak damage while over France and had its electrical system, generators and hydraulic systems shot out. The crew nursed Fightin’ Cock back to the base in Essex County, UK and got the gear cranked down after the pilot ordered the unessential crew to bail out. While trying to land, the plane skidded off the runway and into the control tower, killing both pilots. It is not known whether these two men— 2nd Lt. John R. Walker and 2nd Lt. Bruce Taylor—are the men we see in this photograph. Image via Wikipedia
In July of 1944, the weather was extraordinarily hot, even in the North Atlantic Ocean. Here, a Fleet Air Arm Grumman Wildcat pilot reads a book and sits alert duty under the shade of an umbrella on the flight deck of the Royal Navy escort carrier HMS Fencer. The date is 30 July and at the time, Fencer was providing anti-submarine air cover for Convoy SL164/MKS55. Thanks to such escort, the slow-moving convoy of 34 ships safely made Liverpool three days later. Photo from the Collection of Richard Mallory Allnutt
One of my favourite aircraft carrier photographs of all time, taken from an escort destroyer, shows a range of operations going on aboard USS Yorktown (CV-10) in 1943. On the upper flight deck, a Grumman Hellcat of Navy Fighting Squadron VF-1 is about to launch, while below on the open hangar deck, off duty crew relax in the shade and watch the escort vessel. The hangar deck catapult can be seen bisecting the hangar deck at mid-photo. At the bottom of the photo, the sea is churning with the combined wakes of Yorktown (known as The Fighting Lady) and her escort. In the distance stands the coastline of an unknown island of the Pacific or possibly the Caribbean where she carried out her shakedown cruise. I like this image for the contrast it demonstrates—up top, the pilot of the Hellcat is no doubt anxious and excited—with an elevated heart rate—while below, officers (likely pilots) relax in the shade and take a break from operations. Photo: US Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation
A Supermarine Walrus flying boat is launched from one of the aft catapults of HMS Pegasus, a seaplane training and convoy defence vessel of the Royal Navy during the Second World War. The unique angle of the photo, taken from below on the aft deck, speaks of the speed of the launch which sent the Walrus from zero to 70 mph in less than a second. Pegasus was the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier (actually a seaplane tender), and was launched as HMS Ark Royal in the First World War, but renamed Pegasus in 1934 when the wartime fleet carrier we know as Ark Royal was first laid down. At the time of this photo, September 1942, Pegasus was a catapult training ship, training pilots for CAM ships (Catapult Aircraft Merchantman) and for Walrus rescue duty. She was operating near Lamlash, Scotland. Photo: Imperial War Museum, © IWM (A 12032)
Flying from aircraft carriers is a very dangerous business at the best of times, with any number of ways to die—all of them visually spectacular on camera. The New Zealander pilot of this Grumman Avenger aboard HMS Shah stalled on launch and rolled hard to the left, which was a good thing—the aircraft hit the water to port of the oncoming carrier. Death was cheated in this instance—the pilot, Sub Lieutenant J. Delany and his crew being rescued. Photo from the Collection of Richard Mallory Allnutt
Hanging by a thread. A Supermarine Seafire has landed poorly, catching the edge of HMS Ravager’s flight deck and getting snagged in safety netting and the hoist mechanism. In most cases like this, damage to the aircraft and the difficulties in recovery mean the fighter is cut loose to drop into the sea, never to be seen again. Photo from the Collection of Richard Mallory Allnutt
A fight for life. Photographers aboard Royal Navy aircraft carriers were daily witnesses to life and death struggles as exhausted airmen brought their aircraft home after long and demanding missions. Here, the three crewmen aboard a Fleet Air Arm Fairey Swordfish from HMS Tracker struggle to release their harnesses before their “Stringbag” sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic and takes them with it. A series of photographs in the collection of Richard Allnutt starts with this image, likely taken as the Swordfish (from 816 Squadron) slid down the starboard side of the carrier past the island superstructure and ends with a number of images that show that the aircraft sank within 100 metres of the ship and that the crew got out safely. Photo from the Collection of Richard Mallory Allnutt
As I write this, yet another snowfall descends on Ottawa and I dread having to shovel my 25-foot driveway. I can’t imagine how daunting the entire flight deck of HMS Tracker must have seemed to these sailors with coal shovels and brooms. It is not known on which of the North Atlantic convoy escort runs done by Tracker that this photo was taken, but at the end of March of 1944, she operated as escort to Convoy JW58 bound for the Kola Peninsula and the city of Murmansk. Photo from the Collection of Richard Mallory Allnutt
Turkey in the soup. The timing of this photograph of an HMS Tracker-based Avenger (either from 853 or 846 Squadron) striking the water is impeccable, if rather frightening. The Avenger’s propeller is just striking the surface of the water as the large torpedo bomber and its three-man crew hit the surface inverted. It is not known the exact circumstances of the crash or if the crew survived. Avenger’s were nicknamed “turkeys” by their crews. Photo from the Collection of Richard Mallory Allnutt
I always appreciate a photograph taken from a different angle, such as this shot taken from the forecastle of HMS Vindex of a Fairey Swordfish launching and “sagging” into view beneath the flight deck edge. Vindex was one of only three Royal Navy escort carriers of the Nairana-class built in Great Britain, the others being Nairana and Campania. Photo from the Collection of Richard Mallory Allnutt
On half a wing and a prayer. The day before the amphibious assault on Iwo Jima, the starving and doomed Japanese garrison on Chichijima, the next island in the archipelago, came under attack by carrier-based aircraft of the United States Navy. The island was used as the primary site for Japanese long-range radio relay operations and surveillance activity in the Pacific. Avengers were used to take out the two radio stations on the island, but they faced anti-aircraft fire. This Avenger from USS Bennington, flown by Lieutenant Robert King, was one of three Avengers attacking Chichijima’s airfield. Another of the Avengers was hit by flak which blew its right wing off. That Avenger rolled hard right and into a spin, hitting King’s Avenger. The left wing of the dying Avenger struck and crumpled the rear fuselage of King’s “Turkey” and its propeller chewed off half the port wing. With the aircraft out of control at 9,000 feet, King ordered his two crewmen (Jim Dye and Grady York) to bail out, but, as he was attempting to get out himself, the aircraft righted itself and he regained control. The other Avenger spun out of control into the sea, killing all on board. The two crewmen landed close to the shore of Chichijima, waded ashore and were captured. Sadly, they were later executed by the desperate and unstable Japanese, as were six other US Navy airmen shot down in the same period. King made it back to the carrier, escorted by squadron mates, ditched and was picked up. He was, however, devastated by survivor’s guilt. In this photo we can see the tension in his shoulders as he fights the controls with both hands. Photo: US Navy
We’ve all seen the few ghostly photographs of a Spitfire “tipping a doodlebug” and been in awe of the courage and skill of the pilots. The technique of destroying a V-1 flying bomb required a pilot of a fast fighter to spot one coming across the English Channel, execute a turn to a parallel course and edge close enough to place a wingtip under the wing of the missile. With a quick jab of the control column, the Spitfire pilot could lift the wing tip of the rocket and topple its gyro, sending it into an uncontrolled dive. Though the technique is much talked about, it accounted for only 16 V-1s destroyed. The old fashioned method of trailing them and shooting them down accounted for hundreds of V-1s destroyed, though it could be a very dangerous business with the possibility of the warhead exploding. One can only imagine what it was like for a twenty-something young man to look off his port wing to see an unmanned, sinister, swastika-emblazoned, flame-spewing vengeance weapon just twenty-five feet away and flying along with you. Peter Middleton, the grandfather of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, was one such courageous pilot. At the height of the V-1 attacks, more than 100 V-1s were launched each day against London and southeast England. A total of around 9,500 “doodlebugs” were launched at England in this four-month period, killing nearly 23,000 people, mostly civilians. Photo: Imperial War Museum, © IWM (CH 16280)
One of my all-time favourite photographs of Second World War aviation is not of an aircraft, but rather this shot of an exhausted Canadian Halifax pilot of Bomber Command’s 405 Pathfinder Squadron, RCAF. The physical and mental toll of a night mission to Germany can be read in his face as he stares at nothing while drinking a hot cup of coffee. It is hard to imagine this stress, but this short description by James MacIsaac, another Canadian pilot with Bomber Command, comes closer than any I have ever read. MacIsaac, a Wellington pilot with 37 Squadron, RAF explains: “To a person wanting to visualize how intense the strain could become, how suppressed fear could swell and gnaw inside, I offer the following as a comparison, perhaps easier to imagine than the unfamiliar surroundings of a darkened bomber cockpit framed in faintly luminous dials. Imagine yourself in a building of enormous size, pitch black inside. You are ordered to walk very slowly from one side to the other, then back. This walk in the dark will take you perhaps five or six hours. You know that in various nooks and crannies along your route killers armed with machine guns are lurking. They will quickly become aware that you have started your journey, and will be trying to find you the whole time you are in the course of it. There is another rather important psychological factor: the continuous roar emanating from nearby machinery. It precludes the possibility of your getting any audible warning of danger’s approach. You are thus aware that if the trouble you are expecting does come, it will burst upon you with the startling surprise one can experience standing in the shower and having someone abruptly jerk open the door of the steamy cubicle and shout over the noise. If the killers stalking you on your walk should happen to detect you, they will leap at you out of the darkness firing flaming tracers from their machine guns. Compared with the armament they are carrying, you are virtually defenceless. Moreover, you must carry a pail of gasoline and a shopping bag full of dynamite in one hand. If someone rushes at you and begins firing, about all you can do is fire a small caliber pistol in his direction and try to elude him in the dark. But these killers can run twice as fast as you, and if one stalks and catches you, the odds are that he will wound and then incinerate you, or blow you into eternity. You are acutely aware of these possibilities for every second of the five or six hours you walk in the darkness, braced always, consciously or subconsciously, for a murderous burst of fire, and reminded of the stakes of the game periodically by the sight of guns flashing in the dark and great volcanic eruptions of flaming gasoline.” Bloody brilliant! For more on James MacIsaac visit his website. Photo: Imperial War Museum, © IWM (CH 6627)
Boys will be boys… especially in the testosterone-filled messes of Bomber Command. Clearly this extremely low-level beat-up of the airfield at RAF Elvington in Yorkshire in 1943 was a planned stunt, what with the camera man in the perfect spot and these airmen standing on the horizontal stabilizer of another Halifax (KN-M). Every last one of the appreciative ground crew ducks as Halifax II KN-X of 77 Squadron thunders just a few feet over their heads. Other photos in the Imperial War Museum collection clearly show that this was done more than one time this day! Photo: Imperial War Museum, © IWM (CH 10593)
Are we looking at “Winkle”? Another wonderful and perfectly timed photograph of a Hawker Sea Hurricane taking off from HMS Avenger, with its wheels at the very edge of the flight deck, indicating the pilot has used every inch of deck available to him. The date in the IWM caption indicates 27 June 1942, just a few weeks after Avenger arrived in Great Britain after her completion in the United States. Records also show that at this time a small number of former RAF Hurricanes had been converted into Sea Hurricanes and tested aboard Avenger by none other than Royal Navy test pilot legend Eric “Winkle” Brown. Avenger was sunk by U-155 just five months later in the Mediterranean Sea with the loss of 516 sailors and officers. Only 12 survived the rapid sinking. Brown was not aboard at the time. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Seeing double? A first glance, this simple but powerful photograph of a Short S.25 Sunderland flying boat looks like two aircraft flying one on top of the other; such is the size of the behemoth. The massive Sunderland had many compartments, including a galley, bunk room and a “bomb room”. Bombs and depth charges were loaded here, and run outboard on a tracked rack beneath the wings. After one run, the crew pulled the racks back inside the aircraft through fold down doors, loaded them with more bombs and ran them out again in case a second run was required. Photo: Imperial War Museum
A stunning image of the deaths of three brave airmen of Bomber Command was recorded by the camera on the following aircraft. The date is 16 June 1941 and the location is near the island of Borkum, in the East Frisian archipelago off the coast of Holland. A Bristol Blenheim Mk IV of 21 Squadron, piloted by Sergeant E. Lever, has pressed its attack so low, that its port wing has struck the mast of an enemy radio-equipped picket ship, known as a “squeaker”. Lever’s Blenheim has shed twelve feet of its wing and spun completely around to face the oncoming aircraft. In the distance, the lead Blenheim can be seen flying away. A moment later, the Blenheim hits the water killing Lever and his two crew members, Sergeant I. Overheu and Sergeant J. Phelps. The “squeaker” was sunk. Photo: Imperial War Museum
A Lib takes a selfie. Another of my favourite photographs of the Imperial War Museum’s collection depicts a Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombing a bridge at extreme low level. We don’t see the Liberator, but its shadow tells us just how low it is, and if one looks very carefully, a stick of bombs can be seen dropping just off the port side of the shadow’s nose. The wooden road bridge was between the towns of Pegu (now known as Bago) and Martaban in Burma. For more extreme low-level flying images, read our article about the subject. Photo: Imperial War Museum
A sheepdog keeps watch. Perhaps not as dramatic as other photographs in this story, nonetheless, this image of a B-24 Liberator of Coastal Command’s 120 Squadron above a convoy speaks volumes to me. For the three short hours that the Liberator patrolled over the convoy far out in the Atlantic, the merchant marine sailors below must have felt less fear and stress from imminent U-boat attack. The ships themselves, pushing on through heavy seas, speak to the determination and courage of her crews. The Liberator had made contact with the convoy after a long journey from RAF Aldergrove in Northern Ireland out over the Atlantic at low level to avoid icing in the cloud. The coverage offered by Coastal Command Liberators, combined with ASDIC (sonar) and High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF), signalled the end of U-boat supremacy after 1943, though the U-Bootwaffe continued to harass and kill until the last day of the war. Photo: Imperial War Museum
This stunning photo of a single Supermarine Spitfire in flight on 19 May 1941 is one of the finest I have seen, and for many reasons. Firstly, it depicts the classic elliptical wing form of the Spit to perfection, light glinting from the wing roots and blisters. Secondly, it is a shot of a Mk Vb, arguably the quintessential Spitfire. Thirdly, it’s a 92 Squadron Spit from RAF Biggin Hill banking hard over the nation it came to symbolize. This particular airframe (R6923/QJ-S) was originally a Spitfire Mk I, having served with 19 Squadron and No. 7 Operational Training Unit. Four weeks after this photo was taken, R6923 was shot down over the English Channel by a Messerschmitt Bf 109. Photo: Imperial War Museum
File this under “You Learn Something New Every Day.” Some carriers, like the Essex Class carrier USS Yorktown (above) could land aircraft from the bow while steaming in reverse. Who knew? It makes some degree of sense however, if the aft flight deck is on fire from a bomb or crash and aircraft need to get down. Essex Class carriers could steam 20 knots in reverse and had arrestor wires on the forward flight deck. Here, a Grumman Avenger lands on over the bow, while Yorktown steams in reverse in the summer of 1943 in the protected confines Gulf of Paria (between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago) during her shakedown cruise. A rarely practised procedure. Photo: warships1discussionboards.yuku.com
The silhouetted aircraft is a classic photographer’s trick still in use by every aviation photographer today. Something about this Short Stirling Mk III from the Empire Central Flying School (ECFS) at RAF Hullavington in Wiltshire speaks of getting home safely after a night op, even though it is just returning from a training mission. The ECFS’s main purpose was to teach flying instructors and to maintain standards of teaching and course content in the flying training system. Here pilots who would become instructors learned to fly in a wide variety of types. Photo: Imperial War Museum
A moody and mysterious photo of a DC-3 Dakota of British Overseas Airways Corporation on the ramp at Gibraltar preparing for an overnight flight to Great Britain. Being the major military fortress that it was, Gibraltar bristled with anti-aircraft and anti-shipping artillery as well as scores of searchlights. Though they are seen here probing the nighttime fog, it is possible they were turned on for the benefit of the photographer to create a powerful image, since no one could attack from the air in such meteorological conditions. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Signed, sealed and delivered. While smaller and shorter range newly-constructed aircraft like fighters were shipped to Europe on freighters in slow moving convoys, bombers and transport aircraft made their way to the war via the RAF’s Transport Command (earlier called Ferry Command) and civilian-run ATFERO (Atlantic Ferry Organization run by the Canadian Pacific Railway) which hired the pilots, oversaw route selection and coordinated with weather organizations. Here in Prestwick, Scotland, at the end of the ferry run from Canada, Canadian-built Lancaster Xs, Consolidated B-24 Liberators in Coastal Command colours, Douglas C-47 Dakotas, Boeing B-17s and B-25 Mitchells jam the aprons. Soon they will be dispersed and replacing losses throughout Bomber and Transport Command. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Things happened extremely quickly during a deck landing, particularly when landing a high-performance Corsair on a smaller escort carrier. No more than one or two seconds would have elapsed from the time this Corsair from 1836 Squadron missed the arrester wire until it settled on its back after crashing into the barrier. One can only guess what the pilot might be thinking as his aircraft tumbled over, but he would have been powerless to save the situation. Judging from the damage, he came down hard on his port landing gear, which snapped. The incident occurred in February 1945 aboard the escort carrier HMS Striker off Jervis Bay, Australia when replacement pilots for 1836 Squadron were conducting Deck Landing Training. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Gentlemen, start your engines. Fifteen Douglas Boston medium bombers of the South African Air Force run up their engines simultaneously at a forward air base somewhere in the North African desert prior to their “famous” mass takeoff. The takeoff commences with the aircraft at far right beginning its roll, followed shortly by the aircraft to its left and so on down the line, each avoiding the dust plume from the one before. It’s clearly a staged photo, but nonetheless an interesting one. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Venn Diagrams of Death. The Japanese Imperial Navy’s escort carrier Shimane Maru, lying dead in the water, takes a steady pounding from Royal Navy Avengers from HMS Victorious on 24 July 1945. Though we see several near misses, Shimane Maru’s back was broken by numerous hits by bombs and rockets, causing her to break in two and sink in shallow water. The dot pattern visible on her flight deck is actually made from potted trees, which were used in an ineffectual attempt to camouflage the carrier (hey, look at that aircraft carrier-shaped island!)
To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what exactly is going on in this photograph of an accident aboard the Ruler Class escort carrier HMS Emperor, but whatever it is, it’s violent. Bits of airplane are flying about and deck crew are ducking instinctively. It’s also hard to tell exactly where we are on the flight deck. The crash barrier is up in the background and it looks intact. If we are aft of the barrier, then the aircraft at left is facing the wrong way, perhaps spun around in whatever has happened? Or perhaps we are forward of the barrier and an aircraft has bounced and cleared the barrier, crashing into aircraft forward. If anyone knows, please write. Photo from the Collection of Richard Mallory Allnutt
The Supermarine Spitfire is much loved by people of the British Commonwealth countries who participated in the Second World War, largely because of its extraordinary beauty as an aircraft. The defining visual characteristic of this iconic pulchritude are its wings, often described with the adjective “elliptical”. This photo depicts this elliptical quality better than any image I have ever seen, or even than seeing the aircraft in person. The image, of a 19 Squadron Spitfire Mk I, was taken at RAF Fowlmere in Cambridgeshire, England. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Why us? In the midst of a tight formation of Martin B-26 Marauders of the 386th Bomb Group, one is hit by flak and blow torches across the sky over Pas de Calais, France. One can only imagine what is going on inside the medium bomber, but also in the minds of the crews of the other aircraft who are most assuredly watching the demise of their friends. Photo: Imperial War Museum
A powerful two-frame sequence of a Japanese A6M5 Zero executing a stern kamikaze attack on the escort carrier USS White Plains (CVE-66). In the first frame, the Japanese pilot swings in from the starboard quarter, lining up as if to land, while a deck crewman hits the deck. The captain of White Plains had her in a hard right turn (as seen by the angle of the deck), trying to escape the oncoming fighter. The aggressive turn threw the pilot off at the last minute and the Zero clipped the port edge of the carrier, crashing into the sea. In the seconds between the first and second frames, something explodes out on the horizon, possibly another kamikaze striking the water. Photo: US Navy via Wikipedia
Speaking of point of view, this fine shot of off-duty crew members aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bennington takes the cake. One sailor sits at the end of a service catwalk beneath the forward edge of the flight deck, legs dangling while behind him, 36,000 tons of steel and 150,000 shaft horsepower push him along at flank speed. Others line the rails watching flying operations as Bennington ploughs through the water. Lowell Love, the US Navy photographer who took this shot, climbed out on the forward antenna mast (in the down position) to take this remarkable shot of the forecastle and the anti-aircraft gun tub. Photo by Lowell Love, PH2, US Navy via NavSource.org
Photos with unique points of view always get my attention, whether they are candid or contrived. Here, a photographer standing at the back of the port catapult on the stern of USS South Dakota (BB-57) captures a Vought OS2U Kingfisher pilot as he walks toward his floatplane. The catapult mechanism would be swung outboard for launch, but all the sailors who would man it seem to be standing back behind the other Kingfisher, letting the pilot have his moment in the sun. Photo: Imperial War Museum, © IWM (A 16989)
I wouldn’t want to be a sitting duck when Coastal Command’s Beaufighters are hunting. At anchor or possibly without power, this German “Sperrbrecher” (magnetic mine detonating vessel), near Royan in the south of France on 12 August 1944, is taking a terrible beating from “Beaus” of 404 Squadron RCAF and 236 Squadron RAF. This shot, taken from the automatic nose camera of a 404 Squadron Beaufighter, demonstrates the heavy blows from cannon, machine gun and rocket projectiles. The 6,128 ton Magdeburg sank shortly afterward. Sperrbrecher vessels had unenviable jobs—steaming ahead of convoys to detonate magnetic mines. The ships often had their bows strengthened and their empty holds filled with buoyant material to keep them afloat should they be holed. Photo: Imperial War Museum
A glimpse of hell. A Handley Page Halifax bomber of 4 Group is silhouetted by the glare of incendiary fires burning below in the city of Leipzig, Germany during a night raid. The Halifax’s bombs can be seen falling away to add to the nightmare for the citizenry. Some people might look at this aircraft and see a machine. I see seven young men doing the job they are trained to do under extreme stress. I see courage and a bond of brotherhood. I see suffocating fear. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Some airmen are lucky to survive a certain brush with death, such as the crew of this 614 Squadron RAF Handley Page Halifax which survived a direct hit from an anti-aircraft rocket. Shrapnel from the exploding missile tore hundreds of holes in the fuselage, yet the crew managed to nurse the crippled bomber back to their base at Celone, Italy (part of the more famous Foggia Airfield complex). It’s a frightening image of the shredding effect of anti-aircraft detonations. The aircraft was written off. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Sometime, it pays to look a lot closer at an image. The top image of a formation of USAAF B-24 Liberators shows the far Lib trailing smoke and flame—a dramatic image in anyone’s mind. But, if one zooms in as tight as possible (bottom photo), we see that the Liberator is blowtorching flame from the area on her back where she carries her massive supply of oxygen cylinders. Look forward to the hatch behind the cockpit and you will see a crewman sitting half in and half out of the cockpit. I can only imagine the scene he beheld and how many years that image stayed in his mind—200 mph winds, the heat of the flames at his back, his airplane sitting and vibrating beneath his ass, the thunder of the still screaming engines and all the others in the formation spread out around him and 20 thousand feet of air below him… my God. This Liberator, a pathfinder aircraft of the 15th Air Force, was apparently shot down by a Messerschmitt Bf 109 over Austria with some of the crew surviving after bailing out. Photos: Imperial War Museum
Showroom condition. I include this image of fresh-off-the-line Handley-Page Hampdens being inspected by factory technicians at Radlett, Hertfordshire, not because it is dramatic or emotional, but because it tells us that every aircraft was, at the moment of its birth, a perfect, clean and tidy machine in perfect working order—no oil stains, gunpowder burns, footprints, crazed Perspex or chipped paint. During the Second World War, aircraft could be relied on to last perhaps a few hundred hours before damage, destruction or ham-fisted handling rendered them unfit for service. If you look closely at photographs of combat aircraft of the war, it seems that all have been through some pretty rough treatment, yet by any standards, they are practically brand new. Photo: Imperial War Museum
A tragedy and burial at sea. Loyce Deen, the turret gunner aboard a Grumman Avenger from USS Essex, was killed instantly when a flak shell burst next to his turret while attacking a Japanese Imperial Navy Cruiser in Manila Bay. The pilot, Bob Cosgrove, managed to get the heavily damaged Avenger back to the carrier. Assessing the damage to the aircraft and the state of Deen’s body (covered by a blanket in the top photo), it was decided to bury him at sea in the Avenger immediately without removing his remains. In the lower image, Deen and his Avenger are tipped over the round-down on the carrier after members of the crew heard a service by the ship’s chaplain. Photos: NavSource.org
While most of us are familiar with aircraft taking off from or being catapulted from the flight deck of Second World War carriers, it’s a little known fact that some of these carriers (Essex-class in particular) also had a starboard hydraulic catapult (known as the H-IV-A (H-4A) catapult which could launch an 8-ton aircraft to 85 mph in 72.5 feet) from which fighters could be launched in the event of an emergency in which the flight deck was completely fowled, or simply to increase launch rate for standard operations. In the top photograph, a Hellcat is launched from USS Hornet (CV-12) in February 1944. Photo: Top: Murdoconline.org; Bottom: US Navy
Desperation is also the mother of invention. The Second World War was one of the greatest periods in history for the development of technologies, no matter how strange. For every success, such as the Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb of Dam Busters fame, there was a failure, such as the two-man high-speed air ambulance—a pair of man-pods slung beneath the wings of a Lockheed P-38 F5 recce aircraft. While the idea looks like fun, I hate to think of the chances for the poor casualties in the event of a gear-up forced landing, an attack from an enemy fighter, or prolonged flight above 10,000 feet. However, the idea would be a terrific amusement park ride. Photo: theaviationist.com
Like some scene from a Great War movie with far too many aircraft in view to be real, this image of Coastal Command Bristol Beaufighters swarming a minesweeper escort to a German convoy off the coast of Holland is very real indeed. The “Beaus”, from a number of different squadrons including 124 and 254 RAF, 455 Royal Australian Air Force and 489 Royal New Zealand Air Force, use rocket projectiles (note smoke trails) and cannons. There are no fewer than 13 Beaufighters trying to hit the M-Class minesweeper while avoiding hitting each other. Photo: Imperial War Museum
An emotional toll. This is, without a doubt, the single most powerful photograph of a Bomber Command crew, or indeed any Allied bomber crew, that I have ever come across. All seven men of a Lancaster crew leave their Lanc in the low light and long shadows of an early morning following a tough night operation, carrying their gear, cigarettes dangling from grim faces. It speaks to both the toughness and the fragility of their spirits, each man with his own thoughts, yet collectively they seem to exude masculinity and disdain for the photographer, as if he could not possibly know what they know. Beautiful and terrifying at once. For more on the airmen of Bomber Command and what we owe them, read A Simple Thing. Photo via Pinterest
Another of my favourite photographs of the Second World War, taken at the very end, tells a powerful story of courage in the face of humiliation and utter failure. Hostilities in the Second World War ended when the Japanese surrendered, doing so by sending a delegation by specially-marked, pre-agreed-upon “Green Cross” aircraft (see tail of aircraft) to the American-held island of le Shima off the coast of Okinawa, where they were received by thousands of suspicious American troops and dignitaries and then flown to Manila to meet General Douglas MacArthur. One of the first men off the first “Green Cross” Japanese Betty bomber was this poor young man above, bearing two bouquets of flowers as a gift. As he got off the aircraft he proffered them to the officers and MPs waiting, who outright refused to take the peace offerings. Clearly, after the hundreds of thousands of Allied dead, wounded, imprisoned and the citizens of the countries they subjugated, it was too early for niceties and for being polite. Here we see the young Japanese soldier looking for somewhere to hide after the rejection of his flowers. Looking more than a little worried and even terrified, the young Japanese soldiers look about in the blazing sunlight to see only angry, disdainful faces. For more on the extraordinary story of these Green Cross flights, click on this link. Photo: U.S. Naval Historical Center
On a cold Scottish day, a 240 Squadron Supermarine Stranraer (K7295, BN-L), skips along the surface of Loch Ryan, the deep bay that leads to the aircraft’s namesake—the town of Stranraer, Ayrshire, Scotland. The image perfectly captures the moment when the big biplane stops being a boat and becomes an aircraft. 57 Stranraers were built, some of them in Canada. Among the type’s many humorous nicknames, the “Whistling Shit House” is a favourite, this because the toilet opened directly to the airstream and when the seat was lifted, the tube whistled. Photo: Imperial War Museum, © IWM (CH 2363)
With ominous storm clouds forming over RAF Scampton, the crew of 617 Squadron Dam Busters Lancaster “T” for “Tommy” gather for a photograph two months after the attacks on the Ruhr dams that reveals their bond as crew members and their extraordinary determination to press on until the job is done. The Lanc’s captain, Flight Lieutenant Joseph “Big Joe” MacCarthy (third from right) remains today a larger than life legend with the Royal Canadian Air Force both during and after the war. There were three Canadians in “Tommy’s” crew, and none was McCarthy, for he was an American, but rather Pilot Officer D. MacLean, the navigator, second from left, Dave Rodger (not in photo), and Bill Radcliffe, the Flight Engineer (right in back row). The others are: (front row, left to right) George “Johnny” Johnson, Bombardier; MacLean; McCarthy; Sergeant Len Eaton, Wireless Operator; (back row) Sergeant Ron Batson, Gunner; Sergeant W.G. Radcliffe, Engineer; Missing: Flying Officer Dave Rodger. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Affectionately known as the Hawker “Hurricat”, the ship-based, catapult-launched Hurricane was boosted into the sky by a cluster of 13 solid fuel rockets. Given that this launch would take place far out at sea, there was the likelihood that the Hurricane pilot would face a ditching. This was a job for volunteers only and seeing this fiery launch (a test launch at Greenock, Scotland in May 1941 from the bow of Empire Rainbow) we can see why—clearly the crow’s nest was no place to be during a launch either. The Hurricat concept was created to counter the long-range Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor anti-shipping bomber. The first successful encounter between a Hurricat and a Condor on 3 August 1941 ended with the demise of the German bomber and the successful recovery of the RAF pilot, Lt. Robert Everett. Hurricane pilots signed on to the manifest of the merchant ships as civilians under the control of the ship’s master. The aircraft was launched only on the sighting of a marauding enemy bomber and after agreement from both the master and the pilot. If the Hurricane was not used during the crossing, the pilot was then launched at the destination point, recovering at a land base to practice flying until the return trip. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Flight deck aircraft handlers scramble to get out of the way of a Supermarine Seafire that has completely jumped the barrier and slammed into Grumman Avengers and Fairey Fireflys parked at the forward end of the flight deck of HMS Indefatigable. Though the caption with this photo in the Imperial War Museum archive does not state the ship’s name, we can see that both the crashing Seafire and the Firefly in the foreground carry the letter “S” on their tails. The letter “S” was the deck code for Indefatigable, a large letter she had painted on her round-down and her forward flight deck to tell pilots her identity without the need for a radio call. Her aircraft would also carry the same letter. Photo: Imperial War Museum
The crash in the previous photo, though dramatic beyond a doubt, was not an uncommon event in carrier operations during the Second World War, nor was it isolated to the aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm. Here, a Grumman Hellcat misses the barrier wires and ploughs into a group of other Hellcats on the forward aircraft park of escort carrier USS Cowpens in an identical accident scenario in January of 1945. Note that there are pilots sitting in the other Hellcats. Photo: US Navy via NavSource.org
Know thine enemy. Anti-aircraft gunners destined for service on Defensively-Equipped Merchant Ships (DEMS) practice aircraft identification using projected slides at the DEMS training facility at Cardiff, Wales in 1943. There would be few types met on transatlantic convoys, but learning to know a four-engined Flying Fortress (projected) from a four-engined Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor may save the lives of an Allied bomber crew, not to mention their own. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Yeehaaw! Two flight deck handlers grab hold of the wings of a Fleet Air Arm Fairey Albacore landing in gale force wind conditions aboard HMS Victorious as she steams from Iceland to Scapa Flow in November of 1941. Their added weight was a precautionary technique to stop gusts from lifting the torpedo bomber back into the air. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Vertical night aerial photograph taken during a Bomber Command raid on Berlin, showing bombs exploding in the vicinity of the central cattle-market and railway yard (middle right), east of the city centre. The broad wavy lines are the tracks of German searchlights and anti-aircraft fire can also be seen. Also illuminated by the flash-bomb in the lower half of the photograph are the Friedrichshain gardens and sports stadium, St. Georgs Kirchhof and Balten Platz. A mixed force of 49 aircraft took part in the raid, of which 5 were lost. Photo: Imperial War Museum, © IWM (C 2056)
The 617 Squadron Lancasters that bombed the Ruhr Valley dams as part of Operation CHASTISE were using a skipping bomb that had, just weeks before, been tested for the first time. Here a test Lancaster is engulfed by the splash of the first bounce of the spinning bomb, code-named “Upkeep” at the range at Reculver on the south coast of England. The Lanc was damaged by the impact of the water and the rear gunner was drenched. Photo: Imperial War Museum
The beat goes on. Despite wartime and weather, Royal Navy traditions must prevail, and that includes Sunday Divisions at HMS Sparrowhawk, a Royal Navy air station also known as RNAS Hatston, an airfield near the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet anchorage at Scapa Flow, Scotland. Despite the snow, sailors and “Wrens” of the Women’s Royal Naval Service march past the base commander in March of 1942. There is something about this photo that is comforting, perhaps the rule of tradition over inconvenience. With only one aircraft seen in the far distance, this is hardly an aviation image, but I come back to it over and over. Photo: Imperial War Museum
The Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bomber of the Royal Air Force was one of a number of medium and light bombers developed in Great Britain prior to the Second World War, with over 1,800 being constructed. While performance was unremarkable, they became a stopgap aircraft and did their part. By 1942, they had been taken out of front line service and used as glider tugs and paratroop transports. Most Whitley paratroop transports had their ventral turrets removed so that parachutists (who crowded the cramped fuselage sitting on the floor) could drop through the floor. Unless the parachutist could get totally vertical in the cramped fuselage and stay rigid through the fall, they often struck their faces on the aperture. This was known as “ringing the bell”. At least one Whitley had its rear turret removed so that paratroops could be literally shit out the aircraft’s anus—standing up in the slipstream and leaping aft. When I see this image, I am not sure whether to laugh or applaud their courage. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Royal Air Force mechanics add ballast to a Hawker Hurricane while either its pilot or another mechanic test runs its engine. It was common, for instance, for a fitter to sit on the tail plane when a Spitfire was taxiing on rough terrain as the aircraft was tail-light and nose-heavy. To prevent the tail bouncing up and the propeller striking the ground, fitters often rode the tailplane all the way to the takeoff point. This practice had a freak outcome on one occasion when a pilot took off without first allowing his female fitter, Margaret Horton to get off. As strange as it may seem, Horton rode this way, clinging to the vertical stabilizer all the way through a circuit after the pilot suddenly realized what he had done but was too high to land straight ahead. The story on the BBC People’s War website, written by Mary Blood, states that the story “… involved a W.A.A.F. flight mechanic, ACW Margaret Horton, and a veteran Spitfire. When an aircraft engine had been serviced, the practice was for the training instructors to run the engine and do a particular test. Margaret had finished work on the Spitfire, when the pilot began this test. It was necessary, if it was windy, for a mechanic to sit on the tail of the aircraft while it taxied to the end of the runway ready for takeoff. The mechanics were given the order, ‘Tails’. Having got to the runway, the aircraft would pause for the mechanic to drop off. This time the pilot did not pause. Whether he was unaware that the order to ‘tail’ had been given, nobody knows. He just carried on with Margaret Horton hanging on for grim death, and him unaware that he had a ‘passenger’ on the tail. ‘I thought the aircraft was tail-heavy’, he said later. The Spitfire had risen to 800 feet or more when the strange shape of the tailplane was noticed from the ground. The emergency services were called out and the pilot talked back in without being told what had happened. The aircraft landed safely with Margaret Horton still in one piece. Just how daft the [bureaucratic] machinery of the R.A.F. could be was shown when she was reprimanded for her unofficial flight and charged for the loss of her beret! She was posted later to West Raynham and, despite her ordeal, survived into her eighties.” This particular 17 Squadron Hurricane (P3482) was lost during the Battle of Britain when it crash landed. Its pilot survived. Photo: Pinterest
I’m a sucker for a unique point of view in photography, such as this photograph, taken from the navigator’s position, of a ground crewman backing a tug up to a Handley Page Hampden on a muddy airfield in England. Photo: Imperial War Museum
While the Piper J-3 Cub may have been a relatively small airplane, it still took up a lot of room in a storage hangar. For efficiency’s sake, they are tilted up on their noses using the steel frame device shown behind the closest Cub. This photo is possibly taken at Piper Aircraft’s factory at Lock Haven, Pennsylvania where the Piper Museum stands today or possibly at Wiggin Airways of Boston, a major dealer for the Cub.
There are many photos on the internet of Second World War bomber crews from similar angles. All of them tell a similar story—of youth, confidence and terrible loss. This is one of my favourites—a portrait of two pilots on a Vickers Wellington of 149 Squadron at RAF Mildenhall in 1941. The fresh-faced aircraft captain is Flight Lieutenant David Donaldson (on left) who, at 28 years old, was promoted to Wing Commander. The photographer, Cecil Beaton, had Donaldson stand for a better composition. Beaton was one of the most important fashion and portrait photographers in Great Britain in the 20th century. To view more of his extraordinary work from the Second World War, click here. Photo: Imperial War Museum, © IWM (D4737)
Speaking of Cecil Beaton’s extraordinary body of work from the Second World War, this portrait of a 249 Squadron pilot putting on his parachute next to his Hurricane is a standout, for it exposes the invincibility of youth. The placement of the head in front of the roundel reminds us of religious iconography and the near-saintly role these young men took on in defence of the free world. The 20-year old pilot, Flight Lieutenant Tom Neil would not only survive the war, but go on to become Wing Commander, achieve near triple ace status with 14 victories and be awarded the DFC and Bar and Air Force Cross. He flew an astionishing 141 combat sorties during the Battle of Britain alone. But the best achievement of all is the fact that he remains today (February 19, 2017), at 96-yearss old, one of the few surviving pilots of the Battle of Britain. On the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, he flew in a two seat Spitfire in a mass formation of more than 40 aircraft. Photo: Cecil Beaton via Imperial War Museum
A terrible choice. The rear gunner of this Japanese Nakajima Kate dive bomber stands up in his cockpit and looks over the side to assess his chances of surviving a fall without a chance for his parachute to open. Smoke streams from the engine, engulfing his crew mates and likely incapacitating them. The photo was taken from a US Navy PBY Catalina which had just shot them down. The pilot of the Catalina, Lieutenant Commander William Janeshek, watched with fascination as the gunner sat back down in his seat and rode the aircraft to his death when it struck the water and exploded moments later.
Achtung Hurrikane!!! A great shot of three Hawker Hurricane Is of 73 Squadron based at Rouvres, France in line astern above the clouds and about to break left and right behind the camera aircraft. During the Phony War and the Battle of France, 73 Squadron was part of the RAF’s Advanced Air Striking Force, patrolling first the Cherbourg Peninsula and then moving to Rouvres near the Belgian and German borders. One of the great 73 Squadron pilots from this time was the New Zealander Flying Officer E.J. “Cobber” Kain, the first Allied ace of the war and who would not live past the Battle of France. Knowing his history, I would not be surprised if he was one of the pilots horsing around in the skies in this shot. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Caught! Escaping the grip of a single searchlight required violent evasive action, but to be “coned” by a dozen searchlights was a death sentence. Here, over Bremen, a Bomber Command aircraft is caught by the converged attention of numerous searchlights while flak is concentrated around it. The chances of escape were small. Photo: Australian War Memorial
Wake-boarding, 1920s style! A Naval Aircraft Factory NO patrol floatplane smacks a wave and bounds into the air. This dramatic shot is enhanced by the dazzling sunlight playing off the splashing water. Only six of the type were built. Photo: sciencepole.com
Some photos in this collection may not be Pulitzer Prize-worthy, but they speak to me on other levels. This portrait of Canadian Spitfire fighter pilot Sergeant Georges Nadon of 122 Squadron with his CANADA shoulder flash sends a ripple of pride down the back of my neck. The RAF photographer was tasked with following the movements of one particular pilot (Nadon) through his typical day at RAF Hornchurch in May 1942. When asked what his hobbies were, 27-year-old Nadon responded “Girlfriends and beer.” Nadon survived the war with 277 operational sorties, many with 403 “Wolf” Squadron RCAF, and lived a long life. Though Nadon did not participate in the Battle of Britain, this photograph was used as a reference for an airbrush illustration on the tail of the RCAF’s demo CF-18 Hornet commemorating the Battle of Britain. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Nothing about this photograph is extraordinary, save for the fact that it is not common to see an image of a Hawker Hurricane Mk I with the fabric covered wings of the early production runs clearly visible. The fabric covered wings did not last long as the metal covered versions could endure more stress and added 80 mph to the diving speed. This Mk I also has the two-bladed wooden propeller. Photo: Imperial War Museum
As with many new aircraft designs, a wooden mock-up of the Grumman J2F Duck was created to test accessibility, visibility, roominess for crew, fuel and stores and proof of concept. The photo tells us how aircraft manufacturers begin their design process.
One associates the Hawker Hurricane with the hot summer of 1940, the Battle of Britain, and perhaps the swelter of the North African Campaign with the Desert Air Force. Snow hardly comes into the imagined image. Over 1,400 Hurricane Mk XIIs were built by Canadian Car and Foundry in Port Arthur during the war, many of which served with RCAF fighter squadrons of the Home War Establishment on both coasts (Western Air Command and Eastern Air Command) and No. 1 Operational Training Unit at Bagotville, Québec. As you might imagine, Canadian fighter operations involved brutally cold winters, icy runways and drifting snow. Here, Hurricane 5501 of 128 Squadron has come to grief in a snowbank at RCAF Station Torbay, Newfoundland (not part of Canada at the time) in January of 1943. The pilot, Pilot Officer W.O. Young, lost control in a strong crosswind and ground-looped into the snowbank. A typically Canadian trick, small fir trees have been cut and stuck in the snowbanks to indicate the edges of runways, and entrances to taxiways, often hard to distinguish in poor light conditions. Photo via rcafno128squadron.wordpress.com
The reaching fingers of death. Anti-aircraft gun emplacements surrounding the airfield at Maison Blanche in Algiers pound away at German aircraft during an air raid on the night of 21 November 1942. Operation TORCH, the Allied invasion of North Africa had just begun two weeks earlier. Algiers was the central point of the easternmost invasion area. Eastern Task Force landed on 8 November at one beach to the east of Algiers and two to the west. The airport was one of the most important targets. On the night of the invasion, Maison Blanche was manned by the French, who, under orders from the Vichy French commander Admiral Darlan, surrendered pretty well immediately. Maison Blanche is today the site of Algiers Houari Boumediene International Airport. The long-exposure photo shows us how dangerous flying through a flak barrage can be. Photo: Imperial War Museum, © IWM (NA 176)
A dramatic image of the first production Fairey Battle peeling off from the photo-ship in 1937. With an all-black underside emblazoned with its RAF serial number K7558 and no roundels, the shot is surely a factory promotional image. In June 1937, K7558 conducted its maiden flight and was later used to perform a series of official handling and performance trials in advance of the wider introduction of the type to operational service. During these trials, it demonstrated the type’s ability to conduct missions of a 1,000 mile range while under a full bomb load. Though the Battle had early promise, it proved underpowered and exceedingly vulnerable to German Messerschmitt Bf 109s during the Battle of France. While the aircraft was powered by the same Rolls-Royce Merlin engine as the Spitfire, it weighed nearly 1,500 pounds more. It was soon withdrawn from frontline service and relegated to target towing and gunnery training. Photo: Imperial War Museum
When the system works. An 827 Squadron Fairey Barracuda, engulfed in smoke with its engine on fire from a flak hit while attacking the German battleship Tirpitz in Alten Fjord, northern Norway, strikes the barrier aboard HMS Formidable. While the front of the aircraft was heavily damaged, the barrier saved the rest of the aircraft and more importantly, the crew. Photo: Imperial War Museum
We are used to Allied scribblings on bombs delivered to targets in the Reich, with British humour and American bravado done up for publicity shots, but the Germans did it too. Here, they make a joke about Churchill’s preference for Cuban cigars, promising to deliver an “Extra Havanna”, an exploding cigar of larger proportion than his favourite 7-inch-long Romeo y Julieta cigar from Havana, now known as the “Churchill”. Photo: Bundesarchiv
Hoping for the best, planning for the worst. Not a particularly interesting photo unless you know what is going on here. On 22 August 1944, HMS Nabob, a Royal Navy escort carrier manned largely by Canadian sailors and officers, was operating in the Barents Sea as part of Operation GOODWOOD, one of several attempts to take out the German battleship Tirpitz holed up deep in a Norwegian fjord. On this day, she was torpedoed by U-354 and was saved through quick action by her crew and the fact that one of her escort frigates, HMS Bickerton took a coup-de-grace torpedo meant for Nabob. Bickerton’s surviving crew was rescued and she was scuttled. Though Nabob was down heavily at the stern and listing to starboard, her crew stabilized her and she began a 1,070 mile, five-day journey to Scapa Flow for emergency repairs, at a reduced speed of 10 knots. Many of her unessential crew had been taken off by the Canadian tribal class destroyer HMCS Algonquin, but those that remained lashed pre-inflated life rafts and wooden rafts to the flight deck for quick release should Nabob’s situation worsen or she be attacked by a submarine. In the background, she is escorted by HMS Trumpeter, which likely had aircraft in the air patrolling for submarines during the journey. U-354’s euphoria for nearly sinking an Allied carrier did not last long—she was hunted down and sunk with all hands just two days after torpedoing Nabob. Photo from the Collection of Richard Mallory Allnutt
An Avro Anson (top) rests atop an Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley at No. 19 Operational Training Unit, a Whitley conversion base at RAF Kinloss, Morayshire, Scotland. On the night of 19 October 1943, the pilot of the Anson (XF-K) misunderstood the light signals from the control tower and proceeded with a landing whilst the pilot of the Whitley (UO-O) was still warming his engines for a takeoff. The Whitley was damaged beyond repair but the Anson was soon back in the air. Accidents like these were not common, but there are other photos of similarly mated aircraft at training bases from Canada to Australia. Photo: Imperial War Museum, © IWM (HU54488)
Get me out of here. A crew member from a Douglas TBD Devastator is hauled aboard an unknown aircraft carrier after his dive bomber crashed and was hung up over the side. Note that there is no wake below on the surface, meaning that the ship has come to a stop to allow a safer rescue of the crew. This means as well that the carrier is likely in waters safe from submarine attack, perhaps during a training period or more likely before America was in the war. Photo: LIFE Magazine via Pinterest