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Short. Sunderland Mk.II

Short. Stirling Mk.III

Short. Stirling Mk.I

Short Sunderland Mk.I at 1941.

Winston Churchill with a party of foreign guests and officials, including senior US officers, during an inspection laid on at Northolt, 21 July 1941. Following Churchill is the Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair, always a dapper dresser. The bombers displayed included a prototype Lancaster, a recently arrived Fortress I, Halifax L9503/TL:P of No 35 Squadron and Stirling N6003/MG:V of No 7 Squadron in the foreground. (IWM CH17535)

Extraordinarily, the first Stirling and Halifax heavy bomber squadrons were expected to operate from turf-surfaced airfields. This was not a problem in summer, but these 30-ton giants rutted and churned up runways at other times of the year and were often bogged down. No 7 Squadron at Oakington was the first with Stirlings and suffered with unsuitable surface conditions for many months until concrete runways were laid. Until sufficient concrete hardstandings were available, the Stirlings at Oakington were lined up on the out-of-use runways for bombing up, as in this photograph taken in March 1942. W7466/MG:B, with P Off M. R. Green and crew, failed to return from its sixth sortie, the Liibeck raid later in the month, crashing at Gnutz. The MG sports car is appropriate transport for a member of this squadron! (IWM CH5177)

Maintenance work on N3725/HA:D, of No 218 Squadron, at Downham Market in June 1942. In common with many other aircraft of the Gold Coast Squadron, it carried the name of a town in that country, in this case Mamprusi. At this time No 3 Group had six Stirling-equipped squadrons and there would be no expansion of the force until the following spring. The Stirling suffered the highest loss rate of the three four-engine bomber types, principally because of its poor ceiling, which made it more vulnerable to enemy defences. A cumbersome brute on the ground, it was, however, surprisingly manoeuvrable in flight. With one engine out of action it required careful handling; if two failed it did not want to remain in the sky. On its 31st operational sortie, on 14/15 September 1942, with P Off J. N Frankcombe and crew, N3725 lost the starboard outer over Wilhemshaven. It was nursed back to the vicinity of home base, only to have the remaining engine on the starboard wing cease to function. The aircraft immediately did a wing-over and crashed near Stoke Ferry. Only the wirless operator and the mid-upper gunner survived, badly injured. (IWM CHI7887)


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