The 'Halibag' NewsletterNovember '98
Click on the pictures for a larger view.Ray Snowdon of Guelph was a Rear Gunner with No.298 Squadron, the sister squadron to No.644 Squadron at Tarrant Rushton. Ray dropped in on the restoration recently and offered us some pictures taken during his time with the No.298 when the squadron was deployed with their Halifaxes to the Far East during the abortive operation mounted for the relief of Singapore.
Wartime Halifax Pictures from Our Readers
The military thinking (oxymoron?) was that Singapore would be retaken by staging a massive airborne assault.
The Halifaxes were to haul the gliders for the airborne segment of the attack on Singapore after the war in Europe was finished. Accordingly No. 298 was re-quipped with new Halifax aircraft, tropicalized, A. Mk VII's, incorporating several additional long range tanks.
The aircraft were in the PN serial number range. The aircraft were also fitted with freight panniers and transfered to the South East Asia Air Force, The bomb doors were removed and carried in the fuselage and the panniers were used to carry spare parts, in Ray's case a spare engine. They also carried a fitter and a rigger on board. The first group of nine Halifaxes left on July 6, followed by a further 15 aircraft on July 13 and July 18.
|The Halifaxes had been
quite hastily prepared for the trip by adding aluminum fans to the propellor
hubs which were mostly discarded by the time they arrived in North Africa,
along with the crew's, Boer war, pith helmets.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, a typhoon arrived on the scene before the Halifaxes did and destroyed the assembled gliders before they could be used. With the loss of the gliders the air assault would have been seriously delayed until replacements could have been brought out by ship, however, the Americans brought the war in the East to a rapid conclusion with the dropping of the atomic bombs.
While in the Far East the Halifaxes were based at several places including RAF Risalpur where they were used for the bombing of the disidents on the NorthWest Frontier. During this phase of operations they flew without their panniers and without their bomb doors without any apparent ill effect.
Ray was an amateur photographer and, using film materials 'liberated' from the military stocks, he managed to cut the film down to the size required by his camera and to process the pictures and print them on more military 'surplus' printing paper, despite the high temperatures and humidity being experienced. Thus we have a record of a little known phase of Halifax operations. The pictures still look as good today as when they were 'shot' 53 years ago.
57 Rescue Pays a Visit
A very welcome visitor to the workshop recently was Ian Foster and his girlfriend Gillian Ashmore. They are the founder members of the 57 Rescue group in Britain, which is the group of 'wreckologists' who scour the countryside and mountainsides for remains of Halifaxes to attempt to meet our needs.Ian worked on the Yorkshire Air Museum Halifax
Photo by Terry James
before becoming involved with our project. He has located a variety of parts and is still working on parts requested when he was over here. Ian was responsible for the 'Mary McKenzie henhouse', the 'monastery bomb doors' and the tubes for the main wheel to name but a few of his generous assists to our project. Another of his 'finds' was a Halifax wheel, complete with brake units and axle, in a museum, which is surplus to their needs, and they are in the process of donating it to our project.
The following is a summary of the restoration work in progress on Halifax NA 337, as of mid-November.
Centre section . . .Work is still continuing on the reconstruction of the wing centre section. It seems likely that this will be complete in the Spring.
The lower fuselage centre section has been reassembled onto the front spar and some of the bomb rack supports and the bomb racks have been installed. Guy Currier is still working on the installation of the bomb racks in the wings.
The intermediate wing sections are still not being worked on at this time, nor are the outer wing sections.
The four trailing edge sections which were rebuilt earlier, two by Spar Aerospace and two by Canadair- Bombardier, are being held in storage.
The engine nacelles and the cowlings are not being worked on at this time, to allow the rear fuselage and wing center section to be worked upon in the limited workshop space.
The wing 'double D' box leading edge sections are not being worked on at this time.
Wing, control surfaces: the control surfaces have been restored and have been recovered with fabric and are in storage at the workshop.
Power Plants . . . We have still not been able to retrieve any further usable engine parts from known crash sites in the UK.
The engine team, is still being held up for parts. We have forwarded a request for help in locating the required engine parts to Tim Moore of SkySport Engineering Limited.
Work is now underway to reconstruct the engine cooling gill operating mechanism. The team really requires the detail drawings of the mechanism in order to be able to re-construct the four units.The Rolls Royce Heritage Trust has access to the original engine unit drawings but they are on 530 rolls of microfilm and they would like some guidance as to the identification of the series of drawing numbers before they start working their way through them to find what we need.
They would like to meet with Karl Kjarsgaard to review the available documents and to make a decision as to what is really required.
Another picture given by Ray Snowdon was this one of the memorial erected at the site of RAF Tarrant Rushton in memory of all those who served in No.298 and No.644 Sqdns and C Sqdn of the Glider Pilot Regiment.
|We are still missing
some critical engine parts which are quite essential to our completion.
These items are: Propeller Reduction gearboxes (we acquired one from a
Herc 164 or 264, possibly from a Vickers Valetta and that seemed to work
out OK), we need four engine oil sumps (we have managed to borrow one and
George Rosskopf is making a series of molds so that we can fabricate some
from fiberglass), exhaust collector manifold, flame damper manifold, exhaust
collector ring, engine cowling, reduction gearbox, mounting flange castings,
Undercarriage . . . We have made some minor progress on the undercarriage reconstruction as we have now received the two undercarriage oleo/axle assemblies from the crash site of Halifax JP 185 on the Isle of Harris. We are hopeful that we
might have been able to recover at least some brake parts to complete the pair of brakes we have assembled from the LW 682 material as well as the oleo to axle forgings from the JP 185 material. However, upon closer inspection, this does not now seem quite so likely. To date we have been able to remove only one oleo unit from the axle and the brake assemblies appear to be fairly badly corroded and it may be that we will only recover parts of one brake unit. This will, hopefully, be sufficient to complete the first pair recovered from the crash site of LW 682 in Belgium.
The Griffin Trust has offered us a complete wheel, axle and dual brake assembly which was recovered from the crash site of PP222 some years ago. This unit has been restored and it has been stored inside since that time and is in reasonable shape. The Griffin Trust is, essentially, an automotive museum and the Halifax wheel, while interesting, does not really fit in with their mandate, thus, they have offered the wheel to our project if we will give them the assurance that no one will profit financially from the gift. We are awaiting the Halifax Aircraft Association to issue these assurances to them and then Ian Foster will arrange to have the wheel picked up and will get it to a suitable pick-up point for recovery to Canada.
Terry James is now working on the detail drawings of the various parts of the design of the welded, steel box and tubular structure, which will replace the huge, complex, magnesium alloy 'bridge' casting which dissolved during the aircraft's prolonged exposure to fresh water.
When the drawings are complete we will be able to order the material required, cut it to size and weld the assemblies together. A jig will need to be built to retain the parts in register while the structures are welded up.
Control Surfaces . . .No real changes here, the ailerons and rudders have been completed by Ernie Sutton and are now stored in the workshop.
Rear Turret . . . The rear turret group is still hard at work restoring the rear turret components to as near to operational as it is possible to make them. The intention is to have the turret operational. This will be quite a challenge!
We have now, apparently, acquired some rear turret drawings although the Boulton Paul Association, which originally offered them to us and were awaiting word as to our requirements, assure us that they did not come from them as they have not yet managed to get copies made for us! At this time it is not clear exactly where Karl Kjarsgaard acquired them!
Horizontal Stabilizer . . .The work on the horizontal stabilizer is still being held in abeyance to allow completion of the vertical fms. The same crew is working on both and due to the size of these components it is not possible to work on both fins and tailplane simultaneously.
Vertical Fins . . .The work on both the vertical fins is moving along well. A jig has been built and the structure of the vertical fins has been completed and the skins are about to be applied.
Plastic Shop . . .George Rosskopf has been busy constructing the moulds for replica fiberglass oil sumps for the engines to allow the assembly work to continue. The work on the nose plastic moulded components has been temporarily shelved.
Instruments . . .Restoration work by Guy Currier on the instrument panels is pretty well complete, for the moment.
Fuselage Rest'n Work
The Rear Bay, which is that fuselage section which supports the tailplane and contains the rear turret, is complete on the exterior but much interior detail work remains. It has been to the paint shop and returned with an overall coat of black paint on the exterior and an aluminum finish on the interior to protect the fmish. The exterior sections will be camouflaged later.
The Rear Fuselage, which is the next section forward of the rear bay, is that section which now incorporates the part that was, for some years, Mary McKenzie's henhouse. This has now been integrated into the rear fuselage section and the rear bay and the rear fuselage sections have now been temporarily joined together and the parts roughly aligned, this has allowed the restoration work on the fuselage formers to move forward into that section. The badly corroded lower fuselage formers are slowly being replaced and another team is working on the reconstruction of the forward rear fuselage floor which is also the bomb rack support structure.
The next major item will be the construction of a jig to hold the fuselage formers in position to allow the skin to be removed and the corroded stringers replaced. When this is done the fuselage will then be re-skinned and removed from the jig.
The Covered Wagon section, mounted above the wing center section, has now been partially dismantled and is being restored.
The Nose Section is not being worked on at present.
The floor of the rear fuselage, or the fuselage bomb rack support structure, has been removed from the rear fuselage and is being reconstructed with each part of the structure being removed, cleaned, repaired or replaced, dependant upon the level of corrosion, repainted and rivetted back into place. Work is progressing well on the vertical fins, both are now at about the same stage. One fin is shown here in a vertical wooden jig, being skinned, with Charlie Fairbairn examining the rivetting of the stiffeners inside the skin before it is closed up.
Research & Recovery . . .While Karl is reviewing the possibility of recovering some potentially useful parts of a No. 51 Squadron B. Mk III, it now seems quite unlikely that we will be able to recover much more of potential use from other crash sites in the UK, apart from the possible recoveries from Achill and Islay. Bill Tytula has, therefore, asked me to investigate some potential South American sources which were described to him by a Polish pilot who was visiting the project and told us that he had delivered a Halifax to South America in the 1948 time frame and had seen a complete squadron in use at that time. "Progress" Continued on page 5 "Mary McKenzie's henhouse" is now being slowly reconstructed and the badly corroded lower fuselage formers are being replaced with newly fabricated ones. When this process is complete a new, overhead, fuselage jig will be constructed to retain the formers in place and to hold the fuselage sections in alignment while the skin and stringers are removed, cleaned, corrosion removed, or the parts replaced, before the skin is replaced.
Initial responses from the Brazilian Air Force (Forca Aero Brazil) and from the Museo Nacional Aeronautico y del Espacio (Forca Aero Chile) are that neither Brazil or Chile operated the Halifax aircraft and Brazil suggested that they believed that Argentina had used them after the war for some time. To date Argentina is playing it cool, or passing the 'buck' around, and has not responded to my queries. On the subject of the calibre of the shell which brought down NA 337: I had written to Oystein Molmen who had written a book on the German Occupation of Norway, whom I got to through my contact with Erik Hoelsaeter, Mr Molmen has replied, through Erik, that he has received so much correspondence in response to his book that he is completely swamped and unfortunately he cannot undertake to respond to my query as it would entail carrying out a complete review of a considerable amount of his original research materials. I think the consensus of opinion around the workshop is that it was probably a 20 mm shell and there may have been more than one hit although we have not yet examined the wings in detail. I have not yet heard anything from Tom Weightman, the rear gunner, to see if he was given any information on the make-up of the Flak position, during his visits in 1945, 1983 and 1995. The Shuttleworth Collection recently indicated that they had a couple of World War II 'Trolley Accs' for disposal, I have not yet received any response from my letter.
Recently Recovered Parts . . .The undercarriage parts recovered from the Isle of Harris have arrived and are in the rather laborious process of being stripped down. The undercarriage fittings are mostly steel forgings and they do not respond to the usual applications of 'brute force', hammers just bounce right off! We are making slow progress dismantling the legs. The Halifax cargo container, located earlier by Ian Foster, 50% has been recovered and it has been placed into indoor storage in Britain to prevent further deterioration until someone in the group, can decide whether or not we would like to have it for use as an accessory display to the Halifax. Only 50% of the unit was deemed to be necessary to be recovered as the unit is symmetrical and it will require complete rebuilding before it can be displayed. Karl Kjarsgaard managed to borrow some Hercules engine manuals from the Rolls Royce Heritage Trust (RRHT), unfortunately not the Mk XVI version. My contact at the Bristol end of the RRHT, Pat Hassel, would like to meet with Karl on his next trip to show what documents he has access to in the Bristol Engine drawing offices. Iain Smith from Stornaway has sent a sketch of an aluminum ladder that a contact of his had acquired from RAF Brackla at the time the Halifaxes were being broken up and, at the time, he was assured that it was a genuine ladder from a Halifax. From the details offered, it appears that it might have been a standard RAF servicing stepladder of a type commonly used for all aircraft servicing. The length of 74" would not have afforded access to too much on the Halifax! However, it is available and it probably is quite authentic and would provide excellent atmosphere to the static display. Ian Foster has investigated the 'complete nose of a Halifax' allegedly lying around in Britain and the only one he can locate, apart from the one in the Imperial War Museum, is the one owned by Cotswold Aircraft Restoration Group (CARG). Ian is familiar with project and he says that it is only the pilot's floor section, not a complete nose. It is being restored by Tony Southern who is a member of the British Aircraft Preservation Council (BAPC). It is the remains of Handley Page built (late 1941) Halifax B. Mk II, Series I, Serial No. R9371. Brakes failed on landing at Lossiemouth Sept 3, 1942.
|Brent Wallace sent us some pictures of the Halifaxes at Aylmer, the one above is one of them, unfortunately the serial numbers are not visible but we know they must be either DG399, EB127, EB138 or EB157, all Mk V's. In the background are some other interesting aircraft, although they are not quite identifiable. The two closest to the Halifaxes are twin, radial engined, tail draggers with glass noses, bigger than the Bolinbrokes, possibly Bristol Beauforts or Martin Baltimores.|
There were no new letters this issue, however there is some further information: On the subject of the letter received from Mr Gerald J. Garcey-Cox about the crash site of Halifax, LL 505, reported upon in the last issue. Peter Lloyd reminds me that he has written a book on this aircraft and it's crew, in fact he kindly donated a copy and had it delivered to the Museum in Trenton for their library. Peter spoke to me again last week to confirm that his book on the history of Hali- fax NA 337 and it's crew is now at the printers and a copy will soon be on it's way across the Atlantic. Sandy Barr, a 644 Squadron pilot who knew Alex Turnbull, the pilot of NA337, has also finished his book and it is also at the printers and will soon, hopefully, be available for purchase in the museum shop for about $20:00. Just in time for Xmas gift giving. Sandy tells me he has also joined the electronic age and he may now be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Sandy's book, containing all the information of the flight crews of 644 Squadron. Sandy served with 644 from it's creation from "C" Flight of No. 298 Squadron until his return to Canada in June 1945. It is now possible to look up a name and find the operational history of that crew member. Thebook is substantial, it is about four inches thick!|
Presentation to the Recreation Aircraft Association
I was invited to give a presentation on the progress of the restoration of the Halifax to the Recreation Aircraft Association at Buttonville airport recently. It appeared to be well received, with between 50 and 60 members and guests present. The questions were cut off at about 10:15pm.
Vickers K Gun Magazine
Iain Smith of Stornaway has sent us a magazine from a Vickers K gun, the nose arma- ment of the Bomber version of the Hahfax, which was recovered from the wreckage of JP 165 which crashed into the hills around Tarbert on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. Sandy Barr of Windsor,Ontario, a No.644 Squadron pilot, has assembled a book con- taining all the information on the flight crew members of 644 squadron. Sandy served with 644 from it's creation from "C" Flight of No. 298 Squadron until his return to Canada in June 1945. It is now possible to look up a name and find the operational historv of that crew member. The book is substantial, it is about 4" thick! (This is not the same book which Sandy has in the printers. That is about the life and times of No. 644 Squadron.)
The 'Halibag' Newsletter is produced to try to keep members of the Halifax groups and other interested parties in touch with the progress on the project.
The views expressed in these newsletter are those of the author(s) and may not necessarily reflect the views of the RCAF Memorial Museum, the Halifax Aircraft Association or the Halifax Restoration Team. Deryck Brown, Editor. Material for inclusion in future issues may be sent to:
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