Is BBMF moving to Little Rissi’?

BBMF appears to have an affiliation with Upper Rissington as recently we have had the C47, Spitfire and now the Lancaster PA474, flying over the village. Beautiful sound of 4 Merlins in harmony with 10,000 rivets.

They are a fantastic aircraft and under Bomber Harris’s control, certainly saved this country from defeat in the WWII.

I am a fan of all aircraft, especially warbirds (even live on a street of the same name). I am not convinced of the merit of beating up our village at what seems tree top height.

When the Canadian Lancaster arrived from London Ontario a couple of years ago, I supported the project by donating money when they had an Merlin engine failure. BBMF loaned them an engine until theirs was repaired.

The pictures are not from yesterday (my library pictures – as the markings are not of 617 Sqn).

Tim Dunlop is the Leader (who I guess lives in Upper Rissington), as he notified the village of the low fly over on Facebook.

Tim was brought up in Nottingham and studied Aeronautical Systems Engineering at the University of Salford. Tim joined the RAF in 1997 after working as a compressor design engineer for Rolls Royce. On completing flying training, he was posted to RAF Lyneham flying the Hercules C130K. During his time at Lyneham, Tim was initially on 30 Squadron, before being posted to LXX Squadron wherehe became a Captain in the Tactical Air Transport role; he was involved in several worldwide operations including Iraq, Afghanistan and the Congo.

Aftera brief period instructing on the Tutor, Tim was moved to 45 (R) Sqn at RAF Cranwell to train multi-engine pilots on the King Air and eventually moved to the Standards unit with-in the Squadron. At the beginning of 2015 Tim moved to RAF Brize Norton to fly the newA400M Atlas and returned to LXX, where he is the Squadron Qualified Flying Instructor. As a pilot of the Lancaster, Dakota and A400M, Tim is privileged to be able fly the oldest and newest aircraft with-in the Royal Air Force. This is Tim’s eighth season with BBMF, he is the Bomber Leader, responsible for training and standardization of the ‘Bomber’ pilots and crew.

Info from the RAF MOD website.

PA474 is one of only two Lancaster aircraft remaining in airworthy condition out of the 7,377 that were built (the other is in Canada with the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum at Hamilton, Ontario). PA474 rolled off the production line at the Vickers Armstrong Broughton factory at Hawarden Airfield, Chester on 31 May 1945, just after the war in Europe came to an end, so she was prepared for use against the Japanese as part of the ‘Tiger Force’. However, the war in the Far East also ended before she was deployed and she did not take part in any hostilities. After a period in storage, PA474 was converted for photo reconnaissance work; modifications for these duties included being stripped back to a bare metal (silver) finish and the removal of all her gun turrets. She was then assigned to aerial survey duties with No 82 Squadron in East and South Africa from September 1948 until February 1952.

Lancaster Thumper in 2013 On return to the United Kingdom, PA474 was loaned to Flight Refuelling Ltd at Tarrant Rushton to be used as a pilotless drone, an uncertain future, which would likely have led to her loss. Fortunately, however, before the conversion started, the Air Ministry decided to use a different type of aircraft for the drone programme (a Lincoln) and PA474 was reprieved. She was then transferred to the Royal College of Aeronautics at Cranfield where she was used as a trial platform for the testing of various experimental aerofoil sections between 1954 and 1964; the trial wings being mounted vertically on the upper rear fuselage.

In 1964 PA474 was adopted by the Air Historical Branch with a view to putting the aircraft on display as a static exhibit in the proposed RAF Museum at Hendon. She was flown to Wroughton where she was painted in a camouflage paint scheme, though without squadron markings, and it was during this period that the aircraft took part in two films, ‘Operation Crossbow’ and ‘The Guns of Navarone’. Later in 1964, she was moved to RAF Henlow and grounded in preparation for display at the RAF Museum.

In 1965, Wing Commader D’Arcy, the Commanding Officer of 44 Squadron (then flying Vulcans at RAF Waddington) asked permission for PA474 to be transferred into the care of the Squadron. An inspection found that the aircraft was structurally sound so permission was granted for PA474 to make a single flight from Henlow to Waddington, which it completed in August 1965. At Waddington a restoration programme began on the Lancaster and by 1966 work was progressing well with both the front and rear turrets in place. Permission to fly PA474 regularly was granted in 1967, whilst restoration continued. The Lancaster joined the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in November 1973 and restoration work on various parts of the aircraft has continued ever since. A mid-upper turret was discovered in Argentina and was brought to Britain aboard HMS HAMPSHIRE; it was fitted to PA474 in 1975. In the same year, the aircraft was adopted by the City of Lincoln, permission being granted for her to display the City’s coat of arms, which will always be displayed on PA474 regardless of what colour scheme she wears.

Ian Savage PA474 is currently painted to represent Lancaster DV385, “Thumper Mk III” of 617 (‘Dambuster’) Squadron, with the code letters ‘KC-A’. This aircraft was one of the brand-new standard Lancasters issued to 617 Squadron as replacements after the ‘Dams Raid’ in 1943. It was delivered to the Squadron in November 1943, whilst the unit was based at Coningsby, and it flew 4 ‘ops’ from Coningsby before 617 Squadron moved to Woodhall Spa in January 1944. The “Thumper” nose art features the cartoon rabbit – from the 1942 Walt Disney cartoon ‘Bambi’ – holding a foaming pint of beer.

Although the real “Thumper Mk III” flew a total of 50 ‘ops’, the ‘bomb log’ under the cockpit on PA474 displays 35 ‘ops’ as shown in a wartime photograph. The bomb symbols include one with a ‘D’ for Operation ‘Taxable’ (the ‘spoof’ D-Day chaff mission on 5/6th June 1944) and one with a swastika denoting a kill against a German fighter. “Thumper Mk III” dropped a total of 15 of the huge ‘Tallboy’ ‘earthquake’ bombs; it was involved in many important missions, including the first ‘Tallboy’ raid against the Saumur railway tunnel on 8th June 1944 and many raids against ‘V’ weapon sites. Between February and August 1944, the aircraft was mostly flown by Flying Officer (later Flight Lieutenant) Bob Knights DSO DFC and his crew.

“Thumper Mk III” (now coded ‘KC-V’) returned to operations on 3rd October, piloted by Flying Officer James Castagnola (later Flight Lieutenant Castagnola DSO DFC). On 28th October and 12th November 1944 he captained “Thumper” on the final raids against the powerful German battleship Tirpitz, mooredat Tromso. In common with all the Lancasters used on these missions “Thumper” was modified for long-range flying. The mid-upper turret was removed along with many other internal fittings, and ex-Vickers Wellington overload fuel tanks were fitted, along with a Mosquito long-range tank, increasing the fuel capacity from 2,154 to 2,406 gallons, giving a range of 2,250 miles. On the last of these missions, the Castagnola crew reported a direct hit with their ‘Tallboy’ against the battleship’s superstructure and the mighty ship capsized. For “Thumper Mk III” the war was almost but not quite over, and a swastika on the 32nd bomb symbol on the mission log indicated a German fighter shot down by its gunners – its luck was still holding. The heavy-hitting bomber flew its last successful ‘op’ dropping a ‘Tallboy’ against the Bielefeld viaduct on 22nd February 1945 and then, in March 1945, as the war approached its end, “Thumper” was retired. DV385 ended its life at No 46 Maintenance Unit, where it was eventually struck off charge and scrapped after the war had ended.

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