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Cheshire Steve

Re-skinning hurricanes in North Africa during the war

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A few more photos from my fathers collection. Newly arrived hurricanes in North Africa in 1942 or 43 arrived with rotting fabric, so they had to be stripped back to the skeleton and re-covered. I think this was something to do with them being assembled and delivered right through tropical Africa. I don't know if these photos are of a single plane or several, and I can see different roundels, but that could be before and after. I am sure the ground crew were none too pleased to have to do this on new planes on top of all their other duties. It looks like hot work - and sitting on the tail plane while the engine is run up looks like it might sting a bit.

 

If anyone can tell me about the aircraft delivery routing, and the dates this problem occurred that would be handy, I might even be able to tie it in to a specifix location/unit.

 

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I think one route was Freetown another from Gambia Aug/Sept 1940. HMS Argus transported 30 Hurricanes with their wings detached from Liverpool to Takoradi in West Africa. Hurricane range approx 460 miles extending to 1090 with two 44 gallon ferry tanks. In the same convoy was HMS Furious, loaded with 55 aircraft some crated Hurricanes of 73 squadron she did another trip with 40 in December 1940. Their destination was the Western Desert to fly combat missions until they re equipped with Spitfires in June 1941.

Edited by john1950
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Are those pods under the wings the extended range fuel tanks to get them there, and from where? Maybe from where you said but with intermediate stops. I don't know the range of a hurricane.

 

Steve

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Thanks, that link provides an interesting record of what went on, though if I had being flying in central Africa and come across the giant cacti referred to, then I would think I was seriously lost (no cacti in Africa). Part of the text sounds like an accurate description of the work of the RSUs working in the Western Desert recovering planes that didn't make it back from raids. I assume they did have to recover some being ferried up, but sounds a bit like the two activities have got a bit confused. However very interesting stuff, I had never seen any details of that ferry route.

 

Steve

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As things progresses there were also aircraft staging through Africa from America hopping from the Azors and Accention Island. Some heading for Iran and onward to their destination in Russia. I had a friend now sadly deceased who spent the whole war in East Africa and Iraq. He was an air frame rigger fitter.

Edited by john1950
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Having looked up some info on Hurricanes it says there was a specific "Mk IIB Trop" for North Africa. So I assume that is what features in the photos, but don't know how you would tell.

 

Steve

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Idealy a serial no or squadron information. Otherwise an eagle eyed officionardo.

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Actually I think the answer is there in the photos, the huge inlet under the engine, which is not present on other photos of Hurricanes that I have seen in other theatres of war. I don't know whether this is for extra cooling, or large dust filters for the engine air inlets, but it must be a modification for desert use, and I think that means its a Mk IIB Trop, as opposed to a regular Mk IIB.

 

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Absolutely marvellous to see these photos; the air filter circled is a Vokes Air Filter, which was as you suggest a filter to keep out dust and was used on Hurricanes and Spitfire in the Desert Air Force and elsewhere.

 

Incidentally there is a guy on here called 'RAFMT' who works at the RAF Museum and I'm sure the RAFM would love copies of all your photos.

Edited by LarryH57

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Thanks, I have been wondering what to do with the photos. I thought about uploading some of them to Wikimedia Commons as it seems there is a way to make them free for public use yet at least keep my father's name on them as copyright owner for posterity. There is a large field for description on there so its one way to get them on record. Posting them on here allows me to tap into the local expertise to fill in a lot of the gaps too, and I have had some useful observations.

 

Which RAF Museum does this guy work at? I am not too far from Cosford and have wondered about going down there to pick their brains about Syko cipher devices. I e-mailed the RAF Museum about the case I found that held my father's Syko cipher device and it was 6 weeks before I got a 2 sentence reply from the London museum, so I still wondering about various aspects, like how many were issued.

 

Steve

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Afternoon Steve. Bryan is the chap at the RAF museum London.

You probably won't but don't donate them, by all means let them have copies if you want but I wouldn't donate ANYTHING to a museum nowadays.

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I had never heard of that before, and having looked at it it seems interesting but the structure for the air forces for example seems to only include squadrons, not air sea rescue, not RSUs, not MUs. The search engine only works if you are registered for it, so guess I will have to do that (this probably means that external search engines like Google are unable to locate information within it). I have quite a lot of info on various family members in WW1 and hopefully they will fit into the structure, so will have a look next time we have a rainy day.

 

Steve

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Dear Steve

 

I was fascinated to read this thread and see your father's photos. My late grandfather (Jim Marsden 1920-94) served with 58 RSU as a driver in 1943/44, in Egypt then Cyprus. It would appear that he and your father served at the same time/place. He didn't speak much about his service and I'm only now starting to piece it all together, with the aid of his RAF record which I recently obtained. He arrived in Egypt in September 1942 and was transferred to 58 RSU in May 1943. He was with the unit it (apparently) returned to the UK in April 1944.

 

Before 58 RSU, he was part of Bomber Command ground crew at Marston Moor, near York (where he appears to have met Leonard Cheshire). After 58 RSU, he joined a forward recovery unit that accompanied the Allied advance through France and Germany after D-Day. He was part of a convoy that delivered supplies to Belsen after its liberation.

 

I have tracked down 58 RSU's operations records for the relevant period and am going to the National Archives next month to view them.

 

Thank you for sharing your father's experiences/photos on here. It is the first tangible link to his time in Egypt that I have come across.

 

Regards

 

James

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I doubt the 2 Hurricanes photographed from the side are the same, the camouflage pattern is different.

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I think these are 3 separate aircraft. If you look in the backgrounds you can see the other Hurricanes, especially the one with the ferry tanks installed. The skinless Hurricane looks to me like it's being stripped for spares. You would never remove the skin in the open as the sand will get into places it can never be cleared from, and you don't want that in an aircraft that will be repaired.

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Very late reply from me - I can't say for certain that the photos are of hurricanes being re-skinned in the open, but when going through his photos, when he came to these my father told me they had to re-cover the newly delivered hurricanes because the fabric had been affected by the tropical delivery route they were using. It could be that these photos reminded him of that activity, but at the time I understood that these photos were the record of this activity being carried out. I am afraid its too late to ask him now, his dementia has gone too far.

Courtesy of JamesR who posted earlier I now have a big chunk of 58 RSU logs, and it gives some interesting insights into what they were up to day by day. Planes are individually identified with such details as crashed by nn OTU, recovered, locations, sent to MU etc. It could add some interesting details into the history of some planes (I wonder if any still exist from then). Also there are vehicle transfers summarised at the end of each month, which gives the type and WD vehicle numbers.

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