Category Archives: Royal Air Force

RAF Opthalmascope

Good eyesight is a requirement for pilots today as it was during the Second World War. Therefore all prospective recruits to the RAF during the war were subjected to eye tests to ensure that pilots had 20/20 vision. These were performed by RAF doctors, using eyesight charts. If they needed to take a closer look at a patients eyes however they could use an opthalmascope, a small instrument to look into the back of a person’s eyes to see if there are any defects. A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to come across one of these instruments, in an elegant leatherette covered box:19250547_10154637772618045_2002613271174023683_oAs can be seen this has an embossed crown and AM indicating Air Ministry ownership. Opening the case we can see it is fully lined and holds the opthalmascope in a purpose made fitting:imageA maker’s mark is printed on the silk on the underside of the lid:imageThe contents themselves are the body of the opthalmascope, the head, and three spare bulbs:imageThe body would hold several large cell batteries, the head attaches to the body, with a small screw to hold it tight:imageThe head consists of two overlapping discs, one of which can be rotated to change the size of an aperture used to look through into the patient’s eye:imageOn the rear can be seen where the small bulb fits, giving illumination straight into the retina to check for damage:imageThis is clearly a high quality medical instrument and was almost certainly bought off the shelf by the RAF, as the only ownership markings are on the case. For instruments such as this it was not worth the Air Ministry putting in their own specialist contracts considering that comparatively few were required, therefore only the case is marked as this was easily done by the manufacturer.

As might be expected some men were desperate to fly and a way around an eyesight test could be found, Martin Lunn describes how his father Sergeant Denis Lunn managed to get through:

My father, in his early twenties, was desperate to join the RAF, but was very much afraid that he would fail the eye test as he was considerably short-sighted. He therefore asked someone to copy out the eye chart for him so that he could learn it off by heart. He passed the eye test and went on to be awarded the Defence Flying Medal for rescuing nine Allied airmen in the Messina Straits in the first air-sea rescue operation from Sicily since the day of the invasion.

RAF Aircraft Cigarette Cards Part 5

Tonight we come to the fifth and final post covering the RAF Aircraft cigarette cards published by Players in the late 1930s. I hope you have enjoyed these posts as much as I have, many of these aircraft are virtually forgotten now and I must confess to having a soft spot for the lumbering biplanes of the interwar period!

Card 41- Airspeed Unnamed Radio-Controlled Target Aircraft.

Designed for the Navy and Army Anti-Aircraft Batteries, this aeroplane made its first public appearance at the Royal Air Force Display at Hendon in June 1937. Although still officially unnamed, it is usually referred to as the “Queen Wasp”. The engine is an Armstrong Siddeley “Cheetah” air-cooled 7 clylinder radial. Performance details of this aircraft are still secret. Arrangements are made for the fitting of floats in place of the usual land undercarriage, enabling the aircraft to be used either as a landplane or seaplane.SKM_C45817061407561 - Copy

Card 42- D.H. “Queen Bee” Radio-Controlled Target Aircraft

The “Queen Bee” is virtually a standard D.H. “Tiger Moth” equipped as a radio-controlled pilotless aircraft for use as a gunnery target. Apart from the radio-control equipment, the “Queen Bee” is also fitted with catapulting points and slinging gear, and may be used either as a landplane or seaplane. The engine is a “Gipsy-Major” 4-cylinder inverted air-cooled motor of 130 h.p. Performance details are not available for publication. H.M. The king witnessed a demonstration of “Queen Bee” flying when he visited the Fleet in June, 1938.SKM_C45817061407561 - Copy (2)

Card 43- Airspeed “Oxford” Advanced Training Aircraft

This aircraft, which is designed for training, is a graceful low-wing monoplane, built by Airspeed Ltd., and fitted with two Armstrong Siddeley “Cheetah X” engines of 350 h.p. each. The equipment provides for training in navigation, bomb aiming and wireless operation. The “Oxford” has a wing span of 53 feet 3 inches and a top speed of 187 m.p.h. Its flight endurance is 5 hours. It is finished in bright yellow, the distinguishing colour of trainer aircraft.SKM_C45817061407561 - Copy (3)

Card 44- Avro “Prefect” Navigational Training Aircraft

An adaptation of the well-known Avro “Tutor” specially equipped for navigational training in the Royal Air Force. Full cloud-flying equipment, blind-flying hood, etc., are provided. Except for this specialised equipment the “Prefect” is identical to the “Tutor”. An Armstrong-Siddeley “Lynx” engine of 215 h.p. is fitted. The aircraft has a wing span of 34 feet, a length of 26 feet 6 inches and a height of 9 feet 7 inches.SKM_C45817061407561 - Copy (4)

Card 45- Avro “Tutor” Training Aircraft

A two-seater equal span single-bay training aircraft, used for elementary training. Complete dual control is fitted, and a 215 h.p. Armstrong Siddeley “Lynx” 7-cylinder radial air cooled engine provides a maximum speed of 122 m.p.h. A seaplane version of this aircraft, known as the “Seatutor” is also built, and is almost identical to the landplane apart from having a slightly lower performance. The “Tutor” has a wing span of 34 feet, a length of 26 feet 6 inches and a height of 9 feet 7 inches.SKM_C45817061407561

Card 46- D.H. “Tiger Moth” Training Aircraft

This aeroplane was designed as an efficient elementrary and intermediate training biplane, but in addition it is used in the Service for communication duties. Complete dual control is fitted and, if desired, floats may be employed in lieu of wheels, rendering the aircraft suitable for seaplane training. A D.H. “Gipsy Major” 4-cylinder-in-line inverted air cooled engine is installed, and in the case of the landplane produces a maximum speed of about 109 m.p.h. The “Tiger Moth” has a wing span of 29 feet 4 inches, a length of 23 feet 11 inches and a height of 8 feet 9 ½ inches.SKM_C45817061507530 - Copy

Card 47- Miles “Magister” Training Aircraft

A low wing trainer monoplane built by Phillips & Powis, the Miles “Magister” is fitted with a de Havilland “Gipsy Major” engine of 130 h.p. Its lines are noticeably graceful. The wing span is 33 feet 10 inches and the length 25 feet 3 inches. The cockpits are open and are set tandem fashion. There are full controls and instruments including blind-flying equipment. Like other trainers, the “Magister” is finished in a bright shade of yellow. Trainer aircraft are specially designed and fitted for the highly important functions which they perform.SKM_C45817061507530 - Copy (2)

Card 48- Miles Unnamed Training Aircraft

This low-wing cantilever monoplane is a high speed trainer built by Phillips & Powis. It mounts a Rolls Royce “Kestrel XVI” engine of a maximum output of 745 h.p. The two seats are placed tandem and there are dual controls. The undercarriage is retractable, while a feature of the design is the unusually thick wing. The machine has a top speed of 295 m.p.h. Modern high-speed flying demands a special technique which this aircraft is designed to teach, but it can also be employed as a general purpose type suitable for fighting, light bombing or reconnaissance.SKM_C45817061507530 - Copy (3)

Card 49- Vickers “Virginia” Parachute Training Aircraft

Originally designed as a bomber, this aeroplane is now used for parachute training. An unusual feature of the design is the double set of landing wheels. The aircraft is fitted with two Napier “Lion” 12 cylinder “W” type liquid-cooled engines mounted between the wing stuts. The dimensions of the “Virginia” are imposing- wing span 87 feet 8 inches, length 62 feet 3 inches, heigh 17 feet 9 inches. A comparison of the “Virginia” with more recent types of bomber (e.g. “Battle” and “Wellesley”) shows the rapid advance made in general design.SKM_C45817061507530 - Copy (4)

Card 50- Vickers “Valentia” Troop Carrier

This type is a development of the “Victoria” V and VI bomber transport aeroplanes, and is fitted with two Bristol “Pegasus” II L.3 engines. Provision is made for carrying a spare engine on the bottom inner port plane. The aircraft is 59 feet long, and has a wingspan of 87 feet 7 inches. When used for transport the “Valentia” carries 21 troops besides a crew of 2, including the pilot. It has a range of about 650 miles and has been largely used for moving troops expeditiously over rough country. Most of this type are stationed abroad.SKM_C45817061507530

RAF Aircraft Cigarette Cards Part 4

Tonight we have the penultimate part of our series covering the RAF Aircraft cigarette cards set.

Card 31- Short “Sunderland” Flying Boat

The latest type of general purpose flying boat to go into service with the Royal Air Force. It is a military development of the now well-known Short “Empire” class which is widely used by Imperial Airways. Four Bristol “Pegasus” engines are fitted and although it is not permissible to divulge details of performance, it may be stated that it has a much superior performance to any similar type in service use. The “Sunderland” has a wing span of 113 feet 9 inches and a length of 85 feet 4 inches. There is a crew of 6.SKM_C45817060207581SKM_C45817060207581 - Copy

Card 32- Supermarine “Scapa” Flying Boat

This is a reconnaissance flying boat, developed from the “Southampton” and is built by Supermarine Aviation (Vickers) Ltd. It is powered with two Rolls-Royce “Kestrel” engines of 525 h.p. each, and has a wing span of 75 feet and length of 52 feet 6 inches. To fit it for its main function of searching the seas, it has a wide range- 1,025 miles, and a moderate speed of 143 m.p.h. It carries a crew of 5, including the pilot. The “Scapa” plays an important part in coastal defence. Because of the “Scapa’s” long range, special attention has been paid to its equipment with a view to the comfort of the crew.SKM_C45817060207581SKM_C45817060207581 - Copy (2)

Card 33- Supermarine “Stranraer” Reconnaissance Flying Boat

A twin engine long range general purpose flying boat constructed by a company with wide experience of this type. It is an unequal-span biplane powered by two Bristol “Pegasus X” 9-cylindar radial air-cooled engines of over 900 h.p. The maximum speed is 165 m.p.h and the normal range 1,000 miles, although this may be increased by the fitting of auxiliary tanks under the lower wings. Provision is made for the carriage of a spare engine. Sleeping quarters for the crew, food and water storage, and facilities for cooking are arranged for. The “Stranraer” has a wing span of 85 feet and a length of 54 feet 10 inches.SKM_C45817060207581SKM_C45817060207581 - Copy (3)

Card 34- Supermarine “Walrus” Amphibian

This type of ‘plane is normally carried on capital ships and cruisers, from which it can be catapulted. It is the largest and heaviest R.A.F. aircraft which can be launched by this means. The “Walrus” is built by Supermarine Aviation (Vickers) Ltd., and fitted with a Bristol “Pegasus” 580/600 h.p. engine. The wing span is 45.8 feet, but the wings fold to a span of a little over 17 feet for storage on board ship. The speed of the “Walrus” is reckoned in knots, the top speed being 122, about 140 m.p.h. Landing wheels, which retract into the wing, enable the aircraft to land on the ground when required.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy

Card 35- Vickers “Vincent” General Purpose Aircraft

This general purpose biplane is similar in design to the “Vildebeest”, except for a reduction in the toal weight. Like the “Vildebeest” it is built by Vickers and is fitted with a Bristol “Pegasus” engine. It has a higher top speed and wider range- 142 m.p.h. and 620 miles respectively- than the “Vildebeest”. The “Vincent” is employed almost wholly on overseas service, for which it is found to be especially suitable. It has taken part in many long distance inter-Command flights in the Middle East. The “Vincent” carries a crew of 2.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy (2)

Card 36- Vickers “Wellesley” General Purpose Aircraft.

This low-wing monoplane is the first aircraft constructed on the “Geodetic” principle to have been put into quantity production for the Royal Air Force. It is a Vickers Aviation product and is fitted with an air cooled 9-cylinder Bristol “Pegasus” engine developing 950 h.p. The fuselage is of oval-section metal structure and the wing span is 74 ½ feet. The “Wellesley” attains a top-speed of 228 m.p.h. and has a range of over 1,300 miles at normal cruising speed. There are enclosed cockpits for pilot and observer, with intercommunication. The aircraft mounts 2 machine-guns.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy (3)

Card 37- Westland “Wapiti” General Purpose Aircraft

An aeroplane designed for general purpose and Army co-operation work. It is fitted with a Bristol “Jupiter VIII. F” engine developing 460 h.p. at 4,000 feet. A crew of 2 is carried. The “Wapiti’s” maximum speed is 128.5 m.p.h. and its range 305 miles. This type has been extensively used overseas, and was at one time the standard type in the Australian and South African Air Forces. The dimensions are: wing span 46 feet 5 inches, length 32 feet 6 inches and height 11 feet 10 inches.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy (4)

Card 38- Avro “Anson” General Reconnaissance Aircraft

This is a military development of the Avro 652 commercial monoplane, and is designed for coastal reconnaissance duties. A low-wing monoplane with mechanically operated retractable undercarriage, the “Anson” carries a crew of 4, has a bomb compartment in the nose, compartments for the navigator and wireless operator, and a gun turret in the top decking of the fuselage. The constructors are A. V. Roe & Co. Ltd., and the two Armstrong Siddley “Cheetah IX” engines produce a top speed of 188.5 m.p.h. The “Anson” has a wing span of 56 feet 6 inches and a length of 42 feet 3 inches.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy (5)

Card 39- Fairey “Swordfish” Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance Aircraft

The type allocated to the Fleet Air Arm. It is fitted with a Bristol “Pegasus” air cooled engine developing 690 h.p. The armament consists of 2 machine guns. A load of bombs is carried or, alternatively,an 18-inch torpedo. The “Swordfish” has a maximum speed of 154 m.p.h. and a duration of flight of 5.7 hours. The wing span is 45 feet 6 inches but the wings fold to 17 feet 3 inches for storage aboard ship. Owing to its adaptability, this type is of great use in naval warfare.SKM_C45817061407560 - Copy (6)

Card 40-Hawker “Osprey” IV Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance Aircraft

This is a two seater Fleet spotter reconnaissance aircraft built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd., and is fitted with a Rolls-Royce “Kestrel V” water-cooled engine of 640 h.p. The construction is mainly stainless steel and the fuselage fabric-covered. The wing span is 37 feet but the wings fold for carriage on board ship. The aircraft can be employed either as a landplane or seaplane, the land undercarriage being interchangeable with twin single-step floats. A top speed of 175.5 m.p.h is attained by the “Osprey” and its endurance at cruising speed at 10,000 feet is about 2 ½ hours.SKM_C45817061407561 - Copy

RAF Aircraft Cigarette Cards Part 3

Tonight we come to the third of our five posts covering the Player’s cigarette card series “Aircraft of the Royal Air Force”. This week the cards focus mainly on fighter aircraft.

No. 21- Gloster “Gauntlet” Fighter

This is a biplane fighter built by the Gloster Aircraft Co. Ltd., and fitted with a Bristol “Mercury” air-cooled engine which develops 645 h.p. at a high altitude. The wings are “staggered”, the upper wing being mounted further forward than the lower. The maximum speed is 230 m.p.h. 2 machine guns are mounted on the sides of the fuselage. The Gloster “Gauntlet” has a wing span of 32 feet 10 inches, a length of 26 feet 2 inches and a height of 10 feet 2 inchesSKM_C45817052508060No 22.- Gloster “Gladiator “ Fighter

An all metal biplane fighter and a development of the earlier “Gauntlet” being faster and more heavily armed. It is fitted with a Bristol “Mercury IX” engine which develops 840 h.p. at 12,500 feet. The single-strut undercarriage is an unusual feature. The “Gladiator” has a wing span of 32 feet 3 inches- 7 inches less that the “Gauntlet”- and attains a maximum speed of 255 m.p.h. The armament consists of 4 machine guns, 2 in the fuselage and 2 in the wings.SKM_C45817060207580No 23.- Gloster Unnamed Fighter

This single seater fighter, built by the Gloster Aircraft Co., and fitted with a Bristol “Mercury IX” or “Perseus” engine, is of recent introduction and its performance figures are still secret. It is a low-wing monoplane with monocoque fuselage. The construction is all metal and the covering metal-stressed skin throughout, except for fabric covered rudder, elevators and ailerons. The fin and rudder are placed noticeably further forward, relative to the tail plane, than is usual. The aircraft has a wing span of 38 feet 2 inches and a length of 31 feet.SKM_C45817060207580 - CopyNo 24.- Hawker “Demon” Fighter

Built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd., and fitted with a Rolls-Royce “Kestrel V” engine developing 575/600 h.p. at 11,000 feet, this is the only two-seater fighter in service with the exception of a development of the service type “Demon I (turret)”. The “Demon” is a biplane with a wing span of slightly more than 37 feet, which is somewhat wider than is general in aircraft of this type. The “Demon” develops a top speed of about 182 m.p.h. but its range is no less than 404 miles. The design, apart from the two-seater construction, follows conventional lines. The rear cockpit accommodates the gunner.SKM_C45817060207580 - Copy (2)No 25.- Hawker “Demon I (Turret)” Fighter

Structurally this aeroplane is identical with the normal “Demon” two-seater fighter, but in place of the rear gunner’s cockpit a power-operated turret is installed. The engine is a Rolls-Royce “Kestrel V” (derated) 12-Cylinder Vee liquid-cooled engine giving a maximum output of 584 h.p. The majority of the two-seater fighter squadrons of the Royal Air Force are now equipped with this aircraft. The maximum speed is 180 m.p.h. at 20,000 feet. The wing span is 37 feet 3 inches, length 29 feet 6 inches and height 10 feet 9 inches.SKM_C45817060207580 - Copy (3)No 26.- Hawker “Fury” Fighter

This aptly named single-seater fighter is built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd., and fitted with a Rolls-Royce “Kestrel” engine developing 480 h.p. at 11,500 feet. The construction is composite, being partly wood and partly metal. The airscrew is wood. The under-carriage is of a conventional v-type with Oleo legs and tubular axle. The “Fury”, which has a high degree of manoeuvrability, attains a speed of 223 m.p.h at 15,000 feet and lands at 62.5 m.p.h. A development of the type is the “Fury II” which mounts a “Kestrel VI” engine.SKM_C45817060207580 - Copy (4)No 27.- Hawker “Hurricane” Fighter

This single-seater fighter is probably the most discussed type now in service. A “Hurricane” recently covered the 327 miles from Edinburgh to Northolt in 48 minutes. The type combines high speed with ease of manoeuvre and slow landing, and the beautifully streamlined design gives an impression of power that is confirmed by the machine’s performance. The “Hurricane” is a low wing cantilever monoplane with a 40-feet wing span, built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. It is fitted with a Rolls-Royce “Merlin” engine developing 1,050 h.p. The armament consists of 8 machine guns, mounted 4 in each wing.SKM_C45817060207580 - Copy (5)No 28.- Supermarine “Spitfire I” Fighter

A single seater fighter monoplane in which many of the lessons learned by Supermarine Aviation (Vickers) Lt., in producing high-speed seaplanes for the Schneider Trophy Contests, have been incorporated. All-metal stressed skin construction has been used. The pilot’s cockpit is enclosed and a retractable undercarriage is fitted. Power is provided by a Rolls-Royce “Merlin” 12-cylinder liquid-cooled engine, and the “Spitfire” has been claimed to be the fastest military aeroplane in the world. Performance figures are not available. The aircraft has a wing span of 37 feet and a length of 30 feet.SKM_C45817060207581 - CopyNo 29.- Saro “London” Flying Boat

Saunders Roe are the builders of this imposing open-sea reconnaissance flying boat, which is fitted with two Bristol “Pegasus” engines. The “London” is a sesquiplane biplane of metal construction and has fabric covered wings. Wing-tip floats are fitted to the bottom plane. A beaching chassis, consisting of two large disc wheels and a tail-trolley, enables the “London” to be hauled up the slipway. There are gun positions in the nose, amidships and in the tail. The range of the “London” is 880 sea miles and it carries a crew of 5 (pilot, navigator and 3 gunners). The wing span is 80 feet and length 56 feet 6 inches.SKM_C45817060207581 - Copy (2)No 30.- Short “Singapore III” Flying Boat

This metal hull biplane, built by Short Bros. Ltd., and fitted with 4 Rolls-Royce “Kestrel” engines is the third of the “Singapore” series and is designed for reconnaissance work. The engines are mounted tandem between the wings, the lower wing being fitted with wing-tip floats for lateral stabilisation. There are machine-gun mountings at the bow, centre and tail. The aircraft develops a top-speed of 118 knots (136 m.p.h.), has a range of 865 sea miles and carries a crew of 6. It is a sesquiplane, i.e. the wings are of unequal span. The crew’s quarters have bunks, cooking apparatus, work bench and stowage for dinghies.SKM_C45817060207581 - Copy (3)

Plastic Air Training Corps Lapel Badge

A few years back we looked at plastic cap badges, made during the Second World War as an economy measure. However these were not the only badges remade in plastic; metal was a strategic resource and if a badge could be moulded out of plastic then it saved brass or steel for more important duties. As well as military cap badges many civilian and Civil Defence badges were produced in plastic as well as badges for various youth organisations such as the cadets. It is a lapel badge for the Air Cadet Corps we are looking at tonight:imageThis badge was worn on the lapel of a suit when the owner was out of uniform, allowing a discrete way of showing his role within the service and allowing other members of the cadet force to easily identify him as a member. It might seem strange today, but in the Second World War normal attire for teenagers was the same as for adults; shirt tie and jacket. As such they all had a lapel with a suitable button hole to attach the badge to. The rear of the badge has a straight post and a round top to it to allow it to fasten securely through a lapel:imageSmall lettering on the back of the badge indicates it was made by Stanley’s of Walsall:imageThis firm were a large manufacturer of badges and produced massive quantities for the armed forces. The badge itself is not made from Bakelite, but rather a form of cellulose. A larger circular cap badge was also produced in plastic for the Air Training Corps.

John Phillip Haseldine was a member of the ATC and recalls some of its activity:

From early 1940 I was going to the A.T.C. every evening and at weekends. We were shown how to recognise aircraft from all angles by black silhouettes – plus we did the normal square-bashing, of course. We used to be taught how to set a course allowing for wind speed and variation etc. and I was pretty good at all this sort of thing. Of course, nights in the winter especially were pitch dark and I remember two occasions in the black out. The first happened as I was riding my bicycle home when suddenly I flew through the air. For some reason a manhole cover in the road had been left off and my front wheel had gone into it. Luckily, being young, I was not badly hurt but my bicycle was a complete wreck. We used to have very bad smogs caused by all the coal fires, virtually the only kind of heating in houses. Added to the black out these smogs made it impossible to see even a yard ahead of you. On this one evening a group of us were going to A.T.C. training at a different venue than our usual place. We got completely lost, when a man bumped into us with his bicycle and said he lived in the road where we were going. He said if one of us held onto his bicycle and the rest joined in a line behind, he would walk there with us. We did this for a little way but then came to a dead stop as he had walked off the street into an air raid shelter. After this we groped about most of the evening and to this day I cannot remember whether we arrived.

Early in 1944 I went with other of the A.T.C. to a test centre in London. I cannot recall where it was but we were given medicals and things I remember we had to do was to blow into a tube that raised mercury to a certain level and hold it there for one minute; also a Japanese book which had numbers in it made up of all different colours. We were asked what numbers we saw when the pages were turned over. Then we were interviewed separately and asked questions, most of which I thought were crazy, by three R.A.F. officers. The only one I can remember was how a combustion engine works, which I knew.

I would have been coming up to 18 at this time. Some months later we were taken in R.A.F. trucks to airfields; we were not told where. I remember one we were taken to. There was a very large building with a ballroom-type floor, at one end of which was a dais with a seat and an aircraft joystick, in front of which was a flat board which you could lie on, with a bomber’s teat by the side. A map of Germany was projected on the whole of the floor which moved as if you were flying over it, both pilot and bomb-aimer were about 20’ above. Whoever was pilot was given a target on the map and as the map moved and you approached the target to get into the right position the bomb-aimer would give directions left or right of it until he thought you were in the right position. Then he would press the bomb teat and release the bombs. This was not as easy as it seems as you had to allow a time lag for bombs to drop. A bright spotlight would then show where your bombs had landed and the map would stop.Air_cadets_learn_the_basics_of_flight_at_RNAS_St_Merryn_in_Cornwall,_February_1944__A22064

RAF Aircraft Cigarette Cards Part 2

We continue our look at the 1938 Player’s Cigarette Card set ‘Aircraft of the Royal Air Force’ with cards 11-20 tonight. These cards focus on bombers and whilst one or two are very familiar today, most of these designs have long been forgotten. As ever the captions are the original wording printed on the back of each card.

No. 11- Fairey “Battle” Bomber

Produced by the Fairey Aviation Co., Ltd., this aircraft is a low wing monoplane bomber with monocoque fuselage and metal-skinned wing and tail surfaces. A feature of the fuselage is the continuous transparent fairing over the cockpits which accommodate the crew of 2. A fixed machine gun is mounted in the starboard wing and a free gun in the rear cockpit. The power unit is a Roll-Royce “merlin” super-charged engine. The “Battle” has a top speed of about 257 M.p.h. and a normal range of approximately 1,000 miles. The wing span is 54 feet and the length is 42 feet 4 ½ inches.No. 12- Fairey “Gordon” Bomber

An aircraft which may be employed for either general purpose or bombing duties and although no longer in squadron use at home, it still forms the equipment of certain overseas units. It is also used for towing sleeve targets at Armament Trainig Stations in this country. The ‘plane is fitted with an Armstrong Siddeley “Panther” 14-cylinder double-row radial air-cooled engine of over 500 h.p. The maximum speed is in the region of 140 m.p.h. There is a pilot and one other. The Fairey “Gordon” has a wing span of 45 feet 8 ½ inches, a length of 34 feet 2 ½ inches and a height of 10 feet 11 inches.No 13.- Fairey “Hendon” Bomber

Constructed by the Fairey Avaiation Co., Ltd., and mounting two Rolls Royce “Kestrel VI” engines of 600 h.p. each. The “Hendon” is an all-metal low-wing cantilever monoplane of clean design. The wing span is 101 feet 9 inches and the length 60 feet 9 inches. A separate dual-control unit, which can be readily fitted, is included in the equipment. A searchlight to facilitate night landing is mounted on the aircraft which carries a crew of 4 including the pilot. The “Hendon” has a range of 800 miles and a speed ranging from 129 m.p.h. at 3,000 feet to 152 m.p.h. at 12,000 feet. The landing speed is only 55 m.p.h. There are three gun positions.No 14.- Fairey Unnamed Bomber (Fulmar)

This is a lo wing monoplane bomber, built by the Fiary Avaiation Co., Ltd., and fitted with a RollS Royce “Merlin” engine. It has not yet been named. It is a two-seater aircraft with monocoque fuselage, metal skinned wing and tail surface, and fabric covered control surfaces. There is a retractable Oleo-pneumatic undercarriage. The wing span is 47 feet 4 inches. This aircraft is similar in construction to the Fairey “Battle”, but is smaller in size and weight and should therefore improve substantially on the “Battle’s” performance.No 15.- Handley Page “Hampden” Bomber

Some of the details of this recent bomber are still secret. It is designed by Handley Page Ltd., and mounts two Bristol “Pegasus XX” engines. The construction is all metal with totally enclosed stations for the crew of 4. The undercarriage and tail wheel are retractable and there are automatic wing slots and twin fins and rudders. The wing span is 69 feet 4 inches and the length 52 feet 5 inches. The wings taper noticeably in chord and thickness. There are 3 machine-gun positions- one in the nose, one above the fuselage and one below the fuselage, an unusual position made possible by the break in the lower fuselage line.No. 16- Handley Page “Harrow” Bomber

This aircraft is the largest bomber at present in service, having a wing span of 88 feet 5 inches. It is built by Handley Page Lt., and mounts two Bristol “Pegasus” engines of 850 h.p. A high-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, its wing and fuselage are fabric covered, the whole being camouflage finished. The crew of 5 includes 2 pilots. The “Harrow” has a speed of 190 m.p.h. and a range of approximately 1,250 miles at normal cruising speed. Among other features of the “Harrow” are automatic wing slots and covered in cockpits.No. 17- Handley Page “Heyford” Bomber

This aircraft is a biplane bomber of all metal construction. The fuselage is built in a high position directly under the top plane, thus giving a good view for the pilot and bomb aimer. The two engines are Rolls-Royce “Kestrels” of 480 h.p. each. A crew of 4 is carried and the armament consists of 3 machine guns on rotatable mountings. The “Heyford” has a maximum speed of 142 m.p.h. and its dimensions are wing span 75 feet, length 58 feet and height 17 feet 6 inches.No. 18- Hawker “Hind” Bomber

The design of this biplane bomber is essentially that of the earlier “Hart” of which it is a development. It is fitted with a Roll-Royce “Kestrel” supercharged engine giving a maximum output of 640 h.p. The “Hind” carries a crew of 2, mounts a machine gun, firing forward, and also a lewis gun; it has a maximum speed of 192.2 m.p.h. and a range of 393 miles. It is small, as bomber go, the dimensions being; wing span 37 feet 3 inches, length 29 feet 7 inches and height 10 feet 7 inches. The construction is all metal of steel and duralinium with fabric covering. The “Hind” is one of the few types of biplane bomber now in service.No. 19- Vickers “Vildebeest” Torpedo Bomber

Of all-metal construction, this biplane is a dual-purpose type, designed to carry either bombs or marine torpedoes. It is used for coastal defence. The power unit is a Bristol “Pegasus” of 580 h.p. at 5,000 feet. The “Vildebeest” has the relatively low maximum speed of 131.5 m.p.h., but its range is no less than 566 miles. The service load is 2,704 lb. including the crew. The dimensions are: wing span 49 feet, length 36 feet and height 15 feet 10 inches. A crew of 2 is carried, but provision is made for carrying an additional member when service conditions require it.No. 20- Vickers “Wellington I” Bomber

Of “Geodetic” construction, this aircraft is the first twin-engined machine to be built utilising this system, and is the subject of a large Air Ministry order. Performance figures are still secret, but it is believed that the range will be outstanding, and the maximum speed very high for an aircraft of this type. It is of all metal construction, and features of the design are the retractable undercarriage, trailing edge flaps and trimming tabs on elevators and rudder. Engines may be either Bristol “Pegasus” of “Hercules” or Rolls-Royce “Merlin”. A crew of 4 is carried. The wing span is 86 feet and length 60 feet 9 inches.

Aircraft of the Royal Airforce Cigarette Card Album (Part 1)

Tonight we start a five part series looking at a set of cigarette cards published in 1938 by Players covering the aircraft of the Royal Air Force:This set is particularly interesting as it includes many aircraft that would have been withdrawn by the outbreak of war; biplanes and high wing bombers all saw very limited service in World War Two. It also has the most up to date fighters such as the Spitfire and hurricane so it is an interesting snap shot into a transitional period in the Royal Air Force. The captions below come from the backs of the cards and are period to the illustrations.

No 1. The Airspeed Envoy of The King’s Flight

Chosen as the equipment of the King’s Flight, this aircraft is a low-wing twin-engined monoplane. The engines are Armstrong Siddeley “Cheetah IX” 7-cylindar air-cooled radials of 350 h.p. giving a maximum speed of 203 m.p.h. and a normal cruising speed of about 170 m.p.h. The colours in which this aircraft is finished are those of the Brigade of Guards. The ‘plane was used recently to convey His Majesty on a tour of four R.A.F. stations and in addition has been frequently employed by other members of the Royal Family. It has a wing span of 52 feet 4 inches and a length of 34 feet 6 inches.No 2. Avro “Rota” Army Co-Operation Autogiro Aircraft.

A two-seater autogiro fitted with dual control. Certain of these aircraft have been supplied to Army co-operation squadrons of the Royal Air Force and are also used at the School of Army Co-operation. The aircraft has a short take-off run and lands almost vertically. An Armstrong Siddeley “Civet” radial air-cooled engine is fitted and gives the aircraft a maximum speed of about 100 m.p.h. The “Rota” has a length of 19 feet 8 ½ inches and is 11 feet 1 inch in height: The rotor diameter is 37 feet.No 3. Hawker “Audax” Army Co-Operation Aircraft

Built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd., this biplane of all metal construction is an Army co-operation machine. It is fitted with a Roll-Royce “Kestrel” engine of 480 h.p. and carries a crew of 2. The maximum speed is 169 m.p.h. It is specially designed and equipped for Army co-operation work and is fitted with wireless and electrical apparatus and a message pick-up hook. The dimensions are: wing span 37 feet 3 inches, length 29 feet 7 inches and height 10 feet 7 inches.No 4. Hawker “Hector” Army Co-Operation Aircraft

Like the “Audax” and the more recent “Lysander”, the “Hector” is an Army co-operation aircraft. It is a biplane of all metal construction with a wing span of 37 feet and carries a crew of 2. The top speed is 191 m.p.h. The “Hector” is built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd, and the engine is a Napier “Dagger III” . The “Dagger” is an unusual engine design, having 24 cylinders cast in rows of 6, an arrangement which is known as the H type. It has two crankshafts geared together to drive the airscrew shaft.No 5. Westland “Lysander” Army Co-Operation Aircraft

The “ Lysander” built by Westland Aircraft Ltd., and fitted with a Bristol “Mercury XII” engine, is designed for Army co-operation work. It is a high-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, mounts 2 machine guns, and carries a crew of 2, including the pilot. The wing span is 50 feet, and this aircraft is the first type designed exclusively for Army co-operation duties, other aircraft having been developments of existent service types.No 6. Armstrong Whitworth “Whitley” Bomber

This is a low-wing cabin monoplane bomber of all metal construction with a wing span of 84 feet. The “Whitley” is provided with enclosed gun-turrets at nose and tail, in addition to a downward-firing turret within the body, and has retractable undercarriage. It is built by the Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Co., and fitted with two Armstrong Siddeley “Tiger VIII” of “IX” engines of 880 h.p. each. The “Whitley IV” is fitted with Rolls-Royce “Merlin” engines. There is accommodation for either 1 or 2 pilots and 3 or 4 other crew. The “Whitley” attains a speed of 192 m.p.h. and has a range of 1,500 miles.No 7. Blackburn “Skua” Dive Bomber Fighter

This dive-bomber fighter is a Blackburn product with a Bristol “Mercury IX” or “Perseus” engine. It is an all metal low wing monoplane with monocoque fuselage and retractable undercarriage, a notable feature being the tapered wing with rounded tip. The “Skua” is part of the equipment of the Fleet Air Arm and is a recent introduction. It is of interest that the “Perseus” is a sleeve valve engine and is the first engine of this type to go into general service use. The “Skua” will be allocated to aircraft carriers.No 8. Boulton Paul “Overstrand” Bomber

This aircraft is a development from the obsolete “Sidestrand”. It is a twin engine biplane bomber and is fitted with Bristol “Pegasus” engines of 590 h.p. each. A maximum speed of 150 m.p.h. is attained and the range is about 500 miles. The “Overstrand” mounts 3 machine guns, one of which is for defence against attack from below. A crew of 3 is carried. The dimensions are: wing span 72 feet, length 46 feet and height 15 feet 6 inches.No 9. Bristol “Blenheim” Bomber

A mid-wing monoplane bomber, mainly of metal construction, fitted with two Bristol “Mercury” engines with 3-bladed controllable-pitch airscrews. It normally carries a crew of 3. The armament consists of 2 machine-guns. The “Blenheim” has a retractable undercarriage and its dimensions are: wing span 56 feet 4 inches, length 39 feet 9 inches and height 9 feet 10 inches. The aircraft, which is a product of the Bristol Aeroplane Co., Ltd, attains a maximum speed of 279 m.p.h and has a range of 1000 miles with full load.No 10 Bristol “Bombay” Bomber Transport Aircraft

The performance figures of this new high-wing bomber transport are still secret. It is designed by Bristol Aeroplane Co., Ltd., and is equipped with two Bristol “Pegasus XX” engines. As a bomber the “Bombay” carries a crew of 4 but when used as a transport it carries a crew of 3 and has accommodation for 24 troops. It is of all-metal stressed skin construction, the engines being mounted in the wing which has a span of 96 feet. The enclosed gun turrets are placed in the nose and the tail, and there is intercommunication from end to end of the interior of the fuselage.