Tag Archives: Second World War

A US Navy Pilot’s Comments on the Spitfire and the Seafire

supermarine_seafire

A SUPERMARINE SEAFIRE

Flown from the decks of aircraft carriers during the Second World War and the Korean War, the Seafire was the Royal Navy’s version of the Spitfire.

Over 2,300 Seafires were produced for the Fleet Air Arm, and in 1943 United States Navy pilot Corky Meyer had the chance to fly one of them.

Describing the aircraft’s performance Corky wrote: “Without argument, the Spitfire/Seafire configuration is probably the most beautiful fighter ever to emerge from a drawing board. Its elliptical wing and long slim fuselage are visually most delightful, and its flight characteristics equal its aerodynamic beauty.

“The Seafire had such delightful upright flying qualities that knowing it had an inverted fuel and oil system, I decided to try inverted figure 8s. They were as easy as pie… I have never enjoyed a flight more. It was clear to see how a few exhausted, hastily trained Battle of Britain pilots flying Spitfires were able to fight off Hitler’s hordes for so long and so successfully.”

He concluded by saying that while the carrier based Wildcat, Hellcat and Corsair fighters were workhorses “the Seafire was a dashing stallion”. 

Photograph: Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

St. Saviour’s (Part Three)

A Second World War Liberty Ship

A SECOND WORLD WAR LIBERTY SHIP

Opened by George Selwyn, the Bishop of Lichfield, on April 1st, 1868, St. Saviour’s was a tin mission church in Butt Lane. Manufactured as a “self-assembly kit” containing a wooden frame, corrugated iron sheets, doors and windows, the church was purchased from a London firm. Erected by volunteers, St. Saviour’s served the village until 1879 when it was replaced by a mock Tudor timber-framed building.

The redundant “tin church” was acquired by Mow Cop parish, dismantled and taken to The Rookery where it was reassembled.

Now called “St. Saviour’s Mission Church in the Rookery”, the church was self-supporting. All its income came from collections and fundraising activities organised by members of the congregation.

Although services were taken by the vicar of Mow Cop who appointed the Vicar’s Warden, other officials were elected by the congregation at the annual general meeting. As well as electing the People’s Warden, the treasurer and the sidesmen, the meeting appointed the Sunday School superintendent, the choirmaster, the organist and the cleaner.

In September 1932, the Rev. Charles Hood became Vicar of Mow Cop. A man with a forceful personality, he persuaded the annual general meeting to regenerate St. Saviour’s and the church was closed from August 18th to September 8th, 1935 while the work was carried out. Some of the money to finance the project was raised locally, but most had been given by retired marine engineer, Summers Hunter, who had helped re-erect the church when it came from Butt Lane.

One of John and Isabella Hunter’s six children, Summers was born at Inverness on July 12th, 1856 and educated at Inverness Academy. In 1870, when Summers was 14, his father became the agent for a colliery in the Kidsgrove area. The family left Scotland and came to live in The Rookery.

Summers obtained an apprenticeship with Barker & Cope, a Kidsgrove engineering firm which made boilers, winding gear and pumps. He attended classes at the Wedgwood Institute and won prizes for electrical engineering, technical drawing and machine construction. In 1880, Summers left The Rookery and went to Sunderland to work for the North Eastern Marine Engineering Company where he became one of the world’s leading marine engineers.

In 1900, the company made him its managing director. He modernised the firm’s Wallsend factory where cutting-edge research was undertaken to develop new and more powerful steam engines. Efficient and easy to maintain, these engines were used by shipbuilders in Europe and North America to power their ships. During the Second World War, a triple expansion engine, developed by Summers in the early years of the 20th century, was modified and installed in the British designed Liberty Ships which were built in Britain and America to carry supplies across the Atlantic.

When St. Saviour’s was regenerated, Summers gave two stained glass windows. A large window which depicted the figure of Christ was installed above the altar, and the other window was placed above the main entrance.

Summers visited St. Saviour’s on October 13th, 1935 and addressed the congregation. After giving a brief account of the church’s history, he bore “personal witness” of the way his life had been influenced by the services he attended there in his youth.

Copyright Betty Cooper 2011

St. Saviour’s was demolished in 2013. Regeneration consultants believe the church was an asset that could have been used to help create a heritage based tourist industry in the Kidsgrove area. Architectural historians say the demolition of this historic church was an act of bureaucratic vandalism which proves to the world that North Staffordshire does not care about its heritage.  

Burslem – Reflections on a town’s heritage

A Second World War Liberty Ship

Like all the towns in our area, Burslem has a proud heritage.

In the 18th century, its master potters brought the Industrial Revolution to North Staffordshire.

The old town hall is one of the finest examples of civic architecture erected by a local board of health.

Burslem born architect, Absalom Reade Wood designed the Woodhall Memorial Chapel, the Drill Hall, the Art School, the Wycliffe Institute, Moorland Road Schools, Longport Methodist Church and Middleport Pottery.

Created by local craftspersons, the Wedgwood Institute has a unique terracotta façade which is an inspiring tribute to the skills of the men and women who worked in the pottery industry.

During its long history, the Wedgwood Institute has housed several schools and colleges whose alumni have played a significant role on the world stage in the fields of literature, science and technology.

They include:

  • Oliver Lodge, the first principal of Birmingham University, who invented the spark plug and perfected radio telegraphy;
  • Arnold Bennett whose novels vividly described life in North Staffordshire and immortalised The Potteries;
  • Summers Hunter, one of the world’s leading maritime engineers, whose firm designed the engine that powered the Liberty Ships* which helped to keep the supply lines between Britain and North America open during the Second World War; and
  • Reginald Mitchell, the 20th century’s leading aircraft designer, who created the Spitfire which saved the world from Nazi domination.

*The photograph shows a Liberty Ship which was powered by a marine engine designed by Summers Hunter.

John Lloyd – North Staffordshire’s Forgotten Aircraft Designer

Described by Sir Morien Morgan (the Director of the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough) as one of the 20th century’s leading aircraft designers, John Lloyd was born near Swansea on October 20th, 1888.

Born into a close-knit Welsh-speaking family, four-year-old John could not speak English when his family moved to Etruria. An intelligent child, he quickly mastered the English language. Educated at Cavour Street Schools and at Hanley High School, he left school at sixteen.

He became an apprentice at Shelton Bar and attended evening classes at the Technical School in London Road, Stoke.

Fascinated by the Wright brothers attempts to build a petrol engine powered glider, John designed and made model flying machines in his spare time.

Before the First World War (1914-18) aeroplanes had wooden frames covered with canvas. Having studied aerodynamics, John believed that an all-metal aircraft could be built. When war broke out, he was employed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough to design composite wood, metal and canvas fighter aircraft.

After the war, Coventry based aeroplane manufacturer Armstrong Whitworth made John its chief designer, and he designed the Armstrong Whitworth Siskin fighter-bomber. In 1923 a specially built two-seater Siskin II won the King’s Cup Air Race reaching a speed of 149 miles per hour. Shortly afterwards, he modified the aircraft’s design and created the Siskin III, the Royal Air Force’s first all-metal framed biplane.

Civil aviation developed rapidly after the First World War, and in March 1924, the government founded Imperial Airways to carry passengers and mail throughout the British Empire.

An airmail service between England and India opened in 1929, and Imperial Airways asked Armstrong Whitworth to build a four-engine monoplane capable of carrying passengers and mail.

John designed the Atalanta, a commercial transport aircraft that had a range of 540 miles and could carry seventeen passengers. The Atalanta made its maiden flight on June 6th, 1932. Imperial Airways bought eight Atalantas, and the aircraft went into service on September 26th.

The company assigned four Atalantas to its airbase at Germinston in South Africa. The other four were sent to India where they flew from Karachi to Calcutta, Rangoon and Singapore.

As early as 1933, the government realised that Germany was preparing for war and decided to modernise the Royal Air Force. It asked the aircraft industry to build fast heavily armed monoplane fighters and long-range bombers to replace the Royal Air Force’s old-fashioned biplanes. John designed the Whitley, a long-range heavy bomber. Powered by two Rolls Royce Merlin engines, the Whitley’s maximum speed was 230 miles per hour. It had a range of 2,400 miles and could carry bombs weighing up to 7,000lbs.

A front line aircraft from 1939 to 1942, the Whitley played a significant role in the Royal Air Force’s bombing offensive. During the Battle of Britain, it attacked Berlin and bombed aircraft factories, munitions works and railway marshalling yards in Italy. The Whitley’s last operational flight against Germany was on May 30th, 1942 when it took part in the first 1,000 bomber raid. The target was Cologne, and for nearly ninety minutes over 3,000 tons of bombs rained down on the city.

Between 1942 and 1949, John was at the cutting edge of aviation research working on the flying wing, an experimental tailless jet aircraft. Hoping these experiments would enable him to design an airliner, he constructed a two-seater tailless glider which flew successfully. Impressed by the glider’s performance the government allowed him to build two jet-powered flying wings. One crashed while being flown by a test pilot and the other was taken to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough where it was used in tests which helped to develop the V Bomber force and Concorde.

During the 1950s, John developed the Sea Slug missile for the Royal Navy which was undoubtedly the finest and most effective ship to air guided missile in the world. Retiring in 1959, he went to live with his daughter in London. A modest man, who never boasted about his achievements, John died aged ninety at Kingston-on-Thames on November 16th, 1978.

(The photograph shows a Whitley Bomber on a test flight over Coventry)

Copyright Betty Cooper 2010