View Full Version : Vickers Vildebeest.

2nd Nov 2012, 10:19
I have recently been shown a photo of a slightly 'bent' Vildebeest.

The photo was taken in the Malaya/Singapore area either late 30s or very early 40s. It shows the aircraft having come down in what could be a rubber plantation with damage to the right mainplanes. There is a recovery crew at work on the aircraft. Unfortunately, there are no serial/identification markings visible in the photo.

The one thing which is confusing me, as well as the person that emailed the photo, is the fact the aircraft is fitted with a three-bladed propeller which very closely resembles the type of prop fitted to the Fairey Swordfish. The aircraft in the photo does not appear to be a Mk IV version which had the Perseus engine and three-bladed prop, but is more likely a Mk III. AFAIK, all the aircraft operated by the two Vildebeest squadrons (36 & 100) in the area at that time only had two-bladed props fitted.

Is anyone aware of any trials which involved the fitting of a three-bladed propeller to Vildebeest aircraft in the Far East? Have done a pretty thorough search on the Net but not turned anything up.

Would be grateful for any assistance.

India Four Two
2nd Nov 2012, 11:31

I can't help you but I just wanted to say that your question is one of the things I love about PPRuNe. Someone asking an arcane question about an 80 year-old aircraft with every expectation that someone will be able to answer it.

I'm on the same wavelength as someone who used to be able to state the significant differences between every mark of Spitfire and all the diffent versions of the Avro 504. :ok:

Chairborne 09.00hrs
2nd Nov 2012, 13:48
Someone on here:

Britmodeller.com (http://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?act=Search&nav=lv&CODE=show&searchid=ac543c972244e251461f446b06abb5d2&search_in=topics&result_type=topics&lastdate=0)

may be able to assist.

Heathrow Harry
2nd Nov 2012, 16:06
Possibly 101 Squadron?

100 Squadron Association - Royal Air Force (http://www.100squadronassociation.org.uk/history3.html)

3rd Nov 2012, 01:14
I F T,

Since I first connected to this wonderful world-wide-web some 12 years ago, I never cease to be amazed at the level of knowledge/expertise there is out there in deepest cyberspace. Particularly on forums such as this. Truly amazing.

This request was simply a shot in the dark but, hopefully, something might materialise.

CB 09, HH,

Many thanks. I'll follow-up on those links.

Load Toad
3rd Nov 2012, 02:52
Have a read of this - might be a bit of a clue:
German bomber parts for sale in NZ [Archive] - Key Publishing Ltd Aviation Forums (http://forum.keypublishing.com/archive/index.php?t-101891.html)

RNZAF Vickers VILDERBEEST 1930s Aircraft PROPELLER | Trade Me (http://www.trademe.co.nz/antiques-collectables/automotive-transport/aviation/auction-307547728.htm)

3rd Nov 2012, 07:58
L T,

Thanks for that steer.:ok:

3rd Nov 2012, 10:06
Just been given the go-ahead to add the photo.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8328/8150086543_607a5c72ab_c.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/janner88/8150086543/)
Vildebeest down01 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/janner88/8150086543/) by Janner88 (http://www.flickr.com/people/janner88/), on Flickr

Load Toad
3rd Nov 2012, 11:02
Interesting - but the description of the prop on the RNZAF...

These Vickers Vilderbeeste were initially equipped with a THREE BLADE propeller, but later were "upgraded" to a two-blade propeller

This 3 BLADE-type propeller is probably one of the ONLY REMAINING EXAMPLES IN THE WHOLE WORLD


It seems the individual propeller blades have been manufactured from wood, and then covered with canvas. The center boss is all metal with a numerical code that includes two "V"'s (All Vickers made items were named SOMETHING that started with a "V"

The canvas skin is much the worse for weather presently, but the woodwork beneath seems hard & reasonably free from rot, This irreplaceable old propeller deserves some loving restoration (NOW placed in inside-storage)

So it doesn't sound like the prop on your photo - maybe a local modification - didn't the Gloster Gladiators at Malta modify their props to improve the performance...?

Heathrow Harry
4th Nov 2012, 13:20
according to Masons "The British Bomber" the Mk II served with 100 Sq at Seletar from December 1933

it was replaced by the Mk III, introduced in 1935 and these only served in the Far East with 100 Sq and with 36 Sq at Seletar - 10 survivors of the war in Malaya were withdrawn to Java in 1942

no data on what sort of prop the Mk II and III had but the Mk IV (only 18 built) had a cowled engine and only served in the UK

pity we can't see th e cockpit area - the Mk II carried two crew, the III 3 crew

looking at the gubbins between the wheels under the fuselage it looks as if this was a bomb equipped plane and therefore more probably 100 Sq. - the torpedo installation was very clean under the fuselage

Heathrow Harry
4th Nov 2012, 13:42
Photo of Vildebeest Mark ll (http://www.svn.free-photos.biz/photographs/transportation/aircraft/460372_vildebeest_mark_ll.php)

photos as Seletar

Collections listing for "part of "MAGER ROY"" | Imperial War Museums (http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/listing/object-205001172) shows 100Sq Mk III's with spats

Vildebeests in Singapore and Ceylon (http://rnzaf.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=Wartime&action=print&thread=13068)

torpedo dropping!!!

some were apparently in Ceylon with 273 Sq when the Japanese attacked - see link above

4th Nov 2012, 16:42
The one thing that strikes me about this superb old photo is what a bloody good job the pilot did in landing his kite - it looks as though he pancacked it in!

5th Nov 2012, 05:37
L T,

As you point out, the description in that quote does not bear any resemblance to the prop on the aircraft above. I don't have any info on Gladiator props so can't answer that question. The prop fitted to the aircraft above looks very similar indeed to that fitted to the Fairey Swordfish which, I believe, was of all-metal construction.

H H,

I have enlarged the photo sent to me as much as I dare, up to around 400%. It looks as though there is another cockpit behind the pilot's. There seems to be a coaming pad in that area. If it were a two-seater, I would not expect to see that. I think it is a Mk III but cannot be absolutely certain.

O Ops,

I thought the same.

With the exception of the area immediately in front of the aircraft, there seem to be trees all around the frame yet the only real, visible, damage seems to be to the outer parts of the mainplanes on the right-hand side. Amazing!

Many thanks for all the pointers so far.

Load Toad
5th Nov 2012, 06:08
For the three bladed Gladiator props - apparently one ('Faith') or several Malta Gladiators were fitted with Blenheim engines and thus the Hamilton three blade prop. Which again doesn't look anything like the Swordfish type prop in your picture. I'm erring towards the prop must have been a local modification or a trial.

5th Nov 2012, 09:53
L T,

Both the chap who emailed the photo to me and I think it could have been some form of trial fit. Swordfish were in service with 4 AACU from around 1939 onwards I believe. That unit also operated Vildebeests.

Taking that a stage further, and referring back to Heathrow Harry's earlier comment (Post #10) about the "gubbins between the wheels", I am now wondering if that "gubbins" could be some form of winching aparatus for a towed target.

5th Nov 2012, 10:18
Further to my target towing comment above, I have been looking at the area of the photo behind the local labourer wearing a turban.

There appears to be a piece of equipment jutting horizontally out of the area where the Lewis gun would normally be. There also seems to be a fan-like object mounted on that.

Or, am I seeing things?:confused:

Could it be one of these?


Load Toad
5th Nov 2012, 14:33
It certainly looks to be the same contraption to me.

5th Nov 2012, 14:52
21-Oct-34 Vilderbeest K2931 of 100Sqn crashed in Malayan jungle.

See the following newspaper report for recovery story

Newspaper Article - R.A.F. PARTY'S TWELVE-MILE JUNGLE TREK TO FIND WRECKED BOMBER (http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Article.aspx?articleid=singfreepressb19341105-1.2.36&sessionid=247b85bbe4114ea7aab2c1cc78ec597e&keyword=bomber&search=advanced&fromdate=19341020&todate=19341120&articles=1&advertisements=1&illustrations=1&letters=1&obituaries=1&miscellaneous=1&newspaperTitles=beritaharian%2cdailyadvertiser%2ceasterndail y%2cmaltribune%2cmalayansatpost%2cmiddayherald%2csingchronic le%2csingdailynews%2csingweekherald%2cstraitsadvocate%2cstra itschinherald%2cstraitseurasian%2cstraitsmail%2cstraitsobser ver%2cstraitstelegraph%2cstoverland%2cstweekly%2cbiztimes%2c freepress%2csingfreepressa%2csingfreepressb%2cstraitstimes%2 ctoday%2cweeklysun%2cscjp%2clhzb&fuzzysearch=Off&token=bomber)

6th Nov 2012, 05:44
Thanks Paul. Quite a trek there.

Paul has also come up trumps with this link:

Newspaper Article - R.A.F. PLANE DOWN ON RUBBER ESTATE (http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Article.aspx?articleid=straitstimes19370929-1.2.70&sessionid=82d61a8af111475ab248c8ceb837aada&keyword=RAF&search=advanced&fromdate=19370927&todate=19370930&articles=1&advertisements=1&illustrations=1&letters=1&obituaries=1&miscellaneous=1&newspaperTitles=beritaharian%2cdailyadvertiser%2ceasterndail y%2cmaltribune%2cmalayansatpost%2cmiddayherald%2csingchronic le%2csingdailynews%2csingweekherald%2cstraitsadvocate%2cstra itschinherald%2cstraitseurasian%2cstraitsmail%2cstraitsobser ver%2cstraitstelegraph%2cstoverland%2cstweekly%2cbiztimes%2c freepress%2csingfreepressa%2csingfreepressb%2cstraitstimes%2 ctoday%2cweeklysun%2cscjp%2clhzb&fuzzysearch=Off&token=raf)

Load Toad
6th Nov 2012, 11:08
Let's face it - bleedin' amazing what PPRUNE can achieve innit...now we just need to know why they tried the three blade prop...

Heathrow Harry
6th Nov 2012, 17:03
amazing hardly covers it - a 70 year old picture of an unidentified aircraft somewhere in Asia and in 4 days we had the Squadron, the type, the fact it was fitted for target towing and now the names and ranks of the crew and the location

if we all spent the same amount of effort & intellect on business we'd be rich, RICH, RICH ;););)

Brian Abraham
7th Nov 2012, 01:51
Photo of Mk.III of 100 Squadron


7th Nov 2012, 14:29
The RNZAF Museum in Christchurch are currently undergoing a restoration of a Vildebeest. They might have some information.

Vildebeest | Air Force Museum | Christchurch New Zealand (http://www.airforcemuseum.co.nz/main/VickersVildebeest/)

8th Nov 2012, 00:13
Amazing is right. As I mentioned in Post #4, boards such as this seem to be able to unearth just about anything on any subject.

A little more info on the pilot has come to light, again thanks to Paul Mc. See his post #23 here:

German bomber parts for sale in NZ - Key Publishing Ltd Aviation Forums (http://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?p=1947691#post1947691)

I have also obtained some more gen on the aeroplane via another members only forum.

K2929 Vildebeest Mk II
D'lved to 100 Sqn 2.10.33
Packing Depot 11.10.33
Far East 4.1.34 for 36 Sqn
Fitted as TT. Engine lost power after dropping target; crashlanded, Seletar, 28.9.37; SoC as BER (834.55 FH).

There is also another photo of the aircraft on the last mentioned forum. As it is members only, I cannot link to it. However, if anyone has a copy of the book,'Hornet's Nest, A History of 100 Squadron', the photo is included in that and shows a view of the crash site from behind the aircraft this time.

As L T says above, all that is left now is to discover why the non-standard prop was fitted. Still working on that one.

Many, many thanks to all who have helped unearth the story behind the photo.

Brian Abraham
8th Nov 2012, 02:42
lauriebe, the following link notes serial allocations were:

Mk II K2916 to K4130
Mk III K4156 to K6407


So seems to confirm your aircraft is a Mk.II, and I would assume since both the II and III had the same engine, the three blade was fitted to the II as well as the III, as in the photo of the III in my previous post. As to why? Easier on stores stocking one type? Trouble with the two blade in the tropical climate?

Photo of K2918 a Mk.II


8th Nov 2012, 03:43
Brian, thanks.

The propellor fitted to the aircraft in the photo that I posted is certainly a non-standard item. All photos of the type that I have seen show a wooden two-bladed prop, even as late as Jan/Feb 1942 with aircraft withdrawn to the Netherlands East Indies. This is the first photo, so far, that I have seen of a Vildebeest MkII/III with a three-bladed prop.

My background is non-technical (pen pusher), so I am not aware of the possible advantages/disadvantages of that type of setup. Both the chap that sent me the photo and I were wondering if it had to do with the target-towing duties that this aircraft was engaged upon; possibly offering better performance?

tail wheel
8th Nov 2012, 04:27
It certainly appears the Vilderbeest has one of these.....


What on earth is it?

What is the vehicle limited to 16 MPH?

8th Nov 2012, 06:48
T W,

It is part of the winching mechanism for deploying air to air gunnery drogues. Can be seen in action in this short Pathe clip:

TRAILER TARGET... DROGUE - DUBLIN - British Pathé (http://www.britishpathe.com/video/trailer-target-drogue-dublin/query/aeroplanes)

Sorry, not sure what your reference to 16 MPH is.

Brian Abraham
8th Nov 2012, 07:16
All photos of the type that I have seen show a wooden two-bladed propThe photo I posted at post #22 seems to me to be a three blade. You don't agree lauriebe?

8th Nov 2012, 07:58

Have just had a closer look at the photo in post #22.

At first I thought that only one blade was visible but looking again it seems that there are possibly two. If that is so, the angle between them would certainly indicate a three-bladed propellor on that aircraft as well.

Do you know where and when the photo was taken?

8th Nov 2012, 09:40

Collections Search for "MAGER ROY" | Imperial War Museums (http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/search?query=MAGER+ROY&submit=&items_per_page=10)

I believe the photo was taken around 1936


Brian Abraham
8th Nov 2012, 11:56
The caption on the photo says "Vickers Vildebeest Mark III torpedo bombers of 100 Squadron approaching Tavoy, Burma. 11 February 1939", and came from

No. 100 Squadron RAF - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._100_Squadron_RAF)

9th Nov 2012, 06:30
Have tracked that photo down as part of the Roy Mager collection held at IWM.

Have spent quite a bit of time studying it and am not convinced that the aircraft in it has a three-bladed prop fitted. The area around the centre more closely resembles that of a two-bladed wooden prop.

India Four Two
14th Nov 2012, 05:17
Sorry, not sure what your reference to 16 MPH is.

It's a speed limit on the side of the lorry in your photo. I wondered why it was 16 mph instead of rounded to 15 mph.

14th Nov 2012, 05:42
I think it is a 3 blade propeller.


The top/vertical blade is almost invisible even in a static prop.

14th Nov 2012, 06:10
India Four Two,

Thanks for the clarification. Understood now.

The vehicle is another interesting feature of that, and another, photo. It has a double front axle with caterpillar tracks at the rear. Why the speed limit should be set at precisely 16 MPH I cannot answer.

Possibly because of the tracked arrangement at the back end of the vehicle?

14th Nov 2012, 07:29

I take your point re the top/vertical blade.

However, based on the hub arrangement, which more closely resembles that of the two-bladed propellors originally fitted to the Vildebeest, I still think it is a two-bladed propellor. It is very difficult to define an accurate edge to the blur of any blade in that photo .

I was also looking at the two-tier exhaust shown on the aircraft in the photo posted by Brian A. Not a normal feature of the Vildebeest. In Aviate 1138's enlarged version of that same photo, there appears to be a gap between the front end of the top exhaust and the engine itself. Not connected?

Is it possibly a case of carrying a spare in case of need during the deployment? The top exhaust seems longer but if the front end were moved forward and attached to the collector ring, the length would be much the same as the bottom exhaust.

14th Nov 2012, 08:36
I guess out there in the boonies and maybe a downed Vilde to extract the exhaust is for another machine?

When Spitfires changed prop types 2/3 they still bolted them onto the same hubs didn't they?

I have had 2/3/4/5 blades on my Rotax 911 - same hub, different blade numbers.

Brian Abraham
15th Nov 2012, 02:23
lauriebe, contact the site here. They have a New Zealander (Don MacKenzie) who flew the Vildebeest as a pilot with 100 Squadron before being posted to Ceylon in July 1941 to the Detached Flight that had six Vildebeests and four Fairey Seals.

Vildebeests in Singapore and Ceylon (http://rnzaf.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=Wartime&action=print&thread=13068)

15th Nov 2012, 06:20

Thanks. I have already been through that site and have been in contact with Dave Homewood, the chap that runs it. No further forward unfortunately.

Have also downloaded the 100 Sqn ORBs and annexes which cover the period 1934 - 1941, from the TNA site. No details recorded in those documents either.

Have looked through pretty much all the material on the 'Beest that I can find on the 'Net.


Sorry, cannot answer the question re Spit props/hubs.

astir 8
15th Nov 2012, 09:39
I've been trying to identify the vehicle in the photo without success. Anyone know?

From what's been said, I would guess something along the lines of a Crossley-Kegresse half track. The Kegresse track might have led to the slightly strange 16 MPH maximum sign as having been translated roughly from 25 kph.

But was it really twin front axle? I can't find reference to any such conformation. Or are the second wheels in the photo actually spare wheels mounted slightly higher, on rotating hubs which were often fitted as aids to trench crossing?

Suggestions or please publish the photo which shows the whole vehicle!:ok:

16th Nov 2012, 05:48
I also think the vehicle is a Crossley with Kegresse gear fitted to the rear but have so far been unable to locate any comparison. The closest that I have come is the header photo on this link which shows a very similar vehicle, also at Seletar, around the same time.

2006 June « Seletar Airbase project (http://seletar.wordpress.com/2006/06/)

Can't really tell from that photo if there is a double front wheel arrangement.

The front wheels of the vehicle in the original photo that I posted seem to be a more permanent fixture than just added axles for crossing rough terrain. That is a possibility though.

I have just found a site that deals with the historic aspects of Crossley vehicles and am about contact them for advice.

I attach the second photo that I have been sent below. It was taken further away from the subject and shows a little more of the scene. I have cropped in a little to try and show more detail.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8061/8189278611_18e82e2c03_c.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/janner88/8189278611/) Vildebeeste down-12 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/janner88/8189278611/) by Janner88 (http://www.flickr.com/people/janner88/), on Flickr

16th Nov 2012, 07:26
For anyone who might not be familiar with Crossley/Kegresse vehicles:

Crossley Kegresse data (http://www.crossley-motors.org.uk/history/military/kegresse/kegresse.html)

astir 8
16th Nov 2012, 07:39
Thanks very much Lauriebe. I'm still mystified. It may be an optical illusion but I get the feeling that the mudguard for the trailing front wheel is mounted higher than for the leading front wheel. Hence the thought of a low mounted "unditching" spare.

As the vehicle manufacturer would probably have supplied a bare chassis to a separate coachbuilder for the body to be fitted, I guess that any permutation would be possible!

16th Nov 2012, 08:31
Astir 8,

A very interesting observation re the front mudguard. I don't think it is an optical illusion.

I have used the larger .tif file that I was originally sent to try and check rather than the .jpg that I posted. Assuming that the stencilling on the side of the vehicle is straight, extending a line from that towards the mudguards does indicate that the front is lower than the rear.

I have now emailed the Crossley site and await a reply. As you mention, it is prossible that they supplied just a chassis so might not be able to help.

astir 8
16th Nov 2012, 11:20

Found on the Wikipedia description of the Russian BA-I or BAI armoured car from the 1930's

"An interesting idea that was borrowed from the earlier D-13 armoured car was mounting of spare wheels just next to the front wheels and only slightly higher. These helped when crossing trenches and rugged terrain".

BA-I - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BA-I)

BA-3/6 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BA-6) - shows a photo

BA-3, BA-6, and BA-9 Armored Cars - ENGLISH.BATTLEFIELD.RU - ENGLISH.BATTLEFIELD.RU (http://english.battlefield.ru/ba-3-ba-6-and-ba-9-armored-cars.html) refers to the spare wheels as "freely rotating"

19th Nov 2012, 05:40
Astir 8, thanks for those references.

I have now had a reply from the Crossley group. It seems that it is likely the vehicle in the photos could be a Crossley. However, the front wheel arrangement is just as confusing for the chap that answered as it is for us. He has never seen, or heard, of such an arrangement before.

Have now emailed a copy of the first photo which shows a little more detail of the front of the tender and am hoping he might be able to supply more information after seeing that.