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View Full Version : Whitchurch [Bristol] to Lisbon flight duration


ccohen
13th Feb 2022, 17:10
Hi,

Iím curious to know how long the flight would have taken during WWII on a DC3 going far out into the Atlantic. Iíve seen it quoted at about seven hours, but that does seem rather long even for the period, the route and the equipment.

Iím curious as my father flew to Lisbon twice in WWII, once from Whitchurch to meet an agent and another time by flying boat from Foyle en route to Accra and on toe Cairo.

Thanks, Colin Cohen

India Four Two
13th Feb 2022, 21:05
Colin,

Wikipedia quotes a cruising speed of 207 mph.

Using Great Circle Mapper (http://gcmap.com), I calculated 4:28 direct, so seven hours doesnít seem unreasonable, if you are taking the ďJu-88 avoiding routeĒ.

Interestingly, the maximum range is quoted as 1500 miles, which would be 7:15 at cruising speed.

I wonder if these Dakotas had extra fuel capacity.

ccohen
14th Feb 2022, 09:40
Thanks very much for that - I have little concept of speed as I've not piloted for half a century and then only in gliders and a hot air balloon!

It must have been a nail-biter though the two personal accounts I've read of the journey before the shoot-down made it sound relaxed. I think after that it was by night and I wonder how they navigated other than dead reckoning or why, if night flights were possible, they ever did it by day. As the shoot-down was at 07:35 and about three hours into the flight it must have been a dawn t/o.

Thanks again, Colin

Jhieminga
14th Feb 2022, 09:53
There's a good book about KLM's involvement in these flights, called 'Sluipvluchten naar Lissabon' by Ad van Ommen (1985), but unfortunately it is only available in Dutch and my copy is hiding in a box in the basement somewhere. I'm sure other books have covered this topic as well though, but I cannot think of a specific title right now. If I stumble across my copy sometime in the next couple of weeks, I will look up some details if you want.

Warmtoast
14th Feb 2022, 10:43
On 1st June 1943 the actor Leslie Howard was aboard KLM Royal Dutch Airlines/BOAC Flight 777, "G-AGBB" a Douglas DC-3 flying from Lisbon to Bristol, when it was shot down by Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 C-6 maritime fighter aircraft over the Atlantic (off Cedeira, A CoruŮa).
More details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Howard

ccohen
14th Feb 2022, 13:42
There's a good book about KLM's involvement in these flights, called 'Sluipvluchten naar Lissabon' by Ad van Ommen (1985), but unfortunately it is only available in Dutch and my copy is hiding in a box in the basement somewhere. I'm sure other books have covered this topic as well though, but I cannot think of a specific title right now. If I stumble across my copy sometime in the next couple of weeks, I will look up some details if you want.

Thanks. My dad flew out and back on G-AGBB, the one that was shot down, on 8th and 30th April 1941. I did a lot of research some years ago and noted the above title, but WorldCat shows there are only a handful of library copies and all of them in the Netherlands. If you do come on anything of interest [apart from Leslie Howard who has been researched down every conspiracy theory to oblivion] I'd be interested.

I'm curious to know why, as night flights were possible, it was not by night from the start. Security at Bristol was so tight that passengers assembled at a hotel in town and when an aircraft was ready they were taken directly to it. For the return flight of course there was no possible security as they shared the field with Lufthansa, and both SIS and the Abwher had a representative at the airport.

Nige321
14th Feb 2022, 13:44
Hi,

Iím curious to know how long the flight would have taken during WWII on a DC3 going far out into the Atlantic. Iíve seen it quoted at about seven hours, but that does seem rather long even for the period, the route and the equipment.

Iím curious as my father flew to Lisbon twice in WWII, once from Whitchurch to meet an agent and another time by flying boat from Foyle en route to Accra and on toe Cairo.

Thanks, Colin Cohen

Do you have a date for the Whitchurch->Lisbon flight?

My uncle flew BOAC Dakotas on that route, I could look in his log books..

update. Just seen it was 41 which I think was before his time. Iíll check.
My uncle was lost in G-AGIR in August 1944 - he flew into the Atlas Mountains at night...

ccohen
14th Feb 2022, 13:51
How amazing! - See my that crossed with yours. I only know the details as Portuguese immigration show the aircraft details in the passport stamp, but apparently I don't have sufficient privileges to post an image.
​​​​​​​
All sorts of 'riff-raff' got diplomatic passports …

Jhieminga
14th Feb 2022, 14:38
Colin, I think you need to get to 10 posts on the forum to gain the rights to post images and stuff like that, so you're almost there.

I will see if I can find the book and look up some stuff. The G-AGBB shootdown is of course covered in the book but it also deals with the broader spectrum of DC-3 operations by Dutch airlines during WWII and afterwards. I see that second-hand copies aren't that common either, I was just thinking that you might be able to use something like the Google Translate app on your phone to translate the Dutch text to English on the fly, using a cheap copy, it might be somewhat readable that way even if you get a mix of Dutch and English output.
Edit: I just had a go pointing the Google Translate app's camera function at my laptop's screen with a Dutch text on it. I got a fairly decent translation to English that was readable and understandable. Reading an entire book that way is not something I would recommend, but it is certainly possible if the language is a barrier.

ccohen
14th Feb 2022, 14:53
Thanks very much: Amazon do have one for about £25 [with free slow delivery from South Africa!], but I think using GoogleTranslate would be fraught. I do use it into English from time to time, but I find the results very variable. I've used it from both German and French white a bit and sometimes the English leave me scratching my head. I use it into French, in which I am fluent, as it saves remembering where the accents go, but often I can see it is wrong and have to tweak the English to make it say what I mean in French! Not having a word of Dutch I think I might be up a gum tree.

Now I'm on 10 posts here is the passport - I wonder how many countries showed the registration, I think it's the only one from my dad's wartime travels.

It says:
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may post attachments
You may edit your posts
but I got the error saying I can't post URLs till at least 10 though it was a png.

Ian Burgess-Barber
14th Feb 2022, 16:35
Colin
In your opening post you say that your father flew from "Foyle" to Accra and onwards. I think that this is very unlikely as Loch Foyle is at the extreme north end of the island of Ireland. The main base for flying boats operating such services during WW2 was at Foynes in the Shannon Estuary in the Republic of Ireland (despite "neutrality"). BOAC had a crew base there as did the American crews operating the transatlantic flying boat service to Newfoundland and onwards. There is a very good flying boat museum in the port of Foynes - well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.
Ian BB

ccohen
14th Feb 2022, 16:41
You are quite right - I copied and pasted Foynes and the spell-checker did the rest!
I corresponded with the museum a good while back, they even had the passenger manifest.

Jhieminga
14th Feb 2022, 19:12
but I got the error saying I can't post URLs till at least 10 though it was a png.
If you're trying to upload a PNG image, you should either drag and drop it on the upload graphic, or click on 'browse your device' and select the image. A URL is an internet link, that's for the situation where the image you want to use is already somewhere on the internet. Are you perhaps mixing up those two...?

I see your point about translating stuff through Google. Personally, I would only go down that route if you could get a £2 copy somewhere. At the prices this book is available at, it is too risky but I figured I should mention it.

ccohen
14th Feb 2022, 20:34
Thanks, I may just wait for a cheap copy!

I had done it as you say [the browse option], that's why I quoted the error message as it was unrelated to what I did.

Nige321
15th Feb 2022, 12:02
How amazing! - See my that crossed with yours. I only know the details as Portuguese immigration show the aircraft details in the passport stamp, but apparently I don't have sufficient privileges to post an image.
​​​​​​​
All sorts of 'riff-raff' got diplomatic passports Ö

https://cimg6.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/2000x1250/screenshot_2022_02_15_at_12_57_51_a798f2fec92c9f2b5482042d20 91a819973c635f.jpg
Here's a typical logbook entry for my uncle's flights to Lisbon.

As you can see, he frequently flew from 'JP' to Lyneham, then Lyneham to Lisbon.
Anyone know where 'JP' is...?

ccohen
15th Feb 2022, 12:15
How fascinating, sorry I have no idea about JP. Do you have anything earlier, or for G-AGBB?
https://cimg5.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/400x342/screenshot_2022_02_14_at_14_47_59_c33301efb6442fc151d5a9ed09 a4a0ddeffc1305.png
This time my image has uploaded, by drag'n'drop rather than browse.

Nige321
15th Feb 2022, 12:53
How fascinating, sorry I have no idea about JP. Do you have anything earlier, or for G-AGBB?
https://cimg5.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/400x342/screenshot_2022_02_14_at_14_47_59_c33301efb6442fc151d5a9ed09 a4a0ddeffc1305.png
This time my image has uploaded, by drag'n'drop rather than browse.

I'm assuming that JP refers to Whitchurch, it's where he was based, he lived in Bristol.
He was seconded from the RAF to BOAC in August 1942, but initially flew Whitleys and Oxfords, by the time he moved to DC3s, G-AGBB had been lost I'm afraid...

renfrew
15th Feb 2022, 13:05
There was usually a fuel stop shown as Chivenor above.
Later St.Mawgan was used.

OUAQUKGF Ops
15th Feb 2022, 13:21
https://cimg6.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/2000x1250/screenshot_2022_02_15_at_12_57_51_a798f2fec92c9f2b5482042d20 91a819973c635f.jpg
Here's a typical logbook entry for my uncle's flights to Lisbon.

As you can see, he frequently flew from 'JP' to Lyneham, then Lyneham to Lisbon.
Anyone know where 'JP' is...?

This looks like a Pundit Code - currently I can't find it. Within a hundred mile radius of Lyneham ?

ccohen
15th Feb 2022, 13:24
From the log looks like about 25 mins from Lyneham.

treadigraph
15th Feb 2022, 13:29
Presumably Pundit Code for Whitchurch then?

ccohen
15th Feb 2022, 13:36
Thanks all for your elucidations. From the log book entries the time southbound averaged 7:07 and back 6:51, I assume benefiting from south-westerly winds, but not a lot

OUAQUKGF Ops
15th Feb 2022, 14:22
Presumably Pundit Code for Whitchurch then?
Think you are right. Noticeably absent from log book in plain language.

Nige321
15th Feb 2022, 14:34
Think you are right. Noticeably absent from log book in plain language.

Up until May 1943 he refers to Whitchurch, from the 10th May 43 entries change to 'JP'...

Odd that it's the only place he uses the code...

ccohen
15th Feb 2022, 15:21
Just seen I missed part of this, how sad about his death

Mike Lima 01
15th Feb 2022, 17:04
Another source of information on these flights is the book, 'Flight 777, The Mystery of Leslie Howard by Ian Colvin,' updated by his son and daughter in 2013. The book is available from Pen and Sword Books Aviation. ISBN978-1-78159-016-4 A thoroughly good read.

Nige321
15th Feb 2022, 22:39
Just seen I missed part of this, how sad about his death


https://cimg2.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/1406x1896/screenshot_2022_02_15_at_23_37_48_f4f037fbb8a7fa0e57e8438b5f 3a3caa7ee0304c.jpg
https://cimg5.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/1460x1712/screenshot_2022_02_15_at_23_37_54_1981b8d0907e3acb5bda99be13 7ce26bb90e5e7c.jpg
https://cimg7.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/1068x864/screenshot_2022_02_15_at_23_38_04_e55ed17d6f15ec6fb890e9465d afdb8db7cf80f8.jpg

ccohen
16th Feb 2022, 08:13
History is made up of so many sad and almost unremarkable tradedgies

ccohen
16th Feb 2022, 08:16
Mike Lima 01 (https://www.pprune.org/members/468466-mike-lima-01) I've not read it, but it is quoted a dozen times in Esther Eforgan's bio Leslie Howard -The Lost Actor [2010]. I think he was one of the early conspiracy theorists.

G7FBD
27th Mar 2023, 19:21
Hi, Sorry for jumping into this conversation. I came across this site via the G-AGBB registration number. My name is Mat and my amateur radio callsign is G7FBD. Myself and members of both North and South Bristol Amateur Radio Clubs are putting together what Ofcom class as a "Special Event" radio station (open to the public) at the end of the runway which is the only surviving remains of Whitchurch Airport here in Bristol to commemorate the loss of flight 777(a) 80 years ago on the 1st of June.

Although we are planning to operate our special event station from Tuesday 30th to Saturday 3rd of June, the 1st is the primary date for us.

I am currently writing an article for a Amateur Radio Magazine on the flight, those on board and the process of putting on this event. For me, this all originally started back in late 2021 by me being asked by friend and fellow Amateur Dave G7BYN if I had ever heard of flight 777.

Being from Bristol, I was aware Bristol Whitchurch airport had existed but not of flight 777.

This lead to hours of internet browsing for information of the aircraft, then the passengers, then Lesley Howard and finally her crew. Itís been an interesting time and in my view well worth the excise into learning about the events of 1943. The event has grown from originally being just North Bristol Amateur Radio Club to where we are now with the partnership with South Bristol ARC.

If any of you chaps find yourself in Bristol between 30th of May and the 3rd June, Please feel free to come along to Hengrove Park Bristol and come and say Hi, and maybe we could convince you to have a go at operating and help us give some recognition to the loss of the passengers and crew of flight 777.

Also if anyone has any information they feel would be of interest for us to display to the public, I am sure this forum allows private emails etc.

Thanks for your time, and the interesting read you have given me. As we say í73

Mat

India Four Two
27th Mar 2023, 23:04
Thanks very much: Amazon do have one for about £25 [with free slow delivery from South Africa!]

I'v just found two copies of "Sluipvluchten naar Lissabon" on abebooks, one of which is (still?) in a South African bookshop! :)

https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?kn=Sluipvluchten%20naar%20Lissabon&sts=t&cm_sp=SearchF-_-topnav-_-Results&ds=20

Jhieminga
28th Mar 2023, 08:14
There are many copies available, but most of them in Dutch or Belgian bookshops. It turns up regularly at prices anywhere between 12 euros and twice or thrice that. Seeing this topic has made me remember the story... I will see if I can dig up my copy of 'Sluipvluchten...' and look up what's in there. To be continued.

Jhieminga
30th Mar 2023, 18:22
I found my copy, here's a page with a navigation chart for the Bristol to Lissabon route. The bit about the war routes is quite extensive. If ccohen is around: could you send me a message or e-mail with your e-mail address? I can share some pages with you so that you can have a look at the material.
https://cimg0.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/1024x1200/uk_lis_navchart_6fda444e6333c8bf537d952b45e7fc62c6f4b3b5.jpg

India Four Two
30th Mar 2023, 19:18
Colin,

Wikipedia quotes a cruising speed of 207 mph.

Using Great Circle Mapper (http://gcmap.com), I calculated 4:28 direct, so seven hours doesn’t seem unreasonable, if you are taking the “Ju-88 avoiding route”.

Interestingly, the maximum range is quoted as 1500 miles, which would be 7:15 at cruising speed.

I wonder if these Dakotas had extra fuel capacity.

Following up on my previous post, I put the tracks shown on Jhieminga's chart into http://gcmapper.com.


https://cimg3.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/685x1063/screenshot_2023_03_30_at_13_12_28_copy_b9400e5693ea656277b56 e0b06668ba9ba8a4ef3.jpg


1045 sm at 207 mph gives a time of just over five hours.

Jhieminga
31st Mar 2023, 07:26
I have only gone over some of the pages rather quickly to get an idea of what is in the book (it has been a while since I read it fully) but I gather that Whitchurch was rather limited in runway length when they started the operations, so they had to incorporate a stop at Chivenor to load up on fuel for the stretch to Lissabon. Sometimes passengers would have to take a bus to Chivenor as they could only get out of Whitchurch with an otherwise empty aircraft. They did the same on the stretch back from Lissabon, refuelling at Porto, as the airfield at Sintra was often waterlogged. There is also mention of using increased maximum weights on the Dakotas to counter this problem somewhat. I haven't found the reason but they were not allowed to fly at night, necessitating completion of the flight before sunset. It may have related to navigation, they were using a combination of sun sightings and radio navigation thanks to the radio operator they had on board. They did operate a cargo run at night using the single KLM DC-2 that ended up in the UK. These things may have changed, but I have only looked at the first bit of the book so far.

OUAQUKGF Ops
31st Mar 2023, 15:33
That's a nifty tool that you've got there India.... I've just used it to enlighten myself. Hopeless at Maths - skool forbade me to sit it for 'O Level' said I would bring skool into disrepute......

Regards