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Old 23rd May 2011, 22:16
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spotting the Bismark.....

You know ....I heard a story that the Bismark was spotted by a Castle Archard (St Angelo?) Catalina about this time of year........ anyone know any more?
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Old 23rd May 2011, 23:48
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Yep, I remember hearing a similar story some years ago. In fact I believe there was a 50th anniversary air show back in '91 at St Angelo.
I am sure PhamousPhotographer will be along at some point to clarify the detail.
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Old 24th May 2011, 06:54
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On 18 May 1941 the Bismarck had left its berth in Gotenhafen (now Gdynia) along with a fleet including the heavy cruiser Prince Eugen and three destroyers. Their mission was known as Operation Rheinübung and they aimed to prevent essential supplies getting to Britian by sinking the merchant ship convoys coming in from North America. The Bismarck and Prince Eugen hoped to reach the Atlantic without being spotted by the British. They headed north through the Kattegat between Sweden and Denmark.

Their hopes to pass undetected were frustrated: they were spotted both by members of the Norwegian resistence and the Swedish cruiser Gotland. The German warships stopped briefly in the Korsfjord on 23 May to wait for darkness, but a British Spitfire sent out to look for the fleet discovered and photographed them here. That evening they headed north along the coast, the Bismarck and Prince Eugen splitting from the three destoryers to set a northwest course in worsening weather to continue their mission.

There was heavy fog which allowed the German ships to travel undetected as far as the ice-edged Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland. It was here that the British battlecruiser Hood and the battleship Prince of Wales caught up with them. The guns were out and the Battle of the Denmark Strait began. It was short and sharp, lasting just over fifteen mintues, but resulted in the sinking of Hood with the loss of all but three of its crew of 1,418 men. The Prince of Wales was damaged, as was Bismark. Only the Prince Eugen remained unscathed. The German ships headed for port and repair while the Prince of Wales retreated into the fog, but the British were hugely indignant at the sinking of Hood, one of their finest battleships, and wanted revenge. The chase was on to find and sink Bismark.

At first shadowed by British ships and attacked by aircraft launched from the aircraft carrier Victorious, Bismark changed course to allow Prince Eugens to escape, then changed course again under darkness to lose its stalkers. On 26 May Bismark was well on the way to port in France and receiving congratulations for sinking Hood when two Catalina flying boats took off from Castle Archdale to continue the search. One of them was successful. At the controls as co-pilot was Leonard ‘Tuck’ Smith from Higginsville, Missouri who was not supposed to be there at all: it would be six months before the USA would officially enter the war. Smith was on loan to the British to oversee the pilots who would be flying the US-made Catalinas, given to the British as part of a Lease-Lend programme.

The weather was atrocious with gale force winds, Bismarck was closing on the French shore, there were no British ships within range of the German battleship and it was getting dark. The only chance was to disable Bismarck with aircraft fire to reduce her speed. An aerial attack was launched from the Ark Royal. Torpedo strikes hit and damaged both rudders: Bismarck was unable to manoeuvre and British destroyers closed in. Bismarck kept them off all through the night until the arrival next morning of British battleships Rodney and King George V. They were joined by heavy cruiser Devonshire and more fighter aircraft. At 10.30 am Bismarck capsized and sank.
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Old 24th May 2011, 20:56
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Castle Archdale.

Twenty years ago today (24th May), I was drifting around St Angelo in an Enniskillen Flying School Cessna 172 accompanied by an impressive twin-engined warbird. As Tiger Mate records, 27th May marks the 70th anniversary of the Bismarck sinking and after HMS Hood's destruction, Germany's finest would almost certainly have escaped to dry-dock in St Nazaire had it not been for the efforts of those Castle Archdale based RAF Coastal Command Lend-Lease Catalinas of 209 and 240 Squadrons. It was 209's AH545'Z', piloted by FO Dennis Briggs, with USN Ensign Leonard 'Tuck' Smith in the rh seat that spotted the battleship through a gap in the almost solid cloud cover. The crew were

RAF P/O Dennis Briggs (Capt)
USN Ensign Leonard 'Tuck' Smith (Co-pilot)
RAF P/O Otter
RAF F/O Lowe
RAF Sgt Edmonds
RAF Sgt Burton
RAF Sgt Leigh
RAF Sgt Dunning
RAF Sgt Stenning
RAF LAC Martin

Don't worry Mods, there is a SHFNI link to all this - eventually. On the weekend of 25/26th May 1991 Fermanagh District Council marked the 50th Anniversary with a Battle Of The Atlantic Airshow at St Angelo and I've never seen a better 'warbird' display in NI before or since. The late Mark Hanna arrived with his Old Flying Machine Company's full complement, including MH434, but the star appearance was veteran 'Tuck' Smith. Dennis Briggs was deceased by then, but his son, Robin, was there too and I managed to get these shots of them over Enniskillen in ex-RAF Harrier pilot Paul Warren Wilson's first Catalina. Also present was the Duxford-based Fortress, 'Sally B'. Yes, I know – Anorak!!

Taken on 24th May 91, the first shows G-BLSC over Lisgoole Abbey, south of Enniskillen, with that county town in the background and Castle Archdale some ten miles beyond to the north. 'Killer Cat' carries the JV928'Y' markings of the 210 Sqn aircraft with which John Cruickshank earned his Victoria Cross in July 1944.

Continuing south towards Lisnaskea the Cessna's strut confirms that I'm not in a rotary cab. Here, we're looking east across Tamlaght Bay with Robin Briggs filming from the cupola and I think the late Ensign Smith (d.16th May 2006) was in the rh seat of the Cat – he was definitely on board.

Fast-forward to 2009 and two recent views combined with a wartime one of the former flying-boat base.

The "broad lough" stretches west towards Belleek as XW223 crosses the caravan park on what was once the main dispersal / hangars / maintenance area; the slipway is hidden by the trees on the right. Compare it with this wartime scene – not one of mine, taken just a few years before Phamous's time.

The Sunderlands are probably 422 or 423 Squadron RCAF which would date it to 1943 / '44. No room for caravans there. In the early hours of Sunday 26th May 1941 PO Briggs and his crew would have set course westwards, past Belleek, heading over the border for Bundoran, Donegal Bay and the Atlantic via the air corridor across the neutral Irish Republic. Whilst difficult to keep secret, the permission granted by the Dublin government for Allied military aircraft to overfly their territory wasn't publicised at the time.

In this one, the courtyard and buildings of the former Manor House are centre frame. Demolished in 1970, the house was the Officer's Mess and photos can be seen at

Castle Archdale Manor-House

The enlarged top-storey window at front left was the ATC office. Today the outbuildings serve as a museum, restaurant and admin centre for the Castle Archdale Country Park (not advertising!) Another couple of links that might be of interest are


This has drifted well off-thread, but, as promised, there is a SHFNI connection via 230 Squadron. Post-war, RAF Castle Archdale was retained on a care-and-maintenance basis and occasionally used for flying-boat training purposes. With the RAF Sunderlands being withdrawn from service, the base closed in 1957. Sunderland equipped from June 1938 til disbandment in February 1957, 230 had spent October 1956 in Co Fermanagh, their final departure from Lough Erne being recorded as SZ560'R' on 18th December.

At that time no one could ever have envisaged the circumstances of 230 Squadron's return to the Province, albeit in detachment rather than squadron strength, less than 20 years later.
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Old 25th May 2011, 20:09
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Cor - 223 with a 230 door on... that ties it to a particular time.

Or times. The airframes were moved about a bit.

I flew XW223 in Belize in January 1980 and Jan 1981.

I also flew it in Germany in May 1981, now a 230 Sqn aircraft.

On 14th August 1981 I flew it on task with "lsh", again on the strength of 230. Lsh, where did we go? I only recorded the task number in my log book.

On 21st August I did my IRT in it with the late George Blackie as my IRE.

Nov 22nd 1983 I flew her again, still in Germany.

Next and last time for me was 22 Feb 1991, back at Odiham during a refresher course check ride. IIRC, back then 240 OCU were sharing airframes with 33 Sqn due to a severe shortage (GW1).

Task 0813 Trooping Dorbaum 1hr 25min
Will there be anything else Sir ?

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Old 25th May 2011, 21:44
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Very well done and thank you that man. Task 0813 it was indeed.
Do carry on
Now all I have to do is try to remember where Dorbaum was!

Was that when you needed the eye patch?
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Old 25th May 2011, 21:56
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Fantastic stuff pp!!
But is not the Puma XW210? I understood we only had one pair of overload sponsons and AFAIK they were and ARE still on XW210?
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Old 26th May 2011, 11:02
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XW223 the only cab to have sponson tanks for previous use on the flight
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Old 26th May 2011, 17:37
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Now all I have to do is try to remember where the Dorbaum was!

52°1.350'N 007°42.862'E according to Google Earth, spent many a happy hour screaming along the river in my trusty Scout in the late '70s; a little slower along the "mucky canal"
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Old 26th May 2011, 17:44
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Thankyou and yes, I'm sure that's correct, in view of the short sortie length, flown from EDUO. But it's very nearly thirty years since I flew that sortie. Scary thought.
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Old 26th May 2011, 20:58
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Now all I have to do is try to remember where Dorbaum was!
Co Tyrone?

Oh well, I suppose I did start the German drift. Thanks for the acknowledgement Dundiggin. BTW, It was 223 with the big tanks on that final round-the-Province trip. Don't know if they were fitted to any other airframes but I think there was only ever one set?
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Old 10th Jun 2011, 22:01
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HRH Prince Philip

Haven't seen any other reference to the day, so a Happy 90th to a former Wessex pilot and many he enjoy many more birthdays. An excuse to post these two as well.

9th March 1995 and Sqn Ldr K*** landed XV733 in the grounds of Armagh's Bishop's Palace while Sqn Ldr G*******s and a 72 Squadron Wessex provided ARF cover.

There's a story behind that cheerful acknowledgement to the Phamous camera, and the less-happy reaction of those following – but I'm not a journo, so not telling it.
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Old 10th Jun 2011, 22:55
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I dont think that DofE flew Wessex; though Charles did. Phil flew RAF Harvard.
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Old 10th Jun 2011, 23:07
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Prince Philip has logged almost 6000 hours on forty-something types, including rotary, and is recorded as having flown Wessex HCC4 XV732 on both 11th & 14th May 1970. Presumably examples of many PIC flights on those two Queen's Flight cabs? A Star.

Last edited by PhamousPhotographer; 10th Jun 2011 at 23:17. Reason: Addition
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Old 11th Jun 2011, 17:37
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Handy that field having a freshly laid path in it for HRH and co.....
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Old 12th Jun 2011, 10:39
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Originally Posted by Yozzer
I dont think that DofE flew Wessex; though Charles did. Phil flew RAF Harvard.
An old chum was Wessex driver for DoE for many years, having been seconded to the Royal Flight from the RN and liked it so much that he swapped uniforms to stay there! Ron also had AFC*, the first was a 'real' one for derring-do with a Sea Fury, the second just for being Phil's driver

And yes, DoE was/is endorsed on the Wessex
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Old 12th Jun 2011, 17:50
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Hope I'm in the right area. I did my first tour in Crossmaglen, July '72 - Nov'72. Our last day was when they put 2 RPG7 rounds through the roof.
would there be anyone on here with memories of that time.
Next year will be the 40th anniverary and a website is being set up to commerarate that and the fact that we had 3 Argylls not come home with us.

Thanks, Jim
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Old 13th Jun 2011, 08:55
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That was what we always called them. Wonder what Chox Barton is doing now?
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Old 13th Jun 2011, 12:47
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With apologies for continuing Tiger Mate and Phamous Photographer's phabulous phread drift, the following link contains what may be regarded as an interesting prelude to the BISMARCK chase and the Castle Archdale Catalina story:

Lieutenant-Commander Willie Armstrong - Telegraph

RIP Willie!

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Old 13th Jun 2011, 14:13
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That was a name from the past! First met him (Chocks) on the same OCTU course in 1976; next encounter was on 72 a couple of years later when he arrived a few months after my coursemates and me (2 Plt Offs plus an ex-Vulc Flt Lt). Those same 2 Plt Offs were trogging off along the deployment route ("Kleine Brogel - Lima - Bottrop(sp?) - DOM" rings a bell) as the crew of no. 4 in a stream when it occurred to us that we hadn't heard anything from Chocks (below/behind our feet) for a while. Shouting through those lovely comfy throat-mikes didn't raise him, and neither did a gentle bunt, so the Kiwi in the LHS went through the contortions necessary to move from the cockpit to the cabin (thank Foch we didn't have armoured seats) to check and make sure Chocks hadn't choked to death on his butty-box. No such luck - fast asleep in the back, participating as much as he ever did in the safe conduct of the flight.

What added insult to injury was that having conveyed him there, as Flight sub-imprest holder I had to hand over more LOA to our failed-OCTU-coursemate than we Plt Offs could possibly dream of getting (well, a Few Pfennigs More, but you get the point).

After the move to Benson then NI (I left the Sqn just before they left Odiham), I gather he may've been the fella who tried pointing to the stripes on his shoulder when asked by a boarding Close Obs Pn soldier to help lift a bergan out of the way so the latter could board. I believe one-way fisticuffs may've ensued, but that might just be wishful thinking.
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