Yahya El-Droubie has kindly sent me some more pictures from the Douglas Webb collection. These were taken at Biggin Hill, probably in 1967, and show Lancaster NX611 sometime after it arrived back from Australia. This is the aircraft which is now known as Just Jane, the centrepiece of the Panton family collection at East Kirkby in Lincolnshire.
NX611 was built at the Longbridge works in Birmingham by Austin Motors in April 1945, and was scheduled to join the RAF Tiger Force in the Far East against the Japanese. However, these operations were cancelled and after several years in storage it was one of 54 Lancasters sold to the French government in 1952 for maritime reconnaissance. After ten years of flying over the Atlantic it was then flown out to the Far East and based in the French colony of New Caledonia.
In the mid 1960s, it was purchased by the UK Historic Aircraft Preservation Society (HAPS) and brought back to Britain, landing at Biggin Hill on 13 May 1965. Some of the stages on this 12,000 mile journey were painted onto its side, under the cockpit.
At this point it was repainted and rebadged, and given the code letters HA-P – an authentic Second World War code used by 218 Squadron, which also represented the owners, the Historic Aircraft Preservation Society. The Lancaster was subsequently named ‘Guy Gibson’ and after two years of hard work her first post re-certification flight took place on 6 May 1967.
It must have been some time shortly after this date that these photographs were taken because by the following March it was relocated to the former USAAF airfield at Lavenham in Suffolk.
Doug Webb was the front gunner in Bill Townsend’s AJ-O on the Dams Raid, and received the DFM for his part in the operation. He became a successful photographer after the war, working mainly in the film and glamour industries. One of his most famous models was Pamela Green. They later became partners, although they never married, and they retired together to the Isle of Wight in the 1990s.
These pictures are from a series of transparencies taken on a visit to Biggin Hill, probably in the summer of 1967. The brilliant colours are very typical of the Kodachrome process which was probably used to develop the slides. Some of the shots show Pamela Green as well as Douglas’s mother:
The HA-P code can be seen on this side view. Note that the lettering is rather thinner than that used in wartime.
These names are probably of organisations who helped in the aircraft’s restoration:
This close up of the front shows quite clearly that the barrels of the guns have been removed, and possibly the whole guns. It is interesting that the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre say that the guns weren’t completely removed until NX611 was at Blackpool, in October 1971. This obviously needs to be checked.
All in all, a fascinating set of photos. All pictures © Douglas Webb collection, about which there is more information on the Pamela Green tribute website. (Warning: contains nudity!). Many thanks to Yahya.
Information about NX611 from On Target Aviation. Thanks guys!
I remember Pamela Green very well; as a youth of 14 I remember sets of photos of her for sale in the back of Amateur Photographer magazine – of course I never bought any on account that my mother would have killed me when they turned up in the post. Amazing to think that they would have been taken and marketed by Doug Webb.
Keep up the good work
At the height of her fame she was with George Harrison Marks. The ad was probably his.
The article on Just Jane refers to the guns being removed in Blackpool in 1971. In that case, is she the Lancaster which was at Squires Gate airport, at a museum known as Reflectaire Museum, and owned by John Roast?
If so, I understood that she was taken from there, to form part of the Strathallen collection in Scotland. The reason for my interest is that I often visited Squires Gate with my late father, William ‘Bill’ Howarth DFM, one of your Dambusters of the Day. As a youth leader around that time, I took a group of youngsters to do some cleaning work on the aircraft around that time.
Yes, I believe it is the same aircraft, then based in Squires Gate, Blackpool. It was sold to Lord Lilford but then later purchased by the Pantons. See http://on-target-aviation.com/NX611_Lanc.html
What a shame that your father and Doug didn’t meet up at some point in this period, but as they were both regular attenders of 617 Squadron reunions, I’m sure their paths crossed.
I’ve just read your comments, David – I need to correct you in so far as the matter of what happened to Lancaster NX611 (G-ASXX) after she was based on Squires Gate Airport, Blackpool with Reflectaire Museum between 26th June 1970 & August 1973. Post the public auction of all Reflectaire assets (incl. aircraft – Lancaster etc) in April 1972, the Lancaster was purchased by Lord Lilford, who had intended to fly her out to the Channel Islands, where he had property. After discovering the cost of getting NX611 into an ‘airworthy’ condition, he abandoned his plan & a deal was struck with RAF Scampton for the Lanc to be dismantled on site & taken to Lincolnshire to become the ‘new’ Station Gate Guardian. That was originally to be for a period of 10 years, but by 1983 he had agreed a sale to a pair of Farmers (Fred & Harold Panton) who wanted the Lancaster as a ‘tribute’ to their late elder brother who had been killed in WW2. The Pantons agreed to keep the Lanc @ Scampton for a further 5 years whilst they built a hangar & prepared their arrangements on their property in East Kirkby, Lincs to house the aircraft. In August 1988 the RAF dismantled NX611 @ Scampton & transported her by road to East Kirkby. The rest is history (“Just Jane” was born – here’s their website link: https://www.lincsaviation.co.uk/. By the way – Willy Roberts (Strathallan) was interested in acquiring the Lanc @ one point after Lord Lilford decided to relinquish ownership in 1972/73 but this never came to fruition.
Great to see these images, very nice! The history of NX611 is very well covered in ‘Story of a Lanc’ by Brian Goulding & Richard Taylor and available from the Linconshire Aviation Centre. A couple of corrections; the Strathallan Lancaster was a different aircraft entirely KB976, and was ferried from Canada, but it’s correct that NX611 was part of the Reflectaire Collection.
NX611 was actually flown by the Aeronavalle on retirement to Australia (and another to New Zealand where it remains on show) and was then ferried by a mixed crew to the UK as ‘Spirit of Surfer’s Paradise’, arriving as you have it correctly, at Biggin Hill Air Fair. The adventures of that journey are covered by artist and passenger on the flight Patrick Kilvington in ‘The Last Lanc’ another excellent work on NX611’s complicated history.
Some years ago I wrote to Pamela in the Isle of White re Doug Webb and she was so kind in replying by sending me an RAF button off Dougs RAF jacket and his medals rosette attached to a piece of his Violet & White ribbon. In addition Pamela forwarded to me a number of photographs of her taken by Doug.