Drive like a Dambuster

7667528Forget the dodgy mirrors with fake 617 Squadron engravings or the wartime telephones whose Scampton control tower dial inserts have miraculously survived. Here is your chance to buy something with both impeccable provenance and incredible good looks: the 1937 Jaguar once owned by Gp Capt J N H (“Charles”) Whitworth.
Ray Hepner, a good friend of this blog and a man with an eye for a bargain, spotted this beauty on the Car and Classic UK website. It is advertised as being:

… one of just 15 remaining in the world. The ‘coachbuilt’ saloons were only built between 1936 and 1937 and are noted for the spare wheel on the running board. This car is a scaled down version of the 2 1/2 and remains the smallest Jaguar ever produced since the introduction of the name.
The car comes with its original logbook and an extensive history of the car. The car was owned from new until 1978 by Group Captain Charles Whitworth, who was station commander at RAF Scampton with 617 sqdn during the ‘Dambusters’ raids.

Although there is nothing around to verify this, it is highly likely that in the spring and summer of 1943 various Dambusters must have sat on its swish leather passenger seats. At this time, Whitworth and Guy Gibson attended several meetings at 5 Group HQ in nearby Grantham, and would probably have travelled together. And Whitworth was also an old colleague of several other members of 617 Squadron – before the war, he had taught Melvin “Dinghy” Young to fly when the latter was a student at Oxford, and he had been the CO of 35 Squadron when George Chalmers was flying on his first tour of operations. He can be seen in the photographs taken in the Dams Raid debriefing, and here with the King, Air Vice Marshal Ralph Cochrane and Guy Gibson on the day of the royal visit to Scampton on 27 May 1943.

AVM R A Cochrane, Wg Cdr Guy Gibson, King George VI and Gp Capt Whitworth discussing the 'Dambusters Raid' in May 1943

A career RAF officer who had gone to Cranwell aged 18 in 1930, Whitworth rose to the rank of Air Commodore after the war. In 1954 he was the ‘technical advisor’ on Michael Anderson’s Dam Busters film, and must have been responsible for much of the accuracy of the detail in the film. In one of his last service jobs he became chief of staff of the new Ghana air force when the west African state became the first in the continent to gain independence from the British empire in 1958. He finally retired from the RAF in 1964, and died ten years later at the age of just 62. His Jaguar car was still in his possession at the time of his death.
So, if you have £40,000 to spare, this could be a great investment. There is of course one person in the world who might have the resources to buy it in order to add verisimilitude to his forthcoming film project (if it still exists). Are you reading this, Sir Peter?

[Thanks to Ray Hepner for help with this article.]

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Faith and hope at Scampton, 1943

RAF SCAMPTON Chapel in base WWII Revd Don HulbertsThe chapel at RAF Scampton, 1942. [Pic: Stephen Murray]

The spiritual needs of the Allied forces during the Second World War were met by a large number of clergy who volunteered to serve as chaplains for its duration. One of these was Rev Donald Hulbert, Rector of a Suffolk parish, who became the Anglican padre at RAF Scampton in 1942. His wife, Vi Hulbert, a musician and a woman with a strong faith of her own, moved with him to live in two rooms in a builder’s house in a nearby village. The base’s chapel can be seen in the wartime pciture shown above.
They stayed at Scampton for about two years, a period which covered the five and a half months 617 Squadron was present, and were there when the Dams Raid took place. Some thirty years later, Vi Hulbert wrote a short pamphlet called Reflections of a Parson’s Wife. Stephen Murray has kindly sent me a copy of this, along with some other wartime photographs.

Vi Hulbert cover

Mrs Hulbert’s account of the period is very short, but is worth recording. She was responsible for the flower arrangements on the day of the visit to Scampton by the King and Queen on 27 May 1943.
Vi Hulbert p14Donald and Vi Hulbert can be seen together in this picture. Note that she is wearing a ‘sweetheart’ RAF wings brooch.

Vi and Donald hulbert

Among the other interesting pictures in Stephen Murray’s collection is this shot of Scampton CO, Gp Capt Charles Whitworth. The officer on the right is Wg Cdr Everett Briggs, a First World War RAF officer who re-enlisted in the later conflict and who worked on administrative matters at Scampton. The name of the airman on the left is not known. The picture was taken in the vegetable garden on the base, and a couple of men can be seen at work in the background.
RAF Scampton Group Capt John Whitworth 1942 A

All pics courtesy Stephen Murray.