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!
A number of events have been planned to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Dams Raid, which took place on 16-17 May 1943. The most spectacular will probably be the flypast by the Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane and Dakota aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight over the Derwent reservoir in Derbyshire on Friday 16 May at 1000. This is a remote area and vehicle access will be ticket only and strictly controlled, but people arriving on foot will be welcomed. Full details and how to apply for a ticket in the ballot here.
The next weekend sees a Dambuster Day at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby. This happens on Saturday 24 May and there will be stalls, lectures and other events including a chance to see Lancaster ‘Just Jane’ performing her taxi runs. Details here.
The next day, Sunday 25 May, there will be a Spitfire flypast organised by the Spitfire Memorial Museum in Manston, Kent. There are flying displays by the Kent Spitfire (TA805), Pilatus and Stearman. There will also be other interesting aircraft and military vehicles on static display. Other displays and stalls will include the Thanet ATC Band, book signings (including the one by the author of this site) and the RAF at War re-enactment group. RAF Manston was used by 617 Squadron when they were testing the ‘bouncing bomb’ at nearby Reculver. It is also close to the village of Wickhambreaux in whose churchyard David Maltby is buried. Come along and I will see you there!