Halifax Bomber MkIII (LV907) Friday The 13th

 

 

Above: Friday the 13th Halifax in Oxford street.

'Friday the 13th' was one of the most successful RAF bombers of the war. She finished with a 128 missions to her credit, and was placed in Oxford Street, London (in front of Lewis's department store) so people could visit her.

The bombs on the nose white ones represented missions flown during daylight hours and the yellow ones were for those flown in the dark.

 

The Name:

This plane got its unusual name after 158 Squadron had lost seven Halifax aircraft in succession with the registration letter F.  When Halifax LV907 was delivered to the Squadron, it also bore this ‘unlucky’ letter and was given to the charge of Pilot Officer Smith “Smithy”, and his crew. They decided to break this jinx by giving the aircraft its ‘unlucky’ title.”

Smithy in his characteristic ‘stuff and nonsense’ attitude to this fear, decided to break this jinx, by giving the aircraft its name, along with the decals of the Grim Reaper and an upside down horseshoe, which he painted on.  It is even noted that an open ladder had been painted above the crew entry hatch, which they would have to pass under to board the aircraft, but it was deemed this would be taking things too far and its removal was ordered.

Over the years, several accounts of the naming of the aircraft have given the name of one Clifford MacDonald as the person who named “Friday the 13th”. But it transpires, quite incredibly, that they were one and the same person! “Smithy” had married, and unusually, taken his wife’s surname. So Clifford Smith became known as Clifford MacDonald

 

The Crew that named the plane below are

L – R (REAR): Ronald Clarkson, Rodney Neary, Keith Smith, Clifford Smith(Macdonald),

Eric King, Harold King, Jack Goff

Front: Mick Miller (Engine Fitter), Sgt. Tom Daly (NCO i/c), F/Sgt. Cartwright

Source: From Files of Eddie Fell

Stan Hardacre – Rear Gunner. From Bradford, Yorkshire. Completed 4 ops with the crew, before being overcome with fear and exhaustion Replaced by Jack Goff.

 

Early Days:

Right from its very first operation on 30th March 1944, Halifax LV907 was to prove to be a lucky aircraft. That night, still un-christened, and known as just another F for Freddie, it was Joe Hitchman at the controls, with an assembled crew. It should have been Joe’s night off, but he was called in for this raid on Nuremberg. His Squadron leader had taken his regular aircraft, G for George, out that night but was shot down and lost – it could have been Joe, but fate had had other ideas. The symbolism of the aircraft did prove to be lucky and the aircraft carried a number of crews during its operational life

 

The Crews:

 

L – R (REAR): Ronald Clarkson, Rodney Neary, Keith Smith, Clifford Smith(Macdonald),

Eric King, Harold King, Jack Goff

Front: Mick Miller (Engine Fitter), Sgt. Tom Daly (NCO i/c), F/Sgt. Cartwright

 

In March 2013 Eric King went to visit the replica Friday the 13th at Yorkshire Air Museum at Evington here is a video and link to see his story.

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/at-a-glance/general-news/a-poignant-journey-for-friday-the-13th-s-lucky-one-1-5503753

 

 L – R: (Rear): Sgt. V.H. Creane (F/E), Sgt. K,W. Cammack (MUG), Sgt. B. Wilbraham (W.Op), F/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman (Pilot), F/Sgt. R.C. Littlemore (A/B), Sgt. J. Jackson (R/G), P/O. W.J. Tyler (Nav).

Front: LAC J. Wicks and Sgt. T. Daly

 

L- R: Sgt. T. Daly (Ground Crew), F/O R. J. Jones (Navigator), F/O Harold Wheeler (Pilot), W/O G. H. Pember (MUG), Sgt. J. H. Alden (Flight Engineer), Unknown, LAC  J. Wicks (Ground Crew), Sgt. J. Skinner (R/G) F/O W. G. Moore (Bomb Aimer), Sgt. A.B. Robson (WOP), Unknown.

 

L-R:  W.D. Peters (A/B), J.R. Murray (Nav), A. Hawthorn (F/E), N.G. Gordon (Pilot), J.E. Hyde (MUG), L.A. Pye (R/G), T.R. Little (W.Op)

Crew pics & Source: Files of Eddie Fell

 

Stories from Arnold Hawthorn flight Engineer & Norman Graham (Doc) Gordon (Both Above)

 Friday the 13th

Arnold Hawthorn story:

Returning from a target in Chemnitz the bomber 'Friday the Thirteenth' of which I was the engineer, we lost the starboard engine, which therefore had to be feathered, while further problems due to heavy icing only made matters worse. The decision was made to rise above the clouds. Although the tops of the clouds could be seen, it wasn't possible to climb above them, consequently we tried to go below. The pilot asked the navigator for the highest ground on the route home, the answer being 1500ft the Skipper decided to go down to 2000ft to clear the ice from the aeroplane. Then as we were flying happily along the rear gunner complained that he could see telegraph poles and houses flashing past! We re-entered the clouds as quickly as possible, after discussion the Skipper decided to slowly descend until clear of the clouds to verify the altitude. After a few minutes the same sight was seen again, but this time it was seen not only by the gunner but the whole crew! So once again we had no alternative but to re-enter the clouds. A third attempt was made to escape the icy clouds, this time the Skipper saw a light shining ahead and decided to take a fix on this point. As it came closer it turned out to be a cyclist who quickly jumped off his bike and into a nearby ditch! The resulting tactic was to fly just below the clouds while the whole crew kept a sharp eye out for any obstructions.

 

Eventually the clouds became less icy and intense, so the plane could rise to a reasonable height on the way to the French coast. Before reaching this destination I noticed that the fuel gauges were reading almost zero, not wanting to bail out on such a night, I carefully avoided mentioning it to the Skipper, the reason being I thought my own fuel calculations were accurate and that there was sufficient fuel to return home. Half way across the channel I decided to tell the Skipper. As I was casually eating an orange, I remarked 'this is a smashing old kite,' to which he replied 'yes, this is a grand old... what do you mean?' then I told him, 'well we've been flying for the last few minutes with empty tanks!' he immediately erupted and cursed me, then asked the navigator for the location of the nearest airfield. He was told Blackbush near Reading. So on reaching the English coast we turned west for Blackbush, the weather conditions were still atrocious with mist and rain, nothing could be seen. The Skipper chose to use a short wave radio to contact the airfield at Blackbush, but as a shock to us, all we heard was German, much to the consternation of the whole crew! We tried again but with the same result, by this time even I was getting worried about the fuel situation. Eventually, after trying Blackbush yet again we heard the voice of female operator still asking for, 'aircraft calling Blackbush say again please,' the Skipper tried again a number of times with the same results. After some minutes we saw a glow in the sky which we hoped was Blackbush and as we got closer we realised with relief that it was the lights of the airfield runway. And the operator was still calling 'aircraft calling Blackbush say again please.' With numerous curses, that only a Canadian skipper could come out with, he replied that he was coming in anyway as there was no fuel left to circle the airfield with. Finally we landed after a sharp manoeuvre and taxied to a dispersal area just in time as the engines cut out from lack of fuel! The crew were invited to go to the mess but, as I was in the doghouse, I was angrily turned away.

The following morning I was told to service the plane and when asked if I could drive I replied yes, although not being a driver, a petrol bowser and trailer were pointed out to me and I was told to refuel the aircraft. After sorting out the ten gears I managed to drive to the plane without accident but with a few close shaves. The rest of the crew were sent back to the squadron whilst I was left to see to a new engine which was flown down, mounted, and then I was allowed back to the squadron.

5/3/1945 Arnold Hawthorn, engineer of the Halifax Bomber, 'Friday the Thirteenth.

This story is submitted with the permission of the author, Arnold Hawthorn

Arnold Hawthorn who I believe is still alive and living in Durham.  Arnold was the Flight Engineer on Friday the 13th with N. G. (Doc) Gordon RCAF, as pilot. Chuck Tolley I spoke to Arnold a few years ago and he had many wonderful stories about the aircraft and felt it was the slowest Halifax in the Squadron and often ended up being last to the target and the last home.

 

Norman Graham (Doc) Gordon story:

 

 

 

The Missions:

Op          Date                                      Pilot

1              30/03/1944                             F/Sgt. J. Hitchman

2              09/04/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

3              10/04/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

4              18/04/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

5              20/04/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

6              22/04/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

7              24/04/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

8              26/04/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

9              27/04/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

10            30/04/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

11            01/05/1944                            F/Sgt. J. Hitchman

12            08/05/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

13            10/05/1944                            F/Sgt. J.H. Evans

14            11/05/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

15            12/05/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

16            19/05/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

17            24/05/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

18            27/05/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

19            01/06/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

20            02/06/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

21            05/06/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

22            06/06/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

23            07/06/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

24            09/06/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

25            12/06/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

26            16/06/1944                            F/Sgt. R.J. Chilcott RAAF

27            17/06/1944                            F/Sgt. R.J. Chilcott RAAF

28            22/06/1944                            F/O. R.F. New

29            23/06/1944                            F/Sgt. E. Paulsen RAAF

30            24/06/1944                            F/Sgt. R.J. Chilcott RAAF

31            27/06/1944                            F/Sgt. R.J. Chilcott RAAF

32            28/06/1944                            W/O. L. Fulker RNZAF

33            30/06/1944                            F/Sgt. R.J. Chilcott RAAF

34            01/07/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

35            07/07/1944                            F/O. G.H. Montgomery RCAF

36            12/07/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

37            18/07/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

38            20/07/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

39            23/07/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

40            24/07/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

41            25/07/1944                            P/O. L. Fulker RNZAF

42            28/07/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

43            29/07/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

44            01/08/1944                            P/O. C.E. Smith

45            02/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

46            03/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

47            05/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

48            06/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

49            07/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

50            09/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

51            11/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

52            12/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

53            14/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

54            15/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

55            16/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

56            18/08/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

57            24/08/1944                            F/O. D.W. McAdam

58            25/08/1944                            F/Sgt. A.W. Meaden

59            27/08/1944                            P/O. J. Harmer

60            31/08/1944                            F/Sgt. A.W. Meaden

61            03/09/1944                            P/O. J. Harmer

62            09/09/1944                            F/Sgt. A.W. Meaden

63            10/09/1944                            F/Sgt. D.A.J.B. Waterman

64            11/09/1944                            F/O. S.E. Rees

65            12/09/1944                            P/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman

66            13/09/1944                            P/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman

67            15/09/1944                            P/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman

68            17/09/1944                            P/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman

69            23/09/1944                            P/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman

70            25/09/1944                            S/Ldr. A.G. Salter

71            26/09/1944                            P/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman

72            06/10/1944                            P/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman

73            07/10/1944                            P/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman

74            09/10/1944                            F/O. N. Tilston RCAF

75            14/10/1944                            P/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman

76            15/10/1944                            P/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman

77            15/10/1944                            F/Sgt. J. Harmer

78            21/10/1944                            F/O. T.H. Sinclair RNZAF

79            23/10/1944                            F/Sgt. J. Harmer

80            25/10/1944                            F/O. N.G. Gordon RCAF

81            28/10/1944                            P/O. D.A.J.B. Waterman

82            29/10/1944                            F/O. N.G. Gordon RCAF

83            29/11/1944                            F/O. N.G. Gordon RCAF

84            30/11/1944                            Sgt. R. Kaye

85            02/12/1944                            F/O. J.M. Compton

86            05/12/1944                            F/O. J.H. Robinson

87            06/12/1944                            F/O. J.H. Robinson

88            12/12/1944                            F/O. J.H. Robinson

89            18/12/1944                            F/O. J.H. Robinson

90            21/12/1944                            F/O. N.G. Gordon RCAF

91            24/12/1944                            F/O. J.H. Robinson

92            26/12/1944                            F/O. J.H. Robinson

93            28/12/1944                            F/O. N.G. Gordon RCAF

94            30/12/1944                            F/O. N.G. Gordon RCAF

95            01/01/1945                            F/O. J.H. Robinson

96            02/01/1945                            F/O. N.G. Gordon RCAF

97            05/01/1945                            F/O. N.G. Gordon RCAF

98            14/01/1945                            F/O. N. Tilston RCAF

99            16/01/1945                            F/O. N.G. Gordon RCAF

100          22/01/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

101          01/02/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

102          04/02/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

103          07/02/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

104          09/02/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

105          13/02/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

106          14/02/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

107          20/02/1945                            S/Ldr. A.G. Salter

108          21/02/1945                            F/Sgt. R. Kaye

109          23/02/1945                            F/Sgt. R. Kaye

110          24/02/1945                            S/Ldr. A.G. Salter

111          27/02/1945                            S/Ldr. A.G. Salter

112          02/03/1945                            W/O. A.W.A. Elley

113          03/03/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

114          05/03/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

115          11/03/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

116          12/03/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

117          13/03/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

118          14/03/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

119          15/03/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

120          19/03/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

121          20/03/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

122          21/03/1945                            F/Lt. N.G. Gordon RCAF

123          24/03/1945                            F/O. H. Wheeler

124          25/03/1945                            F/O. H. Wheeler

125          04/04/1945                            F/O. H. Wheeler

126          08/04/1945                            F/O. H. Wheeler

127          18/04/1945                            F/Sgt. W. Dargavel RCAF

128          25/04/1945                            F/O. H. Wheeler

 

With Thanks to Chuck Tolley, Eddie Fell, Flickr