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B-17G "Vonnie Gal"

Don Strait's P-51D "Jersey Jerk"

Fairey Swordfish Mk I of Lt. Cdr. Eugene Esmonde VC,DSO

USAAF Waist Gunner "Ready for the Fight"

Manchester Mk I

Wing Cdr. Roland Beamont Bronze

Scramble! Spitfire Mk 1a Diorama

Tempest V of Roland Beamont on D-Day

Whitley Mk V P5105/MH-K

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk I

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The B-17G "Vonnie Gal" diorama in 1:144 scale is shown above and below in several photos - amazing realism achieved in this size.

"Vonnie Gal" , 42-3524, "FO-G", was hit and disabled by AAA fire on July 20, 1944 and made a landing at Payerne, Switzerland at 12:55 hrs; all nine crew members were interned.

Although built at Boeing's Denver plant as a B-17F-75, this aircraft was fitted with the G-model's chin turret and longer faired nose, but retained the F model's upper gun turret and open waist gun positions! Redesignated a B-17G-5, it arrived at Kimbolton for service with the 379th BG on 3 October. Initially issued to the 526th BS, the bomber was soon passed on to the 527th BS, where it was christened Vonnie Gal. A 'regular' with the squadron well into 1944, the aircraft completed 27 or 28 of its 50 missions manned by 1 Lt Jack Lamont's crew. By July 1944 42-3524 was the oldest operational Fortress within the 379th, but its lengthy career with the group came to an end on the 20th of that month. The bomber was struck by flak just after its crew, led by 2Lt William F Moore, had released its bombs during a raid on Leipzig. Running low on fuel, Moore chose to land at Payerne airfield, in Switzerland, where both his crew and his bomber were interned. Vonnie Gal was finally flown back from Switzerland to Burtonwood, in Lancashire, on 25 September 1945, where it was subsequently scrapped just weeks later. A limited edition of only 100 and priced at $500.00.

Source: Osprey Aviation Books, Combat Aircraft Vol 18. ISBN 1-84176-021-8

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Captain Donald J. Strait, 356th Fighter Group Ace. He scored 13.5 victories with the 361st FS, 356th Fighter Group, being the top ace of this group, achieving all but three of his kills in Mustangs, largely in the final months of the war.

He was born on April 28, 1918 and grew up in Verona, New Jersey. Strait had wanted fly since he was a youngster, and after a brief, uninteresting stint with Prudential Insurance Company, he enlisted in 1940 in the 119th Observation Squadron of the New Jersey National Guard. He started as an armorer and moved up to become an aerial gunner in the two-seater O-46 and O-47 observation planes. In early 1942, he qualified as an aviation cadet and started his training at Maxwell Field, Alabama. After moving up through Primary and Basic Training, he received his wings and his commission in January, 1943.

Receiving his first-choice assignment as a fighter pilot, he began flying the P-47 Thunderbolt at Westover Field, MA. Moving up to the dramatically more powerful Thunderbolt, and flying it out of the snowy New England conditions was a real challenge. After checking out in the P-47 and completing "transition training" he was assigned to the 356th Fighter Group, then at Bradley Field, CT. On reporting to his CO, he mentioned his background in the NJ Air National Guard and his desire for extra duty in aircraft maintenance. He was duly appointed assistant engineering officer, and got the chance to undertake all aircraft flight tests. As typical of American Fighter Groups, the 356th pilots underwent further, more advanced training in the P-47s before shipping out for England in August, 1943. By this time, Strait had been promoted to Captain.

When they arrived at their first base at Goxhill Aerodrome outside London, they were surprised not to find their airplanes waiting for them. Before leaving the States, they had understood that they would receive their new planes directly at Goxhill, and all the pilots had loaded the planes with all sorts of goodies: whiskey, spare parts, music records, etc. When their finally picked up their aircraft from the Eighth Air Force depot at Burtonwood, all the "goodies" had disappeared. They soon moved up to their operational base at Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, just five miles from the North Sea, which made it relatively easy to find when returning from a mission in bad weather. The 356th made its first combat sorties in October, 1943, with sweeps over Holland and northern France; sightings of Luftwaffe planes were quite rare, and the group took over a month to score its first aerial victory. Strait's first combat occurred on February 6, 1944, when his flight bounced a pair of FW-190s while on an escort mission. He immediately attacked. The 190s split apart and he chased one down to the deck. He scored hits on it and the pilot bailed out - Strait's first kill. But he and his wingman had used too much fuel, and barely made it back to base. He shot down a couple more Bf-109s while flying Thunderbolts, on February 10 and May 19. Having completed well over 200 combat hours, he was entitled to rotate home, but agreed to continue front-line flying, provided that he was given command of the 361st Fighter Squadron. He took a 30-day leave and returned to Europe in September, 1944. He and Captain George May, the intelligence officer, reviewed daily sightings and disposition of the Luftwaffe, which helped him plan and lead the squadron's missions.

The group flew their first Mustang mission on November 20, the same day that Strait assumed command of the 361st FS. He led the squadron again on November 26, 1944, when it flew an escort mission over the heavily defended Ruhr. After linking up with the B-17s just east of Holland, the pilots were advised of 40 bandits approaching from the south. As Strait's sixteen Mustangs arrived in the Osnabruck area, they spotted the 40 Bf-109s at 25,000 feet. They dropped tanks and attacked. Then Strait spotted about another 150 German fighters at various altitudes, preparing to attack the bombers.

"We've got the whole damn Luftwaffe!" he radioed. He closed to within 350 yards of an enemy airplane and fired; it dived away smoking. Strait's wingman saw it crash. Strait soon bounced another 109, but it eluded him. He spotted a third and closed to within 300 yards, and exploded it (a shared kill with Lt. Shelby Jett). After this dogfighting, fuel began to be a concern, so they headed home. That day the 356th FG destroyed 23 enemy aircraft without losing a single American.

After two more victories on December 5, Strait found more air combat on Christmas Day. In action again against Bf-109s, he had a nasty moment when his first victim left oil and engine coolant all over his windscreen. Skidding away, Strait almost rammed his foe. He continued shooting down German planes in 1945: an Fw-190 on Jan. 14, another Fw-190 on Feb 14, and three Fiesler Storch light observation planes on Feb 20. His 13.5 aerial victories led the 356th Fighter Group.

After the war he rejoined the NJ Air National Guard, and served on active duty during the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam. He retired from the Air Force in 1978 wiht the rank of Major General, and was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame in 1989.

Sources: which references:
Eric Hammel, Aces in Combat: The American Aces Speak, Vol 5, Pacifica Press, 1998
Jerry Scutts, Mustang Aces of the Eighth Air Force, Osprey Publishing, 1994

"Jersey Jerk", a detail from limited edition print, "Ace of Diamonds", by Nicolas Trudgian. Signed by Lt. Col. Charles E. Beck, Capt. Clinton DeWitt Burdick and Maj. Gen. Donald J. Strait. An edition of 500 priced at $175.

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Linen skin from a Royal Navy Historical Flight Swordfish signed by Lt. Cdr. Pat Kingsmill DSO, Lt. Cdr. Edgar Lee DSO and D Bunce CGM.

"Fairey Swordfish and H.M.S. Ark Royal" by Ernest Nisbet. This 1938 scene of a Number 814 Squadron Swordfish was painted in gouache by the British artist who is well known for his artwork on postage stamps. The painting is available for $795.00 framed.

Excellent information on the Fairey Swordfish may be found at the Fleet Air Arm Archive.

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"SCRAMBLE! Diorama Featuring Spitfire Mk 1a's of 54 Sqdn."

The following photos show the Scramble! diorama from many viewpoints. Shown here is diorama #12 which has four RAF WWII pilot signatures included. this diorama is no longer available from Diverse Images.

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TEMPEST V 150 Wing Flown by Roland Beamont

The photos below show the detail of this fine pewter model in 1:72 scale of the Tempest V as flown by the distinguished pilot Roland "Bee" Beamont during the invasion of France in June 1944.

This particular airplane, JN751, held many Tempest "firsts" with Roland Beamont at the controls. First to fly a ground attack sortie over Northern Europe on May 28, 1944. First to shoot down any enemy aircraft, Bf 109G, on June 8, 1944. First to shoot down a V-1 on June 16, 1944. First Tempest sortie over Germany on September 11, 1944 and the first to use drop tanks on an offensive mission.

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A USAAF waist gunner, ready for action, with his full body armor fitted. His flak helmet also holds his gloves, so important in his hostile work environment. This fine piece, sculpted by Martin Perrott, and cast in English Pewter by Diverse Images Studio, is painted in-house by staff artists. A limited edition of only 250 and priced at (sorry, sold out).

Manchester Mk I L7301/ZN-D

Manchester Mk I L7301/ZN-D, P/O Leslie T. Manser VC 50 Squadron, Skellingthorpe, 30th/31st May 1942

The Avro Manchester is most famously known for being the precursor to the Lancaster, featuring only two Rolls-Royce Vulture X-line engines instead of the Lancaster's four Merlin's. L7301 was the 28th Manchester to be built and was handed over to the RAF on the 21st of December 1940. Owing to the type's reliability record (or lack of!), it had been kept away from front line service spending its time in storage at 27 MU and being modified to later production standards. On the 28th of April 1942 it was issued to 106 Conversion Flight for second line duties.

Towards the end of May preparations were being made for operation Millennium, the brainchild of Air Marshal Harris; Millennium was to be the first 1000 bomber raid on Germany, the target Cologne. To make up the numbers, second line aircraft were taken to replace those undergoing maintenance; L7301 was one such aircraft.

Photo of Manchester MkI using flash to illuminate the dark night scheme on underside.

On the night of the 30th/31st of May, P/O Leslie Manser took L7301 on his fourteenth operational sortie, operation Millennium. The Manchester was refuelled and bombed up with a full load of 1260 4lb incendiaries in 14 containers at Skellingthorpe; it was here on collection of the aircraft that the lack of a mid upper turret was noted leaving Manser with a redundant wireless operator/air gunner. A suggestion was made to take two Vickers Gas Operated machine guns and several pans of ammunition; in the event of an attack the gunner was to make a hole in the fuselage in order to fire at the enemy, surprisingly this suggestion was taken up. And so L7301 departed for Cologne.

Manser had decided to bomb from 7000ft rather than the briefed height of 12000ft much to the concern of his second pilot Leslie Baveystock. The bombing run went according to plan with Manser selecting a target area on the edge of the burning city, however they were picked out by searchlights and shortly after the release of the incendiaries they were hit by flak blasting off the rear of the bomb doors. Despite evasive manoeuvres they were again peppered by 20mm flak. At 200ft the port engine burst into flames which reached back as far as the tail, fortunately this died down without burning through the spar or setting fire to the fuel tanks. With the aircraft now on one engine and losing height excess weight was jettisoned. However the starboard engine could not take the strain, its temperature rose and the aircraft became increasingly difficult to control, at this point Manser gave the command to his crew to bail out.

The last man to leave was Leslie Baveystock staying behind to assist. Manser finally lost control of the aircraft and it crashed into the ground killing him instantly. L7301 had come down in farmland near Bree in eastern Belgium, but the remainder of the crew had survived, four of whom evaded capture and were eventually able to return to England. Based on the reports of the crew, Leslie Manser was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross on October 20th 1942.

Whitley Mk V P5105/MH-K

Whitley Mk V P5105/MH-K, flown by Wing Commander J.B. Tait DFC, 51 Squadron, Luqa Malta, February 10th 1940, on Operation 'Colossus'. Model in 1:144 scale.

In the summer of 1940, it was suggested to the Air Ministry that an attack should be carried out on the Italian aqueduct system. This network supplied fresh water to the arid areas of southern Italy and principally the ports of Bari, Brindisi, and Taranto, which were being used to transport troops to North Africa. A study showed that a bomber assault was not possible with the aircraft of the time and that a sea borne raid was also not viable, but the use of paratroops could be successful. No.11 battalion of the newly formed Special Air Service was to be tasked with the destruction of the huge aqueduct spanning the river Tragino in the province of Campagna. Selected Whitleys and their crews were taken from 51 and 78 squadrons, and were placed under the command of Wing Commander 'Willie' Tait DFC. On the 7th of February the eight Whitleys and their cargo of SAS volunteers, now designated 'X' Troop, left RAF Mildenhall for their eleven hour flight to Luqa, in Malta, from where they would launch Operation 'Colossus'. Six Whitleys took off on the evening of February 10th for Italy, each carrying six paratroops with their supply containers secured within the bomb bays. Two of the Whitleys also carried 250lb bombs to make a diversionary raid on the marshalling yards at Foggia, thirty miles from the main target. However, things would soon go wrong as an aircraft carrying some of the sappers had its bomb racks ice up, depriving them of their explosives. An aircraft was also lost due to engine failure. Its crew bailed out, but the aircraft crashed near 'X' Troop's rendezvous point with HMS Triumph, resulting in the cancellation of the submarine. Lacking sufficient explosives, 'X' Troop could only damage one end of the viaduct. Unaware of the cancellation of HMS Triumph, the whole party were eventually captured and spent the rest of the war as POWs.

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk I of 264 Squadron

Shown here is Defiant Mk I, N1535, flown by S/Ldr P. Hunter, Sgt King, 264 Squadron, Hornchurch, August 1940.

Of the three low-winged monoplane fighters of the Battle of Britain the Boulton Paul Defiant is the one least remembered. First flown on August 11th 1937 the Defiant was a natural progression from the classic biplane fighters that proceeded it such as the Hawker Demon and Hart. 264 Squadron , first formed at Sutton Bridge on October 30th 1939, became the first to receive the Defiant. It did not however make an auspicious start, the aircraft being plagued with engine and undercarriage failures grounding the aircraft until late February 1940. Once declared operational 264 squadron were detached to Wittering from where they flew convoy patrols over the North Sea. In May they moved to Duxford from where they would claim their first success claiming a Ju88 and a He 111 but soon after they sustained heavy losses due to poor tactics losing five out of six aircraft to Messerschmitt Bf 109s.

This led to a change in role for the Defiants, they were to be used as anti-bomber escorts of English Channel convoys. Dunkirk bought one of the Defiants finest hours; On May 29th they claimed 37 German aircraft (19 Ju 87s, 15 Bf 110s, 2 Bf 109s and a Ju 88). this was largely due to the confusion of the enemy attacking the Defiants as if they were Hurricanes. Unfortunately it would not take long for the Luftwaffe to exploit the Defiants lack of forward firing machine guns and vulnerable underside where the gunner could not return fire.

Model Airplane News cover by Jo Kotula.

Throughout 1940 264 Squadron continued to move from station to station two of which were Kirton-on-Lindsey and Hornchurch during the Battle of Britain. At Hornchurch in August 1940 they were to claim 3 Ju 88s, 3 Do 17s and a Bf 109E. On the 28th of August they were withdrawn from front line day fighter service to Duxford.

Ultimately Defiants were to gain success as nightfighters before being relegated to target tug duties. Own this delightful miniature for $205.00.

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An eighteen inch bronze, full figure of famous WWII Typhoon and Tempest pilot, Roland Beamont. Beamont also became a test pilot for Hawker following the war. This handsome bronze was recently displayed at the Imperial War Museum Air Show. A 1:72 Tempest, flown by Beamont, is also available. A portion of the bronze figure is shown below to give you an idea of its terrific presence.

This bronze is available from Diverse Images only.

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