iconic RAF Spitfire: best propeller fighter plane ever produced.

A Royal Visit to the HQ of RAF Fighter Command at Royal Air Force station Bentley Priory. The operations rooms were in specially made underground bunkers. The home which is located in the London Borough of Harrow was purchased by the RAF in 1926. 

George VI FC with Dowding

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, escorted by Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Air Officer Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command, visit the Headquarters of Fighter Command at Bentley Priory, near Stanmore, Middlesex

(photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

RAF Station Bentley Priory was finally closed in 2008. Subsequently developed into luxury condominiums. The British Government continues to sell of its historic heritage to private interest which immediately close them to the public. For large sums of money you can now rent historic rooms in the Palace of Westminster which is the seat of the House of Commons for private parties. This includes the members dining room and bar where Winston Churchill was often found.


Ground crew refuelling Supermarine Spitfire Mark IIA, P7420, of No. 19 Squadron RAF from a tractor-drawn petrol bowser at Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire. This newly-arrived example was one of the few Spitfire Mark IIs to fly operationally with a front-line squadron before the end of the Battle of Britain.

 (photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)


A formation of Supermarine Spitfire Mark IIAs of No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron RAF dip their wings as they pass the saluting base during a visit by the Polish President, Władysław Raczkiewicz, to Northolt, Middlesex.

photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum


Many Polish Air Force pilots made their way to Great Britain after the German’s over ran Poland. In spite of their antiquated aircraft, the Polish Air Force had put up a credible defense. AOC-in-C Dowding of Fighter Command was wary of these pilots at first. Few spoke English and he thought they might be too undisciplined. As it turned out, they learned English quickly and since they had been professional airmen and flying for a number of years they were some of the most experienced fighter pilots the RAF had.

Better, given what the Nazis were doing to their homeland, the Poles had a visceral hatred of the Germans. If they ran out of ammunition and were over England, Polish pilots often rammed German planes then baled out.


Spitfire F Mark XIV, RB159 ‘DW-D’, being flown by the commanding officer of No. 610 Squadron RAF, Squadron Leader R A Newbury, when based at Friston, Sussex.

photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum



Flight Lieutenant Laurie of No. 222 Squadron, Royal Air Force warming up Supermarine Spitfire Mark V, BM202 ‘ZD-H’ “Flying Scotsman”, at North Weald, Essex. This aircraft was the second bearing this name to be paid for from donations made by LNER personnel, arranged through the company’s wartime headquarters at Hitchin.

(photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)



The Spitfire XII had been in service for over a year when this shot was taken on 12 April 1944 of two Friston-based aircraft from No 41 Squadron. Essentially a Mk V airframe mated to Rolls-Royce’s powerful 1,735hp Griffon engine (which gave it a top speed of about 390mph at 18,00ft), the Mk XII was a low-level interceptor, equipping two home-defence squadrons. By 1944, however, enemy fighter-bomber incursions were rare and the Mk XIIs were being employed on offensive sweeps over northern France.

(photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

George Takei of Star Trek Fame Recounts His Japanese American Family’s Time in US Interment Camp

Quite an interesting article from the NYT on George Takei and his many activities and experiences over his life and his upcoming play about his family’s life in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans in the USA during WW Two.

George Takei Reflects on Travel, Both Painful and Pleasurable


From the New York Times

George Takei is a man of many speaking engagements. He talks at “Star Trek” conventions about his role as Mr. Sulu. He tells soldiers and students about the role of Japanese-Americans during World War II, a subject in which he is well versed. In a new musical, “Allegiance,” based on his family’s experience living in internment camps during the war, he actually sings the story.

The remainder of the article is here:



Field Marshal von Manstein, Completely Naked, Meets Field Marshal Rommel



Herr Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein in Russian with German and Romanian troops, 1942.

(photo credit: Kirsche/Associated Press courtesy of the New York Times.

Posted by Charles McCain on http://charlesmccain.com/blog/

Von Manstein shouted: “So we meet at last!”

‘…mother naked’ Field Marshal von Manstein  shook hands for the first time with Field Marshal Rommel.

While waiting to meet with the Fuhrer on July 13th, 1943, von Manstein suggested to his ADC, Alexander Stahlberg, that they take a swim in one of the many beautiful lakes close by FHQ in East Prussia. Neither had their swim trunks. However, no one was around so into the lake they went stark naked and had a most enjoyable swim.

When they begin to swim back toward the ladder of the small footbridge they had used to enter the lake, young Stahlberg spotted a half a dozen men on the footbridge. Von Manstein asked if any of them were women and Stahlberg said he did not think so.

When they got to the base of the ladder Stahlberg got a better look (von Manstein was virtually blind without his glasses) and said, “I believe, sir, that it is Field Marshal Rommel.”

“You’re right. my dear fellow, this is Field Marshal Rommel!”

“Then there was a big hello from below and above, and Manstein shouted, ‘so we meet at last!’ It was true: Manstein and Rommel had never met until that moment…

Rommel spoke again from above: ‘Well gentlemen, why don’t you come up?’ And Manstein called back: ‘Yes, why not?’ And so, mother naked, we climbed the rungs until we were standing before the well-dressed officers.”


From: Bounded Duty: the Memoirs of A German Officer 1932–1945 by Alexander Stahlberg


I highly recommend this book. It is out of print and hard to find but is the only first- hand account we have of von Manstein in the last years of the war from November 1942 until the end. Stahlberg, a strong anti-Nazi from a family of anti-Nazis, many of whom were executed by the Nazis, was in a position to know everything and see everything. He was from an aristocratic Prussian family with roots going back centuries in East Prussia. He was related to everyone.

He is a sympathetic figure and his anti-Nazi credentials are impeccable. When he made contact with the British on Manstein’s behalf and began to tell their intelligence officers who he was and how many members of his family had been killed by the Nazis, one of the British intelligence officers stopped his recitation by politely saying, “we know who you are.” And they invited him to breakfast.

Stahlberg had great admiration for von Manstein and waited to publish his own memoirs until after von Manstein died in 1973. In spite of his admiration and respect for von Manstein, Stahlberg saw him as a tragic hero and deeply flawed man. While less known in the US and the UK than other German commanders, von Manstein was unquestionably Germany’s best field commander in World War Two and the best field commander of any country during the war. 

Unlike most historical figures, von Manstein was recognized in his own time as Germany’s greatest Field Marshal. It was thought by key anti-Hitler plotters in the German Army, that only von Manstein had the prestige to lead an army revolt against the Nazi Party. Except for the thoroughly Nazified Field Marshals such as Model, all the others would have followed his orders.

At the time of his brief meeting with the Fuhrer mentioned in the beginning of the post, Field Marshal Kluge was also present. Later in the evening, after their usual meeting with Hitler where he refused their advice, the three Field Marshals retired to their common quarters and sat up over several bottles of red wine. Stahlberg was present as he always was at every meeting or social gathering at von Manstein’s insistence.

In front of Rommel, Kluge said to von Manstein, “Manstein, the end will be bad, and I repeat what I told you earlier: I am prepared to serve under you.” With that, Kluge retired. Over a few more glasses of wine, Rommel also told Manstein that the war would end in a total catastrophe and further should the Allies land in Europe, the entire German state and military would quickly reach a point where it would collapse like a house of cards.

Then Rommel stood to take his leave and von Manstein stood to shake his hand. Said Rommel, “I, too, am prepared to serve under you.”

Yet von Manstein who alone among the German Field Marshal’s had the opportunity to be one of the great men of the 20th Century could not bring himself to assassinate of Hitler (which he easily could have done on the several occasions Hitler visited his forward HQ). Nor, could he envision himself as leading the German Army against the Nazi Party and any military formations which would have remained loyal to the Party.

 “What tragedy governed his life!”  Stahlberg wrote of von Manstein in his memoirs. Von Manstein was a great general. But he could have been a great man. That he chose not to is a classic form of Greek tragedy.


Source: author’s research and Bounded Duty: the Memoirs of A German Officer 1932–1945 by Alexander Stahlberg

Russland-Nord, Erich von Manstein, Brandenberger


 Manstein with General der Panzertruppe Erich Brandenberger, one of his divisional commanders, in June 1941.

(photo courtesy of the German National Archive and posted by Charles McCain on http://charlesmccain.com/blog/ )

A Spitfire Bought By Railway Workers


A Spitfire from the London and North Eastern Railway Employees



Flight Lieutenant Laurie of No. 222 Squadron, Royal Air Force starting up Supermarine Spitfire Mark V, BM202 ‘ZD-H’ “Flying Scotsman”, at North Weald, Essex. The aircraft was the second bearing this name to be paid for from donations made by LNER personnel. (London and North Eastern Railway)

photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum.  Posted by Charles McCain

$100,000 Reward To Solve A Rare Crime


A Stradivarius violin in the Palacio Real de Madrid. 



From the New York Times of 1.31. 14

$100,000 Reward Is Set for Stolen Stradivarius Violin


“The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announced late Friday afternoon that a $100,000 reward was being offered to anyone who provides information that leads to the safe return of the 1715 Stradivarius violin stolen from the orchestra’s concertmaster, Frank Almond, after a chamber concert in Milwaukee on Monday evening.

Susan Loris, a spokeswoman for the orchestra said she was unable to identify the source of the reward money. It could be the orchestra, the anonymous owner of the violin (it was given to Mr. Almond as a permanent loan in 2008) or others.”

The remainder of the article including an interview with the concertmaster from whom the violin was stolen is here:


And this is what happened:

Hoodlums, thieves, highwayman, or what have you, waited in the freezing cold parking lot of the Wisconsin Lutheran College’s auditorium for Frank Almond, the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. (And it wasn’t cold like it gets here in Washington, DC occasionally. The temperature in the parking lot was several degrees below zero (F) with a wind chill of minus -25 degrees.)

When he got to his car a man pounced and zapped Mr. Almond with a stun gun. He collapsed. But it wasn’t Mr. Almond they were after but what he was carrying–a Stradivarius violin made in 1715. The robber grabbed the violin and jumped into the car of an accomplice and they drove away into the night.

I’ve never heard of such a valuable musical instrument stolen like this.

You can read the entire article from the New York Times here:


A Violinist’s Triumph Is Ruined by Thieves


It should have been one of those nights musicians live for. Frank Almond, the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for nearly two decades, had just closed a chamber concert in his own “Frankly Music” series with Messiaen’s hushed, eerily intense “Quartet for the End of Time.” Mr. Almond drew the graceful, ringing high notes of the finale from his prized 1715 Stradivarius violin, producing a tone so intensely focused that the audience in the Wisconsin Lutheran College’s 388-seat auditorium sat in awed silence for 20 seconds before applauding.



Wikipedia entry on Antonio Stradivari is here: 








Support the Local Spitfire Fighter Fund – Do It Now (part 1)

The Most Famous Aircraft Ever Built:
the RAF Supermarine Spitfire
And you Can Help Buy One for the Royal Air Force!

763mm x 512mm


A typical poster urging people to contribute to the local Spitfire Fund.

 (Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum)

The Supermarine Spitfire became a symbol in its time for resistance against the Nazis. So greatly did the Spitfire capture the heart and minds of the English speaking peoples that fundraising campaigns to buy Spitfires were commonplace in Great Britain, the British Empire, Commonwealth and even the United States during World War Two. Local governments, companies, newspapers, unions, fire and police units, youth groups et al, sponsored campaigns to raise money to buy Spitfires for the RAF.

Supermarine, the company which designed and built the Spitfire, had specialized in building amphibious planes prior to World War Two, hence the word ‘marine’ in the name of the company.



Just any fundraising campaign today, items were on exhibit to draw a crowd. In this instance it was a crashed German JU 88 dive bomber. 

(Photo courtesy of http://s14.photobucket.com/user/GLASGOWMAN/media/07090063.jpg.html)

JU 88 Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-363-2258-11,_Flugzeug_Junkers_Ju_88

This is what the crowd came to see, although the one on exhibit had crashed. Here is photo of JU 88 dive bomber over France in 1942. ‘JU’ indicates the plane was built by the Junkers Aircraft Company which produced a number of planes for the Luftwaffe. 

(Photo courtesy of the German National Archive)

Since Spitfires only cost approximately £5,000, not a huge sum for the era, hundreds of Spitfires were “bought” for the RAF through these campaigns. The money you gave was a contribution, not a war savings bond or stamp which paid interest until redeemed.


belfast telegraph company spitfire fund

  The Belfast Telegraph’s Spitfire Fund captured the public’s imagination like no other campaign and raised £88,633 — the equivalent to £2,886,800 in today’s money — for fighter planes to take on the Nazis during World War II.

(photo courtesy of Belfast Telegraph)

The Belfast Telegraph, a major newspaper in Belfast, Northern Ireland then and now, raised enough through its Spitfire Fund to purchase 17 Spitfires for the RAF all of which were given names of towns and cities in the vicinity of Belfast.

A fascinating article from the Telegraph on their Spitfire Fund in World War Two was coincidentally published on 1 February 2014 and you can read it here:




Spitfires at work. Six aircraft of 65 Squadron in starboard echelon formation somewhere over England circa 1941.


Hundreds of Pilots From Around the World Flew for Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain


Pilots of No. 310 (Czech) Squadron
No. 310 Squadron was formed at Duxford in July 1940.
Squadron Commander Gordon Sinclair said of the Czechs he commanded: ‘…they were anxious to fly, and anxious to get at the enemy, very anxious, probably more than we were…they didn’t like the Germans. Six of the pilots in this photograph did not survive the war. The plane behind the men is a Hawker Hurricane. (Photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

During the Battle of Britain, only 80% of Fighter Command’s pilots were actually British.

10 % came from the Empire and Commonwealth and 10% from other countries. No one seems to agree on the exact figures.

The numbers of pilots on the RAF Roll of Honour for the Battle of Britain isn’t the same as the number on the RAF Battle of Britain Monument on London. A “Battle of Britain pilot” is defined as a pilot who flew at least one operational mission between 10 July to 31 October 1940.

Wikipedia cites numbers from a variety of sources including official documents and newspaper articles.



The two histories I consulted also have different numbers.

The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain by Stephen Bungay and The Battle of Britain by Richard Hough and Denis Richards are the two histories.

These two books cite different figures on the number of pilots from different countries. Because The Most Dangerous Enemy seems the most thoroughly researched source, I used the figures from that book which are quoted as follows:

New Zealand………………………..129



South Africa & Rhodesia……….27

I think that part of the disparity in numbers between the various sources results from such issues as Canadians who were flying for the RAF but during the Battle of Britain were incorporated into all Canadian squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The other 10%, and perhaps the most highly motivated pilots of all, were from European countries occupied by Nazi Germany.

(5% of Fighter Command’s overall strength were Polish Air Force pilots who had braved the German occupation forces and security police to make their way to England).

While Air Marshal Dowding, AOC Fighter Command, was at first skeptical of the Poles, after the Battle of Britain was over he wrote, “had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry I hesitate to say that the outcome of the battle (of Britain) would have been the same.” As cited in, “Polish Aces of World War Two” and Dowding’s official dispatch on the battle.

303 RAF Fighter Squadron, composed almost entirely of Poles, had the highest record of any RAF Squadron in Fighter Command for shooting down Germans.

There were several Czechs in 303 Squadron and one of them, Sergeant-Pilot Josef Frantisek, was the highest scoring ace in the Battle of Britain, shooting down 28 German planes.



Free French…………………………14


(Due to US neutrality laws, Americans could be arrested and lose their citizenship were they known to be on their way to serve in the armed forces of a foreign power. Eventually, an exception was made for Americans who wanted to fight for the British and in 1941, after the Battle of Britain, 240 American pilots flew with Fighter Command in three specially designated “Eagle” squadrons).

By the end of the war in May of 1945, the combined Anglo-American fighter squadrons had cleared the skies of German planes in the West and Red Air Force had cleaned the air of German planes in the East.

News article on the four NZ Battle  of Britain pilots who were still alive in 2010.