Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vickers Wellington Mark X (HE239, NA-Y) of No. 428 Squadron RCAF, April 1943.

No. 428 Squadron, also known as the Ghost Squadron due to its nocturnal operations, was a bomber squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The motto of the squadron was Usque ad finem ("To the very end"), and it was initially formed on November 7, 1942, at RAF Dalton in Yorkshire as part of No. 4 Group RAF. It was transferred to No. 6 Group RCAF on January 1, 1943, and it remained part of this group until April 25, 1945. The first operational mission was flown to Lorient on the night of January 26, 1943. In June of 1943 the squadron was re-equipped with Handley-Page Halifaxes and redeployed to RAF Middleton St. George. In June 1944 the squadron was re-equipped with Canadian-built Avro Lancaster Mk Xs, and these were used throughout the rest of the Second World War. The unit was disbanded in September 1945, but saw service again between 1954 and 1961 as an all-weather fighter squadron  flying the Avro CF-100 Canuck.

On the evening of 8/9 april, 1943, 302 aircraft (156 Lancasters, 97 Wellingtons, 73 Halifaxes, 56 Stirlings and ten Mosquitoes) took off to bomb the city of Duisburg in the Rhine Valley as the first of two Bomber Command missions targeting the city. The pilot of Vickers Wellington Mark X NA-Y, serial number HE239, was Sergeant Pilot Leonard Franklin Williamson from Regina, the capitol of Saskatchewan. He had enlisted in 1941, and on the night of April 8 and 9, 1943, he was to pilot NA-Y to Duisburg on his seventh mission. His crew consisted of the navigator, Flight Sergeant W. Watkins, the bomb aimer, Flight Serbeant H. Parker, wireless operator Sergeant J. Powley and finally rear gunner Sergeant Lorenzo Bertrand. The aircraft took off from RAF Dalton in Yorkshire without incident, but as the bombers approached Duisburg at 1115 pm, the aircraft were subjected to heavy Flak fire. NA-Y was hit three minutes later, and the bomber began vibrating alarmingly while forcing the pilot's rudder bar upwards and forwards. However, the Wellington was already on its final run to the aiming point, and Williamson pressed on. The bomb load was released two minuted later, at 1120 pm. Williamson had checked in with his crew members after the initial Flak hit, but there was no reply from the tail gunner, Sergeant Bertrand. The navigator, Sergeant Watkins, went back through the vibrating fuselage and made a horrific discovery: the entire rear turret and all of the fabric covering the fuselage aft of the beam gun position had been blown away. Meanwhile, Williamson noted that the hydraulics had also been hit, which manifest itself by the bomb doors remaining open and the landing gear being abruptly lowered. Further damage had been caused to the elevators and radio equipment on board. Williamson realized that he could not climb, but he was able to maintain his altitude, so the bail out order was cancelled. After what must have been a gruesome flight back to the United Kingdom, the crew landed at a fighter base in West Malling, Kent. The bombing of Duisburg had limited effect, since the town was covered with clouds, which ruined the Pathfinder markings. Therefore the bombing was scattered, with 40 houses destroyed, 72 damaged and 36 people killed. Another 15 towns in the Ruhr valley were also hit with bombs. Nineteen Bomber Command aircraft were lost, or 4.8 percent of the participating aircraft (seven Wellingtons, six Lancaster, three Halifaxes, and three Stirlings).

Williamson was initially recommended for a Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM), but this was changed on April 28 by the AOC of 6 Group, Air Vice Marshal Brookes, to a recommendation for the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM), the other rank's equivalent of the Distiguished Service Order, which is of a higher valor. The recommendation was signed by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris on May 2, 1943.

The body of the unfortunate rear gunner, Sergeant Bertrand, was found by the Germans, and he was buried in the Reichswald War Cemetery. The aircraft was eventually repaired, but it spent the rest of the war with an Operational Training Unit (OTU).

Original caption: "Damage to Vickers Wellington Mark X, HE239 'NA-Y', of No. 428 Squadron RCAF based at Dalton, Yorkshire, resulting from a direct hit from anti-aircraft gun fire while approaching to bomb Duisburg, Germany on the night of 8/9 April 1943. Despite the loss of the rear turret and its gunner, as well as other extensive damage, the pilot, Sergeant L F Williamson, continued to bomb the target, following which it was found that the bomb doors could not be closed because of a complete loss of hydraulic power. Williamson nevertheless brought HE239 and the remainder of his crew back for a safe landing at West Malling, Kent, where this photograph was taken."

The kit is the Trumpeter Wellington Mk. X, the final Bomber Command version of the Wellington with Hercules engines and a four-gun rear turret. Approximately 3,800 Mk X Wellingtons were built. The kit is very good: it is easy to build, the details are excellent, and so are the dimensions. The turrets actually feature good interior detail, and so does the fuselage interior, although the the tires are a tad too narrow.However, the decals are both bad and uninteresting, so I purchased the Matchbox Wellington Mk X just to get the decals. The tanker id from the Airfix "RAF Refueling Set" and the Jeep is from a Revell kit. The figures are from Revell's RAF personnel set.

A more extensive review of the kit can be found here:


  1. Excellent model. Do you know if the depicted aircraft was a write-off?

  2. Thank you! The aircraft was actually repaired, but relegated to an Operational Training Unit.