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Thread: Lancaster ED559 Pilot & Parachute Info Sought (100 Squadron)

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    Default Lancaster ED559 Pilot & Parachute Info Sought (100 Squadron)

    I recently received a letter from the archives of the Red Cross concerning Flt. Lt. Richard Curle. I have an interest in the loss of Lancaster ED559 on March 4/5 1943 in western France of which RA Curle was the pilot.

    The letter is from the Mayor of the small island on which Richard Curle is interred. The letter's contents are translated as:

    MINUTES CONCERNING INDENTIFICATION AND BURIAL OF THE BODY OF ENGLISH AIRMAN FOUND IN THE SEA


    In the year one thousand nine hundred and forty three, the third day of the month of April at fifteen hundred hours, Mr Guy NORMANDIN, the owner of the boat "MONTCALM", presented himself to the Mayor of Château d'Oléron and told us that on April 3rd, nineteen hundred and forty three, at ten thirty in the morning, when he fishing between the buoy at Saint-Nicolas and Fort Boyard, to the south, he found in his net a corpse which seemed to have been in the water a long time.


    The body was brought to the Port of Château d'Oléron, and entrusted to the German authorities, and was identified as being of English nationality. He was wearing the uniform of the English Air Force, to which was attached a parachute and an identity tag on it with the following inscription:


    R.A. CURLE Off. CE 121280 R.A.F. V.R.


    The burial took place at the Château d'Oleron cemetery on April 4, 1943 at ten o'clock in the morning, in the presence of the German deputy officer in charge of the area, the Mayor and a representative of the Red Cross.


    Military honours were rendered by the occupying troops, who, in the accomplishment of the duties of the civilities, acted with honour towards the deceased.


    THE MAYOR


    Next to nothing is known about what happened to Lancaster ED559 after take off from RAF Grimsby to drop sea mines in the Gironde Estuary. My question is, if a parachute is mentioned does this mean that the skipper bailed out? Or, did Lanc pilots always wear their 'chute whilst flying?

    More information regarding this Lancaster and crew can be found at www.lancaster-ed559.co.uk

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    Hi,

    My understanding is that in Lancaster’s the pilot did not wear their parachute while flying and it was the job of the flight engineer to clip his chute on and the pilot had a chest chute.

    Theo Boiten’s book on Nachtjagd War Diaries has no mention of this loss, it’s may have been shot down by flak or some sort of accident.

    Regards,

    John.

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    Hi all
    Two thoughts:
    1. I believe some pilots flew with the 'seat cushion' type of parachute.
    2. The report doesn't specifically say that the chute was opened.

    Perhaps (we don't know) the a/c exploded throwing the pilot out, or he was killed in the a/c or its crash, and his body was found later?

    Just a thought. Ian

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    Quote Originally Posted by ianh View Post
    Hi all
    Two thoughts:
    1. I believe some pilots flew with the 'seat cushion' type of parachute.
    2. The report doesn't specifically say that the chute was opened.

    Perhaps (we don't know) the a/c exploded throwing the pilot out, or he was killed in the a/c or its crash, and his body was found later?

    Just a thought. Ian
    Indeed, we don't have a great deal to work with but I've read that seat parachutes were rather uncomfortable (though some pilots did prefer them). To make a specific reference to the parachute to my mind seemed to relate more to an opened 'chute but again we'll probably never know. Also the pilot could have had the parachute attached and it could have opened in the water later. Lots of supposition but the letter has provided a small amount of detail that I didn't know previously.

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    LondonClanger,

    I have some information on this loss in my files, and I'm sure a photograph of Curle too, of not at 100 then certainly at OTU. I'm busy with a couple of other enquiries at the moment, but I'll see what I can dig out for you later today.

    L/O

    Greg
    "You can take the boy out of Wales,
    But you can't take Wales out of the boy!!"

    Greg Harrison
    100 Squadron and 100 Squadron Association Historian
    100 Squadron Researcher 1917 - present day
    1 Group Researcher 1940 - 1945

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    Quote Originally Posted by greg View Post
    LondonClanger,

    I have some information on this loss in my files, and I'm sure a photograph of Curle too, of not at 100 then certainly at OTU. I'm busy with a couple of other enquiries at the moment, but I'll see what I can dig out for you later today.

    L/O

    Greg
    I have the OTU class photo (from you I believe) and an enlistment portrait of Richard Curle (from my father). I know a great deal about the Lancaster and crew in question. The Red Cross letter I had been waiting for for nearly a year. All detailed on the website www.lancaster-ed559.co.uk

    I was really interested in what the 'chute might tell us of the possible outcome of the aircraft. I appreciate it's hypothetical.

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    Surprised that nobody has checked AP 2062A, C, & F - Pilots & F/Engineers notes for Lancaster I, III & X aircraft, but for general information, I will attempt to summarise what can be gleaned from this publication (which by no means answers ALL of your questions, but may be of some assistance).

    Illustration Fig 2 (Port Side of Cockpit) includes an oblique side view of the pilot's seat, showing that the seat has no cushion, but very obviously has the large "cavity" to accept a seat-type parachute.

    In Part IV (Emergencies), page 40, para. 68, "Parachutes", it states: "One in air bomber's compartment, on aft bulkhead; one behind pilot's seat" (which might seem to agree with the illustration, but then what did the pilot sit on?); "one on starboard wall at rest station; one on starboard wall forward of mid-upper turret; one on port side, opposite entrance door; one forward of tail turret." However this only comes to six parachutes, and the "normal" crew would definitely require seven. My guess is that the seventh would be the pilot's "seat-type" parachute. All the others would likely be the chest type, usually stowed in bins located in most convenient position to the intended user, and where it would not obstruct movement within the aircraft too much.

    On page 39 (also in Part IV), is para. 61 ("Parachute Exits"). This states: "(i) Hatch in floor of nose should be used by all members of the crew if time is available; it is released by handle in centre, lifted upwards and jettisoned." "(ii) Main entrance door should be used as a parachute exit only in extreme emergency."

    Para. 62 ("Crash Exits", also on page 39) states: "Three push-out panels are fitted in the roof, one just above the pilot, one just forward of the rear spar, and one forward of the mid-upper turret".

    I think that the rear gunner could also bale out of his turret in emergency, by rotating turret to 90 degrees either side of aircraft centreline, but this is not mentioned in the Pilot's Notes, so may not be correct.

    There is also the reproduction publication of the complete Lancaster Aircraft published by the RAF Museum, as well the commercial "Haines" technical publication on the Lancaster in the style of a car owner's technical manual, which would almost certainly be of interest. As real Lancasters (sometimes accessible to the public) still exist in various parts of the world, this might also be worth investigating. As there are no very few WW2 Lancaster aircrew or groundcrew still surviving, a more accessible source of unofficial information my reside in published memoirs, including those on the internet, but it must be borne in mind that these may have been written very many years after the event and may suffer from the time interval. Finally there are many Forum members here, some of whom may be very familiar with the internal workings and crew environment of the Lancaster, and they may be the best source of information of all.

    Anyway, happy hunting!

    David D

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    Thank you, David. Very good insight.

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