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Thread: Albermarle Glider Tugs

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    Default Albermarle Glider Tugs

    My father was an flying instructor in the RAF on gliders being towed by the Albemarles. He reports many accidents with these aircraft which appeared to have a nasty habit of suddenly diving into the gound for no apparent reason. He recalls instances when on cross country flights at good height and airspeed the Albemarle crew had suddenly dropped their tow-lines in order to try and save themselves but despite this action the aircraft were then unable to recover from whatever problem they were experiencing and had seemingly simply fallen out of the sky - always with fatal results. He has always been troubled by witnessing the deaths of so many Albemarle flight crew but despite the many instances of these events there seemed at the time to be no official enquiry or record of why these events may have occured. In mitigation he also says the crews were on very intensive training, the Albemarle crews picking up and taking off with gliders all through the day on a far more intrensive regime that was later seen in real action.

    Now in his late 80s, and not in good health, my father is trying to find out if in later years there was any investigation or explanation given for the crashes of these aircraft when towing gliders. Can anyone add to this information?

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    I couldn't find anything specific in an online search except the comments that the a/c type suffered from technical flaws and performance issues. It was not a popular a/c, probably due to it's cramped interior, but I didn't find any fatal flaw mentioned anywhere.

    I had one of my subjects killed in the type, when he was test piloting the plane. The cause of the crash was unclear.
    David

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    Joddle,

    'Aeroplane Monthly' of August and September 1996 featured a two-part, 8-page article on the Albemarle as part of its series called 'Tested & Failed - flight-test accidents of the 1940s - 1960s ... [by] Derek Collier Webb ... examination of the ... Albemarle, an innocuous bomber-turned-glider-tug which proved lethal if mishandled.'

    Errol

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    Quote Originally Posted by Errol Martyn View Post
    Joddle,

    'Aeroplane Monthly' of August and September 1996 featured a two-part, 8-page article on the Albemarle as part of its series called 'Tested & Failed - flight-test accidents of the 1940s - 1960s ... [by] Derek Collier Webb ... examination of the ... Albemarle, an innocuous bomber-turned-glider-tug which proved lethal if mishandled.'

    Errol
    Many thanks - I will have to try and get hold of that article - any ideas where it can be obtained?

    What my father finds most distressing even to this day is that the Albermarles were ordered to continue working even though the glider and presumably the Albemarle crews themselves knew of the high risk of crashing but had not been given any information as to why this was happening nor any advice or information to help them avoid such occurrences. To those in charge it was as though the problem did not exist but the crews were acutely aware of the problems every time they went up He also thought that with the problem it was then stupid to crew the tugs so highly with 3 or 4 people when for that particular work two people would have been plenty.

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    Joddle,

    You could try:

    http://www.aviationbookhouse.co.uk/

    or

    http://www.aviation-bookshop.com/

    or

    http://www.bookfinder.com

    Errol

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    Having spoken with my father this morning he has been able to add some background information to the story.

    Prior to gliding he had been training pilots on Oxfords at Weston on the Green when out of the blue the staff were told by their CO that the were all to be transferred onto Glider training as 1000 pilots were needed for the second push across the Rhine. Their incentive to train the full number of pilots was that if they did not, they would be going to the Rhine themselves instead. Their unit had apparently been selected for this task because their CO had had experience of towing gliders with Hawker Hectors before the war!

    So for 7 days they all underwent intensive training on Hotspur gliders (without one engine) at Shobdon near Birmingham before being again transferred to Wiltshire to begin training on larger gliders (those without 4 engines) namely Horsas (which flew like a sailplane) and American Hadrians (which flew like a brick).

    On his very first flight in a Horsa he was riding as an observer watching the senior training instructing when the Albermarle in front dropped its tow and plummeted into the ground on Salisbury plain. As he was not strapped in he was able to rush to the rear of the glider to see the totally disintegrated plane in flames on the ground there were no survivors. The glider itself then had to make an emergency landing but without further loss of life.

    Nothing more was said about the incident apparently that crash and the many more that followed being deemed as less important than the greater need to get those 1000 pilots trained in time for the offensive!

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    Hello,

    The Albemarles losses should be covered in Colin Cummings' "Though without anger", a volume which I've not bought yet. May someone confirm ?

    I can also suggest you get a copy of "Aircraft for the many" by Michael J.F. BOWYER, published by PSL (ISBN 1-85260-427-1). It has a 6 pages chapter about the Albemarle in its transport and glider tug jobs, but the book concentrates on June 1944 and D-Day.

    I recall a combined volume about 3 aircraft. It was also written by Michael J.F. Bowyer : "Aircraft for the Royal Air Force: The "Griffon" Spitfire, The Albemarle Bomber and the Shetland Flying-Boat". Faber & Faber, 1980. ISBN 0-571-11515-2.

    Otherwise, a quick search on the net suggested one book dedicated to that aircraft : "Albemarle" by Eric B. Morgan, Twentyfirst Profile, Volume 1, No. 11. 21st Profile Ltd. ISBN 0-961-82100-4.

    Joss

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    I wonder was this preparation for Operation Varsity, the airborne drop across the Rhine on 23/24 March 1945 ?

    Bruno LeCaplain has a wonderful website dedecated to 38 Group who were involved in these operations.

    his database http://www.raf38group.org/roh shows 'at least'

    39 deaths in Albemarle units, 295, 296 and 297 Squadrons as well as 161 but they used other equipment also

    in the months of January February and March 1945.

    12 Deaths on March 21 1945 all 161 Squadron
    11 Deaths on the 23/24 March in 161, 295 and 296 Squadron.

    297 Squadron lost 7 airmen on March 3 to 5th 1945, four of them however are listed as missing on the Runnymede Memorial, two are buried in Germany and 1 in Glasgow (the 5th March death)

    Some of these deaths will be deaths from natural causes and not aircraft crashes.
    And the figures don;t include losses in training units which might be using the Albemarle.

    Just some figures.
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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    It sounds like the type did have a fatal flaw, similar to the problem with the early Halifax stabilizers. Odd that we aren't finding a reference to it after all these years. I'd be interested to see what that article says about it.

    My subject, PO Jack Fisher, RCAF, was involved in intensive flying trials of the Albemarle at Boscombe Down in Feb 1942, when he crashed. Here is the detail Amrit came up with on it:

    "Failure of the starboard engine led to the feathering of the propeller on that side. The aircraft was by then on the brink of a stall but a flat turn to the right was attempted. The starboard wing dropped and the aircraft spun-in from 500ft."

    Full thread is here:

    http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3861&highlight=fisher+albemarle
    David

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    Default Record of Albemarle Losses

    Joss,

    The book "Though Without Anger" does list Albemarle losses whilst engaged on glider towing and special duties work: there are 96 of them.

    Whilst some were involved in courier work, the majority of losses were in airborne forces and include operational losses. A problem with the aircraft was that it was underpowered and when towing a laden Horsa its engines had a tendency to overheat. It could not continue a tow on one engine and was vulnerable in any case as its single engined performance was poor. For Arnhem, the Albemarles went from Manston to reduce the distance and they were only used during the intial fly-in and not on resupply. It must be said that in Sicily the Albemarle towed both the Hadrian and Horsa over long distances from North Africa.

    The Stirlings could pull a Horsa and do so on three engines but only the Halifax could cope with a Hamilcar glider. Surprisingly, some of the SD squadrons reverted to the Stirlings late in the war, in preference to the Halifax as the former had some better performance characteristics in parts of the flight envelope.

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