Category Archives: Planes

Planes at RAF Silloth

Types of Planes at Silloth Airfield

The following planes are amongst those that could be spotted at Silloth Aerodrome during WW2.

  • Hampden Bomber
  • Whitley Bomber
  • Avro York
  • Lockheed Hudsons
  • Avro Ansons
  • Airspeed Oxford
  • Lancaster
  • Vickers Wellington
  • Blackburn Bothas
  • Bristol Blenheims
  • Bristol Beauforts
  • Handleypage Halifax
  • Hawker Hurricane
  • Supermarine Spitfires
  • Vultee Vengeance
  • Lockheed Ventura
  • Miles Martinet
  • Dakotas

Lockheed Hudson

The Lockheed Hudson was an American-built light bomber and coastal command reconnaisance aircraft built initially for the Royal Air Force shortly before the outbreak of the Second World Way and primarily operated by RAF thereafter

  • Top Speed: 404km/h
  • Wingspan: 20m
  • Length: 14m
  • First Flight: December 10, 1938
  • Engine Type: Radial Engine
  • Manufacturer: Lockheed Corporation
  • Designer: Kelly Johnson
Acknowledgement: George Doughty Archive
Acknowledgement: George Doughty Archive

Problems with Hudsons at Silloth Aerodrome

64 Hudsons were lost by No 1 OTU during their time at Silloth. Of these, 17 can be said to have been into the Solway, whereas at least 24 were on take-off or landing. The fact that a number crashed into the Solway resulting in a number of fatalities gave rise to an area of the Solway being nicknamed Hudson Bay.

Information below has been extracted from Gordon Akitt’s Archives

Engine starting Problems

While at Silloth Airfield, the engines on Hudsons were often difficult to start. This was put down to the fact that Silloth was subject to strong cold air sweeps and damp mist. Combined with this problem, the planes were often kept outside hangars and seldom had engine covers. The solution was to fit an oil dilution kit to each engine, which thinned the oil prior to starting. This gave the plane a better chance of starting.

Petrol Tanks Leaking

Being a traning unit, Hudsons often suffered heavy and hard landings. The top of the main undercarriage leg was fixed to the side of the petrol tank which was itself built into the framework of the wing and could not be removed. Over time, the large rivets holding the brackets were weakened slightly and they were not tight enough to prevent a very slight trickle of high octane fuel from leaking. This could be fatal being so near the hot engines. To cure this problem, the tanks were emptied and defumed and the access panels on the top of the wing removed so as to allow access to the interior wall where the problem was located. After much thought, some of the rivets were replaced with bolts and the remaining rivets were taken out and replaced with a different type. All the Hudsons received the same treatment and in addition orders went out to all pilots to report heavy landings so that the undercarriage could be inspected. This solved the problem.

Ditched aircraft sinking very quickly

Inspection of aircraft recovered from ditching showed that the bomb doors were crushed inwards and the navigators front glass panel situated in the floor, a short distance from the nose, would be pushed inwards/ Silloth had a reputation for having so many ditchings that the locals re-named the Solway Firth ‘Hudsons Bay.’

The two  runways most often used were those that that pointed towards the open sea and therefore were subjected to the heavy wind. This meant that, if there was a problem, the planes would end up in the sea.

Many planes were lost while carrying out low level bombing on a target anchored about half a mile from shore. The problem was alleviated when the the front glass was re-inforced with an inner frame and two cross bars.

Another problem was that in between the two bomb bay bulkheads, a strong aluminium girder was fitted so that the bomb doors would close upon it for their entire length. Nothing, of course, could prevent a quick sinking if hitting the water with great force,however, the feedback suggested the modifications had some success.

Avro Anson

Extract from George Doughty Archives.

Click on image below to expand. However, for ease of reading, the text is re-created below.

Acknowledgement: George Doughty Archive.
Acknowledgement: George Doughty Archive.

George’s Story: AVRO ANSON (developed from an early 1930s Avro passenger plane)

Various makes of Ansons were dispatched after inspection and modification by the MU. They were regarded affectionately by the aircrew who flew them and used at Silloth by the OTUs for training and reconnaissance. It was recorded that a sighting had been made of a German U Boat of the West Cumbria Coast and an Anson was despatched from Silloth to see if they could spot it. No sighting was made.

Later on, we had a batch of communication Ansons, with seating arrangements for about eight passengers. Some of the clerical types wanted a flip and arranged themselves a trip on a test flight. During the trip, the aircraft hit an ‘air pocket’ over the Solway and hit the water, bounced back in the air with severely cropped propeller blades. Frank Shuttle worth who was up front with the pilot said the pilot quite calmly said “I’ll get you back” and proceeded to keep low and came in over the railway bridge, over the allotments and put down on the runway. Nobody suffered a scratch. They all had a lot to thank the pilot and “old Annie” for….

History of the Avro Anson 

Avro Lancaster was a British aircraft manufacturer founded on 1st January 1910 by Alliott Verdon Roe. Based at the Brownsfield Mill on Great Ancoats Street in Manchester, the company remained in Lancashire with development and manufacturing sites Alexandra Park, Chadderton, Woodford and Trafford Park.

Avro Anson 652A MK.1 RAF K6152
Avro Anson 652A MK.1 RAF K6152

The Avro Anson Mk1 is a twin engine, multi role aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm and numerous other air forces, before, during and after the second World War. Initially designed in 1933 as a civil passenger aircraft (Avro 652), the militarised Anson 652A entered the RAF service as a Coastal Reconnaissance aircraft in 1935, The vast majority of Ansons, served as training aircraft  in the UK as well as Canada.

In 1935 Avro became a subsidiary of the Hawker Siddley Aircraft Group and when in 1963, the company was absorbed into Hawker Siddley Aviation, the Avro name was discontinued.

However, in their time, Avro were responsible for many famous aircraft, the WW1 Avro 504, the Manchester, Lancaster and Lincoln heavy bombers, followed post war by the Shackleton, York and Vulcan – Avro’s first military jet.

Production Ansons were first issued to No 48 Squadron, which put the RAF’s first low-wing, retractable landing gear monoplane into service on 6 March 1936. Armament included two 45kg and eight 9kg bombs, a forward-firing Vickers gun and a Lewis gun in a turret amidships. Operational with Coastal Command between 1936 and 1939 and for air-sea rescue until 1942, the majority were delivered as turretless trainers for the Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada, Australia and South Africa.

The MK1 was the most prolific version. Powered by two Armstrong Siddeley IX engines, it carried two machine guns – one in the nose and the other in the dorsal turret.

The Anson could be equipped with two 100lb bombs under the wing centre section and eight 20lb bombs under the wings. Note: There is currently only one airworthy example in New Zealand and a static example can be seen at Duxford.

The Anson 10, introduced in 1943, had strengthened floors for continental freight runs by Air Transport Auxiliary.

Screenshot 2015-01-26 13.56.50

After the war surplus Ansons were sold to civil charter firms and the air forces of Belgium, Holland, Iran, Israel, Norway, Portugal and Saudi Arabia. Increased headroom, introduced in 1944, created the Anson 11 or 12 according to engine. The latter, furnished as a feeder-liner eight-seater, became the Avro 19 Series 1 or Series 2 (tapered metal wing) for the RAF, BEA and civil operators in the UK and abroad. Final variants of 1948-49 were Anson 18 trainers for Afghanistan and India; Anson T.20 (perspex nose) for navigation training in Southern Rhodesia; T.21 (metal nose) for the RAF in the UK; and T.22 radio trainer.

Click on images below to expand.

Screenshot 2015-01-26 14.12.26




Above Video Copyright: Historical Aviation Film Unit. Published 9 Jan 2013.

“Bill and Robyn Reid’s immaculate 1934 Mark 1 Avro Anson taxis, takes off and lands at Omaka Aerodrome in Blenheim, New Zealand.

Airspeed Oxford

Acknowledgement: George Doughty Archive
Acknowledgement: George Doughty Archive

“In Operation throughout the War and doubled as an advanced trainer and flying ambulance. The MK.2 was equipped for the role of pilot and radio and navigation training. 22MU. Was an holding unit for these aircraft.”(George Doughty Archives. Received 2014).