W/C A J L-Craig (No.156 Squadron – RAF Upwood) was in Brazil between 28th July and 11th August 1945 having flown there with no less than 3 Lancasters from RAF St Mawgans via Rabat in Morrocco and RAF Bathurst in the Gambia to Recife Air-base in Brazil. His VIP charge was ferrying Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris OBE AFC. He made several internal flights in lighter aircraft, 2 of which were with FAB Pilots Major Azevedos in a Lockheed Lodestar (Model 18) and Capt Umberto in a Beech Corporation Beechcraft (Model 18 Twin Beech) between Air-bases including Santa Cruz, Rio and Sao Paulo. His Squad left via Natal Air-base to Atkinson Field Nr Georgetown in British Guiana. Then via Nassau, Washington, Montreal and Gander returning to Prestwick on 21st August 1945. A round trip of 15,957 Miles and 96 Hrs 22 Mins total flight time
W/C A J L Craig Captain and C/O
CHANDLER, Frederick William Winslow, SL – 450413 – cit – 156 Sqn – DSO
Craig’s crew flew NX688 GT-B from St Mawgan to Rabat, then NX687 GT-A from Rabat via Bathhurst and Recife to Rio.
RAF Bathurst in Gambia. There were 3 airfields around Bathurst, Half Die, Jeswang and Yundum. Only 95 ft above sea level Yundum is now known as Banjul International Airport. It was once considered a viable landing strip for the NASA shuttle
As a result of this Operation A L J Craig was awarded the prestigious medal – Officer Class of the National Order of the Southern Cross of Brazil by a grateful ‘caretaker’ Government.
This unique award is related to an Official Visit Operation that was attended by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris then aged 53 years, who commissioned no less than 3 No. 156 Squadron Lancaster’s NX687 GT-A, NX688 GT-B and NX689 GT-C – allegedly claimed to ‘escort’ his former Principle Staff Officer (Walter Frederick Pretyman? RAF) b.1901 educated at Eton and Cambridge) deemed to be a Sugar Baron & Millionaire, back to his home in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil arriving on 28th July 1945. Perhaps anticipating the imminent deposition of Getúlio Vargas in October 1945.
Arthur Harris oft refered to as ‘Bert’, ‘Butch’ and more famously as ‘Bomber’ was a Rhodesian emigrant and was promoted to the war substantive rank of Air Chief Marshal on 16 August 1944.
ACM Arthur Harris finally dropped his dream of a return to Rhodesia, deeming it unworkable, and in 1948 moved instead to South Africa, where he managed the South African Marine Corporation from 1946 to 1953. In the same year he returned to the UK, and lived his remaining years at the Ferry House, Ferry Lane in Goring-on-Thames.
The mysterious Principal Staff Officer , Aide or PA
In his private papers Craig had a signed Programme for Charles Trenet appearance at the Copacabana Hotel in Rio dated 12th December 1946 and on the back cover is noted Walter Priterman(?), Sugar Millionaire from Rio, Bomber Harris, 3 Lancasters > Rio Led to ……. Walter Prilterman(?), Sugar Baron and Millionare some 12 month after his return from the Brazil Operation in 1945 and he could have then been en route to Buenos Aries, Argentina as Assistant Air Attache.
Why 3 Lancaster Bomber Aircraft and Crews and only 1 VIP? – what other personnel or illicit cargo was transported in these bombers and why was it so important to award the 2 key RAF men involved in the planning and completion of this mission with these highly coveted Knight and Officer Class Medals.
Craig was the base Commanding Officer and Pilot of NX687 GT-A with 5 crew (no passenger listed) and the 3 Lancaster aircraft left base at RAF Wyton for RAF St Mawgan on Mon 23rd July then onward on Wed 25th July to Rabat (Morrocco). They left Rabat on Wed 25th July for RAF Bathurst (Gambia) on the Fri 27th July and left Bathurst for Recife (Brazil) on Sat 28th July and finally arriving at Rio de Janeiro on the same day. (Inset Harris and 156 Sqdn Lanc).
Sat 28th July 1945 – Visit Programme arranged by Forca Aerea Brazileira (FAB re RAF)
14.00pm Arrive Santa Cruz Guard of Honour. Mr Greenway representing ‘His Exellency’ will fly from Santos Dumont to Santa Cruz. Leaving Santos Dumont 12.00
15.00 Arrive Santos Dumont to be met by HE, Air Attache and Brazilian Authorities, Guard of Honour then to Hotels. Harris and 11 other Officers accommodated at the Copacabana Hotel, 5 Junior Officers at Hotel Gloria and other ranks at the Pax Hotel.
17.00 HE, Amabssador and Air Attache accompanies Harris and his PA to call on the Minister of Aeronautics.
18.00 Press Interview at Hotel
Sun 29th July
13.00 Official Lunch by Brazilian Air Minister at the Jockey Club of Brazil Hipodromo Brasileiro. Invited were, his PA, ADC, 2 Wing Commanders, (S/L (Craig), Naval Attache, (no Wives)
18.30-20.30 Harris and all Officers and other ranks invited to cocktail party at Air Attache Dept at Avenida Ruy Barbosa 624, Apartment 502 to meet members of the British Embassy Staff. Secretary V S Tait.
Monday July 30th
12.00 Harris and all other Officers are invited to attend a Barbecue at the home of Senhor Droult Ernanny at Casa das Pedras, Tijuca, Rio. later it has been decided that Harris will accompany the Amabassador to make call upon the President of the Republic, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of War, and the Minister of Marine.
18.00 Harris, Officers and all other ranks invited to a Reception and Cocktail arty at the British Embassy (Rio).
21.00 Harris and PA invited to a private dinner given by the Brazilian Aeronautics Minister at the Urca Casino. Joaquim Pedro Salgado Filho (2 July 1888 – 30 July 1950) was a Brazilian lawyer, political leader and influential figure in the separation of the Brazilian Air Force from the Army
Tuesday July 31st
09.00 Leave Hotel for Campo dos Afonsos.
10.00 Arrive Air Training School (Escola de Aeronautica)
12.30 Inspection Parade
13.00 Lunch at School
15.00 Return Hotel
20.30 Banquet offered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the Itamarate Palace.
All Officers invited to the above ceremonies.
Wednesday August 1st
07.00 Harris and PA are invited by the Minister of Aeronautics to accompany him in his private Aircraft leaving Santos Damont and arriving Porto Alegre (Soa Joao) 12.00. On October 12, 1951, (São João Federal Airport was renamed Salgado Filho Airport, after the Senator and Aeronautics Minister who died the year before in a crash involving a Savag Lockheed Model 10 Lodestar aircraft that departed from Porto Alegre in bad weather collided against a hill – on 30th June 1950).
It is proposed that 1 Lancaster should leave Santa Cruz at 09.00 for the same destination. The number of Officers to be decided by Harris as accommodation is short. Officer appointed to consult the Air Attache who will put him in touch with Colonel Renaldo of the directorate of Air Routes to discuss if facilities at Port Alegre are adequate.
13.00 Lunch at Port Alegre
15.00 Passing Out Cermeony Air Cadets and review of Air School.
Evening Banquet by Intervenor of State of Rio Grande do Sul.
Thurs August 2nd
Leave Port Alegre for Sao Paulo and Santos
11.00 Arrive Cumbica Airfield
13.00 Lunch Hotel Esplanada given by Cmdr 4th Air Zone, Brigadier Appel Neto
15.00 Visit to Intervenor of State of Sao Paulo
15.30 Visit to Campo de Marte
21.00 Dine Privately –
all the above done by same Officers of Aug 1st Itinerary.
Friday Aug 3rd
09.00 Visit to Laminacao Nacional de Metaes (Metals Mill)
13.00 Lunch at Hotel Parque Balneario with Intervenor of Santos. Later Harris and party invited to meet British Community at Santos Athletic Club (Pele then at almost 5 was then playing barefoot in the streets)
17.00 Return to Sao Paulo by Road.
Saturday August 4th
Return to Rio am and motor to Petropolis for Lunch with Snr Franklin Sampaio. Harris, PA, & Wing Co.are invited to stay at Hotel Quitandinha where a special fete is arranged.
Sunday August 5th
12.00 Lunch at Hotel Quitandinha, Petropolis Motor back to Rio and attend the 7 Races in the afternoon at the Jockey Club Brasiliero betting on the Grand Premio Race and dining with the President of the Republic at the Hipodromo
Monday August 6th
am and pm free
Evening Harris, PA and W/C Craig with the Air Attache and Mrs Chappell invited to Dinner at the British Embassy, other ranks dine with the Staff.
NB General Ira Eaker arries at 14.00 in Rio and the Brazillian Authorities suggest a meeting between Harris and Eaker
This unique and opulently costly and yet somewhat secret Operation may have led to the Brazilian National Order Medals being awarded by a then grateful successor President Eurico Gaspar Dutra. Craig’s 3 Lancaster Squad and Harris left via Rio for Santa Cruz and Natal Air-base (10th August) to Atkinson Field Nr Georgetown (British Guiana – 11th August). Then via Nassau (Bahamas) (12th August), Washington (13th August). There was then a dash to New York by Craig in a Dakota piloted by Mjr Hefferman and piloted back by Lt Schwab (on 13th/14th Aug) then onward to Montreal (17th Aug) to Gander (20th Aug) and returning to Prestwick on 21st August 1945) and on from Prestwick to RAF Wyton on the same day.
(‘Bomber’ Harris was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the National Order of the Southern Cross of Brazil on the same date that (Acting Wing Commander) Craig received his Officer class of the National Order of the Southern Cross of Brazil on 13 November 1945) and post-dated the Vargas‘ resignation on the 29th October 1945.
Alan’s award of an Officer of the National Order of the Southern Cross, conferred by the President of the United States of Brazil, was gazetted on 13 November 1945 (Gazette No 37347 4th supplement to 9 November 1945), giving him as an Acting Wing Commander, with no unit given.
This unique award is related to a possible ‘semi-covert’ operation that was sanctioned and led by ‘Bomber’ Harris who commissioned no less than 3 No.156 Sqdn Lancaster’s NX687 GT-A, NX688 GT-B and NX689 GT-C allegedly to also ‘escort’ his former Principle Staff Officer (Sir Walter F Pretyman, ?) deemed to be a Sugar Millionaire in Sao Paolo, back to his home in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil arriving on 28th July 1945. Why 3 aircraft and Crews and only 1 VIP – what was in these bombers and why was it so important to award both men with these coveted medals. Craig was Chief Pilot and he and the Bomber crews enjoyed 2 weeks of ‘hospitality’ in Brazil – This operation may have led to the Brazilian Medals being awarded by a grateful post Vargas Interim President. (Harris was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the National Order of the Southern Cross of Brazil on the same date that (Acting Wing Commander) Craig received his Officer class of the National Order of the Southern Cross of Brazil on 13 November 1945) and post-dated the Vargas‘ resignation on the 29th October 1945.
Craigs Aircrew in Brazil –
S/Ldr Blackadder, S/Ldr Chandler, Fl/Lt Greene, Flt/Lt Cooper, F/O Ashto
Craig and the 3 Lancaster Bomber Aircrews enjoyed 2 weeks of ‘hospitality‘ in Brazil including trips to various Air Bases (Sao Paulo 2nd August) in a Lodestar piloted by Mjr Azevedos and Campos Air School, Santa Cruz in Lancaster NX688 GT-B 8th August. Returning to Rio and back in a Beechcraft piloted by Capt Umberto 8/10th Aug.
Rio De Janeiro – 28th July 1945
Naval Air Facility Galeao (1942-1944) The history of the Base begins on 10 May 1923 when a School of Naval Aviation was established near the Galeão beach. On 22 May 1941 with the creation of the Air Force Ministry in Brazil, the school became the Galeão Air Force Base and a terminal and hangars were built at the location and the runway extended. Those buildings still exist. When Brazil declared war against the Axis on 22 August 1942, the aerodrome began to be intensively used by the Allies for military operations related to the WW2. At the end of the war, Santos Dumont Airport was unable to handle the increased tonnage of aircraft flying on international routes and number of passengers. For this reason, international flights were gradually moved to the site of the Air Force Base. The services were however precarious and a decision was made to build a brand new passenger terminal, opposite to the Air Force Base, across the runway.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, nuclear radiation and seismology stations (all co-sponsored by Brazil); Santa Cruz Air Base and Naval Air Transport Service (1943-1945)
Sao Paulo AFB 2nd-4th August 1945 (Lodestar FAB Pilot Major Asavados – Força Aérea Brasileira)
Sao Paulo AFB – Lockheed Lodestar Model 18
Santa Cruz AFB 8th August 1945 – Campo dos Alphonsos Air School – Lancaster NX689 GT-B Piloted by Craig with his aircrew
Beech Corporation Beechcraft Model D18S ‘Twin Beech’
8-10th August 1945 (Beechcraft Pilot Captain Umberto – Força Aérea Brasileira Return trip to Rio)
Santa Cruz Airbase was also used by Naval Air Transport Service. Brazilian Air Force headquartered the 1st Fighter Group with P-40 Warhawk planes, and also the 1st Diving Bomb Group which operated US Vultee A-31 Vengeance. When the war came to an end, these aircraft were prematurely removed from Air Force inventory as some of them presented structural failures. FAB Brazilian Air Force operated 73 aircraft throughout the war.
Avro York ‘MW 101‘ attended a military airfield in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August 1945. The aircraft and crew were sent to pick up the Brazilian Air Minister to bring him back to London. The Avro York, a development of the Lancaster Bomber and route flying continued until the end of the War, when the Squadron was tasked with returning many exiled members of Royalty, Heads of State and even entire Governments back to their own countries.
Badges as Displayed:
Winged – Tapacio, Amatista, Esmeralda, Oro (damaged)
Ovals:- Soplito?, Tifon, Rafaga, Vendaval, Huracan, Tornado?
‘Fellowship of the Bellows’ of Brazil
The Fellows were encouraged to continue to contribute because after 1,000 planes had been certified by the Air Ministry and paid for, the Fellow was promoted from PUFF (Soplito) to GUST (Rafaga) and given another distinctive badge. Thus the quest for funds through fun went on; with 2,500 planes down and paid for, the GUST became a GALE (Vendaval); 5,000 planes created a HURRICANE (Huracan), 6,500 a TORNADO and 8,000 a TYPHOON (Tifon). With each promotion, a further distinctive badge was issued. 10,000 ‘planes downed and paid for entitled Fellows to obtain the honour: THE ORDER OF THE BELLOWS and were given their Wings; wings were added to a special badge depicting a bellows. It was a further masterstroke that the incentive of promotion encouraged continuing monthly payments. The Fellowship of the Bellows spread with such enthusiasm and speed that the initial target of £100,000 was reached and submitted to the Air Ministry, so the Servants of the Bellows quickly created new and still more exalted ranks of promotion at each additional 2,000 ‘plane mark, each with its winged badge, in order to keep up the momentum (Air speed).