Operation Lancaster: Logistics & Itinerary
Station Commander, Group Captain Richard C M (Dick) Collard Officer in Charge, Fl Lt M J Beetham, W/C Alan Craig, and W/C T S (Shorty) Harris DFC (Formerly 156 Sqdn)
A total of 207 RAF Officer’s and Aircrew were involved in the Operation ‘Lancaster’ hence the need to stagger their Departure and Arrivals at interim bases to minimise overnight accommodation needs.
TL-F – Squadron Commander A J L-Craig (tallest centre) led the 35 Squadron Goodwill Tour of the Lancaster Bombers to the USA – Operation ‘Lancaster’.
Flight Crew, F/L Felgate, F/L Walton, F/L Hawes, F/L Kennedy, W/C Craig, F/L Davidson, F/L Cooper. (TL-F TW880) Ground Crew Sgt Tompkins, LAC Punt, F/S Blake and LAC Trainer
F/O Pete Mitchell warms up
TL-A – S/L M J Beetham Centre – Note the L or E after the Ring on the Fuselage – puts the A in doubt
S/L Michael James Beetham the son of Major G C Beetham MC, was born on May 17th, 1923, in London and educated at St Marylebone Grammar School. He volunteered for the RAF in 1941 and was Trained as a Pilot at a Base in the USA under the US/UK bi-lateral BFTS or Arnold Schemes. On his return to England, Beetham trained on Lancasters, an Aircraft he would describe later in his life as the one for which he had the greatest affection. He joined Bomber Command’s No 50 Squadron in November 1943 just as the Battle of Berlin had got underway and flew his Lancaster to the City no fewer than 10 times. He also flew on the disastrous Raid to Nuremberg on the night of March 30/31 1944 when 96 of the Bomber Force failed to return. Such losses had a profound effect on the 20-year-old Beetham. Although his Bomber was damaged by anti-aircraft fire on a number of occasions, he faced his greatest danger on a Training Flight when he and his crew were forced to bale out of their burning Lancaster. He went on to survive 30 operations over Germany when the losses were at their highest. Assessed as an outstanding Pilot, he was awarded the DFC for his gallantry and leadership. After a period Training Bomber Crews, he returned to Operations as the War ended and dropped food supplies to the starving Dutch population during April and May 1945. Offered a permanent commission in the peacetime RAF, Beetham served at HQ Bomber Command. In August 1949 he assumed command of No 82 Squadron flying Lancasters on photographic-survey and aerial mapping for the Colonial Office in East and West Africa.
Marshal of the RAF Sir Michael Beetham, died aged 92, and he was, with the exception of the RAF’s founder, MRAF Lord Trenchard, the longest serving Chief of the Air Staff (CAS).
3rd July 1946. OC -W/C A J L Craig, Commander In Chief, Air Marshall Sir N Bottomley, Grp/Capt Collard, S/L M J Beetham, S/L (Shorty) Harris.
– NB -3 Smoking during Inspection. TL-R John Robinson’s crew: W/O Sparling, F/O Wilson, F/S Angel, F/O Robinson, F/L Bullen, F/S Watson, W/O Vaughan.
‘Shorty’ Harris and Bottomley in disussion at Graveley
During July & August 1946, 35 Squadron RAF was to conduct a Goodwill Tour of the USA with 16 Lancaster Bombers. The Squadron originally left the UK in 2 waves in July and were routed via Lagens in the Azores to Gander. After Mitchel Airfield, (Hempstead Plains), Long Island, (New York), Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, St Louis, Kansas City, the Lancasters were to visit Scott Field (St Clair Co. Illinois), Lowry (Denver) and Long Beach (California), taking part in USAAF celebrations in Los Angeles on August 1st 1946. On the way home, they visited Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, and Andrew Field (Maryland). 12 Aircraft were designated for Fly-Pasts and 4 were kept in reserve. The total deployment was 230 Officers and men, 30 in the Avro York Advance Party and Ground Crew in excess of 80 men. BBC Wartime Correspondent, Charles Gardner was also in attendance.
The Itinerary for the Tour was as follows:-
RAF St Mawgan (16 Crews spent the night)
Mitchel Field, New York, Long Island (Over-flying Boston)
Scott Field, St Louis, Illinois – (AJLC flew to Lambert Field on a Pass in a C47 Dakota)
Lowry Field, Denver, Colorado
Long Beach Field, Los Angeles California (AJL-C flew to San Francisco on a Pass in the Avro York Aircraft)
Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas
Andrews Field, Washington, Delaware County
Westover Field, (Springfield) Boston, Massachusetts (AJL-C flew to Boston in a C47 Dakota)
Mitchel Field, New York, Long Island
RAF St Mawgan
A special visit was arranged to show off the capacious Avro York as a precursor to the Avro Tudor Passenger Plane at San Francisco Airport (Mills Field) with archive Films recording such are held by the Imperial War Museum
At the outbreak of WW2 in the Pacific, San Francisco Airport became a US Army Air Corps training and staging facility. Fortified revetments were installed on the Airfield to protect aircraft from attack. While Commercial Airlines were permitted to operate under Wartime conditions, all Civilian flying was suspended. After WW2, Pan American World Airways resumed regular International Service. The flying boats were replaced with long-range Landplanes, such as the Douglas DC-4 and the Lockheed Constellation, and San Francisco Airport became the Aerial Gateway to the Pacific. As airline business increased, ground transportation companies were enfranchised at the airport. New foreign carriers, such as British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines and Philippine Airlines, prompted the addition of “International” to the Airport’s name.