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Ocean Bridge

Ocean Bridge: The History of RAF Ferry Command

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 458
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  • Book Info
    Ocean Bridge
    Book Description:

    The timely delivery of aircraft was crucial in the Second World War. This is a full account of the pioneering efforts of the Ferry Command, whose efforts spawned international air travel as we now know it.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7798-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-1)
  6. 1 Atlantic Pioneers
    (pp. 3-24)

    Descriptions of air battles of the Second World War, like accounts of battles fought on land and at sea, tend to ignore the vast infrastructures that supplied and supported the competing forces. Thus it is that histories of the Allied air offensive against Germany, of air operations in the Battle of the Atlantic, of the campaign in North Africa, or of the recapture of Burma, for example, seldom, if ever, make any reference to the transoceanic ferrying organization that delivered some ten thousand desperately needed military aircraft from the factories of the United States and Canada to airfields in the...

  7. 2 Canadian Pacific Railway
    (pp. 25-48)

    British forces have traditionally emphasized home industry as their source of supply. Indeed, during the interwar period, the Air Ministry in particular was satisfied with British-designed and -built equipment. There was little confidence in the United States as a potential supplier of military aircraft. The Austrian and Munich crises of 1938, however, forced a reassessment, with the result that, by the outbreak of war in Europe, Britain had signed contracts for the delivery of 250 Lockheed Hudson reconnaissance aircraft and 400 North American Harvard trainers.¹ Delivery commenced in February 1939, the aircraft being crated and carried by ship. Most made...

  8. 3 From Triumph to Tragedy
    (pp. 49-72)

    As the twenty-two airmen gathered in the Gander control room for the final briefing prior to the first transatlantic delivery attempt, the recently recruited Canadians and Americans shared a feeling of adventure and excitement. However, an American pilot felt the BOAC pilots ‘were cool as cucumbers.’¹ Don Bennett agreed: ‘Many of the American pilots just didn’t believe us when we told them that everything was under control. They regarded themselves as big heroes but that didn’t go far for any of the BOAC pilots who were professionals in the true sense.’² On this flight the pilots and co-pilots were British...

  9. 4 From ATFERO to Ferry Command
    (pp. 73-97)

    Despite the tragic loss of two valued aircrew as well as a celebrity passenger, not to mention a much-needed bomber-reconnaissance aircraft, nobody considered cancelling the new transatlantic ferry scheme. The loss rate was well within acceptable bounds, given the precarious course of the war at the time. It must be remembered that when Lord Beaver-brook had first considered flying North American-built aeroplanes to RAF, Britain still had a European ally. Since that time the remnants of the British expeditionary force had been withdrawn from the continent, France had fallen, and the Luftwaffe had subjected Britain to that great fear of...

    (pp. None)
  11. 5 Flying Boats through Bermuda
    (pp. 98-121)

    To this point we have concentrated on the delivery of land-based aircraft. However, almost from the beginning, as we saw with the early Pacific deliveries, the ferry service also handled flying boats, especially Consolidated PBYs, or Catalinas to the British. Coastal Command eagerly sought these lumbering long-range reconnaissance machines to carry the anti-submarine campaign as far as possible out into the vast expanses of the ocean. The twin-engine Catalina cruised at a little over 100 miles per hour, with a total range of about 4000 miles and an effective patrol radius of 800 miles. It boasted tremendous endurance for its...

  12. 6 The Northern Routes
    (pp. 122-146)

    The shortcomings of Gander as the jumping-off point for transatlantic ferry flights quickly became apparent to many involved in the exercise. The airport, used by operational anti-submarine squadrons as well as Ferry Command, could not handle the massive air traffic anticipated when North American factories reached their peak production. And the long hop to the British Isles meant that only long-range aircraft could make the flight. Officials looked at Greenland and Iceland and saw a solution to both problems. Even before the war, some aviators had recognized the potential of these northern islands as stepping stones for a relatively easy...

  13. 7 The Southern Routes
    (pp. 147-170)

    At the time the Air Ministry had been advising against ferrying aircraft across the North Atlantic in the summer of 1940, it had been frantically working to develop a ferry route across central Africa. Imperial Airways had pioneered this airway in 1936, running a weekly passenger and mail service from Takoradi in the British colony of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) to Khartoum in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, where it linked up with the main British Empire air route from South Africa to Cairo.¹ Authorities realized that this route had military potential, but did not fully recognize its value until the...

  14. 8 One-Trippers
    (pp. 171-194)

    Generally speaking, there were two groups of aircrew in Ferry Command. The mainstay was a more or less regular staff of civilian pilots and radio operators whose numbers were reinforced as necessary by air force personnel attached to the command for a few months or a year or more. Credit for the success of the ferrying operation must be given to the staff of regulars but, as Air Commodore Taffy Powell has ponited out, the job could not have been done without the support of the ‘one-trippers.’¹ As the name suggests, these were aircrew who for one reason or another...

  15. 9 No. 45 Group
    (pp. 195-218)

    By the time Flight Lieutenant Harold Wills made his tragic attempt to cross the Atlantic as a one-tripper, Ferry Command had technically ceased to exist – at least by that name. The entire operation had undergone its fourth and final major reorganization. Now, officially, it had a new name, as well as demotion in status to group level from command. In March 1943, reflecting the expanded role of the aeroplane in the supply and communications role, the RAF created Transport Command, giving it responsibility for all transport operations, including ferrying. Initially it comprised three groups: No. 44 at Gloucester in...

  16. 10 Mosquito Deliveries
    (pp. 219-244)

    As the story of Ferry Command has unfolded in the preceding chapters, we have encountered most of the aircraft that were delivered in significant numbers. Almost ignored to this point, however, is the de Havilland Mosquito, one of the most exciting aircraft of the war – and, from the perspective of the ferry crews, one of the most controversial. Conceived independently by de Havilland aircraft, it had been developed, despite a lack of interest by the Air Ministry, in a remarkably short period of time. The first deliveries to the RAF came in July 1941, only ‘nineteen months from the...

    (pp. None)
  18. 11 No Piece of Cake
    (pp. 245-277)

    Mosquitoes were not the only planes lost by Ferry Command. While the statistical summary of the delivery story is quite good on the whole, a number of tragic losses did occur, taking the lives of valuable aircrew and depriving the RAF of desperately needed operational aircraft. The records of many of these incidents appear to have been lost or destroyed since the war, but enough documentation has survived to give us a good idea of the darker side of the Ferry Command story.

    We have already seen, in chapter 3, that Sir Frederick Banting was a passenger in the first...

  19. 12 Lasting Legacy
    (pp. 278-306)

    Given the use of Montreal as the headquarters, and the heavy involvement of Canadians in all aspects of British ferry operations, we should make special mention of the host country’s role in the enterprise. This review will also give us an opportunity to look at wartime arrangements that led to the tremendous growth of international aviation in the postwar world. Many lessons learned in military air-ferrying operations were carried forward into peacetime for the benefit of travellers on civilian commercial airlines. Canadian efforts to share in the wartime burdens of transatlantic air transport operations are intertwined with the story of...

  20. APPENDIX A Aircraft Delivered: CPR Air Services Department, ATFERO, Ferry Command, and No. 45 Group
    (pp. 307-308)
  21. APPENDIX B Losses: CPR Air Services Department, ATFERO, Ferry Command, and No. 45 Group
    (pp. 309-330)
  22. APPENDIX C RAF Transport Command and No. 45 Group at Peak Strength, Summer 1945
    (pp. 331-332)
  23. Notes
    (pp. 333-406)
  24. Note on Sources
    (pp. 407-414)
  25. Index
    (pp. 415-458)