from the sky
By Wallace Wood ...............................................................................................Click images for a larger view
September 11, 2001, just two airliners brought down two of the greatest buildings in the world-The Twin Towers of New York.
A tiny little propeller like a toy airplane's stuck
out the front. It didn't push anything. It just spun a long screw. When
the screw turned over so many times, a switch turned the engine off and
the V-1 became a "Diver" headed for the ground and self-destruction
like a mindless suicide bomber. German engineers figured out just how
many turns it took to go just so far.
Read Alan Pearson's story of how the British fought these terror weapons.
Most people have heard of the Spitfire, and maybe even the Hurricane, two great airplanes that helped turn the Germans back from invading Britain. That was "The Battle of Britain" before the first "Blitz" and is a story in itself.
Few have heard of the Mosquito, the "Tiffy" Typhoon, the Gloster Meteor jet, or the Tempest. Unless you are a World War II buff, of course. These planes came later and fought the second Blitz, the Blitzkrieg of V-1 flying bombs.
The greatest of these was probably the Tempest.
But let's take a moment and describe the others as well. " The Mosquito,
or "Mossie" as those who love it call it. Stubbornly built by
the deHavilland aircraft company out of its own pocket, even though the
British Air Ministry wasn't interested at first, it turned out to be a
The "Mossie" had to dive on the V-1 "Divers" and its gunner had to shoot straight because it wasn't quite fast enough for more than one chance-unless it happened to be a slow V-1. Claims are made for 500 nighttime V-1 "kills" by Mossies, nevertheless.
" The Gloster Meteor. Featured in another story here, it was Britain's first jet fighter, literally kept under wraps wherever it went. The first Meteors weren't as fast as the Tempest, but jet engine output was quickly increased by its manufacturer, Rolls-Royce. Rolls still make some of the world's premier jet engines. So protective and secretive were the British, the Meteor never saw direct combat against its German rival, the Messerschmitt Me-262. It was feared German engineers might discover the secret to the Meteor's long engine life if one crashed and fell into their hands.
Syria, like other countries, bought Meteors for its air force. This proved a great irony during the Suez Crisis of 1956. Camouflaged in brown and green over a light gray, a Syrian Meteor managed to shoot down the British RAF's newer Canberra fighter on November 6, 1956.
" The Hawker Typhoon or "Tiffy". This plane looked like a bulldog with a huge chin. The chin was for the engine's radiator. Made by the same company that made the Hurricane, the Tiffy was pressed into service along with the fastest Spitfires and Mustangs to stop the V-1 devastation. Tiffies were great ground support planes. For D-Day in 1944, Typhoons took out 135 German tanks; tanks that might have helped turn the Allied invasion back on the beaches. Typhoons had two problems: like the Mosquito, they weren't quite fast enough to catch up with most V-1's and usually had to dive on them like the "Mossies". The second problem was the Tiffy's tail was weak and tended to vibrate off in a steep dive. Not a good combination. It was relegated to ground support in favor of:
" The Hawker Tempest. Son of "Tiffy", the Tempest had the same aggressive chin. It also had a tough new tail that didn't come off and new, thin, high-speed wings. Since thinner wings couldn't store as much high-octane gas, the aircraft was made longer to fit in a gas tank. The Tempest also had one of the most remarkable engines of the war. One of the most powerful and advanced piston engines ever built, the 2,238 cubic inch Napier Sabre pulled the Tempest along at 477 mph in the prototype-an unofficial record. The Napier Sabre had 2,250 horsepower to start with, eventually upped to over 3,000 hp. One was even tested at 4,000 hp. Its in-flight sound is closer to a wolverine's howl than a roar. The Napier Company made record-breaking speedboat and automobile engines before turning to aircraft.
What a magnificent aeroplane! They could have all their Spitfires and Mustangs!" "My part of the sky" by Roland Beamont, taken from the Hawker Tempest Page, http://www.hawkertempest.se/index.htm
The Tempest was a fearsome beast equipped with cannons,
which could and did shoot down the German jet fighter, the Messerschmitt
Me-262. German jet pilots said it was the only enemy plane they respected.
Nevertheless, a score or so Tempest pilots lost their lives when they got too close to the V-1's and the explosion riddled their aircraft.
The Tempest's only problem was that it wasn't a high-altitude aircraft and its fabulous engine was high-strung and sensitive to dirt (air filters were added). Top performance was well under 25,000 feet. But lower down, it was a brutally effective fighter against V-1's or anything else.
Hitler's hopes for the power of his "wonder weapons" were stymied. Not only by the British defenders, but by the Allied bombing campaign that targeted the V-1 takeoff sites. Left with few catapult sites, they finally were launched from bombers in the air, just like some cruise missiles today.
Thousands lost their lives to the terrible V-1. It could have been many thousand more. It was, in a way. Hitler's successor to the V-1 was the V-2 rocket, the father of today's ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile). V-2's also rained down on London. But that's another story.
June 6, 2000