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Spitfire Fund

Astonian

gone but not forgotten
Title Brum at War,
Chief Spitfire pilot, Alex Henshaw, based at Castle Bromwich, was threatened with arrest
By the police after a PR stunt over the city centre. In September 1940 a Captured Messerschmitt
was put on show next to the Hall of memory and huge crowds gathered to see it,
Raising funds in the process for the Lord Mayor,s spitfire fund.
Alex took part in a spectacular flypast and performed a low/ Level victory roll,
Which pleased the crowd but not the police as he roared off over new street

Excerpt of quote by Norman Bartlam in his book 'Little Book of Birmingham.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg

Read all about it!


Title Brum at War,
Chief Spitfire pilot, Alex Henshaw, based at Castle Bromwich, was threatened with arrest
By the police after a PR stunt over the city centre. In September 1940 a Captured Messerschmitt
Was put on show next to the Hall of memory and huge crowds gathered to see it,
Raisi g funds in the process for the Lord Mayor,s spitfire fund.
Alex took part in a spectacular flypast and performed a low/ Level victory roll,
Which pleased the crowd but not the police as he roard off over new street
 

Astonian

gone but not forgotten
Hi Pedrocut
Great stuff you are brilliant unfortunately i did not hold those pictures
Other wise i would have put it with those fantastic picture you have put up for everybody
Thanks again as well for covering my last thread on the planes of war
And covering my thread with your picture
You are a star best wishes Astonian,,,',,
 

Old Boy

master brummie
Title Brum at War,
Chief Spitfire pilot, Alex Henshaw, based at Castle Bromwich, was threatened with arrest
By the police after a PR stunt over the city centre. In September 1940 a Captured Messerschmitt
was put on show next to the Hall of memory and huge crowds gathered to see it,
Raising funds in the process for the Lord Mayor,s spitfire fund.
Alex took part in a spectacular flypast and performed a low/ Level victory roll,
Which pleased the crowd but not the police as he roared off over new street
Hi Alan,
I am sorry but what evidence have you got that Alex Henshaw was threatened with arrest for low flying over Birmingham? I simply cannot credit it. Such an offence would have been the concern of the Air Ministry not local police. Also Alex Henshaw was Chief Test Pilot not, as you say, Chief Spitfire pilot.
Chris Beresford (Old Boy)
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Hi Chris, there is an article and photo of the Spitfire flying over the Hall of Memory in the Birmingham Mail see link below ... :)
https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/nostalgia/spitfire-pilot-alex-henshaw-brought-11007220
ps. I notice no one in the crowd is looking up at the Spitfire so maybe an early 'Photoshop' job !
The recent article in the Mail from March 2016 says that Alex was angry when told to perform over the city centre, and remonstrated with his boss. I have a feeling he was looking forward to every second of a chance to show off his flying skills.

"He is the only pilot known to have performed a barrel roll in a Lancaster bomber, a feat that was considered by some to be reckless or impossible due to the aircraft's size and relatively modest performance." (Wiki)
 

cookie273uk

master brummie
Pedrocut, I Was a wireless operator in the RAF and was lucky enough to serve in the last Lancaster Squadron '49 to '51 (82{PR} Squadron in Africa) and flew many thousand hours on survey, I shudder to think what it would be like to do a barrel roll, the stress on the wings must have been enormous, not to mention everything loose flying about including us and the chemical toilet. Eric
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
So was Alex Henshaw threatened with arrest? Many history books carry mistakes and misinterpretations and this we are told comes from "The Little Book of Birmingham" described by Google Books as...."a funny, fast-paced, fact-packed compendium of the sort of frivolous, fantastic, or simply strange information which no-one will want to be without."

The Birmingham Daily Post of the time, interestingly, adds something a little different...

"The machine was flown over the city or rather, it dived climbed and rolled, in order that the community might be further interested in the Lord Mayor's Spitfire Fund. It may be true to say that citizens need no such stimulus, for, like people in other parts of the country, their hearts are full of gratitude and admiration for the magnificent work carried out by the the Royal Air Force.....There may, indeed, have been a very considerable contribution had the display received more publicity."

The man himself, Alexander Adolphus Dumfries Henshaw MBE, wrote a few books. Maybe the answer lies in one of them!
 

Radiorails

master brummie
The post by cookie certainly places the Lancaster in a 'hands on view', without doubt. The book mentioned was written, it seems, from a miscellany of reports and reminiscences which I am sure make an interesting read but as the author was not present at the fly pasts his comments are based on other peoples comments and/or reports. It is worth remembering that during the early part of WW2 when this country was involved in a gigantic struggle - often against the odds - many reports were exaggerated (another word for propaganda ;)) in order to boost the morale of the population and raise funds for aircraft and other military needs. I am sure the police were far more used to seeing and hearing German aircraft over the city so an RAF presence would be welcomed I guess.
The south coastal towns of England had frequent attacks by low level German aircraft which strafed the streets and any poor soul who happened to be in them at the time. Aircraft came in at low level over the English Channel.
Birmingham experienced heavy bombing as is well known, so did (in my neck of the woods) Plymouth and Exeter. Plymouth being a major Royal Naval port and Exeter being part of the Baedeker reprisals.
Many small places, such as the small shipyard on the River Dart, were also bombed. My wife's uncle lost his life, along with others, there in 1941. Even Torquay and other parts of Torbay were bombed.
I am sure there were similar raids which affected the countryside and smaller towns outside of Birmingham city boundaries. Many could have been due to the 'tip and run' actions by German pilots.
I am sure others here may be able to shed light on such matters.
Despite all these frightful occurrences affecting the population of Great Britain people seemed to carry on, without the help of 'counsellors' and other officials. In fact the only officialdom I recall was when a local school teacher arrived in a car with evacuees from the London area. That always seemed strange to me as I had an uncle, just a few years older than me, that had been evacuated to Herefordshire from Birmingham.
Regarding the title of the thread I always feel that the late forties were a great time to be young. The war was over, the country slowly getting on its feet again, some rationing being relaxed and the 'new look' - mainly ladies clothing - but can be applied to cars and many other household things - were brightening up the lives of most folk.
Sadly, the wives and mothers who had lost loved ones were probably not celebrating just yet as their grief and sorrows were still quite pronounced.
 
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Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Title Brum at War,
Chief Spitfire pilot, Alex Henshaw, based at Castle Bromwich, was threatened with arrest
By the police after a PR stunt over the city centre. In September 1940 a Captured Messerschmitt
was put on show next to the Hall of memory and huge crowds gathered to see it,
Raising funds in the process for the Lord Mayor,s spitfire fund.
Alex took part in a spectacular flypast and performed a low/ Level victory roll,
Which pleased the crowd but not the police as he roared off over new street

Excerpt of quote by Norman Bartlam in his book 'Little Book of Birmingham.
Alan, fellow Astonian, Gentleman and scholar, you are correct.

Alex Henshaw the man himself in his book "Sigh for a Merlin: The testing of the Spitfire" tells us...

He was, at Castle Brom, often called on to show off the qualities of the spitfire. He had a call from Alex Dunbar asking him to put on a show for the Lord Mayor, and asked what time he was coming. Dunbar said he was not coming the ceremony was on the steps of the Civic Centre. When he caught his breath he said, "Don't you think we are taking a bit of a chance. If I had an engine failure, it is going to be a bit awkward. And I don't think the police are going to think much of it." Dunbar replied, "Oh, I've fixed all that with the Lord Mayor. You've nothing to worry about" and put the receiver down.

"I was thoroughly angry on several counts: I had joined the firm to test aircraft and not to put on exhibitions; I was taking a big risk as Birmingham is as large a built-up area as one was likely to find in the country; I had not been consulted about this palsy-walsy arrangement between Dunbar and the Lord Mayor, who probably did not know a Spitfire from a Tiger Moth."

He thought he was being used, he didn't like it at all, all he could see was miles and miles of factories and houses; where could he put down if he had to. He says he pointed the nose vertically to plunge in a dive over the Civic Centre, the Spitfire being new and white, stood out clearly in the smoke begrimed background. He thought he would teach Dunbar and the Lord Mayor a lesson.

"Having used up all my surplus height in a series of vertical upwards rolls, I shot down the main street of Birmingham rolling as I did and finished in the inverted position below the top of the Civic Centre."

"I heard after that the effect on the city was petrifying: all the buses and cars had come to a standstill, people opened offices, ran from the doors, peered out of the windows; and crowds came on to the roads for a better view. The police could not control the chaos. That evening in the local paper there was a very good photograph of the Spitfire with the Civic Centre in the background, and the headline 'rolling to victory'."

"When I returned to Castle Bromwich, I had just climbed down from the cockpit when the first of a batch of police cars started to arrive; the first to reach me was the Chief Constable, with almost a dozen deputies. He demanded to know who the pilot was shooting up the city centre."

Henshaw was asked to make a statement, but refused saying they should get in touch with the Lord Mayor.
 

Julie P

New Member
Title Brum at War,
Chief Spitfire pilot, Alex Henshaw, based at Castle Bromwich, was threatened with arrest
By the police after a PR stunt over the city centre. In September 1940 a Captured Messerschmitt
was put on show next to the Hall of memory and huge crowds gathered to see it,
Raising funds in the process for the Lord Mayor,s spitfire fund.
Alex took part in a spectacular flypast and performed a low/ Level victory roll,
Which pleased the crowd but not the police as he roared off over new street

Excerpt of quote by Norman Bartlam in his book 'Little Book of Birmingham.
This is fascinating! I can just imagine the reaction from the police!
 

Elmdon Boy

master brummie
That looks like a Hawker Hurricane in the photo Viv and not a Spitfire as the paper says.
Did you know that the Hurricane was the mainstay of fighter command at the time of the Battle of Britain it outnumbered Spitfires by more than 2 to 1. The Hurricane actually shot down more enemy aircraft than the Spitfire during this time.
The Hurricane was the unsung hero at this time because the Spitfire captured the publics imagination more, so for propaganda purposes received all the credit, much like it still does to this day.
 
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