A dear friend of mine, Ann Bihan, and I flew for many years on 10 Squadron. Ann has recently been deeply involved with a 10 Squadron Halifax bomber and it's crew who were shot down during World War Two. She asked about my involvement with S for Sugar: the last surviving Halifax.
I drew S for Sugar quite recently:
|'S for Sugar', The World's Last Halifax John Simlett|
Pen & Ink on Cartridge Paper
Picture Size: 12 inches x 16 inches
(300 mm x 410 mm)
Click on Picture for best result
Pen & Ink, Etched Onto Copper Plate and Mounted on Brown
Hessian in a Gold Banded Mahogany frame.
14" x 10" John Simlett 1983
In 1983, just before I left the RAF to become a professional 'Artist', I read of the discovery of the last known Halifax Bomber of World War 2.
The aircraft, 'S for Sugar' of 35 Squadron, took off from RAF Kinloss on the 27th April 1942 as part of an operation to bomb the German battleship Tirpitz; which was anchored in Trondheim Fjord in Norway. Having completed its task the aircraft turned for home, but was hit by anti-aircraft fire which shot away her starboard outer engine and set fire to her wing. The young Canadian pilot, Pilot Officer Don MacIntyre, managed to land the aircraft on the ice of Lake Hoklingen, where the aircraft slid for well over a mile through three feet of freshly fallen snow, before coming to rest. The crew all evacuated the aircraft before it broke through the ice and sank into the lake. The Flight Engineer, Sergeant Vic Stevens RAF, had to be left behind, as he had broken his leg, whilst the rest of the mainly Canadian crew escaped into neutral Sweden from where they were later repatriated to England. Vic became a kreigie: Air Force slang for Kriegesgefangenen, the German word for prisoner of war.
The aircraft lay in ninety feet of water for thirty years, until it was discovered by a RAF Sub-Aqua club. As a consequence of this discovery, a whole collection of enthusiasts, including Vic Stevens, gathered in the hope that the aircraft could be raised and restored. They succeeded in raising and beaching her in Norway.
That's when the problem started. The government of the day (spits) would not give financial backing to the shipping of the aircraft to the UK or for its restoration. Which really annoyed me, I threw the newspaper down in disgust and reached for the phone. Although there was a lot of successful fund raising under-way, I volunteered to help, and started by doing the drawing - the easy bit.
Next, I asked Vic Stevens to get his crew to send their signatures from Canada in order that they could be superimposed on an etched plate that my drawing would be reproduced on.
Secondly, I took my drawing and the signatures to the company that produced this type of etched metal picture for me. They printed 100s of the pamphlets I had designed - which included an order form - also I got them to advertise with an order form in all the International Aviation magazines.
I sent the pamphlets to all the Air Force establishments and Veteran organisations.
Each picture sold had a unique number on the back, and, at the end of the project, one of the picture numbers would be randomly selected and the winner would get the original. All proceeds would go to the Sugar fund.
And then ... the orders started rolling in. Obviously the biggest market was the UK, but they were closely followed by, Canada, Australia and ... California! Britain went into World War 2 in 1939 and by 1940 there was only Britain (and her Commonwealth) left fighting. People flocked to join the RAF including a lot of Americans who joined the RAF's Bomber Command. From the sale of the etchings it seemed that most of the surviving Americans ended up retiring to California.
...S for Sugar can be seen in the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, London.
Although I hadn't helped for personal gain, a year later I ended up with a years contract with that Museum, designing Philatelic First Day Covers.
More importantly ....
... Vic Stevens, the wartime Flight Engineer of Sugar, now frail and almost blind, got to take his seat in Sugar once again, and wept.
I knew it had all been worthwhile.