Red Arrow - Start of a Firey Legend

Started by benskipper, July 07, 2011, 11:30:45 AM

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In the Summer of 1941 at the behest of Churchill a group of RAF, Commonwealth, US and Irish pilots were selected from across Fighter Command to establish a support squadron for dispatch to the USSR to aid the Red Air Force. Due to the military/political decision no eastern/central european pilots were chosen. The pilots were headed by the maverick and legaendary womaniser Sqn Ldr Edward " The Lizard" Gissard from Newport, Co. Mayo. Under his leadership in previous Squadrons his men had shown tenacity and bravery beyond call, and he was felt by both Trenchard and Dowding to be the natural leader for this mission.

In October the pilots and their aircraft disembarked at Archangel and were promptly thrown into battle against Army Group North who had begun their siege of Leningrad. Over that cold winter they amassed an impressive tally of enemy fighters, much to the chargran of Chief Marshal of Aviation Alexander Novikov. To that end they were sent south to the Crimea, where they again fought with distinction.

Due to Soviet Gunners in the region not recognising the Spitfires, and after the result of several friendly fire incidents Gissard had large red arrows painted on the undersides of al aircraft. This served two purposes, it was easy for gunners to recognise due to publicity in Pravda et al, but also gave those on the ground a psychologcal edge in battle as the bravery of the pilots was well known.

By 1943 the "Red Arrows" were moving eastwards, but due to a growing mistrust of the "Capitalists" by the Soviets the newly promoted Wg Cdr Gissard requetsed that "The Reds" be allowed to return to the UK. This was granted and by late summer 1943, after supporting the air battle over the Kursk Salient, the Sqn was back in Britain based at RAF Manston. For the next few months the squadron were used to marshall bomber formations over the south coast as their large red arrows helped bomber crews get their bearings. This role was found to be so successful that it was suggested by Canadain Pilot Flt Lt Elma "Fudd" Graham that The Reds should act as lead ships for the growing air armadas that flew over Britain almost hourly, and that they should be then used as shepards for damaged aircraft over enemy occupied Europe.

Gissard leapt at the idea as did Harris and Churchill, who saw the positive morale effects. On March 28th 1944 The squadron moved once more, this time to RAF Tangmere as it was felt this was the ideal position for "Shepard" duties. To make the aircraft readily identifable they were re- painted in their entirity in a semi gloss red with a large white arrow on the belly and white stripping on the fuselage for easy idenification by bomber crews. This new duty met with considerable success, especially when aircraft escorted and defended battle damaged bombers home.

After the war Wg Cdr Gissard stayed on in the RAF and was transferred to the Air Warfare Centre RAF Manby. There his interest in Aerobatics flourished and he personally bought a war weary Spitfire as his own mount. He prompty had her re-sprayed in the old late war squadron colours. His one man shows at the weekends over the lincolnshire Wolds and along the East Coast drew crowds from all over the UK and one night in the mess a colleague suggested putting a smoke generator under the fuselage.

Ever the show man Gissard dismissed this idea and placed outlet pipes under the wings, using spare exhaust outlets to shield the fragile copper tube of the smoke outlets. In 1947 Sir Norman Bottomley, Inspector-General of the RAF, witnessed a display and ordered that a flight should be established around aerobatics to showcase RAF Airmanship and promote the RAF in general. The name was already in place and so a legend was born.

Livin' the dream since '74

Army of One




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Superb,  history and plane are amazing.  :thumbsup: :cheers: :bow:


Excellent story and the Spit looks really sharp!  :thumbsup:
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All hail the God of Frustration!!!


brill model  :thumbsup: and really cool backstory too  :thumbsup: :thumbsup:, truly what whiffing is all about methinks  :cheers:

i can see this one progressing through Vampires to Hunters (didnt someone on here make one ?) then to the Gnat as used in reality, hehe  :wacko:
... 'i reject your reality and substitute my own !'

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Of course, now you've started the story, we may need to see the follow-ons...Red Arrow Gloster Meteor perhaps? ;)
All hail the God of Frustration!!!


Quote from: GTX on July 08, 2011, 03:39:08 PM
Of course, now you've started the story, we may need to see the follow-ons...Red Arrow Gloster Meteor perhaps? ;)

Oh 'eck...a challenge me thinks. Once I've done the tonka, eagle, jp, hurricane....
Livin' the dream since '74


Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.