5th Armoured Car Company in China, 1927-29

Rolls Royce armoured car shanghai 1927

Since 1644, the people of China were ruled by the Qing Dynasty culminating in the ascendance to the throne of the two-year old Emperor Puyi in 1908. After two years on the throne, China was rocked by series of revolts and uprisings known collectively as the Xinhai Revolution in 1911 which saw the young Emperor’s abdication. In the years that followed, China’s political landscape was dominated by in-fighting and even warlordism coupled with an unsuccessful attempt to restore Puyi to the throne in 1917.

In 1919, the anti-monarchist and strongly nationalist party the Kuomintang was formed with the aim of unifying the country and defeating the warlords. The Kuomintang sought support from the western nations such as Britain, France and the United States all of whom had invested money, people and resources in China for their own economic gain. Their requests were largely ignored by the western nations and so they turned to the newly created Soviet Union for help.

The Soviets agreed but they also agreed to supply their ideological comrades in the Communist Party of China (CPC). The Soviet plan was to have both parties defeat the warlords and have them form two power blocks which could then be manipulated for their own gains due to their reliance on Soviet support. In 1924, with Soviet assistance the Kuomintang formed a military academy to train members of its own political army and despite a power sharing agreement signed in 1923, the CPC became displaced and its members had to join the Kuomintang if they wished to keep their political positions.

This influx of former CPC members saw the party divided along left- and right-wing ideologies which came to a head when its leader Sun Yan-sen died in 1925. After Sun’s death the CPC began to rise in prominence again thanks to the left-wing support it gained from within the Kuomintang. In early 1927, both sides of the divide decided to move their headquarters with the CPC and their left-wing supporters transferring from Guangzhou to Wuhan while the remainder of the Kuomintang moved to Jiangxi. The lines were drawn and after a Communist uprising in Nanchang in August of that year the fighting quickly spilled out across the country.

The British Empire was still a major force in Asia at this time and its own economic interests reached within China’s borders. Throughout the 19th century, Britain and several other European nations sought to dominate the export of Chinese products such as Chinese tea, silk, porcelain and even opium all of which was highly sought after in European markets. British efforts to trade with the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century saw the two powers clash in the infamous Opium Wars which resulted in China submitting to many British demands.

The conflicts also saw Hong Kong leased to Britain and British ships and exporters were given trading rights in major cities like Shanghai, Hankou and Canton. British influences in these cities was clear with foreign districts (known as concessions) springing up that were modelled along UK lines. Here, wealthy British businessmen and their families could live in a facade of Great Britain with homes that would not look out of place in the wealthy parts of London or Liverpool.

The British government viewed the internal politics of China in the 1920s primarily on the basis of how it would affect British interests in the region and unless these interests were threatened, Britain had little interest in getting involved. Such a threat emerged in January 1927 when the British concession in Hankou, a 116 acre stretch of land, was occupied by Kuomintang forces marching north. This sparked a political crisis that went beyond the loss of a piece of land. British interests were directly threatened which had the potential to effect the market for Chinese goods in Europe but it was also a snub against British authority; one that could very easily spread.

After the Kuomintang invaded Hankou, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Navy’s China Station, Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt, sought to establish a British military presence in Shanghai to protect British lives and property. This was agreed to and the Shanghai Defence Force was formed comprising of elements of all three British military services under the overall command of Major General John Duncan who formed a headquarters at King’s College in Hong Kong. The Royal Navy primarily concerned itself with protecting shipping in and out of Shanghai while the Royal Air Force provided logistical support and eventually conducted reconnaissance duties on behalf of the British Army stationed in Shanghai.

10384653_701105933343214_3824665908296579757_nOne unit of the Army dispatched to China was the 5th Armoured Car Company (ACC) that was equipped with the now legendary Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (Right). The 5th ACC had been formed in Ireland in 1920 from elements of the 17th Tank Battalion as the revolutionary violence began to reach its peak. The 5th ACC was then transferred to Scarborough following the partition of Ireland before moving on to Warrington in Cheshire. In January 1927, as the Shanghai Defence Force was being formed it was decided to send the 5th ACC to support them and the men along with their Rolls-Royces quickly sailed to the Far East arriving in March.

The 5th ACC had three primary roles in China;

  1. Keeping the peace within the British concessions by preventing Kuomintang or CPC forces fighting there.
  2. Patrolling land trade routes to protect them from attack by combatants or bandits.
  3. To man road blocks guarding British-controlled areas.

The British Army’s Armoured Car Companies had extensive experience at that time of such operations. As well as in Ireland they had operated extensively in India during the 1920s helping to police trouble spots in the North West Frontier. Any thoughts of them having to “retake” the British concession in Hankou if only to restore British pride were nullified by an agreement for joint British-Kuomintang administration in February before the 5th ACC arrived which some outside observers viewed as British imperial weakness.

Despite the tense atmosphere, the men of the 5th ACC were left relatively unmolested as the two Chinese powers fought for control of the country. They would sometimes encounter the odd rifle round being sent their way as they patrolled the roadways although whether it was from the Kuomintang, the CPC or just trigger happy bandits few could be certain. Operations in China saw the need to introduce modifications to the vehicles most notably the fitting of a protruding, front bumper bar to protect the wheels from being punctured in a collision with Shanghai’s often dense road traffic of bicycles, carts, lorries and of course people. Another modification saw the fitting of armoured covers for the tops of the turrets which raised the vehicles’ profile leading to them being referred to as “top hats” by their crews.

While the Chinese were more concerned with fighting each other than the British, the droves of poorly trained but heavily armed Chinese fighters particularly with the CPC who relied on a peasant army across the country meant that it was all but inevitable the 5th ACC would see action. It came during a patrol on Darroch Road (now renamed Doulon Road) in Shanghai led by Lieutenant T. P . Newman NC, DCM. A letter home from one of the men in the patrol which was reprinted in A Pictorial History – Royal Tank Regiment by George Forty describes the encounter;

We have all been seeing plenty of life in the way of work, patrols day and night, and have had one or two small shows. Newman’s was of course the biggest; he has his right arm smashed up.

He was caught in a narrow road at 15 yards range and got three bullets through the driver’s observation slit, one of which wounded him and what with the splash and the remaining two, the whole crew were hit and the car ditched. Newman got out to get the [Rolls-Royce] out and was hit by another bullet in the same arm, one inch above the first wound. This one broke the bone and put him right out of action.

His car was pulled out by the other car of the sub-section and taken back to camp. Wilcox carried on the show for the next six hours and then I went up with my sub-section and remained on the spot for four days. Things are very quiet now.

After the show we counted 91 bullet marks on Newman’s car.

Fortunately for the men of the 5th ACC, such incidents were the exception. As the year went on the Kuomintang began to wrestle control of the city away from the CPC reducing the risk to British interests and after August, British forces began to be withdrawn. The 5th ACC would be one of the longer lasting units however and would remain in China through 1928 before finally withdrawing to Egypt in January 1929. There they handed over their vehicles to the 12th Royal Lancers who were converting from horses to armoured vehicles.

One of the vehicles used by the 5th Armoured Car Company in China survives to this day at the Bovington Tank Museum.



Hawker Hurricane IIA Z2389 “XR-J” at Brooklands Museum

A collection of pictures of Hawker Hurricane IIA Z2389 “XR-J” on display at the Brooklands Museum in Surrey.

All photos were taken on April 5th 2016
Photos: Tony Wilkins

This aircraft has a fascinating history being one of a number of Hawker Hurricanes delivered to the Soviet Air Force during World War II. The aircraft was delivered as part of Arctic convoy PQ16 in May 1942. In Soviet service the aircraft was assigned to the 767th Regiment of the Red Air Force based on the Kola Penninsula.

On June 20th 1942 the aircraft was shot down along with two other Hurricanes when they engaged a superior force of Messerschmitt Bf109Fs and Bf110s over Murmansk. The remains of the aircraft were discovered in 1996 and partial restoration began before it was delivered to Brooklands in 1997 for completion. It was unveiled to the public in 2010 on the 75th anniversary of the first flight of a Hurricane (November 1935).

According to Brooklands’ website the long term goal is to restore the aircraft to taxying condition.

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NEWS: Industry and government locking horns over Trident replacement costs

HMS Vnegeance Royal Navy

After the brutal cuts that emerged from the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the latest review published last month came as a welcome relief to many. However one quite notable issue did arise; the cost of the Successor-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the replacement for the four Trident-class submarines currently in service, had risen by £6bn and was going to take longer than expected to get in to service than previously planned.

This has forced the government to take action regarding the two prime contractors in the manufacture of the vessels; BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce. Speaking to the Financial Times Philip Dunne, defence procurement minister hinted that both companies and the government were locking horns over the project.

This is a project where there is no scope for failure. Contractors need to be working as a team, working in partnership with government.

The weakest link in the situation is thought to be Rolls-Royce’s nuclear engineering division which is responsible for developing the nuclear powerplant for the vessel. The division of Rolls-Royce has suffered a number of profit warnings over alleged mismanagement resulting in the loss of skilled nuclear engineers. This has led to rumours of a government takeover of the division if Rolls-Royce want to continue working on the Successor-class contract.

Additionally, the government has looked in to creating a governing body independent of contractors and the Ministry of Defence to handle the project. With the Labour Party, led by committed anti-nuclear activist Jeremy Corbyn, and the Scottish National Party both opposed to the cost of the program the government can ill-afford to let costs and timetables slip any further thus the government will have to take decisive action.

RAF Nimrod Replacement – The Poseidon’s Competitors

This news article is now out of date. The Boeing P-8 Poseidon acquisition has been given the go-ahead in the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015. CLICK HERE TO VIEW

Many feel the P-8 has already won

Many feel the P-8 has already won

Few aircraft retirements have left such a gaping hole in Britain’s national defence than the retirement of the Nimrod MR.2 and the cancellation of its upgraded replacement the Nimrod MRA.4. This revered Cold War era sub-hunter fell victim to the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2010 which saw the aircraft brutally axed in an effort to save £2bn of the defence budget even though £3bn had already been invested in the MRA.4. Defence experts in the UK were horrified when the plan was announced as they each asked; “How will Britain defend its shorelines against submarines?”

The RAF and the MoD under the leadership of the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition government responded by saying that other national assets will assume the Nimrod’s maritime patrol, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), maritime rescue coordination and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) roles. The Royal Navy’s force of frigates with their Merlin helicopters were intended to assume the ASW role which ignored the fact that SDSR 2010 had also cut the Royal Navy’s surface force. Hercules C.4/5 transport aircraft operating from RAF Brize Norton would assume the rescue coordination role although when Air Forces Monthly tried to write an article on this new role for the aircraft in 2011 they were rebuffed and there seems to be no evidence that the Hercules has ever performed this role. The maritime patrol role was to be taken over by the Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) which although does have surface tracking abilities it is hardly suited to hunting submarine periscopes/snorkels and is incapable of deploying sonar buoys. Finally the aircraft’s ISTAR role was to be assumed by RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft acquired from the US to replace the dedicated Nimrod R.1 ISTAR aircraft and the Sentinel R.1 which again the SDSR 2010 earmarked for retirement once the conflict in Afghanistan was resolved despite it being a relatively new aircraft.

So, in the last five years how have all these assets come together to make up for the loss of just 12 aircraft? The answer is very poorly indeed. Now it has to be mentioned that the Nimrod MR.2 was an increasingly old aircraft that was proving problematic to maintain in service but it was flying and it was patrolling the North Sea. Put simply the national maritime defence posture of the United Kingdom has been extremely vulnerable since Nimrod was retired. There is simply nothing else that can hunt ships and submarines as well as coordinate an effective response to a threat as well as a dedicated maritime patrol aircraft can. Just how vulnerable the UK is was dramatically highlighted in December 2014 when the RAF had to ask its French and American allies for help in finding an intruding submarine (most likely Russian) off Scottish waters. This incident must have finally struck a nerve with both the British people and the government because just three months later the MoD announced that it was looking in to finally replacing Nimrod and there was one company above all others that looked set to get the lucrative £2bn deal; Boeing.

The evidence seems to be right in front of us that Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon will be the platform that gives back the dedicated fixed wing maritime patrol role the RAF desperately needs. Local media reports in Scotland frequently mention that RAF personnel at RAF Kinloss firmly believe the Boeing aircraft will appear in RAF markings soon enough. Former defence secretary Phillip Hammond has already toured Boeing’s production line and been given a briefing for the aircraft and finally, RAF personnel have been serving with the US Navy’s own P-8 Poseidon force as part of Seedcom which is designed to keep British aircrews familiar with the ASV/ASW role. It seems to many that the only thing left is to wait for the announcement of the purchase to be made.

But are there any other platforms that could thwart Boeing’s plans?

Despite the seemingly done-deal regarding the P-8 Poseidon there are factors in place against the aircraft joining the RAF. The biggest one is expense. Apart from building an entirely new aircraft in Britain acquiring the P-8 is by far and away the most expensive option with an individual unit price being in the region of £171 million. That is before the RAF start tailoring the aircraft to its own needs which is likely to raise the cost of the aircraft further. Another concern is that despite the RAF’s desire to have high commonality with their American allies just how much freedom to modify, upgrade or utilise American systems independently of joint operations with the US will the RAF aircraft have? Acquiring the P-8 Poseidon may actually limit the RAF’s ability to operate outside of the American sphere of influence if Washington opposes British military action or operations and therefore restricts highly controlled American equipment. In the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program the British government has already had to wrestle with this fact regarding BAE Systems’ ability to support the aircraft when the US demanded total control over the aircraft’s vital computer codes. It was only when Britain threatened to withdraw its vast financial investment in the aircraft that the Americans finally agreed to share those codes with BAE Systems. Would the US do the same again if a similar situation happened with the P-8 Poseidon?

With these concerns in mind a handful of companies around the world have sensed an opportunity to seduce the RAF in to looking more closely at their aircraft. Here are a handful of alternatives to the P-8 Poseidon that the government must surely be considering in the impending SDSR 2015.

Kawasaki P-1

Kawasaki P-1This site has discussed this surprising deal offered to the RAF by Japan in detail in a previous article so this topic will not delve too deeply in to it here. The Japanese deal centred around an initial acquisition of five aircraft for the RAF in the £600m price range with options on more later. Since then the Japanese company has repeatedly tried to entice the RAF in to taking a more serious look at their aircraft especially in light of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s amendment to his country’s constitution to allow the export of military hardware. A purchase by the RAF would certainly raise the aircraft’s esteem and would be a political coup for the Japanese.

Clearly then the Japanese have a lot to gain from the deal but how would the RAF benefit? Compared to the P-8 Poseidon the P-1 is cheaper and has the added advantage of four engine reliability as opposed to the two engines on the P-8. The P-1 is also already tailored to working alongside the US military since the Japanese forces, like the British forces, work closely with their American allies. On the downside the P-1 has fewer operators reducing the overall ability to cover many missions in a single flight or coordinate a large multi-national operation effectively. It also has a much smaller combat radius than the P-8 meaning it would rely more heavily on the RAF’s tanker force for long endurance missions.

Refurbished ex-US Navy Lockheed P-3 Orion

P3Politically in the UK and financially in the US this is the option nobody wants. There are large numbers of ex-US Navy P-3 Orions in storage in the US and elsewhere that could be acquired and heavily refurbished or rebuilt to an RAF specification. The P-3 was one of the contenders against the original Nimrod MR.1 back in the 1970s and tests proved that performance of the aircraft was superior to the P-3 although it wasn’t until the MR.2 that the mission systems were a match thus producing an overall superior aircraft.

There are advantages to this proposal for the RAF namely that they would be acquiring a proven airframe and design that continues in service with many countries. It performs exceptionally well and has just as wide an array of weapon options available to it as the P-8. It is also still well supported by the manufacturer and sub-contractors giving a wide array of mission system options that the integrated systems of the P-8 simply can’t. However, again the aircraft has fewer operators than the P-8 thus limiting mission effectiveness and has less operational range. Another problem is that no fixed price can be settled on these aircraft since the level of work required would differ from airframe to airframe. The refurbishment may also only be able to bring the aircraft online for a much shorter period of time meaning the RAF will be seeking a replacement much sooner than they would with a new build airframe. Finally, it is both politically contentious and militarily embarrassing for Britain to be flying what the US Navy have effectively thrown away.

Lockheed Martin SC-130J Sea Herc MPRA  

Lockheed SC-130J Sea Herc RAFFrom its very inception in the 1950s the superlative C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft has tried to pursue a career in the maritime patrol role and the SC-130J is the very latest attempt. Effectively a C-130J Hercules II the aircraft features a slide-in mission system pallet that can be put inside the cavernous cargo bay of the Hercules linked to a dedicated surface search radar in the nose as well as additional optical systems and underwing/fuselage hardpoints for weapons.

Lockheed Martin could build a very strong case to the RAF for their product. Firstly, if absolutely necessary, Lockheed Martin could convert existing [C-130J] Hercules C.4s already in service as opposed to buying new build aircraft. Also, since the base aircraft is already in service then the RAF already has the support infrastructure in place to operate it thus reducing costs. Since the mission system is palleted then should additional logistical needs arise the aircraft can return to a transport role quite easily by removing the mission equipment. The palleted system also means that it is much easier to upgrade or replace mission systems increasing its usefulness and flexibility. The strong Hercules has also proven that it can more than handle itself low over the ocean having served in rescue and reconnaissance roles with the US Coast Guard over some of the toughest seas in the world.

Against this acquisition however is the fact that the mission system itself is unproven although it is based on proven technology. Also just how interoperable would the aircraft be with the P-8 remains unclear as is the final cost of the aircraft and how soon it can enter service since at the moment it remains a paper-plane.

Airbus C-295 MPA

C295 MPAIn 2014 the head of Airbus Military U.K Richard Thompson said that he wanted to “bust the myth” being generated over the apparent certainty of a P-8 Poseidon acquisition. He argued that the Airbus C-295 MPA would meet more of the RAF’s needs at almost half the cost compared to the P-8. Based on the proven C-295 military transport the MPA proposal is similar to the SC-130J Sea Herc in its conception but has the advantage of already being in service with a foreign power namely Chile. Thompson went further however by claiming that the C-295 MPA’s radar is more sophisticated than the P-8 and added that the Airbus aircraft could be tailored more specifically to RAF requirements.

Given the UK investment in Airbus there are strong political and economic positives to choosing the C-295. While its range is not as great as the P-8, Thompson pointed out that the vast majority of the RAF’s Nimrod missions took place within 500 miles of the coast and that the aircraft was already configured for the RAF’s tanker force using the hose-and-drogue system (the P-8 still only has the US boom system). Just as there are political positives there are negatives namely how the US would react to Britain turning away from their P-8 after all the wooing Washington and Boeing have done with the RAF and MoD. Also, once again the question of interoperability comes up.

Northrop Grumman RQ-4 “Euro-Ocean Hawk”   

RQ-4 Ocean HawkWe truly live in an amazing time with regards to aerospace technology. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are nothing new but in the last 15 years we have seen them go from being a supporting reconnaissance asset to becoming a vital component of offensive operations in many cases effectively taking the lead away from manned aircraft. Indeed the US Navy have even gone so far as to say that the replacement for the F-35C Lightning II will be built in both manned and unmanned versions. With regards to the UK’s fixed wing maritime patrol mission only one UAV is currently available that could fulfil the role and that is a variant of the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk. Exact details of the proposal to the RAF are somewhat hazy but it is likely to be a form of hybrid of two previous proposals – the Euro Hawk (an export variant designed for Europe) and the Ocean Hawk (a long range reconnaissance variant designed for the US Navy). The aircraft itself would be a purely reconnaissance type and would organize other assets to carry out actual attacks on enemy ships and submarines which means that if a UAV design is selected then it would mean that the Royal Navy would still be largely responsible for prosecuting any threats.

If range was the weakness of all the other proposals compared to the P-8 then the RQ-4 absolutely excels it. The RQ-4 could loiter over the North Sea for a staggering 32 hours providing long range high quality radar and other sensor sweeps and then transmitting the data back to the MoD. None of the other proposals could possibly meet that level of range or endurance. The engine is built by Rolls-Royce which has benefits to UK industry and since it needs no crew only operators on the ground then the RAF doesn’t have to spend so much money on training and then paying for bodies in the aircraft. Speaking of bodies in the aircraft there are none so if an RQ-4 was to crash or be shot down no lives are risked. Instead of dedicated operators transmitting the information to those who need it the RQ-4 could simply allow datalink access to any asset that requires it so the captain of a Royal Navy frigate could simply access the RQ-4’s sensor information to see what threats are in his area without exposing himself by using his own detectable scanning devices.

It sounds good but there are some fundamental problems with opting for the UAV. Firstly, as previously mentioned the UAV cannot engage enemy submarines or ships itself requiring other assets to carry out the attack. Even more concerning however is at present the RQ-4 cannot carry sonar buoys (although it can be fitted with a magnetic anomaly detector) to detect submerged submarines which would either require the MoD setting up fixed sonar buoys in British territorial waters or alternatively using a helicopter or transport aircraft to carry and drop them out of the back. There is one final fatal flaw with all UAVs that the public and many in the MoD often overlook given the effectiveness they have shown against fighting terrorists. All UAVs are controlled and communicate information wirelessly and against a technologically sophisticated enemy there is a risk that the signal can become jammed which means that the RQ-4 is left to effectively loiter impotently as opposed to a manned aircraft where the crew can continue a search and attack mission as well as organize electronic countermeasures to re-establish communication.

At present a final decision is expected around October when the SDSR 2015 is expected to be published.

Handley Page HP.15 V/1500

Handley Page HP.15 V1500

Handley Page HP.15 V1500 (wp.scn.ru)

It is difficult for the modern mind so used to aviation being an everyday thing to comprehend just how new the aircraft was even by the end of the First World War; a conflict that advanced flying technology exponentially. Looking at the use of the aircraft as an offensive weapon during the course of the brutal four year conflict shows just how far it had come. From the first occasions of light spotter planes whose crews tossed grenades over the sides to the first bombing raids over London carried out by German Gothas the potential of the bomber was becoming more and more obvious and the need for bigger and better aircraft more pressing.

In Britain one name became synonymous with bomber design during World War One more than any other; Handley Page. While most companies such as Sopwith and the Royal Aircraft Factory rarely built anything over a two-seater single engine design, Handley Page built bigger multi engine aircraft with the sole purpose of putting bombs on the enemy behind the lines. This resulted in the superlative Type O series of bombers – the O/100 and the O/400. At the time of the introduction of the O/100 it was the biggest aircraft ever built in Britain and the second largest aircraft in the world. They had such an impact on the British military flying scene that for many years after the war bombers were called “Handley Pages” even if they were built by another company.

Gotha IV German bomber (commons.wikimedia)

Gotha IV German bomber (commons.wikimedia)

Bombing operations on the Western Front primarily concerned with tactical targets – bridges, troop concentrations, supply facilities – but on May 25th 1917 everything changed. A flight of 23 German Gotha IV bombers attacked targets around Folkestone and Shorncliffe but it was obvious their original target was London itself. Typical London overcast meant that the bombers had to divert to these secondary targets but nevertheless over 100 people were killed. Attacks on the British mainland from the air were nothing new as the country had been on the receiving end of numerous Zeppelin raids but the lumbering air ships had been largely ineffective and their threat nullified by new defences. The Gotha raids however were a new kind of terror being able to bring widescale devastation with shocking effectiveness that both terrified the British people and reenergised the German propaganda machine.

For the British Air Ministry the situation was intolerable. The British had to show they were capable of responding in kind to this new type of German aggression and to do that they needed their own heavy bomber that could fly to Berlin with a respectable bombload. In the subsequent British Air Board 1917 specifications for the next series of aircraft for the Royal Flying Corps a requirement was included for a bomber capable of carrying a 3,000lb bombload from South East England to Berlin.

All eyes were on Handley Page to meet the requirement and they didn’t fail to rise to the challenge. Handley Page knew their Type O was a sound design for the era but could not hope to meet the Air Board’s requirements. If more was needed from the aircraft then they needed more of an aircraft and so they began scaling up the design which was given the in-house designation of HP.15. The design team increased the wingspan from 100ft in the O/400 to 126ft in the new design but retained the same overall configuration with four-bay biplane wings. Strangely, while the aircraft was slightly taller than the O/400 it was in fact marginally shorter but featured a much more substantial crew section which gave the aircraft an almost slab-like appearance from the side. Like the O/400 it was constructed of wood and fabric materials.

Groundcrew standing under the wings of the aircraft give an impression of its size (flyingmachines.ru)

Groundcrew standing under the wings of the aircraft give an impression of its size (flyingmachines.ru)

A bigger aircraft needs more power and very quickly it was becoming clear that no two engines were available that could generate the necessary horsepower. The answer therefore was to double the number of engines to four and in order to not overstress the airframe by placing them further out along the length of the wing Handley Page decided to place the four engines on two mounting brackets located close to the fuselage. This necessitated two of the engines facing forward pulling the aircraft along while the other two engines faced aft in a pusher configuration.

The engine chosen for the aircraft was the 12-cylinder liquid cooled Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII inline-vee unit that on its own developed 375hp; an impressive figure for the time. The liquid cooling of the engine was necessary given the powerplants performance but was something of a cause for concern since liquid cooled engines were more prone to breakdowns and were more susceptible to enemy fire. Another unusual feature of the aircraft was that the forward propeller was two bladed while the aft propeller was four bladed. This was in order to not overly disrupt the airflow to the aft engine. The four Eagle VIIIs combined to give the aircraft an awesome 1500hp and to reflect this fact the number “1500” was included in the type’s service designation – Type V/1500. To put this figure in to perspective the O/400 and the Vickers Vimy bombers had a total power output of 720hp while the Gotha IV that attacked Felixstowe only produced 520hp.

The aircraft also had a much larger crew than previous aircraft although just how many crew remains a source of speculation as various sources claim different figures. Some claim eight crew while others claim only six. Crew positions within the aircraft included pilot, navigator/bombardier and three gunners including the somewhat revolutionary position of tail gunner which became a necessity following combat service with the Type O. It is likely that a second pilot or air mechanic was included in the crew numbers given the relative complexity of the aircraft and it is rumoured that up to three mechanics were included on early flights which may account for why some sources claim the aircraft had a crew of eight. It seems more likely that such a number of mechanics would have been involved in the testing but that this was not a typical crew complement as later flights (as we shall see) flew with a crew of three when the gunners were not needed which means that operationally a crew of six was the norm.

Handley Page V/1500 at Cricklewood (flyingmachines.ru)

Handley Page V/1500 at Cricklewood (flyingmachines.ru)

Construction of the aircraft could not be carried out at Handley Page’s Cricklewood factory due to other commitments such as producing the Type O bombers so a compromise was made. The components for the aircraft were built in Belfast, Ireland by Harland and Wolfe, more famous for building ships than aircraft, and then shipped to Cricklewood for final assembly. The decision to assemble the aircraft at Cricklewood and not in Belfast was possibly made for security reasons and it is likely that the War Office were concerned about pro-German (or at least anti-British) spies operating at the yard in the wake of the Easter Rising. Assembly of the prototype, E4104, was completed at Cricklewood in May 1918 and the aircraft took to the air on May 22nd with testing being carried out shortly after.

Tragedy befell the program when on June 8th 1918 during its 13th flight E4104 crashed with Capt. Vernon E. G. Busby at the controls. While cruising along at 1,000ft all four engines cut out at once and so Busby attempted to turn the aircraft back to the airfield but in doing so stalled the aircraft and it entered an uncontrollable spin. Of the six aboard four were killed in the resulting crash including Busby while a fifth crewman died shortly after from his injuries. The aircraft was completely lost in the crash so an accurate investigation couldn’t be carried out leaving the verdict of fuel starvation as the only possible explanation given the description of what happened from the only survivor.

Despite this setback the successor to the Army’s Royal Flying Corps, the newly established and independent Royal Air Force (RAF), gave production of the aircraft a high priority and demanded 210 machines from Handley Page. Handley Page found it impossible to meet this demand on their own and so much of the work was contracted out to Harland and Wolfe, Beardmore, Graham White and Alliance Aircraft.

The RAF in the meantime went about forming a specialised squadron to operate the aircraft and this came in the guise of No.166 Squadron which formally stood up at RAF Bircham Newton, Norfolk on June 13th 1918. While officially designated as a heavy bomber unit the crews selected to train on the “Super Handley” as it was called were under no illusions about what their real mission was; bomb Berlin. Very quickly No.166, despite having no aircraft yet, was becoming an elite unit due to an extremely intensive training regime. Nearly all the pilots and crews selected for the squadron had previous combat experience mainly on the older Handley Pages and the FE.2b night bombers. The navigators especially had to attend a special course to allow them to learn the art of very long range navigation at night. Finally, in October 1918 the first three assembled Handley Page V/1500s were delivered to RAF Bircham Newton and after nearly four months of training the crews were eager to familiarise themselves with the new aircraft so they could carry out their mission.

As October gave way to November of 1918 that order had yet to come. Despite all the effort to get No.166 Squadron ready and their aircraft delivered the morality of the mission to Berlin was now being called in to question. Peace seemed to be just around the corner following the capitulation of the Austro-Hungarians and the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in Germany. Using the V/1500 for regular bombing operations over the Western Front was seen as an unacceptable risk to such valuable aircraft and personnel for if they were lost to enemy defences then the Berlin mission could never go ahead.

Handley Page HP.15 V/1500 (RAF Museum)

Handley Page HP.15 V/1500 (RAF Museum)

Finally, on the 8th of November the squadron received its orders. They were to take off from Bircham Newton and fly to Berlin where they would drop their weapons before proceeding on to Allied-occupied Prague. There the aircraft would be re-armed and re-fuelled before taking off back over Germany to bomb Dusseldorf before landing back in the UK. It looked set to be an epic mission. Then just hours before it was due to start an inspection of one of the aircraft showed that all four engines needed replacing despite protests from crews who claimed the mechanic was being overly forceful by insisting the change take place before the mission. With only two aircraft remaining the mission was cancelled. Just two days later the aircraft attempted the mission again but as they literally started to taxi out they were called back with news that an armistice had just been declared and the war was over. The mission to Berlin would never take place.

Post war Britain was nearly bankrupt and advanced aircraft projects were cancelled in a near-orgy of cutbacks as their war was now over. The Versailles Treaty was intended to strip Germany of any war making ability and already there was talk of new arms limitation treaties among the remaining powers to make sure another Great War could never happen. Against such a backdrop few advanced aircraft survived with the RAF having to make do with wartime types for many years after. The promising V/1500 was one such aircraft to survive the cull although it did not come off unscathed. Of the planned 210 airframes only 60 frontline aircraft were manufactured excluding the three prototypes.

While the aircraft may not have carried out its intended mission of bombing the Kaiser’s capital city the V/1500 was about to make its mark on history in other more peaceful ways. Its long range performance was brilliantly demonstrated when one aircraft flew to Karachi in British India (modern day Pakistan) in just under a month making stops at Rome, Malta, Cairo, and Baghdad along the way. The next year another V/1500 attempted to make the first non-stop transatlantic flight taking off from Newfoundland in Canada but running in to mechanical difficulties it was forced down in Nova Scotia. The goal was later achieved by a Vickers Vimy twin engined bomber flown by John Alcock and Arthur Brown. The same aircraft did however later carry out the first airmail run between Canada and the United States.

Handley Page V/1500 (flyingmachines.ru)

Handley Page V/1500 (flyingmachines.ru)

For a time it seemed that the V/1500 would never drop a bomb in anger but the horror of the Great War failed to bring about the anticipated world peace and in May 1919 British forces were again fighting for the Empire in a brief but bloody war with the Kingdom of Afghanistan. The fighting resembled more of what the British and Indian Armies were used to before 1914 and the modern technologies that had arisen from the Western Front seemed out of place in the battles against tribesmen and armed militia. Nevertheless towards the end of May a plan was being devised for an air strike on the Royal Palace of King Amanullah in Kabul. The aircraft chosen for the long range mission was in fact the same aircraft that made the record breaking flight from Britain to India; V/1500 J1936.

The aircraft was armed with four 112lb bombs on bomb racks that had to be sourced from a squadron of B.E.2cs while sixteen 20lb hand thrown bombs were carried in the fuselage to be tossed out over the target. On May 25th 1919 the aircraft took off from Risalpur with Captain Halley at the controls and Lt E. Villiers as observer/bombardier. The V/1500 reached Kabul in three hours and made its attack on the Royal Palace, the King’s forces having almost no defence other than to fire their bolt action rifles in to the air at the plane as it circled overhead making attack after attack.

Inside the palace there was chaos despite the fact that Halley and Villiers’ aim was not exactly precise and most of the bombs missed the main building. The horror of being attacked from the sky sent many of those in the palace rushing in to the streets to escape including many of the women of the King’s harem. Even after the attack was over King Amanullah found it difficult to control the situation and within a few days of the attack he agreed peace terms with the British. It was the first time in history that an aircraft had been the decisive factor in ending a conflict.

Despite these successes the aircraft was extremely complicated to operate and maintain and with no real long range bombing requirement any longer the RAF decided to withdraw it in 1920. The Handley Page HP.15 V/1500 was every bit the spiritual ancestor to the four engined Handley Page Halifax that took the war to the heart of the Third Reich in World War Two. History at large may have forgotten the contribution to aviation this remarkable aircraft has made but in both peace and war it helped lay the foundation for the future.

Crew: 6-8
Role: Heavy Night Bomber
Maximum speed: 99mph
Range: 800 miles (approx operational range)
1,300 miles (ferry range)
Powerplant: 4 × Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII inline vee piston engines (375hp each).
Service ceiling:11,000ft
Length: 64ft 0in
Wingspan: 126ft 0in
Height: 23ft
Defensive Armament: 3/6 .303in (7.7 mm) Lewis guns in nose, dorsal and tail positions
Offensive Armament: 3000lbs of bombs

The Biafran Meteor Caper

Biafra Gloster Meteor caper

The decolonisation process of Africa was a slow and painful process that in many respects continues today. Borders agreed upon by the United Nations didn’t always conform to how the indigenous peoples viewed the land based on history, religion and tribal ancestry. Such was the case of the Igboo people of Southern Nigeria who during the 1950s and 60s felt repeatedly persecuted by the Northern Nigerian based federal government and so in 1967 under the leadership of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu the south broke away to create the Republic of Biafra. A bloody civil war between the Nigerian government and the Biafran rebels ensued for nearly three years during which time the Nigerian military surrounded Ojukwu’s Biafra and attempted to starve the breakaway nation in to submission.

Bissau Fouga Magister fire

Constellation aircraft with Fouga Magisters onboard burns at Bissau (lae.blogg.se)

Ojukuwu knew he would need arms to secure his nation’s survival and in particular he had aspirations for a powerful Biafran air force equipped with jet combat aircraft. With world opinion greatly divided on the subject of Biafran independence he knew that acquisitions through the regular channels would not be easy and so he had his people find alternative ways of acquiring military aircraft. The Biafrans experienced mixed success in gaining aircraft to equip their embryonic air force. A small number of disassembled ex-Austrian Fouga Magisters jet trainers were successfully smuggled out of Europe aboard a chartered Lockheed Constellation in 1968 only to have them destroyed in a suspicious fire during a stopover at Bissau airport in Guinea.

In Europe the Gloster Meteor, Britain’s first jet fighter, was serving out its final days before retirement. The aircraft was exported well across Europe and many had been retired to scrap yards or private companies who operated them for a variety of testing purposes. Ojukuwu’s people began to realize that given the sheer number of airframes and parts scattered across Europe that the Meteor might be a more practical acquisition prospect and began making contacts with less than truly legitimate businessmen in the UK, France, Germany, Portugal and Sweden who would be willing (or alternatively unknowingly) assist them in acquiring Meteors. Despite it being almost an archaic combat aircraft by European standards the Meteor was still a potent aircraft in Africa but as the plan was set in to motion the Biafran requirements became more specific.

They needed a Meteor that could fly and fight at night.

The Nigerian effort to starve Biafra in to submission had provoked an angry response from international aid organizations. In an act of courage and compassion the International Red Cross ignored warnings by the Nigerians and began flying in aid to Biafra’s biggest airport at Uli. As well as their own aircraft the Red Cross chartered American Hank Warton’s North American Aircraft Trading Corporation and their small fleet of Lockheed L.1049 Super Constellations. Based (on paper only) in Miami, Warton had built up a strong relationship with Ojukuwu’s government and his company had become known in aviation circles as “Biafran Airlines”. Warton had almost no scruples when it came to flying in weapons or even narcotics to Biafra and after the Nigerian army captured the last Biafran sea port in 1968 his company became almost the only means of getting supplies in to the breakaway republic. Humanitarian flights on behalf of the Red Cross gave an air of legitimacy to his operation but in reality a lot of the aid was traded in for weapons at Faro in Portugal. Of the aid that did get in via Warton’s airline most of it went to Ojukuwu’s government or his forces leaving thousands to starve.

From 1968 onwards the only available airstrip in Biafra that could handle the flights was at Uli. The airport effectively became Biafra’s lifeline and as such the Nigerian air force gave it special attention flying fighters around the airport during the daytime to intercept any flights. Therefore operations had to be flown exclusively at night when the Nigerian air force day fighter-only MiG-17s couldn’t locate them. The Nigerians therefore adopted a different tactic to stop the flow of supplies in to the airport. Douglas DC-3 and DC-4 airliners were flown around the airport at night waiting for an incoming flight to trigger the landing lights. The Nigerian aircraft would then try to either warn the flight away by calling out to it over the radio claiming to be a fighter or would shadow the aircraft until it landed and then attempt to bomb it on the runway by hurling explosives down upon it. The Nigerians met with mixed success but the very threat of these “night intruder” flights was enough to provoke Ojukuwu who now demanded nightfighters to combat them.

It was not long before Ojukuwu’s demands looked like they were about to be met when four ex-Danish Gloster Meteor NF.11s converted to target towing aircraft and operated by a Swedish company on behalf of the Danish government were put up for sale. The aircraft received some refurbishment work in Sweden by Svenska Flygverkstäderna although it is not known if the company realised the aircraft were destined for Biafra or whether they were told they would be used in Europe by another private company offering target towing services. In March 1969 two of these aircraft were secured by Danish merchant Keld Åge Mortensen who got the aircraft delivered to Gosselies in Belgium. There he planned to have more work carried out on them that would effectively re-militarise them and then ferry them down to Faro in Portugal before on to Biafra.

Swedish Meteor (lae.blogg.se)

Swedish Meteor (lae.blogg.se)

In order to operate the aircraft with an air of legitimacy over Europe, West German registrations were applied for them and reserved as D-CAKU and D-CAKY. Included in the application was a ferry plan to take the aircraft to Lisbon in Portugal. The plan fell through however when US authorities warned the West German Aviation Authority that they suspected the aircraft were destined for Biafra and the application was rejected leaving the aircraft stuck at Goselies. Ojukuwu’s European agents attempted to continue the plan by trying to hoodwink the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in to granting a registration but that plan failed when the CAA noticed that the cheque was dated two weeks after the requested start date of the application. They never flew again and remain in Belgium to this day albeit in a very poor state.

The next effort to acquire Meteor nightfighters was the most successful. Gloster Meteor NF.14 WS829 had been struck off charge with the Royal Air Force in 1963 and had entered the UK civil registry as G-ASLW working under the prestigious umbrella of Rolls-Royce Aviation. The aircraft was used by Rolls-Royce as a “hack” aircraft meaning that it was used to ferry important people who needed to be sent somewhere quickly or to simply keep test pilots’ hours up. The acquisition of a Hawker-Siddeley HS.125 in 1969 meant that the Meteor had become almost surplus to requirements and so Rolls-Royce approached Templewood aviation with the goal of valuing the aircraft for sale. Templewood however had supplied a number of aircraft to Biafra already through various means and was part of the aforementioned effort to deliver Fouga Magisters to the embattled country. A businessman who had close links with both the Biafra regime and Templewood, Tony Osborne, seized the opportunity to acquire the Meteor nightfighter for Biafra and on the 4th of July 1969 he purchased the aircraft through Templewood for £5,500.

Now Osborne had to get the aircraft from Rolls-Royce’s test field at Hucknell air field but when his own contracted pilot failed to turn up he politely asked Rolls-Royce themselves to spare a pilot who could fly the aircraft to Bordeaux, France. Rolls-Royce were willing to spare a pilot for a small fee to Osborne but refused to fly it out of the country since he lacked any paperwork permitting export. They therefore agreed to fly the Meteor to the airfield at Hurn in Bournemouth for Osbourne who in the meantime had worked through his contacts at Templewood to find a replacement pilot. He was successful but the pilot he found hadn’t any experience on this particular Meteor type and therefore travelled to Hucknell to fly with the Rolls-Royce pilot on its transfer from Hucknell to Hurn. The aircraft took off at 0930hrs on the morning of Sunday 6th of July 1969 and upon landing a little over an hour later it was formally handed over to Osborne still resplendent in its beautiful Rolls-Royce livery.  The Rolls-Royce pilot left and Osborne quickly went about getting the aircraft refuelled. The refuelling team at Hurn operated by Shell began to refuel the aircraft after solving a problem with a nozzle attachment not knowing that the aircraft was no longer operated by Rolls-Royce who were later billed for the fuel – Osborne remained quiet about who the real owner was. While the aircraft was readied for its next flight to Bordeaux, Osborne went about gathering a temporary export license for the aircraft from the Civil Aviation Authority which was granted on the basis that it was to fly to France for use by Target Towing Aircraft Co Ltd on behalf of a German businessman who planned to use it for a Luftwaffe contract. The temporary license was passed and later that day the Meteor took off from Hurn and landed at Bordeaux over an hour later.

It was from this point that the as-yet wholly legal effort to get the aircraft out of the UK came to an end. It spent only a few hours at Bordeaux before it took off again and climbed to almost 41,000ft; far above commercial traffic and where its engines would have the maximum fuel efficiency in order to fly south-west through Spain and Portugal before landing at Faro airport on the southern tip of Portugal which was known for its pro-Biafran stance. Strangely, both the pilot and navigator sourced through Templewood aviation reportedly flew the entire flight in total radio silence until reaching Faro meaning Spanish and Portuguese authorities did nothing to stop the aircraft. Osborne flew his own private aircraft to the airport a short time later to inspect it and make sure it would be ready for the next phase; remilitarizing the aircraft and then flying it to Biafra. His aircraft carried a number of spares for the aircraft that was included in the deal with Rolls-Royce and these would be used to keep the aircraft flying.

More spares were to be flown out by another pilot, Dick Kingsmill, in a Cessna a short while after and it was here the plan ran the risk of being discovered when Kingsmill was asked to produce an export license for the equipment his aircraft was carrying at Hurn. Kingsmill claimed that the Meteor was still at Bordeaux and had been rendered unserviceable due to a malfunction in the braking system. He argued that the export license was irrelevant since the materials he was flying out would be returning to the UK when the Meteor returned at the end of its export license. The rouse worked and Kingsmill was permitted to fly out. A few hours later he landed at Faro where the Meteor was waiting ready for its flight to Africa.

Meteor NF.14

Meteor NF.14 (Defence of the Realm)

In the meantime efforts were underway to acquire a second Meteor nightfighter. An acquaintance of Osborne, Tony Paris who worked for P.B. Export Sales Ltd but also had links to Templewood Aviation, had contacted the Ministry of Defence to enquire about any Meteors for sale. With the export license for the first Meteor about to expire which was expected to alert British authorities to what was going on a new cover story was created which was that Paris was working for a movie production company who wanted to use the aircraft for filming. It was not without precedent for in 1948 four Bristol Beaufighters were refurbished and sold to a film company for making a movie. In reality the “film crew” were working for the new state of Israel and once purchased Israeli pilots flew them out of the UK down to Israel where they became part of the embryonic Israeli Air Force.

The MoD told Paris of a Meteor being used as a “hack” by the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Bedford. Incredibly it too was an NF.14 version carrying the military serial WS804 and Paris acquired it on behalf of Osborne on the 27th of August 1969. Acquiring this aircraft was not as easy as the previous aircraft however as the MoD put on a number of provisions to the sale including that it was not to be sold to Target Towing Co Ltd due to an outstanding fee the company had yet to pay. Osborne registered the aircraft as G-AXNE the following day and after a new Certificate of Airworthiness was acquired an RAE Bedford pilot flew the aircraft to Blackbushe for delivery. While the Rolls-Royce livery of the first aircraft had been an unexpected bonus for Osborne and his people the military markings of this aircraft were a problem and would no doubt create unnecessary attention when travelling abroad. Osborne therefore went about having the aircraft’s military markings removed and the civilian serial G-AXNE painted on the tail. To reinforce the cover story “Enterprise Films” titles were painted on the nose. The aircraft was flown to Exeter airport and then again to Bordeaux on the 7th of September 1969 after another temporary export license was agreed with the CAA. Unfortunately for Osborne’s plan the aircraft was damaged during the flight possibly due to the pilot’s unfamiliarity of the aircraft. Either way it would be another two days before the aircraft was repaired and flown to Faro where it was parked up next to the first aircraft while Tony Paris had sourced a third aircraft in the UK.

Biafra Meteor NF.14 WS804 G-AXNE

Biafra’s fleet of Meteor nightfighters was growing.

The third Meteor, an unusual NF.11/14 hybrid being used for radar trials by Ferranti in the UK, would prove a Meteor too far for Osborne and his associates. The MoD blocked the sale of the third Meteor which would have included an extensive stock of spares that would have been extremely useful when the aircraft arrived in Biafra after the MoD’s bureaucrats discovered that they had lost contact with two of their former Meteors. Osborne therefore had to settle for the two he had in Faro.

11034210_761906070596533_4289369719516250476_nBefore they could be delivered they needed to have their weapons restored. In RAF service they were armed with four 20mm Hispano V cannons (left) but upon decommissioning the weapons were removed by the MoD. The Hispano V was a common weapon in Europe especially with the number of British built aircraft operated on the continent that were armed with them such as the Gloster Meteor and the De Havilland Vampire. Eventually enough parts were collected to assemble eight guns (four per aircraft) from various sources and delivered to Faro including a selection of parts delivered by Dick Kingsmill who would later be arrested and tried for illegally exporting weapons. The Portuguese government knew what was going on and had largely turned a blind eye to what was happening at Faro but when efforts were made to fit ammunition to the newly installed guns they demanded that they stop and that the aircraft should depart for Biafra quickly.

Thus on the 20th of September 1969 the aircraft were made ready for their delivery flight which began the next day. The two aircraft took off from Faro and landed in Funchal, Portuguese Madeira. The plan was for them to then fly on to Dakar and then to Bissau in Portuguese Guinea before finally flying to Biafra. It was a well-known route as many aid flights flew this route as had previously delivered aircraft. The transit would prove frustrating however. Both aircraft made the initial flight to Funchal but were rendered unserviceable for a variety of reasons. G-AXNE was able to fly again shortly after landing and so it went on to Dakar and then a few days later landed in Bissau where it was again damaged by the poor conditions at the airfield thus rendering it unserviceable.

G-ASLW had taken longer to repair in Madeira and it would be several days after its compatriot had left that it finally got airborne again flown by a pilot working for Templewood Aviation. The aircraft flew some way out to sea to avoid detection by either friendly or pro-Nigerian pilots who might report the aircraft but for some reason the pilot felt it necessary to drop his plans to fly to Dakar and then on to Bissau and fly directly to Bissau. The pilot either had not grasped just how much range his aircraft had probably due to his unfamiliarity with the type or had unknowingly travelled too far out to sea before turning back in for Bissau but either way it was not long before he realized that he was not going to make it. His aircraft was running so low on fuel that any chance of making landfall became out of the question. He therefore descended and searched for a ship and upon finding one ejected in front of it allowing the ex-Rolls-Royce Meteor to go tumbling in to the sea. The passing ship picked him up and took him to Cape Verde where he boarded an airliner back to Lisbon, Portugal.


This just left the ex-RAE Bedford Meteor G-AXNE at Bissau. Plans were made to repair the aircraft quickly and get it to Biafra. The worry was that the aircraft would be sabotaged or destroyed by pro-Nigerians as had happened to the earlier Magisters at the airport but in the end it would be the British Foreign Office who would “destroy” the aircraft but with the pen rather than the sword. The full weight of British diplomacy was thrown behind efforts to impound the aircraft and the authorities at Bissau eventually caved in dragging the aircraft to a corner of the airfield where it was exposed to the African elements that ensured it never flew again. For many years it remained there (above) growing dilapidated before disintegrating.

Ojukwu never realised his dream of a jet nightfighter force and within four months his country would cease to exist as Nigeria finally crushed Biafra. British authorities were already investigating Osborne and his associates when G-AXNE was discovered in Bissau and Osborne, Paris, Kingsmill and several others were all arrested and heavily fined for their involvement thus bringing to a close the incredible story of the Biafran Meteor Caper.