Duxford HANGAR 3 - Air and Sea

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This submarine was a direct development of the wartime X-craft, which were designed to penetrate enemy harbours and ports and attack shipping although other roles were found for these versatile little submarines.

X-51 was ordered on 6th September 1951, launched in July 1954, and completed on 5th June 1955. She had a crew of five men and served with the Royal Navy until 1957, having been named HMS 'Stickleback' in 1955.

Her armament was two detachable side charges, each of two tons, which could cripple the largest ship. X-51 was used in the development of the 'Cudgel' nuclear mine. The programme was abandoned in 1956.

It would appear she was then laid up until June 1958 when she moved to Portsmouth prior to being transferred to the Royal Swedish Navy on 15/July/1958. After a refit and renamed 'Spiggen' ('Stickleback') she was then used for training purposes.
The submarine was presented to the Imperial War Museum by the Royal Swedish Navy in 1976.

X-51's surface displacement was 36 tons, and she was powered by a Perkins P6 6 cylinder 50 hp diesel engine and batteries.
Her maximum surface speed was 6.75 knots and 6 knots underwater.

The interior of Midget Submarine X-51 (below)


Basil Charles Godfrey Place was 22 years old and a lieutenant in the Royal Navy during the Second World War when the following deed took place and for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On 22 September 1943 at Kafjord, North Norway, Lieutenant Place, commanding Midget Submarine X.7, and another lieutenant (Donald Cameron) commanding Midget Submarine X.6, carried out a most daring and successful attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz.

The two submarines had to travel at least 1,000 miles from base, negotiate a mine-field, dodge nets, gun defenses and enemy listening posts. Having eluded all these hazards they finally placed the charges underneath the ship where they went off an hour later, doing so much damage that Tirpitz was out of action for months.

Part of the VC citation given in 1944 :
"In the course of the operation these very small craft pressed home their attack to the full, in doing so accepting all the dangers inherent in such vessels and facing every possible hazard which ingenuity could devise for the protection in harbour of vitally important Capital Ships."

The X.7 vessel was scuttled immediately following the Tirpitz attack, but only Place escaped before she sank. Of the remaining crew, Aitken escaped from the bottom of the fjord, but Whittam and Whiteley were unable to escape before their air gave out.

The Germany Navy later raised the stern of X7 for examination and testing, but could not find the rest of the vessel.

In 1974 divers in the fjord located the missing bow and battery section of the submarine in 49 metres of water. The remains of X7 (pictured) were successfully raised and given to the Imperial War Museum.


MTB 71 was laid down at Vosper's Broad Street, Camber Yard, Portsmouth on 28 July 1939, with the Vosper Yard Number 2019 and commissioned on 2 June 1940. Although Vosper give the hand over date as 5 June, she was not accepted by the Royal Navy until 2 July 1940. She then joined the 11th MTB Flotilla which was based at HMS Wasp at Dover under Dover Command. The craft however operated off station including from Portsmouth, on occasions.

On the 11 September 1940, MTB 71 was damaged including a fire in her wheelhouse, during an air attack and heavy bombardment of Dover. She was subsequently under repair at Whitstable for about four months which was completed on 9 January 1941.

According to a Portsmouth Command action report, on the night of 21/22 June 1941, she was off Etaples when there was an indecisive action where no torpedo targets were seen. MTB 71 sustained slight, superficial damage during the action with enemy escorts. A further action is recorded on the night of 23/24 July 1941, when units of the 11th MTB Flotilla were off Berck Buoy. A large enemy tanker in tow, escorted by three trawlers was intercepted. During the action MTB 71 was holed by a shell amidships below the waterline which resulted in the flooding of one compartment. She was out of action for about 2 months with repairs completed by the end of September 1941.

Following her repair MTB 71 joined the 1st MTB Flotilla in November 1941 and with a Royal Norwegian Navy crew between 10 November 1941 and 4 February 1942. The Flotilla was under the Nore Command and based at HMS Beehive at Felixstowe. During this period she had brief brush with German E-boats off Kwinte Bank.

MTB 71 was handed back to the Royal Navy in early February 1942. On the 12 February MTB 71 was involved in the search for the German raiders Scharnhorst, Gneisneau and Prinz Eugen as they passed through the Dover Straits. MTB 71 is noted as being damaged that day by shellfire and was then under repair for about six months. She was taken in hand on 24 February at Brightlingsea for damage repairs which were completed on 14 August 1942.

On 14 June 1943, MTB 71 was paid off by the RN and transferred to the War Department. She joined as a unit of 615 Water Transport Company, RASC whose HQ was at Portsmouth. There was a section at East Cowes where, along with MTB 72, MTB 71 was laid up under care and maintenance until early 1944. Due to shortages, and the fact that she was not in as good a condition as MTB 72, she was 'cannibalised' in order to provide spares for her RASC sister craft.

MTB 71 probably remained out of service until she was returned to the RN at HMS Hornet, Gosport on 8 September 1944. The hulk was subsequently sold by the Director of Small Craft Disposals at Itchenor to Mr Lake of Chichester on 14 August 1945. She was then acquired by Mr Cyril Pudney in 1947, renamed 'Wild Chorus', and moored at Birdham on the Chichester Canal.

Used as a house boat, some restoration was carried out. However, when Mr Pudney died in 1992 MTB 71 was acquired by Hampshire County Council in conjunction with Mr Watson's "MTB 71 Group" Charitable Trust.

She was gifted to the Imperial War Museum in April 2005.

The Vosper 60ft type were of traditional MTB hard chine form. They were constructed using frames of Honduras Mahogany with topside planking of double thickness mahogany. The bottom planking was of triple thickness mahogany.

Powered by twin Isotta Fraschini petrol engines each rated at 1,150 bhp at 1,800 rpm, the MTBs could attain a maximum speed of 39 knots and a steady cruising speed of 35 knots. Each carried about 1,500 gallons of fuel which gave them a range of 450 miles. MTB 71 had a crew of 2 officers and 8 men.

The craft were heavily armed with 2 x 18" Mark XI torpedoes in tubes, a twin 0.303" Lewis machine gun mount in a turret aft of the bridge, and 2 x single 0.303" Lewis machine guns on mountings over the torpedo tubes.

As with most craft of this size the armament varied during the war. The twin 0.303" Lewis MGs were later replaced by a twin 0.5" Mark V Fraser-Nash power operated turret with 0.5" Mark III Vickers machine guns and the single MGs over the tubes were later replaced by 0.303" Vickers, gas operated machine guns.

MTB 71 was initially fitted for Asdic and originally had provision for 4 x depth charges, later reduced to two. The craft was fitted with radar about 1942 when the bipod mast was removed and replaced by a pole mast fitted to starboard.

MTB-71 is completely demilitarised and gutted internally, as well as having replica torpedo tubes and gun turret. The wheelhouse is original, as are all the deck hatches. There are no propellers or rudders, and the lower chine has had the fibre-glass covering, applied in the 1970s, partially stripped off.

Externally, the boat is quite presentable, with a relatively new coat of paint and number. She sits on a multi-wheeled steel frame, with chocks to the undersides.


The Hawker Nimrod was a Carrier based single seat biplane that was introduced in 1932. Thirty of the Nimrod II type were built.
In September 1934 K3661 rolled off the production line and in December was delivered to No 2 Aircraft Storage Unit, Cardington. In October 1936 it went to No 47 Maintenance Unit, Sealand and later that month was sent abroad to Malta to No 802 Sqn, RAF Hal Far (also known as 'HMS Falcon' when in the service of the Royal Navy). The plane later returned to the UK. During its stay in Malta it suffererd two (repairable) accidents.

In May 1939 it was placed on Admiralty Charge with the Fleet Air Arm and subsequently delivered to Lee on Solent for storage. Official records stop at this point. (The Nimrod was replaced by more modern designs such as the Sea Gladiator by May 1939, before the start of World War II.)[

It was later moved to HMS Deadulus II (RAF Lympne) as ground instructional airframe and then to No 305 Sqdn Air Training Corps, Ashford, Kent. In 1972 substantial remains of K3661 were discovered in the local council dump in Ashford and these were donated to the RAF Museum and held at RAF Henlow.

In 1991 the remains were acquired by Mick Cookman when the RAF Museum storage facility at Henlow closed and in August of that year Aero Vintage Ltd became the new owner of K3661 which was minus a Kestral engine but which was later obtained from Canada.

In December 1992 the plane was registered as G-BURZ to Aero Vintage Ltd and restoration to flying condition started. In January of the following year the ownership was transferred to the Historic Aircraft Collection. In November 2006 the first flight following its restoration took place at Duxford.


The de Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth is a 1930s biplane designed by Geoffrey de Havilland and was operated by the Royal Air Force and others as a primary trainer. The Tiger Moth remained in service with the RAF until 1952 when many of the surplus aircraft entered civil operation.

Many other nations used the Tiger Moth in both military and civil applications, and it remains in use as a recreational aircraft. It is still occasionally used as a primary training aircraft, particularly for those pilots wanting to gain experience before moving on to other tailwheel aircraft, although most Tiger Moths have a skid.

Acknowledgement to CLASSIC WINGS DUXFORD for the following (edited) specific information :
This Tiger Moth was actually built by de Havilland themselves (many were sub-contracted out) with the construction number 82845 and the military serial number R4922. Initially delivered to 10 MU on 23 February 1940 it then went on to serve at 7EFTS right up to 27 July 1945 - virtually the end of the war. It says a great deal for the strength of the design to able to stand up to five years of continuous use in the hands of student pilots.

Ironically it had a major accident in 1949 but was repaired and sold to Wolverhampton Aviation in 1950, becoming G-APAO. Sold to the Wiltshire School of Flying in 1957 it metamorphosed into a Thruxton Jackaroo which was essentially a 4-seat Tiger Moth using the Tiger's wings, engine and tail assembly but a new, wider fuselage was fitted.

The plane flew in this guise until 1976 when it was rebuilt as a standard Tiger Moth, re-appearing at Newtonards (Northern Island) in 1981. Once again it was damaged (by floods) but rebuilt and flown regularly until 1991 when it went into storage.

It later re-emerged from a further overhaul at Rendcomb in 1994 from whence it came into (Classic Wings) care and repainted in the post war all-silver with yellow training bands colour scheme.

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