Wartime Civilian Caterpillar Club Badge

£1,775.00

and a Man’s Life in Aviation Test Engineer who test flew in the Pressurised Wellington, the Dambuster Lancaster and with Pathfinder Founder Air Vice Marshal Don Bennett.

Arrested when landed near Larkhill - dressed in Civvies

Arrested when landed near Larkhill – dressed in Civvies

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Wartime Civilian Caterpillar Club Badge

Currently Researching one of our latest acquisitions.  We invite offers whilst we research the group.

call Jonathan Godwin – 07765 595662 or email ttandm4h@outlook.com

Direct from the immediate family of the recipient we are evaluating the Award, Papers, Documents, Books, Ephemera and most importantly, copious photographs of a Civilian member of the Caterpillar Club.

One Man’s Life in Aviation spans the career of Thomas Middleton Test Engineer, with the A. & A. E. E. at Felixstowe, Helensburgh and mainly Boscombe Down and his subsequent service in early Civil airline aviation at British South American Airways (with “Pathfinder” Don Bennett) and B.O.A.C.

Caterpillar Club

The Caterpillar Club was founded by Leslie Irvin of the Irvin Airchute Company of Canada in 1922. It was an association of those who had had their life saved by successfully bailing out of a disabled aircraft.

Ephemera

Thomas Sivewright Middleton was a Technical Engineer for the Ministry of Supply who was based at the Aircraft and Armament Equipment Establishment at Boscombe Down on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, UK.

Whilst at Boscombe Down he served, additionally, in the Home Guard. See rare photo of his Unit which unusually has the names of each individual.

8th Battalion Wiltshire Home Guard

8th Battalion Wiltshire Home Guard

He bailed out of a stricken Stirling III that was being tested. The pilot ordered the evacuation of the aircraft when it caught fire. The pilot, who later died in another air incident, remained on board to crash land the plane.

Log Book Bale Out entry

Log Book Bale Out entry

Thomas Middleton landed near Larkhill Camp on Salisbury Plain and was promptly arrested as a Spy because he was wearing civilian clothes. The Pilot was a Polish Air Force officer. There is more about Lieutenant (Porucznik) STANISLAW FRANC RIESS, later killed in an air accident, below.

His Log Book covers his service with both the A&AEE and with ealy testing with British South American Airways.

BSAA Proving Flight entry with Air Vice Marshal Pathfinder Don Bennett.

BSAA Proving Flight entry with Air Vice Marshal Pathfinder Don Bennett and incredibly rare Crew List.

As the vendor, Thomas Middleton’s son puts it “one man’s history in Aviation”.

Air Vice Marshal Pathfinder Don Bennett

Thomas Middleton with Air Vice Marshal Pathfinder Don Bennett, British South American Airways Management

Thomas Sivewright Middleton was the 3rd son of William and Mary Middleton. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne August 1919. He died in Barnstaple 1986. His 2 brothers were sent to India to continue family business and Thomas remained behind, a decision influenced by his uncle Lord Catto of Caincatto. This influential and famed uncle had much influence on the family due to the loss of their father in an industrial accident before Thomas was born.
Thomas took an apprenticeship at Swann Hunters shipyard, Newcastle. Having completed this he later returned to the shipyards to become involved in Flying Boats. Thus began his career as an Aeronautical Engineer.
His first employment was with the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Felixstowe. For security reasons the base moved to Stranraer, then on to Helensburgh. He later moved to Martlesham Heath then on to Boscombe Down.

Test Pilots and Engineers Boscombe Down Mess

Test Pilots and Engineers Boscombe Down Mess. Thomas Middleton circled

He specialised in Fuel Consumptions and the general; performance of aero engines. It is known that he ran tests for fuel consumption of wo particularly interesting projects -The modified Lancaster for the Dam Busters Raid and the High-Altitude Pressurised Wellington Bomber. Notes from verbatim accounts from father to son record –
When the Lancaster arrived at Boscombe it had all the modified bomb bay covered in wood sheeting which caused no end of problems from drag but no one was allowed near to this aeroplane unless running test flights, an armed guard being placed around it at all times. His Log Book records flights in February 1945 in Lancaster PB592/G.

Log Book cover
The Wellington was a frightening device, having a pressurised tube within. Everyone entered via a round hatch which was bolted closed. There was no way to get out and the poor pilot had a tiny dome on the top . It was regarded as a death trap.

The Pressurised Wellington

The Pressurised Wellington

Thomas Middleton left the Ministry of Supply to take a post with the Don Bennett of Pathfinders Fam in the set up of British South American Airways. Bennett had asked Middleton to join him in the new airline set up to set out the new routes with modified Lancasters and Yorks and the new Avro Tudor.

PHOTOGRAPHS – total circa 300

3 photo scrap books

3 scrap books of photos from his Official photographer friend. No. 3 is devoted to Flying Boats and Seaplanes.

Scrap Book #1 x 44 Scrap Book #2 x 141 Scrap Book #3 x 95 Some of the images are uncut on sheets of 2 or 4. Plus loose Photos – circa 20 – Total circa 300 photographs

Information supplied by John Middleton, son of Thomas, regarding the photograph at the bottom of this section, of the low flying Tudor..

Now.. that photograph is of an Avro Tudor 2. This was going to be the British airliner that would pave the way into the future. Sadly, the Tudor was designed as a tail dragger unlike the new airliners it was up against, such as the Douglas DC-4 which had a tricycle undercarriage. The Tudor was too little too late, although many of the few Tudors built in different configurations went on to be used for freight by minor airlines for quite some years. The irony of the main passenger aircraft chosen for the immediate post war years for BOAC, was an aircraft using a Douglas DC-4 but powered by Rolls Royce Merlin engines, just as the Tudor was. This aircraft was built up by a Canadian company and called the Argonaut by BOAC.

You can see from later photographs of Tudors amongst the photographs in the scrap books that the tail fin is much larger, this shows the photograph you sent to me is of a very early aircraft.

Roy Chadwick was the chief designer at Avro, being responsible for  many aircraft including the Lancaster. After the war, he designed Britain’s first pressurised airliner, the Tudor, based around the Lancaster-derivative, the Lincoln, though few were built and also the Avro Shackleton in 1946. His final involvement with Avro was overseeing the initial designs of the Vulcan from 1946. He died on 23 August 1947 in a crash during the takeoff of the prototype Avro Tudor 2 G-AGSU from Woodford aerodrome, in the vicinity of Shirfold Farm. The accident was due to an error in an overnight servicing in which the aileron cables were crossed. The photograph was taken the day before the crash.

w In which Roy Chadwick died next flight

Aircraft Designer Roy Chadwick, who’s brainchild was the Vulcan Bomber, died in the below aircraft the day after this photograph was taken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newspaper Extracts and Reports
1) The Aeroplane, January 11th 1946 – B.S.A.A. Proving Flights to South America
2) Newspaper photograph of Thomas Middleton, Ministry of Supply with Air Vice Marshal D C T Bennett founder of the Pathfinders with Frank Davies and J Kenny.
3)
4) Extracts from The Daily Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica July 1947. The Daily Express, Kingston, Jamaica, July 1947. The Trinidad Guardian, July 1947. The Port of Spain Gazette, July 1947. These report the arrival of the Proving Flight of B.S.A.A. Thomas Middleton was responsible for the Official Report (Ministry of Supply) of this historic flight.

Middletons Calypso

Middletons Calypso

5) Copy of the B.O.A.C Official Calypso, 1949 written for and in honour of Thomas Middleton for their Weekly Calypso Programme at Port of Spain. A 3 month deployment to the West Indies turned into a 1 year stay. Middleton was highly thought of professionally and with the locals.
6) The Sunday Express, 8th November 1970 – The Mystery of the Star Ariel. 2 page report.
7) The Evening News, 14th July 1939 – Report on the arrival, at Felixstowe, of the first trans-Atlantic flight of a Bomber Flying Boat.

Reports and Tests
1) B.O.A.C. 1949 Operations Standing Order – YORK AIRCRAFT.
2) Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment, A. & A.E.E. Boscombe Down – dated 1947 – Report to the Ministry of Supply titled Tudor IV G- AHNJ – 4 Merlin 621s Tropical Test in the West Indies.
3) British South American Airways report by Middleton dated 1949 – Tropical Tests on YORK Mk. III. MC4 Aircraft ID G-ACNU
4) B.O.A.C. 1950. Report by T S Middleton – Sealand Tropical Trial.
5) British South American Airways Anti-Merger Committee – a resume of discussion held between Committee and Representative Members of House of Commons on April 5th 1949.
6) Rhumb Line Distances

Official report on Handling Trial of the Marauder F.K. 111

Official report on Handling Trial of the Marauder F.K. 111

7) A & A.E.E. Boscombe Down- Official report on Handling Trial of the Marauder F.K. 111 1942 – 1943. With photographs.
8) Summary report on THE WHIRLWIND.

2 small photographs Star Lion at Trinidad

2 small photographs Star Lion at Trinidad

Pamphlets.
1) British South American Airways – Newsletter 1949.
2) British South American Airways – Passengers’ Flight Information Booklet
3) British South American Airways – BSAA Starliner Route Map x 2
4) British South American Airways – Night Stop Arrangements Card
5) British South American Airways – Information for Passenger booklet. (N.B. note inside states – If desired oxygen masks may be obtained when if flight from the Stargirl.
6) B.O.A.C. Newsletters x 2 – October 1949 and June 1950
7) B.O.A.C. across the Atlantic by Speedbird constellation, in-flight leaflet.
8) Text of the Proving Flight of the Tudor IV over the North Atlantic on which Middleton flew. – BSAA Newsletter 1948

Technical References, Booklets

Ephemera

1) Rolls Royce Performance Data for Merlins Mks 622, 623, & 624
2) 1948 H.M.S.O. Aviation Meteorology of South America, Meteorological Reports No 1.
3) 1948 H.M.S.O. Interim Report of the Committee of Enquiry into The Tudor Aircraft.
4) Ministry of Supply – A & A.E.E. Boscombe Down Technical Guide. – Methods of Planning, Reduction and Analysis of Flight Tests. Belonged to Thomas S. Middleton.
5) Detail Stressing of Aircraft by G. F. Wallace. Session 1938-39.
6) Cambridge University Press Four-Figure Tables.
7) Rolls Royce Limited Publication – Altitude Data and Correction Factors.
8) Rolls Royce Limited Publication – Conversion Tables
9) 2 R.A.F. War Edition Maps – Sheet 6 – Eastern Counties (N) – Sheet8 – Strait of Dover.
10) Trigonometry For Seamen – By John Macnab Lieut. R.N.R. (inscribed CATTO)
11) British South American Airways British War Office Map 1942 of the Atlantic Ocean with the Route clearly identified.
12) Spoof “Official” flight test report of a Lancaster II whereby Dare Devil Pilots and Cool Headed Scientists see Position Error. Tom Middleton is specifically named in this “report

“.

An extract covering the incident involving Middleton earning his Caterpillar Club Badge is as follows from:

A&AEE Report No. 760
The Case of the Disappearing Halifaxes
The test programme began on 4 February 1943, when W7917 took off from Boscombe Down with Unwin on board. The pilot on this latest test flight was Flt. Lt. S. Reiss, a Pole serving with the RAF, who had been with the A&AEE for some time. The crew was completed by the flight engineer, Sgt. Fielding. Reiss was, as one would expect, an experienced pilot; his total hours were in excess of 1,640 and he had, whilst acting as a Boscombe Down test pilot, enjoyed something of a charmed life, surviving two crashes the previous year. The first had been on 17th August I942, when the nose-wheel of a B-24 Liberator (AL505) collapsed on
landing. Three weeks later (6th September) Reiss was involved in a much more serious incident, when a fire broke out in the starboard outer engine of a Stirling III (R9309) which he was flying. The flight engineer found he could not extinguish the blaze, which began to spread alarmingly; Reiss then gave the order for the crew to bale out, which they did without injury, and then Reiss courageously attempted to perform the first duty of a test pilot: to bring the aircraft safely down, if at all possible. Unfortunately, when approaching Boscombe Down, the aircraft became uncontrollable, crashing into a wood on Porton Ridge. Reiss was very lucky to escape with broken ribs.
To return to the flight of Halifax W7917. It took off from Boscombe at a recorded all up weight of 50,000 lb, with the stated intention of investigating rudder overbalance. Just what happened on the flight is conjecture, for when at an altitude of 12,000 ft, according to the official report, it: ‘was seen to dive and [then] pulled out in a shallow turn which terminated in a flat spin in which condition it struck the ground. The airframe broke into three sections, the front section consisting of the portion forward of the trailing edge of the wings catching fire on impact. All three occupants were killed immediately.’
A full investigation of the wreckage at the crash site, a field two miles north-east of Sutton Scotney, near Winchester, revealed that the top half of one of the rudders had broken away in flight. This was attributed by the investigators to the rudders overbalancing with such force that one had fractured, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable. As a result of the crash of W79l7, witnessed by competent observers on the ground, any lingering doubts as to the reason for the mounting Halifax accidents were now dispelled.
Regarding the Pilot of the Stirling R9309 “Nicky the Pole” Flight Lieutenant RIESS The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Remembers with Honour Lieutenant (Porucznik) STANISLAW FRANC RIESS, Service Number P/76665, Died 04/02/1943, Aged 34, Polish Air Force. He is Remembered With Honour at Durrington Cemetery, Wiltshire near Larkhill.
Thomas Middleton had fond memories of Lt Reiss, who was otherwise known as “Nicky the Pole”. Reiss was known as being particularly brave and his favourite pastime was reputed to be standing in the rear of and open-topped Alvis driven at speed whilst he shot rabbits on the grass runway at Boscombe Down.
Notes from the son of T S Middleton record that rabbit was always on the menu in the Sergeants Mess. Contraband also arrived at the Mess from the other means, notably in the belly of a Rolls Royce Merlin engine that had been stripped out to carry goods. A returned engine from the Azores had an illicit consignment of a dozen bottles of rum. Customs inspections never detected illicit booze-running until an engine was dropped whilst being offloaded from a York Freighter and bottles smashed, giving the game away .

           

A Son’s Notes
Thomas Sivewright Middleton was the 3rd son of William and Mary Middleton. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne August 1919. He died in Barnstaple 1986.
His 2 brothers were sent to India to continue family business and Thomas remained behind, a decision influenced by his uncle Lord Catto of Caincatto. The uncle had much influence on the family due to the loss of the father in an industrial accident before Thomas was born.
Thomas took an apprenticeship at Swann Hunters shipyard, Newcastle. Having completed this he later returned to the shipyards to become involved in Flying Boats. Thus began his career as an Aeronautical Engineer.
His first employment was with the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Felixstowe. For security reasons the base moved to Stranraer, then on to Helensburgh. He later moved to Martlesham Heath then on to Boscombe Down.
He specialised in Fuel Consumptions and the general; performance of aero engines. It is known that he ran tests for fuel consumption of wo particularly interesting projects -The modified Lancaster for the Dam Busters Raid and the High-Altitude Pressurised Wellington Bomber. Notes from verbatim accounts from father to son record –
When the Lancaster arrived at Boscombe it had all the modified om bay covered in wood sheeting which caused no end of problems from rag but no one was allowed near to this aeroplane unless running test flights an armed guard being placed around it at all times.
The Wellington was a frightening device, having a pressurised tube within. Everyone entered via a round hatch which was bolted closed. There was no way to get out and the poor pilot had a tiny dome on the top . It was regarded as a death trap.
Thomas Middleton left the Ministry of Supply to take a post with the Don Bennett of Pathfinders Fam in the set up of British South American Airways. Bennett had asked Middleton to join him in the new airline set up to set out the new routes with modified Lancasters and Yorks and the new Avro Tudor.
Air Ministry Photograph of Spitfire X 4330 and one other in flight. Internet search reveals the following – X4330 was first flown on 31 August 1940. A bit more than a month later (14 October 1940) it was destroyed in a crash landing at base. Certain distinctive features in its camouflage and markings – uniformly Sky’ coloured undersurfaces with ‘A’-type roundels, black spinner and no fuselage band – are secure proof of the relevant time frame.

w 6
‘Aeromaster’ claims on its decaling instructions that this Spitfire was flown by the British Ace of Aces, James Edgar ‘Johnnie’ Johnson.
As ‘Johnnie’ Johnson spent nearly the whole of September to December 1940 in hospital recovering from shoulder surgery, his flying hours in this Spitfire must have been rather limited. His real career as a most outstanding fighter pilot and officer started in January 1941, when he was back on duty and X4330 probably long dismantled for any re-usable spare parts.
Finally: ‘Camouflage and Markings’ claims that X4330, QJ-G, belonged to No. 92(F) Squadron, which is wrong. There has always been confusion about Spitfires marked QJ, as this code was at least temporarily used by both 616 and 92 Squadrons. Conclusions are virtually impossible from the photo alone, unless the serial number is visible.

British South American Airways Items. These are extremely rare pieces and items of ephemera.

BSAA Headed Paper

BSAA Headed Paper – the last sheet?

Incredibly rare lapel pins.

Incredibly rare lapel pins.

BSAA brooch makers mark

BSAA brooch makers mark

Ephemera

No images to be reproduced with consent

call Jonathan Godwin – 07765 595662 or email ttandm4h@outlook.com