Legendary World war Two Halifax bomber F for Freddy is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its first mission.
On the night of 30 March 1944, Halifax bomber LV907 rolled down the runway at RAF Lissett, where the 158 Squadron was based, and hurled itself into the sky for the first of 128 successful operational sorties.
No other Halifax flew more missions - so it is little wonder that the aircraft is sometimes referred to as the Unbeaten Warrior.
At the controls was Flight Sergeant Joe Hitchman. It should have been his rest period, but he had been called in for the raid on Nürnberg (Nuremburg).
The crew included Rear Gunner Wilfred Tunstall, who was the first man aboard the aircraft on the first mission.
Bomber Command lost 100 aircraft with seven men per aircraft on that fateful night.
But LV907, assigned to Pilot Officer Clifford Smith and his crew, made it home and was later christened “Friday the 13th”.
The ‘unlucky’ name was a black humour attempt to break the jinx of seven successive Halifax bombers bearing the registration letter F that the squadron had lost, and may partly have been due to the lucky turn of fate it had for Joe Hitchman, who has been due to fly with another aircraft which was lost during the sortie.
Friday the 13th was adorned with a skull and crossbones motif, plus upside down horseshoe and grim reaper scythe decals, which it carried for the rest of its operational life.
Bomb symbols, yellow for night ops and white for daylight raids, were added later.
A key denoted the aircraft’s 21st mission and a cannon firing marked the eve of the D-Day landings, when the Halifax was involved in an attack on a huge German gun Battery at Grand Camp Maisy.
On that raid, it flew alongside Halifax bombers flown by the newly formed French 346 “Guyenne” Squadron, based at RAF Elvington, on their very first mission.
The original “Friday the 13th” was displayed in Oxford Street, London, as part of the Victory celebrations, but then it was unceremoniously scrapped at the Handley Page operated York Aircraft Repair Depot at Clifton airfield, where many Halifax bombers had been repaired after suffering battle damage.
Museum spokesman, Ian Richardson said: “The project to recreate this legendary aircraft was started in 1986, soon after the Museum’s formation, and work is still going on. However, standing as a tribute to all air and ground crews of Bomber Command, it draws visitors from all over the world”.