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      2019 Drive   05/31/2019

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    • By 33LIMA
      The prologue
      My second planned visit to an historical Battle of Britain site was to the Battle of Britain Bunker at Uxbridge, in London's western suburbs. This was the site of the Operations Room for Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park’s 11 Group, which bore the brunt of the Battle. The bunker was used for other purposes after the war but is now restored, close to its 1940 appearance, as the centrepiece of a museum run by the local council, Hillingdon. You can find the museum’s website here and background on the history of the bunker on Wikipedia, here. The Ops Room ‘played itself’ in the Battle of Britain film, in 1969. So as with Bentley Priory, my trip to Uxbridge ticked three boxes – seeing the movie location, visiting an important historical site from the Battle, and seeing the museum exhibits.
      Uxbridge, like Stanmore for Bentley Priory, is at the end of a Tube line, two in fact. I walked from the hotel to Leicester Square and took the Piccadilly Line out to Uxbridge, the last half or so running in the open. It’s a walk of maybe 20 minutes to the bunker, though the route is a little convoluted. I was even more pressed for time that day, so I hopped on a black cab at the taxi rank in front of the station for a c.5 minute door-to-door ride. I turned up shortly before opening, which is ten till four-thirty, with last admission an hour before. This gave me an opportunity to photograph the two ‘gate guardian’ replicas and the museum exterior.
       
      The visit
      This Spitfire IX, finished as 5R-E of 33, Squadron with ‘D-Day stripes’, is near the bunker entrance.
       
      This squadron has no particular connection with the Battle of Britain, having served in the Middle East until returning to operate with the 2nd Tactical Air Force supporting D-Day and later operations in NW Europe, ending up with Tempests. But it's a nice replica!
       
      By contrast, the Hurricane is very much at home here, being a Mk I, RF-E, in the colours of 303 (Polish) Squadron, which operated with great distinction during the Battle, from nearby RAF Northolt.

      Behind it, in a brick wall and just out of sight to the right in the photo below, is a green door leading to the back garden of the house in which 11 Group's Air Officer Commanding Keith Park lived during the Battle.

      The inexpensive tickets were purchased at the shop/reception area just inside the bright, modern exhibition centre.

      There is another building next to this which looks like a large blockhouse, partly camouflage-painted, whose function apparently was, and is likely still, to house and protect the generators used to provide power to the bunker. 

      Sadly, I didn’t have time, after my bunker tour, to see much of the exhibition centre, though I did get to take this picture while waiting for the tour to start. If you arrive between bunker tours, the exhibition, as well as the museum shop, provide plenty to do and see while waiting.

      I think my only company for the tour was a school group of well-behaved teenagers, Polish I think. The guide was a smartly turned out ex-NCO type, Ray, who started us off with the inevitable safety briefing, which included the fact that access was via 72 steps, down the original wartime stairway, to what was known to those who worked there as ‘the Hole’, sixty feet underground.
      The tour proper started, in front of the site’s small but imposing memorial to the role of the bunker, with a short history of the location. Apparently, these were the grounds of a ‘big house’ bought by the government and turned over to the Royal Flying Corps in WW1, after the locals had objected to its original intended use as a PoW camp. The bunker itself was built in the run-up to WW2 to replace the previous above ground one, to reduce vulnerability to air attack.

      This is the concrete-shrouded bunker entrance. Behind the blastproof steel door is a small guardroom complete with an RAF-uniformed mannequin guard, who looked rather bored.

      This is the view looking back the upper flight of steps from the landing onto the second flight, which leads on down at about right-angles.

      And here are some views of the Ops Room from ground level. With Ray delivering his informative spiel. One of the snippets of information from this relates to the map – the GSM, or General Situation Map. Apparently this was rolled up and stored somewhere else in the bunker when it was converted to other uses – a comms centre I think – for the Cold War. When eventually found for the restoration, it has deteriorated a bit and some trimming was required. However its general shape and appearance seem to be much as it was during the Battle. There are some wartime pics taken of it which show more location names, so perhaps there were different versions, even then.

      Here's some of the plot markers in close-up. The ones with one or two yellow flags denote friendly fighter squadrons, those without having the 'H' prefix which denotes them as a hostile raid. Apparently there were different styles of markers used at different periods.

      Similarly with the map, comparison with wartime photos suggests that there were also some detail differences with ‘the tote’ on the back wall – where a column using a row of coloured lights displayed the status of each squadron in each of 11 Group’s geographical Sectors. This was named after the UK’s former national horseracing betting shop chain, presumably from the resemblance to the typical ‘bookies’ display boards listing horses, courses, races and odds. Also on the tote, below the squadron status display, were separate ones for each sector indicating cloudbase height, cloud cover level and information on local balloon deployment. Along with the map, all the information is placed so as to be visible to the personnel looking down from the control dias.

      The map – covered in a transparent overlay which the British Army used to call ‘talc’, or perhaps it is glass or perspex - had some markings from D-Day, presumably because of the 75th anniversary. Usually, the aircraft markers on the table are laid out to show the tactical situation at the height of what became Battle of Britain Day, 15th September 1940.
      Ray’s talk described the operation of ‘the Dowding system’ (which seems to be a modern term, unused until recently) whereby ‘tellers’ would receive details by land line of friendly and enemy or unidentified formations from the Filter Room at Bentley Priory, passed on from the radar/RDF chain, the Observer Corps, and other sources, including the ‘Pip Squeak’ IFF system. ‘Plotters’ around the table would then place markers on the GSM and update them as more information came in, using trays of markers stored below the table edges and moving their ‘plots’ with (ideally) billiards cue-like rods with electromagnets on the end. As enthusiastically demonstrated by one of the other visitors!

      The Sector stations listed on the tote (which generally also had additional ‘satellite’ airfields to which one or more of their squadrons could be deployed) had their own control rooms, usually built on the actual airfield. The Group control room ran the battle, deciding which Sectors would intercept which raids and passing these instructions to the relevant Sector control room, which scrambled their fighters and directed them to the target.
      Looking backwards from the ground floor map, there’s a row of desks which were manned amongst others by (I believe) the ‘tellers’ who received plot details by land line before passing them onto the 'plotters' at the map table. Above their desks are the curved glass panels designed to give the Controller and his assistants, sitting at the upper level, a clear view of the map, regardless of lighting – if you take a flash picture from up there, Ray told us, you’ll see it doesn’t reflect on the glass and interfere with your view. I left my flash off throughout so as not to be a nuisance. The angled section of the upper level, to the left, is where you may remember Winston and Lady Churchill sat during their visit on Battle of Britain Day, as portrayed in the film, when Churchill asked Park what reserves he had, to be told 'None!'

      These are their desks viewed from the upper level; you can more clearly see the D-Day markings on the map from this angle.

      In describing fighter armament, Ray passed around three .303 rounds in a belt. I ended up with them last (before handing them back naturally!) and was surprised to see they were in non-disintegrating metal links. But I suppose these are less likely to come apart and get lost than the real disintegrating Prideaux links!
      The talk lasted for about three-quarters of an hour, after which we were ushered up to the upper level. I didn’t have much time left by this point, so what I had, I concentrated on the 11 Group controller’s area.
      In the upper right wall, next to the tote, is a rectangular glass panel that was installed after the Battle of Britain, to give VIP visitors ‘a room with a view’, not least King George VI who used it twice, apparently. In the foreground is the Duty Controller's station...

      …and this is the view while I was sitting in his chair. I managed to resist picking up one of the ‘phones and in a suitably authoritative voice, calling ’This is the 11 Group Controller. Ninety-two Squadron, intercept Hostile One Zero!’ But here I was, sitting exactly where many such an order was given, looking down at the GSM and the tote, just as the real Duty Controller did. A feeling to be savoured!

      In developing their justly-famous and long-lived sim, Rowan decided not quite to replicate the precise mechanics, but the feeling is uncannily similar. As I sat there looking down, I could almost hear the Rowan WAAFs, much as the real ones would have done, announcing politely but firmly ‘New raid detected…!’. Simulation and history met in my mind.
      But I had a date with a Premier Tours bus at Victoria (which I only just met). So I had to go back up those 76 steps without waiting for the rest of the party and without touring the exhibition area. The two gate guardians were of course waiting for me up there.


      My taxi driver had given me his card and was there within minutes to whisk me back to Uxbridge station for a train and tube ride back into central London. I’d had no time to peruse the museum shop so failed to pick up a copy of the book I was after there – the Haynes ‘workshop’ manual ‘Battle of Britain – RAF Fighter Command’ which ‘does what it says on the tin’ and has both wartime and modern photos of the bunker I’d just visited. Which I know, because I got a copy of the book the next day at the Imperial War Museum Lambeth, at a much reduced price to boot, on my last museum visit of my brief London break. So I’ll close these two museum visit reports with a photo of the real Spitfire on display at the IWM - despite the later-war camouflage and markings, R6915 is a real Mk Ia which flew and fought during the Battle of Britain.

      But there are more than ever Battle of Britain-related museums and sites to visit, and I fully intend to work my way through some more of them on future trips. It’s all rather wonderful that so many people have worked (and still work) so very hard, some as unpaid volunteers, to keep alive the history of the Battle. It's all the more vivid for being on display where it was actually fought. If you can make it to Uxbridge or Bentley Priory, they’re highly recommended. If you can't, well I hope these reports and the links in them will give you an idea of what you're missing!
      You can find more information about the Battle of Britain Bunker museum here:
      Website: http://battleofbritainbunker.co.uk/
      Friends (supporters) site: http://friendsof11group.co.uk/
    • By 33LIMA
      Flying a sortie in the RAF campaign

      This is my second mission report from my new (or at least, new-found) toy - A2A's Battle of Britain II - Wings of Victory. In case anyone's wondering, I didn't set out for them all to be called 'A bad day for...' - that's just how it's working out, so far. A bit of a give-away, or spoiler if you like, but I trust it won't last, and that future mission report titles will be a tad more cheerful.
      Anyhow now that I've made a start with a BoB2 campaign, I'm wondering why I didn't take to it years ago, when I first got Rowan's original, or A2A's remake. Especially since both are so much better with the BDG updates. Now, you can even play a more conventional campaign, as described in the comprehensive BoB2/BDG manual, which enables you to have a log book-carrying, squadron-based pilot persona. This uses the underlying dynamic campaign 'wargame' to generate your missions. But for now I'm doing a conventional BoB2 'commander' (not 'pilot') campaign. The main difference is that the commander version allows you to act as any and all of the Air Vice-Marshals commanding 10, 11 and 12 Groups, Fighter Command, plus jump in and fly any squadron scrambled or tasked to patrol, either on takeoff or on meeting the enemy. Also at other points but the latter is the most interesting, and enables the player to jump in just before the start of any air fight, in any of the aircraft in the squadron about to engage.   
      I opted to start at the beginning of the first phase into which the Battle is conventionally divided - the channel convoy phase, starting 10 July 1940, just after the fall of France. Among the many options, you can set things so that the AI Luftwaffe you will be facing starts the battle mainly by attacking British coastal convoys ('historical' tactics), or using 'optimal' ones - which likely involves going for more beneficial targets earlier, like your airfields or aircraft factories. I opted for 'historical' and as expected, ended up with the RAF campaign AI flying standing patrols to protect convoys, plus scrambling squadrons to intercept raids as they come in. This campaign AI presents you with 'directives' which set rules your deployed forces will follow, and allows you both to vary these or create your own. It also takes decisions on what and when to scramble, abiding by these directives. The BDG manual gives excellent, detailed and illustrated advice on how to do all this, but the AI is quite good for the RAF anyway. I opted to accept all the defaults and let the AI fight the Battle, so that all I had to do was wait for something to happen and then dive in to any action that developed. As each campaign day accelerates and decelerates time as needed, you are not kept waiting staring at the map for long. And even while you are, it's a not uninteresting experience; you can watch convoys moving, patrols orbiting, raids developing and squadrons scrambling, while listening to reports as they come in. 'Hostile seven zero one is now a hundred plus' sounds positively sinister, even though spoken softly in the polite tones of an invisible but obviously efficient and very possibly pretty virtual 1940s WAAF at the plotting table.

      Above is my campaign map near the end of the first of three sections the campaign day is broken into - morning, afternoon and early evening. The aforementioned raid Hostile 701 is near bottom right, returning to base after attacking Convoy Jaunty (authentic convoy and squadron reporting names are a feature), which is the grey ship marker in the Channel between the headlands at Beachy Head to the west and Dungeness to the east. The blue and white markers are RAF fighter squadrons, either the convoy's standing patrols or those scrambled as the raid came in and now heading home. During this raid I jumped in with 79 Squadron as the leader (the top right blue/white marker) when it intercepted Hostile 701. Here I am contemplating the incoming raid, from a not-terribly favourable position...

      ...and here I am dealing with a Messerschmitt 110 which objected to our presence...

      But this mission report is about a sortie I flew the following day, 11th July. A convoy had left the dangers of the channel behind and sought safety off the North Sea port of Felixstowe. Not so safe, as it turned out, for Luftflotte 2 decided to have a go at them. Once again, we were up against a raid reported as 'a hundred plus'. Being keen, I accepted the first offer of combat that the campaign AI offered me, for the first squadron to sight the enemy in the air. This was no less than 242 (Canadian) Squadron, commanded by no less than Squadron Leader Douglas Bader. BoB2 being the stickler for unit-level historical detail that it is, it was no surprise when I therefore found myself in the cockpit not only of a Hurricane, and not only of one bearing authentic squadron codes ('LE') with each aircraft in the squadron with its own unique individual aircraft letter; but my mount was no less than the boss's own machine, LE-D, with my blue and red leader's flash below my starboard cockpit and the unofficial unit emblem, Adolph getting a kicking, adorning the nose. My Corgi diecast 1/72 has the leader's flash on the opposite side, the mirror image A (camouflage) Scheme,  and is serial V7467 not P1966, but such minor details apart, BoB2's version is a pretty good replica.
       
        Would I do the illustrious pilot justice, whose flying boots this sortie had found me filling? Well, yes and no...
      ...to be continued!
    • By 33LIMA
      I finally come to grips with a classic, and realise what all the fuss is about!


      For some reason, train simulators do not make good subjects for combat reports.  Though getting into them at last has been a lot of fun, which together with stuff outside of sim-land have kept me from doing more than very casual air combat simming...until now. Hence the long gap in mission reports here at CombatAce.
      For World War 1, I'm back with First Eagles 2, not least for its combination of good looks, very wide scope when modded, many very good features, and being fast to get back into, thanks to some of those aformentioned good features.
      For World War 2, it was time for something I hadn't seriously tried before...which applies to more than it should of the titles I've accumulated over the years, the good, the not-so-good and the relatively awful - anyone else remember Nations - Fighter Command? Nice planeset, pity about the flight models...and a few other details.
      The recent launch of OBD's follow-on to Wings over Flanders Fields, namely the first installment of Wings over the Reich, got me interested anew in one of my pet subjects of many years, the Battle of Britain. But not sadly in WotR, due to issues like very small German raids, limited comms including little or nothing from ground controllers (big raids and ground control should really be de rigeur for any self-respecting simulation of the Battle) and various lesser niggles, like some unmilitary scripting of what R/T traffic there is.
      I still have European Air War on my system but while it covers the Battle, it's only fired up for very occasional nostalgia trips, these days. I actually moderately enjoyed the Warbirds-based History Channel Battle of Britain - ok it's not one of the greats, but as well as flying a reasonably historical mission-set campaign in many BoB types, you can shoot at the ones with crosses from a destroyer's Oerlikon Gun....

      And of course, I have played some missions from the Battle in modded Il-2 '46, this one being from the Spitfire Scramble campaign...

      But I have so far not invested in IL-2 Cliffs of Dover, with its strange planeset, strange-looking landscapes and most of all, limited single player content - coupled with high system requirements for what there is
      So I decided it was time to make a serious effort to get into Rowan's Battle of Britain (I still have the original boxed version, printed manuals and all). Or rather its more recent incarnation, A2A formerly Shockwave's Battle of Britain II - Wings of Victory, or BoB2 to its friends - who naturally include the Battle (of Britain) Development Group, who have done a great job ironing out wrinkles and adding features in a series of patches.
      Despite making my own map-based Battle of Britain wargame in the 1970s, I never more than dabbled in BoB or BoB2. Not so much because of niggles like planes in close formation sort of jiggling at times, more because I wanted a conventional pilot career, not a combat sim within a wargame. Having since tried that approach with tanks in Steel Armour Blaze of War and found it not unrewarding, I decided it was time to give BoB2-WoV a serious go.
      And so I discovered two things. First that all the good things they say about BoB2 are true, notably that it captures the Battle like no other sim before or since. In other sims, a German raid might be a staffel, so you're fighting the Minor Skirmish of Brtiain. In BoB2, a raid is typically and realistically at least a gruppe in strength - 20-30 bombers, like these boys from I Gruppe, Kampfgeschwader 54, on their way to knock the spots off Portland Naval Dockyard, with II Gruppe for company and a large close escort of Bf110s. The latter about to be hit from behind by the Brylcreem Boys of the RAF.


      My second, less welcome discovery was  that I'd chosen a bad time to make the first discovery - having just got a replacement PC with Windows 10, which is fine with about every other sim I've tried it with, but with which BoB2 suffers CTDs when ending a mission, and sometimes earlier.
      However, I have been able to play many training, historical and campaign missions up to the end, and so pleased am I with the experience that I plan a dual boot drive with Win 7. So that I can get proper debriefings and not have to re-start crashed campaign games every time I take to the air in one. And spend more time enjoying the authentic 1940s southern England landscapes and scenery, recreated with extreme attention to detail. For example the first time I saw Brighton Pier on a test flight in a Hurricane, I thought the 3d model had a problem, the pier head being unconnected with the coast. Then I remembered...they disconnected pier head from land during the invasion scare of 1940, so as not to provide the expected visitors with convenient ad hoc jetties.

      The graphics aren't stellar - there are no dynamic shadows for example - but they are still pretty good. What still sets BoB2's visuals apart is more of that attention to detail. For example, aircraft not only carry accurate camouflage patterns, and the proper squadron codes (JX seen above is No.1 Squadron), but Spits and Hurris have realistic variations, including different fin flashes and undersurface treatments. And the weathered Dark Earth and Dark Green 'shadow shading' RAF day fighter camouflage is to my eye more authentic than the efforts of the flashier competitors. I'm not sure how, but the rather blurry aircraft textures I recall from the first time I installed BoB2-WoV are now sharp and satisfying, complete with readable stencils. Notably, the air-to-air AI is the best (most human-like) I have ever encountered, the flight models feel good (including controls becoming heavier at high speeds). The radio traffic is simply best of breed, complete with the use of authentic radio codes and, it seems, also realistic radio voice procedure, for both sides. Planes rattle like they should when near the stall (I have in front of me a Spit Mk1 Pilot's Notes facsimilie and it describes just that '...there is a violent shudder and clattering noise throughout the aeroplane'), there are clickable cockpits if you like to fiddle with knobs, and as well as flying the four major fighters, you can also go dive-bombing in a Stuka or man and switch between nose, dorsal and ventral gun positions on the three types of German twin-engine bombers. 
      Which is what I'm doing in the mission featured in this report - one of the included historical missions, the major Luftwaffe raid on the Filton aircraft factory near Bristol, on 25th September 1940. This caught out Fighter Command's 10 Group, who had deployed their interceptors to defend the Westland works at Yeovil, instead. As the mission intro describes, this let the attackers in unmolested and probably doomed many of the 200-plus victims who died when the raid hit its real target (my parents-to-be were in a city badly bombed by Goering's boys, and I well remember the 'bomb sites' in the streets where I was brought up, where gaps in rows of houses still marked the effects of the raids; so I don't say any of that lightly, lest anyone think otherwise).
      I could have opted to fly on any plane making, escorting or belatedly trying to catch the raid. But I opted to fly as an air gunner on the lead He111 of the second attacking gruppe, I/KG55. We had about fifteen aircraft - by mid September, some bomber gruppen were well below strength: the morning raid on London on Battle of Britain Day, 15th September, consisted of just 25 Dorniers which it took two gruppen to put up, an incredibly small number even allowing they were essentially lockvogel, bait to lure up 'the last fifty Spitfires'.
      Anyhow, here we are approaching Bristol, having just flown through a noisy but for now, ineffective flak barrage. As I was soon to find out, enjoying the ride, taking pics like a good war correspondent and actually defending my aircraft, did not mix terribly well.

      ...to be continued!
    • By Steve T


      View File Udet Rescue Bouy and S7-S13 Class E-boat for SF2 WW2 Battle of Britain Installs
      "Udet-Seenotbojen" or Udet Rescue Bouy and S7-S13 Class E-boat for SF2 WW2 Battle of Britain Installs
       
      To install, copy the included Objects, Effects, Missions and Sound folders into your MOD folder and make the INI file edits described below. If you already have an E-boat in your ground objects, back it up. If you don't want a high poly E-boat model, maybe just install the Udet-bouy. Tested in a WW2 Install based on SFNA patched to June 2012 Level. You can also slip the E-boat into your Euro WWII as it is a ground object, same goes for the Udet-bouy but you will not be able to use the custom Target placement as this has been written for the Battle of Britain Terrain.
       
      All users should be prepared for longer load times as the E-boat model weighs-in at around 5.6 MB despite my poly-crunching and pruning -- the original was MUCH bigger this! If you want a smaller model, try copying and renaming LOD2 to LOD1 -- you will be missing crew, dingies and torpedos but have a smaller, but still big, file.
       
      Talking of the original, the base model that I've imported into SF2 is a fantastic 3DS Max model by Alvaro Alves of De Espona 3D Models and is released as a creation here under a Royalty Free License. The version here is very heavily edited and with mostly new textures.
       
      The Udet-bouy is my own creation.
       
      This started out as a small project to learn 3DS Max by making a low poly Udet-bouy but it kind of got out of control! So, a LOT of work for such a little object and it's big brother but worth it I think. If you're a 109 pilot with a damaged engine limping back to France, try a belly landing next to an Udet-bojen and then swim for it!
       
      Hope you like it,
       
       
      Steve T.
       
      February 2014
      Submitter Steve T Submitted 02/28/2014 Category Patrol Craft  
    • By Steve T
      "Udet-Seenotbojen" or Udet Rescue Bouy and S7-S13 Class E-boat for SF2 WW2 Battle of Britain Installs
       
      To install, copy the included Objects, Effects, Missions and Sound folders into your MOD folder and make the INI file edits described below. If you already have an E-boat in your ground objects, back it up. If you don't want a high poly E-boat model, maybe just install the Udet-bouy. Tested in a WW2 Install based on SFNA patched to June 2012 Level. You can also slip the E-boat into your Euro WWII as it is a ground object, same goes for the Udet-bouy but you will not be able to use the custom Target placement as this has been written for the Battle of Britain Terrain.
       
      All users should be prepared for longer load times as the E-boat model weighs-in at around 5.6 MB despite my poly-crunching and pruning -- the original was MUCH bigger this! If you want a smaller model, try copying and renaming LOD2 to LOD1 -- you will be missing crew, dingies and torpedos but have a smaller, but still big, file.
       
      Talking of the original, the base model that I've imported into SF2 is a fantastic 3DS Max model by Alvaro Alves of De Espona 3D Models and is released as a creation here under a Royalty Free License. The version here is very heavily edited and with mostly new textures.
       
      The Udet-bouy is my own creation.
       
      This started out as a small project to learn 3DS Max by making a low poly Udet-bouy but it kind of got out of control! So, a LOT of work for such a little object and it's big brother but worth it I think. If you're a 109 pilot with a damaged engine limping back to France, try a belly landing next to an Udet-bojen and then swim for it!
       
      Hope you like it,
       
       
      Steve T.
       
      February 2014
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