Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette – 040 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
A World War II Memory
Hewitt Elliott - Part 1 of 2 - The Flying Turtle
Vickers Wellington Mk. II bombers of No RAF No. 38 Squadron in Libya.
had to change my plans to get married (that is another story) since they wanted me to get ready to go right away after embarkation leave.
My crew and I arrived at a base in southern England and were equipped with tropical gear and
khaki uniforms and a brand new Wellington aircraft ,so new in fact that we had to put a number of flying hours on it in order to iron out the bugs. Our route was from the southern tip of England across the bay of Biscayne, which was patrolled by German long range aircraft, around
Spain and make landfall at Port Lyauti in Morocco, North Africa. After refueling and equipping the engines with sand filters we took off for Algeria which was to be our main base.
From our main base we were taken by truck to our squadron which was on an old lake bed in the desert with sand runways. All the "buildings" were tents of various sizes and the latrines were holes in the ground with a fence around them. Not a very inspiring site having left the comforts of England a couple of days ago. We even had to pitch our own tent which held four and was to be our home for an indefinite period. Water was a scarce commodity which had to be trucked in from a town about 10 miles away, Needless to say showers were few and far between until we were able to rig up a pump to a well built by the Germans (the previous owners).
The next day I was "introduced to my aircraft," a beat up dusty Wellington that had seen better days in contrast to the shiny new one I brought down (no doubt a senior officer had that). We "air tested" our new X for Xray and confirmed it was not in very good shape. A check of the records showed that it had suffered some damage on a previous operation and was very slow compared to other aircraft, however it did fly and the engines sounded good.
After a few raids over Italy it was confirmed that it was slow with a bomb load but seemed ok after we dropped our bombs and we could keep up with the rest of the squadron .I then suggested that we should take off a little earlier than everybody else in order to get there at the same time, The CO granted my request. My bomb aimer suggested we should name the aircraft the Turtle, We all agreed and had an "artist" on the squadron design and paint a picture of a turtle with wings carrying a bomb and the inscription "slow but sure." A picture of a bomb was added for each operation the aircraft made. The whole operation was such a success that after about 46 trips we decided that the "old lady" deserved the DFC so it was painted on her nose along with the bombs. It was pointed out later that the stripes on the DFC were angled the wrong way but I don't think the old lady would mind.
The Flying Turtle was retired when her engines were "time expired" and due for an engine change. After the war I heard a group of children commenting on a comic book about war exploits and about a flying turtle, Sure enough it was about my aircraft. A war correspondent that was covering the North Africa campaign heard the story and submitted it. Along with a couple of pictures.
Hope this is what you want, If not I will try again. Good luck on your project.
Ex F/L H. Elliott CD
This is Part II of Hugh Elliott's submisson to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum's Oral History Project. Having completed BCATP training in Canada and Britain and operations in a Wellington Bomber over Europe, Hugh and his crew face new challenges in Northern Africa.
This little story of the Flying Turtle begins in the spring of 1943 at the Wellington squadron in Yorkshire England. While on one of my leaves from the squadron the rest of my crew volunteered me to go to North Africa as a replacement crew for one the 3 squadrons that were already there for the Africa Campaign. Since the wheels were already in motion, I couldn't back out. This meant that I