Simanaitis Says

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WINSTON CHURCHILL had aviation adventures galore, including those occurring not long after the dawn of flight. Here, we pick up his air travels during World War II in 1942. Playing prominent roles were two converted aircraft, an American Consolidated B-24 Liberator and a British Avro Type 685 York, the latter envisioned with a bizarre fixture known as the Churchill Egg. Last, were there UFOs?


Consolidated B-24 Liberator Commando. This image and excellent commentary at Smithsonian Air & Space.

In summer 1942, Churchill needed to visit Cairo, Egypt, but a voyage through the Mediterranean was out of the question. Instead, the RAF chose a Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber, converted with its bomb bay doors welded shut, four rows of rudimentary seating installed and a berth of mattresses sharing space with the fuselage’s underwing fuel tanks. The berth was for Churchill; his staff slept in their seats. With the exception of the flight deck’s, all windows were removed.

The Liberator, christened Commando, was painted black for its stealthy night-time assignment.  The aircraft was piloted by William J. Vanderkloot, Jr., who had just delivered it across the Atlantic. An American, Vanderkloot had already logged more than a million miles, much of it in the RAF Ferry Command.

Vanderkloot and the Commando also transported Churchill to Moscow and Adana, Turkey; and later to the 1943 Casablanca Conference. Of Churchill’s visits to the flight deck, Vanderkloot recalled, “He’d have his scotch…. And always, he wanted his cigar. Fortunately, you could open a small blister window right beside each pilot’s seat and it would vent….”

Between 1941 and 1945 Churchill had a total of 16 high-level conferences in Casablanca; the Mediterranean island of Malta; Moscow; Quebec City, Quebec; Potsdam; Tehran, Iran; Washington, D.C.; and the Black Sea city of Yalta, Crimea. Most of these meetings involved his travel by air.


Avro Type 685 York Ascalon, Churchill’s personal transport after the Commando.

In 1944, the RAF switched Churchill’s transport to an Avro Type 685 York (its bomber version was the Lancaster). A prototype York was christened Ascalon (after St. George’s dragon-slaying lance). The aircraft included a telephone, wet bar, instrument panel and a large ashtray specifically designed for cigars. Unlike the Commando, the Ascalon had plenty of windows.

Because of Churchill’s age (turning 70 in 1944), heart trouble (mild attacks in 1941 and 1943) and general physical condition (all those cigars), doctors were wary of his flying above 8000 ft.


A proposed response to high altitude, Churchill’s age and his physical condition. Image from FlashBak.

A one-person pressure chamber was equipped with windows, telephone, ashtrays and an air-circulation system capable of countering Churchill’s ubiquitous cigar. Nicknamed the Churchill Egg, the gizmo was developed but never installed in Ascalon, nor in the Douglas C-54B that was Churchill’s next air transport.

It would seem hard to top the tale of a Churchill Egg, but there are actually two of them. Well, maybe “actually” is the wrong word.

According to Britain’s Daily Mail, August 5, 2010, Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower, U.S. General at the time, helped cover up a wartime encounter of an RAF aircraft and a UFO.


Was the RAF Mosquito trailed by a flying saucer?? Image from the Daily Mail.

It was late in World War II when an RAF Mosquito returning from a reconnaissance mission was intercepted by a strange metallic object. For a time, the object matched the Mosquito’s course and speed, then it accelerated and disappeared.

One of Churchill’s bodyguards at the time reported a discussion between Churchill and General Eisenhower. Neither could suggest a plausible account for the encounter, and Churchill is said to have concluded, “This event should be immediately classified since it would create mass panic amongst the general population and destroy one’s belief in the church.”

And, wait, there’s more. According to Bernews, March 10, 2013, the same two personages ignored a UFO circling Bermuda during that island’s 1953 Big Three summit.


No Martians were detected during this review of the troops during Churchill’s 1953 visit. Image from Bernews.

Prime Minister Churchill, then President Eisenhower and French Premier Joseph Laniel were meeting at the posh Mid Ocean Club. On December 3, an international news service cited a flying saucer circling the island. The UFO was described as a silvery yellow object, but appeared to arouse no concern among the meeting’s security officers.

In fact, the report concluded that Martians would not get into the Mid Ocean Club—even if they landed a fleet of flying saucers in Bermuda—“for the simple reason they have no proper passes and probably would arrive without dinner jackets.”

Well, that settles that. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2015

3 comments on “CHURCHILL’S FLIGHTS, PART 2

  1. Mark Carpenter
    May 25, 2015

    Your writing just gets better! Thank you. Mark Carpenter

  2. Bill Urban
    May 25, 2015

    Further to Casablanca and proper attire, this from The Last Lion, vol.3, Wm. Manchester and Paul Reid: After the news conference, WSC persuaded FDR to detour to Marrakech for a day of relaxation. “When Roosevelt left for home the next morning, Churchill accompanied him to the airfield dressed in velvet slippers and his green-and-gold-dragon dressing gown.” (!)

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