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From Pots and Pans to Planes and Back Again.

Today April 22nd 2022 is WORLD EARTH DAY. Earth Day is observed annually to celebrate the planet and encourage people to be more environmentally friendly. Every year more than one billion people get involved, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

  • Activities associated with the day often include:
  • Planting trees.
  • Raising awareness about recycling.
  • Volunteering for green projects.
  • Reducing the amount of energy people consume. 

These objectives of world Earth day bought to mind a story associated with my investigations into a Mosquito that crashed in my part of France.
Could it be the earliest example of recycling ever?

The Saucepans for Spitfires or Pots & Pans for Planes  campaign began in 1940 when an appeal for aluminium to make aircraft parts began
In May 1940, Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister of Aircraft Production, overhauled all aspects of war-time aircraft production, increasing production targets by 15%. Metal was in very short supply and so Lord Beaverbrook asked the WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service) to oversee a drive to collect metal. They enlisted help from wherever it was available and the call went out to collect saucepans, frying pans, colanders, tea trays, kettles, pot lids, shoetrees and any other scrap they could find that contained aluminum.

“During the war, with the other small boys, I was involved in collecting all forms of metal which included tins and also glass which had to be taken to a local site for recycling. “Saucepans for Spitfires” and railings that had been pulled out were also used. The War meant that by 1941, these resources were needed for the war effort, and this was my contribution, as a young boy, towards it.

Image Caption

Mervyn Monks

9 years old when war broke out on 3rd September 1939. He lived in Bristol.

Saucepans Into Spitfires

Aluminium Salvage in Britain, 1940 Metal workers wheel large barrows full of ingots of pure aluminium from a workshop, somewhere in Britain. In the background, huge piles of sacks of aluminium items can be seen, from which workers select further items for smelting.

1600 centres were set up throughout Britain as collection and storage centres for the metal. It is largely remembered as being a futile exercise with very little high-grade aluminium being gained from saucepans. However, it was considered a big success in terms of the moral boosting aspect and the efforts of the WVS and the subsequent smelting receiving publicity across allied countries.
As part of my investigations into a de Haviland Mosquito that crashed in a local forest near where I live in France, a piece was placed in the local paper. I pleaded for anyone with information of the whereabouts of any Mosquito parts to come forward. It seemed highly possible that pieces of the aircraft that crashed in 1944 were probably languishing around all but forgotten.
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I was delighted to receive my first piece, or pieces: 

2 aluminium discs that turned out to be inspection covers from within the undercarriage assembly. They were kindly donated by a relative of the mayor of Ternaud.

What was fascinating was that on one had been riveted a small piece of bakerlite. It was a makeshift handle since the finder had for many years used the two discs as saucepan lids.

Hence the Pots and Pand for Planes and Back Again.
A farmer, just 7 years old at the time of the crash, showed me an ancient rusting horse drawn plough lying in his barn. The two handles were clearly identifiable as Radius Cross Members, again from within the retracting undercarriage.

The schematic diagram below clearly shows their position within the retractable landing gear assembly. Whilst there are no identifiable marks; the location, design and precision of the boltholes and the engineering of the assembly show that they were defiantly not part of the original plough.
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Undercarriage Schematic

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Whilst so many events in this period of history were tragic, some were just incredible. Who would have thought that aluminum collected in England, to help build planes would end up being used, once again as a pan lid ... from whence it came.

#pathfinderrides is all about celebrating every aspect of Bomber Command and the impact it has had on our world today.

Happy Earth day everyone, and we hope to see you all the IBCC at the end of your Pathfinder Ride.