The wartime fate of Polish Super Electras has not been fully revealed yet.
Wikipedia gives only a few lines of the text on this subject: “During the 1939 defensive war, all Lockheed Electra planes were mobilized by the Polish Army and made courier and supply flights. Then four of them were evacuated to Romania, where they were interned. One machine was interned in Tallinn, Estonia. The remaining three planes of this type (SP-BPM, SP-LMK and SP-BNF) were evacuated to France, where they served as liaison planes for Polish diplomacy. The SP-BPM was destroyed during the German attack on France in June 1940, and the SP-LMK and SP-BNF flew to Great Britain. There it was planned to convert them into planes for the “Cichociemni” (“dark’n’silent”) airdrops, but eventually the idea was abandoned and both machines took over the BOAC lines. ” Well, not everything was probably exactly this way…
A little more can be found at the website samolotypolskie.pl:
“In 1938, in preparation for the war, a project of arming the L-14H aircraft was developed. However, the aircraft were not converted.
After the outbreak of the war, in the first days of September 1939, L-14H planes performed a number of courier flights for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Stockholm, Helsinki, Budapest and Bucharest. Four planes (SP-BNH, SP-BPK, SP-BNE, SP-BPL) were evacuated on September 1-6, 1939 to Romania. As the planes located in Romania were interned, the management of PLL “LOT”, in order to recover some of them, made a fictitious sale of L-14H (and Lockheed L-10A, Junkers Ju-52 and Douglas DC-2) to British airlines Imperial Airways, giving them English registration marks. However, as a result of pressure from the German embassy in Bucharest, the planes were not returned. After a few months, they were taken over by the Romanian communication aviation. One L-14H (SP-BPN) was interned in Estonia on September 4, 1939. In the years 1939-1940 it was used by the Estonian military aviation as available. In turn, captured by the Soviet air force, it was crashed in Riga in October 1940 during its take-off to Moscow.
On September 4, 1939, three Lockheeds L-14H from PLL “Lot” landed in Helsinki: SP-BNF, SP-BPM and SP-LMK. All three Lockheeds later flew to Britain. The first two of them served from February 1940 in the English military transport in France and took part in the evacuation of troops from France in 1940. SP-BPM did not return from France to England. At the request of the aviation commander, General J. Zając, who wanted the L-14H to be used for courier flights from France to Poland, in the spring of 1940, SP-BNF was withdrawn from France and handed over to the English company Airwork General Trading in Heston for rebuild. The plane was armed with 2 Browning machine guns and 2 Vickers K machine guns and two fuel tanks with a total capacity of 600 liters were added. The conversion was not completed before the surrender of France in June 1940. As such flights from England were unrealistic, the plane was restored to its initial state. The SP-LMK and SP-BNF planes were taken over by the British BOAC airlines. One of them was canceled in February 1946. SP-BNF was put in 1946 at the disposal of the Polish authorities, which did not repatriate the aircraft. Then it was used for air transport successively in several English companies, and in 1951 it was sold to Sweden, where it ended in the same year, it broke up. “
The most complete description of the fate of these planes available on the web can be found here:
It is worth emphasizing how little of this information relates to SP-BPM. And this plane was of particular interest to me, because of the discovery of photographs of its remains with a Polish checkerboard on the fin, at the (wonderful!) odkrywca.pl website, then the photos of the remains of the right wing with the engine, undoubtedly belonging to L- 14, wearing French markings and a slightly worn camouflage, in the scenery of the airport and hangar at Le Bourget airport near Paris but undoubtedly not a French L-14 – photos that appeared on one of the French forums, and earlier auction sites. All the French L-14s survived the defeat of France in 1940. The defeat of France, which is for me a very interesting moment of the history of World War II, especially in the context of the participation of Poles in its defense.
Pictures from here and Odkrywca.pl forum.
All the above-described pieces of the puzzle indicated that all these photos could indeed show the SP-BPM. But what colors did she wear? Where did the deicers come from, not visible in the photos of the plane taken in September 1939 in Helsinki? Where from are the tires with a pattern tread different than shown in the other Polish Super Electras photos (those with the pattern visible, of course). Where is the radio installation, or rather its mountings on the vertical stabilizers?
Let’s try to give some answers.
The following story is a combination of information from book sources as well as the usual guesswork that may or may not match what actually happened. If I missed something or went wrong, please forgive me – I lack the skills of a historian, it is just an amateur job.
What do we know?
A little. Immediately after the end of the September campaign, the idea was actually born to use the available aircraft for courier flights from France to Poland. However to evaluate these ideas (where would these civilian machines adapted to concrete runways land and from where would they take off? Of course, the DC-3 Dakota is a different piece of cake, but this is a later and also interesting story …), General Zając (Chief of the Polish Airforce) decided to seize and rebuild two L-14H machines for these purposes: SP-BNF and SP-BPM. Rebuilding was to be done in England.
At that time, according to some sources, formally (albeit fictionally), the machines belonged to Imperial Airways, which on October 8, 1939 bought them from LOT (which was to help get them out of internment in Romania), and some sources say that they were pledged as security for the loan for LOT. The latter version is more probable, in my opinion, especially with regard to SP-BPM, which was not interned in Romania after all and was flown to Great Britain via Helsinki in early September.
The SP-BNF was to be the first to be rebuilt. Initially, the installation of an additional fuel tank, replacement of passenger doors and the assembly of weapons was commissioned to de Havilland plants, but they refused and recommended Airworks company, which was to complete the work by February 10, 1940. The plane was delivered to the plants in Heston on January 16, 1940.
The English – probably in the hope of actually taking over the machines in their civilian configuration, delayed works on the SP-BNF. On February 4, 1940, however, they demanded that Polish civilian markings be removed from the machine. On February 5, 1940, General Zając ordered the plane to be repainted (in my opinion it only applied to the SP-BNF, which was at that time being rebuilt in England) in British camouflage colors.
And SP-BPM? It required at least a renovation. Due to the delays caused by the British, in early March 1940 the plane was taken to France. There, the machine was overhauled by the Polish with the help of employees of the local Lockheed’s office – earlier attempts to commission the repair to the Imperial Airways workshops ended with refusal. If so, the Poles decided to paint the plane in a camouflage not British, but I bet that a’la French (in the photos one can see three camouflage colors on the upper surfaces), and certainly with French cockades on the wings and the Polish checkerboards on the fins, without the three-color stripes on the vertical tail, which clearly indicated that the machine is owned by the Polish authorities. Civil registrations, white and red stripes on the wings – were carefully removed so that no trace of them was left.
In early May of 1940, the British asked the Polish government to sell two L-14H: SP-BNF and SP-BPM. However, at the end of May, only one aircraft, the SP-BNF, was actually sold – probably. The second machine was still needed by the Polish authorities in exile (it could have been flown by Gen. Sikorski, among others), especially when the Germans attacked France and the campaign quickly became one-sided. In June, it was already necessary to think about the evacuation. Besides, the machine was in France, it was supposed to be brought to Britain by English pilots, but in the face of defeat of the French campaign the matter probably lost its weight.
The fate of SP-BPM in May and June 1940 is unknown to me, no sources available. Apart from the photos mentioned at the beginning, taken after the Germans entered Paris, there is an interesting note at the website devoted to air accidents, where one can read that the plane was probably damaged (shot down?) near Paris on June 15, 1940 and captured by the Germans in a irreparable state. Is this information accurate or probable? The “French” plane, flying between Paris and London in June 1940, the Germans would probably be eager to shoot it down, it would probably be worth searching the German reports.
Or maybe the plane was destroyed in the hangar, where it was standing, grounded with a damaged engine, not known since when?
Let’s look at the photos again. One can see quite a mess in the hangars at Le Bourget, but whether it should be assumed that our Super Electra was burnt in the hangar, I really do not know.
The heavy bombing of Paris took place on June 3rd , there are the reports of bombs that fell behind Le Bourget airport, followed by smoke from five fires. Probably it was when some of the the planes in the hangars burned down, including Potez in the photo taken by a German tourist / aviator on June 14, 1940 at the earliest. However, I did not find in the network (newspapers, etc.) reports of further bombings of Le Bourget.
On June 12, the Germans were negotiating with the French, and on the 13th Paris was declared an open city. The Germans entered Paris on 14th , and on June 15, 1940, the SP-BPM, which was then used for the evacuation of personnel, could be shot down near Paris and in “irreparable” condition captured by the Germans , at least as described at the Aviation Safety Network website https://www.asndata.aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19400699-0.
So I bet that the wreckage of the damaged SP-BPM engine was first placed in the damaged hangar and then dragged outside as the other wrecks were gradually removed for scrapping – see the photo of the wing in the hangar surrounded by other debris, and then outside. What the French wanted to achieve by moving these wrecks, it’s hard to say, but in 1940 they made many strange decisions. Although after June 14th , these decisions could already have beeen made by the new “administrators”.
And the tires? And deicers? And the radio installation? Well, there are the answers (and at least some circumstantial evidence) to these questions.
Bartosz Klimczak came to the rescue, for which I am very grateful.
The L-14s from the second batch of deliveries for LOT Polish Airlines were factory-fitted with Goodrich Airplane Silvertowns tires, as shown in the Paris photo. Another piece to confirm that this is SP-BPM.
Deicers? They do not matter, because they were fitted with the L-14H as standard and were assembled or disassembled also as standard, depending on the season. Information on this subject can be found in the L-14 operating manuals.
Page XV-4 et seq. 14 Service Manual, version 3-25-38 (March’38).
And the radio installation? It probably wasn’t touched at all, neither in England nor in France. Such a conclusion can be made by reading the report on the repairs of the Telefunken radio installation at SP-BNF, which the English did not want to undertake, and which were finally made by Polish radio technicians with the use of spare parts available in LOT’s warehouses in France.
This subject appeared in the report of Lieutenant pil. Jerzy Jankiewicz to the Air Force Commander in Paris on April 8, 1940. Lieutenant Jankiewicz wrote: “… I had great difficulties with the on-board radio, because absolutely no English company knows the type of Telefunken and it did not want to undertake the renovation. I had to bring a radio mechanic from a Polish aviation station in England / a former LOT radio mechanic “/. The above-mentioned stated that the station requires minor repairs. However, due to the fact that no spare parts can be obtained in England, I left this case to come to France, where, as reported to me by a radio mechanic,” LOT “disposes of parts brought from Poland”.
The mounts of the antenna lines on the stabilizers are not visible in the Paris photo, as they have probably been torn off.
So much for the plane.
Lockheed Hudson’s small-scale model was released by MPM in 2006, later some re-editions appeared, also packaged by other brands: Italeri, Revell. My copy is the A-29 / PBO-1 Hudson, released for the first time in 2010, which fitted my needs because of the additional frame with the engines and their covers appropriate for a Polish L-14H. A typical shortrun from those years, quite “soapy” details, simplifications, poor fit, specific geometry. In addition, many versions of the aircraft can be made from one box, including the civilian Super Electra – which has its consequences in making it difficult to build (additional parts matching challenges).
The original assumption was typically for me fun, fun, and fun. The key was supposed to be a painting. Gradually, however, motivated by the increasing number of comments, hints and sent photos, and graphics, I started, let’s call it conventionally, to add some improvements. The resin cockpit made by CMK, control yokes made of some wire and Plastruct profiles, a wall between the cockpit and the passenger compartment with its doors, seats in the cabin (from Ju-52), and Eduard seat-belts, luggage nets over the seats, imitation of the air vents, new wall and doors between the passenger compartment, and the toilet. New entrance doors with the window were made of HIPS and clear acetate sheet.
The nose part did not match the width and shape of the cross section of the fuselage, it had to be adjusted and lot of putty went here, it was also too pointed – this was corrected as well. This section was devoid of any panel lines, these had to be added, as were the other panel lines specific to the civilian Super Electra, especially the luggage compartments.
I also riveted in the whole airframe, one can hardly see it but that’s OK.
Glazing of the pilot’s cabin made according to the photos of the actual machine, also the upper part has got the windows, but unlike the ones in the Hudson – the windows are smaller, the frames of the upper part of the glazing are flat and wider. I have also added the air deflectors on the windshield.
I replaced the wheels with resin parts from CMK (for the P-51D Mustang in 1:48th scale), with the appropriate pattern tread. They are a bit skinny and small, but it does not spoil the final appearance too much. I tried to make the hubcaps similar to those from the SP-BPM photos.
Also added the position lights on the wingtips and the tail (it was necessary to file the strange bulge proposed in this place by MPM).
Certainly, many things could have been done better, I am fully aware. Nevertheless, I wanted a model of this plane and I have one, so I achieved my goal. I hope that the information gathered here and at the pwm.org.pl website will be useful to someone else, maybe someone will release a new model of Super Electra / Hudson in 1:48 scale – it is an extremely interesting topic. Special thanks for help to colleagues: KayFranz (thanks for hints, photos and motivation for corrections), GrzeM, MariuszBiel, Jarekk, Mr. Andrzej Olejko and Mr. Bartosz Klimczak, who provided many valuable information and photos that answered some doubts and left me with a much less number of the open questions.