When the next boxing of the 1/48 Tempest arrives, it will feature the Mk.V Series
2, the only version that saw operational
service from September 1944 through to
the German surrender and then in the British Air Forces of Occupation (where it was
joined by the Tempest II) post war.
It will come as no surprise to most modellers that one of the decal options is for
Pierre Clostermann’s famous ‘Le Grand
Charles’ carrying 3 Squadron codes ‘JF-E’.
But a closer look may surprise those who
had followed the research first revealed in
the French historical magazine Avions (No
151, Mai/Juin 2006). Having had some input on the Tempest section I was pleased to
work again with Christophe Cony on a revised and expanded version published in Avions No 227, published in mid-January 2019.
In 2006 we thought that Clostermann
had three ‘JF-E’s (possibly four) but reassessment of all available RAF documentation including a complete analysis of No 3
Squadron’s Tempests in the last weeks of
the war, photographic evidence and, crucially, a transcript of Clostermann’s own logbook, has now led to the conclusion there
were only two. Please note that his logbook
records aircraft code letters, whereas the
Squadron ORB (Form 541) records the aircraft serial number. It is possible to link the
NV994 at 83 GSU, RAF Dunsfold, April 1945. awaiting allocation to an 83
Group squadron. It would be allocated to 3 Squadron on 15 April while
the squadron was at RAF Warmwell Armament Practice Camp.
two by comparing the dates/times/nature
of each operation.
Previously it was thought that the first
JF-E was NV994 until damaged in a dusk action on 20 April 1945, when he claimed two
Fw190s destroyed; a copy of his Combat Report survives in the UK’s National Archive.
This sortie is not recorded in the ORB Form
541 (so we do not have the serial number)
although it is mentioned in the accompanying Form 540 (a narrative which does not
give detail) and it is in Clostermann’s own
record; his aircraft – ‘E’ in his log - was damaged and he was wounded in the leg. He is
NV994, now wearing 3 Squadron codes JF-E, 18 April 1945.
absent from the operational record for the
rest of April and returns to ‘ops’ again on 3
May, flying SN222 (according to the Form
541), recorded in his log as E. However, during the same period other squadron pilots
were recorded as flying NV994 and when it
was eventually returned to the UK for repair
in July 1945, it was recorded as still marked
as ‘JF-E’. So it is very likely that SN222 was
not in fact JF-E.
Unfortunately, the code letter allocated to
SN222 is not known but it is apparent that
this aircraft was one of two replacements
for Tempests lost on operations at the end
of April 1945, namely JF-S and JF-G; the latter is more likely. So, why should Clostermann have recorded his flight as in ‘E’? Ha-
ving studied many RAF log-books it is quite
noticeable that as pilots became more senior they tended to be less scrupulous about
their log-keeping. Particularly when a pilot
had an allocated aircraft they often logged
that machine as the one they were flying on
most, if not all occasions; comparison with
the squadron records shows this was not
Another problem with records not supporting the event is that there is no record of
damage to NV994, JF-E, on 20 April 1945,
and the aircraft is recorded continuing on
operations, flown by other pilots. So maybe
Clostermann was not actually flying JF-E on
this sortie either. His Combat Report for this
date records that two Tempests were ‘Category B’ as a result of the action and it is
apparent from his log that his aircraft was
hit by fire from one of the Fw190s. A check
through the records of all the Tempests in
use by 3 Squadron on this date reveals that
the two Tempests were NV978, JF-C, and
NV923, JF-F, (both aircraft of Clostermann’s
‘A’ Flight) so it seems likely that he was flying one of these machines.
This means all available evidence now
points to ‘JF-E’ having been NV994 from 15
April 1945 and all the way through to 1 July
1945, when it was damaged in an accident
while landing in bad weather conditions at
Vaerlöse, having been unable to land at Kastrup, 3 Squadron’s base in Denmark.
A replacement JF-E was now required
and as the ORB only recorded the details of
operational flights we are fortunate to have
two photographs showing the new JF-E
was NV724. More on this aircraft in a later