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A fine and detailed 1/8th scale flying model of the Boeing B17G bomber aircraft A Bit O' Lace,
A fine and detailed 1/8th scale flying model of the Boeing B17G bomber aircraft A Bit O' Lace,

Details
A fine and detailed 1/8th scale flying model of the Boeing B17G bomber aircraft A Bit O' Lace,
built from wood, metal and other materials with furnished cockpit and turrets, crew members, engines, propellers and undercarriage, finished in natural polished aluminium alloy foil with matt black anti-glare panels in front of the windscreens and on each inboard side of the engine cowlings, aerofoil de-icing boots, USAAF markings and "operational" engine exhaust streak areas the top of each mainplane, wingspan -- 13ft (3.96m.)

See Colour Illustrations, Details and contemporary photographs


Accompanying the model is a series of photographs showing crew members, the model under construction, and damage to the original Bit O'Lace, with a series of letters and miscellaneous correspondence concerning the crew and general history of the aircraft; together with an account written in 1990 by the tail gunner in which he records the occasion when the aircraft was struck by flak:

"Our bomber was in the very centre of the formation, and we suffered direct hits by flak. I was the tail gunner. I looked out my tail windows and saw pieces of the skin on the horizontal tail surfaces standing straight up (even though we were flying at approximately 160 miles per hour). The last comment heard over our intercom was made by Lt. Campbell, the navigator. In an angry voice he said, "someone is sure going to hear about this when we get back"."

In addition there is included a Futaba Pulse Code Modular System transmitter and receiver with instruction booklet, two "flying propellors", control wires and other items, and a videotape of the model flying.

Lot Essay

HISTORICAL NOTES

The American B17 strategic bomber complied with the military doctrines of the 1930s. Rapidly advancing technology such as retractable undercarriages, variable pitch propellers and highly supercharged piston engines, allowed designers to proceed to create a bomber capable of carrying a respectable bomb load to a distant target at transit speeds hitherto unattained by large aircraft. The widely accepted philosophy was for strategic bombers to carry heavy defensive armament; machine gun turrets providing arcs of fire to the front and rear, above and below the bomber were claimed to give formation of bombers such formidable defensive fire power that they would be next to invulnerable from fighter attack.

The fallacy of this philosophy became clear early in the Second World War; RAF Bomber Command rapidly realised that it could contain its strategic bomber losses only by flying under cover of darkness, and the USAAF Eight Air Force rushed the P51 Mustang into service as a long-range fighter escort.

The doctrine of self-defence for bomber aircraft was first successfully challenged by the designers of the de Havilland Mosquito who relied on high-speed, high-altitude capabilities to out pace the enemy fighters and gave the bomber versions of the Mosquito no defensive armament. Subsequent generations of strategic strike aircraft much as Britain's Camberra and V-bombers similarly had no defensive weaponary.

Although, with hindsight, the whole concept held in the 1930s for strategic bomber aircraft was questionable, the B17 was without doubt an exceptional aircraft for the period. The B17-G version had four 1,200hp Wright R 1820-97 Cyclone radial engines, a maximum speed of 287mph at 25,000ft, a service ceiling of 35,600ft and a range of 2,000 miles. The wing span was 103ft 9in and the length 74ft 4in.; the normal bomb load was 4,000lbs and it bristled with no fewer than thirteen 0.5in. machine guns. Appropriately, it was christened the Flying Fortress.

The B17 was a stable and forgiving aeroplane to fly and not difficult to handle in formation. It proved capable of absorbing heavy battle damage and often returned home having withstood extensive punishment from enemy action; these qualities endeared it to its crews. A total of 12,731 B17s were reponsible for delivering 640,036 US tons of bombs against European targets during World War II. Its contribution to ultimate victory in the air war in Europe was therefore considerable.

The B17G, A Bit O'Lace, depicted by this model, was operational with the 447th Bomb Group. USAAF and based at Rattlesden in Suffolk, England as part of the United States Eigth Air Force. On 4th April 1945, flak over Kiel blew away a large portion of the port tail plane and elevator and riddled the fin and rudder with holes - but A Bit O'Lace made it home to be repaired for further active service.

While being flown under the command of Lieutenant Warren Bates, A Bit O'Lace flew 36 missions over Europe with no crew injuries. The only occasions when it aborted a mission was when a bullet coming from another B17, during test firing en-route to the target, damaged the number 2 engine and the crew had to return to base. A Bit O'Lace became well-known because it was the subject of an air-to-air photographic sortie flown on 12th May, 1945 with Charles E. Brown, the renowned British aviation photographer.

The serial number of the B17 carrying Milt Canniff's artwork, A Bit O'Lace, was 297976 whereas this model carries the serial no. 297991 which was the number of a B17 G delivered form the Lockeed factory in April 1944 and assigned to the 305 the Bomb Group at Chelverston, Northamptonshire 9th August 1944; this aircraft was lost over Germany on 24th August 1944. The reason for the disparity in serial numbers is not known.
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