Intermission – Feux du ciel Update – Did Clostermann meets Beurling ?

I wonder if this is all important…

While My Forgotten Hobby III is still on pause for this summer, I have continued with reading Feux du ciel written in 1951 by Pierre Clostermann.


There is a chapter about Malta and Buzz Beurling which I found quite interesting, especially with some vivid recollections of what was going on in Malta. So vivid in fact that I was intrigued by what I was reading about Buzz Beurling.

Clostermann had also written that he had met Buzz Beurling in 1944 while both were at RAF Catfoss. Clostermann had even met Richard Bong and the three of them became inseparable friends.

So I was curious and I went on the Internet… “Did Clostermann meets Beurling ?”

This is what I found on an old thread posted in 2008 on RAF Commands Forums…

Thread: Clostermann meets Beurling ?

12th November 2008,
From Brian
Senior Member
Clostermann meets Beurling ?

Hi guys,
I expect many of you have a copy of, or at least read, Pierre Clostermann’s FLAMES IN THE SKY, which was originally published in 1952, in which he wrote of an encounter with Screwball Beurling at CGS Catfoss in 1944. Closterman was quite specific:

“I met S/Ldr George Beurling DSO DFC DFM and Bar, for the first time at Catfoss at the end of July 1944.”

Firstly, as far as I am aware, Beurling was in Canada the whole of 1944, and was not a squadron leader. Clostermann goes on to say that Beurling was publicly ‘ticked off’ in his presence by the station commander Grp Capt Sailor Malan. He also says that he became pals with the US ace Richard Bong while at Catfoss.

From what I have learned of Beurling’s post-Malta movements is that he was at CGS Sutton Bridge in mid 1943 as an instructor, and back in Canada by early 1944.

So, did Clostermann meet Beurling at Sutton Bridge in mid-1943, not Catfoss in mid-1944? Where does Malan come into the equation? Was he at Sutton Bridge in 1943? Was Bong in the UK at all? Or was Clostermann name-dropping to make a good story?

Very interesting, don’t you think? I would appreciate comments.


Brian got some feedback from Norman…


I don’t know whether this will help you but I recently read a book called “COMBAT READY!” by Alastair Goodrum, all about air combat and air gunnery training at RAF Sutton Bridge on the borders of Lincolnshire and Norfolk. Alas, I can not remember reading Closterman’s name but do recall the following: Station Commander Sailor Malan, Spitfire ace and Central Gunnery School Chief Flying Instructor Allan Wright (who helped Sailor Malan form the CGS), Flying Instructors: Al Deere, “Wimpy” Wade, Bob Dafforn, Jamie Rankin and Canadian “Screwball” Beurling.


Then another feedback from Chris…

Buzz Beurling arrived back in Canada (Halifax, Nova Scotia) on the 8th of May, 1944. You might be interested in knowing that while at Sutton Bridge, Buzz had three flying accidents.


Brian was still wondering…

I wonder if Clostermann and Beurling met prior to May 1944?


Norman followed up with this..


Further to my earlier post. First a correction, Sailor Malan was the CO of the CGS not CO of RAF Sutton Bridge. He was at Sutton Bridge just long enough to set up the CGS from Apr 42 to Jul 42 he then went on to become a Station Commander in the South of England. Screwball Beurling was at Sutton Bridge Apr43 to Jul43 – 3 months or less. Sutton Bridge had a fighter wing and a bomber wing (Wellingtons). The CGS moved out to RAF Catfoss, Yorkshire in Mar44. I have not been able to find any evidence of Clostermann serving at Sutton Bridge though he could easily have flown in for a visit. I understand the former Bull Hotel at Long Sutton was the flyers drinking hole.


Then this about Richard Bong from Dick…

Hi Brian

Take a look at which seems to indicate that Bong spent his operational career in the Pacific Theatre and was not put to training until fairly late. It might suggest that the encounter between him and Clostermann at Catfoss was, at least, unlikely in 1944.

From your quote of his book it might be interesting to find out where Clostermann met Beurling for the second time!!



All this led me to read some excerpts from Nick Thomas’s Sniper of the Skies.

This is what I found…

Beurling embarked for Canada on 30 April (1944), the Queen Elizabeth docking at port 8 May

If Clostermann never met Beurling, Bong and even Sailor Malan when he was posted at RAF Catfoss in July 1944, are there other anecdotes that he made up in Feux du ciel?

Why then the need for name dropping and making up anecdotes when you are “Le Premier Chasseur de France et Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur”?

Just a few words on why I wrote this post…

I have read Le Grand Cirque when I was 12 or 13 years-old. I still have the original 1948 edition.

Like so many others, I probably owe my passion for aviation to Pierre Clostermann…

That doesn’t take anything away from the respect of his commitment during the war…




The story behind Trumpeter Vickers Wellington Mk X by James Girling

When I first had the great good fortune to meet Pierre Lagacé, I was starting to film a feature length documentary entitled “Fledglings” on 425 (Alouette) Squadron, Canada’s only French-Canadian bomber squadron during the Second World War. Pierre was an invaluable resource to me in tracking down former members of the Squadron for the purpose of interviewing them to record their personal experiences all the way from enlisting, training, going on operations and, for those who had the misfortune to be shot down over enemy territory, being captured by the Germans and imprisoned.

It was only as I got to know Pierre better, I came to realise that, in addition to his skills as an historical researcher, he was also a gifted model-builder. And so it was that I asked him to use his modelling expertise to bring to life two significant WWII Wellington bombers from the history of the Squadron.

At the beginning of the R.C.A.F.’s part in Bomber Command, the Wellington “medium” bombers were the initial mainstay of most Canadian squadrons for both training and operational purposes. Wellingtons were the “entry level” bombers from the date of the formation of 425 Squadron through its mining and bombing operations during the years 1942 and 1943 before the Squadron converted to the Halifax “heavy” bomber. Although the Wellington had a reputation of taking a lot of punishment and still being able to fly because of its unusual geodetic airframe, it had neither the range, altitude, speed, armament or bomb-load of the heavier bombers.

Alouette Squadron’s unique identifying code “KW” was painted on each of its aircraft, followed by a single letter specific to it. Should an aircraft need to be replaced, whether by virtue of loss, damage or upgrading, the replacement bomber would often inherit that letter. Such was the case with the Wellington B-III bomber designated KW-E, the first aircraft to carry that designation being production number BJ 652, operating out of Dishforth, the Squadron’s original base, in January of 1942.

The Airfix model which Pierre built celebrated the KW-E Wellington X3763, the number also being painted on the fuselage.


What makes this particular aircraft special is that it has one of the largest number of official war-time photos taken of one of the Squadron’s Wellingtons in flight, giving us a very clear picture of the detail of this design as operated by the Alouettes. These photos are our only point of reference for model-building given that there are no surviving examples of the Wellington B-III in existence.

Wellington X3763 met its end on a bombing operation to Stuttgart on April 14/15,1943, crashing in France and killing all 6 on board. In due course, the next aircraft to be marked KW-E was airframe HF529, part of the Squadron’s conversion to the Wellington X in anticipation of the Squadron’s little known transfer to North Africa as part of Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily and mainland Italy.

I have asked Pierre to build a Trumpeter model of the Wellington X, tropicalized for desert operations, and to mark it as KW-K, airframe HE268, to commemorate the only Alouette Squadron aircraft to be lost on its way to Africa in June of 1943.

Although the main body of the Squadron, mostly ground crew and administration, had already left their Yorkshire base and made their way by sea to Algeria in May, the aircraft were to be flown via Gibraltar and Morocco to their new base of operations in Tunisia. The aircraft started their journey from R.A.F. station Portreath in southwest England in order to cross the Bay of Biscay as far as possible from German airfields in France. In further anticipation of enemy fighter activity, the air crew were supplemented by 2 ground crew members summarily trained to man waist machine guns mounted on either side of the Wellington Xs for the purpose of protecting the vulnerable beam sectors that the nose and rear turrets could not reach.

Unfortunately, these precautions were insufficient to prevent an attack by a Junkers 88, with KW-K suffering such significant damage including wounds to two crew members that it was unable to continue and was abandoned over Portugal. Fortunately, the crew parachuted safely and were interned in Portugal before being repatriated to the U.K. over the summer of that year.

James Girling

Progress report – Get over it

This is what I said to myself…Pierre, get over it and build it…

I have tried my best to get over the seams by using some scraping, filing and filling with just plain white glue, then white paint using my wet finger to take the excess off.

Necessity is the mother of invention…

We’ll see what happens, but now I have started having fun again with building the Spitfire Mk Vb. The wings have been mated together without too much frustration using clothespins.

Of course I will need to take extra care with the main landing gear.

And the fragile struts…

These will be glued last before painting. I have not decided yet how I will paint the Spitfire Mk Vb since there was different color schemes of Spitfires which flew over Malta.

This one is John Plagis’ Spitfire Mk Vb.

Source Internet

There are also the Smith brothers’ Spitfires…

And Buzz Beurling’s Spitfire.


Source Internet

Portrait of F/O G.F. Beurling (Screwball) Verdun, Quebec.

Colorised by Pierre Lagacé

Intermission – Sniper in the skies

I just need to take a break after feeling frustrated with Airfix Spitfire Mk Vb.

I don’t need to show you my photos or to explain why I was frustrated since Jon wrote about his frustration on his blog.


Comparing 1/48 Spitfire Mk. Vb Kits: Airfix versus Tamiya- The Cockpit

This modeler is comparing two Spitfire Mk Vb, one made by Tamiya and the other one by Airfix. He encountered the same problems I had last week with the cockpit assembly. I always took for granted that model kit manufacturers do rigorous testing before putting model kits into production. It must have been apparent to someone that some parts were not fitting well leaving noticeable gaps as you can see here on Jon’s blog. 

Also instructions can be sometimes vague and you have to figure out where some parts are to be glued which is causing some frustration even after dry fitting a few times. This had taken the fun out of building my Spitfire, but I guess that’s the challenging part of the hobby.  Jon’s had a second and a third part where he had some more issues with the Spitfire…    

End of recap…

During my intermission, I have been reading some parts of this book as a way to soldier on.

There was always this myth about Buzz Beurling being a loner… Well Nick Thomas shoots down that myth in his book about Buzz Beurling. I can remember now why I bought that kit in 2017 in my first uncontrollable impulse buying on It was about new Airfix model kits being released. I had not bought Airfix model kits since the 70s. All that would change in 2017. The first model kit I bought was not an impulse buying. It was all about building an Airfix Boulton Paul Defiant Mk I.

I wanted to build it for Gérard Pelletier’s niece whose uncle was an air gunner with 264 Squadron and later RCAF 410 Squadron. Her uncle was killed on September 3, 1942 while on a search and rescue mission. His niece had shared her uncle’s log book, letters and photos that he took in WW II. This is some of what I wrote on him on the original My Forgotten Hobby. Three years later Chantal and I still have not found the time to meet so I can give her this.