The sole representative of the Junkers Ju 52/3m left in the UK is now on display at The Kent Battle of Museum where it will help tell the story of the Battle, and what could have been had Operation Sealion commenced.
Built in Spain as a CASA 352L, and previously located at RAF Museum Midlands (Cosford), in just 4 months the "Ju 52" was disassembled, transported, completely paint stripped, repainted, reassembled and repositioned for display at the Kent Battle of Britain Museum.
Over the winter of 2022 / 23 I visited the museum to follow the progress from arrival to final assembly and display. This article charts my visits, summarises the work undertaken and provides an overview of this excellent museum.
Images: Phil Glover and The Kent Battle of Britain Museum unless noted.
Spanish aircraft manufacturer CASA had a license to build the German Junkers Ju 52/3m as the CASA 352L. They were essentially the same as the German built aircraft but powered by Spanish ENMA Beta B-4 engines, a copy of the American Wright R-1820 Cyclone.
The museum's example was built in 1954 with the construction number 163 and served with the Spanish Air Force as T.2-272 (later T2B-272) until retired in 1972. During service her primary role was at the Military Parachutist School and she was fitted with two rows of benches that could carry up to 18 paratroopers. Following retirement she was stored near Madrid at Cuatro Vientos along with several other CASA 352s, and the type was completely withdrawn from Spanish service by late 1973.
The RAF Museum acquired "163" from the Spanish Air Force in 1977 and after an inspection a ferry flight to the UK commenced. On 17th May she was flown from Cuatro Vientos to the French Air Force Base at Cazeaux, France by Don Bullock and Peter Warren of Euroworld Airlines Ltd, with Wing Commander Sid Edwards, the UK Air Attaché in Madrid, onboard. The following day she was flown directly to the UK and into Biggin Hill, where her arrival coincided with the opening of the annual international airshow. Still in all over silver but with the Spanish national insignia overpainted, she was a very popular addition to the static park and was escorted into Biggin Hill by a Spitfire, performing several flypasts before landing. A final flight took place on 22nd May 1978 when Don Bullock flew from Biggin Hill to what was then known as the Aerospace Museum at RAF Cosford.
Initially displayed in generic Luftwaffe markings with just the German national insignia applied over the Spanish silver scheme, and still with the Spanish serial, in 1985 she was sponsored by British Airways and became part of the "British Airways Collection", which at the time was located at the museum. This saw a repaint into the unusual scheme of a 1938 British Airways operated Ju 52, marked with the registration G-AFAP. However, by 2006 British Airways decided to dispose of their collection, and the Ju 52 then seemed somewhat out of place in Hangar 1 and its primary theme of RAF transports and trainers.
In recent years it has been widely publicised that the RAF Museum has been looking to dispose of several airframes that they felt did not fit their collection, so it was no surprise to see the CASA 352L / Ju 52 3m slated for disposal. This process began in 2021 with interested parties submitting bids for review, and on 3rd November 2022 it was announced that the aircraft would be permanently transferred to the Kent Battle of Britain Museum. The bidding process does not involve a monetary value, rather presenting a case study as to why and how you would become a suitable custodian.
With many questioning some of the recent RAF Museum aircraft disposals, I think this particular move couldn't be more positive. The Ju 52 3m has an important part in history as a military aircraft and this will now be represented at one of the best museums in the UK. The Kent Battle of Britain Museum is located on the site of the former RAF Hawkinge and houses the world's largest collection of artifacts from Battle of Britain aircraft, as well as UK's most complete collection of original 1940s uniforms, equipment and insignia from both sides. Of the move, Maggie Appleton, Chief Executive Officer, RAF Museum said:
"It is an honour to be able to contribute to other public collections around the country so that more people can be inspired by and learn from these amazing artefacts."
The Museum was given a very limited timeframe to have the aircraft moved out of Cosford as the RAF Museum wanted to part with it once a new home had been confirmed. Prior to its arrival at Hawkinge the site had to be prepared to receive the aircraft in 3 major sections; the fuselage and two wings, plus the engines, flying surfaces and a large number of panels, stuts and assorted removable parts. The Kent Battle of Britain Museum closes for the winter period which meant the largest of the museum buildings, the Stuart-Buttle Memorial Hangar, could be used for storing the smaller parts and provide an indoor space for working on these items whilst the airframe and wings are prepared outside in the museum car park.
A detailed schedule was created that would see the aircraft dismantled at Cosford by GJD Aerotech Services and transported south by Hawkins Logistics. The aircraft departed Cosford in the late afternoon of Friday 18th November for the 200+ mile journey south, which included an overnight stop.
On successfully obtaining the Ju 52, Dave Brocklehurst, MBE said:
"We are very excited to have acquire this rare and important airframe. When she arrives in November 2022, she will become one of the Volunteers main winter projects".
I first met Dave Brocklehurst, MBE, Chairman of the Kent Battle of Museum in 2020 when the museum acquired another significant airframe from a different national museum. In that instance, it was the Heinkel He 111 H-16 (CASA-2.111B) "053" from the Imperial War Museum. That aircraft had sat stored at Duxford for over 20 years, never fully assembled or restored, but is now assembled (minus engines) and fully repainted. The Heinkel's restoration is a story in itself, especially given the challenges of 2020, but once lockdown restrictions were eased I contacted Dave and visited the museum so I could run several stories about the Heinkel and museum on the Warbird Lovers Facebook page. I never thought an opportunity to see another large German aircraft project like that would happen again in the UK, let alone at the Kent Battle of Britain of Museum, so I was absolutely delighted to be invited by Dave to see the arrival and then chart the progress of the Ju 52 project.
Dave has been involved with the museum since 1979 when at the age of 10 he started volunteering. At 17 he became a trustee, and in 1990 became Chairman. Since 2008 Dave has been a full time volunteer at the museum and is keen to stress that the museum only has one member of staff, everyone else is volunteer, including himself.
Back to November 2022; as I arrived on Saturday 19th and turned into the museum main entrance and car park I found myself greeted by a sight I never thought I'd see, a front on encounter of a Ju 52 fuselage on the low loader! Given the size of the aircraft, this made for quite an imposing sight, and a large number of volunteers were onsite to help, as well the crew from Hawkins Logistics who oversaw the unloading. But where was Dave? Supervising the team from the cockpit of the Ju52!
By the time I arrived the wings had been unloaded onto wheeled pallets and the engines were already in the hangar and the main event of the fuselage lift was about to take place - perfect timing on my part. Seeing the fuselage raised was impressive, an artic lorry crane unit provided by Darren Scott was placed alongside the low loader and the fuselage was raised via straps attached to strategically positioned lifting points. It was raised from the front, nose high, with the tail wheel kept low at first and carefully guided to alongside the low loader. Once clear, the low loader was pulled away and the fuselage was slowly manoeuvred into position in the car park.
Still held by the crane and with supports placed under the fuselage, the next task was attaching the main undercarriage to the fuselage. The Ju 52 has a fixed landing gear which is attached at the fuselage wing root at three points. The gathered volunteers were soon quickly at work as each was attached one at a time. A forklift was used to assist with raising each landing gear and soon the fuselage was lowered onto its main wheels. With the crane cables and supports removed it was officially on the museum grounds.
Seeing the fuselage in such an open space really emphasises how large the aircraft is, and this was further illustrated when the large cargo doors were opened as all the control surfaces, panels, and assorted aerials etc. had been been loaded into the fuselage. The next job for the volunteers was to empty the aircraft contents into the Stuart-Buttle Memorial Hangar, a job duly undertaken with a great sense of comradery.
With both wings and the fuselage now in the car park, the team and trucks from Hawkins Logistics departed and it was time for a well deserved break. For some this meant coffee and a bacon sandwich, but for many others this was an opportunity to look around the interior of Ju 52. It remains in military configuration with the benches up both sides of the fuselage, these fold up to create more space. To the rear their is a toilet, storage area and access through to the tail. The radio operators position remains and the cockpit is in remarkably complete condition. Given she was flown over straight from military storage means this is very much a fitted out and complete aircraft.
Before leaving I of course took a seat in the pilots position, looking out towards the museum grounds I could see the Heinkel He 111 and my thoughts turned to the exciting prospect of seeing these two iconic German designs together in wartime Luftwaffe markings.
Prior to the aircraft arriving the new scheme the museum would apply was revealed. Created by Museum Volunteer Clint Mitchell, the markings will represent a fictitious scheme of a 6./KGrzbV 1 Ju 52 that would likely have been used in Operation Sealion, the invasion of Great Britain, had Germany won the Battle of Britain. Although no transport units had undergone any preparation for the planned Operation Sea Lion, it is recorded that KGzbV1 and KGzbV2 were planned to move to France should the invasion have ever become a real possibility. This scheme was chosen to help tell the story of the Battle and what could have happened had Germany invaded.
Kent Battle of Britain Museum
I would not visit the museum again until March, this section is very much an abridged summary of 3 months work, and does not detail all the other work and projects that went on alongside the Ju 52.
Work started immediately on the paint stripping of the British Airways markings from the fuselage and the installation of the various access panels on the underside of the fuselage. With a complete repaint planned, every part of the aircraft required scotching to remove the existing paintwork in preparation for repaint. Where the original paintwork was chipped or damaged it was sanded out so as not to show once repainted. The army of volunteers worked tirelessly throughout December and January and for a short period were joined by tutors and students from Dover Technical College.
With the wings and fuselage remaining in the museum car park for the winter work, a plan was needed of how the completed aircraft would be positioned in the museum grounds and a 1/72 scale mock-up was created to determine the exact movements and positioning of the museum's Heinkel He 111 and Blenheim / Bollingbroke to accommodate the Ju 52. Once finalised, work began on landscaping the grounds for new concrete footpaths and hard standings for the aircraft.
In January the laying of the new concrete started, and the wings were turned over with the assistance of Darren Scott and his artic lorry crane to allow scotching of their undersides - its not an easy job to rotate a huge wing of a Ju 52! On 20th January the daunting task of the repaint began, led by Dave's right-hand man Julian Richardson and using a high spec automotive self-etching paint that would ensure good adhesion and form a protective layer on the aircraft skin. A spray tent was erected in the Stuart-Buttle Memorial Hangar for the smaller items (who ever thought I'd call a Ju 52 tail fin small) and then the black undersides of the starboard wing was painted. Weather conditions were on the side of the team as by the 30th, the port wing and undersides of the fuselage were all painted.
In early February work turned to the tail surfaces and the first applications of the distinctive camouflage, all of which has to be masked off for painting. As the wings could not have their upper surfaces painted until turned over again, work turned to the fuselage with a fantastic push on 12th February that saw the entire fuselage painted grey (save an area at the rear), and the first application of the yellow identifier nose markings on the undersides. Plus, there was even time for the first element of the green camouflage pattern to be applied! The German national insignia on the wing undersides were the first of the individual markings applied and these had to be carefully measured, masked and painted. The 19th February saw a significant amount of masking underway in preparation for the completion of the fuselage camouflage, and all undertaken by just Dave and Julian - a true testament to the skill and dedication that keeps this museum alive.
The final week of February saw a significant push in the project with the wings turned over in order to paint the upper surfaces, the Heinkel repositioned across the museum grounds, and the completion of the Ju 52 fuselage with the remainder of the yellow applied to the nose. Whilst the fuselage was completed, volunteers began masking off the wing camouflage pattern, a complex job given 3 colours are used. The month ended with the fuselage towed through the museum grounds to its display location.
On Saturday 4th March I visited the to catch up with Dave and the team and was blown away by the progress since I saw the arrival back in November. My visit coincided with the team using a 12 meter inflatable spray tent to provide cover for the wing painting. The team was busy masking and papering up the port wing for the application of the green camouflage - possibly the most brown paper I have ever seen! The weather Gods had certainly been on the side of the project so far, but the use of this tent ensured the final push with the wings could be completed under cover without weather constraints.
Finishing touches were being made on the fuselage with the cowling brackets painted and alterations on the camouflage the demarcation lines to ensure everything lined up on the nose. Whilst I was taking photographs things were changing and being tweaked to create the perfect finish. The flying surfaces, various panels, cowlings and propellers had all been painted and were awaiting installation.
Walking around the painted fuselage my initial thoughts were how incredible it looked, and how much better this scheme is compared to the previous civilian scheme. The Luftwaffe markings will no doubt remind people of the types iconic appearances on film in both the opening of the "Battle of Britain" and "Where Eagles Dare".
After my visit the team had just 4 weeks left to complete the Ju 52 in time for their Spring opening on 1st April. With the wing painting completed, the next stage was to apply the German national insignia - it being easier to apply these crosses on flat wings low on the ground as opposed to attached and angled on the aircraft.
The 16th March was a momentous day for the project; the Heinkel He 111 was moved into its final location to make space the Ju 52 wing installation. The wings were wheeled into the museum grounds one at a time to allow for positioning of the crane unit and lifting. Once swung into position with four main chains on the wing and guide lines on the tip, the lower wing bolts were first fastened before the upper wing bolts were positioned home and tightened. Whilst the starboard wing was wheeled in and the crane repositioned, a large stack of pallets, covered in padding, was positioned under the wingtip to keep the aircraft balanced on all three wheels. The process was repeated for the second wing and then the complete Ju 52 was gently raised and slightly moved into her final display position. The engines were then fitted to the wings and the Ju 52 was once again a trimotor.
With two weeks to go the cowlings, struts and various remaining panels were fitted whilst Dave was busy marking out the Swastika for the tail. An ingenious method saw a projector used to place and size it in the exact location - once correct this projected image is masked off and then painted.
The final week before opening for the 2023 season saw a flurry of activity. The tail surfaces and rudder were attached along with the ailerons - the last parts needed to complete the aircraft. This entailed some additional painting to ensure the upper camouflage would correctly flow onto the ailerons and tail surfaces. The final task was the application of the fuselage codes - perhaps the most significant part of the scheme as they would act as the individual aircraft identification. Once again careful measuring, masking and spraying was undertaken - and the results, perfect.
Dave Brocklehurst MBE, Chairman, KBOBM
The Ju 52 was completed on schedule for the first weekend of April, a momentous achievement given the scale of the task. The effort made by the volunteer team is incredible, and a testament of what can be achieved by the UK's smaller aviation museum.
I returned to the museum on 7th May and was in awe of the finished aircraft. Now fully assembled and repainted, she looks magnificent. It was not just the sight of the completed Ju 52 that impressed me, but the new layout that now sees the Ju 52 alongside the ongoing Blenheim project and Heinkel He 111 opposite 3 replica Hurricanes.
During my first visit a panel from each side of the central engine cowlings was missing so that the Staffel badge could be applied. The text on the emblem states: ‘Uns geht die Sonne nicht unter’, which in English translates to an approximation of ‘The sun doesn’t go down for us.’
With the Heinkel and Ju 52 together, this is one of the very few locations in the world where you can see a pair of large wartime Luftwaffe aircraft together. There is only one other example of a Heinkel He 111 in the UK (a He 111 H-20 transport version at the RAF Museum London), and this is the sole remaining representative of a Ju 52 in the UK. The museum site offers great views of the Ju 52 and you can get very close and appreciate the distinctive corrugated duralumin metal skin construction - which was used as a strengthening measure.
The museum is the only place in the world where you will see representatives of Spitfire, Hurricane, Defiant, Blenheim, 109, He 111 and Ju 52 together at one museum. Given this is not a national museum or funded by the Government, this is an incredible achievement.
What does the future hold? The spacious interior of the Ju 52 will be used as an educational space and a custom made staircase has been built for ease of entry. For now she will remain displayed outside, but the museum has been allocated additional land adjacent to the current site where a new hangar will be built in the future. However, to protect the aircraft a high spec automotive self-etching paint has been used for the repaint, as well as the preservative anti-corrosion ACF-50 coatings inside and out. Given how other aircraft from the RAF Museum's disposals list have vanished into storage or gone to collections overseas, the future of this aircraft and the care it will receive at the Kent Battle of Britain Museum ensures that the UK will have an example of this iconic aircraft on display for generations to come.
Located on the site of the former RAF Hawkinge, the museum houses the world's largest collection of artifacts from Battle of Britain aircraft, with items from over 700 aircraft on display, plus much more.
The museum can trace it's routes back to a collection of Battle of Britain relics that were collected by museum founder Mike Llewellyn, MBE. Working with fellow enthusiasts the collection grew and temporary displays were often put together at events. In 1971 the first museum opened in a chicken battery house in the garden of ex-Battle of Britain pilot Brian Hitchin, in Langley. The museum then moved to Chilham Castle before relocating to Hawkinge and opening to the public in 1982.
Unlike some larger museums where "hands on" and "interactive" displays are becoming the norm, this museum simply displays the history and the stories behind its exhibits. Another key aspect of the museum is how it tells the story of the Battle from both sides.
The two largest display halls, the Stuart-Buttle Hangar and Lord Dowding Memorial Hangar, contain several full scale replica aircraft including Spitfires, Hurricanes, 109s and Defiant, an original Harvard and Tigermoth, a partly replica Magister, plus several ground vehicles. However, it is the large number of recovered engines and wreckage that have the greatest impact, each has a story to tell with detailed information provided on display boards.
Some historic buildings remain on the site; the Operations Block dates from 1927 and houses recovered aircraft parts and items belonging to the crew. It would take you days to read every piece of information in here! The museum highlights the aircraft shot down "on this day", a poignant illustration of the museums dedication to telling the story of those who took part in the battle.
The Armoury was built in 1926 and contains the UK's most complete collection of original 1940 uniforms, flying equipment and insignia from both sides. I have never seen a better collection of uniforms, especially those worn by the Germans - it is fascinating to compare them. Lastly, an original 1940 'B' Flight dispersal hut contains displays relating to the German V weapons.
The grounds contain the museum's largest aircraft, the Ju52, Heinkel He 111 H-16 and an ongoing Blenheim restoration project. Opposite these aircraft are three replica Hawker Hurricanes, positioned as they would have been at Hawkinge in 1940, and the impressive "Spirit of the Few" memorial.
Unveiled in July 2022, the memorial depicts seven pilots from RAF 32 Squadron who were photographed at RAF Hawkinge on 29th July 1940. It is an exact recreation of the photograph and is positioned just a few hundred yards from the original location. It now serves as a permanent memorial to "The Few", the name famously given to the Battle of Britain fighter pilots in a Winston Churchill speech. The seven life-size bronze sculptures were made by art studio SPACER, and the detail is just stunning. You can find out more about the memorial or make a contribution here: http://www.kbobm.org/spirit_of_the_few.html
The latest aircraft project to arrive at the museum is a significant exhibit that sees the beginning of a resurrection of an extinct type. The Westland Whirlwind Fighter Project have placed their completed recreation of the cockpit section on display within the museum, alongside recovered items from the wreck of Whirlwind P6966. The project has been ongoing for 12 years and with few of the original drawings available, advanced CAD techniques have been used to build a digital / virtual example to the original specification, and then replicated into the physical recreation. Work is now focused on completing the rear fuselage which will hopefully be delivered to the museum in 2024. The goal is to have the complete recreation on display at the Kent Battle of Britain Museum, painted as P7056 “The Pride of Yeovil”. Dave Brocklehurst MBE is chairman of both The Kent Battle of Britain Museum and The Westland Whirlwind Fighter Project.
The museum is open Tuesday - Sunday from April - November. They are closed on Mondays, except Bank Holiday Mondays.
1st May to 30th September - 10am to 5pm
April, October and November - 10am to 4pm
Last entry one hour before closing.
The 2023 season ends on Sunday 12th November.
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