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Aircraft threat

13 December 2010 by stepheng

I am an amateur cartoonist and caricaturist – all right, a doodler – who’s also very interested in the development of this art form since it emerged about the time of the English Civil War.

The Second World War inspired some classic newspaper and magazine drawings which kept up morale and were sometimes also used on propaganda posters and leaflets.

cartoon showing a boat shooting a plane with a wolf's head

Captioned: ‘Who’s afraid of the big bad wulf? (By holding everything, including his fire, one of HM tugs brought one down on 11th January 1941′. Image courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo.

This cartoon (pictured) is not particularly well drawn but it captures perfectly the mood of the time and one man’s brave determination to have a go.

Allied merchant shipping carrying vital supplies used the convoy system in an attempt to protect itself from combined U-boat submarine and air attacks during the war.

However, German sea and air forces were never fully co-ordinated as the Germans did not have anything similar to Britain’s Fleet Air Arm, the branch of the Royal Navy responsible for the operation of aircraft.

The fall of France heightened the German threat to shipping. By mid-1940 German planes based in France were increasing the peril to Allied shipping in the Atlantic.

In particular, the squadron of long-range Focke-Wulf Kondor or Kurier aircraft had been established near Bordeaux. Flying up to 600 miles into the Atlantic, the Kondors could direct U-boats on to convoys or bomb the almost-defenceless merchant ships.

In their first two months of operations they alone sank 30 cargo ships. Fortunately for Britain, the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) was never able to fully control the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) missions over the Atlantic.

Hitler’s decision not to set up an Arm meant that German air power was largely directed elsewhere away from the Atlantic.

On display at Merseyside Maritime Museum’s Battle of the Atlantic gallery is a photo of the Focke-Wulf Kondor or Kurier (FW-200) long-range aircraft.

Dramatic photographs show the sinking, more than 200 miles west of Ireland, of the Elder Dempster liner Apapa by bombs from FW-200s.

The 9,000-ton Apapa had been sailing in convoy on a voyage from Freetown, West Africa, to Liverpool with 200 passengers and crew plus general cargo. Twenty-four lives were lost.

The 1941 cartoon commemorates a morale-boosting event. Jimmy Ryan of Hull was on HM rescue tug Seaman when it was attacked by a Kondor. He crawled to a Lewis gun, lit a cigarette and brought the bomber down with a deadly burst of fire.

Jimmy, a peacetime tug master, then helped to rescue the three German airmen who had ditched in the sea. He was awarded the George Medal for his remarkable success.

A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo. A paperback – Mersey Maritime Tales (£3.99) – is available from the museum, newsagents and bookshops.

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