Decorated aircraft 'nose art' fabric : Flying Officer R Leftwich DFC, RAAF, 142 Squadron, RAF

Accession Number REL30874
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Linen; Paint; Paper
Maker Unknown
Place made Italy
Date made c 1944
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Rectangular shaped painted aircraft fabric 'nose art' from the forward left fuselage of Vickers Wellington Mark X bomber serial number LP 209 'J for Johnny' of 142 Squadron Royal Air Force (RAF). The red brown painted fabric has been painted with a boomerang and daffodil in the centre with a white tudor rose, a white five pointed star and a green maple leaf on a white scroll painted around the outside. A paper cut-out of a springbok has been pasted on to the left side.

History / Summary

This example of Second World War nose art was attached to the port (left) side nose of Wellington Mark X bomber, serial number LP209 'J' for Johnny by 414577 Warrant Officer (later Flying Officer) Robert John Leftwich DFC and 414499 Warrant Officer (later Flying Officer) Walter Morton. These two Royal Australian Air Force pilots, with their respective crews, shared this aircraft as they flew operational bombing and sea mining missions with 142 Squadron, RAF, initially out of Tunisia and then from Amendola Airfield in Italy.

The emblem was made up by a friend in the Photographic unit and each symbol relates to the nationality of the crew. The boomerang represents the two Australian pilots, the daffodil, described as a leek, is for a Welsh bomb aimer, the star for an Indian bomb aimer, the maple leaf for a Canadian bomb aimer and the English rose for the rest of the two crews.

One operational mission in which this nose art was involved in was a sea mining mission to the Danube River on the evening of 1/2 July 1944. These missions were code named as 'Gardening' operations and very dangerous, as they were extreme low level missions on moonlit nights, to precisely drop their two mines at an altitude no higher than 50 feet (approximately 15 metres).

These mines were dropped in the river to disrupt and destroy German shipping and barge traffic which was moving troops and supplying their forces in and through Nazi occupied Yugoslavia. This Wellington Mk X, LP209, flown by then Warrant Officer Walter Morton RAAF, was part of eleven aircraft of No.142 Squadron RAF detailed to lay mines in a stretch of the river centred on the Serbian city of Novi Sad. They took off from Amendola airfield Italy between 20:35 and 21:05, encountering German anti-aircraft flak fire on the way. Their mine was successfully laid as ordered into the Danube and the aircraft returned to Amendola between 01:45 and 03:00 hours. (source : 'Gardening by Moonlight 205 Group RAF mining operations over the River Danube', by Peter Kassak and David Gunby - page 67. 2017).

After both Leftwich and Morton had successfully finished their respective operational tours the aircraft passed to a South African unit who added the paper Springbok to the emblem. Painted alongside the emblem were bomb profiles for each successful operational sortie over enemy territory and two swastikas representing victories over German Luftwaffe Messerschmitt fighters on 1 June 1944. Only one victory was confirmed, but two swastikas were added with the commanding Officer's consent. When the aircraft was transferred to a maintenance unit the emblem was removed by a Scottish frame fitter who had become friends with the crews. He sent it to Leftwich after the war. Leftwich enlisted in the RAAF on 12 October 1941 aged 19 and was assigned the service number 414577. He flew with 79 Operational Training Unit, RAF in Cyprus before joining 142 Squadron. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in October 1944 for 'displaying keenness and courage on operational tours'. After his tour of 40 flights, Leftwich joined another Operational Training Unit and then transferred to South East Asia Command on the declaration of victory in Europe. Leftwich was discharged on 8 January 1946 with the rank of Flying Officer.

This piece of nose art is seen still attached to the Wellington Mk X bomber on Australian War Memorial image P03978.001. Another photograph of both smiling Morton and Leftwich can be see in MEC2687.

Robert John Leftwich DFC died on 7 May 2018.