WORTH A SECOND GLANCE
FREE FRENCH FLYING WING
anonymous WW2 period
card has previously featured in WASG, but it was a long time ago and it
is a good link with the Howard Leigh piece.
The aircraft shown here in Free French markings in, then, French Africa
is a Cunliffe Owen OA.1 Flying Wing. It was a 15 seat airliner powered by 2
Bristol Perseus radials and constructed by the Cunliffe Owen company at
Southampton Eastleigh in 1938 – the factory survives as a Ford Transit Van
plant. Cunliffe Owen was formed
specifically to build the OA.1 and was financed by the then chairman of the
British American Tobacco Co, Sir Hugh Cunliffe Owen.
The OA.1 was a development of the U.S Burnelli UB.14, designed by
Vincent j Burnelli.
This had demonstrated its capacity by being used as a flying showroom for
Essex cars. Originally it was to be built under the name Clyde Clipper by
Scottish Aircraft Ltd located, oddly, in Willesden, London. The Dutch Aviolanda company
was also interested. It was
originally proposed to fly the UB.14 transatlantic but this was abandoned and it
was shipped by sea and was impounded by customs at Southampton. Meanwhile
Scottish Aircraft had gone into liquidation.
the potential of the design, it was the wrong time to be developing a civil
airliner in the UK. On the outbreak of WW2 it was impressed into the RAF, but,
as a one-off with no obvious use, was generously donated to the French in 1941.
Anecdote has it that Jim Mollison agreed to ferry it to West Africa while
drunk – the agreement that it is, not the flight,
but who knows. While in Africa it
is believed to have been used by General De Gaulle and was known to have
survived there until late 1943.
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