This is a gorgous representation of the nose art movement. Seen here on the wall of the RAF Museum in Hendon, it was originally part of Halifax Bomber LV907.
Photograph by Anglocreative
The RAF 158 squadron unfortunately lost 7 bombers all with the ‘F’ registration during the second world war, so quite understandably when a new bomber arrived with the registration ‘NP-F’ many crewmen refused to fly in it, believing it to be cursed.
The bomber recieved its rather macabre name and decorations after Flight Officer Cliff R R Smith branded the superstision “stuff and nonsense”. He gave it the name ‘Friday The 13th’ and continued the dark humour by painting the scyth, skull and crossbones and an upside down horseshoe.
Other ‘doodles’ previously included were an upside down ladder and the parachute escape hatch painted over, though these details were later removed.
This appears To have broken the curse as despite its auspicious name the bomber went on to fly 128 missions without being shot down, more than any other Halifax aircraft. Making it one of the most succesful bombers of World War 2. ‘Friday the 13th’ certainly proved lucky for its first pilot, Joe Hitchman. His plane was swapped at the last minute with his regular aircraft being shot down during the 30th March 1944 raid (along with 100 others) whilst ‘Friday the 13th’ returned safely to base.
Impressivly you will be able to see the bomber fly once more (albeit an exact replica) to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its maiden flight on March 30th 1944 at the Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington, York, North Yorkshire. Unfortunately the original had been scrapped at York Aircraft Repair Depot, Clifton after the war.
Ian Richardson, spokesperson for the Yorkshire Museum had this to say: ”The project to recreate this legendary aircraft was started in 1986, soon after the museum’s formation, and work is still going on. However, standing as a tribute to all air and ground crews of Bomber Command, it draws visitors from all over the world. It has been a real labour of love. We have had lots of different people working on it over the years and some who are no longer with us, but there has always been people willing get involved with the project.”
Though the artwork appears some what crude compared to many other examples it never the less packs a mighty punch. ‘Friday the 13th’ stands as a testiment to how belief and trust can overcome fear and myth.