SEVENTY years after its first outing, the story of a famous Second World War Two aircraft which cheated disaster time and time again is being remembered at the Yorkshire Air Museum this weekend.
On the night of March 30, 1944, the Halifax bomber Friday the 13th rolled down the runway at RAF Lissett near Bridlington, bound for Nuremburg in Germany.
At the controls was Flight Sergeant Joe Hitchman, who had been called away from his rest period for the infamous raid.
His regular aircraft was flown by someone else and was lost, but Joe was lucky that night, along with his crew, which included Rear Gunner Wilfred Tunstall, who was the first man aboard the aircraft on this first mission.
Bomber Command lost 100 aircraft with seven men per aircraft that night but Friday the 13th returned safe and sound, and went on to fly a total of 128 successful operational sorties.
The plane got its unusual black-humoured name after 158 Squadron had lost seven Halifax aircraft in succession with the registration letter F. When it was delivered also bearing the unlucky letter the crew decided to break the curse by giving it the unluckiest name possible – “Friday the 13th” – and covering it with images of the grim reaper’s scythe, a skull and crossbones and upside down horseshoe.
No other Halifax flew more missions and the aircraft – officially called LV907 F for Freddy – is sometimes called the Unbeaten Warrior.
The Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington proudly displays a replica of Friday the 13th, which was unceremoniously scrapped after the war at the York Aircraft Repair Depot at Clifton airfield.
It is the only complete Halifax in the country, and is the product of years of painstaking restoration and rebuilding work by dozens of dedicated volunteers keen to see one of the iconic aircraft saved for posterity.
The museum’s Ian Richardson said: “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.”
To celebrate the anniversary of its first flight the museum is planning to tweet details of every single one of its 128 sorties for its online followers.