The RAF's 23rd Victoria Cross



The RAF's 23rd Victoria Cross


Article in the Aeroplane magazine March 30 1945 issue. Describes actions of Acting Squadron Leader Robert Antony Maurice Palmer D.F.C and Bar, 109 Squadron during an operation to Cologne marshalling yards. Also give other details of his service history. Magazine continues with articles on German fighter production and operations, aircraft hydraulics . Includes b/w photograph of Robert Palmer as well as parachute drop and airborne Lancaster while bombing.



Temporal Coverage




Cover and two pages of printed magazine


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“THE AEROPLANE” MARCH 30, 1945 Registered at the G.P.O as a Newspaper. ONE SHILLING


The best is good enough for the Mosquito

Every Mosquito is fitted with either three-blade or four-blade Hydromatic propellers, with strong, simple compact hub design. From spinner line to tip every inch of blade efficiently converts power into thrust.


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SECOND “D” DAY. – A formation of Douglas Skytrains or Skytroopers unloading their human cargo over the east bank of the Rhine on March 24. A greater force of airborne and glider-borne troops was used in this operation than on June 6, 1944, more than 40,000 men in all.

The R.A.F.’s 23rd Victoria Cross

THE VICTORIA CROSS has been awarded to an R.A.F. bomber pilot who had completed more than 100 missions and who was reported missing after a particularly hazardous daylight operation over the Rhineland city of Cologne last December. The award is to Acting Squadron Leader Robert Anthony Maurice Palmer, D.F.C. and Bar, No. 109 Bomber Squadron.


The citation states that Sqdn. Ldr. Palmer had completed 110 bombing operations. Most of them involved deep penetrations of heavily defended territory: many were low-level “marking” operations against vital targets; all were executed with tenacity, high courage and great accuracy. He first went on operations in January, 1941; he took part in the first 1,000-bomber raid against Cologne in 1942; and was one of the first pilots to drop a 4,000-lb bomb on German territory. Sqdn. Ldr. Palmer had a reputation of being able to press home his attacks and to bomb with outstanding accuracy. He was always selected, therefore, to take part in many special operations, such as pathfinding and “marking”. The action for which he was awarded Britain’s highest military honour was on December 23, 1944, when he led a formation of Avro Lancasters to attack the marshalling yards at Cologne in daylight. He had the task of marking the target, and his formation had been ordered to bomb as soon as the bombs had gone from his, the leading aeroplane. A few minutes before the formation started on its bombing run, an operation for which a steady flight is necessary for four or five minutes, the formation came under intense light and heavy anti-aircraft fire. Two motors of Sqdn. Ldr. Palmer’s Lancaster were set on fire and there were flames and smoke in the nose and in the bomb-bay. While the allied aeroplanes were making the bombing run many enemy fighters started to attack, but Sqdn. Ldr. Palmer did not take avoiding action. With much of his aeroplane damaged, he nevertheless made a perfect approach and his bombs hit the target.

The aeroplane was last seen spiralling to earth in flames. During this operation more than half of the Lancaster formation failed to return. Sqdn. Ldr. Palmer was an outstanding pilot displaying conspicuous bravery on all occasions. His record of prolonged and heroic endeavour is beyond praise. Sqdn. Ldr. Palmer was born on July 7, 1920. His home is at Gravesend, where he was educated at Gordon School and Gravesend County School. Before the War he was in the office of the Gravesend Borough Engineer. Enlisting in 1939 as air-crew he was commissioned in 1942. He was mentioned in despatches during January, 1944, was awarded the D.F.C. on June 30, 1944, and the Bar to the D.F.C. on December 8, 1944.

The number of V.C.s awarded during the present War is now 134. Of these, 23 have been won by airmen – 18 of the R.A.F., two of the R.A.A.F., one of the R.C.A.F., and two of the R.N.Z.A.F.

The Second Phase

THE ENEMY appears to have reached the second phase in his new fighter policy. When some of his production facilities were turned over to the building of reaction-propelled fighters, his Fw 190 and Me 109 production inevitably dropped and he found himself unable to achieve sufficient defensive attacks against the U.S.A. 8th A.F. and R.A.F. Bomber Command daylight assaults. Also, his armies in East and West were crying out for fighter cover and, consequently, the costly attacks against the escorted Allied bombers almost ceased, the defence of the Reich being left to the A.A. units.

Then, late last year, small formations of enemy reaction-propelled fighters, mainly Me 262s with a few Me 163s began to appear. These fighters seldom attempted to attack our bombers and were soon conspicuous by their absence when Allied fighters appeared. Completely new combat tactics were having to be thought out for the new fighters, which were being flown by men unused to such speed as offered by the new types. The pilots were apparently under instructions not to attack, but merely to gain experience by shadowing the bomber formations.

Now the enemy has either decided that the time is ripe for attacks to begin or he has been put in such a position by the recent assaults on his tactical aerodromes that he is forced to come up and attack to save his defensive force from being destroyed on the ground. The first real effort was on March 18, when three Fortress groups in the Berlin area were attacked by formations of between six and 12 Me 262s. Again, on March 19, a bomber group was attacked by formations of Me 262s and, on Wednesday, March 21, a formation of Fortresses was attacked by a group of about 15 Me 262s. In all the combats on Wednesday, 12 Me 262s were shot down (three by the bombers and nine by Mustangs) and nine bombers and 19 fighters were lost. These losses are not in excess of those which have been suffered normally at the hands of enemy flak during the past “fighter-free” months, and the losses of the enemy are out of all proportion to his achievement. The use of formations of jet-propelled fighters is significant in that it shows that the enemy considered he has evolved tactics for this new type. These formations are, however, as yet very small, but if the enemy can manage to bring sufficient numbers of Me 262s into action he may yet be able to achieve a measure of fighter defence over the Reich – for what it is worth to him now!

Whether the War in Europe will continue long enough to enable the enemy to progress to the third phase, the attack on our rear areas, and possibly on this country, by jet-propelled aircraft remains to be seen. Newer types of “jets”, including the Arado 234, will almost certainly not have reached a sufficient stage of development to participate in either of these phases.

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Hydraulics for Aircraft

MR. R.H. BOUND, F.R.Ae.S., F.S.E., M.I.M.E., A.M.I.A., speaking before members of the Royal Aeronautical Society on March 22, reviewed the four means of operating aircraft power services –pneumatic, mechanical, hydraulic and electric.

The aero-motor, he pointed out, is a high-speed unit, but the aircraft services are operated comparatively slowly. An undercarriage which completes an angular movement of approximately 90 degrees in nine seconds has a mean speed of three r.p.m. compared with the motor speed of about 3,000 r.p.m. Pneumatic systems cannot compete with hydraulic power to meet heavy loading, as air compressors cannot generate pressure approaching those of hydraulic pumps which can operate at 3,000 lb per sq. in. The use of pneumatics would demand heavier equipment. Pneumatics, however, can be used for bomb doors and wheel brakes.

Mechanical operation can be achieved by rods or flexible shaft drives but the practical difficulties are considerable and the reduction gearing is complicated and heavy. Actuators form the largest engineering bulk, representing about 50 per cent. of the complete system weight. The simplicity of the hydraulic jack is such that it can be produced for a fraction of the cost of the electrical unit with its motor, clutch brake, limit switches, gearbox, etc.

Gravity lowering gear for undercarriages is unsatisfactory. Hydraulic action can provide an emergency system, using compressed air or a slow-burning cartridge.

Mr. Bound said he did not believe it economic to operate every service on an aeroplane by one power source. Electric power can operate some services, hydraulic others and pneumatic others.

In comparing hydraulics with electric actuation, the electro-hydraulic systems must be considered. Electric control of hydraulic services takes advantages of both systems. Hydraulic power is the simplest means for obtaining linear travel, and the standard aircraft low-voltage electric system can be used for valve operation through the medium of solenoids. In this arrangement hydraulic units can be closely grouped, considerably reducing the length of pipes. Control valves are near the actuators and pipelines in the cockpit are eliminated.

The design of hydraulics, explained Mr. Bound, requires careful study to ensure neat piping runs. As a rule, piping connections should be confined to one or two sides of a component which permits latitude in mounting the unit. Temperature has to be carefully studied. Cavitation due to reduction on barometric pressure affects pump efficiency, giving rise to reduced and erratic delivery with considerable noise and vibrations.
Two means can counter this. A closed or pressurized system having capacity to absorb the maximum displacement and strong enough to maintain ground-level internal pressure when outside pressure falls with altitude, and a reservoir with submerged pump.

Height introduces problems of starvation in the suction lines. Increasing the rotational speed raises the power output without increasing the size and weight of the pump. A pump which operates satisfactorily at high speeds gives an equally good performance at high altitudes. Considerable improvements can be made at high altitudes and high r.p.m. if careful consideration be given to certain points. Pumps should be primed during suction, using the centrifugal force available due to rotary movement; sudden changes in direction of flow and any factors tending to increase turbulence in the suction passage should be avoided; the suction port should be as large as possible; the suction period should be increased at the expense, if necessary, of the delivery period, in the case of a piston pump, where the suction and delivery stroke occupy one revolution; by suitable design of the piston-actuating mechanism, a large ratio between the suction and delivery strokes can be attained.

Finally, Mr. Bound considered future developments. Hydraulic control and actuation of reversible pitch airscrews offers scope for development. Interest is being shown in pre-rotation of wheels before landing, and hydraulic motors could provide the power.

Oddentification – CCIII

MR. F.G. MILES has sent us the following correction to a rhyme under Wren’s Oddentity in THE AEROPLANE for March 16:–

I like your drawings and fancy styles –
I’m glad you like the aeroplanes by Miles –
I’m proud and flattered that you should be ready
To attribute thus the Mercury to “Freddie”:
Alas! Though praise is good, the truth is finer,
In this case brother George was the designer.

“The Aeroplane” “Airport for London” Exhibition

THE EXHIBITION of designs in THE AEROPLANE “Airport of London” competition will be open free to the public from 13.00 hrs. on Thursday, April 5, and thereafter daily from 10.00 hrs. to 19.00 hrs. except Sundays until April 14, at 196, Piccadilly, London, W.1. The exhibition will include a large model of the winning design.

HIGH WING LOADING. – This Avro Lancaster is seen over the target area during an attack on the Arbergen Bridge, over the Weser, with 22,000-lb. bombs, on March 21. It has had the nose and dorsal turret removed.


“The RAF's 23rd Victoria Cross,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 14, 2024,

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