This is the last in my series of posts on the story of the Lady Be Good.

Toner’s Diary:
MONDAY, April 12, 1943
No help yet, very (unreadable) cold nite.

Ripslinger’s Diary:
MONDAY, April 12, 1943
No entry made.

Monday April 12 was the last day that Toner made an entry in his diary and it was a single sentence. According to Walker, Toner’s diary was found in the pocket of a rolled up set of flight coveralls. Walker reports that the indications were that those of the five who survived longer had used the clothing of those who had passed to ward off the cold night temperatures. Toner makes no mention of anyone passing.

On Friday 9th, Toner had reported the five had one parachute left. They were using this to shelter from the sun during the day and it was found with the bodies, along with a life preserver that is theorized the crew brought along in the hope of using it to hold any water they might encounter. Two empty canteens were found with the bodies.

Each of the bodies were found a little distance apart that perhaps shows some reverence for those that departed. It’s not reported in the books I’ve read whether the coveralls were found by Toner’s body or elsewhere. That the coveralls were reported to be rolled up suggests that Toner wasn’t wearing them when found so either he wasn’t cold or he passed and one of the others tidied up his effects, or he was just a neat tidy guy and rolled them up himself, perhaps to protect the diary.

In the dunes, Ripslinger and Shelley also likely passed this same day. Ripslinger was found some 27 miles from the group of five and Shelley some 10 miles further. No sign has ever been found of Moore and Ripslinger made no mention of him after his entry on the Saturday of the group of three heading off alone.

When the body of Shelley was found, in his pockets they found both his billfold and Ripslinger’s, suggesting Rispslinger had passed earlier and Shelley had taken the billfold perhaps with a view to passing it to Ripslinger’s next of kin. But neither Ripslinger nor Shelley carried anything of Moore’s and there’s no way of knowing where or when Moore separated from the trio and if he was alive or dead at the time.

Shelley’s last day must have been an enormous struggle, completely on his own for probably the first time in his life with only his own thoughts for company, knowing he was all alone in this vast expanse of sand. Below is a photo of the terrain the Ripslinger, Shelley and Moore had been navigating since setting out on their own. Toner had mentioned on the Thursday that Moore, along with Adams were all gone, so I think Moore likely succumbed first of the three.

Calanscio Dunes near where the remains of the crew of the Lady Be Good were foundWhile the body of Vernon Moore has not yet been found there is an intriguing story on this page of Martinez’s site, www.ladybegood.com. The challenge with the story is the lack of detail on where the British Army convoy traversed the dunes in 1953. Certainly the body in the photo on this page is lying on sand and not gravel. What’s not clear to me on this account is whether the 80 miles refers to the width of the dunes at the crossing or the length of the journey at the crossing. We used to cross pretty much East from Sarir to our camp. Here the dunes were about 40 miles wide but the journey was considerably longer as we wound our way up and down the lines of dunes to saddles where crossing the dune lines was easier.

The body of 2nd Lieutenant John Woravka, the Bombardier, was the last of the 8 bodies to be found. He was lying on the gravel plain, about 12 miles North of the wreck of the Lady Be Good, shrouded in his parachute which had failed to open. As Walker writes, his failed parachute spared him the long drawn out ordeal of his fellow crew members. His body was also found to be less than a half-mile from the rally point where the other crew members assembled after bailing out, as determined by the pile of discarded parachute harnesses, life preservers and high-altitude clothing found at that point.

Lady Be Good - 1990-91 Under the Starboard WingThe markers left by the crew show that they followed tracks left by an Italian Army convoy of five trucks that had evacuated from Kufra oasis in 1941 escaping a Free French raid. They had followed this until they encountered crossing series of tracks determined to have been made by the British Army Long Range Desert Group in 1942 when they moved their base from Siwa to Kufra.

The photo below shows the remains of a British Army refueling dump from WWII. It’s possible that these are related to those same Long Range Desert Group operations. They were on the edge of the dunes, to the East of where the remains of Hatton and the crew were found but I took no fix on these. I think it’s safe to say they are still there now.

Where the German Army had the now famous Jerrycan for carrying spare fuel, the British Army used 4-gallon tin-plated cans, known as ‘flimsies’. Many of these were made in Egypt. These 4-gallon containers were packed in pairs in a wooden case. This was later replaced by plywood and eventually cardboard. The ones I cam across were packed in thin plywood and wire cases. The lack of robustness of the cans meant that they were effectively single use and were discarded once used. As their name attests, they often leaked which resulted in not only a loss of fuel but also an increased fire risk. By early 1942 the Long Range Desert Group had switched from using flimises to jerrycan’s captured from the Germans in fighting around Benghazi in late 1941.

British Army Below is a closer view of one of the plywood crates with a pair of flimsies. From their condition still in the crate I suspect these had leaked their contents in transit. The one in the lower left appears to have a split in it near the base. The bird resting on the frame is doomed. With no water in the vicinity, once these birds had fallen out of the air currents that carry them across the Sahara they never regained the energy required to rise to the necessary altitude to one again be carried on the wind.

British Army 4 Gallon FlimsiesNone of the flimsies in the photo below was opened from the top and most still had a wire from the crate running through the handle indicating the fuel they once carried never made it into the fuel tank of a vehicle. Note that these we made for the Shell Company.

British Army 4 Gallon Flimsies 2When we finally left the concession, we drove North through the dune valleys to the northern edge of the Calanscio Sand Sea and then we followed the edge of the dunes to the West. The drive North through the dunes from the southern edge to the northern edge took us the whole day but we all emerged together with only one major breakdown that I recall and only a couple of trucks getting bogged down in soft sand.

Close to where we emerged we came across what our ordinance maps told us was the remains of three German Army trucks destroyed in an airstrike. Among the remains was this jerrycan.

Kraftstoff 20 L = Fuel 20 litres
Feuergefährlich = flammable
1941 = year of manufacture
ABP (logo) = AMBI-BUDD Presswerk Berlin
243 = unknown – some form of series number possibly
Wehrmacht = armed forces in general, not specific to the army.

1941 JerrycanBelow is a photo of some of our convoy parked alongside the remains of the three vehicles destroyed in the airstrike. Note also how different this terrain is – gravel plain with undulating hills versus the near flat gravel plain South of the dunes.

Airstrike - 50 Years On

Airstrike - 50 Years OnBelow is a fuel drum found among the airstrike wreckage.

Logo = Mauser (Mauser made their first metal drum in 1903)
1941 = year of manufacture
Kraftstoff = Fuel
200L = 200 litres
Feuergefährlich = flammable
Heer = army

WWII German Army Fuel DrumAnd below, an unexploded WWII shell lies on the desert floor some 50-years or so after this particular conflict.

WWII Shell in Libyan DesertAs we headed West, glad that we were out of the dunes with relatively little effort, we left the Lady Be Good behind in the desert.

In 1994, the Libyan Government removed the remains of the wreck from the desert. The remains appear to have moved around a bit, spending some time at El Adem and at the time of writing in Tobruk. The intent was to display it in a more accessible setting but with the ongoing political chaos in that country, in the humid, salty Mediterranean air, she rests unceremoniously junked in a yard. While I agree with the intent, the execution and circumstances appear to have doomed the plane once more.

Below are images of Toner’s diary:

Lady Be Good - Toner

Lady Be Good - Toner

And here is Ripslinger’s:

Lady Be Good - Ripslinger

These maps are from www.ladybegood.net:

The remains of the crew members were collected by a U.S. Army Mortuary team based out of Frankfurt, Germany. A memorial service was held at the site before the bodies were removed. The image below must have been taken around sunset on February 17, 1960, judging by the shadows. I’ve not seen any reports as such but I can imagine ‘Taps’ being played and a very sombre mood.

Lady Be Good Crew Waiting To Go Home

And my final image of this series, a close-up of the serial number on the starboard tailplane.

Lady Be Good - Serial Number 124301

I have a photo book containing several of my images of the Lady Be Good available through Blurb, below:

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  • Phil JurgensenFebruary 24, 2015 - 8:26 pm

    Thank you for your writings and photos regarding the Lady Be Good.

    I suffer from dry eyes and know something of what they must have felt. Very painful and give you a terrific headache, like someone is pinching hard at the top of your nose. They go gummy and you can’t focus to see. When I feel an attack coming, I have to go and bathe my eyes in warm water. And I don’t have desert sand to contend with.ReplyCancel

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Continuing with my series of posts on the story of the Lady Be Good.

Toner’s Diary:
SUNDAY, April 11, 1943
Still waiting for help, still praying, eyes bad, lost all our wgt. aching all over, could make it if we had water; just enough left to put our tongue to, have hope for help very soon, no rest, still same place.

Ripslinger’s Diary:
SUNDAY, April 11, 1943
Palm Sun. Still struggling to get out of dunes and find water.

Toner’s entry implies that each of the group of five were still alive at this time. The first mention of prayers was written four days earlier by Toner and three days earlier by Ripslinger. I wonder where Toner’s hope for help was coming from and can only think that it came from his faith. Toner’s handwriting remained strong, despite their ordeal.

The five; Hatton, Toner, Hays, LaMotte, and Adams must have been wondering what progress Rispslinger, Shelley and Moore were making. Ripslinger, Shelley and Moore were probably also wondering about their five comrades as well as their own task of finding help. That Ripslinger mistook this day for Palm Sunday, still a week away, is taken as a sign of his confusion brought on by now proceeding on their seventh day without water or meaningful food.

The photo below is of sunrise at one of our camps on the eastern edge of the Calanscio Sand Sea. It’s about maybe 35 miles South South West of where Hatton et.al. were found.

Sunrise on the edge of the Calanscio Sand SeaThe image below was taken in the dunes about 35 ~ 40 miles South of where the remains of Shelley and Ripslinger were found. Depending on how well the eyes of the three were working, each time they crested a dune, this is the sight that would have greeted them – yet more dunes to cross. I can only marvel at their persistence. The vehicle in this photo is one of our near-surface drilling rigs – rated for a depth of up to 1,000 feet. It sits here idle, having run out of water.

Drilling Rig in the Calanscio Sand Sea near where the remains of the crew of the Lady Be Good were foundBelow is another of our drilling rigs in the dunes of the Calanscio Sand Sea and another indication of the land that Ripslinger, Shelley, and Moore were facing. Sand dunes as far as the eye can see. The drilling rig, a Mayhew 1000 is mounted on the back of a M.O.L. 66 truck. The two water tankers are M.A.N. 4x4s. Each one of these carried up to 1,500 gallons of water. We got our drilling water from a well on the concession – probably not more than 15 miles to the South East from where Hatton and the crew were found. I’ve no record of how far below the surface the water table was.

Drilling crew in the Calanscio Sand Sea near where the remains of the crew of the Lady Be Good were foundThe photos below form a sequence as I circled around the wreck of the Lady Be Good.

Lady Be Good in 1990

Lady Be Good in 1990From a photo in Walker’s book, the port side tailplane had been severed sometime before 1968. I suspect that the vertical piece of aluminum sticking out of the sand at the rear of the aircraft in the photo below is actually the horizontal section of the tail wing and that the vertical section was actually lying on the ground, covered in sand. Walker mentions that the RAF DRG team pulled the scattered pieces back into relative position but the report quoted in Martinez’ book doesn’t say this but instead reports that the team found the pieces in the correct relative position but is appeared that several pieces had been dragged away and then dragged back into place. An aerial photo that Walker attributes to the RAF taken in 1968 shows the wreck only marginally more complete than we found it some 22 ~ 23 years later.

Lady Be Good in 1990

Lady Be Good in 1990In the image below you can see how the starboard tailplane has started tearing away at the wing root. If the tail section was dragged away and then dragged back that could account for this damage. I just wonder what these people thought they were doing at the time.

The control surfaces of the tail plane were covered in fabric. Although most of it was still in place when Sheridan, Martin, and Bowerman first visited the wreck in 1959, 40-years later it had all long since disappeared.

Lady Be Good in 1990

Lady Be Good in 1990

Lady Be Good in 1990While generally it was the slip faces of dunes that were soft, sometimes you’d come across a flat section that was soft also. Walking across dry, soft, sand takes a lot of effort and makes the onward progress of Shelley and Ripslinger all the more impressive.

In the photo below, one of our surveyors has ground to a halt in a patch of soft sand. These were hard to spot at the best of times and virtually impossible when the sun was high in the sky. Usually the only indication was the tracks of a vehicle that had gone before. In this particular photo, the guy in white was our survey supervisor who had flown out from the UK for a visit. In sand dunes we’d typically reduce the air pressure in our tires to expand the surface area in contact and so lessen the pressure of the vehicle in the hope of staying afloat on the surface of the sand. The surveyors would also often carry sand ladders like the one you can just see in front of the rear tire here. Made of angle iron, the hope was you could get enough purchase to propel you out of the soft sand. If it didn’t then it was a case of wash, rinse, repeat until you reached firm sand once more.

Land Rover Driving in the Calanscio Sand SeaBelow is another image of the Calanscio Sand Sea. Scattered throughout the dunes were occasional valleys that had sparse vegetation. I don’t know if Shelley or Ripslinger encountered any of these valleys but if they did it may have given them hope of finding water.

Calanscio Sand Sea near where the remains of the crew of the Lady Be Good were found
More images to come in my next post.

I have a photo book containing several of my images of the Lady Be Good available through Blurb, below:

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Continuing with my series of posts on the story of the Lady Be Good.

Toner’s Diary:
SATURDAY, April. 10, 1943
Still having prayer meetings for help. No signs of anything, a couple of birds; good wind from N. Really weak now, can’t walk, pains all over, still all want to die. Nites very cold, no sleep.

Ripslinger’s Diary:
SATURDAY, April. 10, 1943
Walked all day and night. Suggested Guy, Moore and I make out alone.

No one knows why Toner wrote that Ripslinger, Moore and Shelley separated on the Friday while Ripslinger wrote it on the Saturday. Perhaps Ripslinger ran out of room to write this on the Friday and then added it as an afterthought on the Saturday.

Who were they writing for? Themselves? It’s interesting that no ‘last letters’ were ever found. Neither used the extra pages in their diaries to write anything to family members or loved ones. Perhaps the thought of that was unbearable.

While Hatton, Toner, Hays, LaMotte and Adams could go no further, Ripslinger, Moore and Shelley set off once more. Presumably one of them took a compass though I’ve never read of one being found with the remains of either Risplinger or Shelley. They appear to have made a course change, moving off their heading of 325 degrees to a heading closer to 308 degrees. Based on the dunes today, this took them out of the broad valley where their five comrades remained and over the western finger of dunes and on into the sand sea.

The photo below is of me, sitting in an old Bedford RL truck we came across, abandoned in the dunes close to where the remains of the crew members were eventually found. Vauxhaull-Bedford made over 74,000 of these trucks between 1953 and the early 1970s. The one below looks to have been what we would have called a ‘D’-Tanker. I worked on crews that had later Bedford MK versions of the same vehicle. The name came from the cross section of the water tank body. The tank held about 750 imperial gallons of water. The flat top of the tank allowed cargo to be carried in addition to water, adding to the versatility of the truck particularly in the desert where we used them to support near-surface drilling operations and carry drilling mud and other supplies.

This one, however, had ground to a halt many years before and the dunes were slowly swallowing it. I suspect most usable spares were salvaged by whoever abandoned it. The door still opened and closed with ease and the glassless wing mirror was still adjustable.

Note my footsteps leading up from the to the cab from just right of center at the bottom of the frame. This is on the slip face of the dune so the sand is much softer. I’m on the eastern side of this dune so in this general area, Ripslinger, Shelley, and Moore would have had to climb up the soft face of the dunes they encountered which takes a lot more energy then descending.

The prevailing wind constantly pushes the sand up the slope of a dune to the crest. At some point, the crest becomes unstable and breaks away under its own weight and the sand avalanches down the opposite side – the slip face – until the slip face reaches the angle required for the dune to become stable once more. This is usually about 30 to 35 degrees from vertical when standing at the base – a pretty steep climb in other words. When walking, the angle of the climb can be lessened by climbing on the diagonal but that lengthens the distance of the climb in the softer sand.

Abandoned Bedford Truck near where the remains of the crew of the Lady Be Good were foundBelow is the same Bedford RL some four to six months earlier. Notice that there is much more of the truck showing in this earlier photo. It’s possible that the varying wind over the years partially covers and uncovers this abandoned vehicle. Today it might be completely submerged in a wave of sand, only to emerge again in the future. The wooden peg is one of our seismic survey markers.

Abandoned Bedford Truck near where the remains of the crew of the Lady Be Good were foundThe image below gives a better sense of what Ripslinger, Shelley, and Moore were now trying to cross. At this time of day, with the sun high in the sky, the lack of contrast makes the shape of the dunes, the hills and the valleys, hard to make out. The cluster or wires in front of the Bedford RL truck is a geophone array. We used to circle the peg like this if there was too much elevation change across the normal pattern.

Abandoned Bedford Truck near where the remains of the crew of the Lady Be Good were foundThe photo below was taken as we were scouting a way to get our seismic crew out of the concession. We had come in across the dunes and that had been time consuming and very hard on the vehicles and equipment. I wanted to find a faster and easier way out and felt that driving North through the valleys might be more productive, and it was. In the end we saved several weeks through this approach. You can see that we didn’t have the best day for this scouting trip. The marker on the right marks a pipeline laid through the sand sea to move oil from the Sarir fields to the coast. Notice from the tire tracks that on the valley floors and on the windward side of the dunes the sand is quite firm. I would say that walking on this was little different to walking on maintained grass such as a soccer pitch. This was always the reward after climbing up a slip face.

Windy day in the Calanscio Sand SeaStill in the sand sea, North of where the remains of the crew were found, note how featureless this area is when the visibility shuts down. I wouldn’t call this a sand storm per se, just a blustery day where the sand was kicking up and hanging in the air. Ripslinger didn’t comment on the weather they encountered in the dunes – probably because in his diary the amount of space reserved for Saturday and Sunday entries was about half that available for the other week days.

Wndy Day in the Calanscio Sand SeaBelow are some more of my images of the wreckage of the Lady Be Good. Directly below is the Number 1 engine as we found it in late 1990. Note also how the leading edge of the wing has been taken apart over the years.

No. 1 Engine of the Lady Be Good in 1990-91Below, one of my colleagues examines the Number 1 engine more closely. You can see it has been separated from the wing. This separation had occurred sometime between 1960 and 1968 as the RAF Desert Rescue Group found all the engines separated when they went to recover samples and the Number 2 engine for McDonnell-Douglas. You can see where the Number 2 engine would have been fixed to the wing and also quite clearly the hatch in the roof of the fuselage where the sea survival gear was found by Sheridan and Martin.

Examining the No.1 Engine of the Lady Be Good in 1990-91While I chose a 3 inch x 4 inch section of the wing skin as my souvenir, my colleague liberated this spark plug from the Number 1 engine as his souvenir. We felt quite certain from our visual inspection that if we applied the right voltage, it would still spark.

Spark Plug from the Lady Be GoodBelow is a view of the star on the port side of the fuselage and the waist gun port. The flap was to deflect the airflow past the open window. I can’t even begin to image what it must have been like, standing by those open windows at altitudes of 25,000 feet or more.

Port side waist gun port of the Lady Be Good in 1990-91Below the starboard tail plane was perhaps the largest expanse of the fuselage that still had paint on it in 1990-90. You can see below some of the remaining Desert Pink but mostly the underlying Olive Drab. Over the years various visitors had scratched their names into the paint. Someone from Tripoli visited on 6/3/1964. Tam Smith of the RAF Desert Rescue based at El Adem visited on 25 March, 1963 (20 years too late). Someone with the last name of Maglin, 10th Special Forces Group (ABN) visited on 24 May 1965. Howard visited on 3/18/71 and someone else on 25/12/76 – an interesting way to spend Christmas Day. (While I learned a few Arabic phrases I never learned to read it so I can’t translate the Arabic graffiti.) I wonder how the visitors in the mid sixties found the wreck and if any of them were involved in separating he engines, dragging the tail section across the desert, severing the port tailplane, etc.

Graffiti under the starboard tail plane of the Lady Be Good, Below, yet more names scratched in the paing below the starboard tailplane. Sandy Espey, W. Grant, V. Villanueva, someone who visited on 5 October 1975, M. I. Robinson, Vic Ware, 21 March 1963, c/o Union Jack Club, London, England. (The Union Jack Club still exists and is the ‘Premier Armed Force Club in London.) May they all R.I.P. I’m no handwriting expert but there’s enough similarities in the letters to make me think that phrase was carved by Mr. Ware.

Graffiti under the starboard tail plane of the Lady Be GoodI’m pretty sure that, like myself, these people all took a little bit of the Lady Be Good away with them, doubtless much of it now tossed into landfills around the world.

More images to come in my next post.

I have a photo book containing several of my images of the Lady Be Good available through Blurb, below:

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Continuing with my series of posts on the story of the Lady Be Good.

Toner’s Diary:
FRIDAY, April 9, 1943
Shelley, Rip, Moore separate and try to go for help, rest of us all very weak, eyes bad. Not any travel, all want to die, still very little water. nites are about 35, good N. wind, no shelter, 1 parachute left.

Ripslinger’s Diary:
FRIDAY, April 9, 1943
5th day out & we all thought we’re gone. All wanted to die during noon it was so hot. Morn & nite okay. 2 drops of water!

Walker’s book contains a reference that even at rest, the airmen would have been losing 2 quarts of water through dehydration every six hours in the 130°F heat. That’s over 54°C. I only recall a couple of days where for sure it got over 50°C (120°F) and that was because the thermometer at the airstrip we were working at only went up to 50°C, after which aircraft could not operate – because they no longer knew how hot it was to calculate lift, etc. for takeoff and landing. Martinez quotes from a report filed by the RAF Desert Rescue Team mission in April of 1968, that collected samples from the wreck for technical testing, that daytime temperatures were 20-30°C (68-86°F) which is much closer to what I remember.

Popular weight loss sites often state that the average daily calorie intake for an adult male to maintain his weight is 2,500. Eat more you gain weight, eat less and you lose. A deficit of 500 calories per day will lead to a loss of about one pound per week. So, they would have been losing about 10 pounds in weight per day. By day five they would have lost around 50 pounds of body weight! The relationship probably breaks down somewhere but assuming they were around 150 pounds, by this time they would have lost about a third of their weight! That they made it this far is truly remarkable. Doubtless this dramatic weight loss would also have affected the way that they experienced temperature.

In the fall of 1990 I got to make my first visit to the wreck and in the spring of 1991 my second and last visit. Had I had a digital camera back then I would have taken lots more photos but at the time I used slide film and I had to carry that in one each trip and make my stash of film last ten weeks so I rationed myself.

Below is an image of the nose of the Lady Be Good from 1990. In the bottom right corner where the skin is all bent up you can make out a white ‘6’ from the number 64. Below the windows of the cockpit there’s a scar where the word ‘good’ has been cut out. See the photo in my Lady Be Good – Day 2 post. To the left of the photo are the remains of the top turret. I never took any photos of the top turret for reasons now I don’t understand.

Starbord nose of the Lady Be GoodBelow, one of my colleagues poses for a photo in the remains of the cockpit. Note the featureless plain. As the sun came up on April 5th, this is the landscape that the crew would have seen which explains (to me) why they stuck to the vehicle tracks that had come across. A ‘Walking “Timeline” Calculator’ on the website www.ladybegood.net suggests that sometime after dawn on Day 2, the crew came across another set of vehicle tracks crossing the tracks they were following. One can only imaging what discussions they had at that point. Again, someone must have been navigating and someone must have been leading as the crew decided to strike out on a heading of 325°, away from both sets of tracks and across something very much like this:

Cockpit of the Lady Be Good in 1990-91Below is a closeup view inside the remains of the cockpit. Walker reports that when the RAF Desert Rescue Team visited in 1968, the plane had already been stripped of virtually every toggle switch by souvenir hunters in the intervening 8 years since the wreck was found. All that remained in 1990 was the airframe and parts of the wiring loom.

Lady Be Good Cockpit Detail 1990-91Below is another photo of the wiring loom in the cockpit.

Lady Be Good Cockpit Wiring 1990-91On the inside wall of the starboard side of the cockpit was this fuse box. The circular item I assume to have been part of an internal communication system as a similar item can be seen on the ceiling of the tail gun turret.

Lady Be Good Cockpit Fusebox 1990-91Now here’s a detail I find interesting. According to the 1968 RAF DRG report (Martinez), the engines were separated from the aircraft but in the correct relative positions. Except they can not have been. In the photos taken when the Lady Be Good was discovered in 1959 (see my Lady Be Good – Day 1 post) the No.4 engine was clearly the one ripped off when the pilot-less Lady Be Good crashed. Yet in my photos and in a photo of the wreck attributed in Walker to the RAF in 1968, there is an engine in the No.4 relative position.

Martinez quotes from the RAF DRG report by Flight Lieutenant B. Sellers that, “The four engines were found lying in their correct relative positions but separated from the wings. Little was left of the starboard inner engine, but the other three were more or less complete.”

The only possible answer is that someone in the intervening years had moved them for some reason known only to themselves as the initial photos of the wreck clearly show the starboard inner engine to have been in relatively good shape in 1959, and in the right place.

Thus, the engine below is actually the beat up remains of the No.4 engine, even though it is in the relative position of the No.3 engine.

Lady Be Good #4 Engine 1990-91Below is a shot of the underside of the starboard wing. The looped wires on the trailing edge of the wing are the control surface wires that ran aound various pulleys and move the flaps and ailerons as the pilot moved the levers in the cockpit.

Lady Be Good - 1990-91 Under the Starboard WingBelow, one o my colleagues gets down off the fuselage. To the right are the two hatches where Sheriden and Martin found sea survival kits including four pints of water and sea survival gear, including a radio and aerial. I can’t help but wonder how the story would have ran had the crew taken a chance at landing rather than baling out. They would have had everything they would have needed to call in a rescue aircraft or help those who searched for them in the days following but who turned back what appears to have been 40 miles too soon.

Lady Be Good Starbord Wing Trailing Edge 1990-91Below, one of my colleagues contemplates the ‘office’ of tail gunner Staff Sergeant Samuel R. Adams. In the base of the gun turret are the guides for feeding ammunition to the machine guns. In the ceiling another of those circular electrical components similar to the one shown in the cockpit photo above which leads me to think it was part of the internal communication system. While it’s possible the damage to the fuselage above the gun turret was caused in the crash, I think it more likely that someone tried (and failed) to separate the gun turret as a souvenir.

Lady Be Good - 1990-91 Tail Gun Turret 2Inside the tail gun turret were some labels, below. The top one informs of some form of release mechanism or process for the seat while the lower one seems to be machine gun loading instructions.

Tail Gun Turret Warning labelsThe label below was on the horizontal bar partially obscuring my colleague’s face in the image above.

(Unreadable) OPERA (missing) IN POWER

WITH QUICK DISTINCTIVE MOVEM

DO NOT TURN OFF SWITCHES

IMMEDIATELY AFTER TURNING

I don’t know about you but I’m asking, “Why not? What if I did turn off the switches immediately after turning?” If anyone knows, please comment.

Lady Be Good Tail Gun Turret LabelsBelow is one of my favorite photos of the Lady Be Good – the starboard tail. The fabric control surface was still partially intact when found in 1959 but had been stripped off by man and nature by the time of the RAF DRG team visit in 1968. This is possibly the clearest view of the different paint layers – the Olive Drab over the aluminum and the Desert Pink over the Olive Drab. The yellow serial number would have been the original painted on the Olive Drab. This is because the Desert Pink is clearly painted over the yellow numbers. Slightly above the yellow numbers you can see faint outlines of the serial number that would have been painted over the top of the Desert Pink.

Lady Be Good - 1990-91 Starboard Tail 1

More images to come in my next post.

I have a photo book containing several of my images of the Lady Be Good available through Blurb, below:

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Continuing with my series of posts on the story of the Lady Be Good.

Toner’s Diary:
THURSDAY, April 8, 1943
Hit Sand Dunes, very miserable, good wind but continuous blowing of sand, everybody now very weak. thought Sam & Moore were all gone. LaMotte eyes are gone, everyone else’s eyes are bad. Still going N.W.

Ripslinger’s Diary:
THURSDAY, April 8, 1943
Tired all out. We can hardly walk. Our 4th day out. A few drops of water each. Can’t hold out much longer without aid. Pray.

I guess these entries were made at a stop later in the afternoon as the sun was setting. They seem to me to have an ‘end-of-the-day’ feel to them. It’s been pointed out elsewhere that both Toner and Risplinger only used the space allotted in their diaries for the day in question. Was this just a habit or some, perhaps unconscious, expression of hope that they’d survive to fill out the remaining days that year. Clearly Risplinger knew that they were in serious trouble.

The dunes in the area where they were at this point are ‘linear dunes’ running roughly North-South. From the maps, they would appear to have been in a broad valley. The photo below is from somewhere relatively close – within 25 miles – and shows a gravel valley floor between two lines of dunes – in essence, showing how the dunes sit on top of the gravel plain.

Calanscio Sand Sea near where the remains of the crew of the Lady Be Good were found Below are a couple of photos, again within 25 miles of the fateful final location for five of the crew, that shows my seismic crew working in the dunes in this part of Libya. At least these workers had clearly marked routes to follow and distance markers. I find it hard to imaging what it must have been like to have been walking across this expanse, without food and water, and just seeing the same terrain continuing as far as you could see. Oh, and all the trucks in these photos had food and water on board, just in case. I did have two of my crew spend a night in the dunes when they got lost but we worked out where they were and got them home the next day. Thankfully they follow their training and stayed with their vehicle.

The remains of the crew of the Lady Be Good were found near this location

The remains of the crew of the Lady Be Good were found near hereToner also mentions the wind. The dunes are not a good place to be when the wind kicks up as you can see from the photos below. The sand just gets in everywhere and without goggles it would have been really painful on their eyes. The dehydration factor would also have made it very difficult, if not impossible by now, for them to have teared up to clear the grains of sand. The blowing sand also reduces visibility which makes the ability of the eight crew to stay on their chosen heading all the more remarkable in my opinion. Some have questioned the capabilities of navigator Dp Hays because of the absence of entries in the navigation log found in the plane but someone was keeping them on track.

Seismic Line crew in the Calanscio Sand Sea

Seismic line crew in the Calanscio Sand Sea

Working in the Calanscio Sand Sea on a blustery dayThe wind-borne sand that bedeviled the crew on their doomed trek also worked on the wreck of the Lady Be Good over the years to scour away the paint on the fuselage. I’ve had some people comment over the years on my color balance in these photos as the Lady Be Good was known to have been painted Desert Pink. In the photo below you can still see the Desert Pink on the top of the fuselage but much of it has been sanded away over the years. In some places the underlying olive drab remains while in others all the paint has gone and the bare aluminum is exposed. What really confuses me though is the order of paint layers of the star. My current guess is that this was factory original and the Desert Pink was painted around it. I’m thinking a blue disc was painted first and then the white star on top of that. With only one layer of blue paint that would explain (to me) why all the blue disc has been blasted off and why some is peeking through where the white paint of the star has been abraded off. Perhaps also the different pigments affected the adhesion qualities of the different paint layers.

Port fuselage of the Lady Be Good in 1991Inside the fuselage I imagine it looked very close to the way it did on the day of the flight. The stenciling on the fuselage was near pristine.

Interior of the fuselage of the Lady Be Good in 1991Channeling their inner Julius Caesar’s (I came, I saw, I left some graffiti), some of my colleagues read names and comments left by other visitors over the years.

Interior of the fuselage of the Lady Be Good in 1991Here’s the holder for a portable oxygen bottle – possibly for the use of tail gunner, Sgt. Samuel E. Adams.

Interior of the Lady Be Good in 1991And below, brackets for securing ammunition boxes. Note that the brackets are made of steel but the minimal corrosion indicates the general lack of humidity. I recall from one of my survival/health training seminars that the lack of humidity makes the sweat evaporate almost instantly. Consequently it’s difficult to know how much fluid you are losing through sweat. Thus the need to monitor the time between needing to pee and noting the color of the urine as a guide to one’s level of hydration.

Interior of the Lady Be Good in 1991In the photo below, three of my colleagues are having a conversation over the remains of the No.1 engine while another explores the rear section of the fuselage. I’m North-East of the wreck looking South-West. The accumulation of sand and the greater stripping of the paint on this side of the wreck shows that the prevailing wind at the wreck site is from the North East.

Examining the No.1 Engine of the Lady Be Good in 1991

More images to come in my next post.

I have a photo book containing several of my images of the Lady Be Good available through Blurb, below:

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