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Banquet Ceiling (Part 1)

As promised, here's more from my research into Britain's anti-invasion plans in 1940.

'Banquet Ceiling' concerned No 17 Group based at Gosport, and this document gives a great insight into the various roles and armaments that would be assigned to aircraft within the Group.

The first row of the 'spreadsheet' as I suppose we would call it these days (this was substantially before MS ExCel was available) lists 7 operational aircraft for use as Anti-Personnel Forces; all are Hawker Nimrods.

Here we see a Nimrod pictured in 1936; there's a definite resemblance to the Hawker Fury and Hart I would say and perhaps even the genes of the Hurricane are on display here? The only armament suggested appears to be the machine guns with which the Nimrod was usually equipped (firing through the airscrew), and so we must conclude the intent was to conduct strafing runs against Wehrmacht personnel in the open.

And what of anti-submarine forces?

The next line of our 'spreadsheet' reveals that 5 Supermarine Walrus aircraft were to be available for this maritime role. Here is a Walrus pictured in 1935:

She may appear ungainly, but the Walrus served in front line roles until 1943, notably as part of the RAF's Air Sea Rescue Service. However, it is difficult again to imagine this stalwart of the 1930s attacking U-Boats with much success during the Operation Sealion assault. The 'Remarks' column suggests that no Observers were to be assigned to these 5 aircraft, so presumably attack rather than detection was the goal.

Next we see that our 7 Hawker Nimrods are to be assisted in the Anti-Personnel role by a further 5 aircraft, also from the Hawker stable; in this case Hawker Ospreys.

The Osprey was a navalised version of the Hart. Here is one pictured aboard HMS Enterprise (a cruiser on which my paternal grandfather served) in 1936:

Armament again seems sparse for the job of strafing German troop columns; a single forward-facing Vickers .303 machine gun and a .303 Lewis gun in the rear. The Osprey was a Fleet Air Arm aircraft and it seems unclear from the spreadsheet whether the 5 Ospreys were to be 'loaned' from the RN.

These aircraft were all to be based at Lee-on-Solent in the event of invasion, totaling 12 aircraft in the Anti-Personnel role and 5 in the Anti-Submarine role.

As always with my research into the Banquet plans, I find it incredible to imagine that a dozen (verging on obsolete) biplanes would be among those charged with strafing the landing grounds. Perhaps the Osprey pilots might consider themselves more fortunate than their Nimrod colleagues, having as they would a buddy sat behind them who might at least try and discourage the Emils and Zerstörers on their tail?

More to follow in my next journal post as we look at the fighter escort and bombing assignments from No 17 Group.

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