The Shuttleworth Trust doesn’t just restore, preserve and display aircraft, its collections include motor vehicles, farm machinery and many other items. I really enjoy delving into the far corners of the display hangars. Here we can see a reminder of a vital and dangerous job, undertaken during the dark days of the Blitz and the rest of WW2.
This 1938 Hillman Minx, a product of the Rootes Group of companies, was one of the many vehicles of all types which were impressed at the start of WW2. Powered by a 1,148cc four-cylinder side-valve engine, the Minx was a popular family car with a top speed of 60 mph, and the Services swept the dealers’ showrooms clean and, after an appropriate coat of paint, were used by the Army, Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
The Minx shown here is in the colours of No. 15 Bomb Disposal Flight, headquartered at RAF Church Fenton, North Yorkshire. The Army had responsibility for UXO (UneXploded Ordnance) on Army property and civilian property, the Royal Navy was responsible for their establishments and all underwater devices, and the Royal Air Force was responsible for enemy UXO on their bases, bombs in and around aircraft, as well as all Allied bombs. There was obviously a great deal of inter-Service co-operation, with details on the latest Axis weapons, techniques for their successful disarming and notes about any ‘anti-handling devices’ – such as the Luftwaffe’s ZUS40 Anti-Removal Bomb Fuse - being swapped as soon as possible. The Luftwaffe’s bombs were exploded by means of the Rheinmetall Electric Fuse, which could be set for instantaneous action (as with the Allies mechanical fuses) or delays up to 7 days.
The Army sent personnel to its Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal School at Ripon, but the RAF’s Bomb Disposal Courses took place at the School of Technical Training at RAF Melksham in Wiltshire. During the early part of WW2, the Royal Air Force organized 29 Bomb Disposal Flights, each commanded by a Flying Officer, 15 specialist NCO Armourers, plus airmen (for digging and general duties) and drivers. This excellently restored Minx carries a civilian number plate ‘FUM 310′, as well as an RAF serial number ‘RAF 184832′, and is fitted with the typically heavily masked headlights of the war period. The Shuttleworth Trust bought the Minx from its restorer in 2006.
Oddly, the Rootes Group, headed by William Edward Rootes (1st Baron Rootes, GBE) made an even more direct contribution to the RAF’s war effort than a few hundred Hillman Minx cars. They produced large quantities of Hillman Utility vehicles, and thousands of Bristol Blenheim Mk I/II/IV and V and Handley Page Halifax B. Mk II/III/V, and A. Mk III aircraft. So it could be said that Rootes were involved with both the Axis and Allied bombing campaigns.