Royal Wedding Attire

Like millions of others across the planet, I was enthralled by the wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William which occurred three years ago, on April 29, 2011. From the announcement of the engagement in November of the previous year to the big day itself, I followed news of the wedding’s preparations religiously and was incredibly excited about the whole thing. Such an important event offered me the opportunity for a party- I love organizing parties- so I spent a lot of time planning a lovely British-themed party for April 29. The party mainly consisted of food; after all, games would be a distraction to the momentous occasion that we would be witnessing on the telly! So we enjoyed scones, real Cornish clotted cream, strawberry jam, and a beautiful pot of steaming tea while watching the proceedings that were happening across the Atlantic in Westminster Abbey.We did have to get up quite early in order to watch the wedding live- I think I was up at 3 or 3:30 in the morning! And our surroundings were considerably less grand than the exquisitely decorated Westminster Abbey- we watched the wedding from our rather dark and dingy basement, which I had decorated with homemade Union flag bunting. But I would happily do it again, because the wedding and my experience of it were truly magical and special.Of course, I would have rather been at the Abbey myself, taking in this momentous occasion with the likes of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II- and so, I’ve created a Polyvore outfit to illustrate what I would have likely worn, had I been invited!Royal Wedding Attire
The importance of the event and the sanctity of the venue calls for modesty and elegance, two requisites which are fulfilled in the sophisticated Lanvin dress and structured camel coat. An intricate fascinator, pumps from Christian Louboutin, and a simple clutch pull the look together through the use of black, and pearl and gold jewellery adds a vintage feel. Sage green nail polish completes the ensemble while complementing the deep jewel tone of the dress. If only I had been at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011!

IWM Duxford

War museums are, by my estimation, one of the greatest inventions humankind has ever come up with. I love the fact that one can immerse oneself in military history just by walking through a building- and I am so fascinated by military history that not only intricate dioramas but also lengthy write-ups on battles and vehicles enthrall me.

Over the course of my life, I have been fortunate enough to visit many such museums. When I was younger, before I became interested in military history, it was torturous to wander through a war museum; but now, war museums are always at the top of my list of priorities. And one of the best I’ve seen is definitely IWM Duxford.

Located in the grounds of a former RAF base, the museum at Duxford is a part of the Imperial War Museum’s empire, and it exhibits both a dazzling array of aircraft and some beautifully diverse army vehicles. IWM Duxford’s massive collection is spread throughout several hangars and buildings, and merits a day at least of enjoyment! I visited the museum in the spring of 2011, and spent many happy hours there.

The first hangar holds some fabulous airplanes, including a Handley Page Victor and Eurofighter Typhoon trainer. The Eurofighter is the RAF’s main modern fighter jet, developed for use by several European nations including Spain, Germany, and the UK. It is a beautiful plane, with delta wings and canards, and is easily able to compete with other modern jets such as the Chengdu J-10 and F-22 Raptor.

Eurofighter Typhoon Trainer

Two-seater trainer variant of the Eurofighter Typhoon multirole fighter

Duxford also has lots of exhibits outside, from WWII-era fixtures to airworthy planes.

Bloodhound SAM

Bloodhound Surface to Air Missile (SAM)

Dragon Rapide Duxford

de Havilland Dragon Rapide, used as a passenger aircraft in the ’30s and as a communications plane in WWII

B-17 Duxford

“Sally B” B-17 Flying Fortress; Europe’s last airworthy example

Gun Emplacement Duxford

Huge WWII-era gun emplacement

Radar Dish Duxford

Radar dish of the Wurzburg radar system; a crucial part of Nazi Germany’s war machine

V-1 Launch Rail Duxford

V-1 flying bomb on its launch rail

IWM Duxford is also home to a great deal of very commendable restoration and conservation work; one hangar was full of aircraft that were being restored and repaired. This is something very close to my heart, since I want nothing more than to see legendary machines from WWI, WWII, and all eras since flying well into the 21st century and beyond. It really bothers me that so many retired aircraft are mothballed, scrapped, or simply forgotten about- Arizona’s Boneyard is a symbol of great sorrow for me- so I loved seeing the huge care and attention that Duxford gives its aircraft.

MiG-21 Fishbed Duxford

MiG-21 Fishbed, an aviation workhorse- despite being introduced in 1959, the MiG-21 is still used by many nations today

Mi-24 Hind Duxford

East German Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship, one of my all-time favourite Soviet aircraft

One of the most awe-inspiring parts of Duxford was the American Air Museum, which houses dozens of American aircraft and artifacts. In 2011 I was just becoming familiar with the planes of the USAF, thanks mainly to the influence of Call of Duty: Black Ops and my brother’s enthusiastic tutelage. So I greatly enjoyed this massive building, which is literally stuffed full of USAF aircraft from the Vietnam era to present day.

American Air Museum Building

The imposing, bunker-like structure of the American Air Museum building

A-10 Warthog Duxford

The A-10 Warthog, the USAF’s infamous and nearly invincible “tankbuster”

U-2 Duxford

U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane; no, not the Irish band

SR-71 Front Duxford

Front view of the amazing SR-71 Blackbird, a recon aircraft that is the world’s fastest manned air-breathing aircraft

SR-71 Engines Duxford 

View of the Pratt & Whitney engines that allow the SR-71 to achieve 2,200 miles per hour and outrun threats such as missiles and other aircraft

The SR-71 was one of Duxford’s highlights for me- after all, this is essentially the fastest aircraft ever made. Plus, its appearance is so strange and outlandish that it is instantly recognizable. And I will always remember the peculiar feeling of the SR-71’s skin- corrugated to withstand the high temperatures created during flight, it felt like very fine sandpaper. Very strange, since one expects an airplane to be made of slippery, shiny metal!

Berlin Wall Fragment Duxford

Section of the Berlin Wall, beside a B-52 Stratofortress

Huey Duxford

Bell UH-1 Iroquois, better known as the Huey and a common sight in the skies of Vietnam in the ’60s and ’70s

B-52 Cockpit Duxford

Nose of a B-52 Stratofortress, the USAF’s long-lived heavy bomber

F-111 Duxford

F-111 Aardvark, a strategic bomber and fighter-bomber aircraft

The last building we toured at Duxford was the Land Warfare building. I was excited about this one, because of my fascination with the Soviet T-34 tank. I knew that Duxford had a T-34, and I couldn’t wait to see it! The Land Warfare building exceeded my expectations and even got me excited about vehicles other than the T-34, because all its vehicles were featured in wonderfully authentic settings.

The building was organized from latest to earliest, so it was really like walking backwards through time. Beginning with the  modern British Challenger II main battle tank and the Soviet T-72 of the 1970s, we saw important vehicles from many countries and every era. The Land Warfare building really was very well done, and had interactive elements as well- like a replica of a D-Day landing craft that visitors could walk onto, and American weapons that visitors could pick up and examine!

My brother and I were deeply interested in the weapons, and we pored over the M1 Garand rifle, Thompson submachine gun, and hand grenades that were on display. I was surprised by how heavy the Tommy gun was, and it was thrilling to imagine soldiers carrying these weapons in the field 70 years earlier.

Halftrack Duxford

German halftrack in the centre of the WWII section

Nebelwerfer Duxford

Nebelwerfer launcher; a sort of multi-barrelled mortar that was intended for firing gas or explosive shells

T-34/85 Duxford

The gorgeous T-34/85, facing off against a Tiger I in the Land Warfare Hall

T-34/85 Side Duxford

Side view of the T-34/85, with the surrounding ruins visible

I’ve had to restrain myself with this post- I’d love to include twenty photos and five hundred words on the T-34, but I want to save that for another day. I plan to do a post solely on the T-34 sometime! Suffice to say that at Duxford, I spent about twenty minutes photographing and examining every inch of this stunning T-34. It is the later /85 variant (I prefer the original /76 version), but it’s still a T-34 and I was definitely starstruck.

Tiger I Duxford

Tiger I bursting through a wall to meet the T-34incredible diorama!

Leaving the street-fighting of the WWII tank dioramas, we moved into the depressing mud of WWI. The WWI exhibits featured vehicles and artillery, all mired in a setting of mud, rickety boardwalks, and general chaos. Again, the dioramas were beautifully executed. Upon leaving the WWI section and coming to the exit of the building, I noticed an extraordinarily poignant touch. There, growing up through the mud and bordered with barbed wire, was a poppy.

This was a very touching feature, and although it might be easily missed, I noticed it and was affected by this small symbol of sacrifice and remembrance.

Poppy Duxford

IWM Duxford made for an epic day in England, and my only reservation is that I couldn’t have spent more time there. The culinary facilities were good and easily accessible, and the gift shop was one of the best I’ve browsed at any museum. But most of all, the exhibits are extensive and meticulously maintained. IWM Duxford made it easy to enjoy vehicles I already knew about and to learn about those I was not familiar with.

If you find yourself in Cambridgeshire, don’t miss Duxford! I know that it will be the first place I visit next time I’m in eastern England!

 

 

 

 

Celebrating England

I am spending this St. George’s Day seated at my Union Flag-clad computer, listening to “Land of Hope and Glory” and “I Vow to Thee, My Country”, with a cup of English Breakfast tea at my side. Although I already completed one post today, I really feel compelled to make another one in the patriotic, celebratory spirit of St. George’s Day.

So here is a simple collection of photos I’ve taken on my trips to England- celebrating just some of what is wonderful about this beautiful and illustrious country.

Fields from Airplane

Picturesque English fields bathed in the morning sun, seen from the air

The London Eye

The London Eye, one of the most easily recognizable landmarks in the world

Tower Bridge

Famous Tower Bridge, on a sunny day

Twinings Shop

Twinings shop on the Strand- because what is more English than tea?

Pigeons

Pigeons live in locales other than just England, but in my mind, pigeons and England are forever linked

Foggy London Skyline

Foggy London skyline, with St. Paul’s just visible. England is beautiful even when it rains, and I hate rain; so that’s saying a lot!

Clapham Flats

Block of flats in Clapham where my dad was born- I am deeply proud of my English heritage

Silverstone Road Sign

England has an unparalleled motor racing history; attested to by the Silverstone Formula One circuit and the high concentration of F1 team headquarters in nearby Milton Keynes

Ironbridge War Memorial

The war memorial in Ironbridge. War memorials, military bases, and evidence of World War II fortifications are everywhere in England

Wall at Wroxeter

Ruined wall at Wroxeter Roman City- the amount of history that remains in England today is staggering

Little Moreton Hall

England is one of the best places to find architecture like this. Pictured is Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire, built largely in the 16th century

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, built by the Romans almost two millennia ago

Northumberland Landscape

Aptly-named Northumberland, England’s northernmost county, has some of the most striking landscapes I’ve ever seen

The Green Dragon

The Green Dragon pub in Exelby, Yorkshire, where I had my first glorious taste of English beer

Ely Roof

Ceiling of Ely Cathedral- it’s incredible that in England, churches like this are still open for regular worship.

Happy St. George’s Day!

 

 

 

 

Miniver Style

As many posts on this blog suggest, I absolutely love Forties fashion. I also love films set in the Forties, and Mrs. Miniver is one of my favourite films. Made in 1942, this film follows a stoic English family and the villagers they are acquainted with, as the Battle of Britain rages nearby. The story is, by now, a critically acclaimed classic; and I have enjoyed this cinematic masterpiece since I first watched it at around age 8. Today, on St. George’s Day, I was inspired to revisit the themes featured in the film- themes of remarkable determination and bravery exhibited by the British nation during World War II, and of the legendary British stiff upper lip. Everyone knows the phrase Keep Calm and Carry On- a statement which is inextricably linked with British culture, and which is perfectly demonstrated in Mrs. Miniver. The closing scene of the film is what inspired me most in creating this set- an incredibly poignant scene in which the vicar delivers a beautifully fortifying speech before the congregation joins in song amidst the ruins of their bomb-damaged church, as RAF fighters fly overhead to meet the enemy. This outfit is a representation of what one could wear to such a church service during the height of WWII; and I hope that it embodies the same stoicism that is so well illustrated in Mrs. Miniver.  Miniver Style

 

Miniver Style by adairjacobs on Polyvore

Winter in London: Day Four

Day four was a Sunday, and Sundays in London mean that the Mall (which is the long road leading to Buckingham Palace) is closed to traffic and open to pedestrians. We could not resist this prospect, so although we planned to go to church that morning, we hurried off to the Mall first. Upon arriving, we noticed that there was some sort of ceremony going on at Horse Guards Parade.

Troops at Horse Guards Parade

One line of troops at the Horse Guards Paradethe closest horse seemed to be enjoying fidgeting quite a lot!

More Troops at Horse Guards Parade

Second line of troops

I was so impressed with the horses here; they were all absolutely beautiful and well-behaved. We didn’t stay long, but this was an interesting spectacle and it was nice that we arrived in time to see it. From the Horse Guards Parade, we strolled through St. James’s Park towards Buckingham Palace; passing the War Memorial near which I ate my first meal in London eight years ago. Wherever I go, I like to take photographs of every war memorial I see, and this one is one of my favourites.

St. James's Park War Memorial

The stately and simple war memorial at edge of St. James’s Park

After St. James’s Park, we walked up the Mall until we reached Buckingham Palace. I love walking along the Mall, getting closer and closer to the glory of the Palace with every second. It really has an amazing atmosphere, especially in the summertime when there are hundreds of other people milling about.

The Mall

View of Buckingham Palace from the Mall

Victoria Memorial

The Victoria Memorial at the front of Buckingham Palace

Canada Gate is one of my favourite features of the Buckingham Palace area; it’s interesting because I live in Canada, and because it is so fabulously ornate. Beyond Canada Gate is Green Park, which I have been through many times. And past Green Park is Piccadilly, the street that is home to such storied and extravagant establishments as Fortnum and Mason and the Ritz Hotel.

Canada Gate

Canada Gate, which leads to Green Park

Buck House

Buckingham Palace, as seen from beside Canada Gate

A short trek through Green Park took us to Green Park Station, and we took the Tube to the City and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Upon coming above ground in the City, we could hear the bells of St. Paul’s tolling and calling us to the imminent church service. It really was a beautiful moment, and I was brimming with anticipation. Prior to this trip, I had only seen the exterior of Sir Christopher Wren’s magnificent cathedral, and the interior through a glimpse from the door.

Aerial View of St. Paul's

Aerial view of the Cathedral. Image from Flickr via Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Mark Fosh and Nanonic

Although there is an admission fee for tours of the Cathedral, one can attend services there for free. I would definitely recommend doing this if you want to have an incredibly unique and memorable experience; I have been to services at St. Paul’s, Temple Church, and Westminster Abbey, and all have been amazing and poignant experiences. The service at St. Paul’s was a good one, and was fairly well-attended. The church-goers were all seated directly beneath the dome, which made for an impressive setting. I spent a lot of time marvelling at the mind-blowing detail and ornamentation that was all around me- the baroque decoration is really over the top.

But despite the magnificence of this building, the unrestrained show of its design keeps it from being my favourite place of worship. I feel that it is a little too ostentatious, and I prefer the simple, soaring arches of Westminster Abbey and other Gothic churches. For me, St. Paul’s (although beautiful and amazing) feels distractingly flamboyant. A place like Westminster Abbey or Ely Cathedral makes me feel much more pensive and comfortable.

St. Paul's Interior

The extravagance of St. Paul’s, and the view that I faced almost directly during the service. Image from http://flickr.com/photos/90933305@N00/2410780 via Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Peter Morgan

By the time church was over, we were all hungry and craving pub grub- my aunt was set on having a good steak and kidney pie while we were in London. Walking up Fleet Street, we checked the menu of every pub we came across for S&K, but were sadly disappointed. I thought it almost a blasphemous shame that modern pubs have strayed from the classic combination of steak and kidney! But finally, we found The Old Bell Tavern, which was the perfect place for our meal. The Old Bell

The old-fashioned exterior of The Old Bell on Fleet Street. Image courtesy of Colleen Jacobs

The Old Bell was, incredibly, built by Sir Christopher Wren to house the workers who were building St. Paul’s! So it is very old, and has lost none of its charm. It had such a warm, cosy atmosphere, and was all decked out for Christmas. The floors were uneven and creaky, and behind my seat was a carved wooden cupboard from the 1600s. We all really, really loved this pub. Plus, the food was delicious- I had some gorgeous fish and chips and a calming pint of Guinness; and my aunt got her S&K!

The Bar at The Old Bell

The view from our table at The Old Bell. Image courtesy of Colleen Jacobs

Me at The Old Bell

Me at The Old Bell, about to enjoy a pint of Guinness. Image courtesy of Colleen Jacobs

That afternoon, nourished by our lovely pub lunch, we headed to Brompton Road to visit Harrods. Unfortunately, this was one of my least favourite parts of the trip. Harrods was absolutely teeming with shoppers and tourists (although mostly tourists) which made almost every corner of the shop impossible to navigate and as hot as July in the Sahara, but that wasn’t what bothered me most.

As we approached Harrods, pushed along by the crush of Christmas shoppers, we passed a homeless man and his dog. They were sitting against the wet wall of a building, and were being utterly ignored by every single privileged person who was walking by. It struck me as impossibly cruel and disgusting that hundreds of people were rushing to Harrods to buy £1000 Christmas presents, yet no one was prepared to help this man. I couldn’t take it, so I gave him some money before continuing on (reluctantly, and in a sickened mood) to Harrods.

I have seen lots of impoverished and homeless people in London, and I always feel compelled to do something for them. Most of them have dogs, probably for company and warmth, and that only makes me want to help them more. I really love dogs, and feel drawn to fellow dog-owners and dog-lovers. In this particular instance, I was really saddened and angered that- especially near Christmastime- no passers-by were giving of themselves to someone who had nothing. This still bothers me when I think about it, and I hope that this man and his dog had as happy a Christmas as was possible.

Interior of Harrods

The overwhelming bustle of Harrods; seen from the escalators in the Egyptian section. Image courtesy of Colleen Jacobs

All in all, this was another enjoyable day in London. Although I’m not so sure I like visiting Harrods anymore, it does offer quite a spectacle, especially to first-time visitors to London. And St. Paul’s and the environs of Buckingham Palace are a must-see for everyone in the capital! Sadly, Day Four in London was also the second-last day there, and I went to bed half-excited and half-dreading Day Five!

 

 

In Memory of Vimy

The Battle of Vimy Ridge lasted from April 9th to 12th, 1917, which made 2014 the 97-year anniversary. Vimy was a defining moment for the Canadian military and Canada as a whole, since it was at Vimy that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps first fought together, and because the ridge was successfully captured thanks to considerable bravery and sacrifice. To commemorate this momentous anniversary, I decided to create a Polyvore set inspired (loosely) by WWI, and in honour of all those who fought for Vimy Ridge.In Memory of VimyIn this set, I used an old-fashioned looking Burberry military jacket, aggressive Christian Louboutin booties, and classic cargo pants to introduce a military theme that is both nostalgic and modern. Leather driving gloves recall visions of the grand automobile age of the late 1910s and 1920s, and a grey satchel is neutral enough to mix well with all elements of this look. The white top represents the naivety and innocence lost by the world in WWI, and deep red jewellery represents the blood that was spilt by so many in this horrific war. Finally, a maple leaf charm and red lipstick evoke images of Canada, whose identity is irrevocably linked with the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

 

Legends of the Air: WWII Soviet

It is time, I think, to take a look at some of the most influential and fantastic aircraft fielded by the Soviet Union in World War II. Allied aircraft such as the Spitfire, Hurricane, Mustang, and Lancaster are almost household names, yet I doubt that as many people are familiar with MiG-3s or Yak-1s. Although the first few weeks of Operation Barbarossa (Germany’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union) all but decimated the VVS, as the Soviet Air Forces were known, some aircraft still remained and the VVS was rebuilt to be a great strength. This post outlines my favourite WWII-era planes of the resilient nation that is Russia, and the powerful and fearsome air force that was the VVS.

Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik

The Il-2 Sturmovik was a fabled ground attack aircraft, fitted with four to five guns and capable of carrying additional bombs or rockets. Although it suffered heavy losses in the first days of the war (largely due to its original lack of a rear gunner), it became prolific in the later years and was feared by German forces.

Attacking Sturmoviks

Attacking Sturmoviks, with guns blazing. Attributed to RIA Novosti archive, image #225/F. Levshin/ CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to F. Levshin.

Some 36,000 examples of the Sturmovik were made from 1941 to 1945, with Josef Stalin famously remarking in the gloomy days of 1941 that “the Red Army needs Il-2s like the air it breathes, and the bread it eats”. However, despite these massive production numbers, only one airworthy Sturmovik remains today; a sad reminder of what was such a formidable and abundant aircraft on the Eastern Front.

Il-2 Sturmovik

Image of Il-2 in flight: from Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to unknown author.

Polikarpov I-16

Introduced in 1934, the I-16 Ishak, or Donkey, was a rather temperamental fighter- although one that did see great success in the Spanish Civil War, as well as against the manoeuvrable Bf-109 in WWII. The I-16 was quite slow compared to German fighters, but it did have wonderful agility in the hands of a good pilot. Conversely, if an inexperienced pilot was at the controls, the I-16 was difficult to control and its controls were quite sensitive. Any abrupt manoeuvre would send the plane into a spin, so pilots soon learned to be careful with this aircraft. The Donkey is unique because it was the first monoplane with a retractable undercarriage, and this feature began a trend in aircraft design that was soon taken up by the whole world.

Spanish I-16

Image of Spanish I-16: from Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Alvaro.

Polikarpov Po-2

 

Po-2 Diagram

Line drawing of Po-2, showing its seemingly archaic design. From Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Kaboldy.

The Po-2 is one of my favourite planes of all time, because of its unassuming and surprising efficiency. A veritable relic first used in 1928, the Po-2 was a small biplane constructed from wood and fabric- hardly different from the planes of the First World War. Its top speed was a blistering 93 miles per hour,  and although it was meant to be a training plane, the Po-2 was used to great effect as a night bomber.

Some of the most successful pilots to fly these planes belonged to the Night Witches squadron- a squadron made up entirely of female aviators. Of course, this was incredibly unusual by Western standards, but throughout the war the Soviet Union allowed women to fight as pilots, snipers, tank commanders, and more. This squadron formed in 1942, and by the end of the war, its members had flown over 23,000 sorties. An incredible 23 of its members were made Heroes of the Soviet Union- their nation’s highest military award.

Nadezhda Popova

Dmitry Medvedev with Nadezhda Popova, a captain of the Night Witches. She flew over 800 sorties over three years as a pilot of the Po-2. From http://www.kremlin.ru via Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to unknown author.

The tactics of Po-2 pilots were just as unusual as the plane itself- flying over German positions only in the dead of night, the pilot would fly mere feet above the ground before pulling up, switching off the engine, and gliding in for a bombing run. These tactics caused the Germans much anxiety and pain; forcing them to stay alert at night and listen for the strange choppy engine noise of the Po-2. Because of this peculiar noise, Wehrmacht soldiers called the Po-2 a “sewing-machine”.

Po-2 in Museum

Image of Soviet Po-2 in German museum: from Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Jan Rehschuh.

I imagine that German soldiers on the Eastern Front must have had nightmares about the noises accompanying a Po-2 bombing run- with only the wind rushing through the airplane’s struts betraying its presence. Luftwaffe fighters had trouble with the Po-2, because even the stall speeds of Bf-109s and Fw-190s were hugely faster than the top speed of the Po-2. Moreover, Soviet pilots flew at treetop level and were difficult to spot and engage. What a fabulous legacy this simple little biplane has- really quite amazing!

Captured Po-2

A captured Po-2 in the Ukraine. Note its small scale and antiquated appearance. From Bundesarchiv, Bild 169-0112/ CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to unknown author. 

Lavochin-Gorbunov-Gudkov LaGG-3

I must admit, the LaGG-3 was not loved by its pilots. They found it to be sluggish in manoeuvres, slow to climb, and heavy with an underpowered engine. But I find it fascinating nonetheless- it is quite beautiful to look at, and its construction was unique. It was made almost completely of wood-laminate which was unusual for a newly-developed fighter. And fortunately, its legacy is not all negative, because its design gave rise to the later and immeasurably more successful Lavochkin La-5.

LaGG-3 in Moscow

Image of camouflaged LaGG-3 in Moscow: from Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Mike1979Russia.

Lavochkin La-5

The La-5, designed by Semyon Lavochkin, shared some of the unfortunate LaGG-3’s positive attributes; such as its lightweight wooden airframe. However, it was a completely new plane, with a 1,330 horsepower engine, better cockpit visibility, and better armament. The La-5 had two 20-mm cannons plus underwing racks which could accommodate 400 pounds of bombs, giving it superior firepower to standard Bf-109s.

Lavochkin La-5

Image of La-5 fighters on airfield: from Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to unknown author.

Despite incurring high losses, the La-5 was one of the best fighters the VVS had in WWII, and was the plane Ivan Kozhedub used for most of his 62 kills.  Kozhedub was the highest-scoring Allied air ace of the war, and was the ideal role model and propaganda tool in the eyes of Soviet leadership; he was young, talented, patriotic, and a Communist Party member. During his career in the VVS, Kozhedub was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal on three separate occasions, and he was one of the few to ever shoot down a jet-powered Me-262.

Ivan Kozhedub

Image of Ivan Kozhedub in front of his La-5: from http://airaces.narod.ru/all1/kojedub2.jpg via Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to unknown author.

Yakovlev Yak-1

Another impressively successful Soviet fighter, the Yak-1 was superior to several Lavochkin designs and that of the MiG-3. It earned its designer, Alexander Yakovlev, numerous awards and distinctions, and was well-equipped in all categories. Armament on the Yak-1 was good, speed was swift, and manoeuvrability was staggering. This made it a worthy adversary to the Bf-109Es and Fs of the day, and subsequent improvements on the design (like the Yak-3, -7, and -9) made the Yak-1 even better.

Yakovlev Yak-1

Image of Yak-1s lined up and awaiting combat: from http://www.flickr.com/photos/sdasmarchives/6312755899 via Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Petlyakov Pe-8

Unique because it was the Soviet Union’s only four-engine bomber built during WWII, the Pe-8 was a capable bomber despite suffering nagging engine problems throughout its career. It was mainly used for sorties against airfields and railyards in Germany, and later, transportation centres in occupied territory. In size, the Pe-8 was actually slightly bigger than the well-known Avro Lancaster; with a wingspan of 128 feet compared to 102, and an empty weight of 40,000 pounds compared to 36,000.

Petlyakov Pe-8

Image of Pe-8: from heavybomber.narod.ru via Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to unknown author.

Despite its many successful sorties, the Pe-8 fleet incurred substantial losses, and by mid-1944 was being replaced by Lend-Lease B-25 Mitchells. It seems that Luftwaffe fighter pilots felt compelled to target the Pe-8, because the Soviet Union had used this aircraft’s sorties into Germany as a high-profile morale booster for the Soviet people.

Stamp of Pe-8

Image of postage stamp featuring the Pe-8: from Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Vizu.

As this post has perhaps demonstrated, the Soviet Union fielded a great number of quality aircraft throughout WWII. Although aircraft designers may have been intimidated and oppressed, they were still able to come up with amazing designs that rivalled the best that German precision could muster.

I myself have unfortunately not seen any of these beautiful airplanes in person. I believe I did see a MiG-3 somewhere in the UK, but I’m still eagerly awaiting a sight of my ultimate favourites- the Po-2 and Il-2 Sturmovik. This has been a fun post for me, combining as it did two of my greatest interests! I really am extremely enthusiastic about the Eastern Front and Soviet aircraft. The aircraft of the VVS during WWII really mirrored the spirit of the Soviet people in the same war; disadvantaged and against all odds, yet resilient, capable, and triumphant at the end, and that might be why I am so intrigued by this subject.

REFERENCES

(2014, April 8). Ilyushin Il-2. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilyushin_Il-2.

Jackson, R. (2004). The Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft. Bath, UK: Parragon Publishing.

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