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RB396’s Journey

174 Squadron Crest

RB396 formed part of an order for 255 Typhoon 1Bs against contract ACFT/943/C.23(a) to be built by Gloster Aircraft Co, Hucclecote. The aircraft were allocated RAF serials RB192-RB235, RB248-RB289, RB303-RB347, RB361-RB408, RB423-RB459 and RB474-RB512. Delivered to 51 Maintenance Unit (MU), RAF Lichfield on 23rd Nov 1944 and then prepared for operational use by 84 GSU on the 9th Dec 1944.

She was finally delivered to 174 ‘Mauritius’ squadron on 4th Jan 1945, based at B.100 Goch, and received the code ‘XP-W’. RB396 was lost on operations and was recorded Cat ‘E’ on 1st Apr 1945. Originally equipped with bombs after conversion to the Typhoon (July 1943), 174 squadron converted to rockets by January 1944. The squadron spent the next few months attacking radar stations, flying bomb sites and German communication links in northern France. After D-Day they moved to Normandy providing close support for the Army and attacking German tanks and transport. By September 1944 they had moved to the Netherlands where their remit was offensive sweeps over Germany. On the 1st April 1945 RB396 was the mount of Flt Lt Chris W House setting out from Goch for an offensive sweep. Shortly after selecting his target and releasing his salvo of rockets RB396 was hit by flak, too low to bail out and rapidly losing height Flt Lt House force landed his aircraft to the North East of Denekamp. In the immediate aftermath of the attack the whereabouts of Chris House was not known and as squadron members returned to Goch they reported that he was seen to successfully force land RB396 and it was assumed taken POW, had he survived the landing. He had indeed survived and successfully evaded capture, making his way back to allied lines and much to the surprise of his comrades arrived back at the squadron on 5th April. After 174 squadron was disbanded on 8th April Chris House went on to complete further operations and remained in the RAF until retirement long after the war.

174 Squadron, Warmwell November 1944

In the meantime RB396 became one of the many Typhoon battle field relics littering the European theatre. At the end of hostilities wrecks were investigated in an attempt to recover any missing airmen and the airframes collected for scrap. It is not known what happened to RB396 immediately after the war however; at some stage a local chemical company saved the rear fuselage with a view to cutting the side out and using it as a chemical wash. Fortunately this conversion was never completed and the fuselage sat in a dark corner of a factory until saved by local historians. RB396 spent her time on display in the museum at Twenthe in the Netherlands telling her own story, but not the whole Typhoon story. Upon closure of the museum the fuselage was taken on loan by the museum at Fort Veldhuis. At this stage the original custodians and the Fort Veldhuis museum did not have any plans until one member of the museum staff stepped forward and, armed with the knowledge of this small project in the UK pushed for it to be allowed to return to the UK.

In early 2012, following his intervention, the custodians of RB396 decided that it was time the fuselage found a new permanent home. After being given the ‘heads up’ a simple plan was put forward explaining that RB396 could be restored and become only the second complete Typhoon in existence, the only combat veteran and used as a valuable teaching aid for the next generations. We should never forget the role the Typhoon played and the ultimate sacrifice that the crews made. Although the custodians had received numerous offers they wanted to see RB396 restored. So, in May 2013 our van arrived at Fort Veldhuis to finally complete RB396’s return the UK 69 years after she left Hucclecote destined for war.