BY ED UNRAU

Aircraft names and nose art images are inextricably linked. Both are essential to the genre. How the names and images were selected is as varied as the aircrew and ground crew connected with the aircraft.

Where the same group of flyers were assigned consistently to the same aircraft, the nose art would typically be a somewhat “democratic” process with all crew members contributing. Where this occurred, it supported the development of a strong emotional bond between the machine and the men inside. In addition to the nose art, there are examples of aircraft where crew members would add a “good luck” image to the fuselage at their position. In the case of aircraft where the crew was transient, there is evidence to suggest that nose art was sometimes handled by ground crew. But it is also true that there were many aircraft without names or art.

In RCAF and RAF squadrons, the name and artwork were often directly related to the letter designation for the aircraft within the squadron. The fuselage markings on RCAF/RAF planes consisted of a two-letter squadron code (such as QB) and an additional letter designating a specific plane within the squadron. This was a much easier way of keeping track of aircraft inventory than serial numbers, and also made it easy to assign radio call signs.

An example: When a new Halifax bomber was assigned to Jack Dundas, a pilot with 424 Squadron, it became QB-B. He and his crew were faced with deciding on a name and nose art using the letter “B,” the third letter in the string and the one specific to the plane. The story goes that most of the crew favoured “Beer Barrel Betty.” Dundas, however, thought they needed something different. On a visit to a bookstore he saw a children’s book with Walt Disney’s Bambi on the cover. He bought the book and pulled rank on his crew and had the ground crew paint the name and image of Bambi on the fuselage.

Probably the most interesting nose art name examples are the ones associated with pin-up girls. The image and the name reinforced each other, sometimes suggestively, sometimes not.

The examples below illustrate this range, and are examples from Canadian aircraft.

  • Avenging Angel
  • Blonde BombshelL
  • Drum Major GirL
  • Easy Elsie
  • Evening Ecstasy
  • Miss Shapely
  • Notorious NaN
  • Pistol Packing Peggy
  • Vicky, the Vicious Virgin
  • Virgin on the Verge

Other names express other thoughts:

  • Beer is Best
  • Blues in the Night
  • Buzz, King of Hogtown
  • Fangs of Fire
  • Let’s Grow Old Together
  • Malton Mike
  • Slow But Sure
  • Terror of the Axis
  • The Rope for Tojo
  • Willie the Wolf
Advertisements