“A Voice From The Stars – a pathfinder’s story”

Hi folks:

Here’s a brief mention of ‘Altair’, one Liberator of (I believe) more than 19,000 built that after initial service with the USAAF, was passed to the RAF and found herself a Pathfinder aircraft with 614 Squadron in Amendola, Italy.

She was piloted by Australian Tom Scotland, who I had the pleasure and privilege of corresponding with over the project until he passed away on August 15, 2012. Regrettably, all his wartime photos of ‘Altair’ were stolen in a satchel he had in a car outside his home in Oz, so the rendition here is compiled from my detailed quizzing of Tom’s memory, who fielded my persistence with remarkable patience.
My brother Nick commissioned the build more years ago than I can bear to admit to here, the motivating factor being that ‘Altair’ was the home to our uncle, Ted Budd, while he trained under Tom in the Pathfinder role.

Tom, in the cockpit of his Halifax.

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Ted successfully completed his training and was assigned to another crew. It was a routine flight in February 1945, that headed out over a winter Adriatic, that his Liberator iced up and began to auger in, seemingly out of control. The pilot clearly felt as such and gave the order to bail out. The great irony was that Liberators were not particularly easy aircraft to exit in an emergency but Ted and a crew mate nonetheless made it out. Almost as soon as they popped silk, the pilot rescinded the order when the Libby came back under control (presumably the de-icing boots finally succeeded in shifting the ice) but it was too late for Ted and his crew mate who’s life expectancy in winter waters would have been measured in minutes. Despite considerable efforts, their bodies were never found. I recently visited The National Archives at Kew, England with Nick and found the official 614 Squadron record of the icing incident.

Happily, Tom has three sons living in Australia and Nick and I have been in touch again to confirm their dad’s bird is now in print (Chris Clifford, editor of Airfix Model World, kindly agreed to publish the piece, which appeared in Issue 74, January 2017).

Issue 74

As my brother Nick remarked on Facebook –

“Well, here is my late relative Ted Budd’s 1944/45 Liberator in 2016 glory. Massive thanks to my brother Steven Budd, who has faithfully replicated ‘Altair’ in tribute to Flight Sergeant Ted Budd and Flying Officer Tom Scotland. This is essentially the end game to a 10 year research of one ordinary guy’s contribution, amongst hundreds of thousands of ordinary guys contributions, who were caught up in this momentous time in our history. If I would have known at the outset what I would subsequently find out about a little known relative I would never have believed it.

It’s not beyond exaggeration to say it’s fairy-tale like in what I have been so fortunate to have learned. Our family’s vague understanding of Ted’s sad death passed down the decades, only to be resolved by a one in a million response by someone who had read the privately published Australian book ‘Voice from the Stars’.

Voice From The Stars

That was the introduction to late Flying Officer Tom Scotland DFC and an emailed response saying ‘Hi Nick, yes I knew your relative’….’I talk about him in my book’. Ted’s previously misunderstood death being resolved in the chapter simply entitled ‘Budd’. This was and continues to be an emotive journey and one that has now come to an end. I do wish our Aunt Eve, Ted’s mother was around to have learnt all this. But, given the almost spiritual-like guiding nature of where this story took me and Tom’s book being called ‘Voice from the Stars’, I don’t think I need worry too much on this last sentimental postscript.”

Ted Budd (on the right).

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Ted enjoyed his last Christmas with the squadron in December, 1944. Here, the printed menu for 614, as the notion of victory in Europe finally started to gain real traction in allied minds.

614 Xmas 1944

‘Altair’, finally on the flight line.

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The nose markings were created by Mike Grant, quite some time ago and I acknowledge his great kindness here, in temporarily coming out of ‘custom decal retirement’ to respond to my pleading.

The tail codes were sourced from a generic Xtradecals sheet and the national markings and individual aircraft letter, were created from home spun masks and sprayed.

Weathering the olive drab will form the subject of a separate ‘How To’ at a later date.

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The otherwise plain and unadorned waist interior was given a gentle leg up with a little scratched and patched plastic nic nacs.

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If my pursuit of Nicolson’s ‘Red Devil’ or Roscoe Brown’s ‘Bunnie / Miss Kentucky State’ has taught me anything, it’s this; the machines are nothing without the stories and experiences of the men and women connected to them. Whether it’s an aircraft, ship, tank, car, motorcycle or something else, all are the product of human endeavour, all have a story to tell, perhaps more than one, perhaps several or thousands.

Modelling can, if you let it, become the catalyst for explorations and adventures far beyond that attractive box art and catapult you in directions you never imagined and bring you into contact with people who might otherwise have remained strangers.

Until next time…

One thought on ““A Voice From The Stars – a pathfinder’s story”

  1. I remember you building this and I always thought it was stunning piece of modelling – but you’re right, it’s the back-story that makes it special. Great work all round Steve.

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