T DOUGLAS A-20G-25-DO Havoc 43-9436

Following the signing of the contract last year between the Royal Air Force Museum and Precision Aerospace Productions of Wangaratta, work has moved forward rapidly with the restoration of Douglas A-20G Havoc 43-9436 ‘Big Nig’. Completion is currently scheduled for the summer of 2010.The largely intact airframe was recovered from Papua New Guinea in 1994 and subsequently transferred to RAAF Amberley. ‘Big Nig’ was one of a batch of new A-20Gs allocated to the 89th Bombardment Squadron, 3rd Bombardment Group, 5th Air Force. Based at Nadzab, near Lae in Papua New Guinea, the aircraft featured a caricature of its regular pilot (Capt James L Folse), who supposedly resembled a Damon Runyan character of the period.

On 3 May 1944, ‘Big Nig’ was brought down by ground fire after a bombing mission against Japanese forces at Wewak as part of the mopping up operations subsequent to Operation Reckless – the invasion of Hollandia. The aircraft was safely landed by its pilot 2nd Lt Tom Reading (with S/Sgt Burke L Cock as gunner) in a freshwater swamp where it would remain, undisturbed, for the next 50 years.

The aircraft will now be returned to as close to its original condition as possible. Every effort is being made to retain contemporary material while ensuring the airframe’s long term structural integrity. The attached photographs show the recently completed nose-art and the original nose-art (on badly corroded panels that have had to be replaced). When the aircraft goes on display at Hendon next year, ‘Big Nig’ will represent not only one of a handful of surviving A20s worldwide but also the thousands of Bostons and Havocs successfully employed by the RAF, RAAF and SAAF between 1940 and 1945. It will also serve as a memorial to all those air and ground crews that operated the aircraft through the Second World War in the European, Mediterranean and Far East Theatres.

As with the recently unveiled FE2b, the RAF Museum will be publishing a detailed monograph, in conjunction with Guideline Publications, describing the story of this ambitious and important restoration project, as well as the operational history of the A-20 in Allied service.


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