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Vanderkloot and Churchill’s midnight ride to Cairo

25 February 2018

 

Commando and her aircrew after returning Churchill from the Middle East in 1942 (William Vanderkloot is the center person in the top image)—Canada Wide

William Vanderkloot, born in the USA, grew up and learned to fly during Aviation’s Golden Age. Remarkably he was as competent a navigator as he was a pilot. These skills he honed during World War II, but before the Pearl Harbor attack, flying for the Royal Air Force’s Ferry Command—especially heavy bombers eastward across the Atlantic Ocean. In 18 months of flying he logged over 1,000,000 miles of which some was for VIP transport.

In late 1942 Churchill was required to fly to the Middle East to replace the British Eighth Army’s flagging top command. Flight would be near or over contested airspace and Vanderkloot was asked how it could best be done. He recommended a nocturnal go-around route and was immediately brought to Winston Churchill for introduction. The pair hit it off and before much could be said a modified Consolidated Liberator II named “Commando” was winging Churchill and staff to Cairo with William Vanderkloot as pilot in command—at night and unescorted with little in the way of artificial navigational aids. Vanderkloot would do this once more before Churchill’s air travel was changed to an RAF aircrew and a modified Avro Lancaster.

Vanderkloot continued flying throughout the war and after until retirement. He is interred in Ocala’s Good Shepherd cemetery with his wife Rima (who passed away in 1998 though her stone does not yet indicate that year).

The Vanderkloots (William and Rima) resting place in the Good Shepard Cemetery in Ocala FL—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

Reference

Graham Chandler (July 2009). “Travels with Churchill. A World War II flight engineer dishes on the most “I” of the VIPs he flew with”. Air & Space magazine.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. shortfinals permalink
    27 February 2018 15:32

    ‘Commando’ later acquired a single fin and rudder – rather like a Privateer.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      27 February 2018 19:58

      Yes, indeed–after Churchill last flew on her. Later in the war she was lost with all souls on a westbound flight over the Atlantic for unknown reasons though no enemy activity is suspected. There is a thin thread that a reported oil leak on the Number 2 engine may have caused something catastrophic. The flight crew was highly experienced so it is mysterious and once again proves transoceanic travel is nothing to take for granted. Thanks Ross!

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