Danish WW2 Pilots

Kathleen Mary Franck

(1916 - 2009)

LACW Kathleen Mary Franck served as a model maker at RAF Medmenham during the war. Among many models she worked on one of the models for the attack on the Eder Dam (Dambusters Raid) in May 1943.

Kathleen Mary Franck (née Wroe) was born on 19 May 1916 in Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire, daughter of Frederick Wroe and Ethel Harriet Wroe (née Paine).[1]

RAF Middle Wallop

Franck volunteered for the WAAF on 18 August 1941. She later remembered that she did not have any trade that she especially wanted to be selected for, only that she did not want to be a cook. She was mustered as a clerk (special duties), which covered a multitude of different duties. Initial training was at Innsworth Lane in Gloucestershire, before being posted to RAF Middle Wallop as LACW. This station was the Sector Station in 11 Group. For the next two years, Franck served as a flying control liaison in the control tower at the station, operating the telephone and keeping the tower in touch with the Operations Room, the Group HQ, and so on.[2]

Model Maker at Medmenham

At some point, presumably in early 1943, she read a notice in the Daily Routine Orders about the possibility to remuster as a pattern maker. Professional and commercial artists, sculptors, and architects were invited to volunteer, and the applicants had to have completed at least two years of art college. The notice was deliberately not very clear about the task, and she responded to it without really knowing what she was supposed to be working with. It turned out that they were to make models of future targets in materials such as linoleum and cardboard.

She was briefly posted to Phyllis Court, a former private members club in Henley-on-Thames, but went on to train in model making at RAF Nuneham Park, before being posted to RAF Medmenham, which was the location of the V or Model Section of the Photographic Interpretation Unit.[3] She joined a group of very skilled and, in some cases, recognised craftsmen, working on models of either a geographical area or specific objects. The first type was used for operational planning, the latter to help the photo interpreters in their interpretation. Initially they were designated as ‘Pattern Maker (Architectural)’, but, from September 1944, they became officially known as model makers.[4] The models were made on a base of wood. The terrain of the specific area would then be built of successive layers of cardboard, cut by a special machine, each layer representing a contour line on a topographical map. The contours were then smoothed by a mixture of plaster of Paris, glue size, and wood pulp. During this process, reference maps and photographs were used extensively, to ensure that the natural features of the landscape were accurately modelled. Rescaled photographs were dampened and would be placed carefully over the model while still wet. After this, the model was painted, and, on large scale models, tiny buildings would be cut in linoleum.[5]

Franck was involved in the making of many models during the war. This included the making of models for the famous ‘Dam Busters’ raid. The V Section produced three models for this raid—one of each of the dams attacked—the first one being requested by Bomber Command in early February 1943.[6] From Franck’s own account, it seems likely that she was involved in the making of the model of the Eder Dam in May 1943. She remembered that the model was not one of the section’s finest models and not as well finished as they would have liked it to be, but it had to be made under pressure. Normally the work was done in three shifts around the clock. However, while working on this model, they were only allowed a few hours of sleep between shifts.

Franck was demobilised on 10 November 1945. In September, she had married the Danish SOE (and later US Army) agent Børge Franck, thus becoming a Danish national by marriage.[7]

Endnotes

[1] Ancestry: England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1916-2007, England & Scotland, Select Cemetery Registers, 1800-2016.

[2] IWM: 24191, Franck, Kathleen Mary (IWM interview).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Pearson, A. W., ‘Allied Military Model Making During World War II’ in Cartography and Geographic Information Science (2002), pp. 229–232.

[5] Pearson, op.cit., pp. 227–229.

[6] Pearson, op.cit., pp. 233–235.

[7] IWM: 24191, Franck, Kathleen Mary (IWM interview).