de Havilland Dragon Rapide

Fatboy Coxy

Airman
81
38
Aug 24, 2019
Taking my information from Wikipedia, I can say the de Havilland Dragon Rapide first made its appearance in the summer of 1934, capable of carrying 6-8 passengers, it was a very useful aircraft, and a reasonable number were bought, both for home and overseas markets. With the beginning of WW2, these aircraft were snapped up for transportation and communications uses. Later, renamed as the Dominie, and modified with better engines, it was employed mainly as a radio and navigational trainer.

Wiki also mentions its use as an air ambulance, but doesn't give any more detail. Can anyone shed more light on this, was it used in the North African or India/Burma campaigns with the RAF, or the RAAF in the Pacific South West in this capacity, and if not, what aircraft were?
 

nuuumannn

Major
9,761
8,343
Oct 12, 2011
Nelson
Wiki also mentions its use as an air ambulance, but doesn't give any more detail.

Might I suggest you get hold of the Air Britain book The story of the de Havilland Dragon types by Colin Dodds that has a lot of detail about the DH.89 and its subsequent career. At $299 a copy on amazon, beware of the poachers!

Amazon product

Essentially, as you mentioned, the type was largely used by communications and transport Flights, but at least two were converted and demonstrated the potential of the type for ambulance work. This wasn't done until May 1941, however, when two Rapide/Dominie Mk.IIs made a public appearance at RAF Hendon that had been converted for the air ambulance role. These aircraft were converted by the manufacturer a month earlier and had double fuselage entry doors. One was christened "Women of Britain", RAF serial Z7261, and the other was "Women of the Empire", serial Z7268. These aircraft were presented to the RAF on the 21st May by the Silver Thimble Fund. Both survived the war and went into civilian hands. The list of RAF and RN units that operated the type is extensive, but the book doesn't go into detail regarding their use in each individual unit, which might have used individual aircraft for air ambulance duties, but there was certainly no "Air Ambulance Flight" that operated the DH.89.

The RAAF had No.1 and No.2 Air Ambulance Units, the former in North Africa using DH.86s and Bristol Bombays operating in the Tunisian campaign during the war, whereas No.2 was based in PNG with the DH.84, which was built under licence in Australia. I don't think either of these units used the Dominie.

There's a thread about RAF air ambulances on Britmodeller:

 

Wildcat

Major
9,182
1,128
Apr 11, 2005
South East Queensland
According to Aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force the RAAF operated 7 civilian impressed Dragon Rapides. All served with No.1 Air Observers School, however, A33-3 & A33-6 later served as transports. A33-3 served with No. 36 squadron while A33-6 served with No. 32 and 33 squadrons. A33-6 served in New Guinea in the transport role flying evacuation flights and recon missions during the Kokoda campaign. It was then transferred to No.1 Rescue and Communication Squadron also based at Port Morseby before finally being allocated to No.2 Air Ambulance Unit.
Here's a great site for detailed histories of these aircraft.
DH.89 DRAGON RAPIDE IN AUSTRALIA
 
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Geoffrey Sinclair

Senior Airman
414
749
Sep 30, 2021
Would the two Ambulance conversions be Z7258 (ex G-AFMN) and Z7261 (ex G-AFMI), both to 25 squadron in May 1941, the latter is marked ambulance, no RAF serial register entry for Z7268.

Production of the Dominie military version July 1939 to August 1942 at De Havilland, February 1943 to March 1946 at Brush Coachwork. In addition 35 mark II "shells" were supplied for the civil market, construction finished by De Havilland. No details on any further ambulance modifications.
 

buffnut453

1st Lieutenant
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9,751
Jul 25, 2007
Utah, USA

GTX

Master Sergeant
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Dec 18, 2015
The RAAF had No.1 and No.2 Air Ambulance Units, the former in North Africa using DH.86s and Bristol Bombays operating in the Tunisian campaign during the war, whereas No.2 was based in PNG with the DH.84, which was built under licence in Australia. I don't think either of these units used the Dominie.
My Grandfather served with No.1 during WW2. I will see what photos I can dig up since I have his wartime album.
 

nuuumannn

Major
9,761
8,343
Oct 12, 2011
Nelson
It was then transferred to No.1 Rescue and Communication Squadron also based at Port Morseby before finally being allocated to No.2 Air Ambulance Unit.

Ah, that's interesting. Correction to my post; it looks like the RAAF air ambulance units did use the DH.89. Thanks Wildcat.
 

Wildcat

Major
9,182
1,128
Apr 11, 2005
South East Queensland
There's a pic of A33-7 in air ambulance markings here:

Thats a de Havilland DH86, serial A31-7. Different to the Dragon Rapide. RAAF DH86's served with No1 AAU in the Western Desert with one, A31-8, being destroyed by Bf-109's.
 

Wildcat

Major
9,182
1,128
Apr 11, 2005
South East Queensland
I had a thing for Aussie air ambulances at one stage :lol:
 

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