Military AircrewA forum for the professionals who fly the non-civilian hardware, and the backroom boys and girls without whom nothing would leave the ground. Army, Navy and Airforces of the World, all equally welcome here.
Yes, the Vampire flew prettily, too. I liked it very much (Mk.IIIs on 20 Sqdn, Valley, '50-'51, and rides begged on IIIs and Vs from 608, Thornaby, '52-'54). Much more pleasant than the Meteor, which I recall as being all push and no lift. And you could see where you were going when taxying!
Thanks for the link - will enjoy this.....D
DFCP and 26er,
I would have loved a chance of civil flying in '46, but with 600 hours of s/e time, there was no hope. A friend of mine was told, firmly but kindly, by Aer Lingus (?): "As far as we are concerned, single engined flying is not flying, and single engine time is not flying time".
Other firms took the same view, and you can't blame 'em. Why take on an unknown quantity, when you'd a queue at the door with logbooks bulging with two and four hour times?
No option but a return to the Civil Service, fed up with that by '48, managed to get a short-service commission in '49, stayed in till '72. Have now drawn my pension for almost 40 years (got my money out of them at last!).......D
Hipper---Thank you --I followed all thru Reggies fascinating career on this site. He of course had considerable multi time--Halifax and Mosquito-- when he got into Sabena. It was nice to read his compliments about working for Sabena.I lived in Brussels in the early 60,s and several times flew up to Hamburg on a Sunday evening in one of their Convairs--always a VERYcold meal. In retrospect the drive to Zaventum was always amusing. Just before you came to the airport you drove over a bridge and then as you turned left you came head on to an undertakers operation with a coffin standing straight up in the window! Danny 42c-Your views on employment prospects make sense. The guy I referenced earlier had Dakota and York experience before he left the RAF in 54 --even then it was a struggle . I suspect that unless you got into BEA or BOAC there was much turmoil in the industry with attendant insecurity I dont think it was as difficult in Canada since AC took several of the 400 people who had only 250 ish hours all told. but then I,m sure the 400 Squadron connection helped them get in. In your 20+ years--49-72--did these consist of a series of SSC and was there any truth in my impression that it was practically impossible to get above S/Ldr without a PC. And do I recall--RAF or RCAF? that there was an "up or out" policy--eg if you hadnt made S/Ldr by 50 you were retired---but I should have had no fear--"W/C by 39" the RCAF recruiter said--so nice to hear but NO I didnt believe him!
Last edited by DFCP; 16th Aug 2012 at 13:57.
Danny 42c No doubt the Vampire was more pleasant to fly than a Meteor but as a fighting machine I wonder--in air to ground live firing I recall the Vampires nose danced around as you fired. I think the Meteor was light on ailerons and heavy on elevators but you certainly knew you were "motoring" with lots of thrust That is, "lots" by 1950 standards
I've no experience with the Vampire as a gun platform (didn't have any guns in them in 20 Sqdn !) so must defer to your superior knowledge. Yes, the Meteor was more of a projectile than an aircraft, wasn't it ?
Turmoil wasn't the word for the aircraft industry in the years immediately after the war. Anybody with a "B" licence, and who could scratch the money together to buy a war-surplus C-47 (refitted as a DC-3), set up in business as "Xxxxxxx Airlines", employing ex-RAF pilots. These would fly for peanuts or less just to keep their "B" licences (on which they'd blown all their gratuities) alive. (Maintenance ? - don't ask !)
But for every Freddie Laker who made it, a score of others went to the wall in short order; another hopeful would set up in the same DC-3 as "Yyyyyyy Airlines"; same again. It was a wonder that the poor old things could fly at all with the weight of paint on them. BEA or BOAC ? Dream on !
I came back on a 8+4 SSC, Boss put me up for a PC, AOC said "fine", C-in-C Fighter Command (AM Sir Basil Embry), took one look and found that, although I had gone to a rugby school, I didn't even play for the Station. Thumbs-down!
In all fairness, I must have been a dead duck from the start. A 30 yr old F/Lt with less than 2 yrs seniority was just what the Command didn't want. (I'd be about 36 before I came into the time frame for promotion, far too late).
You had to have a PC to get past S/Ldr ? You had to have a PC to get to S/Ldr ! Luckily for me, the "Limited Career" PC was introduced in '52. The deal was: "we'll keep you on for a pension, you'll not get past F/Lt".
This was at first open for entry only into the Aircraft and Fighter Control Branches; I put in for ATC - accepted. Then they extended it to "Pilot"; I switched - acceped again. CMB ploughed me for flying, opted back (are you following all this ?) - accepted.
Result: retired as F/Lt. with 23 yrs seniority in rank (can anyone beat that ?)
Back in Civvy Street but like many other ex servicemen I found it really difficult to adjust but found an antidote to the problem by enlisting in the reconstituted RAFVR in 1948 for a 5 year period. Flying was done at Scone near Perth in Ansons piloted by civilian pilots employed by Airwork who ran the Reserve Flying Centre. One was committed to weekend flying and 2 weeks camp each year. This would normally be done at your home station but it was possible to make arrangements to go elsewhere. This was an ideal situation still being able to get airborne on a part time basis and being paid for it. Unfortunately when my time was up in 1953 there was no offer of re-engagement as the RAFVR was being run down and it must have been very expensive running these centres in various parts of the country . Thus ended my official connection with the RAF.
You had to have a PC to get past S/Ldr ? You had to have a PC to get to S/Ldr !
Which inevitably reminds me of the time when I was still a two-and-a-half ringer, riding a Service bicycle (known as a Pusser's Red Devil, despite usually being black - don't ask!) through the Naval Base at Rosyth, when the captain of the visiting US submarine for which I was the liaison officer stopped me and said, "In the US Navy we wouldn't let a Lieutenant Commander ride a bicycle", to which I replied, "In the Royal Navy you have to be one to get one!"
PS DFCP I note that you said that "I am in touch with another RAF pilot my age...." In the spirit of Danny's exhortations, perhaps he can be induced to join the happy throng ....?
Last edited by Union Jack; 16th Aug 2012 at 23:07.
DANNY 42C--Yes Danny I could follow all your saga--I would never had made it- Sports---could never understand ,when at school ,the fun involved in running around in winter in short trousers and shirt wrestling in mud in rotten weather===then in summer you wore long white trousers,a shirt and pullover--so except for squash I was cured of "sports" early in life. A friend here was a Boulton and Paul apprentice and became an RAF pilot in the 60,s--went on to Shackletons and as an F/O was told he would make a good JUNIOR officer!--so he bailed out but got no joy looking in the UK civil field. It was at the time of Vietnam and US airlines werent getting the usual flow of ex US service pilots, American Airlines recruited him in London along with several other ex RAF pilots--including some with only singles experience. Retired at 60 as a Captain on 767,s Which reminds me 26ER----Didnt BA or BOAC pilots retire at 55?--I assume that, as here , it is now 65 Union Jack The ex RAF friend I referred to lives in Alicante. Several years ago he was going to write a book about his experiences-- the stories made wonderful e mails!---but he never did go ahead with the book and is now not in the best of health. He had ended up on 737,s with Air Algerie but earlier he was "trooping"with Hermes to Africa and the FE BTW I note several comments on the lethal F104----around 1965 I visited HFB in Hamburg where they were developing the Hansa twin jet---forward swept wings. They had engaged an American as test pilot. Swede????. Earlier he had been a test pilot for GE ---the 104 had a GE engine--he had dead sticked a 104 at Edwards AFB. After I met him he went on with the Hansa to Madrid for hot weather trials--got into a deep stall,bailed out but was caught by the tail and was killed. Too many of my stories seem to end in tragedy---apologies
Flying was done at Scone near Perth in Ansons piloted by civilian pilots employed by Airwork who ran the Reserve Flying Centre.
Taphappy and anyone else with an interest in Ansons should be sure to have a look at the link in Post 79 in Guidance for those reaching Age 55 and the following few posts. With grateful thanks to Samuel
For servicemen stationed in Calcutta and all points East, Calcutta (now "Kolkata") was the destination of choice for leave, just as Cairo was in N. Africa. Indeed it was the only choice, even if you were going further afield, you usually had to go through "Cal" in the first place. I must say the new name makes no sense to me. I believe the name derives from "Kali", the Hindu goddess of death, and "Ghat" a landing place on a river, specifically where cremations take place. It is quite easy to see how that might sound like "Calcutta" to the first Europeans who asked. There is a story that an early explorer in Australia, seeing a large hopping animal, asked an Aboringine (by signs) its name. "I don't know", came the reply - "Kangaroo" !
Why change "Calcutta" to "Kolkata"? They sound very much the same as "Bombay" and "Mumbai", and "Peking" and "Beijing". And how have Delhi and Bangalore avoided a change (so far) ? And why has Madras changed to "Chennai" - which sounds nothing like it ? It's a mystery to me.
You arrived in "Cal" by air at Dum-Dum, or by train at Howrah station. Dum-Dum was out to the East of the city. There was a very large munitions factory there; the place has given its name to the flat-nosed bullets which were first manufactured there, and which have a much increased stopping power.
On arrival, if you were not entitled to, or could not scrounge a lift, on some service transport, you climbed aboard a taxi, always an old open American tourer: "Grand Hotel", you said, "Chowringhee" - to let the (invariably) Sikh driver know that you were familiar with the city and couldn't be taken on an expensive ride round town.
During the war, the Grand was the leave base for all aircrew. It is still there, now the Oberoi Grand, with five stars and prices to match. Then they let in service officers and NCO aircrew, but no other BORs. You shared, two to a room (no choice of your room mate). Full board was ten rupees a day (about £ 30 in today's money); this you could easily afford - about a day's pay for a sergeant-pilot, much less for an officer.
We gorged ourselves, I remember there were about ten courses on the menu at lunch and dinner, and nobody batted an eyelid if you worked your way through from top to bottom. This you could easily do if you'd been living in the field on service rations for a few months.
One of my chance room mates told an interesting story. He was a young American who'd joined the Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet at much the same time as I. "Washed out" half way through Primary School for some flying misdemeanour, he'd left the Air Corps (which he was perfectly entitled to do), and applied to the Chinese National Airways Corporation ( a distant ancestor of Cathay Pacific).
They used American crews, and had taken him on as a second pilot on their DC-3s with which they flew a regular service "over the Hump" into China from Calcutta to Kunming. Their business (very lucrative, I believe) was to ferry urgent supplies to the Nationalist leader, Chiang-kai-shek, who was fighting the Japanese invaders (without much success).
All my chap had to do was to keep the thing straight and level on course and look out for mountain tops. He was really no more than a human autopilot, even with thirty hours flying time he could do that. His captain would navigate and do all the take-offs and landings. For this simple task they were paying him Rs750 a month, three times what the RAF was paying me for bombing the Japs and being shot at into the bargain - and he'd failed that same Course I'd passed ! Not for the first - or last - time, I realised there's no justice in this world!
But I must admit that his pay was really danger money. It was a thousand mile haul, and the DC-3s had to get right up to their ceiling to get over the "Hump" (the Ta Liang Shan range - 18,000 ft.) There were losses; it was rumoured that some of these were the result of "off-manifest" (smuggled) cargoes, which earned the crews many times their pay, but overloaded the aircraft so that they just didn't manage to scrape over the tops in cloud.
Early on, I was given a useful insight into practical ethics. The '42 Bengal famine was at its height, basically because we'd lost Burma and all its rice exports, aggravated by the business acumen of the Bengali rice merchants, who were sitting on their stocks, waiting for higher prices. In consequence, when you strolled down Calcutta streets in the mornings, you skirted delicately round the previous night's starvation corpses awaiting collection by the trucks of the Calcutta Municipality (this was long before Mother Teresa's time).
My interlocutor was an Old India Hand. I was a tender-hearted youth in those days. "Why can't we do something for these poor devils ?" "Listen", said the OlH, "you have a hundred starving Indians". "You have a whip-round and collect enough cash to feed them for a twelvemonth". "Then you go back - do you find a hundred well-fed Indians ?" "You do not". "What do you find ?" "You find a hundred and fifty starving Indians".
This is a gross exaggeration, but it embodies a grim truth. Any zoologist will tell you that every animal population will (disease and predation apart) increase until it is limited by its food supply, and it is obvious that it must be so. What is not obvious is that this applies equally to human populations. It is not pretty to see this happening on our TV screens, and it evokes the generous outbursts of charitable effort with which we are all familiar. I do not say that these are pointless, but even if all the monies donated could immediately be turned into food on the spot (and this is often very far from the case) the same remorseless logic would apply in the end.
More about "Cal" next time,
All the best,
You never can tell.
Last edited by Danny42C; 19th Aug 2012 at 00:27.
Reason: Correct Error
From the Independant newspaper talking about Churchill “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” This hatred killed. To give just one, major, example, in 1943 a famine broke out in Bengal, caused – as the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has proved – by the imperial policies of the British. Up to 3 million people starved to death while British officials begged Churchill to direct food supplies to the region. He bluntly refused. He raged that it was their own fault for “breeding like rabbits”.
Danny, there is one thing worse than stepping around the sleeping bodies for whom the streets of Calcutta were their homes and that is to step around their lifeless corpses. The suffering that was, and still is, a daily fact of life for many of India's citizens is both terrible and seemingly insurmountable. The Hump will be a familiar term for those who have read Ernest K Gann's Fate is the Hunter. they will recall that he flew Liberator freighters on it, based in Nagpur. Overloading in his case led to barely missing the Taj Mahal and the many Indian workers cleaning and restoring it on scaffolding erected for the purpose. The monument lay close to and in line with the Take-Off runway, though in this case it was more of a stagger-off. The cause might ring a few bells with many who read this. The night shift fuelled and loaded the aircraft, the morning shift then did the same...
Yes, it is still the case that a large part of the world's people live in conditions that are almost beyond our comprehension.
Your chap wouldn't have been going over the Hump when he nearly missed the Taj after take off. It's at Agra, a long way West. Probably he'd loaded up there and would go on to Dum-Dum (or even further East - Gauhati ?) to top up with fuel before taking to the hills.
I believe the Taj was under "scaffolding" (bamboo poles lashed together with string) for most of the war; it wasn't the beauty spot it is now. Never saw it myself - would like to have done so.
Danny, of course Agra as you say! Obviously time I dug out my copy of Fate is the Hunter and read it again, and to brush up on my geography! Anyone (especially those who have flown multi engine transports around the world) who has a love of flying and who hasn't read this book should. Other than to say it is set mainly in the 1930/40's, initially in the NE of the USA, then into the global setting of WW2, and finally into the post war US civil aviation world, it is best left to its readers to judge. In many ways the settings are immaterial, for it is the way that Gann can describe a cloud scape, an approach in poor weather, a rapidly deteriorating technical situation, that really rings the bells.
Union Jack. Thanks for info, nice to see old Annie flying again' The last time I visited the Museum of Flight at East Fortune they were rebuilding an Anson 19, still had a lot of work to do as it was more or less just a shell. When I was a part time wallah with the VR at Perth there were a couple of Anson 19s on the strength, in these the W/ops position wa s up front next to the pilot rather than the rear of the fuselage.
I have never sought to set myself up as an authority on anything on this Thread, and this subject is no exception. I merely saw the consequences at first hand. However some general points can be made. All authority in India resided in the Viceroy, but Provincial Governments had been elected in the thirties, these were in most cases Congress led. These enjoyed a fair degree of autonomy, and cannot be absolved of their share in the disaster.
It is true that HMG (in the person of Churchill) could direct the Viceroy in matters of local policy, but he had many other problems on his plate (there was the direction of the War to attend to). The suggestions that the famine deaths were in some way due to "his personal hatred of Indians", or the result of imperial policy, are to my mind ridiculous. What advantage would lie in that ?
I quote from the Independent writer: "a famine.....caused, as the Nobel Prize -winning economist Amartya Sen has proved - by the imperial policies of theBritish......." Wiki has an extensive article on the "Bengal Famine of 1943" , and an even more extensive "Talk" section on the subject, which are both well worth reading, although you may well despairingly conclude: "Tot homines, quot sententiae".
My Old India Hand merely stated the facts of the matter as he saw it, in the same way as Malthus had theorised a century or so earlier. (I now think we are so far off Thread, that we had better leave it before the Moderator wields the axe).
"In the Royal Navy you have to be one to get one!"
During the Suez Campaign of 1957 (1956?) the RN was very strict on petrol consumption. At RNAS Culdrose one could revel in the vision of the Captain and his acolytes cycle in formation round the airfield during "Captain's Rounds". I believe there was a modified protocol for the saluting of bicycle-borne senior officers: Pedestrian matelots and lesser lights must en passant salute the bicycle-borne, but the bicycle-borne was excused returning the salute. I do think, though, that the b-b had to give an "eyes left" or "eyes right" as appropriate.
All this talk of "PC"! I rose to the height of squadron bicycles officer. At one time the squadron moved and bicycles had to be returned to stores. I issued the order for them all to be returned to my bicycles shed, and so it befell. In the gloom at the back was the remnant of a once-proud bicycle, no wheels, I think. Anyway I had it loaded with the rest and sent off to the stores on a truck ("barge"?). Minutes passed and the telephone rang for S/Lt, as he then was, Davaar.
'Twas Commander (S): "What in H*ll is this?". Briefly put, the RN can LOSE a bicycle ("I've still got to render my A-25"), but, a propos my wreck, it cannot "WIN" or "ENGENDER" a bicycle. "Explain!"
Aha! I held various stores in excess, which I traded with others of my modest rank, and some I kept. No more accounting for excess. Yet another lesson in Naval life.
I also remember at that time looking out the crew-room window (or should that be "scuttle") at a sight passing strange. A running figure appeared far away on the peri-track carrying what appeared to be a wand of some sort, making his way towards our little home-from-home. He eventually arrived with bosom a-heave for breath, and it turned out that he came from some Officer On High, bearing a message for our CO ---- in the cleft or cleave of the cleft or cloven stick that he delivered. Saving power, you see, and someone indulging his boyhood memories of Sanders of the River.
I have only shadowy recollections of the Grand. The frontage looked out over Chowringhee Road, and across the Maidan to the Hoogly river. Outside the hotel entrance there always seemed to be a sacred cow reclining on the pavement, and of course no one could even think of shifting it - that would cause a riot. But the Hindu concern for these beasts did not extend to actually feeding them. They might garland them with marigolds, but it was quite in order to let them starve. It called to mind the old doggerel:
"Thou shalt not kill, but needst not strive, Officiously, to keep alive".
Circumnavigating this cow, and ignoring the everpresent beggars ("Sahib, Sahib, backsheesh, Sahib"), you entered the long entrance hall of the hotel. In it was a shop-in-shop, "Bright & McIvor's", British military tailors. There was only one other of these in Calcutta (to my knowledge): "Ranken's" in Old Court House Street. You would only go into these establishments to buy home pattern (and UK prices) blue (or khaki) uniforms, greatcoats or caps.
For khaki drill slacks and shorts, and cellular bush jackets and shirts, you'd go round to the "Hog Bazaar" behind the Grand, and get what you wanted for a few "chips" (rupees) from one of the many "dherzis". (It would be from one of these that our naive Navigator bought his unofficial gold-lace double wings and the oversize rank braid - story in an earlier Post).
Old Court House Street, besides Ranken's, housed the Great Eastern Hotel, quieter and more exclusive and expensive than the Grand. This was the haunt of the more senior officers, and I doubt whether a Sgt-pilot would be allowed to darken its doors - not that anyone ever tried, IIRC. Over the road was "Firpo's", coffee shop plus ice cream parlour par excellance. They did an ice-cream sundae with chocolate sauce which haunted our dreams in the heat and dust of Burma. Doing good business was "Bourne & Hollingsworth", photographers, where every newly commissioned officer posed for the photo to send home. Nearby was a grimmer memorial, the site of the Black Hole of Calcutta.
Not far away was a curiosity in the town centre - another airfield ! "Red Road" was no more than its name suggests, a long straight stretch of a park road that had been closed off for use as an airstrip. It was cambered, it wasn't very wide, and the approaches were over the city buildings (much like Templehof in Berlin). Operating from it must have been a dicey affair for anything bigger than small communications aircraft. I know Hurricane pilots used it, for my shipboard friend on the way out, Ronnie Bray, was a ferry pilot on Hurricanes: he told me that it was a difficult place to get into, and I can well believe it.
The question was: why have it there at all ? There were two perfectly good airfields (Alipore and Dum-Dum) serving Calcutta already, and others not far away from which a defence (such as it was) of the city could have been mounted. I think it was really intended to bring in the top brass, for it was only a short stroll to reach the Great Eastern from their staff Ansons and Proctors at Red Road.
To get round town you used rickshaws. It is well known that a horse can pull seven times as much as it can carry, and the same goes for a man. Although the man-powered rickshaw is terribly Politically Incorrect these days, it provided an income for the rickshaw-wallah that at least kept him and his family from destitution. He would take you a mile for a few annas (and that was several times more than a Bengali gentleman would pay), and most of the time we kept within that radius of the Grand.
You could not carry much kit, or two of you, or go very far in a rickshaw. The next step up the transport ladder would be a "tonga". An emaciated pony pulled a two-wheeled trap, with the driver (no fatter than his pony) perched in front of the axle, and the two passengers facing the rear behind. You had to be careful to balance the load, or the back would go down and the unfortunate pony be lifted off the ground in its shafts. His nosebag always seemed to be stuffed with green fodder, which naturally came out the other end the same bright colour.
The final stage would be the taxis already discussed, but they were only needed for trips out to the airport, or Howrah station, or to places like the Botanic Gardens. However, they were an essential part of the answer developed for a particular problem. Provisioning front-line Messes with bar stocks and items extra to basic rations was always a hit-and-miss business with the constant moving about, and various strategems were devised.
One of the more successful of these was put in place by the RAF Vengeance squadrons, and it worked like this. A crew would be given a week's leave from the Squadron to Calcutta; they would be entrusted by the Messes with a shopping list and the cash to cover it (and not forgetting the Carew's empty jars). They would take an aircraft and land at Dum-Dum at a pre-arranged time and day (normally Saturday).
There they would be met by the previous week's leave crew, who would be holding a taxi well laden with their filled orders. They would stow this stuff in the aircraft and fly it back. The new crew took the taxi back to Calcutta, and made it their first job to put in the order for their supplies, to be collected first thing the next Saturday morning. They would pick up the stuff from the suppliers, load it into a taxi and drive out to the airfield at the appointed time. And so on, and so on.
It worked like a charm. Flying meant two day's extra leave for the crews; the Squadron only lost the use of the aircraft for the duration of the one round trip. As it was in everybody's interest to keep the arrangement going, and anyone who upset it would not be popular, there was rarely a hitch. Of course, the first # Crew had to find their own way to Calcutta, getting a ride on one of the shuttles if they were lucky, or spending 36 hours on train/boat if not, but after that it worked fine.
Enough to be going on with - there's plenty more to come,