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.
What did your worldly possessions consist of? What was the scran like? What was the accom like? Could you please describe it, even the nitty gritty. Did you at any point feel you would fail? Did anybody fail? What happened to them if they did?
At last we have a stable bed in comfortable wooden huts with the usual coke stoves. Unfortunately most of us "erks" are suffering from disentry. plenty of chalk and opium supplied by sick quarters, it is soon cured .It's summer and pleasant to be outside. We are all issued with Canadian pilot log books,and if memory serves me right, with Sidcot flying suit. silk inner suit. silk under gloves leather gauntlet gloves. leather flying helmet. goggles and those floppy suede flying boots which were superseded by escape boots, We were then told we would be shortly allocated to various E.F.T.Ss in Canada. or B.F.T.S (B for British)) in America. Every one hopes to be posted to America. In the meantime we can get in or out of camp at any time, through "the hole in the fence" An enterprising Canadian runs a bus service to this hole, and we are always "informed" when the S.Ps occasionally visit. Life is good, with food we haven't tasted for two years. No rationing here. Sweet caporal Canadian cigs reminding one of horse manure were cheap. (I use this expression as my sister may be logged in). I and a few others have been allocated to the Darr School of Aeronautics near Ponca City, Oklahoma,which is one of six American flying schools operated under lease lend. (more info on this or the previous Arnold scheme, if any one is interested)
After a month at Moncton we set off by train( Atcheson Topeka and Santa Fe) for Oklahoma. We were a bit surprised at the standard of the rolling stock, Buffalo BILL would have accepted it as normal. However we soon found out it was to be a pleasant journey. A coke stove at each end of the saloon, with each, two bench seats, facing each other making up a bed for two at night. A pull down bunk above our heads accommodated the the other two cadets. (When we got over the border we became kay- dets) We traveled by night and day for seven days, including a day off in Chicago while they oiled the engine, and only stopping for coal and water.
At our first stop for coal and water , the train which was the longest we had ever seen, pulled up at the platform, and we were amazed to see the platform covered in tables and chairs. the tables being laden with ice cream, oranges (unobtainable in the U.K) Coke. Lucky Strike cigs: etc. Very friendly ladies standing behind the tables. ready to serve us with anything we required free. Some thanked us for volunteering to fight Tojo and Hitler We departed to rousing cheers wondering what we had done to deserve it, This was repeated every time we stopped. Just wondering if any one who is complaining about being held up at Heathrow for eight hours is reading this.Five weeks have passed, and we have a week to go.
We travel down I THINK through Quebec, Montreal, Toronto. Detroit, Chicago and Oklahoma City. and finally Ponca city one week later (Mike of The 6 B.F.T.S association) if you have found this site as suggested, you may correct this if my memory has let me down. I now have to recuperate, so will sign off for a while, but hope to move on next to spins . slow rolls, imelmans.circuits and bumps .
CLIFF. According to the laws of aerodynamics it is impossible for a bumble bee to fly. Fortunately the bumble bee doesn't know any thing about aerodynamics, so carries on flying.
I will certainly reply, but it will require some thinking about as my memory ain't what it used to be, will do a print out of your questions.More later. I have to light my pipe. I,m enjoying this , but worried about white finger syndrome Cliff
My answers to your questions. 1, Worldly possessions.? Not much. We were paid three shillings and sixpence per day equivalent to about three pints of beer and a packet of cigarettes Couldn't afford a watch or lighter. Might have been 4s6d ( four and sixpence), when I became and L.A.C. I did own a tooth brush, razor. writing paper and stamps. /The rest was made up with issue items such as two pairs of under pants (they should have increased this number) two vests ,knife fork and spoon, two towels. one pair shoes one pair boots (airmen for the use off -stores nomenclature-) stainless steel clasp knife with tin opener It was an offense to be found in possession of a camera or radio and later on had to have permission to have a car or motorbike (they ran quite well on high octane fuel.)
2 accommodation varied about eight to a room at I.T.W Torquay but we did have two cotton sheets as standard aircrew issue (the army didn't) Later it was mainly nissan huts, with 2 coke stoves and no coke (joke)
3 FOOd In the U.K This varied from good to bloody awful but very little eggs and bacon, (except later when providing we got more than half way across the North sea we were guaranteed bacon and eggs for breakfast), a lot of stewed prunes .carrots, potatoes cheese on toast. semolina pudding. However when in the U.S of A the catering was top class.
3 Did you ever think you would fail. Yes all the time
.At the recruiting centre it would be impossible to count the number of would be spitfire pilots who were not accepted. Also quite a few were eliminated as they failed the solo under ten hours test at Cambridge. Cant remember the number of pilot U/Ts who failed the exams at the I,T.W some did, but the records show that on my course no 15 at Ponca city out of one hundred and four Briish and seventeen American cadets twenty two were eliminated,but think there were more. While I was there two were killed Out of the total for the war out of1230 total 197 were eliminated. Any one who washed out, as we called it. returned to Canada, to train as navigator. or bomb aimer.Please note a lot of navigators and bomb aimers chose that duty. Later the classification of Pilot U/T was changed to P.N.B (PILOT NAVIGATOR BOMB AIMER) CLIFF. Nostalgia ain't what it used to be
What were your instructors like? Were they experienced (operationally) or did they have first tour pilots fed back into the instructor stream. It is quite difficult these days to wash someone out of flying training (not necessarily a bad thing...don't want to throw out babies with the bath water!). Did your instructors generally want to be there, or would they have rather been at a front line squadron. (I know I am asking for you to speak on their behalf, and will understand if you cannot or don't wish to answer that).
You mentioned 40 hours under the bag. What was your total hours until gaining wings?
Great to hear of the reception you received at the train stations. Having been to the USA in uniform I am still amazed and amused about the way they still treat their uniformed members. I think the national pride in our own countries is probably equal, but the yanks are a lot more demonstrative in their appreciation.
Yes I realise I may take flak for the above comment, and I am speaking in vast generalisations. Note: Local conditions may vary.
REPLY TO YOUR QUESTIONS
The majority of the instructors were excellent pilots, but more importantly were excellent patient teachers, However they were American civilians . who I suspect were ex crop dusters, mail pilots with hundreds of hours behind them.Bear in mind this was an American camp under the lend lease agreement, with only a few R.A.F officers. The instructors seemed happy to be there, Who wouldn't 103 (F) in the shade, a swimming pool. fantastic food, a car with all the petrol (sorry gas) they required at a few cents a gallon, etc. despite the war.
Total hours to gain wings, 9.5 hours solo test on Tiger moth. 100hrs on P.T 17s (Boeing-Stearman biplane). 100 hours A.T 6 (Harvard to you), including a 2000 mile navigation test down to the Gulf of Mexico. Plus 40 hours on the link trainer "under the hood", which was possibly the first flight simulator. Plus many more Hours in classrooms,how many? who knows. As for national pride ,I was extremely impressed. Every morning we paraded to hoist the stars and stripes and the union jack. An American would hoist old glory, the following day he would hoist the union jack ( flag sorry). One morning a British cadet was hoisting the stars and stripes but it was touching the floor, whereupon the American cadet shouted "get that flag of the deck Mr" The British cadet replied "you can take your flag and stuff it up your **** and then the stars to keep it there. The British cadet was given two hours to get out of the camp and sent back to the U.K You see no American can allow their flag to touch the ground. CLIFF.
Thought you said SKIVING at first. ('Nuff said) I was one of the lucky ones we managed to get fourteen days on return to the U.K after nearly a year after the last time home. Some were away for years or for ever. Cliff. P.S If any one cannot understand some of my ancient expressions or acronyms then just ask. Sorry still think imperial rather than metric I do know 2.54cm = 1" but it means nothing to me. Could read the thirty two points of the compass but the R.A.F changed to three sixty degrees mid war but retained knots. Could be tother way round, did they change the airspeed indicator from miles to knots? any one know? or care.
Amazing, Just had a private email via PPRuNe from an ex B.F.T.S cadet named George. He trained at Miami, Oklahoma (not the miami) He said he didn't want to "steel my thunder" I have asked him to contribute, he could help to rectify (diplomatically) some of my mistakes, my memory ain't what it used to be, and 60 odd years ago?
I have been trying to paste and copy my photos in photo bucket on to this site (Me as brand new sprog or erk at I.T.W complete with white starched flash in "hats field service", and white blanco'd webbing belt and V.R shoulder badges) with no success Can any one help this impecunious O.A.P (Violins on shoulders) ? Have had an email from another ex 6 B.F.T.S bod with excellent pic showing him with pathfinder Mosquito Would also like to attach it (providing there isn't a woman with a pram looking for him) Think photos can be copied, as I have seen them on other pages.
Thanks for the memories Cliffnemo, I followed a roughly similar path. For the Atlantic crossing on the QM we were accompanied by Winston and most of his cabinet, plus assorted chiefs of staff en route to the (first) Quebec conference while other bigwigs on board included Guy Gibson and Orde Wingate.
At some point it was decided that we cadets should be inspected by the great man himself, so one day we all were lined up somewhat shambolically on the port promenade deck. Next to our flight/section or whatever was a group of French Air Force cadets that attracted Winnie's special attention. Stopping to question one of them, he enquired "how did you get over from France?", to be answered "on ze boat, M'siear". "Jolly good" said WC, "when was that?" "In 1938" was the response, result collapse of stout party.
Normally the Queens and other large liners sailed unescorted, so we were surprised to find a destroyer close by on the first morning with other vessels visible further away. However the weather was pretty rough and plainly it was having a hard time keeping up with our 30+ knot speed, eventually falling back out of sight; using our newly acquired morse skills, we divined from her signalling lamp that the sea state made station keeping impossible. For the rest of the crossing no escorts were visible until we came in sight of the Canadian coast.
Harry, I'm sure Cliff won't be offended if you give us more of your story too.
Anyone who'd like a Navigator's version of events (and training in Canada that closely parallels Cliff's experiences as shared with us to date) should look out for 'No Moon Tonight' by Don Charlwood. Probbly even a better read is 'Journeys into Darkness' by the same author, essentially the same story as 'No Moon Tonight', but written thirty years later, when he felt more free to say what really happened without worrying about certain people's reputations. Both books are available for as little as $1.00 at www.abebooks.com
Charlwood's crew were the first crew to complete a tour of 30 missions in their squadron (103 Sqn) in eleven months. Think about all that that implies. Until them, not a single crew from the squadron had survived 30 missions in almost a year.
We didn't have a destroyer escort, but a Sunderland circled us until we were half way across the Atlantic, when a Catalina took over. We heard later the Queen Mary crossing at the same time as us, and in the same storm, had to go into dry dock in New York for repairs to plates. We also heard that on a later trip she had run over a destroyer (the Cuarasao ?) and didn't even stop.
Typed another contribution yesterday and saved it, the original disappeared and couldn't find the saved file After recuperation will try again. Am still trying to add photos using photo bucket but so far only managed to print on this page the URL characters and no piccy. Any one any ideas. Cliff P.S Thanks for the encouragement, that's what keeps me going.
If you can't stand a joke, you shouldn't have joined
cliff: posting pics. Copy the img code from Photobucket.
Now open your reply window in PPRuNe and click on the "insert image" icon, it is the second to last one in the row.
This will open another window titled "Please enter the URL of your image", paste the Photbucket image code in here, but make sure you only have one http at the start. Also delete any [img] if you have copied those over.
Wiley - I would like to oblige, but memoirs of my pilot training in Canada run to over twenty pages of A4 (single-sided), far too lengthy for reproduction here. However, would be delighted to e-mail them to you; is there a way I could acquire your address without you having to publish it in this forum?