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.
We have a lot more in common than Liverpool, Cliff. The Flt/Sgt Discip sitting in the front row in your ITW picture was called Skoular. I can't vouch for the spelling, it might have been Schoular or Skoular and he was Egyptian. He was also my Flt/Sgt i.c B Flight at No 6 ITW at Aberystwyth when I was there from Dec 1940 until March 1941. He was very tough and very fair as I remember. Our Corporal was a Cpl. Beaton and he and the F/Sgt were a darned good team. Just one of the numerous coincidences that I have encountered during my life. I seem to remember that his moustache was a bit more luxurious when I knew him but then he would have been about a year younger. By the way, in the thread from "Wiley", he asked if you knew how many survived the war. According to statistics , Bomber Command alone, had 55,000 aircrew killed or missing, more than the entire number lost by the brave men of the Merchant Navy.
While I am here at the desk.....I'll get on with a bit more of my story..... There was always a huge gasp of dismay when the curtain was drawn at Briefing and we saw the long ,tortuous track of the red ribbon finishing at "The Big City" as we always referred to Berlin. We knew that we were in for over eight hours of nerve wracking tension and knew that there would be a savage reception awaiting us.
I had been a Flt.Sgt. for a very long time but one day I was called to the Wingco's Office and was interviewed by a very charming Air Vice Marshall Carr . It was a very brief interview and consisted of two questions;" How long have you been on Operations ?" and "What does your Father do ?". The answer to the first was "Over a year , Sir " and the second was "He is an RAF Signals Officer at Helwan, Egypt, Sir." His answer was short and sweet but addressed to my Squadron Commander. "I do know that Helwan is in Egypt and see that this chap does his next Op as an Officer. " As a matter of fact my commission came through in under three weeks , together with that of my Navigator and my Bomb Aimer and I found myself as a very new Pilot Officer for my first Op as a "sprog" . The target was a place that no one had ever heard of and it was very unusual that we were operating at all as it was full moon and we had never been called upon to operate at that time before. We were told that it was a vital target and was a secret Radio Station and if we didn't destroy it that night we would have to go back every night until it was destroyed. We were also told that 4 Group,which was our Group, of course, had the doubtful honour of leading the raid which consisted of around six hundred four engined bombers, mainly Halifaxes and Lancasters.
You have, of course , guessed, by now, that the target was Peenemunde, a small place on the Baltic and the breeding ground for the V2 Rockets that would wreak such havoc later......much later as a result of this operation. I see that the remarks in my log book just say "Quiet trip. Bombed and got an aiming point " or words to that effect. I was astounded to hear that we had lost 42 aircraft, 30 of them over the target as we had not seen any signs of fighters, just the usual flak and searchlights. We had not been told that 30 Mosquito's had been sent, as a diversion , to Berlin and timed to look as though they were the leaders of the main force so that the German fighters had been "scrambled" to Berlin and only arrived over Peenemunde towards the middle of the operation and had then really taken their toll. Once again, luck had played such a huge part of staying alive.
The Germans had used, for one of the first times, their answer to "Window" . It was called "Wild Boar" and was to use every fighter available, even their daylight fighters and get them up high enough to see the bombers silhouetted against the searchlights, fires and the cloud below if there was any. Incidentally I got the code name wrong for the upward firing guns mounted on their fighters. It was not "Nacht Musik" but was "Schrage Musik" (It might be "schraage") Schrage Musik was "Jazz" or "Kinky" as was the idea of fixed upward firing guns, but it worked . Our answer was "Monica", A device that beeped whenever anything came near the blind spot roughly under the main spar. The trouble was it could'nt distinguish betweeen friend or foe and as there were always hundreds of other aircraft around, Monica would sing during the whole trip and was, as often as not, switched off.
I made three trips to Berlin and on one of them had a very unusual experience. We were lucky enough to be one of the first Halifax Squadrons to be equipped with radial Bristol Hercules engines and we could now join the Lancs at the dizzy heights of 22,000 ft where, or so they told us, the flak was less accurate. On this night, over Berlin, it was as light as day because of the low cloud ,the searchlights and the fires blazing below. I had just started my bombing run when I looked out to my left and was astounded to see a Messerschmit 109 about four hundred yards away , literally formated ,just out of our range on our port wing. He stayed there and I told the gunners not to fire as it was useless and would only draw others to the scene. He flew across the target with me as we bombed, then the pilot pointed towards his guns, shrugged his shoulders, gave me a "thumbs up" sign then half rolled on to his back and dived away. We were "coned" after that by three searchlights but I got my head down in the cockpit to avoid being blinded and did some violent weaving and managed to get away.......
Did you know some of you chaps contributed to the war effort even before starting training? Lifted from the link.
A constant stream of relatively fast unescorted passenger ships crossing the Atlantic, kept the cadets enrolling in 5BFTS at the rate of 100 every nine weeks. The ships had a good safety record made possible by naval intelligence obtained from the ultra secret Enigma code-breaking carried out at Bletchley Park near Milton Keynes. Even so, it required excellent seamanship to avoid contact with the 120 U-Boats operating in the Atlantic on any one day in 1943! One such crossing was dramatic however in May 1941. The "Britannic" was carrying cadets destined for the Arnold Scheme. Unknown to the cadets the ship was being used as bait for the German battlecruisers "Bismarck" and "Prince Eugen". It worked and the German warships sailed into the ambush prepared by the Royal Navy.
I wonder if I could butt into this fascinating thread for a moment while it still might have the interest of many of those who learned to fly in the USA.
After an immensely adventurous life Flt Lt Lawrence Mitchell died recently and, although the family know that he was an RAF instructor in Texas before going onto Typhoons and Tempests in Europe, they have very little information on his life at that time. Like many war heroes he remained fairly tightlipped about that period of his life.
I just wondered if anyone following this thread might have crossed paths with him and be able to provide any stories which could be passed on to the family. I know that they have followed the official RAF channels and, although they have been very helpful, their information has done little to reveal the character of the man. Based on the rest of his life, which included winning his class in the Le Man 24 Hour race, I would imagine that his RAF life was just as colourful.
The photograph of B Flight ,No 6 ITW, Aberystwyth would have been taken around Feb/March 1941. The F/Sgt. Choular (I think that is the name, Cliff) is sitting, third from the left, in the front row; I am standing, fourth from the right, in the back row. I hope that you recognise him, Cliff. On his left is his Corporal Beaton. The moustache did not last for very long, Dora, and many others ,hated it so off it came. The photograph of me and my Father would have been taken mid 1942. I would have been 20 (8th. May), and my Father 41, possibly 42 (1st. Sept.)
I think that I told the story of being in the Atlantic on board the Britannic, in one of my first threads. I had seen it depart from Liverpool on it's maiden voyage when I was a very little boy. We were 500 cadets forming the very first part of the "Arnold Scheme" which was to become vital to the supply of well trained pilots for the RAF. we were surprised to find that we had the "Rodney" and four Destroyers as our escort and dismayed when they left us very soon after sailing, to seek and sink the "Bismarck". We were never told of this beforehand but the Grapevine kept us informed all through the battle with the dreadful news of the loss of the "Hood" giving us much to think about before we heard that the "Bismarck" had been given the "coup de grace " by the "Rodney ". Stirring Days! There is a photo ,on an earlier page (13 or thereabouts) taken on board the "Britannic" of us all of 42A enjoying a ship's concert. Brings to mind the quotation "Regardless of their doom, the little innocents played," I don't know who wrote it. I still have a copy of the Toronto Newspaper with the headlines "British Cadets Chased by the Bismarck" . We set sail May 22nd. 1941 and landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, May 30th.1941 so it all happened just a couple of weeks after my 19th. Birthday. it is a long, long time ago.
Ye distant spires, ye antique towers,
That crown the watery glade, Where grateful Science still adores Her Henry's holy shade; And ye, that from the stately brow Of Windsor's heights the expanse below
Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey, Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowers among Wanders the hoary Thames along
His silver-winding way.
Ah, happy hills, ah, pleasing shade,
Ah, fields beloved in vain, Where once my careless childhood strayed,
A stranger yet to pain! I feel the gales, that from ye blow, A momentary bliss bestow,
As waving fresh their gladsome wing, My weary soul they seem to soothe, And, redolent of joy and youth,
To breathe a second spring.
Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen
Full many a sprightly race Disporting on thy margent green
The paths of pleasure trace, Who foremost now delight to cleave With pliant arm thy glassy wave?
The captive linnet which enthrall? What idle progeny succeed To chase the rolling circle's speed,
Or urge the flying ball?
While some on earnest business bent
Their murmuring labours ply
'Gainst graver hours, that bring constraint
To sweeten liberty: Some bold adventurers disdain The limits of their little reign,
And unknown regions dare descry: Still as they run they look behind, They hear a voice in every wind,
And snatch a fearful joy.
Gay hope is theirs by fancy fed,
Less pleasing when possessed; The tear forgot as soon as shed,
The sunshine of the breast: Theirs buxom health of rosy hue, Wild wit, invention ever new,
And lively cheer of vigour born; The thoughtless day, the easy night, The spirits pure, the slumbers light, That fly the approach of morn.
Alas, regardless of their doom,
The little victims play! No sense have they of ills to come,
Nor care beyond today: Yet see how all around 'em wait The ministers of human fate,
And black Misfortune's baleful train! Ah, show them where in ambush stand To seize their prey the murderous band! Ah, tell them they are men!
These shall the fury Passions tear,
The vultures of the mind Disdainful Anger, pallid Fear,
And Shame that skulks behind; Or pining Love shall waste their youth, Or Jealousy with rankling tooth,
That inly gnaws the secret heart, And Envy wan, and faded Care, Grim-visaged comfortless Despair,
And Sorrow's piercing dart.
Ambition this shall tempt to rise,
Then whirl the wretch from high, To bitter Scorn a sacrifice,
And grinning Infamy. The stings of Falsehood those shall try, And hard Unkindness' altered eye,
That mocks the tear if forced to flow; And keen Remorse with blood defiled, And moody Madness laughing wild Amid severest woe.
Lo, in the vale of years beneath
A grisly troop are seen, The painful family of Death,
More hideous than their Queen: This racks the joints, this fires the veins, That every labouring sinew strains,
Those in the deeper vitals rage: Lo, Poverty, to fill the band, That numbs the soul with icy hand,
And slow-consuming Age.
To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan, The tender for another's pain;
The unfeeling for his own. Yet ah! why should they know their fate? Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies. Thought would destroy their paradise. No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.
BRAKEDELL. And after the Brasso came forth Duraglit.
WILEY. You can ask any questions you want to, morbid or otherwise, with one exception. No questions about the Reeperbahn, Hamburg. 15 course at Ponca consisted of (all approximate figures ) 104 cadets, including 17 American. 22 were eliminated leaving 65 British of which 9 killed.. This comparatively low figure, may be due to it being far safer stoking steam trains, as was mentioned in previous posts.
PULSE1. Have the relatives of F/L Mitchell googled 1 BFTS. . Think there is an American 1 B.F.T.S association, and possibly a British one. Also The Royal Air Force forum, and the R.A.F commands forum, might help.
REGLE, Your reference to the Britannic , Hood, Rodney etc, reminded me of that old mess song, (becoming all nostalgic again)
I called on my sweetheart they called her Miss Brown. She was having a bath and she couldn’t come down
????????? So roll on the Nelson, the Rodney, Renown, You can’t say the Hood, cos the backstuds gone down..
I wonder if the modern aviators still sing daft songs in the mess.
Location: Quite near 'An aerodrome somewhere in England'
Aaaaargh! Button sticks!! Those horrible things were still around when I went through Cranwell in 1968. The joys of Brasso and Duraglit - and picking the residue out of the crowns with a matchstick....
Then along came 'Staybrite' (sp?) buttons. First they were flat, then 'high dome' in design.
But then we started wearing the scruffy woolly pully - and buttons became largely a thing of the past except when wearing No1s for parades, weddings and AOC's bollockings.
Super thread, cliff - do think about getting a book published!
Oh how Cliffnemo's stories bring things back !!! Thanks a lot from one old(ish) Cold Warrior who trained at 6 FTS Ternhill in 1950 (35 P course) ...
My reason for posting is that the SBA approach stories reminded me of an occasion under the hood in a Harvard when I was concentrating so hard on getting to the steady beam, with Ns (or As) fading into it, that when the "TN" station callsign broke the dot/dash transmission, I failed to notice that the dit-dah plus steady note had changed to dah-dit... Nice steady approach towards Shawbury before my instructor suggested I might be interested in the scenery before me ... (P/O Warburton wasn't the gentlest of instructors, but he did teach me a lot !). Thanks again all the predecessors !!!
J P, that reminds me of an incident that occurred in 1956 when a student on our course, flying solo in a Piston Provost, called downwind at what he thought was Ternhill, turned finals at Shawbury and was shot down by a red very from the caravan, which lodged inside the radial cowling and set fire to the engine, forcing him to carry out his first forced landing at a mirror image of Ternhill.
Did you recognise FLt,Sgt. Choular from my photograph of B Flight 6ITW Aberystwyth ? I think, in fact I am sure that it is one and the same man who is sitting to the left of the officers in your photo at Torquay. I had a lot of respect for that man as he was scrupously fair and a very .decent chap that you could take your toubles to. Regle' I find our two careers fascinating as they run side by side but in a different time warp and then , occasionally they run in to a common factor such as the sharing of the same Flt/Sgt. Discip. You have far more technical knowledge than me. That was always my weakest subject as I was not particularly mechanically minded.
Thanks for the provenance of my quotation. How true it rings, even or especially, in these days. How nice to read the splendid words that I had never seen in full. I have just told Cliff that I was never very practically minded , Classic literature was always my preference. Don't know how I became a pilot... Perhaps the sheer beauty of Flight was the answer. All the best, Regle.
I read with admiration of your bravery in the accounts of raids you took part in during WW2.
I have one question that I wonder whether you can answer.
In the early 1970’s I was stationed at the JHQ at Rheindahlen near Mönchengladbach (MG) in Germany. The quarter we occupied was alongside the Buntegarten, one of the better areas of MG and not far from the town’s most prominent landmark a massive 170ft high water tower built on the highest spot in town which dominated the town and surrounding countryside.
One of my German neighbours, a schoolboy during the war in MG, said that the water tower, because it was so large an object, was used as an ‘aiming point’ by allied bombers during their raids on the town. I had no way of knowing whether this was true or not, but I wonder did you take place in any raids against MG and if so did your briefing make reference to the tower at MG as a possible aiming point?
The following two photos show the MG water tower.
And here is what the Bomber Command Campaign Diary — for Sept 1944 says:
9/10 September 1944 113 Lancasters and 24 Mosquitos of 5 and 8 Groups carried out a devastating raid on the centre of Mönchengladbach without loss.
19/20 September 1944 227 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and No 5 Groups to the twin towns of Mönchengladbach/Rheydt. 4 Lancasters and 1 Mosquito lost. Bomber Command claimed severe damage to both towns, particularly to Mönchengladbach.
The Master Bomber for this raid was Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC, DSO, DFC flying a No 627 [617?] Squadron Mosquito from Coningsby, where he was serving as Base Operations Officer. Gibson’s instructions over the target were heard throughout the raid and gave no hint of trouble, but his aircraft crashed in flames - according to a Dutch eyewitness - before crossing the coast of Holland for the homeward flight over the North Sea. There were no German fighter claims for the Mosquito; it may have been damaged by flak over the target or on the return flight, or it may have developed engine trouble. It was possibly flying too low for the crew to escape by parachute. Gibson and his navigator, Squadron Leader J. B. Warwick, DFC were both killed and were buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery at Steenbergen-en-Kruisland, 13km north of Bergen-op-Zoom. Theirs are the only graves of Allied servicemen in the cemetery.