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.
I can attest to the condition of Reg's study having just visited him this Christmas!
More interestingly I was Reg's audience for his first public performance on his ukulele, I did survive and yes Reg has done a remarkable job learning this instrument, however George Formby can rest in his grave safely at least for awhile :0)
As I say to Reg when he complains about having to learn computer skills " if you can land a 747 then..........................................."
friends like you, Andy !? If it wasn't for Lynn ......! I am going to make a huge effort to tear myslf away from my "uke" and start regaling you all with some of the more pleasant sides of the life in Sabena. In the Fifties the pre EU British Colony in Brussels was quite small but a very good social life was available. There was a thriving Cricket Club which had the honour of being dubbed the Brussels Royal Cricket Club due to a cricket match having been played by the Guards Brigades before the Battle of Waterloo in the lovely park in the centre of the City, the Bois de la Cambre. I love my cricket and was very active in the Club and eventually became the Chairman for a short time. The Children's Sports Day was always a great day out and the Duke and Duchess of Kent presented the prizes when they were in Brussels to celebrate the 150th. Anniversary of the Battle. Royalty was visiting Brussels fairly regularly and we had a long chat with Lord Snowdon when he and Princess Margaret were present at one of the events. Our conversation was cut short by the Princess who pulled him away, very abruptly and said "Come Dear, my throat is very bad". Many years later Dora and I were coming back from Johannesburg as passengers and had the pleasure of meeting Peter Townsend who was one of the other two First Class passengers. I had great discussions with him throughout the night with the Battle of Britain as the main subject and we were both struck with his charm and his courtesy.. the very epitome of the English Gentleman. Without doubt the big occasion of the Sixties was the State vsit by Her Majesty the Queen accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh. We were invited to a reception at the Canadian Embassy and Dora met the Queen and I met Prince Philip. He spotted my medals and said "I see that you were flying." "I still am, Sir. " I replied. "Oh, where do you fly to ?" he asked. "New York and the Belgian Congo " I replied giving the two main routes. "Oh, from the sublime to the ridiculous. " he said then hastily put his hand to his mouth and moved on to the next chap "And what are you doing here ?" he fired at the poor man ,who was very nervous and obviously thought that the Duke was accusing him of gatecrashing. "I'm with the Playing Fields Association " he stammered out. "Oh , what do they do ? " asked the Duke. The chap was speechless and the Duke moved on. After he was out of earshot the poor man told me that the Duke was the Chairman or President of the Association and that he dare'nt tell him. He probably thought that the Tower of London would await him in London when he returned. That evening we were privileged to attend the Ballet at the Opera House which King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola had specially arranged to be produced by Bejart for the Royal Occasion. We were wonderfully seated in the Circle and had a magnificent view of the glittering assembly of Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses together with Heads of State and Ambassadors from over one hundred countries all in their regalia and resplendent in full dress and uniforms. The jewellery on display must have been worth many millions and it was a truly memorable occasion. Sadly the ballet did not live up to the occasion and the efforts of the dancers were negated by the futuristic theme which had been chosen with nondescript costumes and stark shapeless scenery...Bejart at his worst. I had already met King Baudouin when I had flown him from Nice to Brussels. He was very quiet but charming. He questioned me , in perfect English, on flying with Sabena and eventually remarked "I don't think that I should like your job. It is very responsible." I couldn't help myself and answered " With respect, Sire, I would not change it for yours." He burst out laughing and agreed with me. I had flown the present King many times when he was Prince Albert. I took him to Rome when he announced his engagement to the lovely Iralian Princess Paola. On the return flight I had the very highly respected Cardinal Siri as a passenger. I also had a team of Italian sharpshooters , complete with their rifles on the way to a big event in Moscow. When they heard that the Cardinal was on board they asked if he would bless their rifles to which he agreed, It must have been a sight for the other passengers to remember to see them lining up in the aisle whilst the Cardinal gravely blessed their rifles.
My ukelele finger missed the "1" in front of the "50". I vaguely remember telling the Iron Duke, "Don't worry, the Prussians will never let you down"and sure enough they arrived led by Errol Flynn. regle.
Then I'll begin...where I left off which was having a "blowback" which is the term that my beloved Wife used to describe my wanderings down memory lane..."Dad's having a blowback" she would say, usually in a warning tone of voice so that the family could get out of earshot.
I resumed a boyhood hobby and began carrying an Autograph book with me on Flights. Amongst the personalities was Charlie Chaplin as he was booking in at London and I took him to Brussels for the onward flight to Geneva. He was very smartly dressed and very quiet. For sheer style Sir Malcolm Sargent was the best dressed man I have ever met. His nickname of "Flash Harry" was unkind but rather apt as I met him when I was standing next to him at the toilets in Zurich or Geneva. Nobody had told me that he had been on board and he asked me if I had been the pilot who had brought him from London. I didn't have my Autograph book handy so he signed for me on a piece of paper that just happened to be nearby. I took the great Negro singer, Paul Robeson to Moscow and he signed my book with his name in Russian Cyrillic. His career had come to a complete halt in the States where he was ostracised . Ironically his views were caused mainly because of his treatment as a black person by so many persons of the McCarthy period that was in it's hey day .
The Aga Khan was my passenger to Kinshasa where , as a Head of the Moslem religion, he was inaugurating the site for an Hotel to be exclusively for Moslem guests. To my knowledge it was never built as another of my passengers, Moshe Tshombe, appeared on the scene and the country was plunged into bloodshed.
On one of my trips to New York I went to Jack Dempsey's restaurant just off Times Square. The great Heavyweight champion sat, every day in a window seat and personally welcomed all and sundry. He was most courteous and hearing my accent, recalled Tommy Farr as being one of the finest boxers he had known.
I renewed my boyhood acquaintance with Gracie Fields when I took her to her second home in Naples. She was as down to earth as usual and had the crew in fits of laughter with some of her tales. She finished the flight by singing "Sally" to all the passengers. Another very nice person was Richard Todd, the actor, fresh from his characterisation of Guy Gibson in "The Dambusters" . He stayed in the cockpit for most of the flight and was an aviation fanatic despite his very distinguished wartime Army career which included his playing the part of a Sergeant to an Officer in "The Longest Day" which was based on Richard's own part in the Normandy landings.
Without doubt one of the most interesting passengers was Mr.Dolby of the Dolby system which eliminated all background noise to sound recordings. He was fascinating to listen to and told me that when he invented his system he could not believe that no one had thought of it before as it was so simple. He said that the hardest decision of his life was to turn down the two million dollar offer from Sony to purchase his patent outright. At that time he was young, married with young children and heavily in debt but he told me that his Father had been an inventor who had never made any money out of his inventions and he was determined that he would not make the same mistake of selling his patents cheaply. He also told me that none of his employees were tied down to times of "clocking in " at the offices. They could all come and go as and when they pleased and he had never had a trade dispute in his life with any of them.
Stirling Moss was, as you would expect, in a hurry and was only concerned as to whether the plane would land on time...It did.
In those days of piston engined aircraft you had time and the passengers were few enough, to go back during the longer flights and talk to them. In the later days of 707's, DC10's and 747's it was more like stepping out on to a stage and being confronted with row after row of anxious faces all willing you back into the cockpit where you belonged. Apart from the physical impossibility of speaking to everybody it was unwise to leave the cockpit of a very large jet aircraft to one pilot. Emergencies were few and far between but when they happened they happened quickly and two pilots were vital at these times.
I think that I shall retire to the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea. I am now the proud possessor of a lovely little two cup teapot which my Mentor (Sometimes with the prefix "Tor") Andy has kindly sent me together with all the instructions for fitting a new sound bar which I have successfully carried out. He always says to me "If you can land a 747 you can do this that and the other etc. ". So far he is correct but I have had a lot of the "this and that" but none of the "other".! Still some more to come later..Regle
I make no apologies for dropping names. I found more pleasure from meeting people that I had never dreamed of meeting , some of them boyhood heroes, than dropping bombs. Another side of meeting them was to make me realise that they were, after all , ordinary human beings with good and bad sides to them and they woke me up to the fact that I was as capable as they were in my own sphere of activity. Meeting with certain types boosted my own self confidence. In other words the old Yorkshire adage, in the times when you could use the word "queer," often came to mind "All folks are queer save thee and me and even thee's a bit queer ." Regle.
Thanks Spartacan but how do you follow Johnfair. Angels, Wiley, Peter Brett, et al , with tales of how I became an A.C 1 equipment assistant, passing the R.A.F heavy goods test etc ? However I will carry on, on a ’suck it and see basis’.
I must say however it has been very pleasant being able to sit back and read the recent contributions, and I'm sure it has given Reg more time to practice 'When I'm cleaning windows, on his ukelele. So ‘wilco’ Spartican.
Both Reg and I have made numerous attempts to contact our Luftwaffe counterparts , but with no success so far. Any ideas ?
Cliff, I have a friend who is in the German diplomatic service. He's attempting to put me in touch with some German ex-service organisations, so hopefully, we might get to hear from one or two ex-Luftwaffe people in the not too distant future. (We may, however, be in need of a translator if that comes to pass. Is there anyone out there willing to offer his or her services?)
I've also been in touch with Dudley Marrows, the captain of Peter Jenson's Sunderland when they sank U461 and when they were shot down by the Ju88s in the Bay of Biscay. He's never put pen to paper, but says (to quote him):
I intend to write three books. 1/ on action, 2/ "pre pill pilots (or aircrew)! (not sure of the significance of 'pre pill' - Wiley.)[ 3/ on the absolutely wonderful phase our 'blue orchid' uniforms gave us overseas - especially before the Yanks came in! (Now that sounds like it would be an interesting tale, if perhaps possibly bringing a few blushes to the brows of some Canadian and British Great Grandmothers!)
Want a secretary/typist though.
I passed Dudley a copy of Peter's story. His comments follow.
Essentially, Peter's coverage is very good. From a captain/pilot's point of view, I could embellish/enlarge it.
Ask Peter why he did not cover the blockade runner flight - one which, to me, was the most successful and stressful - 12 hours or so of stress.
We were 'deep in it' when Churchill made a statement along the lines: "...if we do not get another large convoy through with food and ammunition, we are finished."
Refer our blockade runner episode - reverse the players and it might give some indication of what a blow the loss of those two ships was to the Germans.
If there's a PPruner out there who lives anywhere near Mildura and who'd be interested in sticking a microphone under Dudley's nose, please PM me and I'll contact Dudley to see if he'd be willing to tell his tale(s). (I must stress here that I have not yet approached him with that suggestion.)
I believe it would be a worthwhile project. I'd hate to see all those experiences lost to history when that generation leaves us.
Last edited by Wiley; 18th Jan 2010 at 01:28.
Reason: Correction (thank you regle)
The pill. Ahem.! The greatest fear of women before the pill was to have a baby out of wedlock. It is absolutely impossible to describe the shame that an unwed Mother bore in those medieval times of pre pill. This had an obvious bearing ..an unfortunate simile...to the promiscuity of the pre pill generation. The pill in one fell swoop wiped out that dread and so..... I leave you to work out the rest. your Agony Aunt , Regle. By the way, should'nt that uniform be Blue Orchid, not Orchard ?
Cliff, my son is fluent in German, I can ask him to put a message in German on the equivalent German forums to this, however.................... as the Father of this thread could I ask you in English (not google German!) to write an introductory paragraph and I would suggest finally adding a link to this forum?
PS just lent a book to Reg about a 109 pilot I think is was "Spitfire on my tail" I can recommend it. What did you think Reg?
PSS whats this about in the RAF "never volunteer?"
Cliff, An extract from the book that Andy mentions...."The voice shaking with fear "Spitfie immer noch hinter mir . Was soll ich tun ? Immer noch hinter mir!" (Spitfire still behind me. What shall I do ?) Then came a clear reply and everyone recognised Galland's voice: "Aussteigen! Sie Bettnasser" (Jump, you bedwetter). The sort of German that is difficult to introduce in ordinary conversation but you never know when it might come in handy. Yes, Cliff, joking aside, I think that you would find Ulrich Steinhilper's "Spitfire on my tail" very interesting and startling in some of the disclosures of the German way of life on a Fighter Squadron. Certainly the question that you posed about rank will be answered. The word "Fahnriche" with the two dots over the 'a' keeps cropping up and I think that it is roughly the equivalent of our "aircrew u/t" but I may be wrong. Best of luck, Reg
I am just kicking around a rough draft in M.S Word of that witch t I wish Andy’s son to translate into German, so that we can send to the Luftwaffe associations previously mentioned, but am awaiting Andy’s reply . I think it may have to be abbreviated so as not to give Andy’s son too much translating ?
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- COPY OF P.M TO REG AND ANDY. Hi Reg and Andy.
Herewith a very rough draft of proposed email to German aircrew associations.
I would appreciate your guidance, I don’t want to ‘Upset the apple cart’ , or be accused of ‘Flogging a dead oss’ I would like you to say so. Any constructive criticism would be really welcome.
I write on behalf of contributors to the thread on PPRuNe (professional pilots rumour network , military section) which can be found on the internet by Googling either PPRuNe or cliffnemo. This is a thread that has now developed into various wartime pilots from all over the world describing their experiences during world war 11. The thread is called ‘ Gaining an R.A.F pilots brevet in W.W 11.’
Although we have tried to make contact with our opposite numbers in Germany , we have had no success and wonder if you could help us to contact either ex Luftwaffe aircrew or near relatives who would be good enough to share information with us. I would assure you that this is a very friendly site, and any ex Luftwaffe aircrew or airmen would be warmly welcomed, and any information appreciated.
I have been frequently informed that many historians obtain information from this thread, and have been asked by certain aircraft museums for permission to use extracts from the thread. Also I have been told that the thread contains a lot of information that does not appear in ,novels, biographies , or other records. I would , therefore, appeal to your organisation for help, and thank you in anticipation.
I would also point out that it may be of interest to current members of the Luftwaffe re the training of aircrew in England and America during the war, as this is described in detail.
Excerpts from PPRuNe.
-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. Hee flew across the target with me as we bombed, then the Me 109 pilot pointed towards his guns, shrugged his shoulders, gave me a "thumbs up" sign then half rolled on to his back and dived
Hempy Join Date: Oct 2002 Location: ɐılɐɹʇsnɐ Posts: 552
best thread on PPRuNe - probably ever.
Old Hairy Join Date: Jan 2005 Location: South Coast Posts: 92
Thanks Cliff. Get cracking lad,can't wait to read the rest of your exploits. All the Best Old Hairy
We had good friends in Brussels and the night life was extremely varied and entertaining. Amongst our friends from the small pre European union British Colony were Johnny and Margaret K. Johnny was head of EMI (The old HMV firm) and often took us with him when he had to entertain some of the visiting recording stars that came over to Brussels. On one of these nights Johnny, who was a charming man but had the reputation of being rather careful, left his coat in the car to save the cloakroom fee when we were going to a nearby Night Club. When we came out in the small hours of the morning he discovered he had left his car keys in the pocket of the coat. That was in the old days when there was no remote locking and you locked the door by pressing the door button as you closed the door. It cost him a small fortune for taxis home and then back in the morning to retrieve his car.
My eldest son, Peter's girl friend and later his Wife, had a small flat in Brussels and we had a wonderful party there one evening. Dora's parents were over staying with us and they thoroughly enjoyed the difference from their quiet life in St.Helens, Lancashire . Freddy and the Dreamers were over performing for EMI and we all piled into Mary's small flat and partied until the small hours. Dora's Father had been in the infantry during the first World War and had , like so many of his generation, joined the Army at seventeen falsely stating that he was eighteen. His experiences with Army Kitchens had put him off Restaurants for life and he would wander round the Antique shops of Brussels whilst we went to one of the multitude of fine little places that could always be found. In one of the few occasions when we persuaded him to come with us he rather disconcerted the "Garcon" who had politely enquired "How would you like your steak cooked, Monsieur ? by his usual reply of "Burnt to Bu...ry". We caught him once, though when we had persuaded him to come with us and we ordered Frog,s legs. We told him they were "Chicky bits" and he scoffed the lot saying "Delicious".
On one of my later trips I was en route to Bombay when the Steward asked me to talk with our only First class passenger, a Mr Ramamruthram, who had refused all the food offered. I went back and he told me that the food was fine and there was nothing wrong but he was not hungry as he had just come from a company lunch at Eindhoven. When he said "Eindhoven" I knew that he must be with Phillips, the Dutch electonic giant. He confirmed this and I told him that I had been a Mosquito pilot with the Squadron 105, that had been part of the 2 Group low level daylight attack that had taken place in 1942 on the factory which had been forced to make electronic components for the Germans. He told me that he had been talking with a retired fellow Director about that very raid and the chap recalled seeing a Mosquito flash past his window. The window was on the second floor of the building. We talked a lot and eventually became great friends. He was the Director for India and I visited him and his lovely family many times in Bombay. One day many months later I answered the phone in Brussels to find the secretary from his office in Eindhoven on the other end. "When are you coming to Holland to pick up your Tape Recorder ?" she asked me. I had , one day half seriously, expressed an interest in the new VCR's that Phillips had just brought out but the price was astronomical...well over £1,200 in the 1960's. I had completely forgotten this and I asked her what the price was. The answer made me say immediately that I would be over next day to collect it. We, my Wife and her Mother, now staying for long periods with us as she was widowed, all set off for Holland and we had lunch in one of the famed Indonesian Restaurants where we had the "Rijstaffel"which consisted of some sixty odd dishes. Counted one by one by Dora's Mother. The VCR was a hihgly complicated affair and the tapes were enormous things with the take-up spool mounted on top of the playing one. They were always jamming but Queen Nana, as my Wifes Mother was always known, soon mastered it and would beam with pride when we said "Nice picture , Nana." One of the requests that Mr R. had made of me was that I would take him recordings of "It Aint 'arf 'ot, Mate" whenever I came to Bombay. He told me that he would play them to the Board of Directors before a board meeting and that they would always be helpless with laughter .
I must confess that I have not said much about flying but Airline flying was getting more and more mass transportation minded and so the anecdotes are becoming fewer and fewer. I will try and see what I can pull out of the battered old flying helmet, later. Regle