View Full Version : National Service Aircrew

8th Nov 2007, 10:39
How many of us were there ?

I went to Hornchurch for pre-selection and was quickly wafted from Padgate to Compton Bassett for Air Signaller ground school. Then off to Swanton Morley for flying training in Ansons and then Percival Proctors. Off to St Mawgan for maritime reconnaissance traing in Lancaster MR3's. Up to Kinloss for conversion to Lockheed Neptunes and finally to 36 Sqn at Topcliffe to see out the remainder of my National Service.

All done in two years with a very high level of competence displayed by the various trainers.

There were of course navs and pilots who also qualified during N.S. but I have rarely come across many others who had this very interesting way of passing their two years. The RAF was still a very big organisation then and many of the personnel were ex-WW2.

After leaving I was recalled for reserve training twice - to trundle around in Vickers Varsities which enhanced my student income considerably.

Things seemed very laid back at that time !

Al R
8th Nov 2007, 11:14

I find it amazing that all of that was achieved in just 2 years. It can't have been ann effective way of doing things, surely?

How many stayed on?

The Adjutant
8th Nov 2007, 11:56
I believe that part of the deal was that NS pilots had to join their local RAuxAF Sqn for a period after leaving regular service. Not entirely sure of the terms and conditions, but have seen references to this in several books/publications. Anybody out there able to fill in the blanks?

8th Nov 2007, 12:11
Al R - National Service turned all three services into huge training machines, turning over everyone on NS every two years. It was therefore possible to double the size of the military overnight with people who had been out for less than two years. While they would have lacked currency, they'd have been fairly useful very fast, and that was the need during the cold war.

Now we have a much bigger problem trying to man-up for anything. Retention may sound like a good thing, but if you keep people for so long that you don't train many new people, then you can't expand very fast. The capacity of the training system can quickly become a limiting factor.

In the late 70s the RN took RW pilots from their first day at Dartmouth to their first front-line ASW squadron in about 27 months, as there were no hold-overs.

8th Nov 2007, 12:52
On my Provost T1 basic course at Tern hill in 1960 we had two NS pilots that had rejoined. They were both FOs as against we APOs. They had done the training during NS and had continued with the RAAuxAF until it folded in 1957. Despite this they were both required to start flyng training again from scratch.
Me, I went from South Cerney to Tern Hill, to Oakington,to Gaydon and then to Honington without a weekend between them because I was travelling beween units. Apart from the normal grants I didn't have any leave for over two years. Not that it mattered, the pay was so bad that I couldn't afford to.

8th Nov 2007, 14:39
Al R

Thanks for the interest. I think that the training was pretty good because in the end I was able to function usefully in the Neptune which meant operating two radar systems, the APS 20 search radar and the high definition sector scan attack radar, the 20 mill ball turret from which we could drop munitions via the gun/bombsight, the very good hf/mf radio equipment and the(basic) sonar stuff.

Don't know about retention rates. Most of my course were Scottish public school boys most of whom would leave I guess.

It was intensive training but at 18 it's what you need and can handle.

obnoxio f*ckwit
8th Nov 2007, 17:12
My father was an NS pilot. Having applied some thought to what he could do in NS that was going to take the least effort, he applied to the RAF to be an Air Gunner, this was about 1951. After telling them he was off to college for 3 years they said "fine, come back when you've finished".

1954, he reports back to be told they were not recruiting Air Gunners anymore, he would have to be a pilot! Aircrew Selection at Hornchurch, OCTU at Kirton-in-Lindsey, Provosts at Ternhill (we have both done circuits at Chetwynd, though many years apart!), Vampires at Oakington, TWU at Chivenor, then 605 (County of Warwick) Sqn at Honiley until the disbandment of the Aux Sqns in 1957.

He was offered the chance to stay in as a regular, but turned it down. Good job, really or I would not be here!

9th Nov 2007, 10:05
Al R would find your post interesting because it also suggests that a lot could be done in two years. I presume that they were piston Provosts on which your father trained. Ugly things which didn't seem to last very long.

I guess attitudes were different too because I remember a night sortie from Swinderby in a Varsity, the crew of which were all under 21. It was probably a carry-over from WW2 ideas about age and suitability. Mind you we lost a lot more aircraft in training accidents.

aw ditor
9th Nov 2007, 10:13
Piston Provost was a great trainer for its day and was still at CFS in the mid 1960s' Excellent rate of roll and a good aerobatic machine. They spoiled it by putting a Viper in it!

9th Nov 2007, 12:59
One of my neighbours, I found out after knowing him for years, had been a national service pilot. He told me he flew F86 Sabres, and was probably the only national service pilot who had gone supersonic. He is a retired aerodynamicist, and he went to great lengths to explain how and why it occured.:rolleyes:

obnoxio f*ckwit
9th Nov 2007, 18:15
mstjbrown, you're right, they were Piston Provosts. Chetwynd is no more than a large grass field, (albeit quite flat), not sure how the Jet variety would have coped!

My father tells of one trip, that sounds a bit like Circuit Consol to me, where he flew from Ternhill to Chetwynd, did a couple of circuits until his instructor was happy. Instructor jumped out with a bag of golf balls and a club, and spent half an hour or so practicing his swing (or whatever it is you do on a game of swish-fcuk), before waving to my Dad to come and get hm and take them back to Ternhill.

If we could guarantee enough aircraft and instructors were available all day every day for the training fleets, we also might be able to get done in two years. They had enough of them, I think it was '54 the RAF lost about 150 Meteors and about 90 Vampires. There were 2 consecutive days when (I think) 7 and 8 aircraft were lost?

Al R
9th Nov 2007, 18:41
Thanks very much for the answers. Wasn't Tony Benn a National Service pilot too? I suppose the national mindset was different then too, things weren't as complicated and as mentioned, the whole set up was just one big sausage factory. What strikes me too, is that then, a Group Captain had so much more responsibility. I wonder if anyone has been bored enough to work out how many aircraft a Groupie may have commanded then, and what rank you have to be now, to command a similar number.

f#ckwit says: My father was an NS pilot. .. he reports back to be told they were not recruiting Air Gunners anymore, he would have to be a pilot!

Thats what they tried to tell me too, but I wouldn't have any of it, no sirree bob. Gunner or nothing, I told 'em and they got the message in the end. Boy, the amount of times I did bunny hops around Catterick airfield laughing at those plonkers flying overhead in their Lightnings and Buccaneers and shiny Tornados.

henry crun
9th Nov 2007, 21:55
One NS pilot on the course ahead if me at Weston Zoyland was sent to instructors course at CFS as soon as he finished AFS.

Assuming he passed, he would have had less than 6 months left to serve.

Al R: It wasn't uncommon in fighter command for there to be 3 squadrons on a station, 16 aircraft each.
Undoubtably some places had more than that.

9th Nov 2007, 22:57
Norman Tebbitt was a RAF Pilot and I believe NS According to his autobiography he once failed to take off in a Meteor,(Waterbeach) ending up on the overshoot. Apparantly the elevator trim was set full nose down. Not sure if he ever flew again.

Papa Whisky Alpha
9th Nov 2007, 23:31
I tried originally to join the RAF as a boy entrant in July 1948 but the selection board at RAF North Weald turned me down as medically unfit, however in January 1950 I was "called up" for National Service and reported to Padgate.
At Padgate we were informed that anyone who had school certificate could volunteer for aircrew selection. I hadn't got school certificate but convinced those selecting the candidates that my City and Guilds Motor Vehicle Mechanics certificate was equivalent, and was, in company with about 100 other intake members, sent to Hornchurch.
On return I found I had been selected for National Service Pilot training. As I had only requested the RAF for my NS because I didn't fancy the hairy shirts worn by the Army and had only asked for aircrew because the Hornchurch climate was preferable to Padgate in the snow this astonished me somewhat. However the selection was confirmed when I had to hand one of my pairs of issue boots in exchange for a pair of shoes. These displayed at the foot of the bed signified that you were a u/t birdman. Remember that at that time National Service was only eighteen months, so everything was somwhat hectic. No 1 ITS was at RAF Wittering until the end of March 1950 when we were sent on ten days leave reporting to Jurby on our return. Sadly I did not complete my training being completely out of my depth with such things as calculus but I have always regretted not having made full use of the opportunity which I was offered, I still love flying and took my PPL in 2005 as something else to do in retirement.

Al R
10th Nov 2007, 08:27
So, even post war, a Group Captain of a busy area was in charge of hundreds of aircraft then Henry? In the war, was the station commander of a flying stn always a Groupie, and did Group Captains actually run a Group, which I have always assumed to be a collection of flying stns? If so, were Group Captains subordinate to other Group Captains, or was the position of Group Captain originally a title, like Commodore?

I wonder when sqn commanders became Wing Commanders, was it because of the increasing complexity and responsibility, or has there always been instances when they ran sqns? I imagine not, otherwise we wouldn't have had the rank 'Sqn Leader'.

Just idle thoughts.. no need for a definitive response I guess. This is an interesting thread. I find the idea that the RAF could train someone to do such a massive job, and then only expect to get a matter of a few month's top end service amazing. Its almost like the public sector mentality of the 70s, when efficiency/ cost/ cost efficiency had no concept, just the end result.

henry crun
10th Nov 2007, 09:13
Al R: In the period I referred to a Group Captain commanded a station which, as I said, could have 48 aircraft, plus a few odds and sods in station flight.

AVM commanded a group.

I was thinking about training establishments that might have had more than that, but that was just a guess, I never checked the numbers.
The FTS's seemed to be overrun with aircraft in the early 1950's when the Korean war build up was still in full swing.

N/F squadrons started having Wing Commander c/o's about the mid 1950's; day fighters carried on with Sqn. Ldr's for a while, but I cannot remember when they changed.

10th Nov 2007, 09:32

Not sure if he ever flew again.After leaving the RAF, Norman Tebbit was an Airline Pilot with BOAC for 13 years.
In 1970 he left flying for his career in politics.

10th Nov 2007, 09:48
Papa Whisky Alpha

A very interesting post. I was about a year after you and NS was extended to two years. For the extra six months though we were on the full regular pay rates which as a (very) young sergeant aircrew seemed generous.

By the way, as I'm sure you remember, your phonetic alphabet was different. I tried to convert your title to the older form but after item, jig and king my recollection gave out.

Al R was right about Tony Benn's having been an RAF pilot. He must have been NS for one can hardly imagine him joining the regular RAF.

10th Nov 2007, 10:00
Al, I just missed NS, but my first squadron was commanded by a Wing Commander (1963/66). By the same token he was responsible for a good many men. Not only did the type (Hastings) have a 5 man crew, and a manning ratio IIRC 4-5 crews per aircraft, but all the first line servicing guys were under his command as well. Thinking back he must have had at least 200-250 men in the Squadron perhaps more. As regards RAF officer ranks, I do not think that the ranks ever had a direct relationship to the post, scarcely more than say within a crew. As a Flying Officer captain I was usually out ranked by the other officers in the crew and invariably the most underpaid, as the NCOs, Flt Sgt or Master Aircrew pulled in a packet particularly as they usually were married while I was not. But I didn't mind, no really, I really didn't.... listen you have to believe me....

Papa Whisky Alpha
10th Nov 2007, 11:30

National Service was increased as a result of the Korean war and came into effect on the 1 October 1950. At the same time regular servicemen had six months active reserve added to the end of their engagement. consequently there was a six months period without any "demobs". We started a kitty to have a monumental p*ss up for the first person to be discharged at the end of the period. Unfortunately that person had rather strong anti-drink views, but we still went ahead anyway. This could explain my constant hangover!

Mike Read
10th Nov 2007, 12:22
Another NS Pilot here!
Report Padgate 28/11/49, uniform issue, then off to Hornchurch for pilot selection, back to Padgate to wait for result and then sew on cadet pilot insignia (what?) go to Driffield for a few days, home for Christmas and report to Wittering for ITS. Move to Jurby after Easter for further six weeks, then off to Tern Hill to fly Prentices and Harvards. Some were trained on Balliols but not my course. One guy was taken to Driffield to convert to Vampire T11 to see if it was feasible but he returned after ten hours or so and continued with the course. NS increased from 18 months to 2 years in 1951. Originally course was aimed to get "wings" before demob, but with extended time those selected for jets went to Valley for AFS on Meteors for dual, Vampire 1s and 5s for solo. Others did AFS on either Wellingtons or Mosquitos. Then to Chivenor for OCU and "out". Before being accepted for training one agreed to do 5 years in either RAFVR (Chipmunks & Tigers) or RAux AF squadron. Incidentally, we had become "officer cadet pilot 4s" on the Harvard stage and on graduation were either commissioned or became sergeant pilots. Subsequent courses were APOs. Throughout the Tern Hill phase we wore officer cadet uniforms and lived in the OM. I think that in early 1951 the aircrew ranks, apart from master aircrew, were altered to sergeant and flight sergeant.
On 28 Dec 50 I broke my right wrist and returned to base from Cosford hospital having convinced the surgeon that I would be OK to continue flying training with my arm in plaster. I asked him to confirm this in writing, which he did, so the first couple of months on the Harvard I flew like that. The instructors were sceptical but it didn't really inconvenience me apart from being unable to join the rest of the flight for rifle drill. On my last RAFVR(T) medical in 1991 I asked the doc if it was still in my medical file. It was and she was amazed that such things had been permitted.

Art Field
10th Nov 2007, 15:24
Must have been one of the last National Service pilots, starting Nov 56 at Hornchurch then to Cardington to await result of selection, holding on the notorious 'F' Flight[suicides, sickies and possible aircrew], then off to Kirton in Lindsey for no 99 course, by gosh it was cold in January, in April the Cunard ship Media to New York, a rather rough crossing, then onward to London, Ontario to join Canadian NATO course 5701. Chipmunks at Centralia, Harvards at Penhold [Jo Mcarthy the ex Dam Buster was the CI] and T33s at Macdonald, now that was really cold, led to wings. On return was told that there was no longer flying for NS aircrew. Had got to like this flying game so took the easy way out, sold my soul, and retired 37 years later.

Dick Whittingham
10th Nov 2007, 15:55
I, too, was a NS pilot in '52 to '54, and finished at 605 Sqn. Our draft went to Canada for 200hr on T6's then 50hrs on Nene-engined T33's. On return we were sent to Valley to do an "acclimatization" course on Vampires. We were significantly better trained than the UK draft, particularly in IF, and the Vampire looked like a museum piece compared to the T-bird.
I was posted to Honiley as an Ops Officer to complete my NS, where the CO invited me to join the Sqn. These were good men, many ex-wartime, who knew their trade. I rejoined in '56 and went to Hunters in Germany, and I wasn't too impressed by that lot.
Flak screens up!
Dick Whittingham

10th Nov 2007, 16:04
'After leaving the RAF, Norman Tebbit was an Airline Pilot with BOAC for 13 years.
In 1970 he left flying for his career in politics.'

Yes you're right. Sorry, I meant in the RAF

10th Nov 2007, 16:24
I joined the RAF in 1962 as a pilot, the last year that any National Servicemen left the service. Quite alot of our instructors had been NS pilots and I seem to remember that they had to agree to three years rather than two if they wnted pilot training.

The speed of training still existed at that time, 4 months at South Cerney, one year at Syerston, six months on the Vampire at Linton on Ouse followed by four months at the OCU on Vulcans (Finningley) and off to IX Squadron. No leave between courses so the total was 25 months from joining to being on a squadron.


10th Nov 2007, 17:11
I served as national service aircrew 1951-53.
Called up after deferment to finish a part time mech eng, course. Arrived at Padgate and found that one could apply to be selected as aircrew. Route was Hornchurch for initial selection, RAF Digby for 12 hours grading on Tiger Moths, eventually selected as cadet pilot and send to RAF Burnaston, (Now the Toyota factory). 60 hours on Chipmunks, followed by 120 hours on Oxfords or Harvards, I failed the advanced course owing to not flying my Oxford with sufficient accuracy. I then transferred to a Navigation course at Bishops Court in County Down, finally getting my Nav Brevet six weeks before the end of my 2 years, Personnel were mainly engineering or bank staff who were able to return to better paid jobs than RAF pay at the time, we were only offered 4 year commissions, so nor many signed up as regular air crew. As an aside many of the staff pilots on the NAV course were Czechs and Poles who stayed on after the war.

Pom Pax
10th Nov 2007, 22:02
Must have been one of the last National Service pilots
Getting pretty close Art.
I was on (I think 103) at Kirton, completed mid May '57. Last course on which pilots went to Canada, the last navigators had gone two courses earlier. Bit of a bummer that wanted to go to Canada, took 'till '81 to forefil that dream.
Now for a bit of brilliant forward planning. National service aircrew were allocated a new block of service numbers starting with our course commencing 519..... the highest no. I ever saw was 028. That gives about another 70 total n/s aircrew (pilots, navs and AEOs)after Art.
I was 00012 Sir! Stamp, Salute, receive 1 pound (week's pay). 31/6 less tax, nihs and the rest compulsory savings for uniform at the end of the course, that didn't come to 6 quid. Most of which I promptly blew on weekend trip to see the girlfriend in Altringham.
We were significantly better trained than the UK draft
Dick, I think the same was true on the nav side. At Thorney the returning Canadian trained could navigate, whilst we were whizzo Gee set nerds.

As an aside many of the staff pilots on the NAV course were Czechs and Poles
Exnomad, they were still in '57-'58, Mr Crun & Dick excepted.

Mike Read
11th Nov 2007, 09:13
For those pilots who think they were better trained in Canada, it wasn't better, just different. On return to UK and N. European wx they were refreshed on I/F. I instructed quite a few including some RCAF guys. Must admit I never could understand the point of teaching the Canuks assymetric in Meteors when they flew Sabres and didn't solo the Meteors. Radio compasses didn't happen in RAF fighters, unlike F86s and Tbirds, QGH/GCAs being the order of the day and we hadn't the luxury of plent of fuel.

11th Nov 2007, 09:50

At Honington we had a very long in the tooth air trafficer who had been a founding father of GCA in the UK. As I'm sure you remember, the controller's patter was an integral part of the system much as is a QFI's

Our venerable controller was from the Forest of Dean with the lovely rounded vowels of that area.

He was sent to Denmark to train his Danish counterparts in the system and for years at many a Danish airfield you could hear a Dane saying, " You are sitting noicely ahn the gloidpath, ahn the senterloine. Adjust yore deescent to the correct rate for yore toipe ahv errcraft."

Pity ILS came in really

Mike Read
11th Nov 2007, 11:55
At Chivenor in the late fifties, Jack Harrild used to study the Racing Post or some such and his patter on the talkdown always referred to "coming up to the last fence", "passing the four furlong post", and you always knew you were getting a GCA from our real expert.

Jack Aubrey
11th Nov 2007, 12:52
Wonderful stories gentlemen. Thank you.

11th Nov 2007, 14:09
The previous recollections remind me of another. A very senior Flt Lt ATCO (George Martin, ex-WWII aircrew) was renowned for his expert and slightly non-standard talk-downs on the ACR7d radar at RAF Manby in the early 70s. After pilots confirmed "checks complete, 3 greens", George's usual friendly response was -
"Thank you for your Greens", and continued with the SRA.

However, on one occasion this did prompt the following outburst from a visiting ATCEB member (ATC examiner) - "What is this, a Grocer's store?"

The day passed, and George thankfully didn't change ......

nice castle
11th Nov 2007, 15:25
My old man joined as NS in '59, went Piston Provost, then Vampire, then Varsity, before being posted to 53 Sqn at Abingdon to fly Beverleys.

One tale of shenanigans involved going to Cyprus, heading off to an establishment where pretty girls sit next to you and want champagne. Being a bit of a green co-pilot, he thought, "Well, how pleasant.." and continued sipped champers and chatting up these young ladies, before being presented with a massive bill which he clearly couldn't pay. Cue surrupticious exit via the toilet window, and a long jog back to Akrotiri via the storm drains at the side of the road for cover, before kipping down in the back of the frame. Seems so little changes in 45 years, apart from steel bars across the toilet window now, of course.

He did about 18 months to 2 years as a Co, and then went off to BEA. He did some VR time turning Chipmunks upside down from White Waltham on 6 AEF, I believe.

11th Nov 2007, 21:58
Further to comments on Czech & Polish pilots after the war. It was interesting to hear a Czech Flt Lt (my pilot) arguing in very broken English with French ATC also in very broken English on an overseas Nav training flight.
Also the culture shock on visiting the French Air Force at Istre and seeing the French erks refueling while smoking, and finding red wine on the table for lunch in aircrew mess.

Dick Whittingham
12th Nov 2007, 14:56
And then there was the Czech QFI on a check ride with the CFS trapper who got to takeoff without, apparently, doing any checks at all.

Trapper: You haven't done any checks!
QFI: What you mean?
Trapper: Your TAFFIOHH
QFI: (Swinging onto the runway and opening up) OK, taffyo and off we go!


Old Hairy
12th Nov 2007, 15:15
Honington ,57 to 59.Wonder if the venerable ATCO was the same one?

"now 4 furlongs from HM runway,nother nob of coal and a puff of smoke and youll be back on the glidepath"

strangely reassurring,if things were going tits up!! but I heard he eventually fell foul of the ATCEB, his soft brogue was never to be heard after their visit

Mike Read
12th Nov 2007, 17:12
Back in '49 I used to read "Flight" and "The Aeroplane" in the local library and saw that 200 N/S pilots were to be trained each year so I went to the RAF recruiting office in Ealing Broadway and expressed my interest. I did some basic selection tests and when three months later I was called up and got to Padgate was put straight into a group intended to go to Hornchurch. No idea if that figure was achieved or if it it meant 200 started training or finished training each year. In the early years N/S guys only trained in UK but a fair percentage of my ITS course went to Rhodesia.
At No 1 ITS Wittering on Station Parades each Saturday morning aircrew cadets wore leather flying helmets with the "long lead" tucked into a greatcoat pocket. Apparently the FTSs had complained that their studes took too long to become acclimatised to wearing them. Needless to say the result was a shambles as you couldn't hear the words of command. And all for 4 shillings a day which after deductions became 1-5s-0 weekly. I seem to remember that when we got to FTS it rose to 5 shillings daily. The guys on regular engagements were paid more.

henry crun
12th Nov 2007, 21:17
Dick, we had a QFI on 29 who was an ex trapper, and he was somewhat annoyed to be chosen for a check ride when the trappers arrived on a routine visit.

They taxi out in a Mk7 and roll on to the runway without a word having been said since signing the authorisation book, so the trapper in the back said "how about some checks Fred" ?
Fred replied "fuel and noise" and away he went.

They failed him. :D

Papa Whisky Alpha
12th Nov 2007, 21:37
I remember when the AAU was at Innsworth and there were a large number of Polish, Czech, and other assorted nationalties aircrew kicking their heels whilst waiting for their future to be decided. There was only one Pay Clerk who could cope with their names, if he was away chaos ensued, often the the paying officer would ask them to point to their name in the ledger and pay them accordingly.

The Adjutant
13th Nov 2007, 13:05
Tony Benn was war time RAF therefore more than likely RAFVR than RAF. I think he flew Spitfires in the mid east somewhere.
Norman Tebbit was RAuxAF at some stage in his career and flew Meteor 8's from North Weald on 601 Sqn (I think, though it might have been 604). Not sure however if he learnt to fly in the RAF as a NS or regular pilot, and moved to the RAuxAF at a later date.
Nev Duke was the CO of 615 Sqn at the time he was testing the Hunter and winning the world air speed record on it. Most of his Sqn had flown it ( very unofficially) but the government closed down the flying sqns of the RAuxAF on the pretext that the "new" Hunter was too advanced for weekend pilots to fly. The real reason of course was to save money because UK LTD was bankrupt in the mid 50's.

13th Nov 2007, 17:13
One further memory, being sent on Astro navigation exercizes from Bishops Court to North Scotland in mid June,when at 15000 ft the only visible thing in the sky was the moon. Gee fixes were converted into sextant star altitudes.

Pom Pax
13th Nov 2007, 19:20
Exnomad, glad you had set a precedent for twilight astros! Fifty years on it doesn't make me feel so bad about those fudged fixes.

13th Nov 2007, 19:37

Does anyone else remember Consol - the German submarine fixing aid for the N.Atlantic ? It relied on rotating signals from three transmitters, in Norway, N. Ireland and Brittany by the time we were using it, the Germans of course used Spain in lieu of N.Ireland ( I don't know what that says about Spanish neutrality),

The signals were pushed out on MF and the fix obtained from where they overlapped. The bearing was obtained by listening to each signal and noting the equi signal.

It was dead simple and a lot of sailors used it plotting via the bizarre Consol chart in later years. Not sure about its accuracy

I'm meandering, enough

13th Nov 2007, 22:35
Bushmills was blown up by the IRA. Stavanger Consul was still in operation in the mid nineties. The Aerad book even had the instructions on how to use it. A few pilots, including me, used to while away a Shetland Basin trip checking the bearings. The co-pilots would look at you strangely whilst you were counting the dots. The book didn't mention the Brittany one though.
I believe it was intended for Uboats who could send up a floating aerial whilst submerged and work out where they were.

Papa Whisky Alpha
14th Nov 2007, 12:44
I think the Brittany beacon was at Quimper, I remember Quimper Pluenier, (quite probably the wrong spelling)

14th Nov 2007, 15:14
Papa Alfa Whisky :- It was at Ploneis, between Quimper and Douarnenez I think. Its station ident was TRQ and I think it transmitted on 266m. Oh dear I feel quite nerdy.

14th Nov 2007, 16:51
On my Ternhill (Piston Provost) and Swinderby (Vampire) Course in 1955-57 we had 11 Regular and 8 National Service U/T Pilots. Three of the N.S. students were University Graduates (2 Chartered Accountants and 1 Solicitor) The other five joined straight from school and left the RAF after the wings parade to join BEA or BOAC.

14th Nov 2007, 17:55
I think we only used consul on ground exercises, Astro only taught me great respect for those that had to use it in anger in WW2. My best efforts were cocked hats about 10 miles across airborne, and about 5 on the ground.

14th Nov 2007, 19:44
Was anyone out there based at Dalcross 1952-3.
Approach from one direction was over the railway, and we had orders to overshoot if there was a train coming. Apparently the train drivers were upset by low approaches. The other reason for leaving the circuit was if there was a BEA DC3 from the Orkneys on approach.
One other prohibition was low flying pass Cawdor castle as the Thane thought we were looking in bedroom windows.

henry crun
14th Nov 2007, 21:07
Consol: Total electrics failure while above cloud over a lumpy part of the country in a Prentice, with a trainee signaller in the back.

I received a poke in the ribs and he passed a note to me, it said "we have had an electrics failure". He was clearly one of our brighter students.

After a short while he managed to get the intercom and some of his gear working and volunteered to get me a bearing.

I sat there with my half mil. topo of central England open on my lap ready to get some idea of my position, and he came up with a Consol bearing from Stavanger ! :D

15th Nov 2007, 12:41
Bit of info on Consol at

15th Nov 2007, 15:17
No wonder I got lost. I was counting the dots instead of the dashes.

15th Nov 2007, 16:11

Thanks for the reference. Most interesting. The beauty of Consol was that one only needed an MF receiver ( and a Consol Chart ) to use it. Anyone used it at sea ?

Pom Pax
15th Nov 2007, 20:47
mstjbrown, Used whilst yachting having first laminated the consol chart. In the channel often found Bushmills hard to receive, so not getting a good fix, never trusting a poor cut of two lines.
To continue the thread creep, you count the dots & the dashes as check sum to determine how many you lost in the equisignal. In some sectors dots were first in the others dashes, a bit like As & Ns on a range.
There were other sets of stations mainly Soviet with I think the last to be withdrawn fairly recently on the Pacific coast.
Heaven help us all rambling on about 50 years ago when I can't remember where I left the keys 10 minutes ago!