View Full Version : Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

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2nd Sep 2012, 08:31
"That was Yesterday - It's All Been Changed !" and that in a way was all our yesterdays, the experience of all who served at one time or another. The ability to take such sudden changes of direction on the chin is one of the abiding qualities of the veteran, for once learnt it stays with you for the rest of your life.
A site dedicated to the Mosquito's history touches on those in India, and Yelahanka in particular here:
Phorum :: WWW.MOSSIE.ORG Discussion Forum :: Far East (http://www.mossie.org/forum/read.php?1,4899)
Little is said in Wikki of the problems that you mention, Danny, other than to say :In November 1944, several crashes occurred in the Far East. At first, it was thought these were as a result of wing structure failures. The casein glue, it was said, cracked when exposed to extreme heat. This caused the upper surfaces to "lift" from the main spar. During the ensuing investigation, it was concluded that there were construction defects found at two plants, Hatfield and Coventry, where it was found that the "Standard of glueing...left much to be desired”.[74] However, the main reason for the failures, the Air Ministry concluded on 1 January 1945, was the weather conditions in Asia, thereby endorsing the view of Major Hereward de Havilland, leading the investigation. To solve the problem, a sheet of plywood was set along the span of the wing to seal the entire length of the skin joint along the main spar and the casein glue was replaced by formaldehyde, which was better able to resist deterioration in high humidity conditions.[74]
de Havilland Mosquito - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeHavilland_Mosquito)

Yamagata ken
2nd Sep 2012, 10:58
In the early 1970s, I used to do boatbuilding. We used formaldehyde "marine" glue exclusively. Stinky stuff, but I've seen wooden rudders come back after several years immersion, broken by stress but with the glued laminations still holding up.

2nd Sep 2012, 15:23
After a most miserable two weeks in a Rest Home, to give my family a much needed rest from me, I am back home. While away my grandson, in addition to working his vacation, has found my old diaries and 'photos and produced them in a very professional form as a book.
Please do not ask for copies. Names I mention may still be alive! It is strictly for my family.
It starts at ITW at Torquay at the same time as RegLe, CliffNemo, Andy42c and (dare I mention it?) Marshal of the RAF Mike Beetham were also awaiting posting for flying training. Apparently I was the only one chosen NOT to go on the Arnold Scheme, so I was trained in the UK and the cause of my initial search. What a joy it has been.
My war ended abruptly in June 1943 when I was shot down and started a new career as a Prisoner of War.
I did fly after the war, - Oxfords and Wellingtons - , but only briefly. I knew that my colour blindness would catch me up.
Keep up the good work.

2nd Sep 2012, 18:06

Thank you again, for the Wiki quotation and the links. Generally, Wiki has it about right (in the very few subjects I know something about !), but I beg to differ about "November 1944" as being the date of the onset.

By then it was all over bar the shouting. I have the exact date (26.10.44) I went down to Yelahanka; it was "problem solved" just as I arrived. Somewhere in Wiki (probably following up 45 Sqdn), it records that their new Mossie C.O. (Wg. Cdr. Harvey Stumm) was killed out there on 13th May '44 (and others, I assume, by the structural failures). These occurrences were common knowledge throughout India by July at the latest, IIRC the aircraft were grounded about that time.

You can see how the official record gently air-brushes out six months of inaction ! (during which more lives had been lost). So much for the "Contingency Planning" we were talking about.



Yamagata Ken,

Thank you for the information about the glues. I'd been wondering about these myself. I knew that all this must have been years before the introduction of the two-part resin glues, but had not thought of casein glue. (The "Bodger's Friend" - spoken by one whose forays in to woodwork were strictly all dowel - if you make a mess, saw it off flush and start again !)

I'd pictured the DH woodworkers with the pots of horses-hoof stuff I knew so well, (on the red-hot workshop stove of my old cabinet-maker grandad, where a six-year old lad spent happy hours getting under his feet among the shavings, sawdust and offcuts which we fed into the stove - 'Elf 'n Safety', were wert thou ?) I can smell the stuff now - but it did the job very well indeed.




Grand to hear from you ! You must have been "especially chosen" (as the con-merchant's letters we used to get said) to stay at home for training, for, as far as I can see, all the world and his dog were bundled off to the States or Canada in 1941. It is a mark of Honour for you that you were retained !

"No names, no pack-drill" ! I'm with you all the way there. But please get your grandson to put all the non-actionable stuff he's got onto this Thread for you, if he has time. All babies of his generation are born with a Ph.D in I.T.

He'll have a dictaphone. Tell him all you remember about your P.O.W. days (and I haven't forgotten your throwaway line ".....was on the run for six weeks......" ) Give !

Happy (?) Days,

God bless,


2nd Sep 2012, 22:01
My only qualification for posting here is that I tried (but failed) to get Regle's ukulele adjusted to make it easier to play, and I make ukuleles as well as flying gliders.

The hot glue pots which Danny remembers were hide glue - fine for furniture and musical instruments but not suitable for aircraft, as they release with damp and heat. Leaving a uke or guitar in a car on a hot day may well cause glue failure. Not much used by De Havilland I'd guess.

Casein glue is based on milk proteins, so I'm not surprised it didn't work well in India. There are still some 1930s gliders flying, held together with casein glue, but the joints get inspected very regularly!

For those interested in woodworking the Mosquito construction is quite a miracle, and shows how good wood is for making aircraft (so long as the glue holds :eek:).

3rd Sep 2012, 02:10
The Story told to me by an old AID inspector, that the first Australian built Mossie to crash was traced to the fact that for some reason the first lot of plywood, came wrapped in grease proof paper. The end result was that the airplane fell apart caused by lack of adhesion by the glue.

Oh how easy it is to be wise in hindsite, but the pressure that must have been on all production staff in those days must have been great.



3rd Sep 2012, 11:59

Another cherished childhood dream demolished - they weren't horses' hooves after all, just a bit of stewed leather that went into the glue-pot !

Ah, well,



Presumably the same greaseproof paper in which the 'buried' Spitfires are wrapped.

Hope springs eternal, and, as you rightly say, hindsight is fine - so long as you're looking backwards !

Regards to you both,


3rd Sep 2012, 17:48
Sorry to break your flow Danny, but I just need to check whether there is anyone "listening in" who attended 4 SoTT at St Athan (1939-1945).

We are keen to see if we can establish where certain facilities, such as the parachute training tower, decompression chamber and tethered airframe, were sited.

If anyone can help, please could you contact me.


Pete ...... back to you Danny

3rd Sep 2012, 20:00

Quote:- "sorry to break your flow Danny". Break in to your heart's content, old chap !

What this Thread must not become is a Danny's monologue. Come one, come all, and the more the merrier !


3rd Sep 2012, 20:32
They did not learn from the experience of the Mosquitos falling apart. The Bristol Sycamore helicopter had a matched set on wooden blades. When they started operating them in Malaya the blades started delaminating for the same reason. Not a good thing to happen to a helicopter.

3rd Sep 2012, 23:23
(* Just hold that in memory, for Part II will be a long, long way down the line)

So I was marooned in Yelahanka from the end of October until after Christmas. I can't think of anything useful I did there in that time. Curiously, I don't remember finding any other "instructors" down there when I arrived, nor was there any trace of a VV "conversion school". I can only guess that I was the first (and only) unlucky one to have got my marching orders on the very day the policy was changed. And as the Station was already running a short conversion course on the Thunderbolts, it would be a simple matter to add on a VV Flight to that Unit.

Whatever the truth of the matter was, the fact was that I was a "supernumerary" there now, and the life of such an "odd bod" is often not a happy one - in short, you're a dogsbody, on whom is piled all the awkward and unpleasant jobs going. I therefore quickly made an opportunity to visit 225 Group in Bangalore (about 10 miles away). IIRC, they were housed in a requisitioned College of some sort, built in the form of a quadrangle. There I "unofficially" looked in on P.2 to see if they had anything going in my line.

I must have seen something of Bangalore ("The Garden City of the South"), but recall nothing of it, nor do I remember much about Yelahanka except that my basha was exactly in the overshoot line of the main runway; the night flying sessions were nail-biting affairs with the 'Bolts thundering right overhead every minute or so and the unsettling prospect of one coming straight through the basha if something went wrong.

My casual visit to Group paid off at the year end: I was posted to No. 1580 (Calibration) Flight at Cholaveram (Madras). This was the second Madras airfield, the main and much better known one being "St. Thomas's Mount", so called as it was not far from a hill on which popular legend has it that the Apostle Thomas (the "Doubting Thomas", the "Apostle of the Indies") was martyred in the 1st century AD. It was irreverently known as "Tommy's Mount" throughout the Services.

The rest of my time out there would be spent in South India, I would never see Calcutta or the Arakan or smell the scent of tea in the Assam hills again. But the Vengeance was not finished with me yet !

It was the middle of the cool season. Cholaveram was a pleasant place, and Calibration flying is not onerous. Radar was in its infancy in the East; the first experimental units needed "clockwork mice ". We flew on pre-arranged courses and heights, so that the radar operators could compare what they saw on their screens with what was really out there, and find the maximum range and height cover of their equipment. This involved a good deal of flying out over the Bay of Bengal, because at sea there are few "ground returns" to confuse radar operators. Any old aircraft will do the job, and the Vengeance was ideal, being big and slab sided, and so being a good radar reflector.

As well as flying, I collected the job of Mess Secretary. The Secretary was primarily a Treasurer, and this Mess needed a resourceful one. It hadn't been going long, and had not found its financial feet. Our situation was this: at the end of each month we had no food, no stock in the Bar and no money. But the Mess Bills were due, and I'd chase them up. As cash came in, we bought Bar stock, this turned into cash over the Bar, which we then used to buy extra messing items. A Mess draws basic rations, of course, but they are basic. Extra items make them more palatable, and you have to buy these. At the end of the month we'd drunk all the Bar stock, and eaten all the extra food bought with the takings. But the Mess Bills were due.........

In this way we chased solvency, never catching up, always robbing Peter (or at least making him wait) to pay Paul. I became quite good at this juggling - had to be with the PMC breathing down my neck. He'd have to carry the can if it all went wrong ! He was the Station Commander (of course everyone "lived-in" out there), a Wing Commander whose name, I am sorry to say, I cannot quite recall - Morton, Merton, Moreton, Moreland or something like that. Did we have an Accountant Officer? Must have had, I suppose. (is there some rule that an Accountant Officer can't be Mess Sec - for obvious reasons?) for I don't remember lugging cash to and fro from some Bank in Madras (but somebody must have had to do it).

We introduced the "Book-of-Ticket" system. This was very widely used in Messes in India. You have these books locally printed (and obviously serially numbered). The Mess sells them (for Rs 5 or Rs 10) over the Bar. They have tear-out tickets for Rs1, As 8 and As 4 (Rs 1=As 16). The tickets (torn from a book, loose tickets were not acceptable; it was instant dismissal for any Barman who did so), paid for drinks and casual meals. The idea was gold-plated every way you looked at it.

The Mess got its money up front. Service in the bar was far quicker; you did away with Bar books and possible disputes over Bar bills, cash-handling problems disappeared. As the loose tickets were no use to anyone, it was fraud-proof (or at least difficult). Best of all, casual visitors and postings-out left with part-used books in their pockets - this was clear profit to the Mess.

With this system in place and a 200% mark-up on the spirits which were the only alcoholic things drinkable, it did not take long for the Mess to go into profit; our troubles vanished, the PMC and I shared a sense of satisfaction in a job well done.

So far, so good.

Goodnight, chaps.


What's well begun........

4th Sep 2012, 08:50
A bit late in the reply, I had to chat to somebody about it, but to clear up a question.

(Why did our Merlins have to be "tropicalised", while the big American (and British) radials just took it in their stride?)

It's matter of construction. A Merlin is a twin block water cooled engine and if it starts to wear out because of dust ingestion then it has to be rebored or re-lined. This is almost a factory job so if the facility is more than a few hundred miles away then it comes under the heading of 'far too difficult' and is scrapped.

A radial engine is different. It has all the cylinders bolted to a central crankcase so if one goes pearshaped; usually the one behind the CSU; you just change it. New ones come complete with a lapped piston in shopping bag sized boxes to you can sling a dozen or so in the back of a jeep. If some of your pilots keep blundering into trees with nearly new engines you can recover a few pots as spares. Two blokes can do a fourteen pot change in a day, in situ, so dust erosion is not such a problem.

They still use filters. Not fixed wing as they generally operate from concrete and those that operate from dirt do so singly so the dust is blown behind. Helicopters have to use them in those conditions because of compressor erosion. They used to be paper filters like a car engine intake but now they use particle seperators. They are corkscrew shaped bits that force the air to violently spiral and throw out all the crud. The Dyson vacuum cleaner uses the same principle.

They still haven't found out a way of filtering the dust so you can see where you are going.

4th Sep 2012, 13:49
Fascinating stuff fareastdriver. Definitely one of those, "It's pretty obvious if you think about it," explanations!!

Fred - what can I say, but best wishes and thanks for sharing. Keep talking!

Danny - keep it up mate. Marvellous stuff, wish my dad were around to have a chin-wag with you, as you went to many of the same places as him.

4th Sep 2012, 14:12
Fareastdriver, excellent resume of the pros and cons of inline v radial wear and tear in the tropics. Having had experience of the Bristol Hercules Radials in the Far East I can vouch for the ruggedness and dependability of them. Nowt much that an ignition harness change or an injector flush wouldn't fix was the credo of our Flight Engineers I recall.
As to adhesives used on the Mossie, the later formaldehyde based one used was Aerolite I believe. Contrary to the view expressed here:
Warbird Information Exchange • View topic - DeHavilland Mosquito Glue (http://www.warbirdinformationexchange.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=44280)
I believe it still to be available, if this is the same stuff:
Buy Aerolite 306 Glue Pack from Axminster, fast delivery for the UK (http://www.axminster.co.uk/aerolite-aerolite-306-glue-pack-prod21177/)
We use it still in the Bluebell Railway carriage works. Excellent stuff, though we haven't operated our trains in the tropics yet!

4th Sep 2012, 17:43

Thanks for your excellent and comprehensive explanation. It just shows, you're never too old to learn ! So that was why the Spits had their svelte lines spoiled by their "double chins" - but our Double Cyclones had to tough it out !

Our singles wouldn't be much troubled by dust on the line, it's true, but we took off singly because the strips weren't wide enough for a pair to be safe. Each chap waited till the dust cloud had thinned so he could see 100 yards ahead, then opened up. One enterprising lad set his aircraft in the centre (so he thought) of the dumb-bell with the D.G. on the rumway heading and set off as soon as the chap in front had vanished in the murk. He was off-centre and soon was hopping along with the port wheel bouncing over the paddy bunds at the side.. He managed to come to a standstill without damage, but did it the normal way after that.



Thank you for the kind words ! I would have dearly loved to have had a chat with your Dad about the old days. Why did we leave it so long ? Trouble was, it took a decade or more for us oldies to come to terms with the Computer Age (and most of us aren't there yet).



Another feast of links for our delectation ! (I'll never get anything done at this rate). I hope the Aerolite is used only for the upholstery of the carriages, otherwise the mind boggles a bit !

Will not travel on the Bluebell Line until I receive your reassurance (only joking).

Thank you all,


4th Sep 2012, 20:43
Danny I shall try to make this brief as it doesn't concern Military Aviation, let alone WW2 Pilots' Brevets, but will trust in the benevolent largesse of our esteemed moderators, as ever! I'm afraid it goes further than the upholstery (or trimming as we call it in the trade). Indeed that is the one area that I doubt you would find it, as trimmers put their faith in tacks, lots and lots of them!
Many of our vehicles have wooden bodies but the oldest of all had wooden under-frames (chassis in other words). One of the first projects I was involved with was the restoration of a 1913 London Brighton and South Coast Covered or "Box" Van which went on to serve with the Southern Railway before being requisitioned by the Admiralty in WW2 (ah, there's the Military and WW2 connection. We might just have got away with it!) to serve at Chatham Dockyard (the military liked wooden under-frame wagons, less chance of sparks and hence munition explosions). From there it came to the Bluebell but by the time we set out to restore it at the start of the 21st C it was in a poor way. Indeed as it was shunted into the Carriage and Wagon Works Sidings for work to start, one of the two sole bars (the underframe side member on which the body sits and from which the springs and axle boxes hang) gave way. In the end it was clear that all four main underframe timbers would need replacing. No way can you get hardwood baulks of such dimensions these days other than at prohibitive prices so another solution was needed, and that was to laminate together many thinner lengths of Meranti hardwood, glued together with Aerolite. Despite the obvious parallel with the construction of the DH Mosquito we decided against seeing if it would fly, so it now forms part of our Vintage Goods Set as a reminder of the huge importance of rail freight, even in the south.
Bluebell Railway Wagons - LBSCR Box Van (http://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk/bluebell/pic2/wagons/lbsc_box.html)
PS All our passenger vehicles run on steel under-frames, Danny, if that re-assures you at all.

4th Sep 2012, 21:40

Reassurance accepted, my dear sir ! If only I were twenty years younger, would accept your kind offer of a Director's gold watchchain First Class Pass.

(What, you haven't made an offer yet ? How remiss of you !)

I note that when it left Naval Service, they must have left a five-gallon drum of battleship grey inside.

Was in sole charge of a very similar vehicle on a long winter's night in 1955. In it was a coffin (occupied) for which I was the escort. Full story is a long way ahead. May get to it one day.


4th Sep 2012, 23:31
Whale Grey, if I remember correctly. Each railway company generally painted their goods vehicles grey, but used a different grey to any of the others! Rather reminds me of the meeting of Senior Wehrmacht Generals in a Smith and Jones sketch, each doing a piece to camera as they arrive. One says, "I too am a General, but for some reason that is never properly explained, my uniform is a different grey to any of the others".
There is one thing more tedious than watching the damn stuff dry and that is the prolonged discussion about the livery to outshop a project in. At that stage, as the greatly mourned News of the World used to put it, I make my excuses and leave.

5th Sep 2012, 17:52
You came across strange aircrew in the war. 1580 Calibration Flight was commanded by (of all things) a Swiss Air Gunner (naturalised British, of course). Freddie Joerin was a collector of Indian silver filigree, delicately worked birds, butterflies and other insects, geometric patterns and the like. These he kept on display on his mossie net (when you're not on the move, your net is simply looped-up over the top on one side during the day).

Curiously, he wasn't at all worried at the chances of theft. His bearer was a Gurkha ex-soldier, who lovingly whetted the edge of his kukri until he could shave with it, and would not look kindly on any local character who might think of nicking his Sahib's little ornaments (ridiculous though he himself might consider them). All the other bearers (local Madrassis) were terrified of him.

Freddie had found a good source of supply in Pondicherry, about a hundred miles down the coast. From time to time, he'd scrounge transport to go down to see what he could find in the bazaar silversmiths there (these would be cheaper and better quality than in the more "touristy" Madras). And he had an ulterior motive.

Pondicherry was still French territory, one of the few remnants of their former colonial empire, which the Raj indulgently allowed to stay as being too small to bother with (later they would get short shrift from an independent India). But then the Tricouleur still hung in the sun outside a sleepy Hotel de Ville. And, more importantly, they still had stocks of pre-war wines and spirits. But only a Frenchman - or someone who looked and sounded exactly like one - had any chance of a bottle. Freddie (French-Swiss-British) filled the bill: we reaped the benefit.

My debut at Cholaveram did not go down too well. Besides our Calibration Flight, there was another Flight of some kind on the field, and for the life of me I can't remember what they did. But to do it they had one Vengeance, among other types. It so happened that a snag on this aircraft had just been fixed. It needed an airtest and their own pilot was away. Could I do the airtest for them? Of course! Now it was a point of honour for the mechanic who had done the repair to fly as a passenger on the subsequent airtest. Not only for the obvious reason, but because the lads did not get many opportunities to fly, and enjoyed those they did.

My chap was keen, I organised a chute and a helmet for him, strapped him in, and off we went. I later found that their driver was non-operational, hadn't many hours on the thing, and was quite happy to get it from A to B straight and level and land. He'd ask no more from an aircraft on test. An operational Squadron pilot, on the other hand, would put a Vengeance through all its paces. After all, the next trip may well be a bombing sortie: if anything's going to fall off, you may as well find out now.

I told my passenger what I intended to do. He was agreeable, so after satisfying myself that the original fault had been fixed, I took it up to 12,000 ft, did a couple of loops and rolls, then finished off with a dive down on my pasenger's Flight HQ. It was a good vertical dive, too, if I say so myself.

Now seven tons of metal screaming straight down on you at 300 mph, the row amplified by the slatted dive brakes and open bomb doors, is enough to make the stoutest heart quail, even if not followed by the thick end of a ton of bombs. (I believe the Stukas used this technique to stampede refugees off the roads in advance of their armour, and they had some sort of siren to make even more noise).

Our old squadron ground crews would take this racket in their stride, and not even bother to look up. But these people weren't so hardened. I don't suppose their Vengeance had ever been dived. It hadn't occurred to me, and if my passenger had thought about it at all, he kept quiet with a wicked grin. I scared the life out of them. Those indoors dived under tables, sending files, ashtrays and glasses of tea flying. In the open, they dropped flat, convinced their last hour had come. Their sweepers, char- and punkah-wallahs ran like rabbits, and it took days to round them up.

I was persona non grata there after that. They chalked up a notice on their crewroom blackboard: "VENGEANCE - NO AEROBATICS, NO VIOLENT DIVES" Then their own chap came back and managed to write it off (he was unhurt). Some wag added: "NO VENGEANCE". They complained to Freddie, but got no change out of him. The Station Commander/PMC reproved me with a broad grin.

(For once, I 've found the relevant entry in my log. My chap was LAC Wells and the Duty was "Air Test for 21 A.P.x." Curiously, the 'x' is not written like this, but as the (lower case) algebraic (double curve) 'x' . There must have been a reason for my doing this, what might it be? 'A.P.' could be "Armament Practice'. What Armament? What Practice? Where Range? What for? - no idea).

It was at Cholaveram that I had my first taste of Court Martial procedure as an Officer under Instruction. I think you had to have attended two Courts in this capacity before you could be turned loose as a member of a real one. There were three of us trainees and it was a bizarre case.

Some miles South lay Redhills lake, an attractive spot and quite a size, on which floated a mixed Squadron of Sunderlands and Catalinas. These flew long anti-submarine patrols over the Indian Ocean. The accused was a Warrant Officer, a Flight Engineer on one of the Catalinas. They'd been out for several hours; nothing had been seen, and frankly, nothing much was expected.

There'd been very little submarine activity for weeks. But of course you still have to show willing and keep looking. Our man was bored stiff. So was the rest of the crew for that matter , but he was in a position to do something about it. (Don't miss next Gripping Episode).

Good afternoon all, (makes a bit of a change!)


Natives seem a bit restless tonight, Carruthers

5th Sep 2012, 21:34
Danny, I'm trying to keep up with your various postings on Google Maps:
Google Maps (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps)
Many of the places you name have been renamed of course, but the beauty of it is that Google still accepts the Anglicised version and plonks you down somewhere with a completely different identity. Try it. Drag yourself across the world until it gets you to Southern India. Then enter Cholaveram into the search box and it asks very politely, "Do you mean Cholavarum?", click on that and you arrive just outside Chennai, which is of course Madras. The two airfields are clearly there, just as you say. Enter Redhills Lake and we go to Puzhal Lake, close to Cholaveram all right, but to the south of it, not north. Is that right, Danny? It seems to fit the bill size wise, as it would need to with Sunderlands and Catalinas operating from it..
Ref your cryptic logbook entry, could "Air Test for 21 APx" be the name of the unit that you terrified and whose Vengeance it was? Only a guess but if it was a different outfit to yours wouldn't you identify it as such? Still no idea what it stood for of course.

Edited to add I think they were called 21 Armament Practice Camp (you were right!) as that unit was at RAF Cholavaram along with 1580 Calibration Flight, here:
Stations-C (http://www.rafweb.org/Stations/Stations-C.htm)

5th Sep 2012, 23:11

You've got me bang to rights, Guv ! I never went to Redhills Lake, was told at the time (I'm sure) that it was North of Madras, but never bothered to look it up on the map. But now I must admit that my old memory must have slipped a cog (180 degrees of cogs in fact!). I'm sure you're right.

So it was 21 Armament Practice Camp, after all. Well, I suppose I must have given them some practice in taking cover from a dive-bomber attack (they weren't very grateful, though).

And another tasty link you've found me ! (and the night is yet young) - Ta !


EDIT: Yes, I see it now - it's all there, only a short distance south of Cholaveram. How could I not remember such a body of water so close ? (Do you remember the pic of Carlstrom Field you found me, and I had to admit that, if it had been shown to me with no indication of what it was, I would have been quite unable to identify it - and I'd flown sixty hours primary training at the place ! It's unbelievable........D.

6th Sep 2012, 19:13
I recently became aware of your deteriorating health. Very sad news. As a long time forum member, however not so active lately, I have immensely enjoyed your posts and responses to my many questions especially because of my connection with 51 squadron. It’s such a privilege to “talk” to those that lived it – a level of anecdotal detail that will not be found in the history books.

Thank you for all you have done and all the best.

6th Sep 2012, 22:57

Having struck oil with the Stations-C link you found me, I tried my hand with Stations-Y and came up with Yelahanka. Lots of interesting stuff in there. For a start 1580 Flight and 21 A.P.C. were originally there, before moving to Cholaveram together in September '44. But the real surprise was that there was a No. 1672 (Mosquito) Conversion Unit there from 1 Feb '44 - 3 Jun '44 and from 29 Oc t '44 - 10 Aug '45.

This has me completely baffled. Who on earth were they converting ? I'd always believed that fully trained crews came out with the Mosquitos to take over from the Vengeance people - who in any case were in the last year of their tours and so not worth converting. Who else could there be in India except Beaufighter and Dakota crews, who were busy enough already ?

Stations-Y gives a clue. The aircraft used by the unit are listed as Blenheim V, Mosquito III and Oxford I. This looks like an ab-initio conversion unit to me. So where were all these aircraft in Nov - Dec '44 ? Don't recall seeing any of them while I was there then. What I do remember was 1670 (Thunderbolt) Conversion Unit - they were all too real !

Another strange thing: 45, 84 and 110 Squadrons are listed as being there (but no dates given). So why was 82 the odd man out ? The whole business bristles with unanswered questions. Can any one explain ?

But the crucial information is in the dates. 1672 were out of business from 4.6.44. to 28.10.44. nearly five months. And we know there were accidents in mid May. We have the time frame of the Mosquito troubles tied down at last.


7th Sep 2012, 12:29
Pondicherry was still French territory, one of the few remnants of their former colonial empire, which the Raj indulgently allowed to stay as being too small to bother with (later they would get short shrift from an independent India). But then the Tricouleur still hung in the sun outside a sleepy Hotel de Ville.

Danny, pleased to say that the last time I went to Pondicherry a few years ago, all the streets still have French names and the police still wear a gendarmes hat. It still is a quaint place.:ok:

7th Sep 2012, 18:29

Thanks for that snippet. I always enjoy a quiet smile to see these little traces of the old colonial days still lingering on. In the next place I got to in India, we had an even tinier French possession a few miles down the coast, Mahe (e-acute). I think there was just one rue, driving through, if you blinked you'd missed it.

And the last example to catch my eye: in the old Indian Penal Code there was an offence of "Waging war against the King". This worked as a sort of super Section 40 of the AFA, with the added advantage that you could hang the chap. After the Bombay terrorist attack a year or two ago, they captured one attacker alive, and put him on trial. Among the charges was "Waging war against India".

It's clear that the independent Indian judicial system had simply picked up the old Penal Code Book of the Raj, and set their Word Processor on "Search and Replace" (for "the King", read "India") !

Cheers, Danny.

7th Sep 2012, 21:11
I had to admit, I knew nothing of these weird bits of France in India. More bloody research!

Danny - Now we come to an awkward moment, representing an erk's recollection and a pilot's recollection!

My dad always swore that he was dragged into planes he had repaired/overhauled/put togther/refitted etc by a pilot (Aussies normally I believe) saying, "If this plane is crook, you're coming down with me when the wings fold up."

You present your trips as a cordial invite to a comrade!

Dad loved it of course (somewhere I've got how many types he flew in, there were loads) but he would never let the pilot know how much he enjoyed the flights, especially as he knew his planes wouldn't fall apart!!

Keep up the posts my friend!

7th Sep 2012, 22:36
Danny 1672 Mosquito Conversion Unit was still in business after it left Yelahanka, for Stations-R shows:
No 1672 (Mosquito) Conversion Unit (10 - 31 Aug 1945) at Ranchi, in NE India:
Stations-R (http://www.rafweb.org/Stations/Stations-R.htm).

Wikki shows a 1670 (M)CU at Yelahanka with indeed; Blenheim V, Mosquito III, and Oxford I. I guess that is a transcription error, as 1670 is in the entry above operating Beaufighters at Baigachi, and it should read 1672. Does the (M) stand for Mosquito? In which case what were the Blenheims for? Was the Oxford the Unit hack?
List of Royal Air Force Conversion Units - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_1654_Conversion_Unit_RAF)

Even if they weren't flying Mosquitoes at Yelahanka when you got there, where did they hide them? You'd think you'd have spotted at least one, seeing as you were looking for them! They looked like this:
Aeromaster 48-043: Mosquito (http://modelingmadness.com/scott/decals/aero/am48043.htm)

The answers to all our questions, particularly what happened to all those that had the "wrong sort of glue", would probably be instantly available in this forum I suspect:
Aviation History and Nostalgia - PPRuNe Forums (http://www.pprune.org/aviation-history-nostalgia-86/)

8th Sep 2012, 18:29

The plot thickens. Poking about (forgotten where) in Wiki, came across this (it is an excerpt, but contains the relevant material - italics mine):

Flight Lieutenant 123152 Ronald Gilchrist Cameron RAFVR 'Jock'

Contributed on: 21 August 2005

"He was transferred to No 3 (P) AFU South Cerney in April 1944 to be retrained on twin engined aircraft, this it was discovered was for a posting overseas to an operational squadron. He was sent on various courses to other AFU's and Blind Approach Training Flights while at South Cerney.Finally moving to 5PDC at Blackpool for dispatch to India via Liverpool. He sailed on HMT Strathnaver to Bombay, and sent to Worli to be allocated to a Squadron.

After a short stay at 3 Refresher Flying Unit at Poona and 1672 Mosquito Conversion Unit at Yelahanka. He was posted to 84 Squadron on the same Air station. Here he was teamed up with W/O George Park McMahon a navigator who was "regular" RAF and had flown operations in Europe and over the Atlantic. This partnership was to see him through to the war's end.

While with 84 Squadron he was introduced the Vultee Vengeance aircraft, which he describes as a huge beast that you could almost go for a walk around the cockpit. He also flew again in a Harvard "the squadron hack" and also the Oxfords the squadron had been allocated to prepare the unit for the Mosquito.

The arrival of the "Mossie" brought some more bad luck as he crashed one of the first aircraft the squadron were given (HR638). The mistake is well documented in "Scorpions Sting".

He told me of his impression of the Mosquito (and ‘Willie’ in particular) was "I felt that in a mosquito I would always get me back to base no matter what". He trusted the Mosquito, even when others were falling out of the sky due to the problems with the mainspar, he always stated would have continued to fly one if required to do so".

From which I deduce:

(a) People were coming out in early '44 untrained on Mossies; the conversion was to be done in India.

(b) He was posted to 84 Sqdn. while they still had VVs and they were at Yelahanka.

(c) The Harvard ("the squadron hack") would be the one I flew.

(d) The Oxfords (and Blenheims?) were for training: it was an ab-initio operation as I guessed.

It follows that all this lot were presumably at Yelahanka while I was there. Could you have a clearer demonstration of why I am absolutely not to be trusted as an authority ! (but the start-stop dates of the trouble are still OK).

I'll have a look at Aviation History and Nostalgia as you suggest, (I look in there from time to time to see if any Spitfires have been exhumed).


angels and lasernigel,

Not only the French and ourselves had fingers in the pie ! At one time and another, the Portugese, Dutch and Danish had a piece of the action. (All in Wiki, at great length): the Portugese came off second best after us with Goa, which remained neutral throughout WW2.

It seems Pondicherry was Free-French (not Vichy), which would be why we left it alone. I mentioned Mahe a short time; this is more than I knew until ten minutes ago: "there were only two European powers left in Kerala - the English and the French. The Indische Compagnie moved out from Cochin in 1795, the French had captured Mayyazhi, renaming it to Mahé (in honour of Bertrand François Mahé de La Bourdonnais"). His name is nearly as long as the one & only Rue in the place !

Thank you for your "a cordial invite to a comrade". (I accept it as a compliment !),


8th Sep 2012, 19:40
the Portugese came off second best after us with Goa, which remained neutral throughout WW2.

Here comes a piece of useless information. Macau, the Portugese territory rented from the Chinese was just over the Pearl River from Hong Kong. The Japanese respected the authority of a neutral power and stopped at the gates of Macau. Some one million Chinese refugees were looked after by a comparatlvely small Portugese population until 1945.

Not a lot of people know about that.

8th Sep 2012, 23:08
"The Cat was a dandy, the Cat was a Yank,
It was called by its aircrew the (blank) Flying Plank"

on account of its huge, long, rectangular wing, from under which our chap knew (but apparently the skipper didn't) that he could reach the engine control cables through an inspection panel over his position (out of sight of the pilots).

A couple of smart tugs, an engine which had been peacefully droning for hours suddenly bellowed, boost and rev needles swung wildly round the clock, then settled back. Justifiably alarmed by these harbingers of a "runaway prop", the Captain readily fell in with the F/E's advice to RTB. He put the ship about and they all went home in nice time for tea.

The Flight Engineer's satisfaction was short-lived. The Engineer Officer investigated, smelt a rat, collared the culprit and extracted a confession. Then the affair snowballed. In our opinion, a monumental blowing-up, and a few extra duties, would have amply met the case. But we suspected that there was more to it than met the eye. The Engineer Officer, old in the Service as most of them were, would know all the ways of making his displeasure keenly felt without invoking the Law.

But for some reason he "threw the book" at the offender. He charged him under the catch-all Section 40 of the Air Force Act: "W.O.A.S. * Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Air Force Discipline in that he did, improperly and without authority, interfere with the engine control cables of His Majesty's Catalina aircraft number so-and-so"..........

It might have been worse: he could have made it: "W.O.A.S. * When ordered to undertake a warlike operation in the air, failed to use his utmost endeavours"......... - and in theory have his man shot ! But of course, there was not the slightest suggestion of "LMF" in this case. Nevertheless, the man had been charged; some ass asked for a Court Martial; another ass granted it, and we were off.

Note * "When On Active Service" (ie in Wartime), Air Force Law provides much more severe penalties than in peace, up to: "Death, or such lesser penalty as a Court Martial may decide" (Note that: "Any two Officers sitting together may constitute a Court Martial" - the "Drumhead Court Martial" ?).

The facts were not in dispute and the defence could offer little beyond an apology and (later) a Plea in Mitigation. The Court retired to consider its verdict, and we Officers under Instruction went into our own huddle to decide ours.

We were unanimous for acquittal. We considered it no more than a practical joke which had gone wrong and the charge should never have been brought. The President returned and we told him so. Of course, this made no difference to the Court's verdict: "Guilty". Punishment? If he had to be punished at all, we opted for the minimum: "Reprimand". The Court went a step up: "Severe Reprimand".

It was water off a duck's back of course. He was a hostilities-only man like the rest of us, had reached the top of the NCO tree, and had no interest in a commission. It would soon be forgotten, and make no difference at all on his return to civil life.

Goodnight, all,


It'll be all the same in fifty years' time.

9th Sep 2012, 15:47

The Japs left Thailand (nee Siam) alone, too, IIRC. We respected Goa in all ways but one: we weren't supposed to overfly the territory. But as it was smack in the middle of the West coast, and everyone flying up and down and back from Ceylon to Bombay and beyond naturally navigated the easy way, the skies over Goa were seldom empty.

The Goans couldn't do much about it anyway. Post Independence, in 1961, the Indian army walked in (the "Three Day's War"), and that was that (they got the India General Service medal with the "Goa" Campaign clasp for it).


10th Sep 2012, 23:48
Calibration Flights, far out in the Bay of Bengal, were boring and the mind tends to wander. Sometimes it wandered to the extent that you didn't watch your fuel gauges and let a tank run dry. The engine would cut, not to worry, just select a full tank, switch on the booster pump. In five or ten seconds fuel worked down the lines and the motor would come back to life.

But the man in the back, not expecting the cut any more than you had, would have had no idea why the engine had stopped. If he were of a nervous disposition (understandable in a single engined aircraft over shark-infested seas), he might not wait for his pilot's order to bale out, but be half-way over the side before you could yell "Get back in - it's all right!" Consensus was that a Vengeance would ditch badly, because of the shape. As far as I know, nobody ever tried it, the advice was to bale out and trust to your parachute, Mae West and inflatable dinghy (and if you're going to do that, the sooner you get out, the better).

Such episodes did not foster good Crew relations. In the Mess one day, P/O Crichton (Ag ) loudly declared (not entirely in jest): "Stupid bloody pilots let the tank run dry, and I get dysentery !" (To which I retorted: "We'll have you chucked out of the Union !") Luckily, no one actually "abandoned ship", for it would have left the pilot in an unenviable position.

He'd stay with his ex-crewman as long as his fuel allowed, of course, while calling for help on the R/T. There was an air-sea rescue launch in Madras, but if you were miles out to sea, it might take hours to get out to you. If the dinghy were not kept in sight the whole time, it might be impossible to find again.

Hopefully you might get a relief aircraft out there before you had to leave. A flying boat from Redhills would be ideal, as they had enormous endurance (I think 24 hours in a Catalina). There would be no point in being "faithful unto death"; that would just give the rescuers two emergencies to deal with instead of one.

One evening a bit of culture was laid on for us by way of entertainment. Normally this was non-existent, apart from the rare visit by an ENSA-style Concert Party (the TV comedy: "It ain't half hot, Mum" showed them to perfection). These affairs were toe-curlingly awful as a rule, but of course we all had to put on our best bib-and-tucker and turn out to show appreciation. After all, these people meant well, and were doing their best, even if, in most peoples' estimation, they ranked among the Horrors of War.

This time they had really gone upmarket. Somehow they'd assembled a full concert orchestra, and found a F/O Navigator who had been a virtuoso concert pianist. For venue, they'd secured the Banqueting Hall of the Governors of Madras. These old nabobs had done themselves proud in their day, the place was a mini Versailles. Needless to say, there was a full and appreciative audience. I heard the Grieg Piano Concerto No. 2 (?) for the first time there, and was very impressed with the whole programme (and the magnificent setting made it a memorable evening).

I was quite content to serve out the remaining months of my overseas three-year tour at Cholaveram. I would be going home in the autumn "trooping season". I'd done my "stint at the coal face" (I would never dive a Vengeance again); there was little more useful I could do out there now. What else could they possibly find for me in these last months?

And what would the future have in store for me when I did return to the UK? Even if the war in Europe was clearly on its last legs, our war out East looked good for years yet. Might I be sent back here after a month or two of leave in UK (for there might well be nobody left there to fight ?) "There's no discharge in the War" (Kipling: "Boots"). We were in for "the duration of hostilities". All was in the lap of the Gods.

But whichever way the cat jumped, I'd be on a troopship about October time.

(I never learn!)

'Night, all,


"Return, please!"......."Where to?"......."Back here, of course !"

Union Jack
11th Sep 2012, 12:47
We respected Goa in all ways but one: we weren't supposed to overfly the territory.

And it wasn't until very many years later that we discovered that the Calcutta Light Horse also respected Goa in all ways but one ..... :)

Danny - I must also say how enormously I enjoy your reminiscences as a truly worthy successor to Regle, Cliff, et al - including, if I may, special thanks good wishes to Fred. Just to see your moniker on the list of new posts is enough to bring a smile to my face, even before I open up your latest offering - thank you so much - not least for your "tailpieces"!http://images.ibsrv.net/ibsrv/res/src:www.pprune.org/get/images/smilies/thumbs.gif


11th Sep 2012, 17:33

Thank you so much for your encouraging words, it helps to keep me going. You'll be pleased to know that there's still a lot more to come, but it would be good to hear from the other "Old Contemptibles" as well, wouldn't it ?

Wiki tells the whole story of the end of Portugese Goa (at great length). (I think there were about 30-40 killed on each side in the "war").


Union Jack
11th Sep 2012, 18:29
You'll be pleased to know that there's still a lot more to come .....
but it would be good to hear from the other "Old Contemptibles" as well, wouldn't it ? .....


12th Sep 2012, 21:28
(Apocryphal story: supposed to have been the address on a letter sent to the C.D.R.E. from a job applicant - someone had been pulling his leg - it should have been: "The Chemical Defence Research Establishment" ! - although, strangely enough, a camel does appear later in the story).

The signal * came in March: "Posted to No. 1340 (Special Duty) Flight, Cannanore, with immediate effect, to command with acting rank of Flight Lieutenant". The acting rank wouldn't make much difference, I was due for my War Substantive (time) promotion in a few weeks anyway, but the rest sounded nice. I had to look up Cannanore on the map; no one had ever heard of the place, or had any idea of what 1340 Flight did. One of (now) my Vengeances flew in to pick me up and fly me over to take up my first (and last !) Command in the RAF.

Note *: The greater part of our inter-unit communication was by c/w radio, in cipher if deemed necessary. Every unit would have its own Signals section. British India had a very comprehensive telegraph network, but of course if you were "out in the bundoo", you wouldn't have any connection. In all the larger towns, there would be "local" telephones, but I don't know how much of a "trunk" service was available. Precious little, would be my guess. Post was slow, but the stuff mostly got through in the end. Personal mail from and to home was mostly by "Airletter" (embossed As4 stamp, about 4d in old money).

We would fly right across South India from the Coromandel to the Malabar coasts (how these old colonial names tug at the memory). I said farewell to Freddie and the Wing Commander. One day I would meet the Wingco again, years later and thousands of miles away, but that is a story for another time.

We landed on what was in effect the private airstrip of "The Chemical Defence Research Establishment", which was an offshoot of that Government research facility of the same name which still operates at Porton Down.

This wartime susidiary had been set up at Cannanore, on the Malabar coast of India, about 200 miles south of Goa and midway between Mangalore and Calicut. Its purpose was to develop, under tropical conditions, defences against poison gases. These might well be used against our troops in Burma if the Japanese armies were facing defeat. After all, they were known to have used gas in China (phosgene, I think).

I am still not entirely clear about the "organisational tree" of the C.D.R.E. in India in my time. Today I believe it is an agency of the MOD, but during the war I seem to remember that the Ministry of Supply had a hand in it.

Operational control was vested in the Royal Engineers, in the person of a fatherly old (from our youthful standpoint) Colonel Philips as the C.O. He had a most impressive handle to his name - you don't see "DSO, MC, Ph.D, B.Sc." every day ! (of course, his gallantry awards dated from WW1: the academic distinctions from the inter-war years). He was a research scientist and the Cannanore Mess was full of them, Dr. this and Dr. that, as well as a number of medical and veterinary officers who looked after our human and animal guinea-pigs.

After the war, I ran across one of these back-room boys, a leather chemist, in London. His name escapes me, but he did me a very good turn. He'd tried ice skating, didn't like it much, (and I must admit that the early days are apt to be rather bruising and humiliating !). He offered to sell me his (as new) boots and skates dirt cheap, we were the same shoe size, I decided to "give it a whirl", and so started on an ideal winter pastime which kept me fit for years after the war.

The Colonel had a RAF Liaison Officer, Wing Commander Edmondes, in his late thirties, a pre-war regular pilot and Armaments Specialist.* He co-ordinated the details of their trials with us. He was directly responsible to AHQ Delhi, and outside the control of 225 Group, so in no way my Commanding Officer, but very useful to us. He (and the CDRE generally) seemed to enjoy a very high priority in Delhi, and they were able to get anything they wanted for the asking.

Note *: Pre-war, many specialist tasks in the RAF (Armaments, Photography, Engineering, etc) were performed by regular Pilots on tours of ground duty - (hence "General Duties" Branch ?) Some were seconded to University to get the essential qualifications. (A Frank Whittle read Engineering at Cambridge; the World got the jet engine).

As the war is so long ago, perhaps I should explain that poison gases are used not only as vapours, which caused such terrible injuries in WW1 (who can forget that famous painting of the "crocodile" of blinded Tommies ?), but also in heavy liquid form. Droplets on the skin are highly caustic, sprayed on the ground they are persistent and can deny access to an area (for a time) almost as well as land mines.

Against vapours, respirators of some sort are the only defence (in UK in the early days of the war everyone had to carry round their own "gas-mask" in its little square cardboard box; troops - and Civil Defence - had a superior job in a much bulkier canvas satchel, which could also accommodate a packet of sandwiches and a small Thermos flask).

But for liquids, "Anti-Gas Capes" were Service issue kit. For those without them who might have been sprayed, RAF Stations had "Decontamination Centres", where you could strip to the buff, have a good shower to wash the stuff off ASAP (your contaminated clothing would have to be destroyed - hopefully there was plenty more in Stores !) Civilians were on their own, official advice was to wash the stuff off with copious quantities of water

Never used, to my knowledge, these Centres lasted long into the sixties, for I was Officer in Charge of one of them then. You might think that this would be a cushy Subsidiary Duty - far from it ! Mine was completely disused except for a large store of steel helmets and camouflage netting. Rarely could I get a cleaning party from the SWO to dust the place out, but for some reason the Station Commander almost always included it on his weekly rounds.

It was always in scruff order, but I could never be sure of the reception I might get. One week I might be complimented on it, the next get a rocket for it, the place would be in exactly the same condition each time. Luckily, I was an old soldier by then, or I might have been psychologically harmed by this Pavlovian treatment. (Station Commanders come, and Station Commanders go, but the money comes into the Bank every month just the same).

And now back to Cannanore !

Goodnight once again,


Another day, another dollar.

15th Sep 2012, 02:01

To any PPRuner who reads this.

Have had an e-mail (141700 A, but I've only just logged-on) from Fred, he is stuck, unable to Post as our Thread tells him that his pen-name and password are wrong, he has asked me to help.

I've told him I will try to help, but I've little skill at this game. I've tried to cc my e-mail to "PPRuNe Pop" (and intended to PM him, as I thought he was the Moderator) but no joy with that name.

Rally round, chaps, please,


Union Jack
15th Sep 2012, 11:25

I'm no expert but, in the absence of any other input, try steering Fred at PPRuNe Forums - Contact Us (http://www.pprune.org/sendmessage.php) for starters.

All the best


15th Sep 2012, 12:14
Hi Danny. First apologies for going AWOL from the thread. I throw myself on the mercy of the court. Second, I've pm'd Pprune Pop, requesting he uses his "special powers" to get Regle back on board. I'll pm you with any news, unless of course Pop or Reg himself update us on thread.
So now you have your own command, and still a JO! A lesson for the modern RAF perhaps, where Flight Lieutenants do not command flights, nor Squadron Leaders squadrons, Wing Commanders wings, Group Captains....well you get the drift. The purpose of the Flight is also a sharp reminder of the weapons of mass destruction so rarely mentioned in WW2 history, yet so preoccupied everyone's fears at the time, ie chemical and biological agents. We were ready to deploy both on a large scale should the invasion of Britain have happened. The Japanese did of course resort to it, and refined its use by using it on POWs (mainly Chinese). I have no doubt they would also have used it if they had in turn suffered invasion, so you were embarked on vital work. The Cape Anti-Gas was still around when I was in the CCF, doubling as a ground sheet and a rain cape by then. Evidently when I was very young I carried my packed lunch to School in an ex gas mask case, but I must have been very young as I do not remember doing so. What was for sure was that it would have once been carried everywhere one went containing the gas mask that had to be donned the moment the words "gas, gas, gas" or the sound of a "footballer's" rattle were heard. All now as remote as the concept of "Duck and Cover" of course...
Oops, just spotted my mistake, I should have said Fred not Reg of course, apologies!

15th Sep 2012, 12:22
One quick thing to check about unrecognised username/password combinations is that fredjhh hasn't fallen foul of the CapsLock syndrome......


15th Sep 2012, 20:48
For Fred.

Another possibility: has he changed his e-mail address? If he has then I think he will have to re-register. (Actually that's wrong. You can alter your e-mail address, once logged in, by going to the 'User CP' on the left of the top yellow row of links)

If not, he could, on the log-in page, type in his name and then click the red 'forgotten password' phrase. He will then be sent his password by e-mail.

15th Sep 2012, 21:07
Whilst I was flying in the Solomon Islands in 2006 a cache of mustard gas was found on a small island. It had almost certainly been left behind by the Japanese in 1942/3. A disposal team was flown in courtesy of the USAF in a C5; all seven of them. The aircraft got stuck, nose first, on the apron of Honiara International and whilst it was there it was the largest man made structure in Guadacanal. There was nothing on the island big enough to tow it and the Pentagon would not authorise them to use reverse thrust.

They had to fly in a C17 with a towing unit.

blind pew
16th Sep 2012, 14:39
The Japanese tested bubonic plague and anthrax against chinese civilians during the war. A delivery system was developed using a ceramic container that was air detonated to ensure maximum spread of the bubonic plague spores. Because of an argument between the senior service and the airforce the planned deployment of the weapon using super subs against LA and SFO never happened.
Think that there were hundreds of thousand Chinese fatalities.

16th Sep 2012, 14:43
Thank you for all your help, chaps. We seemed to have solved the problem. My wonderful daughter bought me an I-Pad, thinking it would be much easier for me to handle than my 16" Laptop. It is wonderful but appears to be the cause of my problem.
I am now back in business using Windows 7 for Pprune.
Now the last item I saw was a reference to "Gus" Walker, whom I met twice, the last time when he refereed "Barbarians" versus Leicester Tigers, on the Boxing Day match, 50 years ago.
Nothing like team work.

16th Sep 2012, 15:24

You're as welcome as the flowers in spring ! Leave these I-Pads and similar mini-miracles, which do everything bar making the tea - and they're working on that - to the nippers who understand them.

All honour to your daughter for a wonderful gift, but we old wrinklies should stick with things we (vaguely) understand.

Every cloud, etc......I can now send an e-mail without getting snarled-up (mostly)

I'm pleased to have been the first one to welcome you back, and I join you in your thanks to all those who responded to my appeal on your behalf,

Cheerio and God bless,


16th Sep 2012, 19:50

It's great to have Fred back isn't it ? Let's hope he may possibly be able to put a bit more of his wonderful story on Post, but only if he feels up to it.

You're quite right about the gas stocks and our readiness to deploy. I believe German Intelligence was well aware of this, and so a de facto early state of MAD ensured that it was never used in Europe.

In Burma (and if need be in Japan), the Jap was so determined to go down fighting that he would have used gas (or anything else) without a moment's hesitation if he thought it militarily advantageous, regardless of the consequences to his own people. We had no information at Cannanore about any offensive capability we might have, and still less about possible tactics for its deployment.

Our rôle was strictly defensive; but, as I shall shortly tell, the stuff was supplied to the CDRE only in simple transit packaging. If we had any gas bombs, I would have expected to have seen some supplied to us to test. Did we have any artillery shells ? - I don't know.

Yes, it was exhilarating to be "Master of my fate and Captain of my soul" for the first time in the RAF. Looking back, I still marvel at the extent of the autonomy I enjoyed. On my own authority, I could fly the length and breadth of the subcontinent, put in anywhere for fuel, stay on any RAF Station and never be questioned. Those few who knew of the existence of the CDRE were aware of the high-security factor, and would not expect any detail from me (the Official Secrets Act, old chap, don'cher know),


Blind Pew,

I did not know of the anthrax and plague experiments you mention, but it all fits into the Japanese concept of Total War. It is a good thing that they didn't think of filling the ceramic containers with the stuff and using the balloons (some of which did get to the west coast of the US) to carry them in.

No one will ever know the death toll of Chinese civilians in the late thirties and in WW2

AFAIK, we only worked with Mustard, Lewisite would be a possible alternative, but I have no recollection of using it. As we were concerned only with liquids, phosgene would not be of interest to us. Nerve gases were well in the future for the UK (but Hitler had got them),



You must be psychic ! Very soon will appear a story very close to your tale of the unfortunate C5. We dumped all our gas stocks in the sea at the end,


Thank you all for your interesting comment and extra detail,



17th Sep 2012, 01:19
The little town of Cannanore dozed by the shores of the Arabian Sea. Wholly untouched by the war, it dreamed of its sixteenth-century past as a Portugese colonial possession in the great days of Afonso d'Albuquerque. To ward off European trading competitors, they built a substantial Fort St. Angelo, whose ruins still guard Moplah Bay to the south (this would be the only landing point). It was old Portugese missionary territory from Goa south down the coast.

Later the town was ceded to the British, unlike Goa, which during the war remaimed neutral as a Portugese colony. When we flew up to Bombay, we were supposed to dog-leg fifteen miles out to sea to avoid Goa (and so compromising its neutrality): a rule "honoured more in the breach than in the observance" .

Cannanore briefly resurfaced in history in 1799, when a General Stuart chose it as the landing point for his contingent of the East India Company's Bombay Army. From there he marched inland to join Wellesley (the future Iron Duke) in the defeat of Tippoo Sahib of Mysore at Seringapatam.

In the 1920s a small British army garrison was stationed at Cannanore after the Moplah Revolt, a local, long forgotten insurrection (but Wiki knows all about it): the two-mile stretch of sand to the south was still called "Moplah Bay".

The Garrison Engineers of the time used the local laterite rock to build a small permanent "cantonment" (a camp with family quarters). This camp was long disused until the CDRE chose it as their base during WW2. Cannanore was conveniently on the rail line running west from Coimbatore and then north up the coast, but the main attraction must have been these old permanent buildings.

More to the point, they were built beside the town "maidan" ( a large open space, think of an English park without the trees). There the townsfolk strolled to enjoy the sea breezes in the cool of the evenings, played cricket and held their festivals. The CDRE looked at this Maidan, and thought "runway". If you are testing defences against gas attacks on your troops, it is no use doing it on a blackboard. You have to put the stuff down on the ground, using all the means available to your enemy, then try out your ideas on real men exposed to real gas. The most likely way the Jap might use gas was from the air. So we needed aircraft to bomb or spray it onto trial sites, in order to recreate actual battle conditions.

1340 (Special Duty) Flight was established for this task, and the Maidan looked as if it might provide an airstrip for them. Otherwise they would have to fly from Cochin (Willingdon Island) or Coimbatore (Sulur), each involving more than 300 mile round trips. A single runway was laid out, surfaced with crushed and rolled laterite. It was not ideal.

Space was at a premium. The best they could do was about 3,000 ft, roughly NE/SW. One end went over the cliff (40 ft) into the sea, the other was hard up against a road, trees, electricity cables and the local bazaar. This end was a favourite spot of the townsfolk, who would gather there for the doubtful pleasure of seeing seven tons of Vengeance come to a shuddering stop just short of breaking through the fence at them.

The very solid ruins of the Fort crowned the clifftop a stone's throw from the seaward end of the strip. Monsoon drains (small ditches) had been dug along the sides for part of its length; these could easily rip the undercarriage off any aircraft which strayed into them. The obstacles at the town end dictated that we had to take off towards the sea (hoping to get airborne before the cliff edge), and land from it - regardless of wind - and then stay on the runway, or else !

There was always a long and thoughtful silence when a new pilot was briefed on this strip. Remarkably, we never had an accident (nor in the time of my predecessor, Flt.Lt. "Red" McInnis, RCAF, (whom we have met before). This may have been mainly luck, but I think it was because we all made a point of being extra careful. It was just as well, for our only crash tender was an old "WOT1", * with no speed and very limited foam-making capacity.

(Note *: "War Office Transport No. 1". This heavy fire engine on a Fordson WOT1/1A girder chassis was propelled only by a Ford V-8 engine of (perhaps) 85 bhp. It was hopelessly underpowered: I remember seeing an incident at Driffield after the war: a Meteor slid off the wet runway on landing, and the crash crew turned out. Their WOT1 made heavy going of it over the wet grass; people were actually running past it ! Luckily it wasn't needed).


Extra Title: Danny and matters scatologigal: - The Deep Trench Latrine.

In response to a total lack of interest in the subject, but having a while back promised an article on this indelicate (but quite essential) component of our daily life in the forward areas now behind us, here is my recollection - (and those who remember Louis de Bernières' novel: "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" may remember a similar, amusing description of Italian troops).

I cannot do better by way of description than to recount an enduring sad tale that I must have heard a score of times - but never with exact details of time or place - (I believe it was current in the Middle East, too).

First, to set the stage: In a basha is dug a narrow trench, straddled by a long narrow timber box, This has an open bottom and is provided with a row of suitable holes on top. There are no doors or partitions - such civilised conventions have long been discarded in our life at the sharp end.*

Of course the normal military distinctions still had to be observed: separate DTLs for Officers and ORs (British), another set (of modified design) for the Indian Officers and ranks. (How did they manage with the Muslim/Hindu divide, and the Caste problems with the latter ? - No idea - Anglo-Indians ? I think they counted as British for this purpose.

Consequently, these places hosted convivial gatherings. Here was a forum for the discussion of important military matters; the latest rumours were disseminated (hence the term: "Latrinogram"), and the topics of the day given a good airing (no pun intended). Hinged lids were provided to try to abate the fly nuisance. Pretty well every visitor (even non-smokers) took a cigarette in with him (as a deodoriser - now you can see the advantage to "Stew" Mobsby of losing his sense of smell !) It was forbidden to throw a lighted butt down the hole, but there was always someone who forgot.

Our hero was one such. He picked himself up some fifty feet away, with a badly scorched bottom, surrounded with shattered timbers and covered all over with - well, not exactly with "sweet violets" ! He was not alone, his companions (in a like state) were not well pleased with him, and were making the fact loudly and abundantly clear. The "netty", "dunny", call it what you will, had (to use a common expression in "babu" English): "Gone from that place".

What had happened ? Methane in the trench had built up to the point where, mingled with air, it had reached the "stoichiometric ratio" at which the mixture became explosive. The dog-end provided the detonator.

Is the story true ? Well, it could have happened, couldn't it ?

Note *: And not only at the sharp end. In the Basic and Advanced flying schools of the US Army Air Corps (which were 100% military units), I recall the same companiable arrangement with rows of gleaming mahogany and porcelain thrones in the washrooms (so there was no chance of a quiet break with cigarette and newspaper). Primary Schools were basically civilian-run: more customary standards prevailed there).

I promise you that is the last word on the subject.

Goodnight once more,


Ah, well.

17th Sep 2012, 09:27
Danny, didn't you ever see this great clip that was doing the rounds a short time ago?

iPad chopping board - YouTube

17th Sep 2012, 09:41
It is still all there on Google Earth. The city is now called Kannur and the St Angelo Fort is still called St Angelo. You can see the remains of the runway by the barracks. Only a short section, 333ft., but the end is 3,600 ft from the cliff on a bearing of 340 degrees.
At Strategic Air Command Headquarters at Offut, Nebraska in 1962 they still had a row of porcelin johns with no partitions or doors.

17th Sep 2012, 11:53
Fantastic stuff, history lessons et al. You should publish these memories as a book.

17th Sep 2012, 12:18
There were similar communal toilet arrangements in the bus station in Chicago in 1978....more effective than Imodium, given one's fellow travellers...

17th Sep 2012, 13:49
Oh dear. Please allow me to recall the tale told by an old shipbuilder from the Govan Shipyard in Scotland.

They had similar lavatory arrangements to those described above but, being engineering types they rigged it up so that it was tilted at a slight angle and constant running water was used to sluice peoples' waste away.

The guy that rigged all this up would occasionally stand at the end where the channel began, attach oily rags to a model boat and then set it all alight.

The boat would then serenely drift its way down the channel with the rags blazing away merrily -- with the inevitable affect on the bums above.

Our hero would chuckle away merrily as people rushed out of the latrine in great disarray!

Er, sorry, off topic. Great to see you back Fred!

17th Sep 2012, 19:13

Marvellous clip ! - No, I'd never seen it (had no idea what an I-pad was until daughter told me !),

Thanks, Danny.

Yes, I have seen the Google maps (so even poor little Cannanore couldn't escape the renaming frenzy). Looks like a very substantial military establishment now covers most of the maidan. Note the little harbour built onto the Fort promontory with the other side wall (pier) running out from Moplah Bay. This is all new from my time.

Your bearing of 340 (from where ?) has me puzzled. That's more or less the (true) heading of the coastline. Could it be 240 - that would be about right for my runway heading ?

Some years ago had a look on daughter's laptop, thought I saw very faint lines which might be the last traces of the east end of the old runway. Buildings and trees now cover most of where it used to be.

The old look I mentioned showed weird things on the military site. They'd got hold of a job lot of bright blue paint and were painting all sorts of things with it. One was a strange dagger shape: I zoomed in as far as possible - 80% sure it was a jet fighter. Old Mig-21 for instructional purposes? Could be (it's gone now). How did it get there (couldn't have flown in).

And are the small (possibly) naval vessels (MTB size) moored just offshore from the camp still there. Remember those, they will link up with my tale much further on.

Many thanks for the research effort,



Much appreciate the generous praise, but can't be bothered now. Market for war books just about saturated anyway.

Now let's have some more of your stuff - it's every bit as entertaining as mine !


Molemot and angels,

We're piling Pelion on Ossa now ! (have I got it right ?). This practice seems to have been more extensive than I thought.


If the shipyard maties had got hold of the culprit, I would fear for his survival. All sorts of things beside ships end up floating in the river.


Thank you all for the support. General plea: someone pop in on thread (even just to say "hello") every time we drop out of the bold type on Page 1 of "Military Aircrew". That way we'll keep up the interest, and may ensnare other old timers (got me in didn't it ?). On second thoughts, this is probably verboten by PPRuNe Pop, bad idea.


Jason Burry
19th Sep 2012, 13:56
Hello Gentlemen,

Just a quick Hello to bump this back onto page 1 and to express my continuing interest in these stories and my admiration of those of you who are sharing your experiences. I wish I'd been able to hear more first hand stories such as you gents are telling from my grandfather while he was still alive... A Newfoundlander who fought in N. Africa and Italy.


19th Sep 2012, 18:54
Jason Burry,

Thanks ! (Next instalment coming tonight, I hope),



19th Sep 2012, 22:47
Before I start, I must correct a mistake. A week ago (#3024 p.151 12.9.12.) I airily said: "One of (now) my Vengeances flew in to pick me up". I 've just had a look at my log. It was AN832 - which I'd flown myself four days previously - with Freddie as a passenger! It was a 1580 Flight aircraft, so they must have kindly flown me over. (The pilot, W/O Waltham, surely had a few qualms when he saw what he'd got to land on at the other end !)

A point which I really should have included in my description of Cannanore (I have no truck with "Kannur") concerns the Laccacdive Islands, an archipelago lying about 150 miles West in the Arabian Sea. Geologically, they must be much the same as the Maldives, and it has always seemed to me that the Indian tourist organisation had missed a valuable commercial opportuniy in not developing them in the same way. (Wiki tells me that they have now made a start).

We knew they were there, of course, but it would have been criminally irresponsible to go out to take a look, as this would have involved a 300 mile trip over the sea in a single-engined aircraft; there was no airstrip there in our day and not much to see anyway. Now back to our "runway"............

Taking off over the cliff edge was rather like what take-off from a carrier must have been. We should have been wearing "Mae Wests", and sitting on K-class dingies, for there were no Air-Sea rescue boats; one day someone must finish up in the sea. It's strange, but for the life of me I can't remember whether we did wear life-jackets all the time. (I was the C.O., what was I doing about this ?) Were there no Station Flying Orders ? (come to that, I can't remember any S.F.O.s anywhere in India).

We certainly wore them sometimes, for I remember one trip down to Cochin - it was probably an airmen's pay run - but when I taxied up to the flight line there no marshaller was in sight. No matter, a big B-24 "Liberator" was right out at the end. I parked alongside not paying much attention to it. They were common enough, they flew long anti-submarine sorties over the Indian ocean from Ceylon, and often came up North.

I was disentangling myself from my harness and about to climb out, when the Duty Flight Corporal came dashing up indignantly in full Traffic Warden mode: "You can't leave that there 'ere !". I clearly remember shrugging my Mae West off one shoulder to show my rank cuff. It made little difference: "You can't leave that there 'ere, SIR !"

Why not ? For answer he pointed wordlessly at the Liberator, and I saw that the lower half of the main wheels had sunk through the tarmac. It was down to the axles already, and how they were ever going to get it out, Heaven only knows (like Fareastdriver's C5 at Honiara a few Posts ago).

It seemed that the local contractor who built the airfield had skimped on this patch, there was no foundation - nothing but sand under a thin skin of tarmac ! My Corporal was worried that the same might happen to me. I reassured him: it was very unlikely as I was only staying an hour or so, whereas the Lib had taken a night and a day to get into that state.

At lunch in the Mess, it was a major topic of conversation, and many were the solutions on offer. One of the better ones was: as the Far East war was over and it was a Lend-Lease aircraft, we should invite the Americans to come and take it away - if they could. Otherwise we'd put a low chain fence round it, leave it and declare it a War Memorial !

(In later years, I often used this story to add a bit of colour to my afternoon lectures on: "Load Classification Numbers" and "Runway Bearing Strengths"; for some reason, the subject always had a greater power to induce sleep in my ATC students)

But the point of this story is that we did wear Mae Wests, although our only danger point was the take-off. After that we would hug the shoreline all the way, there were plenty of empty beaches to force-land on if necessary. But we certainly didn't use dinghies. And I would have remembered that, for they were terribly uncomfortable to sit on, all hard and knobbly - there was one particularly nasty bump on top where the sadistic designer had chosen the very worst place to house the gas inflation bottle.

(The dinghies fitted on top of your chute in place of the usual sponge rubber seat cushion. It was just possible, if you extended the chute leg straps almost as far as they would go, to thread the groin loop through both the dinghy and a seat cushion as well, but then you wobbled about so precariously perched on top of that lot that it wasn't really safe).

I said that the runway was surfaced with crushed laterite (a soft volcanic rock). A colony of rats found this stuff much to their liking. It was soft enough to dig out for their burrows, and they went at it with a will. The ratholes were no problem, but the excavated mounds of spoil were a hazard. We regularly had to send a chap out with a shovel to fill them in. The rats would dig them out again the next night. Like moles in a lawn, we never could get rid of them.

And at any time you might find a herd of goats on the runway. These would scatter before an aircraft taking off, but before landing you had to "buzz" them off, and then fly a very quick circuit to get down before they drifted back. This animal-on-runway business was a hazard all over India, goats were no problem, but a water buffalo or an elephant would be more difficult to shift. Fortunately we didn't have any of those.

Then there was the constant flying hazard of "kitehawks" (their more polite name), a sort of small, scruffy vulture, all over the subcontinent. These birds were esteemed, and I believe protected by law, for their value as scavengers (the same service as our crows provide by cleaning up road kills). Valuable or not, they were a nuisance. They quickly got used to us, and would wait to the very last moment before hopping or flapping out of the way, much as our crows do on the roads today.

Some were too slow. Our Thunderbolt caught one on the side of a wheel while taking off, ripped a big piece of tyrewall rubber off, and was very lucky to land (very gently) without a blow-out. I got Group to put a Green Endorsement in the (South African) pilot's logbook (he was loaned to us with the aircraft). I was away on leave when this happened, but reproved my second-in-command gently when I got back, for not sending him off (he was full of fuel) to Yelahanka to do his worst there.

You'll remember they were running a T/Bolt conversion, they would have had all the spares and technicians to fix one if things went wrong on touchdown, and if they went very wrong, well, their crash facilities were far better than mine: he would stand a better chance of survival: they could clear the wreckage off their runway more easily than I could off mine. (I do not suppose they would see it quite that way, but there you go).

And one day I was charging down the runway on take-off, way past V1, when there was a heavy thud and a cloud of feathers flew out of the engine cowl gills and shot past my cockpit. I'd taken a bird in between the cylinders. The engine seemed not to notice, I flew a quick circuit and put it down. The bird was fished out (stone dead), and found to be nearly plucked (wind blast) and part-cooked (engine heat). But it wasn't drawn, and in any case inedible, so we couldn't take advantage of the windfall.

Goodnight everyone,


All's well that ends well.

20th Sep 2012, 00:40
Fred, great to see you back on thread! Now don't go away again, will you?
Danny, your vivid exposition upon the communal conveniences of the Sub-Continent and elsewhere inexorably brings to mind the programme on TV by Lucinda Lambton which she entitled, if I have it right, "On the Throne". Yours though would seem to have had a more traditionally rural nature than the glass walled aquarium cisterns in the Victorian Gentlemen's Water Closets of her treatise. I too have witnessed the communal arrangements in US Military Establishments and passed quickly by, like you.
I have zoomed in on Kannur as advised by FED, but on Google Maps rather than Earth, and I think I can see his rectangular strip running approx 340, which has a helicopter "H" emblazoned on it beguilingly labelled "Helipad at Kannur Cantonment". It's just crying out to be the remains of your runway, but clearly cannot be, given your clear description of 240 deg, 'twixt cliffs and road. That I think must be to the south. There one finds a sort of Padang (or Maidan if you will) running in your required direction, that is now the Army sports ground. If that is where your runway was, and the road running from Fort to City is the same as in your day, then you had less of a runway and more of a launching pad, that a STOL Harrier might have flinched at! Fun and games indeed, no wonder you became such a local spectator sport. I wonder if any of the original cantonment buildings still exist?

20th Sep 2012, 09:13
Danny - The Govan shipyard worker with the flaming rags was Jimmy Reid, who ended up running the place during the work-in the 70s!!

Re Mae Wests, I remember mny Dad saying how awkward they were and that he didn't bother with them as pax.

The longer trips he did over water (Burma-Ceylon ws one) were in Daks where he said you could just grab one if any trouble occurred or in Catalinas or Sunderlands whcih were quite capable of landing on water should trouble occur!!

20th Sep 2012, 13:59
a big B-24 "Liberator"
they flew long anti-submarine sorties over the Indian ocean

The last Liberator I saw flying was an Indian Navy example approaching Juhu airfield in Bombay in 1963.
May have still been doing the same thing.

20th Sep 2012, 18:21

I must have another look at the Google Sat-map to see if I can find this runway 34 and "H" pad. For a military establishment of this size it would certainly make much sense to have a small strip to cater for VIPs in Auster-sized things. And 16/34 is parallel to the shoreline, so it couldn't be a bit of my old one.

So I must stick to my estimate of somewhere between 05/23 and 07/25 (didn't we know ?). In my log I have a couple of very poor prints shot by a "Box Brownie" ?, from turning-in on finals position (will put them on Post if I can ever work out how to do it - and yes, I still keep safe the excellent instructions you sent me months ago).

These shots show the strip normal to the cliff edge, tucked-in close to the Fort. There are clearly two white lines across the strip, I would guess 1000 ft from each end. What on earth were they ? I have no recollection of ever seeing them before (the Carlstrom Field syndrome again !)

My only guess: they indicated the limits of the monsoon drains at the sides - after landing you had to pass the line before turning off. Sounds reasonable ? So what use was the one at the West end, when we never landed that way ?

The old cantonment buildings from the 20s were solid laterite and will last for ever. I don't doubt that they have been incorporated in the present much enlarged layout. Most of the maidan has been swallowed up by sports field and trees.

I agree with you about the sparrows-on-a-line sanitary arragements, but when you've no option........!



Yes, Jimmie Reid was quite a colourful character, but he ran a fine line playing that trick on his Govan workmates ! (I bet he never confessed to it until he was safely in the House of Commons).

I never found a Mae West hard to put on, but it was hot under your harness. If I'd been your Dad, I'd do the same over water in a Dak - but I'd keep it in arm's reach all the time !



I didn't know the Indian Navy kept the B-24s going as long as that. Whose subs could they have been looking for then - Pakistan's ? (The Russians would have been on-side then).

I vaguely remember Juhu (Santa Cruz ?). Didn't it have a sea wall, and didn't something (a Constellation ?) plough into it one time ?


Thank you all for the interest which is the lifeblood of this Thread.


20th Sep 2012, 18:44
Santa Cruz is now Mumbai International. Juhu was the old airfield which some old hand forgot when he landed a four jet airliner on it.

They had to take all the seats out, drain it to minimum fuel so that it could just get airborne for Santa Cruz.

20th Sep 2012, 22:08

On 13 Dec '45, this old hand authorised himself to fly to "Santa Cruz" and on arrival clearly remembers skimming over the beach (mud flats, actually) and the sea wall onto the runway of what is now Juhu.

Explanation: the present Santa Cruz was not opened until 1948; prior to that the Bombay "airport" was Juhu, but it had commonly used the name of Santa Cruz. (Wiki: Juhu Aerodrome).

The Constellation old hand may well have flown into Juhu-Santa Cruz in earlier days, and got caught out that way.



Tabby Badger
21st Sep 2012, 19:05

Having had my interest piqued, I went looking.

http://oldphotosbombay.blog--spot.com/2010/12/bombay-airport-juhu-and-tata.html (http://oldphotosbombay.********.com/2010/12/bombay-airport-juhu-and-tata.html)

Replace the stars with [frustratingly, Prune does not allow the word blog--spot (remove the dashes to get the forbidden word)]
(I know not why Prune forbids entering a link to a blog--spot address. Perhaps somebody can enlighten - is there a rule I'm not aware of?).

According to this site, there were three incidents of jet airliners landing at Juhu by mistake:

On 15 July 1953, a BOAC Cometlanded at Juhu Aerodrome instead of Mumbai's much largerSanta Cruz International Airport. The aircraft was flown out some nine days later.

On 28 May 1968, the pilot of a Garuda Indonesia Convair 990 also mistook Juhu Aerodrome for Santacruz Airport and tried to land his aircraft. It overshot the runway falling just short of the traffic road ahead and several residential buildings when its nose wheel got stuck in a ditch at the end of the runway. All passengers survived.

On 24 December 1972, Japan Airlines Flight 472, operated by Douglas DC-8-53also landed at Juhu Aerodrome instead of Santacruz Airport. The aircraft overran the end of the runway and was damaged beyond economic repair.

The page is well worth a look for the historical record. and some nice photographs

And please, keep talking (typing) - you have my full attention, sir.

TB :ok: :D

22nd Sep 2012, 00:32
Tabby Badger,

Thanks for your support. The link is fascinating, particularly the early 19th century railway pictures. Some of the narrow-gauge hill lines are a remarkable witness to the skill and resource of the railway engineers of the period. I particularly liked the drawing of an inaugural steam loco (cold, I assume !) being hauled into service by a train of half a dozen elephants.

The aircraft pictures are nice, too. I can recommend the link to anyone with half an hour to spare. You'll enjoy it !



22nd Sep 2012, 09:13
Tabby Badger, I too enjoyed wandering through the pages of your blog-spot link. Thank you.
Danny, this picture of a cinema in Bombay reminds me of the one you told us of in Calcutta. Both boasted Air-Conditioning. A marvel then, I'm sure.
The Regal Cinema was built during the cinema boom of the 1930s during which Plaza Central, New Empire, Broadway, Eros and Metro all opened in Mumbai. Opened in 1933, Regal was designed by Charles Stevens, the son of the famous 19th century architect, F. W. Stevens. Its interiors with extensive mirror-work were designed by the Czech artist Karl Schara. The main auditorium had a motif of sunrays in pale orange and jade green. Its interiors were designed to create an impression of airiness, coolness and size in harmony with the modern simplicity of the exteriors. The Regal was built completely in reinforced concrete cement (RCC), fully air conditioned, and had an underground parking lot for patrons. The elevator up from the parking area was a major innovation at the time.
The cinema was the third venue to host the Filmfare Awards night. Today, it is a multi-use building combining a cinema with shops at street level.

Oh, just found your elephant assisted ("banking" in the trade) locomotive:

22nd Sep 2012, 10:37
This tread has kicked in memories of Santa Cruz. This picture was taken in 1963 during a Sino Indian punch up. The clue as to why we were there is on the nose.

You cannot see it very well but it is a flight refuelling probe.

The ground equipment towing arrangements had improved since the elephant.


22nd Sep 2012, 18:23

Yes, Tabby Badger's link is quite a find, isn't it ? Can't remember the name of the a/c cinema a few blocks down from the "Grand", but we thought it was the Eighth Wonder of the World.

For almost all of us, it was our first experience of a/c, we started to shiver in our shirts and shorts after the first ten minutes, but the worst part was when you came out into the street again. The heat hit you like a blow in the face.

The elephants are good fun, too. Luckily there were no air raids in those days !

EDIT: (for the benefit of those who have come in after my tale of the Khumbirgram elephant); the thought of half a dozen elephants running amok in close line astern with a steam loco hanging on behind as a sort of sea anchor does raise a gentle smile to the lips, doesn't it ? - provided you're at a safe distance !



Interesting pictures - note the two gardeners busy on the bowling-green grass patches in the foreground. Labour was cheap and plentiful then.

But what are those "foreign objects" in the skies? I first thought s****hawks, but on looking closer, more like kites (one has a long tail). Who on earth would permit kite-flying so close to an airport ? Enlighten me, please !

Nice old Roller (Maharajahs for the use of) ! - bit beaten-up now.

Thanks, both,


22nd Sep 2012, 21:22
Danny, I think they are blemishes on the photo, sort of electronic magnet for dust and fibres!

I came across this just a few moments ago
My late father Flight Lieutenant Rodney C. Topley served 3 years in Burma as a pilot and ' A Flight' commander from 1941-4 , flying Vultee Vengeances-A31"s against the Japanese. In 1944-45 he was switched to Typhoon Tempests in Europe which he eventully crashed on takeoff one day. by the way , the 110 's motto is "nec timeo nec sperno" Best regards, and keep up the good work, John D. Topley about one quarter the way down on the Guest book 2001-2002.htm (http://www.rafweb.org/guestlog_2002.htm) site. There is an email address for John Topley but it's 10 years old, but might still get him if you wanted.

I did send Fred a message some months ago but obviously he couldn't have been well enough then to respond, but glad to see he's still in touch!

23rd Sep 2012, 09:46
the 110 's motto is "nec timeo nec sperno"

As we used to say when I was on 110 Sqn. 'No time for a ####'.

As Icare says; crap on the slides faithfully reproduced electronically.

23rd Sep 2012, 17:01

So that was the mundane explanation ! Ah, well.

I can't find the reference, but I seem to remember that savimosh01 told me that Rodney ("Topper") Topley had died, and also his son John (?) in recent years. "Topper" (he survived the war) was the Flight Commander to beat all others, in my book.



We could set off quite a train of colloquial renderings of Squadron mottoes.
I follow you with 608 (Aux) Sqdn: "Omnibus Ungulis" ("with all my claws"),
rendered as: "All Balls" !


Thanks, both

23rd Sep 2012, 23:05
In March '45, I took over as the C.O. of this unit from "Red" McInnis, who had come out on the "Stirling Castle" with me, and flown with me on 110 Sqn. He explained the job, and warned me about the airmen I should keep an eye on *. Then he handed over the safe keys and Code Books and happily went off back to Canada, leaving me with a box of cheap cigars and (although I didn't find out till later) six month's arrears of F.540 - the Operational Record Book.

This hallowed document is the detailed War Diary of a unit. Rendered monthly up the chain of command, it finally comes to rest in the Air Historical Branch of the Air Ministry.

Note *: There was one Glaswegian whom McInnis had occasion to reprimand, and who had bawled: "You can't talk to me like that !" (or words to that effect). The Service can tolerate many things, but insubordination has to be stamped on. McInnis put him under arrest and remanded the case to the Colonel (I am not sure of the legitimacy of this, but they did it, anyway). He had the power to give, and gave the miscreant twenty-one days in the "glasshouse". What they did with him there, I don't know, but he came back like a little lamb and I had no trouble at all with him afterwards (they'd clearly had found the secret of rehabilitation!) He must have shared his experiences with the other airmen; this seemed to have had a salutary effect and they all behaved themselves in my time.

It was just as well, because my powers of punishment as a Subordinate Commander were limited; "Confined to Barracks" had no meaning, because there was nothing to go out of camp for in any case, except for a swim, and the shoreline was wide open for that. The only extra duty I can think of now would be rat-hole filler-upper. AFAIK, you couldn't impose stoppages of pay then.

In truth, any sensible chap could see that he was onto a good thing in this Unit, and he would be silly to spoil it. He was housed well (in the proper built "cantonment") and fed quite well (as were we all) in the Army Messes. The beach was only a stone's throw away, the sea was warm and safe. There were no Japanese closer than 2500 miles. There was no entertainment, but in general that was true everwhere else. Many had served in the Arakan or Assam in the years before; they could see which side their bread was buttered on, and some were counting the weeks up to their "boat" home in any case.

In my pending tray lay increasingly irate reminders about this Form 540 from 225 Group in Bangalore. CDRE (in the person of their Liaison Officer, a W/Cdr Edmondes),* had managed (presumably at McInnis's request) to secure "Stew" Mobsby from some non-job up North and got him posted in to the Unit as "Adj". He (now a F/O, so he must have been commissioned about the time I left Samungli) was naturally as pleased to get me as the new C.O. as I was to see him, and we set to work together with the Authorisation Book, made notes of what anybody could remember, and used imagination to fill in the gaps. Henry Ford was right: history is bunk, and in many cases it's not even history. I smoked a pipe then so I cut the cigars up and fed them in. It wasn't really a success.

Note * See the post by Petet (# 2444, p. 123) Our W/Cdr may well have been the "Edmondes" - "Edmonds" - "Edmunds", the inventor of the epoymous Trainer (oh, how I wish I could recall his initials !)

Our task was to do, within reason, anything the CDRE wanted for their trials. I was established with a Harvard and three Vengeance Mk. IIIs. One of these, FB986, was a veteran from one of the old Squadrons and still bore its faded letter "M" for "Mother" (in the old phonetics); it was my favourite as it never seemed to give any trouble.

Of course, there was no question of dive-bombing on this job. Accuracy is not needed when putting gas down. All we had to do was to get the stuff into quite large fields at Porkal or Kumbla (about 40 miles north up the coast), where the CDRE had laid out ranges for their trials.

No conventional bomb types were used. Internally we carried loads of 2 x 6-packs of 65 lb tins of mustard gas (square sectioned, very like the ubiquitous 4-gallon fuel can), and "Chedlets" - smaller segmented things (named after the well known packets of processed cheese, the shape of which they closely resembled).

Besides these, there were 500 lb mustard gas clusters, and a 4 lb bomb. I've forgotten what exactly this was, but an entry in my log shows batches of 42 being dropped from 4,000 ft. This was most unusual, and I cannot recall why (as all other gas ordnance was dropped low-level). There was no need for any of these items to be of ballistic shape, and there were no fuses. We just dropped them and they burst open on impact.

The cans sometimes leaked from the soldered lids and seams, and made most unpleasant cargo. The "post-box" slot on the Vengeance cockpit floor carried up fumes from the bomb bay, so we always flew with canopies fully open, not that that was any hardship in the heat. I cannot remember any hang-ups, for the release mechanism was very simple, but even so we were always glad to get the gas canisters out of the bays. Looking back, I'm amazed at how casually we worked with this dangerous stuff. I never saw a mask worn (and we certainly didn't have any). Of course, my armourers only had to load the containers into the bays, and fit spray tanks to the wing racks.

These wing racks were a different proposition. It would be dangerous to carry the thin-skinned tins out in the airflow (and think of the drag they would cause), so spray tanks were fitted to the bomb racks. From memory, these were cylinders about 15 in in diameter and 4 - 5 ft long. They would hold about ten gallons. There was a spigot at the back of (and projecting below) the tank, and a filling point in the nose. There was no "tap" arrangement: this would be very hard to design, as the original release circuit was just a simple on-off.

The solution was ingenious. There was this small circular opening at the front of the tank, and a similar one in the tail pipe. The tanks were filled with liquid gas ( this was an unpleasant job), and bakelite discs fitted into the apertures to seal them. Each disk carried a tiny explosive charge and detonator, wired up to the cockpit switch. You pressed the button, both disks exploded, the ram effect from air pressure drove all the contents out of the rear nozzle, and the rush of air "scoured" all the gas out of the tank. That way, it would be less of a danger to my ground crew after landing, and ready for refilling by the CDRE's armourers. As with the tins, the spraying was of course done low-level.

There's much more to come, but that'll do for the time being,

Goodnight, chaps,


"L'État, C'ést Moi !"

24th Sep 2012, 22:02
Super! So much to learn - so little time!

And back to page 1 we go......


24th Sep 2012, 22:40

Good lad ! (bit worried about the "little time" bit. I fully intend to reach my ton, but you never know !)



25th Sep 2012, 16:27
Ooops.....that remark was more about me than you, Danny. The ton? I'm sure that you'll breeze it!

What I meant was (and I'm trailing you by 24 years here) that there is SO much about this period to learn about that is fascinating to us young sprogs. I only hope that my powers of recall and narration are half as acute as yours in years to come. Not that mine are particularly cute now......

In retirement one of the daily delights is to follow the stories and memories of those who served our country in times of war. I salute you all and pay my respects in acknowledgement of the debt that the nation owes to you in my own way.:D


Tabby Badger
25th Sep 2012, 21:39

I couldn't have said it better myself, so I'll second your emotion. :D

(Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur)

25th Sep 2012, 23:31
Ripline and Tabby Badger,

Ripline, I was only joking ! (know what you mean). Thank you both for the very kind words of appreciation for my efforts. But it was just our fortune (good or bad) to have been in the generation which was in the right time and the right place to do the job which clearly had to be done.

I'm sure that yours (and later ones) would have been every bit as equal to the challenge if (God forbid) you'd had to rise to it.



Gaudeamus igitur, iuvenestes eramus.

26th Sep 2012, 16:38
Great stuff, Danny, I'm on the edge of my seat at the thought of this poison gas; I must have missed something. Couldn't you have used water for the testing if you were only testing delivery?

The thought of what would have happened with a crash, on take-off, from your rather dodgy strip...

Your point about promotions. It was automatic F/O to F/Lt after three years? - this judging by my father's records - and those of those who joined with him, courtesy of the Gazette. So did this mean you couldn't be promoted more quickly, or did it mean that any earlier promotions were just 'acting' so as to save the Government salary costs?

26th Sep 2012, 21:22

We weren't just testing delivery, I'm afraid. When we put the stuff down, they had their guinea-pigs marching about in it (to test anti-gas dubbins on their boots) and lying down in it in firing position to test anti-gas capes.

They were put out under our sprays to test capes and gloves. Inevitably, some gas got through, the M.O.s had a massive collection of pics of gas blisters "before and after" testing their various remedies. It did not make pleasant viewing ! (and of course, it was the same with the animals which were treated by the vets).

I agree with you as regards the horrific possibilities of a crash with a loaded aircraft. As the packages were deliberately flimsy, so as to ensure bursting on impact, the likelihood in any serious accident was that the crew would end up soaked in mustard. The thing then was to get the stuff washed off ASAP.

The degree of burn depended on the length of time the agent stayed on the skin. I was told that 20 mins would result in a third-degree burn, but this figure may be inaccurate. But my daughter (who is professionally skilled in these matters) tells me that the rule of thumb (for ordinary burns) is: add the % area of whole body of skin affected to your age, subtract from 100, result is your % chance of survival. Recovery would be painful and involve much skin grafting. Death would be as horrible as consciously dying in an aircraft fire, but more protracted.

The wartime promotion times for aircrew were : 6 months from scratch to F/O, then two years total commissoned service to War Substantive Flight Lieutenant (of course you might get acting rank earlier). In practice, out there your commission was so slow coming through that most people were already F/Os when it arrived. I believe that W/Os were commissioned straight away as F/Os. After the war ended, peacetime rules came back, of course.

Nearly time for bed,



Postscript 1: Browsing about on Google, I lighted on a link: "BBC Home",
"WW2 Peoples' War, An Archive of World War Two Memories" > "Archive List" > "India Category" > "Diary of J.J.W. Donaldson 1943".

Well worth a read. Donaldson's account of the discomforts involved in "It ain't half hot, Mum" are the best I've read since Kipling's "Paget, M.P."

Postscript 2: "Spitfire" coming on "Yesterday" (FV19) in 5 mins. Must-see !


27th Sep 2012, 15:55
I know this is a little off topic, but I have been continuing the research on my Grandfather's RAF career post WWII, and I came across this quote by Keith S. Ford in his book "Swift and Sure".

December 1949
"In December the squadron started normal route flying. Some aircrew were on route flying experience and the necessary categorisations were being carried out. Normal schedules were route flying to Singapore and Nairobi. But the squadron also participated in special flights. Interesting ones were Sunray flights, when the squadron were given the task of supporting Bomber Command. No doubt by this time all the old Halifax bomber boys had been demobbed."

Hmm I know of one veteran from 51 Sqdn. 1943-44 who was serving with 51 Sqdn in Dec 1949... question is - were there any more?


28th Sep 2012, 18:56
Interesting that you were called upon to actually "gas" people Danny. When you call them "guinea pigs", were they volunteers do you know? I seem to recall that Porton Down itself were supplied with volunteers in the 60's, though the volunteering bit was supposedly for research into the common cold! As you say, the effects could be quite devastating (the whole point of the exercise of course), even more so with some of Porton's more exotic cocktails.
As for yourselves, the previously described procedure of aiming out to sea and abandoning the aircraft would seem to have been the best emergency option, if available. The thought of trying to extricate yourselves from a wrecked machine swamped in Mustard Gas is pretty grim.
I've just read your Peoples War link Danny. Very descriptive indeed. You would appear to have a rival!

28th Sep 2012, 23:53
The CDRE's object was to develop materials which would protect troops' (and working animals') feet and skin when working in jungle contaminated by liquid gas. Treatment of gas burns on skin was another important field of research: one of their concoctions looked like cold tea, but turned out to be the finest sunburn remedy I ever tried - whether it was any use on a gas blister, I don't know.

After we had bombed or sprayed the trials areas, the Army's defensive clothings, creams and boot-dubbins were put to the test on man and beast. I believe an anti-gas cape was actually designed for a camel ! (still * used as a draught animal in North India). Dressing that creature for his trial must have been a sight worth seeing, given that there are no wild camels - and no tame ones, either ! They had horses and mules as well, but no elephants (perhaps the pachyderm hide is too tough for mustard to penetrate ?)

Note *: Could the sight of this animal been the germ of the idea for the "Camel Driver's Recruiting Establishment" joke ?

The animals had no option, but the Army guinea-pigs were all volunteers. It made sense to them. In return for some pain and discomfort, they were safe from real harm (or so it was then believed). * They had three meals a day, a bed and a little extra pay. It was better than being on th wrong end of a Japanese bayonet in Burma. If they wanted to go back there, they had only to ask. I never heard of any who did.

Note *: But when trials on the nerve gases took place after the war, we had fatalities.

Wing Commander Edmondes, being outside the normal chain of command, was responsible directly to AHQ Delhi, and so in no way my C.O. That was the S.A.S.O. of 225 Group ( a Group Captain) at Bangalore, some 200 miles away. There we were regarded as something of a nuisance, always behind with the paperwork.

But generally, we left them alone, and they didn't bother us, which suited us both. Stew and I devised a way to lighten our office work. The official mail delivery could quickly be filleted, anything which did not demand immediate response or action we binned. This saved no end of filing. If any question arose later, we'd simply signal that we'd never had the letter concerned, and could they please send us a copy ?

I had on loan from the Army an elderly Indian civilian clerk (Babu) in our Orderly Room. He did not approve of our methods. I can see him now, in his spotless white dhoti, a worried frown over steel pince-nez. "Sahib, Sahib, here is very difficulty, Sahib!"....... "What's the matter, Babu ?" ....... Of course, it would be Group, chasing us up about some return we hadn't rendered on time.

It has been said (with a great deal of truth) that the engineering side of the pre-war Air Force was run by its Sergeants, the post-war by its Flight Lieutenants - and in many cases, they were the same men.

All the aircraft maintenance and the airmens' discipline was in the capable hands of my Sergeant and his Corporals. Every Flight Commander is hugely dependent on his "Chiefy". Sergeant Williams (I'll forget my own name before I forget his, and it's been almost seventy years) was a regular of the old school.

He was a farmer's boy, and took it into his head to teach me to ride. The CDRE kept horses for experiments, and they found Indian Army cavalry saddles for us. It is practically impossible to fall out of these, and we cantered and galloped along the sands of Moplah Bay. But he didn't have much success and soon gave me up as a bad job, for I was a poor pupil, unable to shed my original conviction that a horse is always "dangerous at both ends and uncomfortable in the middle". *

Note *: It has always seemed to me that, with its vaunted intelligence, this animal should have worked out that there was no need to carry a great lump on its back when it could quite easily throw it off, then kick, stamp and bite it to death - and it would be just my luck to be on board when this suddenly occurred to some equine Socrates.

I've made several references to "we" and "us". I had a floating population. To begin with, I had Stew Mobsby (my old gunner) as adjutant, a couple of other officers - one was a navigator - and two NCO pilots. As we were intended to be largely self-sufficient, with our own Signals section, armourers, fire crews, MT mechanics, storemen and clerks as well as the aircraft maintenance people, there was a total of some 70 airmen. There was one glaring omission. There was no accounts section: I was not self-accounting.

This immediately posed a question, how do I pay my airmen ? There was no common-sense arrangement whereby the Army would pay them and recover from the RAF. The nearest RAF Accountant Officer was in Cochin, about 150 miles down the coast. He wanted an Acquittance Roll, (on which each man had signed a receipt for his pay) before handing over any money. It was deadlock, and we had to get round it some way.

The solution which McInnis had worked out was this. I got my chaps to sign a duplicate blank Acquittance Roll (they must have had sublime faith in me), and flew down to Cochin with both copies. There the accounts clerks entered each man's pay on the Rolls beside his signature, and worked out the coinage. * The Accountant Officer handed over the cash, keeping one signed Roll, so he was in the clear whatever happened.

I flew back with a bag of several thousand rupees and the other Roll, held a Pay Parade (our only Parades) and dished out the money. What would happen if I crashed on the way back ? How would they sort that out ? Luckily, it never happened and the airmen always got their pay !

Note *: No real problem, for I think they always paid to the nearest Rs5 below the due figure, and there was a Rs5 note (in fact, there was a tiny Rs1 note, about 4 x 2 in, I kept one in my log for many a year, but it's gone now), so there was no coin in the pay.

Months ago, I promised you a "Special" Post on Indian Railways (on which we spent a lot of time). Coming next,

Early night tonight, chaps,



Yes, J.W.W. Donaldson is (was?) quite a descriptive writer wasn't he ? (we must look to our laurels !)


30th Sep 2012, 23:02
We spent so much of our time on trains that it is worth while examining them closely. The rail network was one of the three great legacies left by the Raj to the Republics of India and Pakistan (the other two are the English language and cricket). IIRC, there were at least four classes of travel.

A King's commisioned officer (British or Indian), and the rare civilian who could afford it, travelled first-class. The self- contained compartment (for four) was the width of the carriage (bigger, and on a much broader gauge than in UK). It had an upper and lower berth on each side (on which you unrolled your bedroll at night), electric roof fans, and a primitive toilet (no worse than those at home) cum shower room ensuite. There were also a few two-berth coupés: these were generally reserved for ladies travelling alone.

Windows opened to let in smoke and dust. They had louvred shutters to keep out the sun, marauding monkeys and thieves, and I seem to remember a sort of mesh screen to keep out insects, but I'm not sure about that. All your baggage went into the compartment with you, and at halts you watched it like a hawk.

Second class was earmarked for B.O.R.s and Viceroy's Commissioned Officers (this was a class of the Indian Army, above NCO rank but below the King's Commission). Again, anyone who could afford a ticket (half the price of first class) could, in theory travel. But even second-class fares were so high in Indian terms (and third and fourth so low) as to ensure few takers.

As I recall, the second-class compartment was on the same plan, but slightly smaller than the first, and had more spartan upholstery. Really, it was a much better bargain then the first if you were paying for it yourself. Third and fourth were open-plan carriages; third may have had some upholstery but fourth was bare wood. Toilet facilities were of local pattern: hole-in-floor or al fresco at stops.

EDIT: Any observer of Indian trains of that (or even a much later) era will have noted the existence of a sort of "extra mural" or parasite class of traveller, attached to the sides of, standing on the buffers of, or perched on the roofs of the carriages. It's possible that these might have bought 4th class tickets and been unable to force themselves into the crowded carriage, but I doubt it.

There must have been some sort of financial accomodation with someone, I would have thought. Of course, on the approach to and leaving stations in smaller towns, the (often single) line would run through the bustee (slum) parts of town, the train ambling along at walking pace, blowing the whistle and clanging its bell through a narrow lane hardly wide enough to allow passage, and essentially pushing its way through the crowded traffic of people and children, animals and every kind of vehicle.

Luckily the all had "cowcatchers" in front, but even so it looked horribly dangerous. At these times, any reasonably agile person could leap up, find a foot and handhold, and hang on, or climb onto the roof. What happened when the train came to a tunnel ? Don't know, don't like to think !
'Elf 'n Safety ? Forget it !.........D.

Stops were frequent. Trains were never in any hurry. You must remember that India is the size of all Europe (excluding continential Russia). It doesn't look it on a map, but that is a quirk of Mercator's projection. A trip of 1500 miles is common, and that might take four days. (My record was 16 days, but that was on a "special"). So you settled down and made the best of it.

Air conditioning was far in the future, but I think I've mentioned the block-of-ice substitute available only on the major inter-city lines. For a rupee or so, you could get a maund (73 lb block, therefore seven gallons) of ice in a deeply lipped galvanised tray. You closed all windows, and shutters to keep out sunlight, ran the roof fans full bore trained on the ice (set on the floor between the bunks). This gave you several hours of welcome cooling, but as the humidity grew steadily worse in the pre-monsoon months, condensation was then a problem.

Meals on main lines were a very civilised affair. At a stop an hour or so before lunch or dinner, the guard would come round and take orders (the menu was pot-luck, always curried something). He'd then telegraph them to the next stop forty miles or so down the line. When you got there the meal was ready for you in the station dining room. The train would wait for you while you ate it. I can never remember being rushed, how they managed to run a railway on time I'll never know.

Tea was on tap every time the train stopped. The ubiquitous char-wallah (with throw-away clay cups) was on every platform, where all facilities were segregated; first and second class dining rooms, separate toilets for Mahommedans and Hindus, the list was endless.

There was never any point in timetable planning, it was more like hitch-hiking. You took the first train going roughly in your direction, stayed on it as long as it did so, hopped off and repeated the process. Your bedroll travelled with you, so you could overnight anywhere en route, and stop a few days if you found anything of interest. (There was no problem about breaking your journey at any point). Your late appearances were never questioned, for you would always arrive before your paperwork, and get the "who-the-Devil-are-you-and-what- have-you-come-for ?" greeting familiar to all servicemen.

I can never recall any kind of ticket inspector on any train I was on. It was rather like Tube travel - or at least as Tube travel was in my time - in that once you were aboard, you could travel round the system all day, provided you eventually got off at the right station you were ticketed to.

Luggage handling was never a problem, you were besieged by platform "bearers" every time you stepped out of your compartment. The "official" ones wore a brass numbered arm (or was it on "puggaree" - headband - ?) badge, but they had to fight for your custom against a horde of unofficial ones.

Deceptively frail in appearance, they could all hoist enormous loads on their heads and then set off on their spindly legs at such a cracking pace through the crowds that the Sahib could hardly keep pace with them (if your man were one of the "unofficial" brigade, it was vital to do so, or you might never see him - or your kit again).

Out of the station, the load was usually too much for a manned rickshaw, unless you had little more than hand luggage and your hotel or whatever was fairly close. Otherwise it would be a taxi or a tonga. The taxis had taximeters, but it was always "broken, Sahib", your fare in taxi or tonga was a matter of negotiation before you climbed in.

The taxi was quicker (but more hazardous), the tonga slower but safer. On arrival, there would always be a spirited attempt to renegotiate the contract, heart-breaking compassionate grounds would be prayed in aid, particularly if the fare and his luggage and bedroll looked suspiciously new to India. Counter-accusations of "loose-wallah" (thief), and reference to the nearest Police Post, usually ended the discussion.

If you were lucky enough to be going up to the hills for the hot months, you had to change at some point from the broad-gauge (5ft 6in) main line to one of the narrow-gauge ( 1-metre or the even smaller 2ft "toy train") hill railways. Most of their locos were built with centre cogwheels to engage with racks between the lines on steeper sections.

At some places (Darjeeling was one, I think) the gradients were too severe even for a rack railway. The ingenious solution was the "switch-back" layout. The line was built as a wide, shallow zig-zag in traverse up the mountainside. At the end of each traverse there was a level stretch; here the train was halted, the points switched and the train reversed up the next section of the climb to the next level at the end. Then it moved forward .......and so on. Naturally, this had to be a single-track operation.

It is difficult to exaggerate the skill and daring of the old Victorian and Edwardian railway engineers who built those railways. The bridges, culverts, cuttings and tunnels which had to be designed to carry the line through jungle and pinewood forests up the steep mountain ridges were marvels of conception and construction. Many of them must be a hundred years and more old now, and I would wager they are mostly standing as solidly, and working as well as ever they did.

Of course in my time Indian railways were all steam hauled, except for local city commuter electric services, and I think it was long after the war before diesel-hydraulic or diesel-electric finally took over the haulage of main line trains.

As far as I can remember, there were a number of separate railway companies serving various parts of the country (just as in Britain, where they were only nationalised as British Railways some time after the war). I think the new Governments of India and Pakistan took their lines under State control immediately after Independence.

Back to Cannanore next time,

Goodnight, all,


Ain't no one here but us chickens!

1st Oct 2012, 23:51
G'day Danny,
Your eloquent writing connues to evoke a fair idea of 'how it was' - really enjoying this stuff.
If I can drag you back to when you first enlisted, just for a moment... I did go back to one of your first posts and I think it answered my question, but thought I'd ask away anyway to make sure. When you enlisted and went onto 'deferred service', did the RAF give you any pre-study to do of any kind? Australian aircrew on the Reserve, it appears, were given a series of self-study subjects to complete while waiting for their call-up - things like maths and physics, theory of flight, aircraft recognition etc. As I understand it, as each module was completed they'd send it back for marking and the Air Force would forward out the next one. Some called it the '21 Lessons' and apparently it made the first weeks at Initial Training School just a little bit easier. I've asked a Canadian mid-upper gunner I know and he can't remember anything similar (but he was originally ground crew and transferred into aircrew so perhaps he's not representative), nor can an English rear gunner. I'm beginning to suspect it was purely an Australian thing (anyone know any Kiwi veterans I can talk to??), so I thought I'd ask you.


2nd Oct 2012, 00:26
There's been a BBC series on Indian Hill Railways. If you missed it the very last one is available until 8.30pm tonight on BBC iPlayer - link below.

BBC iPlayer - Indian Hill Railways: The Kalka-Shimla Railway (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00r5wk7/Indian_Hill_Railways_The_KalkaShimla_Railway/)

Your posts are so interesting, Danny, they're the first thing I look for to read!

2nd Oct 2012, 09:19
For those interested in Danny's marvellous description of India's railways here is my dad's description of the rail trip to Darjeeling which he took while recovering Yellow Fever. He travelled from Rangoon by Dak.

"We landed at Alipore, South East of Calcutta and quite near the centre of town. That evening I caught the overnight train to Siliguri, the town at the foot of the Himalayas. The first part of the journey was over the flooded area of the Ganges delta. At about eight o’clock the next morning I arrived at Siliguri and had breakfast in the station restaurant. I then crossed the platform to the narrow gauge railway and joined the little train to Darjeeling, that was to climb 5,000 ft. in fifty miles and take five hours. It is said to be one of the great railway journeys of the world.

It was most interesting in the way that it gained height. It went round and round in circles, climbing all the while, then when it got to a section that was too steep, it would rise in a series of ‘Z’ shunts, There were sections of line, about 300 feet in length with catch-points at each end. The train would go forward over the points and then travel in reverse up the next section and over that set of points. Then it would rise up the next section going forward. This went on for about six sections, up the sheer face of the mountain.

Two men sat by the front buffers of the engine and they would drop sand onto the line, so that the driving wheels would grip.

Before the train turned inland, the views over the Bengal plain were quite stunning. The first stop was at the highest point (5,200ft.) at Ghoom station."

I wonder if the RAF let's you blag such journey's while you're on sick leave now??!!

2nd Oct 2012, 10:20
KOOKABAT (#3071)

During my research I came across a copy of the "Message of Welcome" that was sent from the Air Ministry to prospective aircrew after they had attended ACSB and whilst they were on "deferred service". The letter changed during the war but this one, from February 1942, had the following wording:


Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a copy of the follow up letter so I don't know if the "arrangements will be made to help you in your studies" went as far as sending out exercises.



2nd Oct 2012, 11:48
Kookabat and Petet
I certainly did not receive any type of education whilst on deferred service and whilst I do not recall having received the letter mentioned by Petet that is not to say that it was not sent to me in 1943.
Some people were sent on short 6 month courses to university prior to being called up to ACRC

2nd Oct 2012, 12:33

It is worth noting that the wording in the later letter, which I think was used from 1943 onwards, does not include the paragraph relating to study arrangements, so perhaps whatever procedure was in place had ceased by then.



2nd Oct 2012, 14:18
Well that's just curiouser and curiouser! Thank you Pete, for that letter, and thank you Taphappy for your thoughts as well.
The wording of the letter certainly suggests that there was some sort of education to be expected while on deferred service - though without the FIFTH paragraph, as you say the later letters were, 'academic knowledge' could well be anything. Perhaps the intended meaning was to suggest that studying something, anything (at university perhaps) before call-up would help to put recruits into the 'study' frame of mind and so adjusting to the intensive learning of "specialized Service knowledge" once on a course would be that much easier.
I'll continue to ponder it while awaiting the arrival of Danny for his next no doubt thrilling installment :)

Cheers, all, and thanks again,

2nd Oct 2012, 17:25

You got me interested in this subject today and a trawl round the internet suggests that the "21 lessons" was RAAF related.

There are several sites that refer to RAAF aircrew undertaking the 21 lessons whilst on deferred service and I found the following training manual c1940:


I am keen to follow up the UK side, so I have e-mailed the RAF Museum to see if they can shed some light on what was sent out to UK personnel whilst on deferred service.

I will keep you posted on that one but would love to hear from the veterans



2nd Oct 2012, 21:51
Danny, your evocative description of Indian Railways was a particular treat for me. Thank you. It is as always the incidental stuff that strikes a chord. That you could go in any train in any direction for as long as it took as long as you finally alighted at your correct destination. Beats going round and round the Circle line hands down!
The statistics are impressive; a 40,000 mile network, a third of which is electrified. The predominate gauge (a 5'6" broad gauge) has increased from less than half to nearly 90% of route mileage. The mountain railways of course remain in narrow gauge to best negotiate the tight radius turns required. The whole network is a tribute to its present operators and of those who originally constructed it. Some of the most dramatic are the mountain railways of course and thank you, Viola, for the link to the BBC programme about the Kalka-Shimla one. Nothing much seems to have changed since the Raj, the many classes of travel Danny describes are still there. The old English Boarding Schools are still there. The mock Tudor mansions are still there. The only real change is that the winter season that saw the British rulers heading back to the plains now sees the Indian tourists flocking in to see that rarest of sights in India, snow!
Back to your tale, Danny, and the lateral thinking required simply to pay your men and the ingenious way you succeeded in defeating the Accounts Catch-22 is to be commended. Might I suggest if you had indeed suffered a mishap en-route loaded down with HM's dosh, a wise commander would have similarly commended you, but then again wisdom was not what many RAF SOs could be accused of having an excess of.
However, speaking as one whose very first secondary duty was as Sqn Deputy Adjutant I really must say that I am shocked, yes shocked, at the procedure you describe of "binning" any paperwork not demanding immediate action! No wonder you babu disapproved, and rightly so! However, inflicting horse riding upon you was perhaps taking revenge too far. I once briefly tried out that most unpredictable of past-times and can only wholly agree with your conviction of the menace of those wretched creatures!
Interesting that you say that Sergeants then ran the Air Force, and post war the Flight Lieutenants! I was a Flight Lieutenant and the only thing I ran was a Flight Deck. My observation was that if anyone ran it, it was the Corporals. One ran Flight Planning and whenever he went on leave chaos promptly ensued. The Transport Command Route Hotels, or at least their front desks, were also run by Corporals. Get on the wrong side of them and...well let's just not go there.
I do agree though that one does remember the key people in one's career. I was once "assisting" a Board of Inquiry looking into how one of HM's Hastings ended up with its nose buried in the turf instead of rising majestically above it, merely on the pretext that I had been the driver landing it at the time. In bursts Rex Oates (our Detachment EngO) with the news that the starboard main had been found fractured around its entire circumference, causing it to lock on its axle and hence burst the tyre. All directional control was thus lost, leading to the perambulation off the runway until the broken wheel found some nice boggy ground to stop in, causing us to then rotate around it, with the final impetus throwing the tail up and hence the nose down. I was summarily dismissed from the proceedings as being of no further use to them. If you are reading this Rex, a very sincere thank you!

2nd Oct 2012, 23:03
My virtual Crewroom is busy again ! Good to see you all back ! Adam first,
When I was on Deferred Service (Jan-May 1941) I got absolutely nothing from the Secretary of State (or anybody else), and in later years I never heard mention of any such letters or offers of a Correspondence Course. So I'm not much use to you, I'm afraid. This seems to be a RAAF thing, and a good idea, too. Sharpening up your Maths and Physics would be very useful indeed.

The Training Manual that Pete has found seems to wrap it up. The Letter of Welcome (Pete again) is very nice as far as it goes. I would go along with it except for the bit about "The Royal Air Force is a highly organised Service". We-el, "up to a point, Lord Copper !"

(Some may recall that the writer, Sir Archibald Sinclair had a son, F/O Robin Sinclair, flying in Burma on Mossies at the time they were falling apart).

Viola, thank you for the kind words, and for pointing me to the iPlayer tonight. It was an interesting series (I think the only one I caught was "Ooty". I never went to Simla (not Shimla - that's just another sneaky change they've slipped in), as it is the Hill Station for Delhi, and I spent my time far East in Bengal and Assam.

angels, it seems that I was right in saying Darjeeling was the line with the "switchback" system. I went up there at least once on leave; you got the night train from Calcutta (Sealdah) and changed onto narrow gauge in the morning at Siliguri.

I am a bit concerned about your Dad having Yellow Fever. We all had a jab for that, and it was supposed to be 100% effective. I never heard of another case, but Jaundice was not all that rare, and that makes you yellow, too. (Could there have been some confusion ?) Of course he could have missed his jab one way or another, but the medics were pretty hot on the paperwork.

There wouldn't have been any "blagging" involved; recuperative leave was an official attachment, a Service duty, so he would have travelled on warrant and had his accommodation laid on. (I had the same thing at Chakrata).

Taphappy, let's be hearing a bit more of your adventures, please. We've been getting a bit anxious about you lately ! - and also DFCP and 26er. We are all "well stricken in years" now, and things happen.

Please keep the questions and comment coming, chaps. It's the lifeblood of this great Thread, and helps to keep it in pole position on Page 1 where it belongs.

I'll put a bit more into my railway Post by way of an Edit soon, and I'm back in (or rather struggling out of) Cannanore in the Monsoon next time,

Goodnight, all,


3rd Oct 2012, 02:01
This time the whole letter has loaded (the top few paras were cut off the first time I looked at it), and I now see there's a reference to "equip yourself for your Air Force career by studying subjects which will help you". Presumably the 'arrangements' would be some sort of guidance on which subjects to concentrate on, and where the prospective airman would find a relevent course.
Thank you Danny, you're now the third British serviceman with no recollection of any Air Force-provided pre-training study, strongly suggesting that such a thing didn't in fact exist.
And that training manual nails it. 21 lessons, RAAF issued, and in tiny print at the bottom, something about returning it when 'the reservist is called up'. I reckon we've found our beast.

Well done, all!


3rd Oct 2012, 02:06

Your last Post crept in while I was mutinously re-typing my last remarks. Normally I always draft on "Notepad", but because things had got a bit late, I decided to cut the corner and do it on the Prune reply pad.

Why do I never learn ? Of course, you can guess what happened. And why does the malevolent demon that haunts this Thread always wait till it's all done and you're just putting the final polish on, before he puts the boot in ? I think PPRuNe should invoke the services of a clergyman/witch doctor/shaman (or all three) on a no-exorcism, no fee basis to settle this brute's hash.

Reverting to the points raised: our total-loss filing policy may not have been quite "comme-il-faut", but it worked successfully and was on a par with the classic description of a lie, which is: "an abomination unto the Lord but a help in a time of trouble !"

Yes the Indian railways were a wonderful work of the Raj, and as originally conceived, they could alleviate famine by transferring grain and rice stocks rapidly across country in time of need (the only alternative then being bullock-carts at 1 mph average while they are moving).

Of course they could equally move troops quickly to affected regions in times of insurrection, on Stonewall Jackson's military principle of "getting there fustest with the mostest". Hill stations would be inaccessible without them, although I suppose helicopters could fill the bill for the wealthy.

The Sahibs built their Hill Stations with stockbroker-belt Surrey in mind; as bits of Old England. I have always been rather sorry that our rule there ended so abruptly; it was a pity that some form of Dominion status could not have been devised.

I felt that we could have continued our association for another 100 years to the great benefit of both countries, but it was not to be. From this, you will have gathered that I am an unregenerate old Imperialist, and proud of it, which puts me "beyond the pale"'.

Your unfortunate experience with the broken wheel ended happily with your leaving Court without a stain on your character, but it does beg the question: who flew it last before you ? It must have had a fair old thump from someone in the recent past !

Needless to say, this is on Notepad now, so I defy the Demon to do his worst !



3rd Oct 2012, 09:07
Danny, sorry to hear that the PPRuNe dog ate all your homework yet again. If it is of any consolation he also ate my last post. What I have found though is that when you hit "Submit" only to be then invited to sign in again, click instead the browser "go back" arrow. You should find your work still there in its composing panel. Hold down left click and drag the mouse over the script until it is all highlighted, then right click and select "Copy". Now you can sign in again, go to the now empty panel, right click and select "Paste". The wretched hound should now regurgitate your words of wisdom as good as new. Hope that helps. What about scanning some of your docs and pics and including them in your posts? Ready to have a go? Just think of it as AFTS ;-)
It was only after my collar was released that I discovered that the Hastings mainwheels were the same as those on the Shackletons, Lincolns, Lancasters, Halifaxes, etc and were known to have a weakness for fracturing within the tyre well as had happened to me. The only problem was that this known weakness was not known to we crews, not that there was much that we could have done differently anyway.
A Hastings arrival depended on at least three people for its success; the driver of course, the Flight Engineer who closed off the power on the command "Slow Cut" from said driver, or "Cut" in the case of a Tactical Landing, and the Almighty who determined the outcome of the other two's efforts with whimsical unpredictability. Thus I thumped them in many more times than I care to remember like everyone else and am just as likely to have been the cause of my own discomfort as was anyone else. The annoying thing is that this last one was a "greaser", but all to no avail.
The other thing that I remember about that experience is that my Boss sent off a crew on a "Training Exercise" to land at the A/F where I had rendered my a/c Cat5, and where I was now marooned and surplus to requirements, to scoop me up and authorised me to Captain the return flight. I was extraordinarily blessed with good Bosses. :ok:

West of London
3rd Oct 2012, 09:27
Yellow Fever. I presume that Angels’ father was in Rangoon after it was retaken as he was flown out by Dak. I do not know what date the RAF introduced jabs for yellow fever or how meticulous they were in ensuring everyone everywhere had one. Rangoon fell to the Japanese in March 1942 and squadrons had to evacuate as best they could; even within individual squadrons some personnel flew out, some left by ship and some had to walk out of Burma. Of those that left by ship there are reports of numbers of RAF personnel dying from yellow fever whilst on board. David

3rd Oct 2012, 12:41
RAF training whilst on deferred service

For completeness, the following is the response from Peter Elliott at the RAF Museum regarding the "Message of Welcome" sentence "arrangements will be made to help you in your studies and you will be told about these in due course".

A big thank you to Peter and all the staff at the RAF Museum who are always extremely helpful.

I’ve not been able to trace a letter giving further details of the “arrangements” in our collection.

From March 1943 those who were selected for training as Pilot, Navigator or Bomb Aimer were given training in maths, general science, mechanical drawing, geography, English and modern history on “full time educational courses of six months duration [to be] held in colleges and schools… The problem was partly one of providing the candidates with the basic education, mostly of a mathematical and scientific character, which they required in order to be able to absorb the course of aircrew training [and] to form or revive habits of study, and to develop an attitude of enquiry and self-reliance in the solution of problems.”

The course was widened to all aircrew trainees in the Spring of 1944 and the last course began in September 1944. Cadets who were selected for the Preliminary Air Crew Training Scheme were placed on deferred service but recalled six months earlier than they would if they had not joined the scheme".

3rd Oct 2012, 13:06
West of London & angels,

As I recall, I had my yellow fever jab in late October '42, while at 9 P.R.C. , Blackpool. I think I had to go to Padgate to get it, so it may have been a New Thing then. Otherwise they'd have had the stocks of vaccine at Blackpool, for I think all the people going out East passed through there.

I think angels' Father came out after the '42 Retreat, but I stand to be corrected on that. It is quite possible that the "refugees" from Singapore and Malaya had not all been inoculated as they had gone out earlier.

We knew Yellow Fever was dangerous, but I did not hear of any cases in my time. The belief was that the inoculation gave lifetime protection. We really need a M.O. from those days to answer.


West of London
3rd Oct 2012, 18:17
Danny/Angels. Yes I think we need a MO. According to wiki yellow fever is not found in Asia; and yet Danny had a jab for it, Angels’ father reportedly had it and 113 squadron (who went to India/Burma after service in North Africa) reported death from it during the retreat from Rangoon.
I do not know from when everybody going east would have gone via Blackpool but my father went to India in March 1942; according to his squadron’s (82) ORB they entrained at Watton and went straight to Liverpool where they embarked on the Empress of Russia. According to an account of a 79 squadron member who was on the same ship they were not told where they were going but guessed as they had been issued with tropical kit. David

Tabby Badger
3rd Oct 2012, 19:32

IIRC; One of the many jabs I was given on enlistment in 1971 was for yellow fever. It was good for 10 years as I recall, then a booster was required.. When I was posted to Gan, I was given another, regardless.

It was a very long time ago, but the memory of shuffling in line with sleeves rolled up, past medics standing on either side of the line armed with needles administering 1 in each forearm, 1 in each upper arm, will live with me forever.


3rd Oct 2012, 23:31
I flew the last aircraft out of Cannanore when the '45 Monsoon broke. The other two VVs had gone on a day or two before to Sulur (Coimbatore) where we were to be detached to sit out the rainy season (as it had a paved runway, taxiways and dispersals).

All my MT (a Fordson canvas tilt 15 cwt, a Bedford 900-gallon bowser and a nice newish Bedford 2-ton truck) had gone down already (but not the WOT1, which we didn't need at Sulur as they had their own crash trucks; in any case I don't think the old thing would have made it down there under its own steam). The bulk of my airmen had gone with the MT or by train (only a day's journey), leaving one or two to see me off and follow by rail.

The Harvard was left behind, huddled under tarpaulins and well picketed down. Although it was on my inventory and we maintained it, this aircraft was really provided for the use of W/Cdr Edmondes as a runabout. Checking my log, I see that I never flew it at all. There was no reason to, there was always a spare VV to do all the odd flying, and that was much more comfortable, could carry more people and stores, cruised slightly faster and was much nicer handling on rough ground, where the Harvard tended to be rather skittish.

I had to get out fast, for the rain came down in a solid sheet (I think they measured 13 inches in the first 12 hours), and our strip would soon be flooded. I'd done some monsoon flying in previous years, and knew that even in the heaviest rain there always seemed to be a few hundred feet clear between cloud and ground that you could use - so long as you didn't run into any hills.

"Roaring down the runway, throttles open wide,
Second dicky snoring - he just came for the ride.
Over the treetops out of sight,
It's pouring down and black as night -
We're right a-round the corn-er.
We're right a-round the bend !" (31 Sqn. song, to the tune of "Lilli Marlene"):

My plan was to stay down and mapread south along the coast until I reached the "Coimbatore Gap", a wide pass through the Western Ghats, which otherwise run up to 6-7,000 ft in a range parallel to the coast all up the Western side of India. There I'd turn inland, pick up the "Iron Beam" (railway), wiggle my way through the Gap and come out onto the Deccan Plain.

The monsoon wouldn't have got over to the East of the Ghats so soon after hitting the coast; it should be clear there; I 'd have no difficulty following the line to Coimbatore; Sulur was just on the far side of town. Overconfident, I trundled off into the downpour. For once, I'd to close my canopy, heat or no heat, or get soaked.

Airborne, I found that I'd got my ground clearance all right, but visibility in the heavy rain was about "as far as the prop". I hung grimly onto the shoreline, but this was enlivened every few miles by a headland jutting out to sea. I had to follow these round rather than take the risk of flying across when I couldn't see what was in front of me.

And each one I followed naturally slung me off the end out to sea. The visibility got worse, and each turn back to shore more and more hair-raising. It was plain that there was no future in this carry-on; a CFIT was looking more probable by the minute.

We'd never had to do any instrument flying since leaving OTU (and there were no navigation aids of any kind here to help us), but now I had no option. Needs must when the devil drives ! Up into the "clag" I went, clinging to the AH like grim death and doing some hasty mental navigation. I reckoned that if I flew the heading of the coast for another fifteen minutes, I should be about opposite the Gap. Then I'd turn East, continuing to climb until I came out on top, keep going inland until the monsoon cloud broke up, come down and find my way back to Coimbatore.

The cloud over the hills was an unknown quantity, for in this first, most violent stage of the monsoon, there'd be a lot of fully developed "cu-nimbs" embedded in it, and if I ran into one of these I'd be in for a "rough ride" indeed. It was unlikely to be turbulent enough to damage the slow-moving and massively built Vengeance, but flimsier aircraft had been torn to pieces many times. A greater danger was that I might become disorientated and lose control; in turbulent cloud this was generally fatal. All this added up to the reason why we kept safely down below monsoon cloud for as long as we could.

If we couldn't, then the drill was to slow down as far as possible (no trouble for me: the VV only did "slow"), turn the cockpit lights full up to lessen the shock of a lightning strike (but I didn't have any lights). Strikes rarely cause any structural damage, as the current goes right through on its way to earth, but your radio may get fried and the compass goes to pot. One final precaution, lower your seat to the bottom and tighten harness straps. That way, you're less likely to get thrown up and knock yourself out on the canopy bars.

All this advice, the result of hard experience, I followed to the letter. Being Prepared, as a good Scout should be, meant that nothing happened - always the way! Up I climbed in the dark, wet cloud, until I reckoned it time for my turn. The altimeter needle crawled round, 7-8-9 thousand. I must be starting to cross over the Ghats now.

Suddenly a huge black shape shot over my head and disappeared. It gave me the fright of my life. What a big bird was doing at that height in cloud, and why it didn't get out of the way when it must have heard me coming, I can't imagine. It was lucky to get through the 12 ft prop disk and not hit my screen (so was I, but the armoured panel should have resisted the impact anyway).

Nine thousand feet, still in cloud, then ten, then eleven. How high does this stuff go ? What now ? I daren't let down over the hills in this. ("if you'd end up safe and sound, don't fly through cloud to reach the ground !"). Twelve thousand (and no oxygen). How much further ? Thirteen thousand, and I'm really getting worried.

Then suddenly things brightened up and in a few seconds I broke out into dazzling blue sky. Almost immediately the cloud broke up into long tendrils and I found myself sailing over Ootacamund (about 20 miles north of my intended track, but never mind). There was Coimbatore down on the southern horizon, so nose down and get in for lunch.

Now our happy family must settle in for a month's constant heavy rain, followed by three more with it slackening-off. There would be little flying; all our kit would get damp and mouldy, the white ants would have a field day and everybody would get "cheesed-off". (C'ést la guerre).

Get your monsoon capes out, chaps.

Goodnight again,


Raindrops keep fallin' on my head.

4th Oct 2012, 10:31
Folks, my humble apologies. I've checked back in his memoir and dad said he had 'yellow jaundice, or hepatitis'.

My mistake, sorry for the confusion and head scratching I caused!

Dad has this to say about innoculations. At the time (March 1943???) he was staying in a commandeered boarding house in Morecombe (ah the exotic life he led!!) This, of course, ties in with Blackpool.

We had inoculations against many diseases, including Scrub Typhus. We were issued with tropical kit, complete with a 'Bombay bowler', this was a large helmet, rather like the ones that the Royal Marines bandsmen wear.

We were transported to Liverpool Docks where we embarked on the 'S.S. Stratheden'. It was a modern 'P&O' liner.

4th Oct 2012, 13:22
I vividly remember having to carry Cholera, Typhoid and Yellow Fever inoculation certificates along with my passport for travelling to Malta in 1967 and to Singapore in 1969. The certificates were closely perused at the Health Check, between passport control and customs. We were required to keep all our "jabs" up to date at all times in case of a need to travel on detachment anywhere in the world at short notice. Cholera was renewed every sx months, Typhoid at two years, I think, and Yellow Fever was good for ten.

4th Oct 2012, 20:22
Danny 42C
So you have missed me posting Danny!--Two reasons---First I have been captivated by the India stories from you and others and I didnt want to spoil the continuity. Second I was waiting until your chronology got up to your 608 time.
But here goes!
"AIR BRITAIN" has published potted histories of SINGLE seat Meteors and there is one I cant reconcile.
The aircraft was with 608 from early summer1956 until it crashed at Cueta in Spanish Morocco in August---engine failure F/Lt pilot killed.
I can reconcile the Morocco aspect because that summer 608 went to Gib for camp but I cant understand the single seat part because I believe 608,like other RAuxAF Vampire squadrons only had the odd Mk7.
I contacted a guy who was with 608 from 1950-57and his recollection is that it was a Vampire which crashed on take off in very hot weather while on liason work--presumably with the Spaniards and the SERGEANT pilot was killed. In that era though I would also have thought that because of the Gibralter controversy liason with Spaniards would be questionable.
I understand that "THE KIPPER PATROL"--the history of 608 published in 2009 MAY have details.
Do you have any clues?

5th Oct 2012, 23:29

First, get on with spoiling my continuity as much as you like, young feller ! It gives me a welcome rest, and we who can recall those momentous days owe it to the next generations to tell our tale while we still can. Take up thy pen and write !

It's as well that you didn't wait till I got round to my time at Thornaby, for it's a long way down the line yet. As regards the 1956 incident on 608 (R.Aux.A.F) Sqdn I can't help much, for I left the Station in late 1954. Incidentally, I think the Auxiliary Sqdns packed up in '57.

Rooting about in Wiki, what seems to have happened is this: 608 went out to Gib in '56 for Summer Camp. There there was a F/Lt Murphy, who was in some sort of an admin unit organising the reception of the Summer Campers - (could he possibly have been i/c their Advance Party ? - not unlikely as he seems to have had their Squadron Meteor 7). This he took off one day in late August, had a DFO, the thing had enough height and speed to get across the Straits to Cueta, but then crashed and he was killed.

I think this "Vampire/Spain/liaison work?/Sergeant" business is a confused red herring. a): Spain did not join NATO till 1982, so b): if any "liaison" had to be done, the air attaché from Madrid would be doing it and it wouldn't be a Sergeant ! That leaves the Vampire. But now there is something I vaguely remember.

However, this accident happened on 608's annual Summer Camp at El Adem while I was serving as Adjutant to 3608 (Fighter Control) Unit at Thornaby, so it must have been in '52, '53 or '54, with the probability on one of the last two. If I had to guess, I would say '53.

It was a Vampire, (the Auxiliaries had just one Meteor 7 per Sqdn for I/Rs and the like - I never got to fly it, but they let me play with their Vampires from time to time). Their officer pilot was killed. There may be a possibility of these two stories having been confused in your informant's memory.

The "Kipper Patrol" I do not know, but from the title I would guess that it relates mainly to 608's war service with Coastal Command on Hudsons and Ansons. Nor have I read the "Air Britain" articles you quote. And now you have set me rooting about on the trail of the date of the Last (fixed-wing) NCO Pilot in the RAF ! Any offers ?

Rack the old memory, now, and hit those keys ! Cheers,


6th Oct 2012, 10:46
We had 2 SNCO flying instructors on 1 Sqn at Cranwell in 1964 ish - ISTR both disappered for a few weeks and returned as fg offs.

8th Oct 2012, 01:19
I got down to Sulur all right but I didn't have Stew with me. It must have been one of my lads on the flight. In that case I hope he enjoyed the ride, assuming I'd got everything under perfect control (ignorance is bliss !)

So where was Stew ? He last appears on the 11th May, when we flew to Kolar and back from Cannanore. What for ? - no idea. And he never appears again. It must have been about this time that he left to go home "tour-expired": we'd said our last goodbye. If the trip had been Yelahanka, I would have probably have been putting him on the main line to Bombay (to save him a day on the train). But Kolar ? (it's well over to the east of Bangalore).

On 28th May I flew a gas-drop at the Kumbla range - only 45 minutes - so I must still have been at Cannanore. And then nothing in June. Three flights in July, starting 5th, all admin to Cochin. Five in August, three to the Porkal range flown from Sulur (2hr 30min trips). Four in September (all admin).

October 9th, I flew back to Cannanore. So now we have the dates for Sulur: around May 29 to October 9, over four months. That's the end of the boring bit.

So what did we find when we got there? We found the Navy already in residence, to be exact the Wavy Navy, in the person of Lt. Cdr T. Neville Stack, RNVR (as were all his officers). He was a pre-war long distance record-pilot of some renown. (He had a son of some renown, too: Air Chief Marshal (Retd) Sir Thomas Neville Stack, RAF). Neville Stack senior ran a communications squadron with Beechcraft "Expeditors", nice little light twins, to ferry Admirals and their Staffs round Ceylon and South India.

Carrier aircraft came in from the sea from time to time; one day a "Barracuda" flew in in a rainstorm, skidded off the wet runway and skated across a patch of flooded grass into one of my correctly parked VVs. Both aircraft were write-offs, but there were no casualties. I see from my log that we still had three when we went back to Cannanore, so they must have given me a replacement pretty quickly. Mk. IIIs were ten-a-penny anyhow.

I celebrated my arrival by immediately going down with my third (and last !) dose of malaria. The rains had left puddles all over the place, and anopheles had had a field day. That year's nouveux vintage of mosquitos had gone looking for new blood, and found mine. I spent a fortnight in the Navy's Sick Bay - the food was very good indeed.

As I've said, we didn't do much flying apart from the regular pay run to Cochin and other admin jobs. The weather must have dried up a bit in early August, for on 7th, 10th and 11th, I flew three gas dropping trips back over the hills to the Porkal range with a Major Truelove as passenger. (Where did we get the mustard from ? - we certainly didn't take any down with us, the CDRE must have sent the stuff by road).

These trips were a bit hairy, what with the rain, low cloud and hills, so there must have been some special reason for them. Perhaps CDRE wanted to know what the effectiveness of gas might be on rain-soaked fields.

On the last of these runs we had a bit of excitement. The engine began running rough (dirty plugs ?) as we were coming back over the Ghats above solid cloud. I couldn't clear it by increasing or decreasing RPM, playing with the mixture and changing tanks. With fifty miles to go and nowhere to put it down, I warned Truelove to be ready to bale out if the thing stopped.

We tightened up our leg straps (going out with them loose may seriously curtail your chances of progeny), but the engine kept going, although noisier and noisier. We got back into the circuit at Sulur where the clangour caused some alarm. ("I wouldn't sign for that !", said Corporal (Fitter) Reavill, as I clattered round on finals). Investigation found a weld crack in the exhaust collector ring.

This happened on 11th August. Four days later the war was over - so there was no urgent need for the flight in any case, but of course we hadn't the faintest inking beforehand. In early October, Cannanore had dried out and we went back.

Next time we'll consider some aspects of that last year of war as it affected us.

Goodnight to all our faithful readers,



8th Oct 2012, 14:03
Still here, but only reading with nothing to contribute. Even typing this line is hard, but keep up this very interesting thread. Does any one know a cure for 'loss of taste'?
I haven't been able to taste anything in 8 months and all I see on TV are cookery programmes.

8th Oct 2012, 15:07

Great to hear from you ! "Loss of taste ?" - you're not alone, old chap. Don't know of any cure, but sure as Hell know the cause - Anno Domini !

God bless,


8th Oct 2012, 15:19
Fred, thank you for checking in on frequency. It is appreciated by all I'm sure knowing the effort it must involve. Hang in there, and try to find instead a "makeover" programme to watch, for they are almost as numerous as the cooking ones. I find I have no inclination whatsoever to knock through, redecorate, or put in fitted furniture etc to emulate their example. It is great entertainment especially, as is often,when it all goes wrong!
Danny, you have once again cheated the fickle finger of fate. Supposing it had been something more sinister than a fractured exhaust weld, supposing it had happened outbound when loaded with your fragile "eggs", supposing...well perhaps best not to. You have now survived the war, and especially the Far East one which, had it not been for the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would have involved a very costly all out invasion of Japan. Little doubt that your little eggs would have been involved, little doubt that you would have been required to lay them. So many ifs, so much supposing, but such is war. Those who survived as POWs, unlike my Dad, owe their lives to those two bombs, as do maybe a million others. So, I suspect, do you.

8th Oct 2012, 17:02

What you say (about the Bomb) is all too true: the alternative (an invasion of Japan) lay all too heavily on our minds in that strange "interregnum" between the May and August of 1945.

Coincidentally, I am exploring that topic at greater length my next Post (Great Minds.......?) And it is certainly correct that survival in war largely depended on being on the right side of every one of a whole string of "what if"s.

Good to hear from Fred,


8th Oct 2012, 18:15
Danny 42C
Thank you for your successful investigation of my 608 Meteor query.
My AIR BRITAIN is out on loan at present but I recollect that they too included F/Lt Murphys name. Assuming I receive the AB back I will check with them on the apparent anomaly--they list the accident among a very long serial list of what they note were all SINGLE seat Meteors. We both agree that the Vampire RAuxAF Squadrons only had TWIN seat Mk7,s.
That said it appears F/Lt Murphy did not have a passenger if it was a Mk7.
Now here is a story to break further into your Indian saga.
I have a friend, APV, who was an ex USN pilot and an aviation writer.
It must have been around 1960, in the summer, that he and several other writers were invited to go on what were to be two record breaking USAF flights. Two KC135,s were to take off from Westover AFB in Mass.--one was to break the NY- London record and the other was going to go NY-London-NY non stop.
At the briefing on the morning of the flight a question was asked about the take off weights and apparently a 135 had never taken off at such a high gross as the round trip aircraft--and this was the one where APV was to be a passenger!
A hot summer evening and the RT aircraft never made it-it was scattered all over the nearby Massachusetts Turnpike--all killed.
The next issue of TIME magazine had a picture of the ill fated aircraft taken shortly before take off with their soon to be killed correspondent going UP the stairs and APV coming DOWN, off the aircraft, with his baggage in hand!
APV is now 90+ and I think still flying a Cessna--Old pilots and bold pilots!

10th Oct 2012, 17:36
That year, like Caesar's Gaul, divides easily into three parts. From the New Year till early May we had two wars. From then till mid August we had one war. After that we had no wars. A good thing, too ? Well, not entirely as regards the middle bit.

The war in Europe ended in the spring to nobody's surprise. With the invasion of the previous summer going well (we'd got across the Rhine), and the Russians forging steadily west towards Berlin, the end was no longer in doubt. And it was obvious that it couldn't be long coming.

In South East Asia it was a different story. Although the 14th Army was starting to get the upper hand in Burma, and the Americans were steadily island-hopping across the Pacific towards Japan, it looked as if the war out there could very well go on for years. The end game would almost certainly be an invasion of the Japanese mainland, and that was a fearsome prospect.

It was soberly estimated that such an operation would cost a million Allied lives (quite likely including mine, as Chugalug has pointed out), given what was known about the fanatic fighting quality of the Japanese soldier in defence. Japanese civilian losses would be horrendous, as experience in Okinawa had shown.

So the British Government had to plan for a large-scale transfer of forces to India to clear the Japs out of Burma, Malaya and Singapore, which they had held since 1942. This was going to cause manning problems. You could hardly expect troops who had for months fought their way across Europe, or from North Africa up through Italy, cheerfully to cross the world to start all over again out East. Still less could you expect it when they would be only going out to replace others who felt that they'd also done their bit, and were now entitled to come home and put their feet up.

But - "THERE'S NO DISCHARGE IN THE WAR" (Kipling: "Boots")

So the first thing out of the window would have to be the fixed (three-year in the RAF) overseas tour (which was a hang-over from peacetime in any case). We've got all these chaps out here, well accustomed to the country and the climate (and that was no small thing). How can you send them home for release (for there's nobody there for them to fight), when you have to replace them with battle-weary squadrons from the UK ?

Let's keep the people we've got out here, and reinforce them with all the others from home. It looked as if I would now be out there to the bitter end, although the change in policy had not been promulgated, everybody knew that it had to come. And it was not going to be popular.

They cast about for means to sweeten the pill. The first idea was to set up what we now know as "R & R" (Rest and Recreation) Centres. You give your tired troops a good time for a few weeks in a pleasant spot, they'll go back to the job all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for another year or two. Or so the theory went.

How about a Ski School ? There's plenty of snow in Kashmir (already a popular summer leave venue), and accommodation in the hotel buildings there (mostly closed in winter). No sooner said than done. They chose Gulmarg, some miles southwest of Srinagar. It was a small place, around 9,000 ft amsl, with a few ramshackle wooden hotels. These the RAF requisitioned. As instructors, they called for service volunteers, who knew something about skiing (or said they did). It was established as a proper RAF unit: the command was given to a W/Cdr Navigator who must have been the most envied man on the subcontinent (what a cushy number !)

Army boots were modified as ski boots by grinding a groove round the heel to take the spring cable of the "Kandahar" ski binding. This primitive device was then the standard world-wide and lasted well into the fifties before replacement by the modern toe-release designs.

I can't recall what they did about ski kit, but they must have provided something, for khaki drill was no good in the winter up there, and very few people had blues. Probably blue or knaki battledress, with plenty of "wooly pullies" to keep out the cold, would have been issued. Can't remember. (This was not all that long after the era when mountaineers set out in deerstalkers, tweed Norfolk jackets, plus-fours and an alpenstock).

They got hold of skis from somewhere, or had them made locally, The Indian bazaar artisan can usually make good copies of anything you show him, provided it's made of metal, wood or leather (there were plenty of places up on the Frontier where they'd do you quite a decent home made Sten or Colt .45). The skis would not have had metal edges, so "carving" turns was not an option, and we were still in the days of "waxing" the soles of the skis with black wax and a hot iron.

The whole set-up was made ready to start the Courses at this School when the snows came in November. The Japs surrendered on August 15th.

That's quite enough for the time being, bit more about it next time,



Gentlemen, today is the 10th.........(again !)

10th Oct 2012, 19:03
Danny 42c
As I reflect on your posts I dont recall any mention of hydraulics and certainly I have no memory of any on Cornells or Harvards during that period of training in WW2 .
I think I am correct in thinking that the standard aircraft hydraulic fluid used throughout WW2, and indeed later, was "red oil" ,Mil H 5606 in US parlance. As an "oil' it was flammable and under pressure but one supposes a relatively minor danger during war.
Even after the war it seems that it wasnt until the 50,s when Douglas had some catastrophic DC cabin air compressor fires,using 5606 as the lubricant, that research took place in their labs in Santa Monica Ca.
There,a chemist developed a synthetic fluid which more or less duplicated the physical properties of 5606 and was fire resistant. It was important to descibe it as fire resistant rather than fire proof since under certain conditions it would combust.
A sidelight was that in that era at least some aircraft industry patent holders were given a share of the proceeds.This chemist was thus able to early retire with a continuing commision on every gallon sold!
Douglas adopted these fluids as standard for the DC8 hydraulics but Boeing resisted a change--that the fluid was a Douglas product probably didnt help!---then Boeing had a brake fire on the Dash 80, the 707 prototype, and they "joined the party"
BTW it was not just a case of draining 5606 and replacing it with this new fluid--seals,sealants and paints all were different to those used with 5606, so unless incorporated at the design stage the economics were at best difficult.This was confirmed when Boeing quoted astronomic figures when there was discussion of retrofitting B52,s with fire resistant fluid.
In Europe the BAC111 and VC10 were both designed with this fluid from the start---not so the Caravelle.
Around 1962 Swissair lost a Caravelle at Zurich. The pilot had backtracked down the runway with some thrust against his brakes to disperse fog. After take off the brakes exploded in the wheel wells and fire resulted. I believe the accident investigation blamed rupture of fuel lines in the wheel wells but hydraulic lines were also in this area

10th Oct 2012, 19:36
Gentlemen, today is the 10th.........(again !)

That reminds me. I must pay my mess bill.

10th Oct 2012, 20:13

Everything I wanted to know about hydraulic fluid, but was afraid to ask !

Brings to mind two tales told during the War by "Tee Emm". In each case a bomber returning from Germany picked up some flak which caused the loss of much of the fluid. In the first episode, the captain ordered the crew to empty their coffee flasks into the tank; this provided enough fluid to pump the u/c down when they got back.

In the second, they'd drunk all the coffee, but a last resource remained - they all peed into the empty flasks, then tipped them into the hydraulic
reservoir. Success as before !

At least there was no problem with fire-resistence !


Ps: (Old trick) Suspicious little puddle under your old banger - could be oil, but....
Dab a bit on finger, brake fluid tastes sweet ! D.

11th Oct 2012, 00:03
Danny, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! I'm afraid we can't go telling people to taste unknown liquids from the ground these days, well not without a standard declaration of denial of all responsibility. In an age where almost whole generations have lost the sense of self preservation because they've never been allowed to walk to school, climb a tree, or ride a bike down the road, they must go on being protected by not trying anything that is in the slightest way risky for fear of serious injury or even death. The latest example of the problem is the tragic case of an 18 year old out celebrating her birthday, swigging down a cocktail that was still bubbling with the liquid nitrogen that has just been poured into it! They had to remove her stomach. Presumably the military now has to first instil a sense of fear in trainees before they can then instil a sense of aggression? I came fully fitted out with a highly developed sense of fear, which has served me well. Old pilots and bold pilots etc!
The RAF Winter Sports Association planned Far East branch was new to me. These little surprises are what makes your posts a real must read, Danny. I don't suppose though there were many that regretted it was still born given the reason. Perhaps though it did spur on the very successful flowering of the European branch!
As to the Sub-Continent Bazaar Artisans, their skills were indeed legendary. Lee Enfield 303's a stock in trade I believe. One wonders what else they might have produced if encouraged; aircraft, bombs, A-bombs? Oh, they have? Ah, well it just goes to show!

11th Oct 2012, 00:45

"Still-born ?" Not a bit of it ! We shall get to the Eternal Snows yet (and this wasn't the Winter Sports Assn. , but a pukka RAF Unit. All found, all paid. War is hell !)

Same bazaars, same sort of chaps today, I would think, but would do you a fair copy of a Kalashnikov.

Time I was in bed,


12th Oct 2012, 01:19
Running a war is like a huge flywheel, which has taken years to wind up and now contains colossal rotational energy. You can't stop it overnight - it'll take months to wind down. Meanwhile, what's the best thing for your troops to do, given that you've not enough shipping to get them home all at once ? Even supposing you had, the Demob Number system, which I've explained some time ago, had to come into effect as soon as possible and take priority. Otherwise it would be a free-for-all and end in chaos.

So after the incredulous amazement and sense of relief that prevailed in those fateful first days had worn off, and after a week or two of running around like chickens with our heads cut off (reminiscent of the scenes in the US immediately after Pearl Harbor), it was realised that the only sensible order was " Stand fast" - keep on doing what you had been doing before, (except fighting), and await further orders, until you can turn the huge organisation round and start getting your troops home.

So the Kashmir Ski School opened up in the winter of '45 as if nothing had happened. Some time before the RAF had signalled all round, asking selected units each to nominate one tour-expired aircrew for a month's Course..

The signal landed on my desk. Can a duck swim ? This was too good to miss. I put my name in, tongue-in-cheek, for I didn't think Group would "wear" it. But in the chaos of those days it slipped through - attachment approved ! (for mid-December). But December was still a long way into the future, and I've a lot to tell before we get there, so I'm afraid the tale of the "Round the Bend Ski Club" will have to wait its turn.

Meanwhile the carry-on policy worked particularly well in smaller units like ours, where there was a strong sense of cohesion, and our work could continue just as before. For in this respect we were more fortunate than most, because CDRE was allowed to continue their planned programme of trials right through to the end, as Porton Down had invested a lot in setting the place up, and the information found might well prove useful at some future date (war?). They finished, as far as I can deduce from my * log entries, around the end of February '46.

Note *: remember that the Unit had other pilots on the job at the same time, and some trials used two or three of our aircraft together.

And then they "diversified" into doing the first trials of spraying the new wonder stuff - DDT, using the gas-spray tanks (hopefully well cleaned out !) I am not sure what solvent was used - water ? - kerosene ? (can't think of anything else easily available in bulk except petrol, and we certainly wouldn't have used that !) Of course, the toxicity of DDT had not then been recognised.

It was hoped that it might eradicate malaria and other insect-borne diseases which are still the scourge of mankind. A local village was chosen for the tests (I don't suppose the inhabitants were even consulted), and I believe the incidence of malaria in it was greatly reduced, but of course this experiment was too small-scale to be significant. However, that new task kept us going some time longer (I understand that 110 Sqdn took up the operation over in Takoradi (W. Africa), with VV Mk. IVs in 1946, flying out via the M.E., but had a lot of trouble with their aircraft. I know nothing more about that).

But up in North and central India in the larger concentrations of troops and airmen unrest developed, discipline broke down and there were outbreaks of mutiny in early 1946. (Wiki gives quite a bit of detail, including the surprising figure of 50,000 airmen taking part in various places). The trick was to keep your people busy - but in many places that was not possible. I was just lucky. My chaps heard about the mutinies, of course, but their only reaction was surprise at the ease with which these people seemed to be getting away with it.

Lots of other things were taking place in these few months, but they will have to wait for my next Posts.

Enough to be going on with,

Goodnight all,

Danny 42C.

It'll all sort itself out in the end.

14th Oct 2012, 05:36
When the Japanese war ended so abruptly, it had some strange consequences. There were a number of aircrew at sea coming out to start their tours in India. Now there was no need for them, and normally the obvious thing would be for them to stay on the ship as it turned round in Bombay and returned to the UK.

But these were not normal times. Every cubic inch of space on the troopers leaving for home was needed for the people going home on "demob"; the newcomers would have to disembark and take pot luck. Theirs was not an enviable situation.

The squadrons and units they were going out to join were now closing down and in many cases disbanding - they had no use for these "new boys". All the "kutcha" strips and camps would soon be abandoned and turned back to farmland and rice paddies, presumably by the original owners. The ones with paved runways often became the post-war regional airports.

Even the transit camps were bursting at the seams with homing troops waiting for "the boat". As it was practically impossible to find the newcomers a flying job, a short-term expedient (for NCO aircrew at least) was to misemploy them, on quite a large scale, as MT drivers, storemen and clerks, etc. (I believe the same idea was taken up in the UK).

The officers were more difficult to find slots for, essentially they were bundled into any corner which had room for them. My little corner did not escape. I suppose the idea was that we could give these latecomers some flying, even if it wasn't very much. The VV was simple enough for anyone to fly, even (as in one case I had) a chap who'd piled up 1,000 hours instructing on Tiger Moths in Canada, and not flown much else since his own training days.

All these supernumeraries ran my officer total up to more than a dozen, and some of them were senior to me. That left me in an anomalous position: W/Cdr Edmondes put in a call (w/t) to AHQ, Delhi; the CDRE "pull" worked its magic, with the result that I had the acting rank of Squadron Leader (and an extra Rs100 a month) for my last few weeks in post.

Accommodating all my new officers was no problem. It doesn't take the Army long to put up a few more of the tents in which we all lived. These were large and luxurious, with sand floors, mats and proper furniture. Pitched a hundred yards from the sea, they enjoyed all the sea breezes and were very pleasant to live in - in the dry season, that is !.

A ridiculous thing was that this idyllic life qualified us for a Hard Lying Allowance, an extra hundred rupees or so a month. Not only that, but I was also drawing Japanese Campaign Pay (another introduction late in the war), although the nearest Jap was two thousand miles away. Ironically, neither of these extras had been paid in the two years before, when I was living (relatively) rough, and on operations against the Japanese. Truly, there's no Justice !

Unfortunately, the first thing 225 Group knew about my acting "scraper" was when the signal was copied to them, and they reacted with the same indignation as had S/Ldr Lambert when the Dominion High Commissioners went over his head, and he had his NCO aircrew commissioned without reference to him. But three-stars trumps two-stars any day; Group had to accept it, but with bad grace. This (and another occasion in which I'd crossed swords with a W/Cdr on the Air Staff and come out on top) meant that I was not exactly their favourite Unit C.O. - this may explain a certain coolness between us later.

All sorts of things happened in those last six chaotic months before I came back home, and it's difficult to fit them into date order, so I'll tell you all about them in a series of individual stories and my general impressions (for what they're worth) of those times. More about this next time.

Goodnight, chaps,

Danny 42C.

Union Jack
15th Oct 2012, 17:37
As it was practically impossible to find the newcomers a flying job, a short-term expedient (for NCO aircrew at least) was to misemploy them, on quite a large scale, as MT drivers, storemen and clerks, etc. (I believe the same idea was taken up in the UK).

Precisely what happened to the "founding father" of this outstanding thread, the late lamented Cliffnemo, who became an "equipment assistant". Posts 1963, 1973, and 1982 refer in particular, in the last of which he and many others expressed their feelings rather spectacularly .....


PS Danny - belated congratulations on your promotion!:ok:

15th Oct 2012, 20:54
Danny & U/Jack

My late Dad Ken Crossley (later SATCO with 608 RAuxAF), on completion of First Tour as an A/G with 31/34 SAAF was withdrawn to Egypt in Feb/March '45 and commissioned then posted briefly to 221 Sqd by now withdrawn to the Nile Delta

Then as Aug events came and went was posted to Aden as MT Officer RAF Steamer Point - he quite enjoyed that posting!!! then home for demob Easter '46;

PZULBA - Out of Africa

15th Oct 2012, 21:50
Danny, your account of the post August 1945 scene vividly points up the arbitrariness of military assignments in the Far East Theatre of War. For, despite your laudable description of the realities of the logistical issues involved, nonetheless troops had to stay out there while many of their European Theatre counterparts were being demobbed and of course grabbing the civilian jobs ahead of them.
I would suggest that was the trigger for the "Mutinies" (a word that conjures up lurid and bloodthirsty scenarios while the reality was rather more mundane and clerical in nature) rather than enforced idleness per se. Another issue was the varied attempts by the Colonial Powers (including the UK) to regain the territories lost to the Japanese and ironically using Japanese troops to help quell anti-colonial resistance in French and Dutch colonies. While no doubt they were required to obey such orders coming down the Chain of Command, these were somewhat at variance to the Atlantic Charter for which the War had supposedly been fought.
These were troops conscripted for the "duration" which might well be defined as expiring August 8th 1945, or very shortly thereafter. When some at last got home it was to a gloomy Post War Britain where everyone wanted nothing more than to forget about the War, which included those still returning from it. Hail the Conquering Hero! Not!

16th Oct 2012, 01:56
CDRE decided that they needed something faster than a VV to do some high-speed drops and sprays (to assess the effects on droplet size and area covered, etc.) Everything is faster than a VV, and even though I offered to come down full-bore from 5,000 ft or so (which should enable me to wind it up to 250 mph or so), nothing but a Thunderbolt and a Mosquito would satisfy them. They put in the request to Delhi: - "Certainly, Sir !" - "Right away, Sir ! - anything else you'd like, Sir ?" - Both aircraft duly turned up (only on temporary loan, of course), complete with their own pilots and ground crews.

This set me thinking. Up to then, I'd no reason to doubt the purely peaceful purpose of our efforts in the Defence Research Establishment. But I think they had retaliatory attacks in mind (before the war ended of course): it is often the best form of defence after all, and it would make sense to see how good the two aircraft were at the job, should the need ever arise in future. They were the ground-attack types which would have been used out there had the war continued.

As I remenber, the two aircraft came to us more or less at the same time. The Thunderbolt II was flown in by a South African Army Captain (like the USAAC, they had no unified Air Force then). Capt. Van der ??? came from a Boer farming family and must have dropped straight out of his cradle into a saddle, and stayed there ever since. He gave an impressive demonstration (at least, I'd never seen it before), in which he ran up behind his horse's rump and vaulted clean over it into the saddle. The astounded beast took off like a rocket, but he had no trouble staying on board.

The Mosquito (Mark XVI ?) arrived with a fully qualified (or so he said) veterinary surgeon at the helm (sadly, name forgotten). How on earth he managed to get into the RAF from one of the most Reserved of Reserved Occupations, I do not know, perhaps under that same dispensation whereby my Metropolitan policeman room mate at O.T.U. at Hawarden had wangled it. This vet of ours wasn't very tall, and couldn't see over the Mossie's nose until he got the tail up. Neither could I, for that matter, but he could hardly see even after the tail was up !

Both these aircraft attracted intense interest, of course; we crawled all over them and the question of Having a Go arose at once. Our "airfield" was quite dangerous enough without trying to convert pilots to a new type on it. Moreover, nobody in his right mind would consider flying a Mossie without a proper conversion (and that aircraft did not Suffer Fools Gladly even then, by all accounts). I would authorise only its own pilot to fly it (and it had its own dedicated ground crew as well).

But the Thunderbolt was simpler proposition. All the big American radial singles were known to fly alike; the landing technique was the same in all cases, bring the thing in slow with plenty of power on , get close to the ground, shut off steam. Gravity would do the rest. The Captain showed us round the commodious cockpit and gave us all the "gen". All of us who had relevant experience on big singles tried it, and everybody liked the "Big Fighter". Nobody had any trouble at all with it: the rolling "bulldog gait" of its very wide u/c track attracting favourable comment all round.

I was very impressed. No Spitfire of course, but stable, smooth and comfortable, with wonderful all round visibility - a real "old gentleman's aeroplane", in fact. The Twin Wasp was a much sweeter engine than my Double Cyclone. What charmed me most of all was the power-operated canopy. Until then, I'd had to struggle awkwardly, dragging it closed and pulling it back open, while trussed up in my harness like a turkey. Now press a button, slides open ! Press again, slides closed ! Marvellous !

More about this (and the Mossie) next time.

Time for bed,


What will they think of next ?

.................................................Postscripts :

Union Jack,

Thanks for the congrats ! (Alas, it didn't last long and was to be the apogee of my "career") but it was nice while it lasted !.....D.


I suppose that after the Western Desert even Steamer Point (although I never saw Aden) might seem "cushy" to your Dad ! (everything's relative, after all)..... D.


Yes, those few years when the Colonial Powers vainly thought they could turn the clock back and restore the status quo ended in such a conflict of varied interests, ethnic loyalties and national ambitions that the area has not really settled down yet.

The "mutineers" had some well founded grievances. It was widely believed that priority in repatriation was being given to US forces in the UK and Europe. This was not totally unreasonable. A converted liner carrying (say) 5,000 could do a round trip to the US every 14 days or so, the same operation to Bombay might take 28 or more - the North Atlantic operation was twice as efficient (as a man-mover) in those terms.

And space was at a premium everywhere. The five million people we had in uniform were scattered all over the globe. You had to repatriate the American, Canadian and all the other Dominion and foreign Forces to make room for our returning people in the crowded Britain of '45 and '46. And when you had got them home, then they had to be "parked" somewhere to await the happy (?) day when their Release Group Number came up. The complications were endless......D.

Goodnight, all,


16th Oct 2012, 10:16
The RAF Winter Sports Association planned Far East branch That reminds us of the RAF Gan ski team. Anything to wangle a couple of weeks off the island. I believe the CO told them to do some training first - and water ski-ing wouldn't count.

16th Oct 2012, 12:41
The Mosquito .. arrived with a fully qualified veterinary surgeon .. at the helm. How on earth he managed to get into the RAF from one of the most Reserved of Reserved Occupations, I do not know ..

In one of the James Herriot books (Vets Might Fly perhaps?) he says that as a veterinary surgeon the ONLY role he could have was actually flying. When he was grounded due to illness he was discharged and went back to being a vet in Yorkshire, where he spent the rest of the war (and the rest of his life). He said he joined up in 1940 as he was very keen to help protect Britain from invasion.

The younger vet, 'Tristram', joined the army later on in the War as an officer to be veterinary surgeon to camels in the desert.

Your posts are so interesting Danny!

16th Oct 2012, 21:23
Thinking about the problems of getting people home at the end of hostilities reminds me of the CO of an ATC detached flight I once worked with. He was the skipper of an ASR launch in the Far East and was ordered to take it all the way back to the UK. Although that seemed to me to be a great adventure I don't think that he was so impressed at the time.

17th Oct 2012, 00:12

Was there really a RAF Winter Sports Association in the Far East in your time in Gan ? Where was it ? Tell us more ! (My place was a pukka RAF unit, except that shaving was optional).



Yes, I enjoyed the books. Coincidentally, we lived in Thirsk from '68 - '72. We took our little dog to Mr James "Alf" Wight in his surgery in Churchgate once or twice, before he made the place famous.

Also thanks for the kind words !


pulse 1,

Your nautical friend must have had a sizeable vessel (did he really sail it home ? if so, there must be a book to be written about that voyage, if he yet lives). Oddly enough, I would have been glad of his advice and experience on one occasion (mustn't forget to tell the tale).

My thanks to all,


17th Oct 2012, 01:46
your references to the demob problem at the end of the war in the Far East reminds me that at the end of the war in Europe, 4 Group were converted from bombers to a transport role mainly with the Dakota. Many of the squadrons were then sent out to India. This must have caused huge resentment in those who may have well thought they had done their 'bit' in Europe. It would of course have added to the problems ref accommodation and morale you have referred to.

17th Oct 2012, 22:42

Very true, although it made sense in the three months before the Bomb, when it looked as if it would have to be "all hands to the pumps" for everyone against Japan for the foreseeable future, irrespective of whether they'd done their bit in Europe or Burma already.

Did your chaps fly the Daks out to India ? If so, they were at risk of having them "repossessed" by the US after VJ Day, as they would almost certainly have been Lend-Lease aircraft. Then they would have been orphans in the same way as the shipboard people.

Put simply, the Bomb caught everyone napping, and all decisions had to be made "off the cuff",


18th Oct 2012, 01:07
We each had two or three "familiarisation" trips in this aircraft - although all the actual trials flying was, of course, done by the Captain. The last of us to try his hand was W/Cdr. Edmondes. I was a bit nervous about this, but as he was getting around in his Harvard well enough and had flown the VVs from time to time - he should be all right. Even so, a small crowd of us gathered to watch.

He went smoothly off the cliff edge - and vanished ! Cardiac arrests all round for a long second - and then he reappeared, climbing away. Some swore they'd seen spray blowing off his wheels (I think I'd closed my eyes !). He took it round for twenty minutes or so and came in perfectly. Nothing was said. But my blood ran cold, as a dreadful vision loomed up in my imagination. I was in the hot seat at a Court Martial.

The aircraft was my responsibility, not the Wingco's, I'd signed the Authorisation Book; the full weight of the RAF's wrath would have descended on me. I could hear the Prosecuting Officer: "What on earth were you thinking about, Flight Lieutenant, to treat this valuable aircraft as a plaything ? - and so losing it, and the life of a senior officer into the bargain ?" I wouldn't have had a leg to stand on. There were to be no more joy-rides.

As for the Mossie, the rest of us had to be content with passenger rides in the navigator's seat. IIRC, there were no dual controls, so we couldn't even get the feel of the thing. The performance was a revelation, but our vet was keen on demonstrating the s/e capability and feathered one each time to show us. The sight of an airscrew stationary or slowly windmilling did not make me particularly happy; it was a case of: "Yes, yes - very nice, I'm sure - now please get the damn' thing running again!"

My impression of the cockpit was that space was very tight. The nav's seat was set back a bit as there wasn't room for a shoulder-to-shoulder fit, how he did his work I can't think. I hope the canopy came off easily in emergency, for I wouldn't fancy my chances of getting out of the little cabin hatch down by my feet. (As I would have to get out first, I would reckon my skipper's chances even less). But you really need a Mossie man to explain how it all worked.

One of my rides was a little too exciting for comfort. Half way down the runway on take-off, at full power, the auto boost limiter on the No. 2 failed. The sudden surge of extra power on that side swung the nose hard left just as we were leaving the ground, and although the vet pulled the offending engine back at once, we were left heading for the Fort, now far too close to dodge. It looked as if my short and not particularly glorious career was about to come to an abrupt end.

But the vet hauled back on the yoke, the Mossie gathered up its skirts and wet-henned over the top with inches to spare. As I've often said, in aviation a miss is always as good as a mile. I should perhaps say that the "Fort" was not one of these tall things with turrets and battlements, but a low affair perhaps two or three stories high and a wide level top - really a gun platform to cover Moplah Bay and defend the settlement against any seaborne invasion from any other European colonial powers.

For my own benefit as well as that of any readers, I've just had a look at my log to make some sense of the nine months between the Bomb and my return to the UK. Month by month, it went like this: We came back to Cannanore in August about the time of the surrender. The rest of the month and the whole of September seemed to have been spent in a state of shock, all my flying was "admin". October, the CDRE must have received their "Carry On" clearance, we were busy back on the job again all that month and all November, and I was busy for the first half of December.

It was at the end of November and the first few days of December that the T/Bolt entries appear, so that was the start of the time our two "visitors" were with us. On 5th Dec an ominous entry: "Search for Harvard FE965" - (story to be told soon).

From Dec 13 to the end of January '46 I disappear. Where was I ? - scrabbling up and slithering down a Himalayan mountainside (colloquially known as "skiing") - another story on the stocks. While I was away, our Boer performed his super-"greaser" on little more than the inner tube on one wheel and earned his Green Endorsement (tale already told).

We were also honoured by a visit by General Auchinlech, the Army Commander-in-Chief, India, who flew in in his Dakota to do some big (?) game hunting in the inland forests. No doubt the Army component of CDRE did him proud with a Guard of Honour and all the trimmings (I hope my chaps kept out of sight !). Christmas ? - what Christmas ? February, busy again, but at the end we are dumping gas stocks. March 12 - it was all over bar the shouting - but there would be plenty of that.

However, I still have a fund of stories of these and earlier times out there which may yet be worth telling, so bear with me for a while yet, chaps.

Past my bedtime again, I fear,

Goodnight, friends,


You won't feel a thing !

18th Oct 2012, 02:03
I have a copy of the log book of one of the gentlemen I have referred to in my previous post. However I am in (sunny) Perth in Australia visiting my grandchildren. When I return at the end of the month, if you wish, I may be able to shed more light on his time on Daks in India. I do not think it would be too great a thread drift.

18th Oct 2012, 17:30

By all means let's have the story of your chap's time in India and Burma with the Daks ! Over the years we've drifted so far off this wonderful Thread that it's almost been out of sight. I never cease the marvel at the patience and forebearance of the Moderators (long may it endure), but hopefully they recognise that our old-timers' tales tend to branch off in all directions, yet still manage to come back.

In the post VJ day mêlée, any extra transport aircraft would have been welcome in the huge numbers of movements which were then taking place, but imho the US would have had Lend-Lease Daks as the No.1 on the list for the recovery of their property.

Make the most of your sunny days in Perth ! Our "autumn" has simply carried on where the "summer" left off. Hope you've got the grandchildren interested in our Thread !


18th Oct 2012, 18:09
Danny 42c--A couple of thoughts on the demob aspect after WW2
I think certainly the US and Canadian forces were very much quicker in letting people out. I suspect that in the case of the UK there was a fear that the job market could not absorb a quick influx.
There was also what was known as a Class B release.For example if you were accepted for a place as a university student you could be released to take up the offer. I think this was irrespective of your demob number
I recall a friend who tried to take advantage of this but the system was not running fast enough. He complained thru his MP and was soon flown back from Germany to take his place.

19th Oct 2012, 00:56

I think that when the Demobilisation Number system was first set up, we thought that there would be a comfortable amount of time before we had to implement it. So when "hostilities" suddenly ended in August 1945, we had no choice but to put into operation a still half-baked policy.

All sorts of anomalies cropped up at once (your Class B example, severe compassionate cases, etc) and distorted the system. Considering the many difficulties involved, I would say the demob. process in the UK worked as well as could reasonably be expected. My recollection is that generally people were satisfied with it at the time.

It was always going to be easier and quicker to get troops back across the Atlantic from Europe than to bring our people back from the far-flung theatres of war across the world - and in any case, we needed the room to house them when they got home, but still awaited their Demob Numbers before release.

Your point about the labour markets is well made: we couldn't just dump huge numbers on to ours all at once. Swords cannot be beaten into ploughshares overnight, our industries would take years to recover.


19th Oct 2012, 05:14
I do not think it would be too great a thread drift.
Dare I say it, the way this thread has drifted over the last four or five years remains one of its most outstanding attributes. Always, as Danny said, coming back to the key foundation of WWII aircrew, but covering life before, during and after the war, in and out of the Air Force, at home and abroad along the way.
Long may it drift!


19th Oct 2012, 11:07
And long may it continue to do so. :D:D:ok:

20th Oct 2012, 03:59
Don't know if this is old news, or correct, but am in Malaysia
just now. New Straits Times of 19/10/2012 mentions on page 29,
'Spitfires to be excavated'. 'Dozens of rare Spitfires buried in Myanmar during WW2 are to be dug up under an agreement
between the Government of Myanmar...' blah blah blah.
Sorry I have no way to easily quote more. Apologies if this is
inappropriate. John

20th Oct 2012, 16:47


This sounds like the old tale which was going the rounds last May (?). There was (is?) a Thread about it somewhere on PPRuNe.

Didn't believe it then, don't believe it now - unless and until I see it.

Thanks for the interest - not inappropriate at all - we all enjoy a good laugh !


20th Oct 2012, 19:33
This is the update on the story. It is not just a Daily Mail story.
I expect you far eastern veterans can give us a better idea of what effect
the climate can have on aeroplanes.
Has this English eccentric found sixty perfectly preserved Spitfires buried in a jungle grave? | Mail Online (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2219922/Has-English-eccentric-perfectly-preserved-Spitfires-buried-jungle-grave.html)

20th Oct 2012, 21:21

Interesting link. But whatever the drill brought up, it was unlikely to be wood. Look up "Termite" on Wiki - specifically "Subterranean Termites". I reckon the "crates" might last a month.

But the main stumbling block always remains the "Why". We were the colonial power till Jan 1948. So we have to bury them 40 ft deep to avoid their being stolen in 1946. Who is going to pinch 'em ? When we're chopping them up for scrap all over the place ?

If they turn up, I'll eat my hat (or would, but I think my G.P. might say it was contra-indicated).


21st Oct 2012, 18:48
On 5th December, W/Cdr Edmondes took off solo in his Harvard FE965 to do a reconnaissance round the Porkal area. I'm not clear as to the purpose, perhaps to look for additional areas which might be suitable for the CDRE. He went off about 8.30, and we expected him back in two hours at the outside. (Of course, he would be out of R/T range as soon as he was out of sight). Two hours passed, then three, then four, with no sign of him. By this time he must be out of fuel. Things were looking serious.

We signalled Porkal: they had neither seen nor heard him. I signalled Group to report what had happened, asking them to stand by until I'd decided what help I might need from Yelahanka (200 miles away). Curiously enough, I can still remember the little place we thought might be a good spot to start looking - it was called Golitattu. A search had now to be mounted, and by good fortune I still had with me the F/O navigator I've mentioned before. Now he could make himself useful.

Searches are a Navigator's business, and part of his training, and now he could put it to good use. I put him in charge of the search planning. We had to make some assumptions. There was no reason to suppose that the W/Cdr would have flown out to sea, but he might have force-landed on a beach or in the shallows. In which case he would be easy to find, the Harvard was still in its all-yellow training plumage.

We planned a "Creeping Line Ahead" search based on a line along the coast 20 miles North and South of Porkal. Roughly this would be 340/160, but we had to allow a few degrees to take account the onshore breeze, which ran at 15 mph at that time of day.

I took the first search aircraft off at about 1300, with W/O Thompsett (pilot) as a second pair of eyes. Flt. Lt. Alex Bury would come out after 1½ hours to relieve me (our third VV was u/s). We flew at 120 mph, which was about as slow as was comfortable in a VV. We followed the shoreline up to the northern point of search, but there was no sign of him, so I turned Rate 1 onto the reciprocal for the first leg inshore.

That should put me about 1½ miles inland, from 1500 ft we could spot a yellow wheelbarrow, never mind an aircraft. Nothing on the first stretch (southbound). Turn left, northbound, nothing again. Turn right, still nothing - I'd be about five miles in from he coast now. Alex appeared on the horizon, closed up into R/T range.

The W/Cdr had been found, his engine had failed, he was unhurt after a successful forced landing about 10 miles inland. The local Police had picked him up and driven him back to Porkal: he'd simply walked in there. Porkal had signalled the CDRE, they rushed over to tell us just as Alex was climbing in. Search cancelled, all go home. I signalled Group to stand down.

The W/Cdr came back by road, rather quiet and a bit cagey about the affair. As far as I know, there was no investigation of the cause of the failure. The S.O.P. was that the aircraft was immediately struck off my charge and transferred to the Repair and Salvage Unit for the area.

Although it was not seriously damaged, they would have to dismantle it to get it out, and it was simpler to scrap it. The war was over, the Harvard had never been essential to CDRE's operations even while it was still on. Needless to say, they didn't give us another one !

I thought it a bit strange. The Wasp was renowned as an extremely reliable engine. In my time on them at Advanced School in the US, I don't think I ever heard of one failing. One possibility was fuel contamination. Our supplies came in 40-gallon drums, but of course it was all filtered before decanting into the bowser or directly into the aircraft. The filter was a big square open metal box with what looked like a bit of blanket across the bottom.

Rough and ready it looked, but it was sobering to see the amount of rust, grit and (condensed ?) water which collected in the blanket. If by mischance some of that had got through...? As I've said, that aircraft was little used, but the tanks were never left part full to avoid the risk of condensation in the empty spaces.

Perish the thought, could he have mismanaged the fuel system and run a tank dry ? I cannot remember the fuel layout of the Harvard - anybody help ?

What the incident pointed up was a deficiency which (in hindsight) McInnis or I should have recognised and done something about. We had no R/T contact with the people on the ground at Porkal or Kumbla. Our (US) R/T sets were not compatible with anything the Army had.

But surely it was not beyond the wit of man (ie my wit) to get hold of a spare a/c set for the Army; they could have coupled MT batteries up to provide the 24V DC. We had the same problem at Cannanore, of course, but that one was easy. A chap with headset in the cockpit of anything on the line was "Cannanore Tower" for the moment.

Of course, for safety, there must have been some sort of "signals square" at Porkal and Kumbla to tell the newly arriving gas/dropper/sprayer: "Start/Stop/Wait/Carry on/ Go home", but I have completely forgotten it (the "Carlstrom Field Syndrome" again !) Aldis lamp ? - don't be silly. (It had been a long time since ITW).

Next time: "How Danny used to find his way about".

Evenin' all,


Man is not lost (much).

Yamagata ken
23rd Oct 2012, 16:32
Danny, a question.

Your comment about the Thunderbolt intrigued me.

What charmed me most of all was the power-operated canopy. Until then, I'd had to struggle awkwardly, dragging it closed and pulling it back open, while trussed up in my harness like a turkey. Now press a button, slides open ! Press again, slides closed ! Marvellous !

As a sprog, I saw plenty of period photos and film of Spitfires/Hurricanes etc. taking off and landing, and I always wondered why pilots commonly left the canopies open. Since then I have been led to believe that having the canopy open improved one's chances of escaping if things went horribly pear-shaped, and you found yourself stationary, upside down and strapped into a hot metal thing with a fuel leak.

Is there any truth to this?

Let's see them try that in an Me109.

23rd Oct 2012, 19:53
Scratch one Harvard then, Danny. Easy come, easy go. Pity they didn't crate it up and bury it. Worth millions now, by all accounts!
Your mention of the Signal Square stirs ancient memories of learning about them as an RAF CCF cadet at school; of red squares with and without diagonals, white dumbbells with and without black bars or red L's, red right angled arrows and of course white rotating T's. Other variants existed as well, listed here:-
Signal Square (http://www.airwaysmuseum.com/Signal%20Square.htm)
Possibly one of the longest lived items of aviation infrastructure?

23rd Oct 2012, 23:48
Yamagata Ken,

You are correct in your belief. IIRC, it was included in the Vital Actions before take-off and landing in all types where it was possible.

In the earlier smaller-hood Spitfires, there was an extra safety-measure. The fold-down cockpit flap had a double catch to close (like the one on your car door). The drill was: pull your hood full back, then open door on the second catch. That would move the hood rail on top of the door some half-inch outward, making it impossible for the hood to fly forward whatever happened, until you got airborne. Then, of course, you had to fully close your door before you could close the hood (and reverse rigmarole downwind for landing).

I might have had some sympathy with the Me109 pilot (side swing-over hood) until I met the Meteor T7 (same arrangement) and decided to save sympathy for self (for of course you couldn't take off with that lot hanging over the side).

I'm not sure, but I don't think we left any of the later "balloon" canopies (all power-driven) open in the air. Certainly not the (pressurised) Vampire, they would get ripped off by the airflow..........D.


Thanks for the link. Yes, it's all there where we remember it. Takes us back to the early days when the place was called the "Watch Office", in which dwelt the "Duty Pilot" with binoculars, an exercise book and a stub of pencil on which he recorded our comings and goings.

They often had a notice outside:"VISITING CAPTAINS REPORT HERE". Didn't we feel grand !

Don't think the USAAC had anything more than a "T". (Could be wrong, as you well remember, I can forget a whole camp without difficulty !)

Thank you both for rescuing our Thread from the doldrums,

Goodnight, Danny.

24th Oct 2012, 17:53
Picture a happy land, where there is (a) no ATC to bother you (b) no Airways or Terminal Approach Areas (c) no (notified) Danger Areas (d) no NDBs, VOR/DMEs, PARs, ILSs, QGH/GCAs, TACANs, INSs, GPIs, or any of the rest of the alphabet soup (e) no D/F kit in the aeroplane (and nothing to D/F on anyway) - in short, no nuffin' - (f) no Flight Planning, so nobody gives a damn whether you turn up or not (g) they will fill you up for free wherever you land, no landing or parking fees - and they'll give you a bed for the night !

Such a place once existed, and it was called Wartime India. There was you, your aircraft, a map, a compass, a watch and the Wide Blue Yonder. It followed that DR was king and that your skill as a Pilot/Navigator (duly certified in your log by a string of bored CFIs during your training) would now be put to the test. We mostly had a Dalton to hand, but had forgotten how to use it.

It was left to the individual to devise his own system. Mine was based on a constant which I could not forget or leave behind when I climbed in. It was my top thumb joint, specifically its length (1¼ inches). My procedure was as follows (assuming a flight from A to B). First, draw pencil line from A to B, put protractor on track and then hunt for identifiable "check points" each side of the line roughly every twenty miles.

Here the spider's web of railways all over India was of immense value. Roads were useless, and water features might dry up in the hot weather, but the railway bridges would still be there. Knowing that my thumb joint represented the map distance covered in 8 minutes of flight at 150 mph, I could easily and quickly plot an approximate DR position from time elapsed from setting Course (M).

Winds in the dry season were usually fairly light and could generally be disregarded. Essentially you "felt" your way along from the ground to the map. The greatest difficulty was your panel-mounted compass, which was of doubtful accuracy, and only had 5° markings anyway.

It all sounds very hit-and-miss, but I managed very well with it (remember when "A" Flight of 110 was led astray by a "real" navigator, but I hit the required place "on the button", following half an hour later on my own ?). At least, I'm happy to say I always landed on three wheels except for the one occasion when I'd no option.

Afterthought: do you have a Grand/Son/Daughter happily waving a "C" grade GCSE Maths ? You do ? Try 'em on this: from information given, what was the most likely scale of Danny's map ? (3 mins allowed, calculators permitted, no prizes).

Short one tonight, next time (by way of light relief): "Winter Sports in a Hot Climate".

Early to bed,


24th Oct 2012, 18:28
1:1,000,000 - I hope

Edited - long day, failed to read calculator correctly.

24th Oct 2012, 19:21

24th Oct 2012, 19:47
A-A,tut ,tut,should`ve stayed awake in Nav .lectures...!

24th Oct 2012, 19:52
I tried Sycamore, I did try. I'm sure that the Sqn Ldr (Retd) who taught ground school nav at RNAS Leeming was in the RAF on 1.4.1918 ;)

24th Oct 2012, 23:11
I'll go down with Airborne Artist then, because I think that 1:1,000,000 is the nearest likely aviation map scale applicable. There are 1760 yds to a mile, 3 feet to a yard, 12 inches to a foot. So a mile is 1760*3*12 which thanks to Danny's permission to use a calculator is 63360 inches. So on a 1,000,000 map 20 miles (the distance Danny flew in 8 mins at 150 mph) is 20*63360/1000000 = 1.27", which in good old air force parlance is close enough for Government work to Danny's thumb tip to knuckle length.
Oh, edited to add that all the above holds true for statute miles only in speed and distance. As Danny was flying a US aircraft I'm assuming the ASI was calibrated as such, otherwise I make'a the big mistake.

25th Oct 2012, 00:59
airborne artist, Fareastdriver, sycamore and Chugalug,

All spot on, of course ! (Are we sure that Junior didn't give Gran/Daddy a hand with the homework - or vice versa ?)

Chugalug, yes the US was still with mph and Statute miles in those days.
(I award him Bonus Points for Showing All his Work !)

Fareastdriver, 16 miles/inch is a scale I hadn't seen much, but it gives exactly the same approximation to 1:1,000,000 (from my data). Never noticed that before. Just shows, there's something to learn every day.

My thanks to you all for rising to the bait so promptly !


Yamagata ken
25th Oct 2012, 03:13
Late to the party as ever (asleep in Japan), but did it in my head. I got 15 miles to the inch. As an approximation, the old inch to the mile OS maps became 1:50,000, so my final figure came out at 1:750,000. That's what happens when a boy scout grows up to be a geologist. You did say DR, which I interpret as dead reckoning.

25th Oct 2012, 11:43
In the dim vistas of my memory I can recall doing DR navigation in the Jet Provost (let's face it we had [email protected]@@ all else). However, Danny, by the late 60s we had modernised with a novel invention called the graduated pencil. this worked in exactly the same way as the thumb except we had pre-marked it to the scale (which scale?) of the map we carried. Its immediate usefulness was then dependent on the remaining length of pencil after it had been re-sharpened a few times.

Even on the Mighty Workules I used a fair amount of DR to keep an eye on what the Directional Consultant was up to. It rarely failed to pay dividends in some way.

Keep up the memories. You claim these are fallible but are nevertheless completely fascinating for us sprogs.

25th Oct 2012, 21:56
"Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practise to deceive" (or to set mathematical problems !)

8 miles @ 150 mph is 20 miles, or 20 x 5280 x 12 in, or 1,267,200 in. (no argument about that).

Dividing by Danny's 1.25 in horny thumb-end gives 1,013,760 thumb-ends (fair enough ?)

Dividing into a 1:1,000,000. scale, the difference appears (as above) to be 1.35733 %. At 16 miles/in (811,008 t/es) it would be 23.3%. At 15 miles/in (760,320 t/es) - 31.5%. (but that then would be very close to a 1:750,000 scale @ 1.35733 %). Was there such a map scale ? - I ask in all ignorance). If so, the one-in- a million and the 15mi/in maps must be joint "proxime accessits". Fareastdriver, awfully sorry, but have to withdraw my previous award of joint winner to 16miles/in. (I'd inexcusably forgotten to include the thumb factor in that calculation).

Wish I'd never started ! (Einstein, thou should'st be living at this hour !) .............D.

Yamagata Ken. Yes, DR is Dead Reckoning..........D.


Kind words much appreciated. I was in ATC at Leeming '67 - '72 (last posting before retirement). W/Cdr Ramus was the O.C. Flying Wing/CFI, S/Ldr Angela (ex-Red Arrow) one of the Sqdn C.O.s, S/Ldr "Harry" Talton SATCO. You may have heard my dulcet tones on air.


26th Oct 2012, 17:42

Curiously, this is the first I've heard of your magic pencils (just shows how far ATC was (is) divorced from reality !). However, it shows how Great Minds, as ever, Think Alike.

I take it that these would only be used in the Flight Planning Room. If, however, you took them into the air to use:

How did you tether them to you (on a piece of string ?),

If they weren't secured, what happened when you dropped them down the bottom of the cockpit ? (apart from the whack on your bone dome which bid fair to compression-fracture a cervical verterbra or two).

Did your instructor then invert the thing and pick it off the canopy ? (this actually happened to me once in a Harvard in the States).

All shows the innate superiority of the Thumb Method.

Cheers, Danny.

26th Oct 2012, 17:53
Strange things get into JPs...I was at Linton in 1971/72 and remember a seat being removed for servicing...beneath which was discovered a meat pie with one bite out of it!! One can only conjecture what attempted lunch recovery manoeuvres were attempted...

26th Oct 2012, 19:03

Thumb joint = (8mins @ 150 mph) 20miles. Your figures.
Thumb joint =1.25 inches. Your figures.
Therefore 1.25 inches=20miles. Everybody agrees.
Five 0,25 inches = 1.25 inches.
0.25 inch = 4 miles
Four 0.25 inches = 16 miles.
1 inch = 16 miles. 16 miles/inch

I am assuming that you did not have aviation maps at that time in India as there were no aviation thingies to map. India was British and the first maps in the UK were 6 inches to the mile and at your time 4 inches/mile was de rigeur. India was too big for general large scale mapping so outside the main cities they would have been fairly snall scale showing only the three ‘Rs’, roads, railways and rivers plus cities and notable towns. Mountains would have been shown by hashers, a series of dashes indicating a wall of rock of some indeterminate height. We used this type of map in North Borneo in 1966 nicely decorated with white patches marked ‘relief data incomplete’. The people that knocked up these maps in India would have probably been guided by experience in England and could well have gone for a multiple of the 4 inches/mile format; ie 16 miles/inch.

I claim First Prize.

I was in ATC at Leeming '67 - '72 (last posting before retirement).

So YOU belonged to the bunch that brought out those rules about Avgas and Avtur lines at Leeming just because somebody tried to fill up a Basset with jet fuel.

I was leading a pair of Pumas from Odiham to Otterburn to lift some guns around for the Royal Artillery and we went into Leeming to refuel. On board I had an Air Vice Marshall who had just taken over 38 Group and wanted to see how his troops performed.
On arrival the Air Trafficess was of the belief that all helicopters were petrol driven so we were guided and then shut down in the Avgas line. It was a chilly day so I had lent the AVM my combat flying jacket whilst we refuelled. They had sent an Avgas bowser so we shooed it away and told them to bring an Avtur example. This was refused because Avtur bowsers were prohibited from crossing the Avgas line. There was a bit of a confrontation about this and eventually a Sqn Ldr groundocrat told us that if we wanted them refuelled we would have to PUSH (5.5 tonnes) our aircraft to the Avtur line.

At this point my Air Vice Marshall took my jacket off.

We didn’t seem to have any trouble after that. What was annoying was that the bowser driver told us he had refuelled a DH125 parked next to us, also in the Avgas line, less than an hour previously.

After that that AIP had a note for Leeming that if an inbound aircraft had a senior officer of Air Rank on board than the tower was to be informed on first contact. This unique instruction was still around at the turn of the century.

26th Oct 2012, 21:47
Danny we overlapped - stude on BFTS at Leeming! Sqn Ldr Angela was the boss. Some how they got me through!

27th Oct 2012, 02:14

Once again I sit on the penitent's bench (my default position!).

You are of course, absolutely right mathematically. But we did not use any Miles/inch map scales for navigation in India (or later in UK, do they use them now ?) I think the only ones in general use were the 1:1,000,000, 1:500.000 and 1:250,000, and IIRC, we got by with just the million map out there. (I think the 1:750.000 was a red herring, was there ever such a thing ?)

So in setting the question, I had only these maps in mind, and so caused the confusion. Mea maxima culpa !

Even in comparison with 15 mi/in, you are the clear winner. Differences from a million:- 16m/in (1013760): +13760, 15mi/in (950400): - 49600.

I am sorry that my old station should have treated you in so boorish a way (I hope it was not in my time ! - But it shows the value of having an Air Marshal around). There was sense in separating the refuelling lines. Valley had a case a long time ago when a Pembroke or a Devon or something of the sort was refuelled from an Avtur bowser (or was it even worse, a water bowser ?). Unluckily, there was enough good stuff in the fuel lines to get it up; it splashed down in Caernarvon Bay and I think there were casualties.

My sincere apology for the misunderstanding.........I have pleasure in awarding you the (Virtual) Prize....Summa cum Laude.....D.


I have found meat pies warming up nicely in the tail-pipe of a recently landed aircraft, but as a Foreign Object in the cockpit, that takes the cake ! (or rather, pie). Wonder how many hours it had put in ? Did JPs have a "G" meter? Any record of excessive negative G after pie-recovery efforts ?...........D.


Welcome aboard ! Why not tell us your story from the sixties ? (pace the Moderators: I hope they would allow). It pleases us old codgers to hear of you youngsters suffering as we did.............D.

Bedtime. Goodnight, all,


27th Oct 2012, 07:56
This unique instruction was still around at the turn of the century.

It's still there:

RMKS 12. Operating authorities are to notify movements carrying pax of Gp Cpt rank or above.

I recall going there in a JP5 from Cranwell once with my QFI. Leeming ATC asked us the bizarre question "Do you have any Group Capatains on board?". Quick as a flash, my QFI responded "Hang on and we'll have a look!".....:\

It was some bizarre instruction left over from the days of the infamous 'PCL', dictator of Leeming and loathed by all.

The Avtur in a Basset accident was at RAF Valley in July 1973. Double engine failure on take-off, XS783 of 26 Sqn didn't ditch in Caernarfon Bay, but crashed near the aerodrome, killing the navigator and badly injuring the pilot.

27th Oct 2012, 18:23
Fareastdriver and BEagle,

I do not recollect * the infamous Instruction (or the two refuelling park lines) at Leeming in my time (ended Dec '72). Nor does the cryptic "PCL" ring a bell. It is possible that these events came later.

My O.C. (F). was unfortunately named, incurring the (not unkindly meant) obvious nickname "Igno" from his subordinates (but not in his hearing!).

* There appears to be no limit to what I have forgotten and can forget. Conversely, I remember things which simply are not.

Having said that, if the suggestion which led to the Instruction emanated from Leeming, I have a good idea of the source.

ATC has good reason to enquire who (or what !) visitors might be bringing in. I shall tell a good tale of my later days in ATC, but will not shoot my own fox now, but only say that some pax have more than two legs (and no, you'll never guess it in a hundred years).

BEagle, I admire your QFI's quick wit (he can only have been an Irishman). And thank you for the fill-in on the Valley misfuel incident. This would be some months after I retired, but I still have a trace of a lingering memory of a much earlier similar case at Valley where water was involved; this happened when I was still serving, but I can trace nothing now.

Bit of useless information: in 1946 a 1931 car would run on a mixtue of 50% "Pool" petrol (rotten stuff, severely rationed and 1/8 a gallon) and 50% paraffin (unrationed and 9d a gallon), but not from cold. But there was a way round that (ask Grandad). Strictly illegal, of course; the bobby on point duty would sniff suspiciously, but you were away by then.

Sorry, Mr Moderator, but old men ramble,


28th Oct 2012, 10:57
When I was a lad I used to sit on the mudguard of a Fordson tractor that used to have two fuel tanks. A small one with petrol to start and warm up and another with paraffin with which it would run all day.
Just behind me on a bumpy field would be a towed wheat cutter/binder that was a mass of cutting knifes and guiding spikes. If I had fallen off I would have been a goner.

28th Oct 2012, 11:18
Bit of useless information: in 1946 a 1931 car would run on a mixtue of 50% "Pool" petrol (rotten stuff, severely rationed and 1/8 a gallon) and 50% paraffin (unrationed and 9d a gallon), but not from cold. But there was a way round that (ask Grandad).

Fit a second tank with a switch-over valve would be one solution, but do tell ;)

28th Oct 2012, 18:27
Fareastdriver and airborne artist,

Yes, the dual-tank would have been one solution. I remember a yacht, you cranked up on petrol, by the time you cleared the harbour mouth it was warm enough to go over to paraffin until you hoisted sail.

No, it was simpler than that. (Reluctantly shooting another of my foxes) Procedure:- Open (side-opening) "bonnet", very simple carb, fixing bolts (two) off float chamber in a few seconds, remove chamber, chuck out contents, fill with "Ronsonol" lighter fluid (from any tobacconist), replace.

Swing vigorously on bent wire * in front, thing should fire-up from cold. By the time it had worked through the Ronsonol it would (usually) keep running. Of course, you always had to keep a bottle of the stuff in the car.

* Why, oh why, don't we still have 'em ? So useful !

Having confessed to a felony (or at least a misdemeanour !),


28th Oct 2012, 18:47
Whilst doing my Advanced Flying Training in Vampires in 1964 at Linton an Anson arrived and was duly refuelled. As Ansons were fairly rare beasts by then we all piled out of the crewroom to watch it depart. It got to about 600' whereupon it disappeared in a cloud of white smoke shortly to re-appear coming back. Yes you've guessed it it had been refuelled with Avtur. An airman was court martialled I seem to recall over the incident. The Anson touched down going downwind on the active runway and was towed in.


cockney steve
28th Oct 2012, 23:02
Well, having eagerly devoured this thread since it's inception, I can now make a very small contribution.

Petrol-paraffin marine-engine...Morris VEDETTE. start and warm on petrol and then switch the fuel over. At Leigh on sea, there used to be an old boy working a large open clinker pleasure-boat. I got to know "Snappy" Noakes quite well , The boat, Silver Spray was Vedette powered and every year, a Board Of Trade inspector would check the internal condition of said engine befoer the local engineers were allowed to reassemble it......the sister boat worked off Chalkwell beach but it retained it's large traditional Gaff rig.

Rooting through my late partner's hoards, i have discovered a tiny diary written , I think, by one of her uncles who was in RAF motor transport during the war. the diary only starts Dec 1 1944.

Of interest to the thread:-

Feb. 1st.(1945) based in DURBUY, Ardenne.
"billet now in castle here in forest and mountains. Gun fire going on all day. Germans not long gone.
Feb.2. Site full of mines and dead gerries and yanks,nobody seems to care about them. Bodies perfect in snow.

Feb.3 Have to wear khaky. Yanks shooting at us at night thinking we are jerrys,
Feb.4. getting khaky greatcoats as well as blue. Still at Durbuy.

Feb 14. had a nice walk thro woods-plenty of mines Hundreds of planes going over tonight...................................

Feb, 22 Went to Verviers near aachen via Bayeux Bomal Liege Vielsalm Saw good show Had on our blue and civvies and yanks could not make us out...........

March7 Halifax crashed in mine field at site. 1 killed outright. 2 died on way to hospital. Went to verviers.................

March 22 Mosquito and Halifax collided in air 8 dead. Only rear gunner escaped. all buried here............

Sorry, that's all the Aviation content there is.

I think he was a Mr. Greenwood who would have been her (my partner's) mother's brother, as her father(and her) were Thomas.

Hope this is of some interest.

29th Oct 2012, 01:23
cockney steve,

Of course it's of some interest, Steve ! I must say the tale of our airmen having to disguise themselves as pongos to avert incoming friendly fire is a new one on me. But it makes perfect sense in the circumstances. With the Battle of the Bulge just over, dark winter days in a snowy landscape, and everybody jumpy, it would be easy for anyone (never mind a Yank) to mistake an erk in RAF blue for the field grey of the Wehrmacht.

I was a bit puzzled at the trip from Durbuy (Ardenne) to Verviers via Bayeux (???) (Bayeux is in Normandy at the base of the Cotentin peninsula, miles to the West - home of the famous Tapestry, well worth a visit). Your chap seems a bit off the beam there.

Did he get as far as Aachen ? Went through it many a time from Cologne (Volkspark) to go on watch at Geilenkirchen. Charlemagne's cathedral is the place to see.

Marine engines, not a Vedette in the boat I was in (half-crown trip round the bay, catch a mackerel or two for tea if lucky), probably a Petter or Lister.......D.


With the poor old engines popping and banging in disgust at their fodder, I'd put it down in a hurry downwind (or any other way) - wouldn't you ?

Scandalous story told to me (for which I cannot possibly vouch), by a fellow ATC (ex-wartime pilot) in early '50s. Kicked out (like all of us) in '46, he had got a job on the sales side of Avro's, proved pretty good at it, and was promoted to the point where he negotiated directly with the contracts people in the Air House.

Choosing his man carefully, he fed and watered this chap royally on expenses. They went back to the chap's office: he came out with a contract for Anson spares which would keep the things flying till the end of the century.

Couldn't happen, of course. (But they did last an awfully long time).........D.

Goodnight to you both,


29th Oct 2012, 01:49
In recent Posts (#3101, p. 155, & #3107, p. 156), I've told of the establishment of the RAF Ski School in Kashmir at the war's end. Group had passed on my application, and now my number came up for the (second, I think) Course in mid December.

Authority for this detachment came with a very valuable "perk": first-class priority for air movement. With all the travelling going on, I would normally have had very little chance of getting on Transport Command's regular internal flights, and the trip up India from south to north might take me a week or more on rail. Now I would be at the front of every queue for the next plane. The RAF's generosity had limits. The priority was good only for the journey to Kashmir. You're on your own on the way back , chum !

I flew a VV up to Santa Cruz (Bombay) with a pilot to take it back. Air Movements honoured my priority, and I was on the next Dakota to Delhi. I spent the night there, and next morning (as they had nothing going where I wanted ), they put me on Indian National Airways (civil) up to the Frontier. This sounds very grand, but it was only a little Beechcraft "Expeditor", a small light twin with about seven seats (the Navy used them at Sulur). Never mind, it got up there all right and I landed in Rawalpindi, the very town where my father had been born, seventy years before, to an Army familily in the great days of Empire.

There the magic carpet signed off. Rawalpindi (then a RAF parachute school) flew into Srinagar weekly during the summer. But the snows had closed Srinagar until Spring. No helicopters in those days. The only way into Kashmir was by road. And the only vehicle for the trip was the local country bus. With considerable misgiving, a group of us squeezed ourselves and our kit into this ramshackle and malodorous contraption, and headed north into the mountains.

The road grew terrifying. Cut into the hillside, it was barely wide enough for one vehicle, with unguarded drops of hundreds of feet at the edge. Like many of the hill roads, it was "gated". This works like a single-track railway, except that it was a timed system. Northbound traffic is allowed through for two hours, say, then the last vehicle through carries a token and the Northbound gate is closed. When the token gets through to the other end, the Southbound gate is opened for two hours, and so on.

That journey (and the return) lived long in my nightmares. Every mile or so the gruesome remains of a truck or bus which had gone "over the khud" could be seen far down on the riverbed boulders below. The driver chose the most dangerous bends to let go the wheel to relight his "bidi". We died a hundred deaths. The hillmen on the bus were not in the least perturbed. We envied them their Asiatic fatalism.

It was not our destiny to perish that day. At last we reached Srinagar. A night in an Army Mess there, and we were ready for the final leg. Another retrograde step, now we were on ponies. No feat of horsemanship is implied. The ponies were led, it was about as exciting as a donkey ride on the sands. It can't have been far up to Gulmarg, * for I can only recall being in the saddle for two or three hours.

* Wiki tells me that it is 35 km. We must have been trucked for most of the distance, but I can't remember now.

It was December and very cold. We were two or three to a room, the only occupants of the wooden hotel buildings. During the day we were either on skis or in the Mess, keeping fairly warm. In the evenings each room got an allowance of a maund of firewood (82 pounds, the standard load for a porter). Our bearer would light the fire after tea, we'd huddle round the glow, swapping ski stories until the wood ran out. Then we had to bury ourselves under all the blankets and coats we could find, and shiver.

Goodnight all,


(It ain't half cold, Mum!).

Yamagata ken
29th Oct 2012, 14:13
Thanks, as ever, for the skiing post Danny.

It would have been army boots (ammo), cable bindings and wooden skis. Add in open piste (chop and slop), telemark turns (free the heel) and battledress. My guess is there would have been a lot of walking uphill and falling down. How was it for you?

me culpa. It was me who came up with the 1:750,000 map scale, not an opinion, simply the number I calculated in my head. (My lower thumb knuckle is 1 5/8").

29th Oct 2012, 14:43
Danny, I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief to learn that you survived the penultimate leg of your multi-modal journey to Gulmarg. To have come to grief during a civilian bus ride up an Alpine-like gorge having emerged (almost) unscathed from the war in the Far East would have taken some explaining, I would suggest.
As it is I struggle to see the appeal of this ordeal, particularly as your warmth stemmed from an all too limited bundle of sticks per day. But we have learned enough of your willingness to embrace any new experience to know that once the establishment of the RAF Ski School in Kashmir was announced, Danny's presence there was a forgone conclusion.
However, the casualty rate on the Alpine slopes every season is well known. How much more hazardous were the underdeveloped runs in Kashmir? I have a dreadful premonition that we are about to find out. Is it too late to beg you to take care, Danny? Probably!

29th Oct 2012, 15:30
I have returned from my trip 'down under' and have access to the copy of the log book I mentioned in a previous post . But first I must make it clear that although I have permission to quote from it I cannot divulge the name. Should anyone be astute enough to work it out then I would ask that they respect the anonymity as requested. The person who is the subject of the log book died many years ago. If you will bear with me I will post the information in stages.
He qualified in 1941 as an Air Observer Armament after finishing his course at No 5 Bombing and Gunnery School at Jurby. His entire flying training , including Navigator training having taken 5 months. His training was undertaken in Ansons and Blenheims. From there it was to No 10 OTU at Abingdon for more training on the Anson and Whitley before his first operational posting to 78 Sqn at Middleton St George on the Whitley. I served at Middleton in 1961 on 33 Sqn (Javelins). More next time.

29th Oct 2012, 16:32
Aircrew and 'death planks'?

Never a terribly safe combination!

W.r.t an earlier post, 'PCL' stood for 'Power-Crazed Loony'. Which was most apt!

29th Oct 2012, 19:57
Yamagata Ken, Chugalug, ancientaviator and BEagle,

Deeply touched as I am by all your tender concerns for my wellbeing, I fear I must just let the story unfold. Then all will be made clear. Reflect that, whatever else may have happened, I'm still here !


Telemark ? - us ? You jest ! I suppose we could have put "skins" on and got uphill that way, but there was a better idea.

1:750,000 ? You are quite forgiven........D.

Chug (if I may),

Be of good heart ! (My Guardian Angel had to work hard, though)........D.


Welcome home ! Your secrets are safe with us. Certainly we will bear with you - get typing.......D.


Too true..... PCLs ? Which one ? (I've met quite a lot - wasn't at Shawbury, was it?).........D.

Part 2 RTB SkiClub on the stocks. Thank you all for your interest so far,


29th Oct 2012, 21:02
Well Danny, you certainly started a fashion.

Gulmarg is a nice little place in the Baramla district of Jammu and Kashmir. Popularly known as the “Heartland of winter sports like skiing in India” the place is the 7th best skiing destination of Asia

30th Oct 2012, 10:17
'my' Observer flew Ops to the usual places in the Whitley until April 1942 when 78 appears to have converted to the Halifax. He flies on Ops on the Halifax until Jan 1943 when he becomes an instructor at 1658 CU at Riccall.
Six months later he is back on Ops with 78 Sqn and is on amongst others the Peenemunde raid. At some stage he must have been commissioned (I do not have his Record of Service) as by Nov 1944 his logbook has him as the 'A' Flight Commander on 78. By the start of 1945 he is a squadron commander with the DFC. All of this in 4 Group. Not bad for HO Observer. But 4 Group had a habit of appointing non pilots as Sqn Commanders. Witness W/C 'Lofty' Lowe who was OC 77 Sqn in 1944. He was an Air Gunner. More later. Trust me we are on track towards Danny's India with only minor deviations !

30th Oct 2012, 15:49

I don't think the RAF Ski School actually started the fashion. I think the Army had done a bit up there in earlier years, right back to the Norfolk Jacket and Deerstalker days - and the Victorians were pretty adventurous, too. How much business they're managing to do now in current semi-war conditions, I can't imagine......D.

ancient aviator,

Your chap certainly had a meteoric career ! But in those days the trick was to be lucky and stay alive, promotion was then a matter of "filling dead mens' shoes" (literally). "Don" Bennett was an AVM before he was 30, I think. There were 25 year old Group Captains. (Nothing in this detracts in any way from your man's gallantry and ability, of course, it's just the way it was).........(What was an "HO observer" ?).........D.



30th Oct 2012, 23:45
Mornings were torture. Everything froze. The ink froze in our pens. Shaving was quite out of the question; a Standing Order of the unit allowed us to grow beards for the duration of the Course (I believe this concession was unique in the RAF at that time). The results were very mixed.

Shared hardship bound us together, we formed a "Round the Bend Ski Club" for alumni of the School. The locals were good woodcarvers, they turned out a Club tankard with a metal liner (beaten out of old tin cans). It was embellished with a carving of a bearded figure hurtling down a slope on skis. *

We had a Club song, but all I can remember of it now was the refrain (to the tune of the "Camptown Races"):

"Oh, Suzannah, why don't you marry me ?
For I'm comin' down the Red Run with a bandage on my knee !"

They'd laid out a nursery slope close to the hotel. We kept ourselves warm and developed our ski muscles herring-boning up and snow-ploughing down with varying degrees of success. None of us had skied before, and I don't think our "instructors" had done much. We worked it out as we went along. They'd prepared a booklet of helpful hints, most of which described the various kinds of avalanches and how not to start one. It was not encouraging.

After the first ten days, we graduated to the upper slopes of the mountain. I can't remember its name, but it went up to about 10,000 ft. There were no skilifts, ** so how did we get up to the top of the aforesaid "Red Run" ? (I think it was the only run).

* I have it still somewhere, together with a set of "liar" dice (the prince of all bar counter games - it has the added advantage of greatly slowing down the rate of drinking).
** There are now. Gulmarg has been developed into a proper ski resort.

Ponies again. You rode the pony, the pony-wallah shouldered your skis (matchsticks for a hillman to carry), and led his beast. These mountain ponies needed to be very sure-footed, for in places they had to climb an ice staircase hacked out of the slope. Every so often a pony would slip, and you had to bale out smartly before your beast rolled on top of you.

At the top of the run the pony went down to pick up the next man (there were several ponies in the chain, of course). IIRC, the pony-wallah got As2 per trip, which was nothing to you, but would mean that he would gross As4 per hour. Reckoning a six-hour day, this was Rs1 As8 per day, or Rs45 per month. His beast got well fed for the first time in its life; the rest was an absolute fortune to the owner in an area where normally there was nothing coming in during the winter at all. In summer they herded their goats and tilled the tiny terraced fields, and of course there was the "tourist trade" of chaps on leave and a few civilians. But in winter they lived on their fat - until we came along.

There is no point in going into detail about the techniques taught on our descent, and in any case I've forgotten. Wisely, the "instructors" made sure that our cable bindings weren't screwed up too tight (was there a little turnbuckle ? - can't remember). Then when disaster struck (as it always did before long), the heel could rise a few inches before the safety strap at the back pulled the cable spring out of the boot groove and released the ski. This would be on the end of a bit of line attached to you to prevent it from escaping and reaching Mach unity on its lonely way down.

There was a sunny, sheltered spot somewhere at the bottom where you were pretty well on the direct line of the final schuss. Warmed with a mug of chai in a deck chair, you watched in growing amusement as a stick figure appeared from the trees at the the top of the last slope, and was now accelerating to the finish line. Body language can be interpreted from afar. Even foreshortened, you could see confidence melt into uncertainty, then doubt followed by apprehension, then the inevitable disaster, with arms, legs and skis flailing round in a cloud of snow and ice fragments.

Last part to follow. Goodnight, chaps,


Many are cold, but few are frozen.

31st Oct 2012, 09:34
my apologies, HO was Hostilities Only, and referred to the alleged length of time personnel could be required to serve. His last trip was in April 1945 to Wangerooge. Interestingly all his trips as 'boss' are logged as Air Bomber' A full circle back to his initial qualification. In July his log book has the entry 'Transferred to Transport Command' and the Halifax entries are replaced by those of the Dakota.But they are still flying from his bomber base. Then in August the squadron moves to Broadwell in preparation for the move to India. Confusingly by this time all his Dakota entries are as 'Co-Pilot' ! More next time but I must make it clear that all spellings are as they are recorded in his log book. I am sure Danny will know better than anyone the pitfalls that can befall anyone when it comes to Indian names.

31st Oct 2012, 11:28
Danny, the more you relate of your "jolly" at the RAF Ski School, the more I suspect that it was in reality a Winter Survival School! Could it be that "they", having moved everyone out to the Far East and seeing that requirement end unexpectedly , now planned moving them all back again to the European Theatre for the probable next fixture as predicted by Churchill at Fulton Missouri? Fanciful perhaps, but how else can we explain the dreadful ordeals that were visited upon you at an alleged recreational facility? I suspect that the Iron Curtain might have cast its shadow over Gulmarg, half a world away. On the other hand of course, it might just be yet another example of the seriousness with which the British have always taken their leisure pursuits!

cockney steve
31st Oct 2012, 13:55
Greetings, Danny and thank you for your kind words.

I've done a bit more delving and now I'm pretty certain that this is our correspondent:-
LAC Harry Thomas 2217848 released 29 03 1946 5013 squadron RAF

His "service and release book"states that overseas service was 15 months and 20 days and he was awarded the France-Germany Star. served in "RAF UR" (or could that be "VR") His rank was AC2 and his ID card for "mechanical transport drivers" states "available from 19 12 44 to 18 12 45......so this must have been issued annualy. Born 30 7 1912, he was quite old by standards of the day, so I'd guess that the W.D. were "scraping the barrel " when they called him up-all 65 inches!

Anyway, back to his diary

Jan 31 left florenze 10-o-clock Arrived Durbuy in ardennes at 3.30 via dinant-siney-avelange-maffy-durbuy.

Feb 16 had walk to barvaux johnny took some snaps
feb 17 worked until 10
Feb 18 had a rest. unburied Germans beginning to skin & smell. No time to bury them yet.

Feb 19 Special day My darlings birthday. many happy returns love. xxxx

Feb 20 Nearly bought a watch in BAYEAX * for £15-10-0 but changed my mind

*could this be BAVEAX?

Feb 21 nothing doing.....................................

Feb 28 Been to Verviers again. Got stuck in yank tank convoy going to front. Hundreds going up all day must be something big on.........................

March 11 Yanks pulling our Bailey bridge down for over the Rhine.
March 12,13,15 nothing to report
March 13 one of lads, playing with tank mine killed.
March 16 Went to liege it sure has had a battering
March 17 nothing new....................

March 21 first day of spring lovely day. Went to Liege with Johnny and Freddie.....................

March 24-28 nothing to report.
March 29 Went to Liege with Johnny.
March 30-31 nothing to report.
April1 Moving to Germany as soon as line is static.............
April 4,5. At Brussels on 48 hrs. rest.Been to see belgian show. Not so good. billeted at Toc H
April 6th. Back at zuzerian
April7th. got to pack for move to munster
April8th. Officers having a farewell party but we may not move now for 2 weeks.
April 9,10,11,12 nothing to report
April 13 went to Liege
April 14 Had good PX ration 16 bars chocolate 5 pkt. Spearmint 400cigs.
april14 Had a good pic. show.
April 15 16 packing up in readiness for Germany
April 17: 18 left ZURAINat8.30 for southern Germany via BARVEUX,LIEGE,AACHEN,LIMBOURG,STALBOURG,DUREN,ZULPICK,RHEINB ACH,Ccrossing Rhine at REMAGEN & staying night.
April 19 20 After Rem. we by passed a wood &travelled 100 miles on a auto bann through Montbarr to crossed river Main to frank fort & Nien Rodent
Aschhafenborg aeindafild tauber- eisicheishein & on to Bad -Morgenthien.

April19 Went to Wurtburg in Bavaria or at least what is left of it for ration........

Well, that's all for today. It may be that the roads were so bad, or there were pockets of Enemy, that they had to divert....but he did make AAchen!

Writing gets a bit scrappy when he gets to Germany,-He seemed to have little problem with French spellings, but the German place -names are very tediously written.

We must remember, it's likely he'd never been abroad before,so this was a huge challenge.

Union Jack
31st Oct 2012, 16:23
.... could this be BAVEAX

So far as Cockney Steve's fascinating posts 3155 and 319 are concerned, and as confirmed by the entry for 16 Feb 45 (and 25 Feb 45?) in the latter, Barvaux-sur-Ourthe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barvaux-sur-Ourthe) seems to fit pretty well into the account of Harry's war - and, as Cockney Steve says, he did get to Aachen bless him..:ok:


31st Oct 2012, 23:11
ancient aviator,

Too right I do ! This is very interesting. It would seem that his trips as a Squadron Commander were as the Bomb Aimer in a crew. This would make sense. Many a Post ago I speculated that the separate B/A must have been a bit de trop for most of the op, for originally the Nav dropped the bombs during his rest period from navigation (ie during that short and stressful few minutes over target when they knew for certain where they were), and there would seem to be no need for a separate B/A at all in the early days.
He would now be ideally placed for an overview of the battle, as far as it could be judged from a single aircraft.

(I quote): "In August the Squadron moves to Broadwell in preparation for the move to India". Did they move out there before/after the fateful 15th ? Strictly speaking, if it were "after", they should have been ordered to "stand fast" in UK. But the "Giant Flywheel" was spinning madly: no one could stop it and this was one of the results.

Having said that, another Squadron of "Daks" was more than welcome in India to pull people in from the outposts. The "co-pilot" entries are not surprising - he wasn't a Pilot at all, but he would be sitting in the seat. You couldn't expect a Squadron Commander to sit with the plebs in the back, now could you ? We await developments........D.


Our travails took place just a month before the "Iron Curtain" speech, and we were still pals with the Russians (as far as we knew). It wasn't really all that bad. You must remember that we were all young, fit and resilient in those days. We had been kicked around by the RAF for five years by then, and had got quite used to it. And when you think of some other experiences (in mortal combat with the Japs in the Burma jungle, or enjoying life as a prisoner working on the Burma railway), then we "never had it so good" (to coin a phrase !)

I think your last suggestion may be near the truth (cold baths are good for you, my boy !).............D.

cockney steve,

Your chap (Harry ?) is taking shape. His enormous airman's number (2217848), about double mine (1132877), shows him to be a late arrival, called up at about the age of 30 and opting for the RAF. "5013" Squadron (did MT sqdns have numbers ? - it's beyond my ken). "VR" - could be, but I thought only volunteers were in as "VRs", the rest RAF. Could be wrong.

Whatever, he seems to have landed in a pretty hot spot at the end of '44. The "Battle of the Bulge" (Hitler's last desperate throw in the West) had involved some of the heaviest fighting of the war. The cold, snow and awful weather in the Ardennes * (which had grounded the Allied air forces) did not help. Gradually, the Allies prevailed (with heavy losses); the weather cleared and the fighter-bombers got their teeth into the German defenders. But sporadic fighting, as always, continued for weeks afterwards throughout the area at the time he arrived on the scene.

* On a glorious spring day in '60, I drove through the blossom-laden woods and forests of the Ardennes with my new Peugeot 403 on the way back from Paris to Geilenkirchen. What a difference !

I quote from his Diary:

"Feb 20 Nearly bought a watch in BAYEAX for £15-10-0 but changed my mind"

Probably a wise move. Would have been knocked off from a live (dead ?) German. Could have got one for a few cigarettes later (if he stayed out there).

"Feb 28 Been to Verviers again. Got stuck in yank tank convoy going to front. Hundreds going up all day must be something big on.........................and March 11, Yanks pulling our Bailey bridge down for over the Rhine........... BARVEUX, LIEGE, AACHEN, LIMBOURG, STALBOURG, DUREN, ZULPICK, RHEINBACH,............. Crossing Rhine at REMAGEN & staying night.

"The Bridge at Remagen" - a good film.

"March 13 one of lads, playing with tank mine killed".

Happened all the time. Familiarity breeds contempt.

"April 14 Had good PX ration 16 bars chocolate 5 pkt. Spearmint 400cigs".

Found the PX ! (NAAFI, eat your heart out !)

"We must remember, it's likely he'd never been abroad before,so this was a huge challenge".

JOIN THE CLUB ! ...................D.

Union Jack,

Spot on ! It would have to be Barvaux-sur-Ourthe. Not Bayeux, anyway...........D

Thank you all for the interesting comments,

'Night all,


EDIT (ref next Post): Chugalug, what a fantastic piece of research ! Danny.

1st Nov 2012, 00:27
"Florenze" must mean Florennes, just south of Charleroi, which in turn is just south of Brussels. Then via Dinant, Ciney, Havelange, Maffe, Durbuy to Bavaux-sur-Ourthe. Not sure about "Zuzerian" or "Zurain", though there is a Juzalne near Barvaux.
With the move into Germany via Liege, Aachen, "Limburg?", "Stalbourg" (Stolburg), Duren, Zulpick, Rheinbach, Remagen, "Montbarr" (Montabaur) (then Limburg?), Frankfurt, "Nien Rodent" (Niederrodenbach?), Aschhafenburg, "aeindafild" (Altfeld?), "Tauber" (Tauberbischofsheim?), to Bad Mergentheim, our man is now equi-distant between Mannheim and Nuremburg.
As you so rightly say Steve, foreign travel other than via HM Forces was unknown to the vast majority, and at least he was prepared to try to keep track of his progress, probably struggling phonetically with what he had been told. My mother followed the global proceedings of WWII on a small school atlas, and even after the war my Aunt used to try to detect English words in European broadcasts on Medium Wave, suspecting that they couldn't possibly survive without resorting to it in desperation! You'll note the "Rodent" detected in Niederrodenbach above. :)

1st Nov 2012, 09:38
the move to Broadwell is logged as Aug. 6 and is recorded as 'Squadron move'. Here are the entries from then on, again all as 'Co Pilot' in Dakota Mk 4'.
Sep 2: Broadwell -St Mawgan
Sep 5 St Mawgan-Elmas
Sep 6 Elmas-El Adem
Sep 7 El Adem- Lydda
Sep 9 Lydda-Wadi Halfa-Aden (in a different a/c and pilot )
Sep 10 Aden-Masira-Mauripur
Sep 10 Mauripur- Bilaspur
This seems to have become their base for a while at least. At last we are in Danny territory. More later

2nd Nov 2012, 02:05
But it was all good fun, and the weather was wonderful, with bright clear days and a hot sun. Far across the Vale of Kashmir, some 40 miles north, rose Nanga Parbat. This 25,000 ft plus triangular peak lay at the Western end of the Himalayas. The morning sun on the snows of the East face glowed pink and white like fire against the deep blue background: it was a magical sight that stays with you for a lifetime (like the rising sun over the bows, going into Bombay).

With our crude equpment, and the rough-and-ready orginisation of the School, you'd expect a lot of injuries, but I can't remember any serious ones. Basically, with the soles of our skis more like glass-paper than glass, and the (wood) edges badly worn, it was difficult to reach any speed before the next attempted turn brought you down. I suppose they must have had a luge to get immobile casualties down off the mountain, but I never saw it used (or even practised).

These days I suppose they just whistle up a helicopter, but in more primitive times you had this box-like sled (for the casualty) with double shafts fore-and-aft. In Austria the luge came out on a Sunday morning after Mass. They hauled it up to the "patient" on whatever lift they had. One of the village lads had volunteered (?) as victim. The contraption then started down with one instructor in the fore shafts and another between the rear pair.

As the heavy thing rapidly accelerated down the mountain, it took real skill to keep it under control, and of course sometimes the luge would win, often capsizing, hurling out the occupant, and bringing his violent abuse down on the two hapless "drivers", sprawled in the snow. Merriment all round (what would have happened if it had been our "instructors" in control, I shudder to think).

All too soon our month was up and we took the pony express back to Srinagar. There we said farewell to whatever beards we'd been able to grow (employing a professional with a cut-throat for the job), and looked round the place for a few days before starting out on our way back.

Srinagar was renowned for its silversmiths, and I had some tiny silver plates made of my name, number and (on a second, smaller one) the legend: "RC (and Blood Group). These were sewn on to my watch-strap as a back-up to the dog tags we wore (or were supposed to wear). IIRC, there were two of these, one green and and one red: one fire and the other water-proof. The hope was that, if they picked you up alive, they'd know what to transfuse you with, and if dead, which part of the cemetery to bury you in, and what name to put on the headstone. (The little silver plates soon fell off).

Kashmiri men had devised an interesting form of central heating. A small round basket was lined with baked clay, and into it was placed live charcoal. They'd settle down, swathed in a blanket, with this basket held between crossed legs under the blanket. I could see how this idea would keep out the cold very well, but was told that it was apt to cause an unpleasant form of cancer.

Kashmir was an anomalous State * in that its people were largely Muslim, but ruled by a Hindu Rajah. This caused difficullties in provisioning British forces there. Bully beef was anathema to the Rajah: tinned ham or "Spam" equally so to his subjects. The solution was to re-label all imported tins of meat as "goat", irrespective of the contents. This subterfuge, which deceived nobody, satisfied both sensibilities.

* It may be mostly forgotten now, but the Raj at the height of its power only ruled directly over 3/5 of India. Over the other 2/5 we ruled indirectly through the Rajahs and Maharajahs of the Native States. These were largely autonomous, although British (Indian) Law, Police, railways, Posts, telegraphs and currency held sway everywhere.

At Partition, there were 550 odd of these States, which had now to choose to join either India or Pakistan. Either way, they lasted about five minutes before the Rajah got his P45 (and a Pension if he were lucky) and their new country took over. At least, under the Raj, the Rajah still "retained the name and all the appearances of a King" ("Lear", shaky quotation?) . That was, of course, so long as he behaved himself and did as he was told (by the Political Resident). Otherwise he was out , and the Viceroy appointed a more malleable member of his clan in his place.

Srinagar, with the famous Dal lake and its houseboats, was a lovely place, not unlike our Lake District but on a much larger scale (and much warmer - and drier ! - in Summer). It is sad to think that the problem of dual loyalties snowballed after Partition, with India and Pakistan both laying claim to the territory, and fighting four wars (so far) over it, to the immense misery of the inhabitants.

(This was to have been the last Part of this tale, but it just grew, so there'll be more).

Once again, Goodnight, all,


You can't have too much of a good thing !

2nd Nov 2012, 10:05
Carrying on with the tale of the move of the squadron from Broadwell to Bilaspur. I will merely list the different airfields visited in India from the log book and no doubt many of them will be familiar to Danny.
Then a 'Squadron Move' to Poona.
Santa Cruz
The entries stop on Jan 8 with a final trip from Palam to Poona.
During the time he is on 'Daks' he does not bother with the usual monthly summary all the entries just follow on from each other. RHIP ! I assume then he is repatriated to the UK and no doubt a welcome demob..

2nd Nov 2012, 19:44
ancient aviator,

Your chap seems to have had a short "tour" in India - from September '45 to January '46 ! (Was his journey really necessary ? - as we used to say). I quote from your last Post, adding a word or two in comment (abbreviated as follows):

"*" - landed there sometime;......"?"- don't know it, would have to look it up;........."#" - know it but never landed there.

" I will merely list the different airfields visited in India from the log book and no doubt many of them will be familiar to Danny.

Palam________ * Delhi
Bamrauli______ ?
Akyab________ # Bombed it once
Barrackpore___ # Calcutta
Poona________ # (Spiritual home of "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells")
Agra_________ # Taj Mahal a must-see.

Then a 'Squadron Move' to Poona.____aka "Pune"

Baroda_______ ? (somewhere up NW)
Mauripur______ # nr Karachi (far NW, where they assembled the VVs)
Santa Cruz____ * Bombay
Arkonam______ ?
Bhopal_______ ? (somewhere up NW)

The entries stop on Jan 8 with a final trip from Palam to Poona".

It's a pity he didn't add a few details of what they actually did in all these places. What a fund of memories must now have gone beyond recall !

But thanks all the same,


EDIT: Surfing the net, recently found "BBC - WW2 People's War - "Army Days" by Percy Bowhill. Good about India.......D.
EDIT II: Can't find it again now. Must be doing something wrong. You may have better luck !.........D.

Union Jack
2nd Nov 2012, 20:43
Danny - Could you have meant BBC - WW2 People's War - Army Days (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/77/a3331577.shtml)


PS To use your own sign-off style "Take a bow"!:)

2nd Nov 2012, 22:22

On the button as always! (noted details of BBC link carefully in notebook, can't read own writing, where did "Bowhill" come from ? Must be losing my marbles !)

Thanks, Danny.

3rd Nov 2012, 14:28
One small anecdote if you will all bear with me. We took a Herc to St Athan for one of their open days and retired to the mess to refresh ourselves after the 'long' trip from Lyneham. Whilst I was in the loo recycling some of the recently consumed liquid an 'old boy' in the next position asked 'what squadron are you on' ? I told him and he remarked that he had been an Engineering Officer on 78 Squadron in WW2. I asked him if he knew 'my' Observer. Indeed he did and over another refreshment told me several tales . He also said that he had some of the engineering log sheets of the squadrons Halifax and offered to send me a copy of the one from the Peenemunde raid which duly arrived. This raid has always been an interest of mine especially the fact that the crew of OC 78 on the raid lists another W/C ! He was still in contact with the former CO and offered to ask him about it on my behalf.
Not long after I received a letter from him explaining the puzzle.
The 'spare' W/C was and Admin Officer from 4 Group who had been authorised by the AOC to fly on the raid. Must have been a real eye opener for him !

3rd Nov 2012, 19:10
ancient aviator,

Of course we'll bear with you ! This is exactly what this Thread is all about - filling in the jigsaw with one more piece.

IIRC (I was in W.Bengal at the time), 83 Sqdn. (Lancs) with 78 (Halifax) were on the Peenemünde raid in August '43. Your Air Staff W/Cdr must have had a tale to tell when he got back to 4 Group.

I have very tenuous connection: it fell to my lot to introduce the daughter of the Master Bomber to the arcane mysteries of ATC at Shawbury in the early '60s.


4th Nov 2012, 15:23
the 'Master of Ceremonies' on the Peenemunde raid was the late Air Commodore John Searby I believe, then a 'mere' Group Captain.

5th Nov 2012, 00:01
Freshly shaved, and invigorated by my month in the snows, * I entrusted my life and my kit to another suicidal country bus-driver. This time it was even worse, for there was a fair amount of snow on the road, and on the long downhill stretches he put it in neutral, switched off and coasted. But by good fortune and the power of prayer I survived the return to Rawalpindi.

* My (tiny) experience is that when you go ski-ing from scratch, you are just about getting the hang of it after 14 days. Next year, if you go back, you get to that point again after 12 days (if lucky) - and so on. Save up and take a month if you can, the last two weeks will be fun.

That night, in the Mess, a gin too many induced me to express an interest in this parachuting lark. At breakfast, to my horror, I found that they'd taken me seriously. "But", they said, "you'd have to stay a fortnight to do your ground training before your jumps". What a shame ! I couldn't possibly wait that long ! I had to get back to my Unit right away !

Now there was no more first-class treatment. It was back on the train again. From Rawalpindi I got to Lahore around dawn and waited there for an hour or so for the Frontier Mail to come through to take me on to Delhi. It was a clear, quiet morning and I mused on the hundreds of thousands of British servicemen who must have passed through the station in the century past.

"My name it is O'Kelly and I've heard the Reveille / From Bolton to Bareilly and from Leeds to Lahore". (Kipling)

I plodded my way down the stepping stones of Indian Railways to Yelahanka, booked in at the RAF station there and got a signal away to the Unit. Next morning a VV flew in to pick me up. They were quite active at Cannanore. It was the end of January '46, but there was still a busy month's flying ahead.

February, 1946 was remarkable for a number of reasons. It was the first sheet of my log to be completed using my new Miles "Martin" ball-point pen (the first, it had just come onto the market, I got it through Welfare sources, but even then it cost me two guineas - say £60 - 80 today).

Then I got my acting "scraper" - for all of two months until I left at the end of March. And the month began with five mysterious flights, all: "camera obscura - chedlets" - just that. We know what "chedlets" were, small sectional gas tins. But camera obscura ? My mind is a blank. I knew what a Camera Obscura was, of course; it must have been set up at Porkal or Kumbla by the CDRE, but why ?

Two further factors were unusual. My passenger for the first two runs was a Major Truelove, who always came with me when something new or special was afoot (you may recall that it was he who brought the gas down to Sulur and flew with me on two rather dicey gas drops from there in the August).

And my "normal" gas drops were of the order of 1hr - 1hr 30 min. These were all 2hrs 30 min or more. 40 mins would cover to and from range. What had we been doing ?

All I can think of is that they wanted to see the actual impacts from very close range, but wished to avoid being splashed. So why not stand back 100 yds and use powerful binoculars ? Don't know. Didn't the Wing Commander or the Major tell me all about it ? Must have done ! Can't remember. Has anybody any ideas ? Were Camera Obscuras used for any other military purpose ?

That seems to have been the last Trial we took part in. Now we would do one last service for CDRE - destroy all their remaining gas stocks. These we dropped 40 miles out, making sure that there were no craft of any kind within three miles of the drop. I still remember the nasty yellow-green patches on the sea, after we dumped the gas cans from 1,500 ft.

I suppose that if the stuff mixed with water (probable as the advice was to "wash it off with copious quantities of water"), then it would rapidly dilute into harmlessness; if not, then as heavier than water it would sink to the bottom. There was no trawler fishing, only inshore nets in use, so it should be safe down there for ever (and would soon disperse anyway).

The brief DDT spraying experiments must have been made while I was away at the Ski school, for I can trace no relevant entry in my log. Now the End was Nigh - but not yet. There is still more to come.

Bedtime again,


ancient aviator.............Thanks - (IIRC, I read that he was a G/C at 25)....D.

Not to worry.

5th Nov 2012, 07:30
Danny, to hazard the journey to and from the RAF Ski School, let alone the risk of injury there, is one thing. To deliberately abandon a fully serviceable aircraft in mid flight is another. Thank heavens that the exigencies of the Service saved you from such foolhardiness!
In contrast you have obviously seized the white hot heat of technology with your 2 guinea (always the mark of an upmarket purchase!) ball point pen. Miles Martin? Was that the Miles Aircraft Company? Weren't they doing something else high tech then, the M52?
As to your Camera Obscura, that rings a bell. At RAF Bicester, the pre war Station HQ had such a device set in its roof. The idea was that the release point of practice bombing aimed at a fixed "ground zero" was plotted with it after the release (from Tate and Lyle Syrup Tins) of a "cloud" of a chemical substance, though its exact sort eludes me at the moment. Thus the variation from the "DS" correct drop point, given the upper winds could be passed to the trainees and their instructors. Whether this system could be applicable to your trials and your chedlets, you would know better than I. Perhaps it was an attempt to assess their ballistic performance?

5th Nov 2012, 17:39

I quote from you:........"To deliberately abandon a fully serviceable aircraft in mid-air is.........foolhardiness". My opinion exactly. (Great Minds etc).
As I've said a while ago, I'd have to have the flames licking at my toes before going over the side.

I think you are almost certainly right about the Camera Obscura. I did not know of the installation at Bicester, but it makes very good sense, everything starts to fit nicely into place, provided we make a few assumptions.

Let us suppose: (a) D. did not know what they had hung on/put in his aeroplane. Had the sun got to him at last ? (very probably, effects still visible, says Mrs D.); (b) He was doing a test of a DDT anti-malarial spray; (c) Some way had been found to turn on/off the spray - that would allow repeated runs, which would account for the 2½ hours (my gas sprays in October had lasted 2+ hrs - much longer than a single can-dumping exercise).

Now the log. "Chedlets" must be wrong (we were chucking the things into the sea a week later). Only explanations: (a) D. was temporarily of unsound mind; (b) the log was written up some time later (it was self-certified, there was no one else, might even have been written up on way home), memories fade and my mind was elsewhere. And remember the ORB that never was ?

I reckon we are as near the truth of the matter as we shall ever be - thanks to your (always invaluable) suggestions !

Yes, the same Miles, the Miles "Magister", "Master" and M52 Miles. IIRC, they also built some of the little aluminium "prefabs" which came out after the War. (They must have been very cold, but better than nothing).



Union Jack
6th Nov 2012, 10:14
Not exactly an RAF brevet story perhaps, but a pretty amazing story of an extremely hazardous wartime flight of which I had certainly never heard - regrettably in the form of an obituary: Kazimierz 'Paddy' Szrajer - Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/military-obituaries/air-force-obituaries/9656860/Kazimierz-Paddy-Szrajer.html)

An amusing "tailpiece" - or should that be "codpiece"? - following the cutting of the brake lines to free the Dakota's wheels reads: "Because its hydraulic fluid had bled away, the undercarriage could not be retracted. The pilot’s report merely stated that the reservoir was recharged “with all available fluids” until sufficient pressure was obtained to permit the undercarriage to be pumped up by hand."


6th Nov 2012, 17:57

What an amazing story (in the DT obit) ! He should have got an immediate DSO for that !

My #3104 p. 156 retails a "Tee Emm" account of a case when the same Novel Solution to the Problem was successfully adopted.

Thanks for the link,


Union Jack
6th Nov 2012, 19:12
Duly impressed by your Latin, Danny, and thoroughly agree that Flight Lieutenant Culliford deserved even greater recognition that the decoration he actually received.

Having now done a shoogle with Google, and noted some interesting variations on the theme, including Szrajer being mentioned as the pilot on at least one website, I attach a link to his own account of Operation Wildhorn III, namely third bridge (http://www.polishsquadronsremembered.com/301/third_bridge.html) (the Polish name for the operation), which indicates that he had never flown in a Dakota before the night in question, so Flight Lieutenant Culliford "qualified" him as co-pilot for the flight in about five minutes!

Fortunately, this apparently included the undercarriage system, although perhaps not immediately the novel top-up method which I did indeed remember from your earlier post. Clearly someone onboard in these epic examples who could organise a piss-up, albeit not in a brewery!:ok:


7th Nov 2012, 20:54
At the end of February the CDRE's programme was complete, all the gas was gone and there was no further use for 1340 Flight. 225 Group ordered me to stop flying and get rid of my aircraft. The Thunderbolt and Mosquito had long gone back with their pilots, the Harvard had been written-off and I was left with the three VVs (all Mk.IIIs, so Lend-Lease aircraft). Now the fine print of that generous arrangement kicked in.

From the US standpoint, it made perfect sense. They had lent us these aircraft to fight a war, and the war was won. Now they were entitled to take back anything they could use or sell themselves. (Primarily these would be transport aircraft like the Dakota. These, refitted as DC-3s and repainted, would be the backbone of short-haul civil aviation round the world for years to come (the things are flying yet).

As for the rest, if we wanted to keep them, we had to pay for them (in scarce dollars). Otherwise we must destroy them completely, so that no components could come back on the market to compete with new US sales. Sadly, no one thought of keeping even one as a museum specimen.

This led to a lot of heartbreaking waste. For example, the Navy had an escort carrier en route to Ceylon. Stowed on the flight deck were a number of Vought "Corsairs" in crates, for assembly in Ceylon and flying out to carriers in support of the planned invasion of Malaya. The crates were bulldozed off the flight deck, the brand new aircraft went to the bottom. I would guess that many US-built Fleet Air Arm aircraft at sea at the time of the surrender would suffer the same fate.

Predictably, nobody wanted a Vegeance. 225 Group took the last option and ordered me to burn my aircraft where they stood . I was appalled. It would be a disgusting thing to leave three piles of blackened scrap on the town maidan as a last memento of our occupancy.

And what would be the likely effect on my airmen's morale? They'd worked tirelessly on their aircraft for two years: we'd never had to cancel a single Trial for unservicability. Was I now supposed to order them to chop them up and put them to the torch ? These were the times of the large scale mutinies in the northern cities (among disaffected troops kicking their heels, waiting to get home). I didn't want a mutiny on my hands, and protested vigorously.

Group's first reaction was pig-headed. They ordered me to do as I was told or face Court Martial. Still I remained obdurate, and after further exchanges of acrimonious signals, wiser counsels prevailed and the SASO relented. I was allowed to fly my aircraft to a M.U. at Nagpur for scrapping. There the dark deed would be done, but at least by somebody else out of sight of my chaps.

The day came in March 1946 when FB986 and I had to part. We'd come to the end of the road. I had to move quickly before Group changed its mind. On March 4th I paid my last visit to Yelahanka "pour prendre congé" from the SASO, did airtests in the next few days and on the 12th my log reads simply "Hakimpet - Nagpur.......4hr 15min". It would be the last entry in it for more than three years.

A forlorn little armada set off. Hakimpet was of course a refuelling stop. I had faithful Sgt Williams in the back with all the paperwork, and the other two VVs with me. We were cruising around 10,000 ft and as Nagpur came over the horizon ahead I toyed for a few moments with the mad idea of doing a dive down on them as my swan song.

Of course I put it out of mind immediately; the Cholaveram reaction was reason enough, and neither of the other two pilots had ever done a dive; they were non-operational (on VVs, that is); we'd never dived at Cannanore - there was no reason to. I suppose I could have said: "just follow me down and do what I do", but that risked making a profound impression (or even two !) on Nagpur. (As a matter of interest, Nagpur is reckoned to be in the exact mathematical centre of the Indian subcontinent - just thought you'd like to know).

We trailed in, parked, handed over the aircraft documents, patted the aircraft, lugged our parachutes over to the parachute section, left them there and that was that. It was the end of the Vultee Vengeance story (well, not quite yet).

Bit more next time. Goodnight, all,


The best of friends must part !

Union Jack
7th Nov 2012, 21:21
The best of friends must part!

Valete Vultee Vengeance perhaps but, thank Goodness, Danny is still with us to tell their tale and his - long may that so continue!:ok:


Jason Burry
9th Nov 2012, 16:53
Back to the top with ye!


9th Nov 2012, 22:29
Danny, I too have felt the pain of taking an aircraft on a last flight, not mine but its! The end of the line for the Hastings came suddenly, when all talk of it lumbering on until the long awaited and wondrous HS681 appeared was suddenly replaced with the bargain basement deal announced by Harold Wilson for the Hercules. AOC Parades to bid it farewell, postings to OCUs to tackle the clever but complex systems of the new machine, were followed by the bitterest pill of all, disposing of our trusted steeds. £60 was all it cost an "authorise body" to obtain a fully serviceable aircraft, not for flying but for fire training purposes.
My last flight on type was to Strubby. We taxied to the apron but a Chief Tech emerged from the line hut with his arms revolving in "keep them turning" indications, climbed up the ladder put down for him and asked that we taxy back the way we had come in, but before getting to the runway we would see a gap in the hedge to our left. "Take it across the field beyond and in the far corner are the remains of a burnt out Canberra. Just shut it down there, I'll follow with a LandRover and bring you back here, to await your aircraft home".
So all unsuspecting this faithful and loyal old girl (not laying it on too much I hope) made her final taxy to her final resting place.
The thought of having to do the dirty deed as well would have been simply beyond the call of duty. You did the right thing Danny, to insist that others do it. Its one thing to shoot a horse to put it out of its misery, quite another to do so because it has passed its usefulness. There should be sanctuaries for old aircraft like old horses. Come to think of it there are, and a few Hasties ended up in museums, but I could never have put one to the torch, how could that possibly be a lawful command?

10th Nov 2012, 00:10
Union Jack and Jason Burry,

Thank you for the kind words and for bumping our incomparable Thread back to the head of the column (where it belongs!)...........D.

Now that they have shuffled off into the wings of history, it falls to me to say a few more words about the Vengeance and the last days of Cannanore before we lower the final curtain on India.

As to the aircraft itself, I can only urge any new reader to look up the wonderful "YouTube" clip found by Chugalug (# 2549 p. 128), and the Camden Museum story started by mmitch (#2626 p.132) which just went on and on; everybody (it seemed) put in their two cents' worth; there was still a mention in #2690 p.135. Curiously, Wiki now lists the Camden Museum specimen as a Mk. IV, the sole surviving Vengeance in the world. Did the Museum Directors ''fess-up", or did Wiki rely on us (was that wise?) There is good stuff about the IAF, too, (they ran two VV Sqdns, 7 & 8), see (www.bharat-rackshak.com/IAF (http://www.bharat-rackshak.com/IAF)).

Unwanted in the beginning, the Vengeances would now go to their graves "unhonoured and unsung"; they had been virtually unknown outside India in their heyday and are now completely forgotten. Yet in their time they had "done the State some service, and they know it". They had even aroused a modicum of affection. I am indebted to Peter C. Smith's "Vengeance" for these valedictory words from a 82 (?) Sqdn pilot:

"You always were an ugly brute,
Of that there can be no dispute.
From you an angry Elephant
Would take the Palm for Elegance.
But yet you'd always give the Boost
To bring us safely home to Roost"

I will not say that I shed a tear, but I allowed myself one backward glance as we walked away, we'd been through a lot together.

And could have been through more. I have always thought that withdrawing them from operations on the onset of the '44 monsoon was a mistake: we could have been useful for another dry season up to the end. "BBC - WW2 People's War - Army Days" (which I have mentioned a few Posts ago, lost, and which Union Jack has kindly found again for me) contains a gripping account by an infantryman (Percy Bowpitt) of his time in India and Burma.

In our southward push after the break-out from Imphal - Kohima, the Jap reverted to the dig-in-and-hold tactic he always used in retreat. On one occasion, Percy recounts how his unit was held up in an advance over an old rifle range. The Jap was well dug-in in the butts at the far end, a frontal attack over the open range would have been very expensive.

They called in an air strike. First, a pair of US Lockheed "Lightnings" turned up, assessed the situation, chose the wrong end and (in all good faith) shot-up Percy and his pals. (Why weren't they marking the target with a mortar smoke bomb, surely the Army would have them ?) Fortunately, the Lightnings' aim was so poor that they only killed a couple of mules.

Hurricane IICs did better next time, at least they attacked the right way, but their bombs would be far less accurate than ours, they'd only carry two apiece, and, entering at a much shallower angle than ours, much of the blast would be harmlessly up into the air. Dug-in, Johnnie Jap kept his head down and laughed at the cannon.

I sighed on reading this: a "box" of VVs would have removed the butts in toto and everything in them in one fell swoop.* Sadly, they'd been pensioned off by then. EDIT : * Provided it was late enough in the year for dive bombing - Wiki says Imphal/Kohima finished end of June '44. (Percy is not good on dates).

The game was over: we were a subdued little group in the Nagpur Mess that evening. Next morning, on the train for the 600-odd miles back to Cannanore. It was a two-day trip.

Bedtime now, Goodnight, chaps,


Ninety-one today !
Ninety-one today,
They've taken away the key of the door,
Never been ninety-one before !.................D.

Union Jack
10th Nov 2012, 00:56
Ninety-one today !
Ninety-one today,
They've taken away the key of the door,
Never been ninety-one before !................. D.

Just back from an excellent run ashore and delighted to be able to raise my (liquid) nightcap to you with very best wishes for a thoroughly enjoyable day, coupled with renewed thanks for all the enjoyment you have give your avid readership - and for the encouragement you have given to others to come out of the woodwork!:ok::ok::ok:


10th Nov 2012, 01:56

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one to over-sentimentalise a few tons of alloy, perspex, rubber and wiring. I think I may know the field at Strubby where your old friend was laid to rest before going to its fiery Valhalla - better than chopping up for scrap, I would have thought.

Strubby was my first posting as an airtrafficker, we spent the first three years of our married life in Mablethorpe. The posting was, of course, to Manby: Strubby was just the flying satellite: although it had its own little Mess I don't think there were any single officers' quarters - they would all be at Manby. But there was airmen's (hutted) accommodation and a Mess at the place.

In later years I have sometimes mused on 225 Group's threat of Court Martial to enforce their order. I think it was probably bluff; so when I showed fight they climbed down. In the administrative chaos of those days the last thing they needed was an onerous extra task. There would be no certainty that AHQ Delhi would grant permission in the circumstances.

Many years later I was a member of a Court at Acklington. After it was finished, I mentioned my case (over a quiet "half" in the pub where they put us up) to the Asst. J.A.G. His opinion was that they would have had no more than a one-third chance of a conviction: no AOC would go ahead on that. As you say, my defence would have been: "an unlawful command".




Union Jack,

Very many thanks for your cordial greetings, and the complimentary remarks about my offerings on the Thread. Sadly, I think that all the old ones in the woodwork have come out already, but I live in hope !

I shall now allow myself a small sherry,

Goodnight, Danny.

10th Nov 2012, 09:41
There was a report on BBC News about the Battle of Kohima with interesting (and touching) interviews with some of your contemporaries, Danny. There's a very brief flying clip in the middle.

BBC News - Palace honours Battle of Kohima veterans (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20270730)

Have a very happy birthday and many thanks for your posts!

Jobza Guddun
10th Nov 2012, 09:54
Echoed Viola.

Many happy returns Danny, thoroughly enjoying your offerings! :ok: :D

Best regards


10th Nov 2012, 10:13
Best wishes from me too Danny. I will raise a glass to you and all the veterans this Sunday.

10th Nov 2012, 13:27
And the same best wishes from the southern hemisphere.

Looking forward to the next instalment. :ok:

10th Nov 2012, 18:33
cockney steve,

My post #3171 p.159 - ref. the film "The Bridge at Remagen" - it's on Channel 5. 1930 tonight.


10th Nov 2012, 19:44
Many Happy Returns and you have more than adequately held the breach after CliffNemo Reg et al.

Enjoy the sherry, it's well deserved!

10th Nov 2012, 20:57
Hi Danny, and many Happy Returns. I have followed your stories avidly, but I would like to query your post #3194. I am not sure of the dates you are talking about, but in 1964/5 I was at Strubby completing the second of 2 off load Meteor AFS courses, and we definitely stayed in the Mess. At the time the Gnat was suffering a lot of problems and so we were sent to Meteors and one course went to Linton on the Vampire. Infact the only sleeping accomodation at Strubby was in the part allocated to the Officers Mess although there were eating facilities for all. A great place to stay in the Nissen huts - first back in the evening put one half of the radiators off (there were 2 circuits in our accomodation) since the system was only capable of supplying 50% of the hut. I also remember that the bar was often left open after the barman went home, and those who were still there were charged for the stock shortfall the next day. Happy days!

10th Nov 2012, 21:53
Danny, your amazing powers of recollection of a war that ended over 67 years ago are undiminished and, witness the tributes paid to you above, much appreciated. Happy Birthday! I hope that it has been a truly enjoyable one.

As I write this I am watching the British Legion Festival of Remembrance that encapsulates all that this thread stands for, and the tales told by its succeeding contributors, you now being Resident Contributor in Chief. For this is a story of Remembrance, of Duty done and Sacrifice made. I'm sure that you will be remembering fallen comrades tomorrow, as we all will. There is much talk of "going to the dogs" about modern Britain and the present generation. I disagree totally with that view. There has never been more awareness of the debt we owe to the sacrifice of your generation, and to succeeding ones, especially the present one. That is why this thread is such a success, that is why it is so treasured, that is why we are so grateful to you and your fellow contributors, Danny.Very Many Happy Returns of the Day!

10th Nov 2012, 23:37
Hi Danny
Happy Birthday to you and hopefully you will have many more. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Cooks tour of India or should that be Danny's tour. I have raised a glass of finest malt to toast your health.
Like Chugalug I have been watching the Remembrance Service from the Albert Hall, it always brings a lump to the throat.
Charlie Juliet
Re Strubby, radiators in a coke nissan huts indeed!!!. In my day there in 1944 it was a coke stove.

10th Nov 2012, 23:55
Union Jack, Viola, Jobza Guddun, mmitch, CoodaShooda, Icare9, Charlie Juliet, Chugalug and Taphappy.

I'm overwhelmed with the number and warmth of your birthday wishes to an old man. Thank you all most sincerely ! (and that goes for anyone else who may be kind enough to remember me).

It is the luck of the draw that I seem to be the last man standing in the shoes of the giants of this best of Threads - Cliff (who started it), Reg (both sadly no longer with us) and many others who have contributed to these gripping recollections of the wartime days when we were all young and eagerly working our way to the wings which meant so much to us.

As I've promised in a PM today: Dum spiro, scribo. (there's plenty left in the pot).

Goodnight all, Danny.

11th Nov 2012, 01:13
Charlie Juliet,

I was at Strubby '55-'58. The palatial Nissen huts you mention must have been a later addition. As Taphappy says (of '47), it was coke stoves for everybody, same in '58.

I'm glad you confirm Nissen huts though, for a tale springs to mind:

I think it was '57, and it was the day of the AOC's Inspection. I was Officer i/c of one of the airmens' Nissen Huts. The place had been bulled-up to perfection; on our last check before the Parade, the hut Corporal and I were quietly confident. Sixteen (I think) beds were made up impeccably, the floor lino had been "bumped" until it shone, the stove was blackleaded into a dull gleam.

Parade over, I rushed back to my hut, the airmens' billets were No.1. on the AOC's itinerary after coffee & biscuits in the Mess. I reckoned twenty minutes at most to Ground Zero. The Corporal and I went in.

Fifteen perfect beds met the eye, plus one dishevelled heap in the corner. It seemed that one of our chaps had been unexpectedly grabbed for night guard duty. Coming back to the billet during Parade and finding all quiet, he'd assumed the place had already been inspected and tumbled gratefully into his pit.

Officer and NCO acted without a word being said. We leapt upon this poor wight, flung him out of bed, threw a blanket round his pyjamas and bundled him out over the hedge into the field behind, under strict orders to stay put out of sight until further notice (luckily it wasn't raining). Then we turned our attention to the bed. Never was a bed made up to (passable) Inspection standard so quickly.

We finished about five minutes ahead of the official entourage. Of course, the AOC passed by our Hut, didn't he ? Always the way ! We gave him time to get well away and then collected our shivering castaway from exile.

Happy Days,


11th Nov 2012, 08:02
A Happy belated Birthday greeting to you Danny.
I'm all sure we want to hear more stories from you for years to come.:ok:

11th Nov 2012, 11:11
Many happy returns and THANK YOU for taking the time, and the effort to share these experiences with us youngsters that owe so much. :D:D

cockney steve
12th Nov 2012, 11:44
Danny, Very belated greetings on your birthday.
You are proof , indeed, that "three score and ten"is a load of codswallop.
If I make it to your age and keep my marbles like you, I'll be a very happy bunny!
Thanks for the link, but as a practising tightwad, I don't have a telly(much to the chagrin of the clipboard-bearing TVLicencing jobsworths)

Just to rub it in, I always refuse entry and tell them they'll be welcome , when they have a warrant...what was that?little things/little minds?:O

I was very heartened at the interest shown in the brief diary of trivia,I discovered. I've successfully photographed some of it, now i'll have to learn how to post it on the net and do the linky bit.

Keep up the good work!....Steve.

13th Nov 2012, 00:26
lasenigel, glojo and cockney steve,

Thank you all for your kind words and my Birthday greetings. (I'll try to keep up the good work !)......D.


Watch it free on iPlayer the next day ! (most of it's old news rehashed anyway).

Your "small things...." - very true ! In the early days of TV (when we were glued to 9-inch b/w screens) it was known (not unreasonably) as: "The Idiot's Lantern" and "The Goggle Box". In the US, Ogden Nash (?) characterised it (I can only remember a few words):......."Video.......And some of it was marvellous......But most of it was hideo". (And when they got colour TV, their NTSC system was Never The Same Colour - to be fair, our PAL was little better).

Your: "I've successfully photographed some of it, now I'll have to learn how to post it on the net and do the linky bit" puts me to shame.

In spite of Chugalug's careful, kindly instructions many moons ago (which I carefully copied longhand in a notebook and have kept, the complexity of Copy/Paste being then beyond me), I remain a devout coward in technical matters and have never got beyond photocopying on my printer (and that in fear and trembling). It took me about ten years to get to the bottom of my Word Processor, and there's hundreds of things I still don't know about it.

With renewed thanks to you all - Goodnight, Danny.

(Next Instalment on stocks).

13th Nov 2012, 21:31
Besides the main story which I've been telling, there were a number of "sub plots" running concurrently in these last days. They will make a change and I hope you find them interesting

Ever since I'd taken over the Flight I'd been trying to get some kind of Air-Sea rescue craft attached to us to patrol offshore while flying was in progress. Every take-off was out over the sea, and it was inevitable that one day someone was going to finish up in the water.

With a load of mustard gas in the aircraft this was not an inviting prospect. If the internal tanks were ruptured, or the external spray tanks opened (very probable as impact with the sea would rip off the tail pipe sticking down at the back), the occupants could be paddling about in a pool of the stuff for some time. In this case it would be better for them to drown straight away and have done with it.

A few weeks before we finished flying my prayers were answered. I was allocated a 24 (?) ft "Bomb Scow" (whatever that might be). I'd hoped for an inflatable of some sort, which could be kept on shore and easily launched from the beach at Moplah Bay (just the other side of the Fort). But this was better than nothing. However, before this vessel could appear, I had to prepare moorings to which it could be tethered.

Three laterite blocks of specified dimensions had to be made and sunk offshore in a equilateral triangle of given size. They had to be connected together by chain cable bolted into each block, then coming together to a single chain and buoy. The length (but not the size) of this chain was specified. That, I suppose, would depend on the size of the boat.

While the CDRE were casting about for the laterite, and masons to cut it to size, it fell to me to produce the chain from RAF sources. No mariners being to hand, Sgt Williams and I looked down the Stores lists, and decided that one-inch chain should be about right for a vessel of our size. The demand went in to the appropriate M.U. (Union Jack is now convulsed with laughter if he is reading this).

I was still puzzled. How were the blocks to be taken out to sea - what with and by whom ? How was the "Scow" to be serviced and refuelled ? How were we supposed to get out and back from it ? Swim ? (there were no port facilities then * - just the beach). I've no idea. All would be made plain in due course, I supposed. An inflatable from the shore, perhaps ? Then give us the inflatable and forget the Scow !
* There are now. A breakwater (pier ?) has been built out from Moplah Bay just South of the Fort. From the tip of the Fort promontary there seems to be a curved extension to the South. The result looks like a little harbour. It would make sense, there is a large military establishment covering the site of the old maidan now and they would need port access.

Of course, it never came to anything. Before we even got started on all this the end was clearly in sight. The project was abandoned. I signalled the M.U. to cancel delivery of the chain (I swear I did !).

By now we were half way through March and my log shows that I left for the UK on 29.4.46. Still six weeks to go, and airmen still have to be paid. Although I'd plenty of odd-bods whom I could have sent down with a truck, on one occasion I drove down to Cochin myself with Sgt Williams. I think it was so I could draw the several thousand rupees accumulated in my paybook from the Accountant officer, take it to Lloyds Bank in Cochin and exchange it for a sterling Banker's Draft to take back home.

Things were hotting-up now. Instead of an hour's flight, it would be a whole day by road through the countless coastal towns and villages. We'd take the 15cwt "Canvas Tilt" Fordson, we could lower the windsceen flat and enjoy the cooling airflow as we trundled over the rough roads at 20-30. I smoked a pipe in those days, and puffed contentedly as we rattled along. I didn't notice a glowing bit of tobacco which blew out and landed on the (starched) waistband of my shorts.

There a smouldering ring grew unnoticed until it reached flesh. Then I noticed in a big way ! A very amused Sgt helped me beat out the conflagration; I had a very sore tummy for some time and resolved not to drive and smoke in future. A few miles south of Cannanore we ran through Mahé, the tiny French enclave I've mentioned, little more than one street.

Much farther on was Calicut, a fair size, but apart from that one village name only sticks obstinately in my mind - Parientalmanna (probably because it sounds like "Parental Manor"..........Small things amuse.......). At one stop about noon I was nonplussed to see my shadow ahead of me in the line of travel, I had a few moment's "Red-on-Black" alarm before it struck me that at about 11° North the Sun would be well North of overhead now. I'd never given it any thought before.

All sorts of odds and ends still need to be tidied up before my story leaves India,

Cheerio for now,


Any Elastoplast in the house ?

Union Jack
14th Nov 2012, 09:52
The demand went in to the appropriate M.U. (Union Jack is now convulsed with laughter if he is reading this).

Au contraire, Danny. I was aware that bomb scows were used for transporting armaments from shore to flying boats and amphibians but, until I did a quick shoogle with google, I was unaware of the more precise details of their history. Worth a look - there are lots of pictures, and everything from the award of a posthumous George Cross to a very brave man trying to help one of his comrades after a Sunderland exploded at Singapore to the court case of an Australian accused of stealing a bomb scow in the Northern Territory.

By and large (a good sailing expression), I am drawn to the conclusion that it was just as well that your empire was not increased by the arrival of such a vessel, despite your worthy attempts to prepare for its arrival!:ok:

Perhaps a former member of Coastal Command or the Marine Branch can come up with some more personal reminiscences of such craft.


14th Nov 2012, 19:57
Union Jack,

Thanks for the tip - Wiki gives a photo of this enormous flat-bottomed thing. I'd got the length wrong for a start (31 ft was the smallest on offer). Lord help us if we'd actually got one !

And thanks for keeping quiet, so as not to shoot my fox (for I'm sure you know what is coming next). We haven't heard the rest of the story !

All in good time, Cheers, Danny.

14th Nov 2012, 20:55
Like you Danny, I will defer in every way to Union Jack's professional expertise re Scows, Bomb or otherwise. Indeed my first question is "What is a Scow?". (Peers over pince-nez at the Press Gallery and adds, "Would the gentlemen of the Press please make a note of that question?".
Having followed his advice I duly Googled 'Bomb Scow' and found these two pics:
S177 (http://www.asrmcs-club.com/boatswebsite/gallery/s177/)
S80 (http://www.asrmcs-club.com/boatswebsite/gallery/s80/)
The latter shows why there was a lack of superstructure of any kind, even the hand rails had to be lowered before floating it under the wings of a flying boat (here a Catalina) before hanging the bombs (here Depth Charges?) from them.
The other picture shows a very unseaworthy hull, I would have thought. Designed purely for taking heavy lumps of metal out to moored Flying Boats rather than act as a quick reaction SAR vessel. I think you would indeed have been far better off with an inflatable (Did they have them then though? Powered ones I mean), or at least an outboard powered dinghy. I think someone was "Avin a larf" with you, Danny.
I remember chatting to the Skipper of an RAFMCU launch detached to Borneo on anti piracy duties. He said it was the best job ever, everything he wanted he got because no-one else in the RAF (locally anyway) knew more than he to question him.
On the whole though things nautical should be left to those who go down to the sea in ships, such as those commanded by the RNO (Royal Navy Officer) RAF Christmas Island. His "fleet" consisted of an MFV (Motor Fishing Vessel) and an LCI (Landing Craft Infantry).
The former was fitted out with fully harnessed bucket seats and outrigger rods for deep sea fishing that would have done justice to the Florida Keys.
The latter was used to ferry in supplies from visiting merchant ships and to ferry out the copra crop harvested by the resident Gilbertise Islanders. They in turn were administered by the DCO (District Colonial Officer) who, hearing that the base was finally to close and pretty well everything other than the personnel to be left behind, asked if he could take over the LCI.
The RNO duly signalled their Lordships who replied in the affirmative with the proviso that tenders over £100 only should be accepted. As this exceeded the value of the crop, the DCO said sadly that he couldn't afford that much. "Too bad", said the RNO, "I'll just have to leave the keys on top of my wardrobe".

14th Nov 2012, 23:09

Formidable beasts indeed, these Scows !

Certainly we had inflatables, for there were all sizes of aircraft dinghies from the "K" (one-man) upward. All you'd need to do would be to put in a wooden transom (hasn't he just mugged up the correct term !) of some kind, for I'm pretty sure we had outboards in those days, too. We would have been far better off with something like that, as you rightly say.

"Avin' a larf" ? Now you come to mention it, it was a bit suspicious how the thing was offered to me right after VJ Day (when the Boat people in Redhills and Ceylon had no further use for it). Dump it on someone else, let him worry about the disposal !

I think their Lordships were chancing their arm a bit. What would they do with a war-surplus LCI stuck out in the Solomon Islands ? It'd cost far more to sail home than they'd get for it as scrap. The RNO had the right idea - get rid of the thing (they should have paid the DCO for taking it off their hands !)

Must now settle down to draft out the last chapter(s) of my weary tale.

Goodnight, Danny.

16th Nov 2012, 23:24
About the middle of April I got my "Marching Orders". Not for release yet, but as my (extended) overseas tour had time-expired. 1340 Flight had ceased to have any purpose (except to act as a holding unit for the aircrew officers who had come out just after VJ and would have to wait some time yet before shipping was available for their return home).

They would still need a C.O. "Alex" Bury was named to succeed me, he would inherit my "as new" rank cuffs on the 29th of the month (and I would revert to Flight Lieutenant). On that date I would hand over the safe keys and the code & cypher books. My one-and-only Command had lasted for only 13 months, but it had been interesting. Alex would not need to catch up with much paperwork, but I would still leave him a problem (in the shape of an unintended legacy to the good folk of Cannanore). It happened like this:

A couple of days before I left, there was an agitated message from the local Stationmaster. My chain had arrived ! It was taking up a lot of room, could I please come and take it away ? I went to have a look. No, I couldn't !

When we put the demand in, we'd blithely assumed the "one inch" referred to the overall size of a single link (well, it stands to reason, doesn't it ?) Unfortunately, it doesn't ! - It's the thickness of the rod from which the links are forged that counts ! What we had specified would serve as anchor cable for the Queen Mary (or at least a Mersey ferry) ! And IIRC, there was 100 fathoms of it. Of course the stuff shouldn't have been sent at all; it was the M.U's mistake as we'd cancelled the order. We signalled them to come and take it back.

Meanwhile there was this monstrous pile taking up half the goods yard, and the Stationmaster was tearing his hair out. I left for Bombay and never did hear the end of it. But everyone was in the winding-down phase, chaos reigned and I would not be at all surprised if the huge heap of rusting chain is there yet. By now it will be covered in vegetation and may have acquired religious significance. Mothers will tell their babes tales of the Great Danny Sahib, who once flew in a Huge Iron Bird from the maidan and in gratitude for his safe return to Earth had caused this stupa to be raised in honour of whichever God ruled the roost in those parts.

Curiously enough, I've never been able to find out how much longer the Flight (or CDRE for that matter) carried on before they finally closed down. I didn't keep in touch (no point). For 1340 Flight Wiki just quotes back our Thread to us; there may be some way to get at the final F.540s (the ORB), but I don't know how.

Wiki is no more use when I fed in: "Chemical Defence Research Establishment in WW2". This throws up: " WW2 Mustard Gas Tests on Indians / Military History", which leads to: "Militarian" Military History Programme. This carries a "Guardian" story all about alleged large scale mustard trials up North on supposedly unsuspecting Indian troops; all I can say is that I was in India at the time and never heard a whisper of any such places in the CDRE Mess in Cannanore (or anywhere else). (Cow or Pig fat to grease the cartridges, anyone ?). It contains no mention of us. Both Cannanore and Porton always seemed to be treated as "hush-hush" to a great extent; there was some sort of a security angle to them.

Now we must think of small details. What kit did I have to go home in ? (besides my KD, of course - and I may have had a bush-jacket & slacks in jungle green - "bottle-green battledress" - or (colloquially): "battle-green bottledress"). Did I have a No.1 SD - certainly not ! Greatcoat - no. * Blue battledress - certainly - I would need it for the Med. Where did I get it ? I must have had it to come out in '42, and had to have it for Ski School. Meanwhile it must have mouldered away for three years at the bottom of my tin box/Uniform Case with my Black Shoes.

* Near the end, RAF Stores "Officers' Shops" out there had "sealed pattern" blue serge (but not Crombie) greatcoat cloth for sale by the yard (dirt cheap). For a few rupees, I got enough for a coat, borrowed another coat to show the dherzi how to set about it, got measured up and left my stuff for him to have a go. It was a woeful mess, I think I gave it to my Bearer, "Joseph".

So when I went to Worli (again !) all I'd need with me was battledress, blue shirts , u/wear, black socks & shoes, plus a bit of KD, towel and "small kit". All the rest of my belongings went into my Uniform Case. A CDRE carpenter crated it up for me, it was handed in to RAF Stores (Cochin). I would not see it again for a month or three, then it turned up safe & sound in Southport (mirabile dictu). Even the bottles were intact !

Not long to go now. Goodnight, chaps,



17th Nov 2012, 12:03
So not only is it the Lord that giveth and taketh away, Danny, it seems that their Airships do too. As you were in KD and wearing rank slides (a Freudian term if ever there were to facilitate one's easy progress up and down the CoC!) no embarrassing shadows or stitching betrayed your previous exaltedness.
As to the dynamics of your move, I shared your wonder at the safe reuniting with my effects consigned to the uncertain fate of a deep sea voyage while I flew ahead from RAF Changi to Stansted with merely a suitcase and the clothes that I wore. Despite all the dark talk of the jettisoning of crates of deck cargo, including cars being carried as an "indulgence", from HM ships suddenly diverted to operational tasks I never heard directly of anyone being left bereft of their trunks tin, not wanted on voyage, for the use of. Perhaps others did though...
Bad luck with the DIY Greatcoat, it was definitely worth a try. Further East and later on, Chinese tailors always managed to rise to the occasion. In the '60s the No1 SD uniforms produced in Kowloon far exceeded those of R.E. City or Gieves in both quality and value for money in my experience. All good things though come to an end.
Your tale of the anchor chain is a cautionary one and again confirms the old adage of each to their own. When our Squadron's Hastings aircraft were all grounded at Changi for some months following the tragic loss of one with all on-board at Abingdon, our Boss hit upon a scheme to keep us all occupied. He purchased an aluminium ex-ship's lifeboat (perhaps already having served its designed purpose?) and had it delivered to an impromptu boat-yard behind the Squadron building.
We were all "invited" to sub into the project which was to convert it into a cabin cruiser, with the financial incentive that its enhanced value upon completion would result in a capital gain realised on posting by your replacement purchasing your share from you. For me that failed at the first hurdle as I was tour ex well before the launching ceremony and thus suffered a total investment loss:(
In the meantime one was constantly called upon to scrounge material, be it wood, paint, rope, or for that matter chain, from where one was able. I believe it did finally sail and was used for Squadron barbies etc. So glad...:*

17th Nov 2012, 20:07

The tale of your experiences touches mine at so many points that it is positively uncanny. For a start the Boat: In 1952 a certain G/Capt. Geoffrey (?) Jarman (O.C. RAF Middleton-St-George) was court-martialled at RAF Thornaby on charges of improperly using Service labour and materials to convert a second-hand ship's lifeboat * into a cabin cruiser.

Admittedly, this was not (like yours) a project for the common (?) good, but was for the sole benefit of the G/C, who planned with his family to cruise the waterways of Yorkshire and Durham in the completed vessel. Things ended (well, not too) badly for him - ("no names, no pack drill" does not apply here; it was a nationwide cause célèbre; via Google I have read accounts in the press of his home town in NZ).

* The lifeboat itself (as Exhibit "A") was parked in front of my HQ during the trial; I had a photo once........D.

I quote from you: "Our boss hit upon a scheme to keep ourselves occupied .....
........constantly called upon to scrounge material etc."...........

One more example of: "The trouble with the human race is that it doesn't read the Minutes of the Last Meeting". Your Boss was lucky that the Changi S.I.B. were poor readers !

(Hope you enjoyed the barbies, but wasn't it a bit of a fire risk in a small boat - said he, wearing his old part-time Fire Officer's hat !)

Like yours, the boat did sail, there was a happy ending ('fraid full tale is a very long way down the line yet, may get to it someday.....D).

R.E. City rings a bell, they made me a Mess Kit, quite decent and none too dear. Gieves put a fast one over on me once - so never dealt with them since. (Monty Burton more my style; and what was the name of that marvellous firm in Newark that sold 2/hand No.1s and greatcoats (in good nick) for half-price?). Were the offerings of Messrs J.E. (?) Bates, of Jermyn Street, still the headgear de rigueur in your time ?


17th Nov 2012, 20:37
.....and what was the name of that marvellous firm in Newark that sold 2/hand No.1s and greatcoats (in good nick) for half-price?

Ernie Bedford. A wonderfully traditional military tailor and gentlemen's outfitter, long since gone. With cut after cut reducing the RAF to a pathetic shadow of its former glory, poor old Ernie was no longer getting sufficent stock to keep his secondhand clothing business alive....:(

Sadly, Bates no longer sell their markedly superior RAF SD caps.... Most people buy them from clothing stores nowadays, it seems.

17th Nov 2012, 20:47

I think the Newark chap was called Bedford. He sold me a secondhand mess kit and re-ranked it all for a reasonable price. Regrettably it shrank in the wardrobe!

Belated Happy Returns


Darn Beags got in first.

18th Nov 2012, 12:01
"The trouble with the human race is that it doesn't read the Minutes of the Last Meeting". Your Boss was lucky that the Changi S.I.B. were poor readers !
Point taken Danny, though in fairness to my Boss he was faced with a challenging dilemma of how to keep a lot of guys (100 odd?) fully occupied for an indeterminate period. In that regard he was successful and I'm pretty certain he would have gotten the support of the Station Commander beforehand just as he did with the business of the NAAFI trading monopoly previously.
As to the SIB they were preoccupied with establishing that Singapore was not an HM ship and that all duty free cigarettes so marked, though being the only ones available when imported within one's allowance, could be confiscated on arrival and exchanged for Camel cigarettes which NAAFI could not otherwise shift.
Mercifully I avoided most of the shipbuilding experience as I was detached to Far East Comm Squadron and in Sydney at the time of the grounding and remained there to perform the weekly maintenance requirement together with our two ground crew members. Eventually the rectification team arrived and we returned to Changi and I rejoined my Squadron. A fellow co-pilot warned me of the blood, toil, tears, and sweat presently on offer and suggested instead volunteering for a place on a Jet Provost Trials Unit looking for aerial observers, operating from Butterworth but based in Penang. It was a tough choice but one instinctively new where one's duty lay, which was obviously away from the ship yard, so off we went 'oop north!

18th Nov 2012, 18:09
BEagle and ACW418,

"Bedford's of Newark" - of course ! Thanks to you both for the info, and for the birthday wishes. Bedford's were a lifeline for the NS people who came in in the '50s, and for the ones like me who crawled back in under the wire, and who saw no reason to keep Messrs Gieves and their ilk in the style to which they had become accustomed.

I would think that the bulk of their stock was bought cheaply from the huge number of chaps leaving at the war's end. Fortituously, the wartime jacket could be converted to current pattern by simply cutting off the bottom button and invisibly mending the buttonhole (those of us who still had wartime jackets dispensed with this last step and just shrugged the buckle down a bit).

The ca. '51 pattern horror rather upset the applecart for a while, but it soon disappeared amid universal execration. Another source was "Exchange & Mart"; some chap advertising had bought a big batch of surplus W.O.'s uniforms from RAF Stores; cut off the "two dogs fighting", sweet-talk everloving into sewing on braid, a good press, and (if you were a stock size, like me), Bob's your uncle !

Crombie greatcoats were more of a problem; the old style ones would have needed quite a bit of re-tailoring to pass muster in the new (half-belt) style, but I was lucky in getting a newish one. The (optional) serge ones were a bad idea from the start.

Whatever happened to the blue mackintosh (rubberised) Raincoat ? Now there was a useful thing !


I am sure your C.O. acted from the most laudable of motives, but was it wise to encourage a bunch of (shall we say) very enterprising young gentlemen to use their initiatives in acquiring the materials for a vessel - particulary an aluminium one ? (the G/C'c was wood clinker-built). Supposing a mainplane or a canopy vanished, wouldn't the constabulary say "Allo, Allo ?"

Now you're an Aerial Observer on a Jet Provost Trial ! That ranks with "O.C. RAF Ski School, Kashmir" on the Cushiness Scale. What exactly did that involve - it sounds just like the job that would have suited me: I know nothing of the JP, but it looks quite harmless in a teddy-bearish sort of way.

This I must hear !

My thanks to all three of you, Danny.

19th Nov 2012, 10:28
Bedfords of Newark were still of great value to newly commissioned Flt Cadets in the early 60s, for I obtained a very warm and excellent condition Greatcoat from them then. I seem to remember that "staybrite" buttons were what to look out for, otherwise old type brass ones needed to be replaced with a new set.
Danny, I don't think that the level of "acquiring" that you envisage was required. Those who knew about these things pronounced the hull of the lifeboat as in excellent condition and the conversion consisted of the fitting of a wooden deck and a cabin. The engine was also top notch. A lot of the "marine" items required were contributed by "mariners" within the Squadron, so the call mainly was for timber and paint. As I was away "observing" I can not say how that was acquired, but there was of course a large RN presence then. No doubt inter service co-operation ensured that time-ex and scrap material was put to good use.
As to the JPTU, it was hell, but someone had to do it! We were accommodated in a rented villa by the shore on Penang Island, along with the ex-UK team of JP pilots and an MOD scientist. The latter planned each day's tasks, the team would commute on the Ferry to the mainland and then to RAAF Butterworth.A sortie would consist of flying to the trial area (variously open country or jungle clearings) wherein would be pitched a small one man issue ridge tent. The "FAC" would talk us onto the target, and the time taken to acquire and whether it was by the pilot or his observer duly noted. No doubt there was far more to it than that, but that was the gist of it. The trial was to assess the "COIN" concept and in particular the efficacy of the JP for it. Bear in mind that the Strikemaster variant was soon on offer and Vietnam was then raging and re-writing the rule book, as most wars do.
That was the one sad aspect of what was otherwise a "busman's holiday". Once a week the RAAF medivac Herc flew in on its way to Australia, and a Tannoy made for blood donors to report to the Medical Centre. Given that we were aircrew and engaged in flying we were told that we could not join that queue. We felt bad about that but there was never a hint of resentment about that or indeed that we should have been involved in the war anyway, either from the Aussies or the USAF, into whose various bases we were often flying, both before and after the period that our aircraft were grounded.

19th Nov 2012, 20:10

You lay before me a veritable feast of topics !

Quoting from you:

.......... "staybrite" buttons were what to look out for, otherwise old type brass ones needed to be replaced with a new set"........ (I'm not sure. The "staybrites" I got hold of were wretched hollow bits of pressed tin; the anodising wore off in a month and then they looked scabrous, far worse than any dirty brass button. Were there better-class ("officers for the use of") solid anodised buttons to be had ?)............."Old type brass ones needed to be replaced with a new set"..........(I take it the problem was the King's or Queen's Crown on the button, but it would need an eagle-eyed Inspecting Officer (or Mr Warwick !) to spot that. And in any case, as I remember, they left us "old hairies" alone with our (nearly polished away) King's crowns - like the Observers with their "Flying A***holes").

............"As to the JPTU, it was hell, but someone had to do it! We were accommodated in a rented villa by the shore on Penang Island",........(nice work)......."along with the ex-UK team of JP pilots and an MOD scientist. The latter planned each day's tasks,...... the team would commute on the Ferry to the mainland and then to RAAF Butterworth"..........(where there was no single accommodation?)

......"A lot of the "marine" items required were contributed by "mariners"......(not me, Guv)..... "within the Squadron, so the call mainly was for timber and paint. As I was away "observing".....(good alibi)..... "I cannot say how that was acquired, but there was of course a large RN presence then"......(Union Jack, spring to the defence of the True Blue !) "No doubt inter service co-operation ensured that time-ex and scrap material was put to good use".....(I bet)....I'll believe you, Chug old chap - many wouldn't !

"The "FAC" would talk us onto the target, and the time taken to acquire and whether it was by the pilot or his observer duly noted. No doubt there was far more to it than that, but that was the gist of it"......(this sounds suspiciously like the Indian Rope Trick - two men and one shovel !).......

"The trial was to assess the "COIN" concept and in particular the efficacy of the JP for it".......(Britain had long experience in Subduing the Tribes: I reckon you were always better off with a big, slow, well armed and armoured single piston which can hang around for ages on location)...... "Bear in mind that the Strikemaster variant was soon on offer".....(JP with hair on its chest)...... "and Vietnam was then raging and re-writing the rule book, as most wars do"......(true, and at least we then had the sense to stay out of unwinnable ones which were none of our business).

........"a Tannoy made for blood donors to report to the Medical Centre. Given that we were aircrew and engaged in flying we were told that we could not join that queue".......... (In the early '50s, the similar call rang out at Thornaby. Danny nobly responded - nobody gave a toss whether you were flying or not).

It really needed Hancock to do it justice. "Have you", they said, "ever had any of these ?" I ran an eye down the grisly list. "Well", I said, "I've had jaundice once, dengue once and malaria three times". "Out, out", they cried. "What about my tea and biscuit ?", I asked (affronted - it wasn't my fault they didn't want my blood). "Out, out" they repeated. It would be fifty years before I got my own back and used up most of their stock in the NE NHS region.

Cheers, Danny.

20th Nov 2012, 08:15
I know as much about Staybright buttons as I do about matters nautical, Danny. So the only thing I can say is that I never had any trouble with them (or more importantly got into any trouble with them) so perhaps as you say they were subject to later development.
I hope that you have been copying and pasting my words in quoting them, Danny. They certainly weren't worth any more effort than that. Hopefully we can draw a line under the boat business. I only raised it in support of your "Scow's Chain" reminisces, but now realise that "There is little more that I can helpfully add to assist you in your inquiries". I had forgotten the effectiveness with which I had avoided involvement in the project, and therefore knowledge of it. Now that is convincing, isn't it?
What the real point of the COIN trials in Malaya were really about, I'm not sure, just as I'm not sure why we weren't billeted at Butterworth. I suspect that I was savvy enough not to question either, given our tenuous attachment to this gravy train and the obvious disadvantages of a premature return to Singapore if we became all of a sudden surplus to the trial! I suspect that either the MOD was trying to help BAC flog COIN type aircraft or was thinking of buying some itself. As you say much better to get some big radial engined monster out of mothballs anyway, as the the USAF did with the Skyraider.
Oh to be a fly on the wall as you tried to contribute your armful! Turned you down just because of a few technicalities, such as jaundice*1, dengue*1, malaria*3? Just like Hancock there was really only one dignified response, "Very well, I shall take my business elsewhere, I bid you good day!" (Exits right through cupboard door, re-emerging to try exiting again).

20th Nov 2012, 20:03
"There was one who was famed
For the number of the things
He forgot when he entered the Ship". (Lewis Carrol: Hunting of the Snark).

Or, in my case, when he got on the train. My memory is totally blank. What was the rail route ? I don't think there was a "West Coast Main Line" out there then (is there one now ?); the train would have to go first south (the wrong way) and then east to Coimbatore, then north-east to Yelahanka, before turning north on to the main lines up the spine of India before branching off north-west for Bombay.

Overall, I reckon three days for the journey. Who was in my compartment ? - no idea. It would be full (4), the others would probably be Army officers on their way home. As all roads once led to Rome, so now all lines led to Bombay.

My final leave-taking was short and without ceremony - there was no sense in farewell parties when people were disappearing all the time. I think the Colonel and W/Cdr Edmondes were still there: I would take formal leave of them (I would run into Edmondes some three years later in HQBC). I wished Alex the best of luck - he would probably have to close the place down. I thanked Sgt Williams with all my heart for the advice and support I'd had from him: I think I held a small informal parade to wish my chaps well. I still had several hundred "chips" left, so I left a couple of hundred to my bearer "Joseph" - it would keep him for a twelvemonth - together with all the stuff I left behind in my tent.

Our bowser and the WOT1 had gone back somewhere, of course. We still had the 2-tonner and the 15-cwt, but I think W/Cdr Edmondes ran me down to the station in his Jeep. The guard blew his whistle and waved his flag, we were off.

On the way, I had plenty of time to think back over the past three years. I have never mentioned another more distasteful wartime duty that all officers had to perform on units abroad. It's not often mentioned in people's memoirs - I suppose they don't like to be reminded about it. This was the censoring of your men's letters home. Who censored my letters - quis custodiet ? No idea (of course this all stopped after VJ Day).

Our chaps knew it had to be done (for reasons of security) and kept their letters bland, but even so we thought it a nasty thing to have to do. Particularly sad were the replies from lads who had obviously had a "Dear John", or who'd had family deaths, perhaps in the V1 & V2 blitzes.

The only things I ever had to "blue-pencil" were bits of technical detail of our equipment and what we were doing. And of course there was an unspoken "seal of confession" laid upon us. This was universally upheld, I never heard a whisper about any airman's letter from another officer in my entire time - and certainly never breathed a word about mine. And, come to think of it, that may account for the "amnesia" about the whole business now. We've simply airbrushed it right out of memory.

The time frame needs some working out now. I must have left in the first few days of May, say three days on the train and four days at Worli (now they knew for certain what ships were coming in and when, they did not need to keep large numbers on hand, but could call forward people "just in time" to fill and turn round the troopers). A week, plus two more on board, and I'd be back home by the month end. All plain sailing ? Well, not quite, as it happened.

I have few memories of Worli. It was not much more comfortable than first time. I think I handed in my pistol and ammo there. I may have been vaccinated (again !). It was getting very hot and sticky now; the monsoon was brewing. I had a swim or two in the open air pool of the Willingdon Club in Bombay; on the last afternoon the pool blackboard read 97 °F - the exact temperature of the human body.

We all know and love: "Bless 'em all". Now I was to grasp the full force of: "...as up to the gangway we crawl..." We were allowed to take on board what we personally could carry on one trip - once on deck there was no going back. My days as a Sahib were over. No more "Bearer !" - I was on my own now !

What ship was I in ? (you'd think I'd know !) It was either the "Andes" or the "Aorangi" (as there were 5,000 of us, I would guess "Andes" as being the larger ship). We were in "Standee" berths. As far as I could see, these were essentially a double-bunk version of the standard wire-mesh barrack bed, but with tubular steelwork in place of the angle iron.

At worst, I should not have as far to fall as I had on the ship coming out (7-tier bunks - I'd been on top !). I looked over the ship's rail across to the huge "Gateway of India" as the tugs pulled us away from the quay. A chapter in my life had ended. But I'd been: "with Harry - on Crispin's Day".

Goodnight once more,


You never know what's coming next.

Jobza Guddun
20th Nov 2012, 20:13
"You never know what's coming next. "

Indeed. But it IS keenly anticipated I think!:ok:

20th Nov 2012, 22:23

COIN Trial

Two of the BASOs from 224 Gp succeeded in getting in on the act for a while, thanks to Mick R. We did about ten trips each in September '65 from Tengah and according to my logbook three or four from Butterworth the following month. Wg Cdr Offensive Ops was not amused at the thought of his underlings enjoying themselves so he dragged us back kicking and screaming to HQ. I seem to remember one of the team managed to fly through a tree after an overenthusiastic low pull out - not either of us fortunaately.

21st Nov 2012, 08:37
26er, thank you for dotting and crossing those i's and t's. So it would seem that the trials started in Singapore but then moved north to Malaya.
My JP4 flights spanned the period 14 October to 23 November 1965, all out of Butterworth. For the life of me I can't recall how we got there or indeed how we got back to Changi. If it were by road or rail I would have remembered such a journey I think, so I can only guess that we flew. I see that having returned from Sydney I flew on a few training flights at Changi in mid/late September, so we obviously had one or two aircraft flying again by then. It could well be that was how we made those journeys.
Could it be that we replaced you BASOs? Knowing that the Hastings were (almost all) grounded, the obvious place for Group to look to for replacements was us. As noted earlier I clearly displayed a commendable lack of curiosity then such as to rival any BBC DG. Like you two BASOs we jumped at the chance and were definitely not questioning anything or anyone!

Danny, I see that I am not the only one to be uncertain of my comings and goings. The Indian Railways are still mind boggling in their complexity. However, the internet can help unpick some of it. As a starter here is a modern route map of the system:
Indian Railways, Railway Map of India (http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/india/india-railway-map.htm)
Individual journeys may be planned here (by those with degrees in data processing):-
Indian Railways Time Tables, PNR, Route, Fares, Arrivals/Departures, Running Status - eRail.in (Better Way To Search Trains) (http://erail.in/)
from which one can at least confirm your statement that there were no direct trains to Bombay for you to take.
That journey, especially as you viewed the disappearing Gateway of India from the deck of the Andes (an interesting name for a ship on the UK India trooping route!), must have been full of emotion.
R.M.S. Andes ,26,000tons | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5987889043/)
No doubt you looked forward to a home coming, but overwhelmingly you must have regretted this sudden severing with a time and place that was so unique in your life. I suspect though that the culture shock is yet to hit you as you return to a bleak land of post war shortages!

Union Jack
21st Nov 2012, 13:16
"I cannot say how that was acquired, but there was of course a large RN presence then"......(Union Jack, spring to the defence of the True Blue !

I'm sure that the Navy was only pleased to have the Far East Fleet augmented by Chug's Boss's converted lifeboat!

What ship was I in ? (you'd think I'd know !) It was either the "Andes" or the "Aorangi" (as there were 5,000 of us, I would guess "Andes" as being the larger ship).

ANDES was indeed the larger of the two, and indeed one of the finest looking ships afloat at the time, not that the AORANGI would offend a sailor's eye. However, the simplest way of deciding which was "your" ship would have been the fact that the ANDES had one large funnel, whilst the AORANGI had two more slender funnels.


21st Nov 2012, 17:07
Chugalug, my trips spanned 9 Sep til 1 Oct at Tengah and 8-10 Nov at Butterworth. Like you I can't remember how we got to Butterworth and back but suspect it was courtesy of the RNZAF Bristol Frightener. I do know that we didn't stay in Penang but found rooms in the mess.

21st Nov 2012, 17:16

I'm sure there were Indian Railway time-tables in my day, but I never looked at one then - and life's too short to try now ! The best plan was to go down to the station and take pot luck. You would get to your destination sometime - and patience was a virtue ! Will have a good look at the map, though - thanks for the link (I like maps). EDIT: It seems that there is a broad gauge line now direct from Kerala up to Bombay, but the North bit looks wiggly.

You must be psychic ! I have a (not too far distant) Post in draft about the mixed emotions we all felt when we got back, but will not shoot that fox yet.

"Andes" ? I suppose it was intended for the S.America run in peacetime. But in troopship fit, all ships were alike, boring, packed, squalid and uncomfortable. You were always glad to get off them...........D.

Union Jack,

Why do I have two ships in mind ? Could they have been in port at the same time (quite possibly) ? How many funnels did it have ? No idea ! (You can't expect a poor landlubber to remember tiny details like that - should have bought a postcard !).......D.

My thanks to you both (and to Jobza Guddun, for the encouragement),


23rd Nov 2012, 22:00
We were still finding our way round the ship and can't have been at sea more than 48 hours; we hadn't even "turned the corner" round Aden yet. An Army lad turned up on sick parade. His M.O. found himself facing a foe he may have seen only in textbooks. He was looking at a case of real, live smallpox.

How could this possibly happen ? In those days, every baby was vaccinated soon after birth (it may even have been a statutory requirement). Every serviceman was re-vaccinated at the Reception Centre as soon as he came in. Everbody was certainly vaccinated again before going out to India. And I'm not sure, but I think that they vaccinated us all at Worli before we boarded the boat home.

I'd nver heard of a case of smallpox in the Army or RAF all the time I was out there. (Dr Danny has no medical qualification or experience of any kind other than that acquired in a lifetime of hypochondria. Sleep easy in your beds. Wiki has been milked for following detail).

There were five doctors available - the Ship's Doctor and four M.O.s. Did their man have some form of immunity to cowpox- so that vaccination would never take? So how did he escape smallpox in India (where it was endemic) for so long ? Were there any more like him on board ? There is no cure for smallpox, like most viral diseases it has to run its course. It is highly contagious in the early stages. A minority die, the others are mostly severely disfigured.

There were 5,000 of us on board. Our doctors rolled up their sleeves and set to work, running a vaccination clinic non-stop for 36 hours until they had re-vaccinated everyone. Even so, we were all effectively in quarantine until the expiration of the incubation period (17 days) - and this seemed to start anew at every stage of the journey up to our home doorsteps.

We went through the Canal at night. At Port Said the "bum-boats" were kept clear of the ship (a few rounds over their heads from a sten gun reinforced the message to the slower learners) and no one was allowed off the ship.

The Mediterranian in late May. Gorgeous weather ? No chance ! Grey skies, cold and wet. Everybody in blues now (a lot of the KD went over the side). We put in to Gibraltar to offload the patient into an isolation hospital there. The clouds were well down on the top of the Rock. Then on home. We picked up the Mersey pilot at the Bar lightship and slunk up river flying the yellow quarantine flag - a plague ship!

We berthed at the Landing Stage. Everything looked exactly the same as I' d left it 3½ years before. As soon as the gangplanks hit the Stage, two or three Port Medical Officers rushed on board; in their wake a band of minions followed, with spray lances and five-gallon drums strapped to their backs. With these they set about fumigating the ship from stem to stern. It may have Killed All Known Germs, but it can't have done us much good, either!

There was a silver lining. A bunch of us were rushed straight through Customs, "without our feet touching the ground"', onto a RAF coach, then into the Mersey Tunnel. I was very interested.

Although I'd been driving since 1938, I'd never had occasion to go through the Tunnel since that Sunday in 1934, when just before the official opening, and for one day only, pedestrians were allowed to walk the 2.1 miles through to Birkenhead (and back if they liked). My father and I (12) had done just this (but we chickened out and took the ferry back !). This time we emerged into the light of day and went right across the Wirral to RAF West Kirkby, and - straight into isolation hospital !

Two more weeks of Durance Vile, then they gave me a railway warrant and turned me loose, with a dozen or so lost and bewildered souls also on the final leg home, but strangers to Merseyside. Knowing the area like the back of my hand from boyhood, I was able to act as bellwether for my little flock and put them on the the right trams to their stations (mostly Lime Street, but a few on Cheshire Lines) before hitting the well worn track back up Dale Street to Exchange and the electric train to Southport.

The warrior had come home, to (I think) 14 days Disembarkation Leave. Yet the Medics were even now not satisfied. I had to report to the town M.O.H. every week for a check-up. Needless to say, Mother was very relieved to see her son again more or less intact. When I'd had my crash in February the previous year, the dreaded telegram had come to the door. In war that usually meant only one thing, so on opening it she was thankful to read that I had been merely "injured on air operations against the Japanese".

But that was bad enough. How seriously ? When I'd been in the MFH for couple of days, and learned of the wording of the Casualty signal that the Squadron had to send, I managed (I don't know how), via the Hospital staff, to get a cable away home: "Injuries trivial- letter follows- Love- Danny". But still the suspicion lingered that I was putting a brave face on things, in spite of the denials in my "airletters". So it was not until I started flying again that Mother was partly reassured. Now she could see that I was as good as new: her fears were groundless.

Once more, Goodnight all,


There's no place like Home !

24th Nov 2012, 14:50
As I recall, flying the Yellow Jack was not the sole privilege of Plague Ships such as yours but rather a routine hoist meaning 'I am inbound from foreign and (therefore) require Customs and medical clearance' (and probably may be still ... Jack?). I'm bound to think that sea travel with its attendant incubation period was a good pandemic-blocker, now lost to us as we saw with the jet-hopping Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome which was so fortunately nipped in the bud not so long ago.

I suppose that your entry to the Mersey was seen by the port Medical Officer of Health as his finest hour, and he was determined to save the Nation at whatever cost to the 4999 on board .... your recall of the very swift Customs clearance has made my day (some distant progenitors of mine were Preventive Officers in the halcyon days of that once-great port; I feel quite confident that, had they been faced with such circumstances, their discretion would have supplanted their valour with no difficulty at all).

Danny, after so extended a stint in India flipping between very-wet-and-warm and very-hot-and-dry, did the return to British weather come as a relief, or otherwise? I wonder if the first, so-long-anticipated pint was something of an anticlimax, and whether the battered state of Liverpool amidst the general conditions of shabbiness and shortage came as anything of a shock to those returning?

Yamagata ken
24th Nov 2012, 15:42
Danny. I've been away, so trying to catch up. My calculation is that you would have turned 18 in 1939 (what timing!) My question is this. (Axiom) at some point in your teens, you would have become aware of problems in Europe (fog in The Channel, Europe cut off). Corollary: This is going to be really serious, and it's going to involve me. At what point did you ralise you were going to have to go to war, and what were your thoughts? (ahem)

24th Nov 2012, 19:10
There were 5,000 of us on board. Our doctors rolled up their sleeves and set to work, running a vaccination clinic non-stop for 36 hours until they had re-vaccinated everyone. Even so, we were all effectively in quarantine until the expiration of the incubation period (17 days) - and this seemed to start anew at every stage of the journey up to our home doorsteps.

Whilst not wishing to dispute the posting, why would the ships MO, just happen to have 5000+ smallpox vacination doses available.


24th Nov 2012, 20:00
In those days they would have had a five gallon jar of the stuff and scratched it all on with the same two needles.

24th Nov 2012, 21:30

Yes, a ship at sea must be almost the best Isolation Hospital you can think of. At the time I thought it strange that the M.O.s on board seemed so worried about something which they were normally so in control of - and would indeed stamp out in the '80s for good (so we hope, until some terrorist or rogue state gets hold of the tightly guarded research stocks of virus still kept alive in places).

I have a vivid imagination (still !) Let me (Like Dickens' "Fat Boy" - who so "liked ter make yer Flesh Creep"), pose a scenario: Let us suppose that the smallpox virus mutates in some way (there was plenty of the stuff in India in '46; tinkering by Ayurvedic medicine might do something to it even it could no more cure it than we could). Further suppose than this mutation removes the immunity which recovery from cowpox (or dead vaccine) confers. In short, we now have a super-smallpox alive against which the human race has little or no defence.

This is not entirely fanciful: it has been thought that something of the sort may have happened in the influenza pandemics of the early '20s, which killed more people than WW1. Indeed IIRC, a few years ago influenza corpses from that era were exhumed in Spitzbergen (preserved by the permafrost) so that samples of the virus might be recovered for DNA examination. (Come to think of it, never heard any more about that, could "Google" it - waste of time for me !)

If such a thought had crossed the minds of our doctors, they were not happy men. One of the lascars down with it - fine. One of our chaps - that's different. The thing is highly contagious; we have 5,000 men tightly packed. We could be in a "Roses of Eyam" situation. (Of course, all this is nonsense, Danny is talking through his hat, isn't he ? Couldn't happen, could it ?)

Your ancestor Preventive Officers were in a noble profession, which I joined as an Officer of Customs & Excise to eke out my miserable pension at the end. Only I was (please keep it quiet), a VAT Inspector (oh, the shame !), so did not have to ferret through manholes and poke about in oily machinery spaces. In uniform, I would have been a two-ringer, so at least I kept on bumping along the bottom till the end. (In the circumstances in question, yes - I'd have kept well away from me).

The '46 returnees were mostly the '42 and '43 outbounds; Hitler had done his worst to the place by them, so it looked a bit shabbier than before, but most of what was left standing in late '42 was still there when we got back. The Dark Waters of the Liffey never tasted finer (in those days they came in the wood from Dublin). It was a rather cold summer, as I remember - but then any English summer would have felt cold to us after the tropics. I recall one incident which I may enlarge on later........D.

Yamagata Ken,

This is a really hard one. To what extent are our recollections today coloured by our knowledge of What Happened in the End ? And to what extent were my opinions then (as a teenager) formed by my parents, relatives and teachers ? WW1 was fresh in every grown-up memory; the majority of men seemed to have fought in the trenches and I remember disabled ex-servicemen as pavement-artists and begging in the streets. Nobody wanted another one.

So the question is: when did the nation as a whole come to feel in its bones that war was inevitable ? I think after Chamberlain had brought home his piece of paper from Munich ("Peace in Our Time") and Hitler had invaded Czecho-slovakia, with our Premier's chilling reference to "a faraway land of which we know nothing". The game was on from 1938, the year I left school.

But how and when would it come ? I think Churchill's book title, "The Gathering Storm", expresses the feeling well. And what did my friends and I think about it ? Frankly, we didn't think a lot about it at all. We lived for the day: getting a start in our employments or professions seemed by far the most important thing to worry about. What would come, would come.

As we all know, it came on a Sunday morning, 11 a.m. on 3rd September. Nobody who heard Chamberlain's lugubrious words will ever forget them. Us ? - well, suppose we'll be called up soon. Carry on, wait for orders. Nothing else you could do - for the moment.

Not a very satisfactory answer, but the best I can do..............D.

Cheers to you both, Danny

24th Nov 2012, 23:20
Gulfstreamaviator and Fareastdriver,

5,000 doses of smallpox vaccine held on a trooper ? I've wondered about that myself. All I can say is that there were 5,000 of us on board (give or take); the M.O.s vaccinated us all (or said they did), so they must have had the stuff on board, for nothing came out to us.

It would make sense for a troopship to carry a full store of all the vaccines which might be needed for a disease outbreak on board. In the case of smallpox, what would be the logistical problem ? Let's assume that each chap gets a drop (1/20 ml - would he need that much ?) 5,000 would need 250 ml. It's not an excessive quantity. Any ship's doctors reading this ?

I would think Fareastdriver is in the right ballpark !

Thank you both, Goodnight,