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RAF strength 1953

Old 21st Apr 2022, 19:35
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I remember the big display well as I was at a boarding school on the southern side of RAF Odiham at the time. I then joined the RAF in 1955 and began flying training at Ternhill in January 1956. It was a much bigger air force in those days.
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Old 21st Apr 2022, 19:56
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Regarding National Service I read about a RAF National Service pilot who, having finished his training on Provosts and Vampires in 1954. recalled, "...National Service lads were not allowed to continue flying after graduation...the rest went on to fly Hunters.....I..flew Chipmunks on a Wednesday aftenoons"

Anyone know any more about this? Seems to be a waste of money training pilots and then not using them

Last edited by Brewster Buffalo; 21st Apr 2022 at 20:26.
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Old 21st Apr 2022, 20:05
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Originally Posted by Brewster Buffalo View Post
This was the time of National Service. I read about a RAF National Service pilot who, having finished his training on Provosts and Vampires in 1954. recalled, "...National Service lads were not allowed to continue flying after graduation...the rest went on to fly Hunters.....I..flew Chipmunks on a Wednesday aftenoons"

Anyone know any more about this? Seems to be a waste of money training pilots and then not using them
Former MP and Cabinet Minister, Norman Tebbit flew Meteor's and Vampire during his National Service period, but that was 1950-52, as he joined BOAC in '53.
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Old 21st Apr 2022, 21:17
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Does anyone have access to the full list? That link only gives page 1 as far as I can see. I have actually flown with number 44, Hedley Hazelden. Not in a Victor.
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Old 21st Apr 2022, 21:29
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Eric Bucklow's excellent book 'Coronation Wings' gives much of the review details, including listing the pilots of the various aircraft in the flypast and serial numbers of both the static and flypast participants.

Originally Posted by The Flying Stool View Post
Coincidentally, in 1953 the RAF lost over 400 Gloster Meteors in crashes/accidents!
Unfortunately two Meteors and their pilots were lost in a mid air collision while practising for the flypast the previous week. Imagine a similar accident today while practising for the Queens Birthday flypast and the handwringing over whether it should go ahead.

Originally Posted by DaveReidUK View Post
They could at least have taken the covers off that Hastings.
Most of the aircraft in that shot have their covers on, not just the Hastings (C2 WJ327 ) With none of the crowd visible, I suspect that this was taken during a rehearsal. Interestingly, on the day after the flypast and ground inspection, all the barriers were removed and the crowds allowed access to view all the aircraft close up.

Originally Posted by teeteringhead View Post
And another impressive fact about the Coronation Flypast and Static Display: I understand that ALL the aircraft involved were UK based, not a single one from Germany or farther afield.......
Not quite true Teeteringhead. Warmtoast's list shows Venoms and Sabres from the 2nd TAF, albeit operating for the flypast from the UK, as well as RAAF Vampires and Canadian Sabres. Doesn't detract from the fact that it was a significant number of aircraft both on the ground and in the air.

Originally Posted by Planemike View Post
By my reckonings the last six aircraft on the list were flown by company test pilots. That would figure as the aircraft were Ministry of Supply aircraft, not RAF squadron aircraft... Could be regarded as " the industry's " contribution to the great show....!!
Industry participation yes, but essentially an opportunity to showcase six types that were in development for the RAF. The first five were all flown by distinguished ex RAF pilots (although Brian Trubshaw's rank is not quoted like the others) The last aircraft, the Swift, was piloted by the sole RN participant !!

Originally Posted by GeeRam View Post
Its also sad to see out of that long list of bases, only Shawbury, Waddington & Marham are left as active RAF bases.
Scampton is also just about hanging on by its fingertips !


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Old 21st Apr 2022, 21:43
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The Swift F4 prototype WK198 was indeed flown by Lt Cdr Mike Lithgow. It roared across at 580KIAS, then suffered an engine seizure necessitating a dead-stick landing back at Chilbolton!
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Old 21st Apr 2022, 22:48
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Originally Posted by Brewster Buffalo View Post
Regarding National Service I read about a RAF National Service pilot who, having finished his training on Provosts and Vampires in 1954. recalled, "...National Service lads were not allowed to continue flying after graduation...the rest went on to fly Hunters.....I..flew Chipmunks on a Wednesday aftenoons"

Anyone know any more about this? Seems to be a waste of money training pilots and then not using them
The seven or eight national service pilots on my course were released from the RAF a couple of months before the end of their two years. I seem to remember one went back to being a solicitor, three returned to being chartered accountants and four or five joined BOAC and BEA.
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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 01:39
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A look in the Tin Trunk unearthed these gems: plenty more, but these may be of interest to this thread. Cartoons inside alone are precious memories 👍












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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 06:28
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Somewhere I have a few issues of Tee Emm (the RAF's "Training Memorandum"), which is where I believe P/O Prune and his Irremovable Finger made their debut.

There's an older thread about him here.
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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 09:32
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Regarding National Service pilots, the expressed intention was that after their 2 years NS they would join a Royal Auxiliary Air Force fighter squadron for some years (maybe 6-8?) to fly the Vampire or Meteor. Some did, I believe, but the scheme fell apart after the Sandys white paper of 1957, which (among many things) disbanded all of those units.
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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 09:37
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I like the addition of what looks like a tea wagon between the two Hastings!
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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 09:48
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On the day itself, there were 318 aircraft on static display; the flypast consisted of 641 aircraft, of which 197 were piston powered and 444 were jets....
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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 10:04
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That was the year that I joined the Royal Air Force. It is arguable that it all went downhill from there - coincidence ?
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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 10:38
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I have two "Flight" magazine reports of this occasion, both are very informative.
1. 10th July 1953 with programme (7-pages long).
2. 24th July 1953. Report of the Review (10-pages long).
Sadly Flight International doesn't seem to to be available online anymore.
I attach a cotemporary press report of the occasion.
WT

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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 11:41
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Originally Posted by brakedwell View Post
I remember the big display well as I was at a boarding school on the southern side of RAF Odiham at the time.
Lord Wandsworth? I was offered a place there in 1975 but my mother decided I should go elsewhere - think Wandsworth would have been a much better option for me, suspect I might well have spent quite large portions of my weekend free time down at Lasham!
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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 14:19
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Originally Posted by treadigraph View Post
Lord Wandsworth? I was offered a place there in 1975 but my mother decided I should go elsewhere - think Wandsworth would have been a much better option for me, suspect I might well have spent quite large portions of my weekend free time down at Lasham!
Youve got it in one! I used to cycle to Lasham and Blackbushe Airfields at some weekends. Blackbushe was the best as they used to let us go on the flight decks of the inbound Yorks and Hermes when the crews had left, some of which were left in a real mess!
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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 14:57
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK View Post
Somewhere I have a few issues of Tee Emm (the RAF's "Training Memorandum"), which is where I believe P/O Prune and his Irremovable Finger made their debut.

There's an older thread about him here.
Another RAF 1960s safety mag was 'Air Clues', which featured cartoon characters 'Bloggs'* (clumsy JP trainee pilot) and his long-suffering instructor. Typical sequence:

Instructor: OK, Bloggs, stall turn left

Heads swivelling randomly and out of sync left and right . . .

Blogg's face (behind O2 mask) - eyes wide in panic

Instructor's expression (ditto): What a prat!

Instructor: OK, Bloggs, spin recovery . . .

In another article an instructor records his impression of a 'difficult' trainee, who he refers to as BUS (big ugly student). I recall the line: 'BUS bends throttle, breaks switches'.

*I'm not 100% sure this was the character's name.

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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 18:07
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Coincidentally, in 1953 the RAF lost over 400 Gloster Meteors in crashes/accidents!
Indeed. I notice that on forums like this whenever anyone mentions the F104G Starfighter, someone inevitably comes in with the "widowmaker" comment, but for some reason the Meteor has escaped that reputation. In fact the Meteor statistics were truly dreadful, 890 were lost in service, resulting in the deaths of 450 pilots. Maybe the fact that many of those killed were young single National Service pilots meant that the "widowmaker" name was never applied to the Meteor
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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 18:30
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Son went to Lord Wandsworth , I thought it was lovely unpretentious well balanced school when he was there . Very big on sport especially rugby and a certain J Wilkinson was in the year above him, also a local lad of course.
I presume Odiham was chosen for that Royal Display because it is quite a big airfield and not that far from London. Were there any other reasons than sheer size because it wasnt a famous Battle of Britain or Bomber Command station

I had to smile at the very Britishness of the Telegraph article going on about the huge number of aircraft and then saying well actually most of them are old and obsolete. I suppose that was almost inevitable at the time as RAF transitioned to jets which it had some of but not a very impressive number. Now the skies resonate only to the thwack thwack thwack of Chinook rotors, few at that event could conceive of a helicopter of that size.

Wasnt the Meteor called the meat box , a horrible sounding name and perhaps an allusion to its death trap tendencies , The F104 of course could have a sinister appellation being 1, Foreign and 2, Many of those killed were Germans.

I suppose the almost entire RAF could fit into Odiham now although the sheer size of the C17/A400/C130 might be a problem, nothing back then would have come remotely close



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Old 22nd Apr 2022, 18:44
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Originally Posted by Tankertrashnav View Post
Indeed. I notice that on forums like this whenever anyone mentions the F104G Starfighter, someone inevitably comes in with the "widowmaker" comment, but for some reason the Meteor has escaped that reputation. In fact the Meteor statistics were truly dreadful, 890 were lost in service, resulting in the deaths of 450 pilots. Maybe the fact that many of those killed were young single National Service pilots meant that the "widowmaker" name was never applied to the Meteor
I don’t think many of the pilots were National Service, but they were inexperienced. I am not sure if my experience on the Meteor in early 1958 was common earlier on, but when I was a second pilot on Hastings on detachment at RAF Nicosia, I turned up at the Levant Comm Squadron in March 1958 and said I wanted to fly the Meteor, of which they had about 6 or 7 T7 and F8. I was given two copies of Pilots Notes and told to come back tomorrow. Having spent several hours learning the 8 and 11 pilots notes in the tent I was living in I turned up at the Levant Comm Sqn the next day. After hanging around for several hours the Flt Lt boss of the Comm Flight came into the crew room and said I have authorised you to take a T7, so go and sign the authorisation book and enjoy the flight. I didn’t argue, but went out to the T7 feeling very under confident. All went well until I pressed the first starter button! Nothing happened. One of the ground crew climbed up the side and said. Make sure the throttles are fully closed. Both were slightly open and the engines were started without any more problems. I took off easily and spent a very enjoyable hour over the southern part of the island. After one more trip in the T7 I flew the F8 almost daily for a couple of months. As a self taught Meteor pilot I felt quite proud of myself when we eventually returned to RAF Lyneham. The only thing that annoyed me was the fact that 216 Sqn would not let me fly their 3 Meteor T7 which were provided for their second pilots, so it was back to our 2 Chipmunks and an Anson provided for second pilots on 99 sqn.

Last edited by brakedwell; 22nd Apr 2022 at 21:14.
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