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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Old 18th Nov 2010, 14:48
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As were most British aircraft of the era. Toe brakes were an American thing.
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Old 18th Nov 2010, 15:17
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Milan Op. 12th August 1943

Boggie has sent me some notes (not worth publishing here I am afraid) that Ernie Herrald made re. his training and Operational Tour. I have had a read through and one particular comment struck me as interesting and possibly humourous. (If my memory serves me correctly Reg, was also on this raid.)
The comment he made for the Milan trip was as follows:
"“Spectacular trip over Mont Blanc. Full moonlight. Searchlights were electric storm! Chased Biplane fighter, very long stooge. 9hrs 10 mins.”
The bit that interests me is "Chased Biplane fighter", some googling does seem to show that the Italians did indeed use biplane fighters... has anyone else heard of a Halifax bomber trying to chase and shoot down an Italian Biplane fighter?
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Old 19th Nov 2010, 00:41
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Hello My name is Neil Sim and I went to Churchill Public School in Saskatoon, Sheldon-Williams Col. in Regina and the College of Science at Regina Campus, University of Saskatchewan with man now known as Dr Doug Milliken, M.D. I live at Holland Landing, Ont 905-830-9701. Can you help me reach him. PS My Dad was in the RCAF and was a Bomb Aimer on a RAF Sqn 166 at Kirmington. His last flight was to Leipzig on 19-20 Feb 1944. Doug's dad worked at Chrysler when my dad was at Ford both in Saskatoon and in Regina. If you are interested, I have the Intelligence Report about that flight, my dad's log book, pictures of his medals and a chapter of a book called Lancasters At War Book 2 written by two Brits that is full of stories about Lancasters. Ask doug to phone me. My email is [email protected] Neil
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Old 19th Nov 2010, 06:51
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I believe we have a connection

My brother is Dr Doug Milliken and our father did work at Chrysler for a time. I will have Doug contact you.

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Old 19th Nov 2010, 09:43
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Hello Neil, and Welcome!!
If Q Queenie was their regular aircraft, then they were a very experienced crew and perhaps we can ask you to add your Dad's memoirs to this thread?
By the sound of your statement that the Leipzig raid was his last flight he must have been badly injured not to fly again. At least they made it back to Manston

166 Squadron Lancaster Mk III. Serial Number: LM382. Coded: AS-Q. Operation: Leipzig. 19th /20th February 1944. LM382 was delivered to 166 Sqdn 2nd Nov 1943. LM382 took part in the following Key Operations: Berlin 22/23 Nov 1943; Berlin 23/24 Nov 1943; Berlin 26/27 Nov 1943; Berlin 2/3 Dec 1943; Berlin 16/17 Dec 1943; Berlin 23/24 Dec 1943; Berlin 1/2Jan 1944; Brunswick 14/15 Jan 1944; Berlin 27/28 Jan 1944; Berlin 30/31 Jan 1944; Berlin 15/16 Feb 1944; Leipzig 19/20 Feb 1944 aborted, crash-landed at Manston. When SOC this aircraft had a total of 184 hours. LM382 was one of four 166 Sqdn Lancasters lost on this operation. (See: ME627; ME637; DV220)
Airborne 2340 19th Feb 1944 from Kirmington. Outbound, intercepted and very badly shot up by night-fighters and Sgt Wright and Sgt Powers were badly wounded. The bomb load was jettisoned and course was set for Manston, Kent, where the Lancaster crash landed at 0605 20th Feb 1944, being wrecked in the process.
P/O J.H. Catlin, Injured; Sgt H.C. Wright, Wounded; P/O A.W. Pragnell, Injured; P/O F.C. Sim RCAF, Injured; Sgt T.P.F. Hall, Injured; Sgt T. Powers, Wounded; Sgt W. Birch, Injured.
(Source: Bomber Command Leipzig Raid )

I hope that at least the pilot got an award for bringing his crew back, and a very valiant effort to save the aircraft too. They must have been attacked near the target before attempting to make it home, as it was over 6 hours in a crippled aircraft! A very seasoned (and lucky) crew!
Please provide more details if you have them...
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Old 19th Nov 2010, 17:59
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Peter Brett's memoirs continue...

The war ends...

Arriving at Plantlünne I found that there was very little operational flying going on. I did a couple of flights on 2nd May: a sector recco and practice formation leading.

Next day, the squadron flew over to B150 where we took off for an armed shipping recce over Neustadt Bay. On arrival we found that we had been beaten to it by 198 Squadron who had attacked the SS Bremen (?) and left it on fire. We managed to find a small coastal vessel which we attacked without any spectacular results and then returned to B150 and later flew back to Plantlünne.

On arrival there in the late afternoon we were told that the Germans in northern Germany and Holland had surrendered! As far as I remember everybody had a drunken evening and I notice that nobody flew the next day. However on the 5th May I led some local formation flying and then on 7th we were sent off in two groups of four to fly low over Emden for an hour or so to 'show the flag' and confirm to the inhabitants that we had freedom of the sky without being fired at!

Next day, May 8th, saw the official surrender of Germany and 'Larry' (I can't remember his surname but he was the 'A' flight commander and one of the two South Africans on the squadron), and I celebrated by doing a one hour low level cross-country flight up to the North coast and back.

No flying the next day but then on the 10th we started three days of Wing formation practice. This meant getting 48 aircraft up into a formation of four sets of twelve. Each set of twelve consisted of three fours, with each four in line astern. The three fours formed a 'V' and the four 'V's formed up one behind each other.

The Wing Commander led the whole lot and started off by flying a very wide circle round the airfield at about 4000 feet. Each squadron then took off and formed up in their 'V' when the leader of the squadron had to judge distances, rate of climb and steepness of turn to join up with the existing formation as quickly as possible without asking his following aircraft to do impossible turns or accelerations! For some reason I had to lead 164 squadron and, as soon as we had formed up I started a gradual climbing turn trying to aim to join up in the right place as I reached the right height.

Luckily everything worked out well and, although we were the 'tail end' squadron, I managed to slot us into position without any violent manoeuvres. In fact the Wingco commented on the smooth join-up. We repeated this practice five times in the next two days and then on 15th and 16th May we took part in Group fly-pasts. First round Holland and next day round North Germany. It was quite an impressive sight since there were well over 200 aircraft in the formation consisting of Spitfires and Mustangs and Tempests as well as Typhoons.

May 18th saw me doing an air test and then on the 19th two more Group fly-pasts. It was during the second of these when conditions were a bit bumpy that I suddenly felt an odd vibration through my rudder pedals. It stopped almost immediately and I dismissed it from my mind. However, on landing, Flight Sergeant Mackintosh came up and told me that he had 'touched' my rudder with his propeller when in close line astern. An examination of the tail plane of my aircraft revealed a narrow 'V' shaped slice out of the rudder about 9 inches deep! A few inches further forward and it would have sliced through the lower rudder hinge with somewhat unpredictable results! Fortunately this was the last close formation flying that we did and my next two flights, an air test and a weather check went off without incident.

On the 27th I did a cross-country to Wünsdorf and return, obviously to find out where it was because next day the wing moved there. This was the first time we had been in purpose built accommodation in Germany. The station had been an Officer training school and was very well equipped. The airfield had two runways and the Mess was a modern building. The entrance hall was most impressive having a mosaic tiled floor in the form of a German Eagle. Unfortunately the effect was ruined by a very amateurish and most unpleasant anti-Jewish mural which took up the whole of the wall facing the entrance. The first thing the Station Commander did was to have this mural painted out and replaced with a much more professional picture of a Typhoon.

Other than the unpleasant mural, the building was very well appointed. It had three bowling Alleys in the basement and a very modern bar. There was one item of equipment in the toilets which caused us some puzzlement at first. I was a large circular trough surrounded on the inner face with various chromium taps, handles, and levers. Its purpose was not obvious until, one evening, one of the lads who had imbibed not wisely but too well, tottered into the toilet feeling very sick. Without thinking he leant forward over the circular trough to find that his hands automatically found purchase on a couple of handles. His head went forward and his forehead made contact with a flat lever which caused water to flush into the trough.

Having rid himself of the unwanted booze he felt very much better and lost no time in informing the rest of us of his discovery. It would seem that the German idea was to drink until you were sick, repair to the toilet, offload the excess and the return to the fray. The one or two people who had to make use of this facility were full of praise for the system which more or less obviated a bad hangover!

Our arrival at Wünsdorf was not auspicious since two aircraft crashed on landing, fortunately both without injury. Flt/Lt Chase ran off the end of the runway and flipped over, and Jack Lee-Warner had to pull up his undercarriage to stop shooting off the end of the runway. I now think that, knowing that the war was over, and that it was now unlikely that one would be killed tomorrow, a relaxing attitude had taken over, with the result that flying became extremely sloppy.

On the 31st May, I was doing some local flying when one of the other wing aircraft, call sign Baltic 15, reported that his airspeed indicator was not functioning and he was orbiting base wondering how to get down! I called him up and then asked him to formate on me and I would lead him in reading off the airspeeds as we went. I told him I would call each manoeuvre (Wheels Down , Flaps Down etc.) twice and asked him to carry out the operation after the second command on the instruction NOW. Everything worked out fine. On the downwind leg I called 'Airspeed 180, Wheels Down, Wheels Down, NOW' and put my wheels down a fraction of a second or so late to ensure that he would start to slow down before I did. The same thing with flaps down, fully fine pitch, etc. As we crossed the runway threshold I called 'Close throttle, Close throttle, NOW' and we did a perfect formation landing.

It appeared that some small insect had decided to build a nest in his pitot tube which effectively blocked it and stopped his ASI from registering! In common with many single engine pilots he did not consult the ASI until after liftoff and then only to check the airspeed for raising the takeoff flap displacement. He was somewhat disconcerted to find that he was climbing away from the airfield with zero airspeed!

We were at Wünsdorf for almost a month but did very little flying. The war was over and it wasn't worth wasting petrol doing useless things. We all spent a lot of time firing off captured weapons, anything from small automatics through Lugers to Schmeisser sub-machine guns. Looking back, it was highly dangerous since there was very little range discipline. Luckily nobody was hurt, although several chaps had near misses with stray rounds.

My log book tells me that I only flew once more from Wünsdorf and that was a twenty minute local air test .Then on 21st June we were flown back to U.K., without our aircraft, to Turnhouse just outside Edinburgh, where we were re-equipped with Spitfire IX's.

More soon... TOW

Last edited by tow1709; 21st Nov 2010 at 09:09. Reason: ID of ship attacked is not certain. (?) added
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Old 22nd Nov 2010, 22:39
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Thank you.

Thanks for your correction. Grandad passed away when I was three and now Grandma has followed. I dont have much to go on except stories that I was told when I was very young from Grandma. You have made me realize how much bigger Grandads experience actually was and that their were alot of men who have been through the same. You've put it in perspective so to speak.
I am learning on my own and with the help of people like you and Cliff, it is much appreciated. We have here in Ontario, Canada a museum that has restored a Halifax. My dad and Grandmother went to the unvailing. Dad took with him some of the files that Grandad had brought home with him after the war. The curator was interested in them and asked if he would donate them. Dad said no because they are to be left to me. I want to show my sons this stuff when they are older so they can also touch the past. Thanks again. Ken
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Old 22nd Nov 2010, 22:56
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Thanks so much fellas for all the information. I can tell you that all I learn is passed on to my family, and is much appreciated. Take care . Ken
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Old 23rd Nov 2010, 10:14
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Grandad's memorabilia.

. Dad took with him some of the files that Grandad had brought home with him after the war.
Would that be anything which you could reproduce here ?
If you do not have the facilities , then perhaps the museum would scan and post , using their copies ?.
If not we could possibly help.
F Neil Sim.

. If you are interested, I have the Intelligence Report about that flight, my dad's log book, pictures of his medals
' all is grist that comes to this mill' So yes please . we are very interested. Cliff.

Last edited by cliffnemo; 23rd Nov 2010 at 10:22. Reason: additions
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Old 23rd Nov 2010, 14:40
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Dads back in country but has gone to work. He sounds eager and says he has some questions. I told him your sources of info and first hand knowledge is fantastic. So probably on the 27th we could let you fellas know what dad will be able to share. Reading your replies I feel like a kid at Christmas. Thanks again fellas. Ken.
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Old 23rd Nov 2010, 15:15
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Just remembered

I just remembered that I have a leather bound edition of Mien Kampf that was brought home from Grandad its all in old German, just a souvenier. I was also told that he had a German officers cap, and some piece of braided leather off a German uniform that he took apart and made a bridal for one of dads horses.
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Old 24th Nov 2010, 09:21
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Milan Op. 12th August 1943

In reply to my question re. the Milan Op. 12th August 1943, Boggie found a reference to a Gorge Dove a mid-upper gunner who was with 101 Sqdn. flying Lancasters also on a raid to Milan. His plane was attacked by a Fiat biplane, which set fire to the hung up incendiaries, which then set fire to the Lancaster. George shot down the fighter and then went to rescue the rear gunner and help put out the flames. The plane did make it back after a major struggle. The story is on P.22 of Snaith Knights.
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Old 24th Nov 2010, 12:00
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The Milan Raid referred to was on 14th/15th February, 1943. My great friend throughout training, Sgt Ivan Hazard, was the Pilot. One crew member baled out. The Navigator was awarded the DSO, (NOT the DFC in the Snaith Knight's extract.) Three members of the crew were awarded the CGM.
Ivan Hazard and George Dove DFM, were recommended for Victoria Crosses but instead received Immediate CGMs. Really outstanding awards for so many members of one crew. Ivan was killed in a flying accident in March 1943 and he is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford.
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Old 30th Nov 2010, 22:09
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Further memoirs from Peter Brett

Earlier in these memoirs I mentioned how easy the use of the undercarriage control was on the Typhoon. My familiarity with this now led to my undoing.

On 30th June 1945 I took up one of our new Spitfire IX's for 'experience on type'. As on the last occasion that I had flown a Spitfire, I was impressed by the lack of vibration. After 20 minutes I returned to base and commenced my circuit. Everything was going well; I slowed down on the downwind leg and selected wheels-down. On base, I throttled back and selected flaps down and fine pitch. I floated gently over the threshold of the runway and eased back on the stick. I felt the tail wheel touch and a few seconds later the nose dropped and I was looking at a bent propeller blade whilst the aircraft slid along the runway somewhat noisily on its belly. NO WHEELS!

Looking back it was obvious what had happened. Being so used to the Typhoon, I had just flipped the undercarriage lever down, expecting it to lock, not remembering that on the Spitfire you had to physically moved the lever down AND sideways to engage the bottom lock position. I learnt later that I was doubly unlucky in that the ACP (Airfield Control Pilot) had been watching a Miles Master which landed before me and by the time he saw that I had not got any wheels down, he was too late to do anything about it. An eye witness said that he had leapt into the ACP van as soon as he saw me, grabbed the Verey pistol and came out again, firing the pistol practically horizontally as he shot through the door, but the red Verey light passed just behind me. I had checked the u/c warning lights as I came downwind but the sun was directly behind me and I must have taken the reflection as the green lights. Needless to say, I felt a right Charlie sitting in the middle of the airfield whilst I waited for the jeep to arrive to take me back to Flying Control.

Of course, an inquiry was held and as a result my log book was scheduled to be endorsed 'Gross carelessness'. I was also grounded from then on whilst awaiting posting. In fact I did not fly again until Sept. 25th. After being grounded until the end of August I was sent down to Fighter Command Headquarters at Stanmore in Middlesex to receive my posting. I expected to be sent off to a target-towing job which was considered the lowest of the low posting. However, when I arrived it was very obvious that nobody knew that I was due for a naughty-boy posting since I was treated quite normally and the chap in the posting office even asked me if I had any preferences. Incidentally my logbook endorsement also never caught up with me!

I deemed it expedient to try to get out of the country again and I asked if there were any non run-of-the-mill postings available, preferably abroad. He thought a minute and then said "I know, we'll post you to 130 squadron in Norway. They are equipped with Spitfire IX's but don't fly them much as they have other duties". He refused to say more but said "I think you might enjoy it". I reported to Northolt and was flown by Dakota to Norway, landing at Oslo. I remember the trip mainly because the pilot set 'George' the autopilot and then he and the navigator came back into the cargo area and we sat around a packing case playing cards, with the pilot or navigator occasionally going up into the cockpit to check things during the 2 and a bit hours it took us to make the journey.

At Oslo airport I was directed to the RTO (Rail Transport Officer) and issued with a ticket to Kristiansand. Also at the RTO's office I met another pilot being posted to the same destination. He was Swedish and had volunteered early in the war, and was one of the very few Swedish members of the RAF. We travelled together for the two hour journey, he spoke faultless English and of course we talked in English as we travelled.

It was very amusing that, sitting opposite us were two attractive Norwegian girls who spent quite a lot of the time apparently talking about the two of us. As we left, my companion said something to them in Norwegian and my last view was of them blushing furiously. It seems that he had said that we had enjoyed their remarks, not mentioning that I of course was completely ignorant of the language. Swedish and Norwegian are sufficiently similar that my companion was quite able to converse with them. I never did find out his name and when we arrived at Kristiansand he was met by a different vehicle and whisked off somewhere else. I was met by a corporal who drove me the thirty five odd miles to the airfield which was only some two miles away as the crow flies on the other side of the fjord, but by road we had to go all the way round!

The thirty five miles was up the western side of the fjiord, across a bridge and down the Eastern side to the airfield. On all my future visits to the town I travelled by the ferry which plied regularly across the fjord ever hour.

I then officially joined No.130 squadron. After all the usual round of reporting to the various admin sections I had my interview with the C.O. (No mention of the Spitfire prang!) and met the rest of the pilots in the mess. Almost immediately one of the chaps showed me a copy of the “Daily Sketch”, a few days old, and lo and behold, there I was pictured with my foster brother Eric and Wg Cdr Bill Brown, accepting the flag at the ATC Parade in Harrow during my last leave! The headline however gave me a jolt, it said something like “Impostor receives dedicated flag”. It turned out that my acquaintance “Wg Cdr Bill Brown, DSO, DFC & bar, AFC” had never been in the RAF at all!!! He had been turned down on medical grounds and had commenced his deception almost immediately. He had been very circumspect in giving himself promotions and medals in sequence over the years and had even fooled his mother, with whom he was living. She was not too well educated and accepted his stories of being based near London which allowed him to live at home. He even went so far as to leave home in uniform and take with him his holdall containing his set of civilian clothes into which he changed, probably in a public toilet somewhere, before proceeding to his job as a bank clerk!

What had finally led to his unmasking was when he overreached himself by attending the end of course party at Tangmere Fighter Leader’s School where he was thrown in contact with some genuine Battle of Britain pilots. Some of them got suspicious and started enquiries which culminated in his unmasking just after I had left England. The newspaper merely reported his arrest. I never heard any more, I was not called as a witness and I don’t even know if he was brought to trial or what happened after that. I only know that he must have immersed himself completely in his assumed role because he fooled a lot of people, including me! He should have realized that every genuine Battle of Britain pilot was at least aware of some of the names of the others!

[This story made the national newspapers in October 1945 - see link below... tow]

Alan Allport's website: Saturday, 6th October, 1945

Last edited by tow1709; 2nd Dec 2016 at 06:33. Reason: deleted personal information of third party
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Old 1st Dec 2010, 08:34
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Tow 1709,
Christmas card sent as requested, many thanks to yourself and Peter for the rivetting tale.
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Old 2nd Dec 2010, 06:32
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...and one from me as well. There's some fantastic history on this thread!
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Old 2nd Dec 2010, 18:19
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More memoirs from Peter Brett...

Having endured the ribbing I received for my unwitting part in the deception played by the so-called Wg Cdr Brown, I was accepted into the squadron and actually flew again on 25th September 1945. I did 35 minutes in a Spitfire IX for ‘Refresher Local Flying’. The next day I spent 1hr 25mins on an Air-Sea rescue search. I continued one trip per day, doing formation flying, aerobatics, and cross-country trips, until October the 5th when I started doing what the main job of 130 Squadron seemed to be, and that was ferrying German aircraft around.

Here I should explain that Kristiansand Airfield was staffed almost entirely by the original Luftwaffe occupants. Only the "Political" officers had been removed. Although there was a ‘’no-fraternisation’’ rule, it was virtually ignored and as soon as I found out which of the German pilots spoke English, I made a point of striking up conversations. It soon appeared that most of the pilots were more interested in flying than in politics and were quite happy that the Political Officer had been removed. We had many discussions about the relative merits of various aircraft. I was interested to learn that they thought that the Typhoon was a dangerous opponent in air-to-air combat whereas I thought that it performed very badly as a fighter!

On October 5th 1945 I was given dual instruction in a Fiesler Storch aircraft, a 40 minute trip to Lister, and I flew the aircraft back to base. The next day, I had a further familiarization flight in the Storch, this time 45 minutes solo. From then on, I only flew a Spitfire twice and during November 1945 managed to fly other German aircraft - notably a Messerschmitt Bf 109 and a Focke Wulf 190!

It was a long time ago, but I can clearly recall some of the impressions that these German aircraft left with me. The Fiesler Storch was truly an amazing aircraft. It was slow, ugly and noisy BUT it could keep airborne at the incredibly slow air speed of about 20 mph. I recall that on my first take-off I taxied into wind, put down 15° of flap, opened the throttle and after rolling forward what seemed to be a just few feet I was airborne. Landing it was a dream since the undercarriage, which was fixed, drooped down in flight like stork’s legs (hence the name) and there was a good metre or more of slack to take up before the weight of the aircraft was fully taken up by the wheels. Thus you could more or less fly the aircraft slowly down towards the ground and only close the throttle and ‘flare out’ after the wheels had touched the ground. I recall that on one flight when there was a fairly strong wind, I managed to slow down enough to actually fly backwards across the airfield. This was a thing that I also managed to do later with a Tiger Moth, but that is for a later chapter.

The Bf 109 and the F-W 190 trips were regrettably only of about 30 - 40 minutes duration each. The Bf 109 reminded me somewhat of a Hurricane to handle, whereas the F-W 190 was again a new experience. The noise and vibration were reminiscent of the Typhoon but there the similarity ended. The most noticeable thing was the incredible lightness of the aileron controls. It seemed that you had only to think of banking for a turn, then you were doing it!

Even on the short flight I had, I could not resist trying a roll with the result that I did two rotations before I managed to level off. I have often thought since that, having flown both the Spitfire and the F-W 190 that it should have been fairly easy for a German pilot to escape from a following Spitfire by rolling violently into an opposite turn. Although the Spitfire could turn inside the F-W 190 the rate of roll on the Spitfire was a good bit slower and the German pilot could be away before the Spitfire could line up again. This rate of roll would not be any great advantage in attacking and in those circumstances the superior rate of turn of the Spitfire would be an advantage.

The squadron did very little flying otherwise, since there was a shortage of tyres, and the rough concrete surface of the runway was very hard on the smooth tyres of the Spitfires. We worked more or less office hours and did nothing at weekends. Consequently I spent some time in Kristiansand socialising.

More soon... TOW
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Old 3rd Dec 2010, 04:40
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Australian Flying: Mosquito Pilot - Col Griffin

Mosquito Pilot - Col Griffin

15 Apr 2010

Flightpath Volume 21 Number 3

WWII RAAF Mosquito pilot Col Griffin - still flying today - shares some of his memories with Kathy Mexted and tells how a wartime recruitment poster set his life on a dramatic and exciting new course.

An Adelaide railway station poster headlined: I’m going to join the RAAF. Are you coming? caught the eye of a 21 year old Col Griffin. Quickly sold on the idea, Col says it took him a while to “make up the academic stage”, but once enlisted he commenced initial training locally at Victor Harbour. “I walked through that, and then went to learn flying at Parafield, soloing in 8 hours 25 minutes. There were some bright arses that went solo in 6:20, but often that was because they had good weather. Others had worse weather and never soloed at all. The system couldn’t wait for them.

“We got through, and while most of the blokes went off to Canada, half a dozen of us went over to Geraldton in WA to fly Avro Ansons. I loved Geraldton, it was such a beautiful place. I was commissioned off course as a ‘Pilot Officer’ (he says, waving his arms in self mockery). “I came from Strathalbyn in South Australia, where I was nothing but a lad in a dusty country town. Within twelve months I was a ‘Pilot Officer’ and I had a uniform, and I had a cap, and boy - was I up myself!” says Col, laughing at the memory of his transformation.

“Within 12 weeks, I was aboard TSS Ceramic bound for England with about 105 flying hours under my belt. We crossed the Pacific, through the Panama Canal, Newport News, New York City and then Halifax where we waited for a convoy before sailing off across the Atlantic. Boy, was I glad to get to England. The U Boats were sinking ships everywhere, and by the time we got there I thought to myself, ‘I’m never going to survive this bloody war.’ (On December 6, 1942, the liner was sunk by U 515 en route to Australia from Britain. She was carrying 656 people as well as a cargo which, because it was war-time, included bombs and ammunition. Only one passenger survived.)

“We were entrained at Liverpool then sat around for five weeks at Bournemouth until they could decide what to do with us. We were interviewed as to what role we wanted to play in the war. They said to me ‘you’re too tall to be a gunner, and you’re not smart enough to be a navigator, how would you like to be a pilot?’ and I said ‘well that’s what I joined for.’ Well everybody wanted to be a ‘Fighter Pilot’ and nobody wanted to be a bomber pilot because the rumour was that it was a pretty dangerous job.

“I was keen to fly the Beaufighter but they told me ‘We don’t know if we can do that, but we’ve got lots of vacancies on Lancasters,’ and I said ‘well if that’s the case then, OK. I don’t mind.’ - So Lancasters it was.”

The next move was to Spitalgate in Grantham where Col learnt to fly Airspeed Oxfords before moving on to Charter Hall in Scotland to fly the Blenheim Mk.I, Mk.IV and the Mk.V or Bisley, and he recalls: “God it was cold in Scotland. I reckon the Bisley was one of the few aeroplanes that would get bird strike from behind. Then they introduced me to the Beaufighters. They were built with radial engines but there was a shortage of these, so they put Merlin engines in them and it became a dog. Once you got it flying, it was nice plane, but it was a dog on the ground. I lost it one day on landing. Went across the middle of the airfield and came out the other side. I went clean through all the vege gardens, and it took me all day to wash the mud off. I was so glad to get out of there.”

Col’s next posting was to 456 RAAF Squadron at Valley on Isle of Anglesey, Wales, where there were Beaufighters. There was also two Mosquitos being re-equipped and Col recalls: “…so I got an endorsement on the Mosquito. It was fast and smooth - the latest and popular. I was one of the lucky few. Here we were posted to Middle Wallop, based between Salisbury and Andover in Hampshire for three or four months, then back to Colerne in Somerset, Fairwood Common, Wales, then RAF Ford.

“By then the allies were grooming themselves for the Second Front, the Americans were flying over Germany, and the Lancaster force was becoming immense. This is when the Germans realised they had been foolish in not developing a heavy bomber force. Compared to Lancasters the Mosquito was like an eagle to fly. Lancasters were being built in the hundreds and the US were flying massive B-17 daylight raids. Being an intruder Squadron it wasn’t just night fighting, as Germans were getting a bit sparse with heavy bombing on Canterbury and destroying cities and people, it was all coming to an end.

Col recalls; “The Germans were building up a night fighter force and they had thousands of night fighters based in Western Europe to oppose British bombers. My Squadron was involved in intruder work. Our duty was to fly over their fields and make a nuisance of ourselves. Drop flares and bombs or shoot up planes on the ground. Our mere presence didn’t terrorise them, but it did scare them. They knew we had hundreds of Mosquitoes and we could put them out any time.”

“It was dangerous, because you never knew how high above the ground you were. We’d fly over at about 10,000 ft and come down to around 1,000 ft. The German airfields were defended with multiple guns. Some of the intruders would bomb runways as well. This continued until the end of the war. By that time I was based at Bradwell Bay near Chelmsford.

“I have nothing but praise for the Mosquito. It had two engines, which made a single engine landing tricky, because it was so streamlined. With one operational engine, when the undercarriage was lowered, you needed a lot of power. Recovery took 1,000 ft, so if you were below that, then you were committed to the landing.

“I only had one single engine landing and it was due to a radiator coolant failure. Coolant leaked out, the temp went up and I shut the engine down. It was in daylight and a piece of cake, because at the time I had experience and been trained for such an event, so I knew exactly what to do.

“I flew 650 hours in the Mosquito. That included Squadron work and training other pilots. About 250 were combat hours. The first time I departed for combat I was frightened as hell. The thought of it was a bit worrying because you had to make a flight plan, and navigational instruments were rudimentary, also we relied heavily on dead reckoning. My navigator, HP ‘Hoppy’ Williams, would plan it on the table. It would always be a black night, and I’d fly the flight plan that he gave me, and he’d map read as much as possible. He was very good, and once we got going, all fear was gone.”

Col then adds “Between 1939 and 1945, fully trained and operational aircrew deaths totalled approximately 75,000. Sixty percent were bomber command personnel. One’s demise came rather cleanly and relatively in the final sense, permanently. No horror, no drama, in most cases they simply did not return from operations to their billets.

“On one occasion I was shot at, the aircraft was damaged, and the radar operator wounded by flak in his buttocks. It came up through the bottom of the aeroplane and through the parachute on which he was sitting.

“We were based at Arundel, in Sussex, at RAF Station Ford. It was right on the coast where many shot-up aircraft landed with wounded on board, often including the poor rear airgunner shot dead and frozen stiff with the winter wind whistling through his busted turret. What a hell of a job getting his body out for identification and recording by our Squadron Doctor! The Americans suffered no less on their daily forays before the Mustang fighter could accompany them and mix with the enemy defenders.

“While I was stationed at Ford, I witnessed an incredible event. A damaged B-17 crash landed there one afternoon. Coming in at speed with one gear leg dangling, the pilot pushed his machine onto the ground, creating a spectacular cartwheel, followed by a thump and instant fire. The ground rescue services were on the spot in an instant, rescuing crew. Some were limping, some were OK, but one bloke who was on fire ran back into his blazing aircraft and died. Why? Who knows who could give a reason? For days, I wished that I’d not witnessed that moment. It was one of the most upsetting, inexplicable, graphic scenes I’ve ever witnessed. No wonder the horrors of W.W.I affected our Diggers well into the thirties. Poor buggers.”

As if war doesn’t provide enough drama and danger, Col managed to have one of his most memorable events occur on a day off. One morning he was approached by a young RAF flying officer who wanted to go to Liverpool to meet his girlfriend and Col recounts the event; “‘Will you fly me up?’ the young bloke asked. I said, ‘If they’ve got an aeroplane I will.’ As it was about a two-hour flight each way, we went over to the flying school and I said, ‘Can I have a Mosquito to fly this bloke to see his girlfriend? I’d love to have a bit of a fly alone on the return trip.’

“The WAAF said; ‘All the Mosquitos are occupied but we’ve got a Beaufort over there in the grass. We’ll drag it out and you can take it for a run.’ So we hauled it out of the long grass and got the old thing going. When we got to altitude, there was one hell of a crash from the starboard engine and all the cowling flew off, the prop went into fine pitch and the engine caught alight, so I shut it down to put the fire out. It shed three cylinders and I thought I’d die in the backside.

“I thought to myself ‘What am I doing here? Flying a bloke up to Liverpool and all he wants to do is meet his girlfriend and have a bit of a cuddle, and now we’re in fine pitch and losing altitude rapidly. Someone is either going to get hurt, or die, and that could be me!’ That’s when you wonder, ‘what is my mother going to think?’ and not panic. There was a cleared patch in the trees, so I put it down there but forgot to put the landing gear down. We came to rest in a field of sugar beet and, me with an engine cylinder in my lap. It had come through the side of the aircraft.

“We were out of that plane in a nano-second because the engine was red hot, and I thought it was going to go ‘whoosh’, and I’d have been onions. Anyway, we survived that and the beet farmer came and found us. My mate had a cut forehead and the farmers wife was a nurse. She only had a needle and cotton, so she dipped it in Dettol and stitched him up and washed the blood off his tunic before announcing to the ambulance ‘send him on his way to see his girlfriend’.”

We asked if the mate got to see the girl? Col replied with a great laugh: “Oh did he what! Wounded and all! Somebody from Cranfield came and retrieved me. I had the shimmy shakes.”

D Day
Recalling D Day, Col says “I was over the beach head at Omaha on the night of 5 June, 1944 – in preparation for the landings. We knew the allies were about to attempt to fight their way onto French shores. We had noticed a build up of forces - there was scarcely a leafy lane that didn’t have an article of war ready in it. We had also noticed the huge floating concrete caissons that were going to be towed to the invasion point and then scuttled to make a wharf.

“We found out about the invasion the night before, after the ships had already left. They were so thick; you could have stepped from one ship to another. It was a vast armada and the night flying squadrons were flying out over the channel looking for German bombers, but there were none. That was an anti-climax.

“Around that time it was fairly humdrum, except when we received the shot-up planes in desperate to land, including American Mitchells, Marauders and B-17s. A Mosquito landed short one night. He was using the rudimentary flying beam and got too low, hit the ground and the plane exploded. The wheel came off, jumped the roadway and killed an engineer. It was pretty wild.

After the War
“I flew over Germany about 3 weeks after the war ended and there wasn’t a factory or city that hadn’t been raped by air power. I came home with a total of 1,007 hours as a man who had willingly served his country right to the end.

“Our replacement Commanding Officer (after the preceding one was killed in a flying accident) Bob Cowper is still alive and living in Adelaide. There are very few of our squadron left. I think there is only about six aircrew.

“The journey home was very unpleasant. The ship was crowded with POW’s and only a few women. I landed back in Sydney and caught the train to Melbourne, then the beautiful Adelaide Express home to see mum and dad. That boat trip had knocked a lot out of me. I lost a lot of weight and learnt to smoke. I went through about a three-month period of depression, as I knew I would. After all that excitement, it’s one hell of a let down when you are demobbed. All that excitement, and all of a sudden ‘plonk’, back to Civvy Street – but you pick up the pieces. I loved England and its people. I think all servicemen probably suffered the same problems.”

Following his retirement from the RAAF in 1945, Col worked for Australian National Airlines (ANA), later Ansett ANA, and upon retirement spent ten years at a flying school in Melton. He says he found his old service flying jacket in an army disposal store in Adelaide once, but: “it was oil stained and dirty and held no appeal for me at the time. It was a time when everybody was fed up with the war, and the jacket didn’t seem to have any value, even sentimental value. I realise now I should have just told them I’d lost it and never handed it back.” His service boots have been worn out and long gone, and the only part of his kit to survive are his log books and tunic.

Col still flies upwards of 50 hours per year in his amateur-built high performance RV6, based at Kyneton in Central Victoria. He is an active member of the Kyneton Aero Club, and flies away for lunch on average every second weekend. Having lost touch with his sweetheart Doreen, during the war, they were only reunited in 1997 and have been married for ten years. Walking away from the hangar after doing some air-to-air photography in his RV6, Col was in high spirits and confided with a big smile, “I’m having the time of my life”. On 1 September, 2009 Col celebrated his 90th birthday by flying himself and his wife to Adelaide in their RV6.
I helped another chap, our company E & I engineer, Ed Groot, build the RV-6 and did the test flying on the aircraft. Ed subsequently sold it to Col.
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Boggie sent me the following photo (split into two parts by his scanner) which was with Stan Gibbon's stuff. We assume it meant something to him, and is probably related to before he joined 51 Sqdn... other than that we "know nothing", so if anybody would like to add any pertinent information it would be appreciated.

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