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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 21st Nov 2011, 06:44
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Precautionary landing is indeed still part of the PPL syllabus.
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Old 21st Nov 2011, 07:59
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...Booker is in High Wycombe...
ExAscoteer - thanks, I should have spotted this myself. Perhaps Peter meant Woodley, I will ask him about this and the so-called "forced power approach" next time I speak to him.

I am sure many of you know of this site or an equivalent already, but if you go here Content-Delivery - UK Aviation Content Provision and click on the first bullet, you can get an aerial view of lots of present and ancient UK airfields.

There is no longer any obvious trace of a runway at Woodley, but those that know exactly where to look might spot more clues than me.
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Old 21st Nov 2011, 10:30
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There is no longer any obvious trace of a runway at Woodley
That's right, the airfield site was built over some decades ago. The remaining traces are in some of the street names, of Miles aircraft. Woodley NBD still exists, on or close to where the airfield was.
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Old 1st Dec 2011, 18:23
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tow1709

It is very good to read a further instalment of Peter's memoirs.
Gliding and powered forced landings were in the 1941 EFTS syllabus at Fairoaks in 1941, (Section 17)
A very good description of the slow roll. I can still recite it by heart.
In my CFI test by S/Ldr Howard, I mouthed it silently, and I remember my sigh of relief as the CFI said, "Well done."
In later years, when flying as passenger in a Tiger Moth, I have always been told it was impossible to slow roll, and only the barrel roll was demonstrated. This happened also when flying as a passenger in Chipmunks of the ATC Experience Flights.
Best wishes to 'young' Peter. May he continue to be the oldest member of the commune.
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Old 1st Dec 2011, 20:09
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Victor Milner

I don't know if he is either mentioned on here, or perhaps a member of pprune, but I have met a family member who tells me that he was a Lancaster pilot who has been interviewed by the BBC.

If he hasn't appeared here, I will make every effort to meet and transcribe.
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Old 2nd Dec 2011, 14:12
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To Cliffnemo

Hello Cliff, I have posted on this site in the past but have refrained lately because my early history was so close to your's, even our ages are the same.
Anyway i have once again been scanning this site and think that maybe I might have something to offer from my memoires. Starting with Chapter 4 My entry to Lords

Mrs. little boy goes to war.
I had completed the induction ceremony for entry into the R.A.F. some six months earlier. I had my little badge on my lapel at all times, indicating my selection for aircrew, that is, when it was not pinned to my chest when taking a bath. Perish the thought that someone might not realise that I was a pilot!
A pilot...When I had started this little adventure, my sights had been set on becoming an air gunner, but when presenting myself for selection among many others and much against my Father’s will. The gaffer in charge (a Flight Lieutenant), told us to enter our preferences as- Pilot, Navigator, Wop-A.G, Air-Gunner... “But Sir” I said, “I want to be an air gunner”! “Do what your told” he said! And feeling like Oliver Twist I said. “But Sir”...His look stopped further conversation so the preference was entered. I thought, never mind, when they realise I failed my Ph.D at St.Saviours elementary School I’ll be in the rear turret of a ‘LANCASTER’ before they could say Tally-Ho. That is if I don’t get thrown out on my own Tally-Ho anyway.
However, on the last day of the two day selection process and at the final interview, this very senior and obviously very intelligent officer. Chairman of the board of three, staggered me with the statement that I had been selected for Pilot training! Well! You could have knocked me down with a fender! I was five feet something tall on going into this two day selection program but I was seven foot coming out.
Following this selection and on the advice of the Air Force ‘medic’ I paid a visit to a dentist for some small fillings to be dealt with. During the manhandling by this butcher I felt a bit faint. He said “What branch of the air force did you say you were entering”? I had already told him! I told everyone... I couldn’t keep it to myself... I used to get mad at stupid people in the bus who obviously didn’t know what the badge on my lapel was for! Anyway I told him again. “A PILOT”!! “What” he said with a great guffaw of laughter, “You’ll never make a pilot, my brother in law went in for that and he was a great big strapping chap. He never made it.” I didn’t even enjoy the fillings.
Today was the big day and I was OFF TO WAR. Now, at this time I lived about thirty minutes walk from Lords cricket grounds and since there was no bus route and a taxi was out of the question, it did mean walking. I had packed, unpacked, and packed again for months! Just waiting for this moment, I could already see the headlines in the papers. ‘Group Captain ------ does it again’ as it spelled out my prowess in the air! Bidding goodbye to my tearful Mother, I flexed my muscles, picked up my very large suitcase and strode manly on my way without a backward glance. Except to see if she noticed that I had to drop the case a couple of times because it was so blooming heavy!
Until now I had not given much thought to the fact that I had been called forward to Lords. I had of course been to Lords on numerous occasions to see cricket. Now, it was to discuss the tactics of air warfare! With whom, I thought? How is this going to work out exactly? Who is going to be there to meet me? I imagined some senior officer fretting at the gate hoping that I would not fail to arrive...Wait a minute! There are umpteen gates at Lords and there was no indication of which one to report to on my papers! Anyway, now I come to think about it, why Lords? A reasonably sized office anywhere in London would have been good enough for me. They didn’t have to go to all this trouble!!
Anyway, these were just small administrative hangups and would clearly sort themselves out in due course. I must think how I am going to deal with the very senior officer who was sure to be at the gate, impatiently waiting for me. I could imagine it! He may just have taken a glance outside on the offchance of seeing me approaching. Ah! Mr ------. Sir. I’m so pleased you’ve managed to get here, everything is laid on. As soon as you have had your coffee and biscuits we will get you to the airfield!!!
I am now on the last lap. Gasping for breath after the three hundredth change of hands on the suitcase. The gates of Lords are coming into view. But what’s going on? It can’t be a match they don’t play now the war’s on. And every one of the blighters seems to be carrying a suitcase! I wonder where they are all going.
All day! All day! I stood with that milling motley mob waiting for something positive to happen. It eventually did so, in the shape of a dumpy Corporal who had spent his day wandering round the grounds searching for his squad! I was now an embryo squaddie. Then, like the Pied Piper he trailed us around until he had gathered his ‘Quota’ and formed it into ‘THREES’. Not forgetting of course the suitcases! I think it must have been at this moment when I realized why I didn’t dance much! Not only did my step appear to have a will of its own when it came to timing, but it also changed length without my knowledge! I suppose I was born to amble rather than March.
Eventually we were marched to our ‘billets’ which turned out to be one of the many rather plush private apartment blocks close to Lords and facing Regents Park. My hotel was in St. James Close. Often as a boy, I had seen expensive cars with chauffeurs outside these places so I thought; at least the accommodation was going to be nice! On entry it looked rather strange to see R.A.F. Corporals behind the reception desk. I had been used to luscious fillies and subservient flunkies...Well... in the films that is. However, after some time I was allocated a room on the fifth floor. I still hadn’t got the message though had I? Lift out of action, five flights of stairs to climb and where was the maid? Why did I need five poky iron beds in my bedroom? Why, the bed wasn’t even made? Where had the carpet gone? I think the light was dawning... There was going to be no tea in bed either.
I had told my Mother not to expect to see me until the war was over as I was going to be rather busy... This first day had been very long and I was completely whacked. The beds with their three biscuits didn’t look very inviting. These other four guys looked big and rough, they had obviously been booked into my room in error. I’ll have a word with the Corporal, but he does not appear to be very sympathetic though and won’t let me go home tonight. He said my first out would be at the weekend and that, only if I was very very lucky.
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Old 2nd Dec 2011, 19:06
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Welcome to the site, Padhist!

Very much looking forward to reading more of your memoirs!
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Old 3rd Dec 2011, 08:30
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Now THAT, Padhist, is a cracker of an opening post on this thread. More, please!!

Adam
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Old 3rd Dec 2011, 08:39
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I can recommend a search for Padhist's previous posts. Some superb reading in there. His aircraft types flown list is to die for, and sadly many did, so it's even better having a true veteran to recount the tales.
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Old 3rd Dec 2011, 09:13
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Paddy's memoirs

(From the thoughts of Chairborne PAD)
Mrs Carlisle gets to see the sights
I was at this time a flying Instructor at RAF SYERSTON and although not part of the plot myself I was in on the detail. It was like this...Mrs Carlisle had expressed a desire to see the station and the married quarter site by night. So, her husband also a flying instructor hatched a plan. It was normal to plan night flying in the winter when darkness was early. So inevitably it was cold, and because the sessions were long, there were times when one would need a comfort break. In this event the instructor would stop the aircraft at the end of one particular runway and either he or his student would nip out and perform against an old war time shelter near bye.
The plan was that Mrs Carlisle, dressed in full flying kit, including head gear, would wait beside this shelter until her husband sent his student over, she would then take his place in the aircraft to fly over the station. Well! The best laid plans...In the event, another aircraft stopped with the same intention and when this student arrived at the shelter he was surprised to find another already there. However he was bursting so proceeded with the intricate task of finding, and releasing, a very cold willy through layers of flying clothing and describing the process in the vernacular of the crew room. Needless to say Mrs Carlisle did not say a word.....[B]But she did get to see the sights!.
[/B]
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Old 3rd Dec 2011, 09:20
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Paddy's memoirs

Chapter 5

Early Days in the RAF

The early days spent at St.Johns Wood, were in fact quite hectic. I had chummed up with Chas Blythe, a Londoner from the East End who was in every way the opposite in character to me. He smoked, he drank and he womanized and in those days none of those attributes could have been recognized in me. (So there). Apart from getting kitted out with our uniforms, we were having medical and dental examinations, together with masses of inoculations. We were also doing some class work in various subjects. Let us start with the kitting out. The process was quite simple; we were marched to a large warehouse not too far away, in our squads of about forty to fifty strong. It must be understood there were many squads so the time spent queuing was long. We queued until we reached a long counter where we were given various items of clothing to make up a complete uniform. No attempt was made to see if the items fitted, and all was stuffed into a kitbag also supplied. We were then marched back to our billets where we tried things on. If it fitted we kept it, if it did not fit we applied to go on an exchange parade. This process continued until we looked like airmen. You can imagine what we looked like in the middle of the process, half equipped, part uniform, part civvies.

The Medicals en-masse was my first experience of seeing crowds of chaps all starkers with their undercarriages down. That took a little getting used to. Also surprising to me may I say, was the proximity of the Doctor when he said cough. This always seemed a very matey way to discover whether or not one had a cold!

We used to queue for hours outside Abbey Lodge, another of the ex apartment blocks. A building which was used for the mass inoculations, in fact whilst we passed in queue’s slowly along the walls of the building, we used to read the poems etched into the walls by the chaps who had passed before us. Very good some of it was too. When we did eventually get to the medical area we had Doctors and medical orderlies each side of us tackling each arm with their needles and vaccination knifes it was like a sausage machine. Needless to say, like the heroes we were, we gritted our teeth and kept our undercarriages up and locked.

Our Dining Hall was the original restaurant of the London Zoo. This was about ten to fifteen minutes march from our billets. Of course there were some but not many animals at this time and certainly none of the original dangerous ones, these had been moved or put down due to the current emergency. The problem was, that there were so many of us queuing that quite often by the time it came our turn to eat, it would be time to go. Of course the Corporals had gone to the head of the queue and had plenty of time to eat. During the marches to and fro it was not difficult to see which squad had been jabbed, all marching with one arm stationary at their sides. Lo and behold any wag who even pretended to make a pass at the sore arm in those days.

I recall one occasion when we had returned to our billets and the Corporal dismissed us for the morning. My Pal Chas promptly turned round and jumped on a bus. He went home! In the morning on parade the Corporal asked why he had disappeared he replied. “Well Corp, you said dismiss I thought that was it for the day so I went”! Well you can imagine that did not go down too well. But that was my mate Chas.

As far as I can remember we spent about two or three weeks at St Johns Wood and then the Postings came in. The bright sparks, went off to Initial Training Wing and the rest of us were posted to Brighton where we were to undergo courses in maths and signals among many other subjects.
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Old 4th Dec 2011, 08:26
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Paddy's memoires

This is somewhat out of sequence but I thought you might like something with a bit more meat in it. This was almost my last flight in the RAf.


The night London Airport was mine

I was coming to the end of my 3 year tour with the Blind Landing Experimental Unit (BLEU) at RAE Bedford, where I had been posted to carry out the automatic landing trials on the Vulcan. These trials had been initiated after it was realised that in the event of a nuclear attack upon the British Isles, there would be a need to disperse the Vulcan (V.Force) to designated airfields around the country. Since this would have to be carried out regardless of the prevailing weather conditions there was clearly a requirement for an ‘All weather landing system ‘. Automatic landing was the obvious choice.
The main test aircraft at BLEU were Varsity’s. These sturdy twin engine aircraft were used in all manner of tests apart from Automatic Landing. They were pleasant to fly and could carry an immense amount of test equipment and ‘Boffins ‘. In addition to the Varsity, Auto Land was installed very successfully in, Vulcan, Comet 4, Canberra and the American Airliner the DC 7. When flying the latter we always had the aircraft’s American captain on board and oddly enough we had to obtain a Private Pilots Licence, validated for that aircraft.
We flew in all weather conditions as a matter of course, and indeed, sought out airfields we knew were closed due to bad weather to assess the available approach lighting facilities. Occasionally Mr Calvert the grand master of Visual Aid Studies flew with us and it was he who declared. The Varsity was the perfect vehicle in which to carry out these tests in relative safety. Many of these airfields were American and I often wondered what their aircrews thought when they heard a solitary aircraft doing circuits and bumps in thick fog when they could hardly see to drive their cars.
The validity of these tests is self evident. There can be few pilots who enjoy the prospect of a long instrument approach, the transition from instruments to visual, through an uncertain cloud base and variable ground conditions such as, rain, snow, mist or fog. The inputs imposed upon a pilot at the latter stages of an instrument approach are enormous. I recall a senior line pilot saying during a lecture on this subject.....”At 100Ft when you have yet to see the runway, following an instrument descent, you reach the threshold of PAIN.” He was so right.
All our automatic landing tests were carried out using a single channel system. That is to say one of each piece of equipment, Autopilot, Radio Altimeter, ILS (Instrument Landing System) receiver.etc.The proposed civilian versions (Trident) would have three of everything as a safety, belt and braces measure. The whole process, apart from some switch pulling, was automatically controlled....Height and heading....ILS and glide path acquisition ...And one of my favourite items ‘Automatic throttle control...‘ Dial your speed’...What more could one ask for. It meant that the pilot could literally sit ‘ Hands off ‘with confidence until the point of touchdown. In the event of any crosswind, the drift angle was automatically kicked off just before this point. Naturally in fog one does not anticipate strong wind.
We had a long standing contingency plan that if London Airport was ever closed because of fog we would go in and carry out circuits and landings to demonstrate the system. On the 4th December 1962 my colleague ‘Pinky Stark’ went there to do just that but unfortunately his aircraft lacked a vital piece of test equipment which was to have given him directional guidance after the automatic pilot had been disengaged on landing. He was thus restricted to do touch and go landings. Had the fog been less dense and he could have seen at least two centre line lights he would of course have carried out full stop landings.

On the 5th December 1962. Having flown the Comet in the morning I was told to be ready to take a Varsity to London Airport that night to complete the demonstrations. On this occasion I would have the aircraft equipped with the new ‘Runway Guidance Indicator’. This was in ‘Breadboard state ‘. Not yet built into the instrument panel. It consisted of a tube passing over my right shoulder, projecting a Sperry Zero Reader ILS signal onto a ‘Head Up Display’, on a glass prism, mounted on the instrument panel coaming. This piece of equipment was essential in the exceptional conditions which prevailed. The actual ( RVR ) Runway Visual Range on this night was 45 Feet. To put that into perspective, runway centre line lights are spaced at 100Feet, thus only one centre line light could be seen at any one time. Another interesting observation would be...That an observer standing at the edge of the runway, would be unable to see a fully lit Vulcan, stationary on the centre line! I had never before experienced fog as dense as this. The London Airport runway is 300ft wide and the Vulcan a 110ft wingspan.
We took off from Bedford at dusk and carried out two circuits and full stop landings to test the new ‘Runway Guidance’ equipment. It was working efficiently so we left Bedford and was soon circuiting London Airport. The conditions were most unusual; above 300 feet the sky was clear but in the London basin lay this dense ‘ Pea soup’. There were no signs of lights beneath.... London was at a standstill... No buses, no trains... We were to learn that none of the VIP’s scheduled to join us for the demonstration could get to the airport.
However, we were there and plunging into the ‘soup’ on ‘Auto’s using the standard ILS, for azimuth and glide path indication... Soon after we entered the fog we heard the clatter of ice being thrown off the prop’s onto the fuselage....De-icers on...We were already ‘locked’ on the glide path and quite soon the Inner marker beeped, there was no sign of approach lights although we knew they were on....Touch-down still no lights, but we were on the centre line as I could feel from the centre line light pods touching our nose wheel.....Throttles and Auto-land were switched off and I kept straight manually using our new toy...runway guidance.....very gingerly on the brakes lest they cause a swing and so to a full stop. Now, not being able to see any lights at all, how was I going to turn around and return to the take off point? LAP Airfield Radar came to our aid and was able to navigate us through 180 degrees and direct us back to the take off position for a further circuit.
We were supposed to gather up a number of VIP’s at this point but as I have said the fog was such that they were unable to get to LAP. We did however manage to pick up Captain Poole the BEA training pilot. He was brought out in a van navigated by the splendid Ground Radar...I’m sure they could see a Ferret cross the runway.
We carried out four circuits and landings and returned to Bedford....I have often wondered what the authorities would have said had they known that my Instrument Rating had expired some days before!!!!!

Flt.Lt.C. Grogan AFC
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Old 5th Dec 2011, 11:25
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Bump.Excellent stuff padhist. There can't be too many people with a DC7 rating on a PPL!
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Old 5th Dec 2011, 18:01
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Wowww
I have just spent the last four days reading this whole thread and I must confess I had a HUGE lump in my throat when I read the news about Reg, someone I had never met, heard of, but yes I confess to feeling emotional when I read of his passing.

After reading over two thousands messages I guess my main thought is how we are now treating these folks: how our generation is looking after these heroes which includes their wives or in modern speak partners. I find it terrible that these brave 'average' people were willing to sacrifice their lives all in the name of freedom and yet are now sometimes treated by our health service in a manner that is considered unacceptable for those people that we incarcerate behind bars... Every year we salute these brave men and yet we now tell them to sell their house if they want long term medical support!! Shame on us all and shame on our Members of Parliament for allowing this

Apologies if that rant is political, but it is NOT aimed at any specific party it is aimed at this country but enough of my moans and the way we are treating a generation that allowed us the freedoms we are now able to enjoy.

CliffNemo I have a few questions and wonder if you are still able to answer them.

Firstly you volunteered for active service and wanted to be a pilot. You successfully completed the training course but were 'volunteered' to change skills. I accept that the Flight Engineer had an important role but if it were me, I would be devastated if I was a qualified pilot and ended up as the flight engineer. Did you ever try to revert back to being a pilot or did you just accept this as a fait accompli.

I believe some posts vaguely mention radar controlled searchlights and the 'blue beam'. Could you or anyone else explain this in more detail please? Does the ground radar give height, course, and speed, or does it do more and link the guns to a type of controlled fire?

I read how it took fully laden bombers a considerable distance and time to climb to their operational bombing height, but then I read how aircraft would regularly 'corkscrew' all the way to the target. I am just thinking how easy was it to regain the height and by how much this would extend the flight time?

I believe a tour was defined as thirty night mission that had to be completed and had to be of a certain distance? Reading through these messages it appears that this can take anything between 12 - 24 months to achieve. Is that correct and how long would they be rested for? I did read how folks would move into non operational posts but there were also those that went back onto a front line posting.

Lack of Moral fibre
This phrase sends a shiver down my spine. On this thread we see pictures of men in their early twenties whose hair is already going grey. Stress is something EVERY human being can suffer from and we all will deal with this in our own way. I guess I compare it to a boiler.... Light the fire and the steam builds up and without a safety valve or a way of controlling that flame then the boiler will go bang.

With stress if we do not control that flame or release that safety valve then our body\mind will without a shadow of a doubt......... Go bang. Is this term lack of moral fibre used when folks turn round and say enough, or is it someone that refuses to fight without ever making any type of effort?

I had better stop my ramblings as there will be others with FAR, far more interesting things to say, but THANK YOU for starting this thread.

I have tried getting the dhoby wallah to sort out that damaged picture but he tells me it should be the job of the photo wallah. I do not have the proper skills but hopefully someone here will volunteer to do a better job than my efforts.






Yours very sincerely
John
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 11:57
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My memoirs

Chapter 6


Brighton

The aim of this course was to improve our knowledge of Math’s. I have always thought it strange that so much emphasize was placed on this subject and yet I can recall of no situation where such knowledge for a pilot was necessary. The most interesting book I ever had, written by Air Commodore Kermode, was. Flight without formulae. It required no mathematical knowledge...This for flying instructors was almost a bible. It was rather like the myth of timekeeping when related to aircrew. So many people think that to fly an aeroplane, particularly in the Air Force, one requires split second timing. I never found this to be so and certainly I never did manage to synchronise my watch within seconds with everyone else and I rather doubt if anyone ever did manage it. We have all seen the American films where scores of aircrew are assembled and the Boss man say's... Right synchronise you watches. And about two seconds elapse and everyone is happily synchronised. You try it, with just about three people.....Usually so long as you have the day right you are OK. Oh yes! And all take off in the same direction.

I spent six weeks at Brighton and a good portion of the time was spent doing P.T and drill on the seafront. We had a Corporal P.T. instructor, who must have done a Charles Atlas course, because he was built like the film star version of a Tarzan and was bronzed as only you see on the films. Of course there was nothing he liked more than to Lord it over us in front of the civilian onlookers. You can imagine we looked a pretty sorry lot of wimps against him. I think he slept under a sunlamp! But he was good looking and we all did envy him.

At the end of our six weeks we were beginning to look and feel like airmen we were certainly fit and felt very proud of ourselves as we marched around the town. Brighton was a nice place to be, the weather was glorious, and we were the Brylcream boys, getting two and six pence a day, what more could we want? Yes, we wanted to get on with our training and get into an aeroplane. However before that we had the hurdle of Initial Training Wing (ITW) and little did we know the Powers That Be' had a surprise up their sleeves for us. Contrary to our expectations, before going to ITW we were posted to LUDLOW on the Welsh border for, as they said, a toughening up course.
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 12:00
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My memoirs

Chapter 7


LUDLOW

From Brighton as I have said, we should normally have gone straight to I.T.W. (Initial Training Wing) but for reasons we shall never know we were posted to LUDLOW. What a strange posting that was! I recall a very long march from Ludlow Station to the Camp, which was exactly that. A tented camp in wide open country. Fortunately the weather was not too bad but the nights were cold. This posting has always been shrouded in mystery. It would appear that the land was owned by a very rich landowner, a Major Critchley. We called ourselves Critchley's Army. Our best blue was put away in our tents on arrival and we never used it again until we were posted out. This caused me a great problem which I will explain later.

On our first parade clad in tatty denims, we were asked if there were any construction specialists among us. There were some, but Chas and I thought it prudent to keep quiet, that proved to be an error, because we immediately became labourers working for the specialists. In fact we became manual concrete mixers. The plan seemed to be to set up a large camp having roads and concrete walled buildings with tented roofs. I say seemed to be, because we never saw a plan and because of the lack of supervision nothing seemed orderly. There was a mass of material, sand, cement, concrete bricks, pipes for drainage and for water, tools, etc, etc.

The following day when specialists were called for, Chas and I stepped smartly out and claimed to be 'Steel Constructors' that seemed a nice safe bet, but low and behold we were welcomed with open arms. There was a very large Nissan Hut to be erected and we were the first ‘Experts’ in this business. Of course we couldn't back out having volunteered our expertise. I must say we had a lot of fun building this monster. We had no plans so it really was the blind leading the blind. We did succeed in erecting most of it before we left. Not though without having had some nasty incidents due to our own inexperience.

As I said the nights were cold and there were quite a few chaps going down with Dysentery due to the poor water supply. One such was a chap named Duck I recall one morning early, he said to all in the tent “I’m very sorry chaps I had an accident in the night and when I tried to get out of the tent in a hurry the door had iced up I lost control...but I will clean it up"

Ah yes my big error!! When we arrived I wrote my letters to Mum and the girl friend and being a nice sort of chap I went round to everyone asking if they had letters to post I would take them. Of course what did I do? I put my letters in my best blue jacket pocket and forgot them but posted all the others. Naturally, I got no replies to my letters because the family did not know my new address. But I was cussed enough not to send any more letters until they had replied to mine. This went on until I was posted to Paignton and changed into best Blue, when I found the letters in my pocket. Well... I had to explain that I had been on a secret mission didn't I!!!!
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Old 6th Dec 2011, 20:15
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Is there anyone here that keeps in touch with the instigator of this excellent thread? The cold nights are starting to set in and I guess I miss reading his excellent posts

Regards,
John
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Old 8th Dec 2011, 13:17
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My memoirs

Chapter 8


Initial Training Wing PAIGNTON

This was going to be the big test for us because it would determine if we were to go on to any form of aircrew category. It was a three month course and covered such subjects as, Navigation, Theory of Flight, Armaments, Signals, Meteorology, and of course plenty of Drill, and Physical Training.

I was allocated to the Ramleigh Hotel which was a small pre-war Guest House having about 15-20 rooms. We 'Guests' were about four or five to a room, each with the usual iron bed and three biscuits. It must be understood this was a classic system in the services. Your bed and its surround was your bed space. It also included a cupboard/wardrobe. Each day you were required to clean your bed space and make up your bed. Your three biscuits were piled neatly one upon the other and your four blankets were folded to form a neat cube on top. We were lucky also to have sheets which were placed neatly between the blankets. Every day there was a room inspection whilst we were out and punishments abounded if we were caught with anything out of place or the area not clean and tidy.

Paignton was a typical south coast holiday resort and a very nice quite little town, one of the many which most wartime aircrew will have passed through at this point of their training. Of course the beaches were all defended with barbed wire and anti landing craft barriers. So there was no lying about sunbathing after a swim.

The routine was quite strict and we were obliged to work at our studies and our drills. We had a course Sergeant who was our ‘Mentor’ and our ‘tormentor’ depending upon the occasion and how he felt.

Because our places of study, eating and living were dispersed over some distance it was necessary for us to move around very quickly and so we were obliged to march at a faster pace than usual, this took some getting used to and was pretty tough at first. Our dining hall was about two to three hundred yards up the road so that was not bad, but our main area of study was a lovely old country house about twenty minutes fast march away. If the day's schedule was worked out well, we went to the house just once. However, on occasions it meant two journeys and that made for a hard day and sometimes short meal breaks.

One of the very colourful characters we had was a Warrant Officer P.T.I ( Physical Training Instructor) who called himself CHANG we were the 'Sons of CHANG' and by golly he used to make us hop. He was housed in the Rotunda of the country house. It was there also that apart from study we did our physical training. Chang's lair was known as the Temple and we did not dare go in there. I suppose he was the chief torturer. When we started we were taken on runs of three-five miles in gym kit and plimsolls but, as the course progressed we were putting on more and more gear until, and I will never forget, the final run which was in full kit with gas capes, masks and rifles. I'm glad I didn't join the Army.

Once we got into the routine we had a lot of fun. I formed one of a group of chums Chas Blyth, Jimmy Connors and Pat Downey we spent all of our spare time together and of course got into all sorts of mischief, most of it very innocent, but some I prefer to forget. Unfortunately Jimmy and Pat never made it as Pilots and became Navigators. They were both later killed in action. It was Jimmy who, whenever we sat at a table in a cafe would greet the waitress with "Tickle your arse with a feather" and when the waitress hesitantly replied.” I...I beg your pardon”...He would reply "Particularly nasty weather" Leaving the poor girl to wonder if she had heard what she thought she had. All four of us were in the football team and although it nearly killed us each time we played, we enjoyed it. Our toughest match was against the Durham Light Infantry who were in accommodation quite close to us.

On one occasion the Durham's were preparing for a General's inspection and we used to hear the progress reports leading up to this. They had dummy inspections every few days for weeks and many of them were placed on charges for minor infractions. However, the night before their big day we asked if all was going to be OK. They replied “of course”, because their bed spaces had by now been passed OK and they had no intention of sleeping or disturbing them again until after the inspection!!! What an organisation.

As one might imagine life was not without its incidents and we were a group of very fit young lads leading a somewhat monastic life. This did not suit everyone. Two such were in the next room to us and we were often puzzled why they were always sending parcels home, usually it was the other way round. One day it was made clear. The Police came and arrested them for Burglary. They had been systematically robbing shops at night. Needless to say they were thrown off the course and I believe out of the Air Force.

Well the end of the course eventually came and the tradition was that we were sent on a two weeks leave and on our return, the train arriving around midnight, we were to see the results of our endeavours posted on the notice board. If we had passed, and all four of us had, we gained our first promotion to L.A.C. Leading Aircraftsman. This meant a rise in pay from two shillings and six pence a day to, (I think) seven and six pence. This new found wealth had strange consequences because, having for the first time, 'folding money' we decided to celebrate with a restaurant lunch, that was great after all the service cooking we had endured over the last few months. However it ruined us because when we saw our food in the mess hall the following day, we decided we couldn't face it and went to the restaurant again, so instead of benefiting from our rise in pay we found it hard to live on it. Up to that time we had never really thought about money. So much for riches!!
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Old 8th Dec 2011, 22:05
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How fantastic to have another regular contributor to this thread.

The basic training of airmen is a part of history that is insufficiently covered, given the thousands that went through it. Great to hear it from the horse's mouth.

Padhist - I'd be interested to know the demographic of the potential aircrew intake in your basic training courses. The stereotypical image of aircrew - particularly pilots - is is of course the public school type. Surely this must be a myth? I would have thought that all who were capable would be selected?

Keep the memoirs coming!
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Old 9th Dec 2011, 07:14
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Paddy,
Agree fully with Tommy there - it's really good to hear about an airman's basic training. Something that every airman went through but it gets a bit lost in all the talk of operations and Lancasters and Halifaxes and... - but still a vital part of the overall story. Really pleased you've decided to share them with us!

Glojo,
I've sent Cliff an email... will advise what comes of it.

Adam
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