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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 6th Feb 2012, 00:12
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ITW Training (Continuation)

I said foot drill, the RAF couldn't spare us rifles, they'd only just managed to find some for the Home Guard. Otherwise the arms drill I'd learned as a ten-year old with my first airgun, from my Dad (an old Sergeant), might have come in handy. In fact, the only other arms drill I ever learned came later in my training in the States: US Army drill with the WW1 Springfield rifle. I never touched our (ex WW1 and Boer War) SMLE.

The Good Shepherd drove the iron of his instruction deep into our souls, and I recall one amusing result. He'd hammered into us the protocol for Making a formal request to an Officer in Orderly Room. This meant marching in, coming to attention before the desk, saluting, stating your request, (and waiting for the reply), saluting again, one pace back, about turn and smartly march out. This procedure was practised rhythmically in one-pause-two time until we could do it in our sleep. Of course no actual requests were made during these "dummy runs".

One chap had to do this for real. I think he wanted an extra Pass. You might guess what happened. Nervous, he started out well enough, and then habit seized him. Going through the whole rigmarole without uttering a word, he marched out, leaving the Adjutant gasping! The Orderly Room Corporal raced after him and dragged him back, red with embarrassment. This time he managed to stammer out his request. The Adj, choking with suppresssed laughter, gave him his "48"! *

Our Headquarters, where we had our classrooms and Mess, was the Trebarwith Hotel, one of scores of such seaside places requisitioned "for the duration" round the coast. Across the road was the Trebarwith Annexe, where three of us shared a room. Still on bare boards, things were a bit more comfortable here. We had the standard iron framed wire mesh beds on which we put down our three "biscuits" - small hard mattresses about 30 inches square. Every morning you stripped your bed, piled all three at the head, then folded sheet, pillow and blankets above them in a pre-ordained pattern which had to be copied exactly. Every night you made your bed down again.

There was no furniture, you lived out of your kitbag. Nor was there a mirror in the room, and we three put up ten (old) pence each for the 2/6 to buy a small one (remember that 2/- was a day's pay). When we left, we drew lots for this mirror, and I won. I carried it all round the world for years. Somewhere it must have been lost or broken, but I can see it now, with our three sets of initials on the back. One was a Ron Sweetlove, I heard that he was killed later in the War, but never found out how or when.

During our time at Newquay we were issued with full flying kit. This consisted of a zipped brown rayon "teddy bear" inner overall, and a green canvas outer with a fake fur collar ("Sidcot suit"). We got three pairs of gloves, silk inner, then wool, and leather gauntlets on top.. Flying boots were Morland "Glastonburys". Helmet, goggles and oxygen/radio mask completed the issue. All this was supposed to keep you warm for hours in an unheated, draughty bomber at 20,000 ft on a winter's night over Germany. Whether it did or not I can't say, but it certainly made us sweat when we had to model it in a Cornish summer. I never needed to wear any of it (except the mask, helmet and goggles), but somehow managed to hold on to the boots, which were a Godsend in the snow back home in the cold winters just after the War.

Note *

Written permission to be absent from camp for 48 hours. Military police (on every main railway station) and civil police could stop you and check. Woe betide you if you hadn't got it! You must be a deserter - or at least "Absent without leave" from your Unit, and would be "clapped in irons" on the spot!

Enough for tonight. More later.


Buttons polished by lamplight should be inspected by moonlight ! (WW1)

Last edited by Danny42C; 17th Feb 2012 at 14:36.
Old 6th Feb 2012, 03:35
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Great stuff Danny - I do like the little anecdotes like the orderly room one. Little bits of colour that you can't get from official records.
Looking forward to the next bit!

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Old 6th Feb 2012, 08:12
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One was a Ron Sweetlove, I heard that he was killed later in the War, but never found out how or when.
Probably killed in a raid over Duisberg. The cemetery he is buried in is less than ten miles from Duisberg.

RAF History page for April 1943

CWGC record

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Old 6th Feb 2012, 15:18
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Rear Sear

Danny 42.c
At ITW Paignton we, of course had to study armaments, and I recall this wag of an weapons instructor lecturing on a rifle. The first lesson was on the 'REAR SEAR' the next 'REAR SEAR SPRING. The next 'The REAR SEAR SPRING RETAINER' The next 'The REAR SEAR SPRING RETAINER KEEPER'
It was useless information but I remember it as well today as I did then!
It was a bit of light entertainment.
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Old 6th Feb 2012, 17:14
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6 of the crew are in Rheinberg, don't know if the 7th successfully baled out or if he was RCAF etc.....
GRIMSHAW CJ 649407 100 SQDN 08/04/1943 ROYAL AIR FORCE
JENKINSON H 1025847 100 SQDN 08/04/1943 RAFVR
KNOWLES MH 1575223 100 SQDN 08/04/1943 RAFVR
MONTIGUE RJB 1331520 100 SQDN 08/04/1943 RAFVR
SWEETLOVE RS 1029829 100 SQDN 08/04/1943 RAFVR

Looks to have been one of the 6 Lancs lost that night

EDIT: Ouch! Looks as if 100 Squadron lost their C.O. on this aircraft...

McKINNON, JOHN ARNOTT. Rank: Squadron Leader
Service No: J/4965. Date of Death: 08/04/1943. Age: 27.
Regiment/Service: Royal Canadian Air Force. 100 (R.A.F.) Sqdn
Grave Reference: Coll. grave 2. E. 9-19.Cemetery: RHEINBERG WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of John Donald and Ruth Rebecca McKinnon, of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.
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Old 6th Feb 2012, 17:38
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ITW, Torquay

GLOJO: I was billetted in the TOORAK HOTEL. From Google Earth I can see the Hotel has been altered, but I can see the room I was in for six weeks, just above the front entrance.
We must have been in the Babbacombe/Torquay area at the same time and your experiences are similar to mine. I went down to ACRC in Babbacombe on 3rd May, 1941 -but I missed the Arnold Scheme and trained entirely in England. My story starts at about page 75.
Differences in Pay qoted as Sergeant 12/- or 13/6.
Pilots, Navs and (later) Bomb Aimers were paid 13/6. Other aircrew were paid 12/- as Sergeants. It should have been equal for all.
DEDUCTIONS. e.g Barrack damages.
How about this.
As a Prisoner of War we were deducted "Hair Cutting Allowance." I have a copy of my Pay Statement sent to me in Germany. BUT the Germans
sheared us to the bone on arrival at Stalag IV-b.
Best wishes.
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Old 6th Feb 2012, 18:26
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Babbacombe Reception Centre (where wert thou?)

glojo (your #2274) Greetings.

Blundering about in this instrument of Satan (my laptop, not the Thread!), I've just come across your PM of 3 Feb 2012 (1958 hrs). Please excuse this slow reply, and the fact that I have to do it "en clair", as I know no other way.

Your researches on my behalf are warmly acknowledged, but frankly a) I was there only two weeks, b) it was seventy years ago, and c) I was very glad to see the back of the place at the time, and am quite content with a shadowy memory of a kind of "Fawlty Towers" - and would feel no pain at all if I never saw it again!

After that curmudgeonly reply to your kind offer of assistance,

With many thanks - Cheers,

Old 6th Feb 2012, 19:10
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Memory Lane

AIRBORNE_ARTIST (#2291) and all the others - Cheers!
Thank you all: They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.

PADHIST (#2292)
I forgot the SPRING - No marks for that question on the paper!

ICARE9 (#2293) Yes, his initials on the back of the mirror were R.S.S.
There was the Third Man, but I'm ashamed to say I''ve forgotten the initials.

FREDJHH (#2294) "Haircut Allowance". Now that's a crafty one! How come the RAF missed that trick?

Thanks, everybody,


Last edited by Danny42C; 7th Feb 2012 at 01:00.
Old 7th Feb 2012, 11:26
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TommyOv 2266
I had three days at Cardington. The second morning was devoted to Maths tests and General Knowledge. In the afternoon we had all the medicals. The hearing test amused me. The MO produced a pocket watch, stood at the opposite end of the room, then moved slowly towards me saying, "Tell me when you can hear the ticking!" The next day was the interview with a Group Captain, a Wing Commander and a Squadron Leader. The table had about a dozen model aircraft and a map. The first question was to identify all the aircraft. Then, "Why do you want to join the RAF?" Details about my Education, Sports played, how the war was progressing and the names of government ministers, etc.,etc.
One question was, "Explain how you would calculate the height of the Airship Mast from outside this window without moving more than 100 feet. What would be the minimum equipment you would need?" The three conferred quietly then the G/C said, "We are recommending you for pilot training.
If you should fail to learn to fly, will you train as a navigator?" I said,
" Yes, Sir, " and he shook my hand and wished me good luck. Later I found they had recommended me for a commission.
DANNY 42c 2273
Your details of kit being issued at Receiving Wing is as I remembered it, but I think we had two pairs of boots. I seem to remember one pair lying, bottoms up, on the bed with all the other accoutrements One pair was exchanged for shoes at EFTS, then we eventually had just two pairs of shoes.
We also had two kit bags; one for flying clothing which was issued as soon as we moved to ITW. Battle dress was given to us at SFTS in October, 1941, together with a strip of leather which we had to sow over the right pocket, then inscribe our names. How it all comes back!
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Old 7th Feb 2012, 13:06
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Oh .... this thread is so helpful for our research .... thanks everyone for your contribution.

A couple more questions regarding kit:

Was the RAF watch part of the kit handed out with the flying kit? If not, when was this issued?

Also, was the "whistle" issued as part of "battledress / war service dress"?

I noticed that in a previous post, "cliffnemo" posted an image of part of a card showing the kit issued (with signatures / dates of receipt etc)

Were these cards used by the recruit every time kit was issued (ie at ACRC and ITW) .... if so, what RAF numbers did these have?.
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Old 7th Feb 2012, 17:25
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Petet 2296

No card for ordinary clothing.
Card for Flying Clothing. Form Number not known but I still have mine - somewhere. I got away with my flying helmet, goggles, and oxygen mask complete with ear-phones and mike.
Watches were only issued to Navigators. A friend, a navigator from the squadron, managed to retain his Longines when captured, and it kept very good time until a few years ago. The rest bought their own. The Germans usually confiscated all aircrew watches. If any managed to retain them, e.g. the Army, the Russians robbed them. It was usual to see a Russian wearing up to a dozen watches on both arms.
Whistles were issued with Battle dress and I still have mine from 1946 issue.
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Old 7th Feb 2012, 23:58
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This is getting a bit complicated!

First, to petet (2274). I wasn't very helpful on the Railway Warrants (we old chaps get a bit testy at times, I'm afraid!). If it were my problem, I would ask Network Rail if they had any old archives, inherited fom British Rail, in turn inherited from the old pre-War Companies which ran the trains in 1943.

It's a very long shot indeed - the Warrants may have been scrapped after the Company (and remember there were several of them: LNER, LMS, GWR, SR, etc) got its money back from the Government. (There was a big Wartime drive for Waste Paper). Or they may have been destroyed in the Blitz.

But it's always worth a try. Stranger things have happened. Persistence may pay!

(My 2273) To fredjhh (2297 and others of his Posts)

I think you're quite right about the boots. Only thing is: I can't recall wearing them. But then I can't recall wearing shoes either, and I must have been wearing one or the other! As far as I remember, I went from ARC to ITW with one kitbag, got my second (for my flying kit) at ITW.

And you're right about the watches. Nobody in our short-range squadrons in India had them, not even the Navs, for we map-read everywhere (and the pilots had a clock on the panel (this was always the first thing to disappear after a crash!) The Navs on our long-haul Squadrons (Liberators, Sunderlands and Catalinas) might have got them, but I don't know.

And was there any truth in the tale that one of our trouser buttons was magnetised to act as a compass (on the end of a bit of thread) as an escape aid?

Lastly, from Fred to TommyOv (2297 to 2266): It seems that the rigour of the Selection process was a case of "Post Code Lottery". All I remember about my Board at Padgate was that the President was a Group Captain Insall - a VC from WW1; one Member asked me "Where is Madagascar - and Formosa? and when I gave the right answers, seemed to lose interest in the business; the other, finding that I had a driving licence, quizzed me on the types I had driven and seemed to be impressed with my assertion that the Austin 10 was faster than the 12. This was true - everything was faster than the Austin Heavy 12 - but the inference was that I had driven both of them flat-out, and I suppose that may have counted in my favour. As for any Aptitude tests - there weren't any. Once you had got through the Medical Board, I think they threw you in the deep end (as Pilot or Nav) to see how you got on. Obviously, things were different at Cardington (and other places).

As for the terrors of the Medical Board, Fred seems to have had a much more sophisticated ENT man than mine. Mine went off to a far corner and whispered into a cupped hand "Can you hear me?" while I listened with a finger in each
ear in turn - of course it really wasn't right in!

The real killer was "Holding up the Mercury" - a test of lung capacity and endurance. A rubber tube was connected to a small glass U-tube of mercury. The other end of the tube had a mouthpiece with a narrow slot in it (but the slot had a "bridge" midway so you couldn't jam it with your tongue). You took a full breath, took the mouthpiece and blew. You had to blow up the mercury to 40mm, then hold it there for sixty seconds, to pass the test for aircrew. It was not easy, and if you failed first time, you would be too puffed to succeed on the second.

Bedtime now,

Old 8th Feb 2012, 11:31
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morse code (using keys and light).

Does that sound right? Are there any key subjects missing?
Yes , precision drill . Think we had one hour a day drill , and one hour a day P.T. at I.T.W Torquay. During the drill session we had to learn precision drill, which meant we had to go through the every move in the drill 'book' with only an initial command. This lasted fifteen minutes. and we were told it was very impressive to watch.
Clay pigeon shooting at Babacombe . Five mile cross country runs. 20 mile march from Bovey Tracy ? to Widecombe on the moor and back. Dinghy drill in Torquay harbour.
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Old 8th Feb 2012, 17:09
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Cliff - Good Lord! - You poor devil! What sort of a Gulag had you got into? And when was all this? I was at Newquay from May - June 1941, and mine was a rest cure in comparison. There was none of the extra things you listed, although the clay-pigeon shooting and the dinghy drill would have been useful.

You were in the wrong place, mate!

Cheers, Danny.
Old 10th Feb 2012, 08:38
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Newark Air Museum has very kindly dug out a copy of the poster used to show recruits how to place their kit in their bed space for inspection; unfortunately it is a little later than the period we are researching as the bed has a mattress rather than the 3 biscuits.

There are 2 diagrams .... one with accoutrements and one without ..... so the question is ..... at ACRC / ITW, did they have different kinds of inspections or were they always with accoutrements or without.
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Old 10th Feb 2012, 14:02
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Petet 2303

ACRC at Babbacombe in 1941 all cadets were in civilian billets for the two weeks, so no kit lay out was taught. At 5 ITW in Torquay the lay out was shown on the first day, together with instruction on polishing boots.
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Old 10th Feb 2012, 17:40
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I continue from #2289 (We are at ITW in Newquay - May 41)

We did guard duty every few nights, with pick-helves (handles) to defend our billets from German parachutists. We did the usual two-on, four-off guard routine. By day we refined our trouble-dodging skills whenever we managed to get out, learning to keep well out of the way of NCOs, Officers * (rare), and above all Warrant Officers - far more threatening - who would be bound to pick you up for something. ** How else would the spuds get peeled in the cookhouse? The trick was to look out for stripes, and especially for brass buttons on lower tunic pockets (only officers and warrant officers have these). You could spot them a mile away and dodge round a corner.

Old habits die hard. To the end of my service days - and that would be a long time, I could never walk across a parade square without feeling uneasy, even though they'd mostly been downgraded to car parks, and I'd been an officer for years. For in the old days this was one of the blackest of crimes (you must walk round a square when not actually on parade, and I could hear the ghost of some long gone Warrant Officer or Sergeant roaring "AIRMAN!!!")

The six weeks flew by, I passed the Course exams and was on my way again, now a Leading Aircraftman on 5/6 a day - riches beyond the dreams of avarice!

On the other side of the Atlantic, things had been stirring. Officially neutral, the Americans (in particular the American forces) wanted to help us as far as possible, guessing (correctly) that they would be dragged in sooner or later. "All aid short of War" promised Roosevelt. "All aid short of Help" we mocked ungratefully.

One of their better ideas came from General "Hap" Arnold, the C-in-C of the US Army Air Corps. *** He knew that, in order to expand an air force quickly, aircraft production is a secondary matter. Once you have got the assembly lines going, you can turn out aircraft like family cars. But no air force then or since has been able to train a man from scratch to operational pilot in less than a year. That is your bottleneck. By helping us in that respect, expanding his facilities to train pilots for us, he might be doing himself a good turn further down the line (and so it proved).

He set up the "Arnold Scheme". He opened up new Primary Flying Schools (civilian schools taken over by the army), he enlarged his own Basic and Advanced Schools, and offered the extra training places to us. Needless to say, we jumped at it.


* These would be "wingless wonders", young schoolsmasters and other professionals, who' d been commissioned as Pilot Officers in the Education and Administration branches. Having only been "in for five minutes", they were as green as we were. As far as we aircrew trainees were concerned, anyone without wings or WW1 ribbons simply didn't count,

** They were able to do this by virtue of Section 40 of the Air Force Act,
which provides penalties for Conduct prejudicial to Good Order and Air Force Discipline. This can cover just about anything at all. (The classic case is that of the Guardsman who was charged with "Being Idle on a Bicycle" - he was freewheeling!) If the W/O said your buttons were dirty, they were dirty, even if you'd been up half the night polishing them - you still got your seven day's "jankers" from your Flight Commander.

*** There was no unified US Air Force until after WW2. As a matter of historical interest, the same was true of our (Army) Royal Flying Corps in WW1. The Royal Air Force was not formed until 1st April, 1918 - a date which has raised a few wry smiles over the years. We went into blue, and invented new names for our ranks. The Americans changed to blue, but kept their old Army ranks.

EDIT: Gen Arnold was not the C-in-C of the U.S.A.A.C., but the Commanding General of the South-East Area Air Corps (in which much of the Primary flying was concentrated then).

Enough for the moment. More later.


Gentlemen, today is the 10th.

Last edited by Danny42C; 8th Apr 2014 at 16:19. Reason: Correct Error.
Old 13th Feb 2012, 17:32
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My tale opens another page.

Naturally we had to hide the blatant breach of US neutrality which this entailed. Obviously we couldn't wear uniform in the States, but had to pretend to be civilians, and wear civilian clothes to back up the story. (We'd only need to keep this up for a few months, but of course we did't know that at the time).

And so it was that LAC ******* J.D. (****877) went up to Blackpool, was billeted out in a tatty South Shore boarding house, and kitted out with white shirts and a Thirty Shilling Tailors chalk-striped suit. This natty ensemble was capped by a beret. Now there are heads which suit berets (spherical ones), and plenty more which don't. I looked like Holbein's Henry VIII. I never wore the thing and disposed of it as soon as possible. I painted code letters on my kitbags (ATTS/TRAILL), had embarkation leave, went up to Gourock (Clyde) and dumped my kit in a four-berth second class cabin in a liner whose name I forget. Of my four wartme sea voyages, this was the only time I had a cabin in a troopship - when I was in my lowest rank.!


(This means "work in progress". I put it in as an incomplete Post, because I am sick of this infernal machine of mine losing all my text while drafting a Reply. Put in as a Post, what I've done so far seems to be safe. If the next bit of draft vanishes into cyberspace again, this way I only lose the last bit. I can get what went before back as an Edit. I'll do this from now on). Danny.

We put to sea, dodged the U-boats, and a week later landed in Halifax; then straight on to one of the Canadian Pacific Railway's "Colonial" trains. These were very basic coaches formerly used to take immigrant families to their new homes out West. They were short on comfort, I remember that the berths were very solid wood indeed, and I don't think we had any mattresses. But the food was good and the scenery magnificant as we followed the St.Lawrence upstream into Canada. This was very French country with place names to match, like "Riviere du Loup".

Our destination was Toronto, then a holding centre for aircrew trainees going to the Canadian flying schools or (in our case) down to the States. Our trip was enlivened (if that is the right word) by a train crash (only a little one, I hasten to add). Our dozey driver, following closely behind a goods train, luckily only at walking pace, managed to run into the back of it. There was a severe jolt, enough to throw people off their feet, and quite a bang. There were a few bumps and bruises, but no real harm seemed to have been done, and we continued on our way to Toronto. That city has a permanent Canadian National Exposition Centre, where every summer a country-wide Agricultural show was (and still is) held.

They saw no reason why a war should interrupt this, and it was in full swing when we arrived. They had the buildings to accommodate us, so long as we didn't mind sharing with the prize livestock. Actually, it wasn't too bad, except that in late summer the smells were a bit ripe. There wasn't a great deal of " bull" in our Exposition quarters - just the odd roll call, kit inspection and Pay Parade, and one memorable occasion we had a "Short Arm Inspection". It was not then a service offence to acquire a STD (then "VD"), but it was to conceal the fact, and not report for treatment.

To deter concealment, parades were held when, on command, slacks were dropped, and the Medical Officer and his orderly came round to check. The MO, armed with a sort of large spatula, cast an expert eye on each set of "crown jewels" in turn as he worked down the line. On this occasion the process was in full swing, well away from public gaze in some out-of-the-way corner of the building. Not out-of-the-way enough! A dairymaid picked the wrong door, to be met with a sight not usually vouchsafed to young ladies. She squealed, dropped her (empty) pail and bolted; we, modesty outraged, did our best with cupped hands. It made a change from normal routine.

Parades and drills were organised for us in the Fort York Armoury (like a Territorial Drill Hall). This was down by the lakeside and the air much fresher. The juke-box top numbers of the day were "Amapola" and "Yes, my Darling Daughter", and those tunes always take me back to the Armoury. (My daughter was in Toronto a few years ago, it was still there).

I think we spent two or three weeks there, and then, thinly disguised as civilians, boarded a train for Florida. The generous pilot training which the Americans offered us must have been of enormous value to the RAF at that stage of the War. After Pearl Harbor, they provided even more, in the shape of British Flying Training Schools in the south-western States (there was no need for concealment then. we were Allies)

Bedtime now, more anon.


Get yer knees brown!

Last edited by Danny42C; 13th Feb 2012 at 22:40.
Old 13th Feb 2012, 18:44
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Danny. Should you have Microsoft Word or Works in your computer write it there. You can then correct it in comfort. When the time comes to post open up a reply page and copy/paste on to the post. That way you do not lose it if you have an internet connection break.
cliffnemo had a similar problem when he started.
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Old 13th Feb 2012, 20:37
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Fareastdriver (your #2307)

I'm very grateful for your advice, but i've only got Notepad and Wordpad so far, and in any case the procedure is so far beyond my capability that I wouldn't know where to start. All my word processing is still done on my good old Canon "Starwriter" (which I can understand!); I've got all my memoirs (whichI call my "Jottings" - about 150,000 words) on Floppy Disks. The "Starwriter" works on a MS-DOS system. So it should be easy to transfer the disks onto Windows, right?. Wrong! It can be done, but only by professional experts. Even so, I'm not going to shell out for Word or Works until I know a lot more than I do now.

I, too, was a "fareastdriver", but long, long ago! But many thanks for your kind interest.


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