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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 11th Mar 2012, 20:18
  #2421 (permalink)  
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Fox Moth on Ainsdale Beach long, long ago.


Nosing about in the old Posts (as one does), I came across your #1500, and it made me "sit up"!

We were 15 more or less together, and we rarely had five bob in our pockets any time except (possibly) Christmas or birthdays. But you must have cashed in your piggybank and entrusted your life to G-AACB and M.Girou(x) ? I hope you enjoyed it - I think they squashed four into the tiny cabin? - and thought it money well spent.

I believe he was of Belgian descent, had flown in WW1, and often wore the old, long, black leather aviators' coat that he had used in those days. It was rumoured that he was as blind as a bat, but the old Moth was like the milkman's horse, and trundled round the circuit by itself by sheer force of habit, without much input from him.

Came the War, and I believe he went back into the RAF, though he would have been well past flying age then - probably a S.Ad.O., or something like that. The Fox Moth went into storage "for the duration" in a barn somewhere round Crossens or Tarleton. There it gathered dust and bird droppings, and a colony of rats gnawed through the wing fabric to establish a snug home therein.

Came the Peace; I came home from the wars to Southport. "Well", I thought, "that's one business whose time has passed. Nobody's going to pay five shillings for a quick turn round the Pleasure Beach any more" How wrong I was! They got out the Moth, dusted it off, evicted the rats, patched up and doped the fabric. Then it was business as usual.

Only difference was: he charged ten bob now! (which more or less was level with inflation). Still the queues built up at his little pay station on the sands. (I suppose the Corporation took a cut). In what we laughingly called the summer, I tried to keep up my Indian tan, stretched out in the Lido. I timed the Moth; it flew round every four minutes exactly, hour after hour. So he grossed 2 every four minutes! Not bad going in 1946.

How long did he keep going? I left in 1948, and he was still at it.

Happy days,

Cheers, Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 11th Mar 2012 at 21:23.
Old 12th Mar 2012, 11:06
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Halifax and Fox Moth

Rmventuri 2408
I never encountered difficult with the rudders until I was shot down.
The rudder trouble was a combination of the irregular airflow, as the Merlins were supposed to be set too low; and the poor surface areas of the fin and rudder. It was essential to raise the tail plane as high as possible on take off to get rudder control. In the air we were instructed in two engine flying but neverwith both port motors stopped. The handbook said, with both port motors stopped the strain on the pilot's right leg became rapidly intolerable. _ It did.
I saw a Halifax crash with all engines running, and doing nothing more than normal turns on the approach circuit, and this was attributed to rudder lock.

Danny42C 2409
Somewhere I have a Magazine with an article on our Fox Moth G-ACCB and its owner. I still have the Passenger Certificate No. 118057 they gave me. The Giro Aircraft Corporation survived many years after Giroup's death. If I can find the article I will send it you.
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Old 12th Mar 2012, 22:11
  #2423 (permalink)  
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Failing Memories,

My #2368 p119 is at fault.

I have said, referring to Gunter: "Nevertheless, we all got through, except for one or two like the road-runner, who'd really asked for trouble and pushed their luck too far".

Since writing that, I tried Googling: Class of 42C in the US Army Air Corps Arnold Scheme - and clicked on the first option: The Arnold Scheme, British pilots, the American South and the.......

This took me some tinkering to bring up, but it was worth the effort. It is a mine of information. There is a short comment on p524 on the necessity of introducing the AFUs, but it is relatively uncritical.

The real meat is in the tables of statistics at the end, from which I have extracted the bare figures for 42C:-

(Field: Intake/Scrubbed/Graduated/Killed).

(Primary) Carlstrom: 127/40/87/0

(Basic) Gunter: 205/19/186/0

(Advanced) Craig: 147/3/141/3

From this it appears that a) At least two lots of primary graduates must have fed into Gunter. b) The Gunter output must have been split into two or more Advanced Schools. c) except for one or two - there were 19! washouts at Gunter. d) three were killed at Craig in my time and I remember nothing about it! This is incredible. Could it be the way we rationalised all our losses - "hard luck, good chap, no use brooding on it, forget it, get on with the War?" Cliff, Padhist and Fred could give us their views on this. It sounds heartless, but perhaps it was the only way to remain sane.

As I've remarked before, memory is fallible (and maybe you forget things you want to forget).


Last edited by Danny42C; 12th Mar 2012 at 22:52.
Old 13th Mar 2012, 23:22
  #2424 (permalink)  
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Back in British skies.

We were only going to spend less than three weeks (7th to 26th June) flying here, so we got down to business at once. Two hours dual on the Master, and we were off. We were glad of the wide wheel track, for the field was anything but level - and rough. Most of our remaining time was taken up with dual and solo navigation exercises. Everyone had one trip to see the Old Man of Cerne Abbas - one of those white horse type figures cut out of the chalk by our ancestors. This one was renowned as a fertility symbol, and you could see why.

They picked a moonless night for night flying: two dual circuits and two solo. There were no luxuries like runway or taxiway lights, just a row of goosenecks (kerosene flares) laid out into wind in the middle of the field. From memory, I think there were at eight at hundred yard intervals, with a double flare at 300 yards to indicate the ideal touch-down point. You taxied down one side of this line, turned round the last flare onto the other side, took off and landed on it, and round again.

There was an approach aid in the form of an Angle of Approach Indicator. This primitive kit was positioned near the first flare, and set up so that it would show you a green pin-prick of light if you were more or less right on approach, amber if too high and red if too low. A car battery powered a car sidelamp bulb as the light source. The light was interrupted by a slowly turning fan, so that it blinked to avoid confusion with a flare. As the battery drove both the fan motor and lit the bulb, the result was "dim as as a Toc-H lamp" - but better than nothing. I think there was an airman there, too, with an Aldis lamp, to give you a green if it was safe to turn round the corner for take-off, and a red in the air if you were coming in to land on top of someone on the ground.

It all sounds very Heath Robinson now, but it worked quite well. My night was very dark. With no natural horizon, you had to stick to the AH like glue all the time. And whatever you did, you mustn't lose sight of that flarepath, or you'd be hopelessly adrift over blacked-out Britain. We had no radio aids of any kind.

So we hogged the flarepath all the way round, and came round on finals with infinite care. With luck, you were "in the green", and carried on down with the flarepath tucked close on your left. Now the problem was when to "round out". You could estimate roughly where the ground was from the perspective of the flarepath, but there was a very useful trick. You watched the closest flare intently, until the point of light suddenly turned into a recognisable flame. That was it - you eased back on the stick and you wouldn't be far wrong (a variant of the blades-of-grass trick by day).

After two dual circuits the instructor thankfully climbed out and left you to it. Checking out a student at night from the back seat (when you can see even less than he can) must put years on the poor devils - nearly as bad as being a driving instructor in today's traffic! (No, I've never done either job).

Very Old Joke:- Student to Instructor: "What's it like, Sir, flying at night?" - "Much like daytime, but a lot smoother, and you'll find the controls a lot heavier". - "Why's that, Sir?" - "Because I've damn' well got hold of them!"

After all this effort, I never flew a minute after dark for the next seven years, and never in India. I stll think night flying is akin to black magic. After all, "only birds and fools fly, and the birds pack it in when it gets dark".

'Night, all!


Ground tested and found servicable.

Last edited by Danny42C; 14th Mar 2012 at 00:24.
Old 15th Mar 2012, 01:11
  #2425 (permalink)  
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They let Danny loose in a Hurricane.

I quite liked the Master. It was roomy and comfortable, smooth and simple to fly; it would have made an excellent thing to take away for a weekend (fat chance!) However, as a fighter advanced trainer it was nowhere as good as the the Harvard: in a straight fight the Harvard would win every time, other things being equal. But the Master was fine for our purposes, and as the feared British weather (perversely) turned nice and warm for the fortnight, our course had no trouble finding its way round the (usually) triangular plots. The corners of a solo exercise were always two airfields, and on the signal square of each a letter was displayed which we had to record. Of course, the staff had to telephone ahead to both airfields to pre-arrange a new letter for each trip.

After we had had about ten hours on the Master, and they were satisfied that we hadn't forgotten how to fly, they let us have a go on the Hurricanes. Their undercarriages were narrow and bandy-legged, the poor old things rolled about like drunken sailors over the lumpy meadow. Not only that, but they had little dihedral, and so from the cockpit the wingtips looked to be very near the ground. And the Hurricane struck me as one of those aircraft you sat on rather than sat in (unlike the Spitfire, which you wear like a glove); we have all known cars like that. I was terrified of putting a tip in every time (well, only four) I took one off the line. Thankfully I didn't bend one.

With only two hours I would not dare express an opinion of the Hurricane, and in any case we were forbidden to fly them in any but the gentlest way - or they might fall to bits. All we did with them was take off, fly round for a few minutes, come back and land. All I can remember about them was the little metal "gearbox" style "H" gate for the hydraulic selectors. You had a "neutral" in the middle for your car-type lever; where Reverse and First lived in your car selected wheels up and down; Second and Third (that's the lot in those days) did the flaps. (Or was it the other way round?) When you made a selection, nothing happened until you pressed an actuating lever to get pressure up. I think the Harvard had the same idea.

A Funny Thing happened to me at the end of my final Nav test. This time, the letters weren't necessary, for a navigation instructor (the Link Trainer F/Sgt) was riding shotgun. One of my corners was Weston Zoyland, in Somerset. Twelve years later I would land a Meteor there for the very last time, at the end of my flying career.

The navigation was fine, and we came back into the circuit at Castle Combe. "Do you mind if I do the landing?", asked my examiner "I like to keep in practice from the back seat". Be my guest! I came downwind, did the checks and handed over. His approach was fine, and the landing as smooth as you could expect on the rough surface. The Master rolled to a stop.

He raised the flaps - or thought he had. He'd grabbed the undercarriage knob instead. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the control in my cockpit move, and made a frantic grab at it. Too late, the Master flopped down like a weary camel. I felt a heavy thud, and saw a broken piece of wooden propeller blade fly off.

A horrified silence fell. I don't remember who broke it or what was said. We'd to think about our position. We were in the middle of an undulating grass field, and as ill luck would have it, in a hollow so that, lying flat, we couldn't easily be seen from the flight line. I don't think we had any form of radio contact. This was common on grass airfields, you simply looked after yourself. Obviously we had to stay where we were until somebody spotted us. It would be far too dangerous to try to walk across an active flying field. It seemed ages before a truck came out.

I was sorry for the F/Sgt, but very glad it wasn't me. I don't think anything drastic happened to him. The Master wouldn't be badly damaged. They'd just have to jack it up and drop the wheels. A new prop would have to go on, but the engine wouldn't be shock-loaded as it was only ticking-over when we flopped. It was no worse than stalling your car at the lights.

Next time, I'll tell you all the things you wanted to know about the Link Trainer, but were afraid to ask.

Say something, somebody, even if it's only Goodbye!


Get weaving!

Last edited by Danny42C; 16th Mar 2012 at 23:33.
Old 15th Mar 2012, 03:52
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That description of landing with reference to flare paths from a couple of posts back will probably be useful to a researcher I know who's looking at a Stirling crash in 1941. I'll point him in this direction...

Keep it coming Danny!

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Old 15th Mar 2012, 09:33
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I suspect that everyone like me are all keeping a hushed respectful silence as befits us 'sprogs' as we listen to your enthralling story.
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Old 15th Mar 2012, 09:51
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Worry ye not, sir, you are being read avidly. I have been following this thread for a good eighteen months now and I am always fascinated, often amused and occasionally moved.

Of your recent posts, I was especially interested in the night flying one. I have just done that myself in a modern aeroplane (well, a thirty something year old, 10000 hour 152) from a large tarmac airfield lit up like Blackpool in October so reading how you did it was awe inspiring. Nor, as my teenager pointed out when I flew him, very high, over the dams above Sheffield where 617 trained, is anyone ever going to be shooting at me while I do it.

Anyway, enough of my irrelevant ramblings, please keep it up. It is much appreciated.

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Old 15th Mar 2012, 10:08
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Amen to that, AA62 and Joe! What can one say other than thank you, Danny?
I don't know about others but I am amazed at the detail that you can recall. As kookabat says, the little throw away asides such as the AoO indicator workings, the layout of a flare path, why the Master even existed, all of them dot the i's and cross the t's of what was involved, not in simply gaining a brevet, but of getting to an Operational Squadron in WW2. The immense organisation behind all these innumerable courses and postings must have been a story in itself.
What really comes out is the self reliance required of a pilot then. You had to take care of everything, for there was no-one else to do it for you. Navigation with nothing but a map and DR. Circuit flying at night with only some half dozen paraffin fed flares, a car battery, bulbs and a fan to help, and if you are lucky an alert airman with an Aldis. At the same time, the sky full of lots of others doing exactly the same as you!
Please keep dotting and crossing, Danny. It is the detail that both fascinates and informs. Oh, and your pay off punch lines. Love them!
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Old 15th Mar 2012, 12:22
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Danny. We say nothing because we have nothing to add. The silence is that of respect and we are all paying attention. Please proceed.....
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Old 15th Mar 2012, 18:50
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Thanks all round!

I'm surprised and delighted by the interest I seem to have stirred up. I feel like the Sorcerer's Apprentice! For the last week or so, I have imagined myself in that crewroom of memory of mine - but all the chaps had gone and left me. Perhaps I'd been using the wrong kind of soap!

Kookabat, Ancient Aviator62, JOE-FBS, Chugalug and now Yamagata Ken, thank you one and all!

Chugalug, glad you appreciate the little tags at the end, but it was originally Cliff's idea. How is Cliff, by the way? - anybody know? Changing the subject, I quote from you: "The immense organisation behind all these innumerable Courses must have been a story in itself". We-eel, yes, I suppose, but some malcontents expressed different opinions. One often heard was: "When I joined this Air Force, I thought that it was run by rational human beings. Half way through my career, I had to realise that in fact it was run by irrational human beings. Only at the end did the truth dawn on me: the place must be run by monkeys!" (I trust I am beyond the reach of Court Martial - could they dock my pension?)

Error, (#2404, p121), Google tells me there are no runways at Castle Combe, they race round a peri-track, presumably the middle is just field.

More soon,


When I sez "fix", you don't fix!
Old 15th Mar 2012, 18:53
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Your posts are superb, this is one of the not to be missed threads on here.
Thank you for your time and effort.

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Old 15th Mar 2012, 20:21
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Danny42C, here's a reasonably recent aerial photo of Castle Combe:

I can just about remember Weston Zoyland from my early childhood - and the huge pile of silver painted wreckage in the station crash compound. Dead Meteors, I guess....

Great stories, by the way!
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Old 16th Mar 2012, 18:19
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Only at the end did the truth dawn on me: the place must be run by monkeys!
Point taken, but would it have been the near infinite number of monkeys in the Stan Freberg (?) sketch, where they are all seated at desks and pounding away at typewriters?
"Hold it fellas, this one is looking good, "To Be or Not To Be, That is the qestwischcanzite". Sorry guys, false alarm!"

Great photo, Beags. Wikki has an entry but no pic. Interesting that the motor circuit follows the old peri track quite closely but just inside it. The dispersed pans still show up clearly around the latter.
I remember a great pyramid of Bristol Brigands at RAF Colerne when I was a CCF Cadet. They were waiting for the scrap metal man to be turned into saucepans. Did any survive?
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Old 16th Mar 2012, 18:38
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Hi Chugalug

Bob Newhart - Warner Brothers LP K 46001 Side 2 Track 3

along with several other pearls of "wisdom"

Anorack off - GO
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Old 16th Mar 2012, 19:05
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Indeed, DA, many thanks:-
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Old 16th Mar 2012, 22:38
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Even more thanks all round!

(It'll have to be another scattergun reply)

500N (#2420) Thanks! My cup runneth over! This is exactly the response I hoped to provoke. Now my old "virtual" crewroom is alive again.

BEagle (#2421) Ta! - Lovely picture. I think the buildings at top left are where the old RAF flight huts were. I guess the top frame would be heading East, the left therefore North (but see reply to diesel addict below). The long run would therefore be NW/SE, which seems about right. We would have landed into NW when my little chap had his mishap, and the night flying flarepath would have been laid on this heading. I have no scale: how would 800 yards have fitted in?

Chugalug (#2422) Sorry, old chap - I wasn't trying to make any point. But I think Higher Authority was having to "play it off the cuff" all the time to suit changing circumstances, and this gave the impression of "organised chaos". This would apply to Courses and Postings above all. It was commonplace to get outcomes like mine: in a previous Post I have recorded an occasion when they (most unusually) asked me what I wanted, and then gave me the precise opposite! And I shall shortly relate how they trained me on Spitfires, then sent me out to India, where there were no Spitfires at the time. Also, when I came back in '49, they converted me on to Meteors, then posted me to a Vampire unit! This happened to everyone, so you can see how the "monkey" jest could become popular.

I think Tolstoy, in "War and Peace" (no, I didn't finish it, did anybody ever?) has a character explaining how a General starts off a battle according to plan, but then the battle develops a mind of its own and goes off increasingly out of his control, until he is just being dragged helplessly along by events.

(This recalls the apocryphal story of the flying instructor, who is supposed to have summarised a report on a pupil as follows: "This young man opens the throttle on take-off, and initiates a series of events over which he exercises no further control!")

Re scrap metal: I heard that the Vickers Valiant carcasses (minus engines, all electronics and instruments) went for 75 apiece. Don't know if it's true.

diesel addict (#2423), and Chugalug (#2424), Love the LP - Jolly good! You're from Wiltshire, d_ a, I see. Can I ask you, please, to confirm my orientation of Castle Combe from your OS Landranger map? and the rough dimensions? - if it's no trouble.

My sincere thanks to you all,


Last edited by Danny42C; 17th Mar 2012 at 04:52.
Old 16th Mar 2012, 23:47
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Re: Castle Combe

On Google Earth, you can get a picture of the site as it was in 1945 by using the timeline button ... if may help if you want to do comparisons.

Perhaps someone with more technical ability than me could post the 1945 picture on here if it would help.
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Old 17th Mar 2012, 08:05
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as requested:

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Old 17th Mar 2012, 08:14
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As requested, here is the image from Google Earth, showing Castle Combe at the end of the war:

The yellow line I've marked is 920 yards in length, to provide some scale indication.

The image I posted previously was taken from this website:

Aerial Views Of UK Airports & Airfields

If you click on any of the aerodrome names, an aerial image of the aerodrome is shown. Great for seeing how your old aerodrome looks today!

(gg - Snap!)
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