Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > Aircrew Forums > Military Aviation
Reload this Page >

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

Military Aviation A forum for the professionals who fly military hardware. Also for the backroom boys and girls who support the flying and maintain the equipment, and without whom nothing would ever leave the ground. All armies, navies and air forces of the world equally welcome here.

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

Old 17th Mar 2012, 11:10
  #2441 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 5,222
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
A great site. It's amazing how long some old blister hangers have lasted.
Fareastdriver is offline  
Old 17th Mar 2012, 19:05
  #2442 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Wonderful! - is there a Photo Interpreter in the house?

Profuse thanks to you all!,

Petet (#2426) for the bright idea.
Green Granite (#2427) for the picture.
BEagle (#2428) for the picture and the key dimension.
Fareastdriver (#2429) for the compliment (It's amazing how long some old blister hangars have lasted). Only joking!

The questions come crowding in:

Nobody's mentioned North, I take it the picture is correctly orientated?
I think this must have been taken late in '45, with the war over. I can't see anything that looks like an aircraft. The "runway" is SE/NW, 920 yards, whereas they had about 1100 yards SW/NE (the taxiway was clearly looped-out to give this extra distance). Why didn't they use that? I'm sure we used that direction when it was all grass. (EDIT: Of course they did - I need a new pair of specs - sorry, chaps).

(Have been doing a bit more Googling) Seems the runways were Somerfelt tracking (put down long after my time). Looks as if it's been taken up. But what's this about a hundred yards in from the NW end? Looks like a building of some sorts on the edge of the runway - and there's an access track to it! The footpath across the field looks well used. The whole thing gives the impression of a field not long abandoned. And what are those huge flat-top structures behind the RAF buildings, in the far NW corner?

Perhaps we should close the book on Castle Combe.

Once again, thank you for all the help.


Last edited by Danny42C; 17th Mar 2012 at 20:32.
Old 17th Mar 2012, 21:03
  #2443 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 5,222
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
If you do a distance chck between the shallow loops at the 2 o'clock and 9 o'clock it comes to about 1100 yds with a runway heading of 070/250 true.
Fareastdriver is offline  
Old 19th Mar 2012, 19:13
  #2444 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Danny and the Link Trainer (can't say you haven't been warned!)

First see Cliff's excellent pic (#2338 p117). A picture is worth a thousand words.

We are still at Castle Combe. In one hut dwelt the Link Trainer and its keeper, a Flight Sergeant pilot who doubled as Navigation Instructor and check rider on our final nav exercises. The Link is a forgotten instrument of torture, so I shall describe it at some length. It was the first realistic attempt at an aircraft simulator, and quite advanced in the technology of its time.

A stubby representation of of a fuselage had a cockpit with full flight instruments and a throttle, stick and rudder bar. A hinged top covered the occupant, so that he had only his instruments to "fly" on. Modern multi-million pound simulators can roll and pitch on computer controlled hydraulic rams (I read). The Link could too, but teetered on compressed air bags or "bellows". Movement of the controls actuated air valves, and the Link would lurch (anything but smoothly) in the desired direction. That was the idea, anyway.

It was also able to turn complete circles on its own axis. This is more than today's simulators can do (in the real world), and I don't know how the Link managed it without screwing up its cable runs. Perhaps they had slip-ring connectors. This might explain the jerky controls, for slip rings oxidise and get dirty (like the volume controls on your old radio and TV). Whatever, control operation called to mind Ogden Nash's immortal words:

Tomato sauce, shake the bottle.
None'll come - and then the lot'll!

That's exactly how the Link stick and rudder behaved. It "flew" like no aircraft that ever was or ever will be, and trying to follow any Air Traffic procedure or flight path was a nightmare. Nevertheless, it had great value as a procedural trainer, for it fixed in your mind what you were supposed to do, and in what order, so that it would come naturally to you later in the air.

While you struggled in this sweat-box, your mentor sat at his desk outside. He had an intercom and dual instruments. On his (glass or perspex covered) table (over a map of the surroundings) crawled a "crab". This electric toy tricycle faithfully followed your movements. A little marker wheel left a trail of red ink, so your errors were plain to see. The besetting sin of Link instructors was to forget to switch this "crab" off, for although moving only at a snail's pace, it had no sense of self-preservation and, if not watched, would crawl off the table to self-destruct on the floor.

As if your erratic controls were not bad enough, your instructor could input drift and rough air into the system to make your task even harder. All things considered, it was not surprising that accumulated stress convinced some people that they were actually in an aircraft. We'd all heard about one poor chap who was supposed to have got his Link into a spin. Unable to recover, and unnerved by the unwinding altimeter, he'd flung the top open and hurled himself out. Grabbing for a (non-existent) ripcord handle, he'd landed heavily on the linoleum several feet below. His injuries were not life-threatening.

It's quite credible, the Link could spin very realistically. It could rotate quite fast, and with the inner "wing" down there'd be a real "G" effect inside; with the T&B in textbook spin display, imagination could easily do the rest. I've read that, even in modern simulators, a pilot's heart-rate speeds up in the final stages of a "landing", just as it does for real, even though he knows it's all make-believe.

I can't recall any Links in the US, but I think they had one on every flying school in the RAF. You were supposed to log Link time in your logbook, and I seem to have run up 46 hours, but it was all in "fits and starts" as the Link was the fill-in on non-flying days for weather or whatever. What did I do? Can't remember.

Before I leave Hullavington, I must mention one or two things. I must have been issued with a battledress (and, no doubt, the whistle) there, for I distinctly remember wearing it when I suffered a sad loss. It seems that the Air Ministry had asked the War Office to provide troops at airfields to defend them in case of parachute or glider attack. Lord knows, the Army had enough people doing nothing. Churchill got to hear of this, and bristled. "Why should one lot of able-bodied men need another lot to defend them? Let them defend themselves!" So Station Defence Days became the bane of our lives.

Hullavington had one when I was there. I was flat down, hurling half-bricks ("Mills bombs") at Bren Gun carriers ("Tanks"). Wriggling about, I lost my fountain pen from the top pocket of my battledress "blouse" (official name). I'd had the pen for years. It cost the princely sum of 2/3d (and two "Typhoo" tea packet tops). For that I got a 14k gold nib; it suited my hand better than anything before or since, I'd really "run it in". I mourned the loss for ages.
In those days you could buy a perfectly good iridium-tipped gold nib fountain pen for half-a-crown - Waterman, Swan and Conway Stewart were well known brands. That's £5 today. What's the chance of getting a gold nib for a fiver now?

All good things come to an end. I packed my kit and said "Goodbye" to Hullavington. That was not a simple matter. You had to trail round all the sections of a Station with a Clearance Certificate, and get a signature from each one, to certify that you were not making off with any item of their (official) property. This could take all day in some cases. (There was a comparable Arrivals procedure; a story told of one bright airman on a new Station somewhere , who booked in with the Barrack Warden - so that he got his biscuits, blankets and pillow, and with Accounts - so he got paid, but nowhere else. All he then had to do was eat his meals, turn up on Pay Parade to draw his pay, but do no work. Apparently he got away with it for quite some time, before somebody totted up, and noticed a discrepancy).

But that pales in comparison with the true story of a National Service Accounts clerk who called into existence a whole squad of phantom airmen, and collected the pay for the whole lot. It was very skilfully done, his creations went on leave and came back, went into SSQ with 'flu and came out, got remustered and in due course discharged, and so on. I believe this genius was actually discharged at the end of his 18 months, having carefully arranged for all the members of his "squad" to be discharged before him. A few weeks later, Records raised a perfectly innocent query about one of them, and the balloon went up.

Next stop for me would not be the Transit Camp I expected, but direct to Hawarden, near Chester, to No. 57 Operational Training Unit - the end of the training line. Thankfully, it wasn't a Hurricane OTU, but a Spitfire one. The pinnacle of every young wartime pilot's ambition was at last within grasp.

That's enough to be going on with,

Goodnight, all,


I thought it might be a Hurricane, so I only gave it a short burst (Combat Report)

Last edited by Danny42C; 20th Mar 2012 at 00:34.
Old 19th Mar 2012, 23:39
  #2445 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Wide Brown Land
Age: 39
Posts: 516
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
to No. 57 Operational Training Unit
Now I'm really looking forward to the next bit Danny, I've recently been doing some research on an Australian pilot who was at that unit between January and March 1943.

kookabat is offline  
Old 21st Mar 2012, 01:20
  #2446 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Danny gets there in the end.

First, a quick query. What was the Edmund's Trainer? I see from my log that it seems to be associated with the Link trainer, and I had two or three sessions on it, but I have absolutely no idea what it was or what it did (tried Google and Wiki, no joy). Does anybody know?

I arrived at Hawarden, was allocated to my Training Flight, and got down to work straight away. I see they put me into a Spitfire nine days after I got there (cautiously they gave me a quick dual check on a Master - which I'd last flown five days before - just to make sure that I hadn't forgotten how). Those nine days were busy. We mugged up Pilot's Notes every spare moment of the day and half the night. They had a "simulator" even more primitive than the Link; it was a scrap fuselage from a crash, the cockpit was intact, controls and instruments did nothing, but we had to memorise the position and function of everything so that we could lay hands on it blindfold. When we weren't blindfold, there was a masterpiece of sophistication - on the wall behind us was a head-on view of a Me 109 at firing range. This was covered by a piece of card hanging on a hook, painted to blend in with the skyscape on the wall. A piece of string was arranged so that the instructor could surreptitiously pull the card away. Woe betide us if we didn't shout out immediately! We quickly learned the value of the mirror. It all helped.

Curiously, I don't remember any formal classroom work, but we eagerly spent every spare moment sitting in the cockpit of any aircraft on the ground and drinking it all in. I think we had about ten pupils on our flight (all Sergeants), and for Instructors we seem to have had an officer, a warrant officer and a sergeant - at least those were the only names which appeared on the (few) Instrument sessions on the Course (flown in the Master). I think we had quite a lot of one-to-one instruction.

Our Spitfires were (like the Hurricanes at Castle Combe) old Mk.Is and Mk.IIs,
reach-me-downs from the squadrons which had managed to survive from the great days (I was told that the Spit was designed for a service life of six months). We didn't like what we saw of the Spit's undercarriage. It was narrow, the tyres were thin and the legs looked a little splayed out. It looked
like trouble. It seemed as if it would be a handful to taxy. In fact, as we later found, the Spit was the exception which proved the rule. I never heard of one ground-looping yet. Taxying was difficult at first, but not because of the undercarriage.

Our great day came. It was high summer, and very warm. This would be problem No. 1. The (liquid) cooling system of the Merlin engine is designed to keep it cool in the air - not on the ground. Once running, the coolant temperature rises until you get airborne. The maximum allowed is 120 (C). If you were still on the ground when you reached that figure, you must pull off onto the grass and shut down to avoid engine damage.

The fact that our Flight's dispersal was on the upwind end of the runway (most days) didn't help. It meant that we had the longest way to taxy. For the first few days there were always one or two stranded aircraft on the grass. No damage was done, it was more of a nuisance than anything. A half-hour's wait, and the engine could be restarted. But you couldn't do it by yourself. The Spit had a direct electric starter, like a car. But the starter load was far more than the battery could handle, and you'd only try it in emergency, with little hope of success if the engine were cold.

Normally power to start was plugged in from a "trolley-acc". A large, heavy battery pack was mounted on a two-wheeled hand trolley. On top of this a small petrol engine (the "chore-horse") drove a generator to keep the battery topped-up. Now this cumbersome kit had to be got out to the stranded aircraft, which might be half a mile away. It was a tractor job and they were scarce (for a few yards to-and-fro in dispersal, erk-power had to do). A lot of time was wasted; you'd done the right thing; but that wouldn't save you from the rough end of your Flight Commander's tongue.

Enough for tonight, (much) more later,



Last edited by Danny42C; 21st Mar 2012 at 02:07.
Old 21st Mar 2012, 13:41
  #2447 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Somerset, UK
Age: 40
Posts: 71
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts

Fantastic stuff. I, like all the rest of us I'm sure, can't wait to hear how you got on when you were finally able to take a Spit up solo. Absolute magic.

You're right that Google yields little in the way of information on the Edmund's Trainer...some of my own searching around (during a 10 minute lunch break!) has thrown up a couple of indications that it was an add-on to a standard Link Trainer, the idea being to teach pilots the art of deflection shooting. Does this ring any bells? What sort of 'add-on' could it be?

Quite impressed by the technique of the suddenly-appearing Me 109 in the 'simulator'! Were you taught to incorporate the mirror into your usual continuous scan?

I shall be checking back later tonight for your next installment!


TommyOv is offline  
Old 21st Mar 2012, 19:22
  #2448 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Wales
Posts: 153
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Link Trainer

Found a useful background document on the Link Trainer if anyone is interested:

Petet is offline  
Old 21st Mar 2012, 20:14
  #2449 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: West Sussex
Age: 82
Posts: 4,704
Received 100 Likes on 35 Posts
Ah! Such memories you evoke, Danny. Hullavington Officers Mess, a grand "triple decker" Baldwin Mess complete with a minstrels gallery for musical accompaniment at Guest Nights. Merely a domestic overspill site for Lyneham in the 70s, Hullavington meant that as we were in Married Quarters there it was our Mess also, instead of the "contemporary" one at Lyneham.
More memories too of the Link Trainer Section at various CCF Summer Camp venues in the 50s. We would patiently wait our turn in the queue for a go and of course then log it in our Record of Service book, which I have still.
A question which occurs, but will probably show my lack of attention to your previous posts, in which case I beg your forbearance. When exactly did you know that you would be trained as a fighter pilot? I presume that the great bulk of people were destined for multi engine training and thence Bomber Command.
Was the decider your showing in Training? It certainly was in my case. My final handling test with a Canadian Wg Cdr CFI brought forth the comment from him, that I was "a lousy pilot, but you've got guts!". I can only surmise that he was referring to my non stop patter as we fell out of aero after aero (my instructor having enjoined me to not dry up, no matter what happened!). I was grateful enough to go on to multis.
Chugalug2 is offline  
Old 21st Mar 2012, 20:53
  #2450 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 5,222
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
The Google Earth black & whites are dated 1945. I had a look at some stations I was at as a kid. Moreton in Marsh was fields and so was Little Rissington. They were started in 1940 and 1938 respectively so the pictures are before that.
Fareastdriver is offline  
Old 21st Mar 2012, 22:01
  #2451 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Bunch of quick replies.

Kookabat (#2433)

Hope this will be useful, Adam, but beware - things changed awfully fast, and six months was a long time in 42/43.

TommyOV (#2435)

Deflection training on a Link Trainer ! The mind boggles, Tommy. On an arthritic tortoise as target, possibly. Yes, we were taught continuous scan. It just so happened that, as the Me was fixed on the wall and our scrap fuselage didn't move, you could keep an eye on it in the mirror and didn't have to screw your neck round. No luck with the Edmund's Trainer so far. There was a "Silloth" trainer, never saw one, think it was a "customised" Link for a particular type of aircraft. Don't really know.

Petet (#2436)

An interesting link to the Link! Never realised it went back so far, or spread so wide. Bit puzzled about the USAAC, supposed to have been used in all their schools, can't remember any until Advanced, then did 10 hours on it.

(Two late comers, pushing the replies in as an EDIT).

Chugalug (#2437),

Ah, those baronial dining rooms with a minstrel's gallery! But they were not for the likes of us in 42 ! (Got there in the end).

When did I get to know that I'd be trained as a fighter pilot? When they sent me to OTU ! (and much good did it do me) How did they select people ? With a pin, I think. I heard that many fighter OTU trained people were later retrained on twos and fours to plug the gaps in Bomber Command, but not sure.

Fareastdriver (#2438),

1945's good enough for me on Castle Combe - don't think it had been going long when we got there in 42.

Thank you all. Another slice coming along,


Last edited by Danny42C; 21st Mar 2012 at 22:29.
Old 21st Mar 2012, 23:21
  #2452 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Danny gets out to the runway.

There was a trick in taxying the Spit, and once you got the knack, you could move along briskly with just a trickle of power. At first we crawled along awkwardly, fighting the engine against the brakes - you could almost watch the coolant needle creeping up.

But if you started on one side of the track, put on full rudder and a one-second blast of power, you'd coast across the track. Then opposite rudder and a tap of brake (which would all go on the one wheel), another shot of
throttle and you zig-zagged back. A pendulum swing built up, and as speed increased you needed less power (and heat) each turn. Once you got into this rhythm, you could go for miles without "coming to the boil".

Coolant temperature permitting, you turned onto the runway for your first take-off (you had look out for yourself, traffic was far too heavy for any form of Aerodrome control as we know it today). It had been hammered into us to tighten up the throttle friction nut hard; people who hadn't paid attention would soon regret it. Power on smoothly, check the swing, keep it straight, don't lift the tail too high (or the prop may hit the tarmac), and you'd soon float off effortlessly. It was just like a Stearman again.

Now a loose friction nut bit the unwary. You had to use your right hand for the undercarriage control, but still needed to keep a hand on the stick, because the full right rudder trim you had on (to counteract swing) was trying to roll you over. No problem, move left hand from throttle to stick to free right hand for wheels. You did this, the throttle shot back smartly of its own accord and your power died. Uncomfortable near the ground !

Frantically, you grabbed the throttle and rammed it back open. Now you've run out of hands. You couldn't let go of the throttle with your left, or the stick with your right. You'd no hand for the undercarriage, so the wheels had to stay down. You certainly couldn't wind off rudder trim, so the aircraft yawed ever more to the right as it speeded up, even though you held it level with the stick and pushed on the left rudder pedal as hard as you could to oppose the trim.

Critical watchers on the ground (ie anyone who'd had it happen to him, which was just about everybody) chuckled as they saw you crabbing away with wheels still down. You were stuck until you'd reached a couple of hundred feet, when you could safely let the throttle go for a few seconds, and have a free hand to sort things out. From then on, you had the friction nut tight every time ! Even then, your troubles might not be over. Some of our Mk.Is went so far back that they didn't even have an engine driven hydraulic pump. It wasn't just a matter of selecting wheels "up", you had to pump them up (and down) by hand.

Our tyro would have the stick in his left hand while he rowed away with his right on the pump handle. The Spit is highly sensitive in pitch. You can land one, or do a loop, with just the end of your little finger in the spade grip. So while our chap's right hand pumped, his left moved in sympathy. He couldn't help pushing and pulling a bit, a little goes a long way, and he'd porpoise away out of sight to the amusement of the bystanders. It wasn't the only aircraft of the day to rely on muscle power for the undercarriage. The early "Anson" was notorious for the 149 turns of a crank handle needed. Luckily, "Repetitive Strain Injury" hadn't yet been invented.

The most terrifying part of every trip was getting back on the ground. Not that the Spit was difficult to land, far from it, provided you didn't come in too fast, for then you'd float down the runway like a piece of thistledown, until there wasn't enough tarmac left, and you'd have to swallow your pride and go round again.

No, the trouble was the congestion. If you flew a wide, timid circuit, you'd never get down. Some one would get inside you and cut you out. Grinding your teeth, you'd have to go round and try again - tighter this time. The loss of time might be serious. Mid-morning and afternoon the NAAFI van made its round of the Flights. Joining the circuit at such times, you scanned the field for it to see how far round it had got. If it was at or near your flight dispersal, it was imperative to get down at all costs, or you'd miss your "char and wad".

You had to learn the "Spitfire Approach", variously known as a "steep turn round the caravan" or "a dirty dive at the runway". It looks to the uninitiated to be a highly skilled, flamboyant and dangerous procedure. It is none of these things. Any fool can do it (look at me). The secret lies in the Spitfire's wing flaps, which are like no others in aviation. They operate on compressed air (which also works wheel brakes and gun firing) instead of the usual hydraulics. So there's no intermediate setting, it's all or nothing, they go up or down with a bang. Or rather with a malign hiss from the Flap Gremlin, which lives behind its neat little chromium lever on the left of the panel.

The drill was this: you flew downwind hugging the runway - so tightly that it looked impossible to get round to land on it. At the end, you throttled right back, banked almost vertically left and pulled round hard. Now you're losing height very fast - more falling out of the sky than gliding - without increasing speed much. Half way round, it looked hopeless (and would have been so in any other aircraft). You were still far too high and too close, and couldn't possibly turn tight enough without stalling.

Time to work the magic. Put the flaps down. Level, this would push your nose up hard. But you're not level - you're "on your left ear". Your Spit spun on its left wingtip like an old London black cab in a narrow street. A runway which looked completely impossible a moment before had miraculously swung round into easy reach. All you had to do now was to take off turn and bank smoothly as you came down the last two hundred feet, the masterstroke being to space out the turn so that you straightened-out a mere moment before touchdown.

If you did this right, nothing but a bird could get inside you. But if you weren't tight enough, surprising things could..........

Bedtime now. Perhaps more tomorrow.

Goodnight, all.


Panic over.

Last edited by Danny42C; 22nd Mar 2012 at 01:14.
Old 21st Mar 2012, 23:23
  #2453 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: West Sussex
Age: 82
Posts: 4,704
Received 100 Likes on 35 Posts
a quick query. What was the Edmund's Trainer?
Whatever it was, there was one at RAF Long Newnton according to this:-
RAF Long Newnton, Wiltshire
The search continues....
Chugalug2 is offline  
Old 22nd Mar 2012, 00:41
  #2454 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Wales
Posts: 153
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Silloth Trainers / Edmunds Trainers

Re: Silloth ... I think Cliffnemo posted a photo of a Silloth trainer a while back, but the following is a resumee:

The Silloth Trainer was designed for the training of all members of the crew, and was primarily a type familiarization trainer for learning drills and the handling of malfunctions. As well as the basic flying behaviour, all engine, electric and hydraulic systems were simulated.

An instructor's panel was provided to enable monitoring of the crew and malfunction insertion. All computation was pneumatic, as in the Link Trainer.
Silloth trainers were manufactured for 2 and 4 engined aircraft throughout the war; in mid-1945, 14 of these trainers were in existence or on order.

Towards the end of the war a Wellington simulator was developed at RAF St. Athan, using contoured cams to generate the characteristics of the aircraft's flight and engines. This machine, however, did not supplant the Silloth Trainer, as all activity on these ceased at the end of the war.

A Brief History of Aircraft Flight Simulation ( Flight Training ).

Re: Edmunds Trainer ... No luck with finding any information on this, although RAF Long Newnton (Wiltshire) had a "Link Trainer and Edmunds Trainer Building". (Great minds Chugalug) I will ask the question on another forum to see if they can throw light on the subject

Still loving this thread .... learning more and more each day .... thanks to everyone involved

Last edited by Petet; 22nd Mar 2012 at 15:23. Reason: Spelling
Petet is offline  
Old 22nd Mar 2012, 22:35
  #2455 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Close Encounters.

A word all round: jobbing back a few pages, I came across "Project Propeller" by nmarshal (#2260 p113). I quote: "Annual reunion for 150+ WW2 aircrew". It's a wonderful, generous idea: have they really got a hundred and fifty WWII chaps on their books? If so, why aren't they (or at least a good few of them) here? I have been beginning to think that we were the last half dozen of the old brigade alive. What can we do by way of a recruiting drive?


I was a bit slack one day. Half way round there was this big black shadow. I looked up into the wheels and underside of a Wellington! Being cut out by another Spitfire would be bad enough, but this! In all fairness to myself, I must say that the (newly assembled) "Wimpey" *, with an expert test pilot, no crew, no load, no guns in the turrets, and little fuel, could manage it, but even so it was a "poor show" on my part. I went round again with my tail between my legs.

* ("Popeye" had a pal: "J. Wellington Wimpey"), There was an assembly factory for the things at Hawarden. I had better elaborate.

There was quite a mixed bag of units sharing the airfield. Most of one side was taken up by De Havilland's factory where they assembled the Wellingtons (yes, I know it was a Vickers Wellington, but everybody was sub-contracting then). I had a good look at their assembly line, and was fascinated by the "geodetic" construction of the fuselages. They looked like the old wicker waste-paper baskets, but of course fabricated in light alloy. They were supposed to be able to take more punishment than the conventional arrangement of longerons and frames. When complete, they were fabric covered and doped. Wings, engines and turrets were added; the finished aircraft were wheeled out for test and delivery.

Across on our side, there were four (or six) training flights of Spitfires. From memory, I think that each of these flights had eight aircraft. Further down there was a mysterious Armament Practice Flight. We certainly didn't do any air-to-air firing in the Spitfires. They operated small twin high-wing aircraft (I think they were something by Percival or Fairey). We had nothing to do with them.

There was an Air Transport Auxiliary unit to do the Wellington deliveries. The ATA was a civilian outfit of pilots too old or unfit for the RAF. They took women - I believe they had one grandmother delivering Lancasters! The famous Amy Johnson (now Mrs Jim Mollison, another record-breaking pilot of the time) was killed in the ATA during the war. Some of their deliveries staged through Hawarden, so interesting novelties flew in from time to time.

All these aircraft took to the air pretty well as they liked and the result was a hectic circuit. No attempt was made to control it: indeed Air Traffic Control as we know it today was simply impossible. although we had TR9 R/T sets. It was "every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost". There was one small concession to flight safety. A "duty" student was parked on the grass near touchdown. He had a kitchen chair, a Verey pistol, a big bag of "reds" and his groundsheet if it looked like rain (we had no ATC caravan in those days).

If collision threatened on final approach, he'd bang off a red. The rule was that the higher aircraft must overshoot, but often both would go round together (another collision hazard). Beginner's luck held: I don't remember a collision while I was there. At busy times you'd have quite a crowd of aircraft in the circuit. Twenty was not unusual. Years later, I'd reminisce about this to a new generation of student pilots (and tell them about flying with no ASI). They'd exchange meaningful glances - "the old chap's rambling again - he's off his head" - but it was true.

I saw my first "Typhoon" there, flown in by the ATA; in early 42 that was a very rare bird indeed. They hadn't got the carburetion sorted out properly yet; every start was a toss-up whether the engine would run or burst into flames. A fire truck had to stand by every time, and this always attracted a crowd (don't we all enjoy a good bonfire?) On the morning of the Typhoon's departure, a small bunch of us, not scheduled to fly till later, strolled round the taxyway to watch the fun from a safe distance.

All was made ready, the pilot came out and jaws dropped. A pert little blonde in a snazzy white flying overall hopped up into the cockpit. This put quite a different face on things. We hadn't come here to watch a re-run of St-Joan-at-Rouen, and were glad to see that she didn't strap herself in before pressing the button. The fire crew gripped their extinguishers, we held our breath.

The ancients believed the unicorn to be a savage beast, only to be subdued by a chaste young maiden. There may have been something in it, the big "Sabre" fired-up with no more than the customary snarl of fire and brimstone from the exhaust stubs, then idled sweet as a nut. Our aviatrix ran through the checks, imperiously waved chocks away, and off she went.

We walked back pensively to our Spitfires with male egos sadly deflated. If this chit of a girl could handle a monster like that, where did that leave us? The message was reinforced as we came up to the marshalling point, the thing came bellowing down the runway and flashed past us fifty feet in the air. We trudged glumly back to our Flights.

That's about enough for the moment,

Goodnight, everyone,


Easy come, easy go.

Last edited by Danny42C; 23rd Mar 2012 at 17:55.
Old 23rd Mar 2012, 00:00
  #2456 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Wales
Posts: 153
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Edmunds Trainer

I managed to get this feedback on the Edmunds Trainer question from the airfieldinformationexchange forum .... hope it helps

The name of this device is usually mispelled as Edmunds or Edmonds; it was invented by F/O Morgan Rice Edmondes. There were a large number of gunnery training simulators in use throughout WWII This particular device was one of a number of 'dual purpose' synthetic trainers for gunnery and recognition.

It instructed fighter pilots in deflection shooting combined with aircraft recognition and range judging, using a standard Link trainer. This was fitted with a reflector sight (modified for the purpose) and a spotlight triggered by a firing a button on the control column. At the required distance from the Link, a 1:48 scale model aircraft was positioned 6.5 ft from the ground and mounted on a castored trolley. A 'deflection' graph was also positioned 3 ft from the floor

On the floor in front of the 'aircraft' were painted a number of arcs of circles worked out from the pivot point from the Link. These were at intervals of 37.5 in (representing ranges from 150 yds to 600 yds at 50 yds increments).

The trainee flew the Link to ‘attack’ the model which then moved to simulate an aircraft under attack. When the pilot considered he was in range, he pressed his trigger in short bursts and the beam of light from the spotlight registered on the graph, the instructor immediately read off the range from the arcs on the floor and the errors shown on the graph. The instructor was in communication with the pilot, giving advice and corrrecting his aim throughout the simulation.

I think the prototype went to Grangemouth, and was intended for all Fighter Command OTUs, and Group I SFTS, (plus a few Gp.II).

A report described it as very effective and extremely simple to construct, though it required a fair amount of floor space.

Source: AIR20 /6058 Synthetic Training Devices, AIR2 /8785 Synthetic Training Committee (STC) reports.
Petet is offline  
Old 23rd Mar 2012, 19:09
  #2457 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Edmunds Trainer.


Good man! - you've cracked it. I ought to be able to say that my rheumy old eyes lit up with instant recognition, but I'm afraid they didn't. Still, it sounds like a Good Idea. My first reaction was: why didn't they use a 1/72 model? - they'd need much less space. And there'd be plenty of Airfix 1/72 models around, wouldn't there? Better check Google, perhaps. Just as well, turns out that there weren't - it was a post-war product. And a big model would stand more knocking about, anyway.

I can see how it would do very well as a range estimation trainer. What I can't quite grasp is the deflection part of the trick. The trolley could be moved at various speeds - how was that taken into account on the "graph"? And you'd need less deflection on a quarter target than on the beam. How about that? Remember, we only had a static (reflected) ring sight.

Better not go on; maybe only displaying my ignorance and forgetfulness. Best
piece of advice on deflection I ever heard came from the famous "Screwball" Beurling: "Estimate the deflection you need - then double it!" (he did all right with that).

My thanks to all who have taken part in the hunt,


P.S. I worked alongside a Wing Commander Edmondes in a Special Duty Flight in India in 45. He was an "Armaments Specialist", too. He wasn't my Boss, so I haven't any of his initials in my logbook. Met him again as a S/Ldr at Bomber Command HQ in 49........I wonder.
Old 23rd Mar 2012, 23:13
  #2458 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Out of the mouths of babes.......

(Danny at Hawarden)

It was not the only time I would be put firmly in my place. I was sitting in the cockpit, waiting for the "trolley-acc" to start me. The cockpit flap was open, a warm breeze from the Welsh hills mixed with the petrol and hydraulic fumes; a lark sang in the heavens. This idyllic scene was interrupted by the appearance of a small, serious bespectacled face in the cockpit opening - "Harry Potter" to the life, half a century before his time.

This was no surprise. A class at the local primary school had swapped a Nature Study day for a trip to our airfield. The teacher (probably a young lady) found being chatted-up over a coffee in the crewroom a nice change from droning on about some nondescript creature or shrub in a muddy field. She had turned her charges loose, she could afford to do this. The young lad of that era had proper respect for property and adults, well knowing the stinging clout round the ear coming his way if he misbehaved. Besides, just to touch a Spitfire was Heaven for a small boy. They would not stray far.

I beamed down on the little lad. Now I would be in line for a nice dollop of hero-worship. He might even want my autograph, and we were sometimes asked "How many have you shot down, Mister?" (the little blighters knowing full well that we hadn't fired a shot).

"Sir", piped this one, "what is the reduction gear ratio between engine and propeller on this aircraft?" I gaped at him dumbfounded. I'd no idea. I knew, of course, that the prop wasn't just splined onto the shaft, and would guess at 2:1 if I had to. But I'd been a small boy myself and knew exactly what this little devil was up to. He'd come across this information somewhere, mugged it up (probably to three decimal places), and was now revelling in being "one up" on every one of us he could find to catch.

Mr Nicholas Soames recalls that, as a small boy, he'd wandered into the library and found the great man busy at his desk. "Grandfather", he'd asked, "is it true that you're the greatest living Englishman?" "Yes", said Churchill testily, "Now bugger off!" My tormentor got similarly short shrift. "That's a military secret! You shouldn't ask! Clear off!" He grinned and disappeared. But of course he knew that I didn't know, and that I knew he knew. Later I learned that I was by no means his only victim that afternoon. (He'll go far, that lad - the farther the better - he should start at once).

We lived in reasonable comfort in the Sergeants' Mess. I don't recall that we had any Pilot Officers on our Flight. Housed two to a room in the huts, my room mate was Alan Morley. He'd been a Metropolitan policeman, a reserved occupation. Aircrew service was the sole exception, he was allowed to volunteer for that, but nothing else, and he'd grabbed the chance. (Later I met a pilot who was a qualifed veterinary surgeon and had got in the same way). Alan was older than most of us, married, with a spell-binding fund of stories about the old East End. We got along very well together, we were both tidy souls by nature and kept our room in strict regulation order. There's no point in trying to buck the system. On a photo in my log book he's perched next to me on the back of a Spitfire. What happened to him I don't know, but I hope he survived. He was a good chap.

Our C.F.I. was a Wing Commander Farmer. We didn't see much of him, but he had one idea which would stand all of us in very good stead. Whenever he was out of his office (which seemed to be most of the time) he'd jump into "his" Spitfire. This had a very distinctive white spinner with a spiral painted on it. In this he'd roam around looking for lone Spitfires. Any that he found in the area would almost certainly be his. Finding one, he'd try to "bounce" it - carry out a mock attack. Catching one napping, he'd haul alongside and note the aircraft letters. There would follow an uncomfortable five minutes in front of your Flight Commander, and a "fine" of a day's pay. If, however, you'd "kept weaving", never flying straight and level for more than a few seconds at a time, watching your rear-view mirror and screwing your neck round* to spot any stranger behind, you'd see the CFI coming. Waiting till he came into firing range (about 400 yards), you'd turn tightly into him - the standard defensive parry. He'd waggle his wings to say "Cheers" and fly off to find another victim.

It drove home the most valuable lesson a fighter pilot must learn - Watch your back! - you'll never see the aircraft that shoots you down! It recalls an old saying (from the WWI trenches) "You never hear the shell that kills you!" There is a romantic myth that air fighting was a knightly combat, and of course there was some like that, especially in the large scale dogfights of 1940. But a much more effective way is to creep up on your man with a piece of lead pipe.

This "fine" business was highly irregular, there was nothing in King's Regulations to warrant it - but nobody objected. All minor flying misdemeanours were similarly punished, and the "kitty" paid for the Flight party at the end of the course. There was a tariff of fines for the things you forgot when leaving the aircraft. First flights were a rich mine for the "kitty", the offender being in such a state of euphoria from having got down safely that he could hardly remember his own name. Taxying in with flaps down was expensive at 10/- (there was some point in this, over grass a stone could be flung up and damage them). Leaving the Radio or Fuel cocks on, and Not caging the gyros earned lesser penalties. I think my first flight cost me 15/- from then on, Nil - you learned fast.

* This was much easier on the neck if you took off collar and tie, and wound a silk scarf, or anything else silk you could beg or borrow, round it.

The witching hour! Goodnight, all


Leader? - he couldn't lead the pigeons round Trafalgar Square!

Last edited by Danny42C; 24th Mar 2012 at 01:35.
Old 24th Mar 2012, 17:51
  #2459 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Ich dummkopf !

To all who have sent me PMs and had no reply - my most profound apologies! It never occurred to me that anyone might want to write to me; it was not until daughter borrowed laptop just now, and scornfully pointed out that I had seven unread messages, that realisation dawned. She is now standing over me with big whip and showing me how to do replies.

Covered in shame and confusion,

Old 26th Mar 2012, 20:01
  #2460 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Unpleasant surprise and Any Port in a Storm,

(Danny is still at Hawarden)

One day the Flap Gremlin nearly had me. Half way round on finals I put the flaps down. I had always thought that the pair were interlocked, though I suppose there is no reason they should be. They're not - and only one came down. The effect was to roll me out back level (about a quarter turn) in a flash, before I could react. I promptly put flaps up and took it round to come in flapless, 10 mph faster and even more float.

I'd got back to the crewroom before the thought struck me. What if the other flap had stuck up? I'd have been upside down in a moment, wheels down and throttle closed. The early Merlins didn't run inverted. I might have managed to roll out before I hit the deck, but it would have been a very close thing, with perhaps 300 ft to play with. Nobody seemed greatly bothered by the story! I never heard of that happening again.

I've a soft spot for the Wellington, even though one did cut me up. Not that I ever flew in them, but one proved a good friend. It happened this way. I've mentioned Station Defence Days, we had two while I was at Hawarden. To avoid wasting good flying time, we had them at night, and each time it was raining.

A truck dropped off little groups of us at points round the taxiway. What the nature of the "threat" was, and what we were supposed to do about it, I can't remember. The main thing was that we had to be there, for the Orderly Officer would come round at odd hours during the night to check. Skulking back to our quarters was not an option, they had Service Police posted to foil this. So a miserable little group huddled together, the rain dripping off our caps and groundsheets. But nearby a Wimpey was parked on the grass, awaiting delivery.

Why not get under a wing? It'd be dry there, and you could see the (masked) lights of the Orderly Officer's van in plenty of time to man your "post". No sooner said than done. Then, "I wonder if the fuselage door is locked?" We tried it, it wasn't. "Bingo!" All aboard except for a lookout. Not only were we four snug and dry, but there was a canvas bunk down the rear of the aircraft.* Now we were really set up for the night, all we had to do was to work out a roster for the bunk and the lookout!

* Calling all Wimpey experts, why, on an operational aircraft with no spare crew?

More later,


Please, Sir, I'm not lost - it's just that I don't know where I am!

Last edited by Danny42C; 26th Mar 2012 at 20:48.

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information

Copyright © 2023 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.