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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 26th Mar 2012, 23:59
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Calling all Wimpey experts, why, on an operational aircraft with no spare crew?
Not a Wimpey expert but... for casualties? I believe the Lancaster had something similar.

Adam
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Old 29th Mar 2012, 20:50
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Danny42C
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Danny tries to remember what he did at Hawarden.

I flew 75 hours on the Spit at Hawarden, but have only the haziest recollection of what we actually did. My logbook is no help, the entries being, as usual, Ex(ercise) 15B or something of the sort, which is no use to me now. There was a lot of formation practice, up to 12-aircraft "balbos"*, cross-countries and we must have done a fair amount of aerobatics and mock combat. What I am more clear about is what we didn't do. There was no night flying; it would be difficult in any case because of the exhaust flame dazzle (particularly on the overrun, with throttle closed on landing).

It must have been contemplated at one time, though, for I remember that the undercarriage tell-tale** (a very simple little two-part panel with red "down" and green "up" sections) - [EDIT, got it wrong, haven't I? Short Term Memory Loss!] - had a tiny dolls-house roller blind to reduce glare after dark. But in any case, the Spit wasn't used as a night fighter.

Note* : Pre-war, a Marshal Balbo led 12 Italian flying boats on a world tour. The RAF used his name as a generic term for any large formation.

Note** : From the top surface of each wing, quite close to the cockpit, a retractable, pencil-thick, about four-inch long rod would pop up to confirm "wheels down".

You'd think we would practice air gunnery. Not so, the only time I pressed the "fire" button was in a Mk. II with two 20mm cannon. The idea was to give us an idea of what it felt like to fire the things. They loaded half-a-dozen rounds into each gun, and sent us off to a ground range near Prestatyn to blaze away into the sands. What a row! I thought the wings would come off with the hammering the guns gave them, and was glad to see them still hanging on after I'd loosed off my ammo.

There was an amusing (for the bystanders) incident in which this Spit was involved. An armourer was tinkering with the firing button in the cockpit. A second airman walked past right in front of the aircraft when the guns unexpectedly fired. As he was exactly in line with the nose, the rounds passed harmlessly either side of him and off to the Welsh hills. The gun camera (in the port wing root) still had film in it, it worked and this was developed. Seemingly, the prints clearly showed his hair standing on end!

In hindsight, I can't think why they didn't use these gun cine cameras for our training. All Spits had them - or did when they left the factory, and we could have been put up on mock combat practice. The film, developed and analysed, would show how well (or how badly!) we'd "fought". But no, I suppose it would have taken too much time, or would be too much trouble, or would cost too much, or film was in short supply. Whatever the reason, your brand-new fighter pilot might well join his squadron having fired nothing bigger than the popgun he had as a toddler.

Clay-pigeon practice would have been better than nothing, it would have taught us the basics of deflection shooting, but we didn't even do any of that.
Really, I suppose air combat (I never did any) must be rather like learning to ride a bike; there's absolutely no way to learn except by having a go and seeing how you get on (here's a Heinkel, lad, see what you can do with it!) The best pilot by no means ends up with the best score:

Can't fly but can shoot,
He still can be a bit of a brute.
Can fly but can't shoot,
For him the Huns don't give a hoot!

All things considered, I think the CFI's "lesson" alone was worth more than everything else we learned at Hawarden put together. After all, if you can just stay alive, chances of a "kill" are bound to come along from time to time, aren't they?

A Swordfish landed one morning and lumbered across to the Duty Flight. This large and obsolete (but still very effective) Navy biplane had most likely come in from a carrier in Liverpool Bay. What caught our expert eyes was a strange, convoluted array of tubing under both lower wings. Some new kind of radar, perhaps? We toddled across to have a look. But before we got there, all was made plain. A bike was lashed to each practice bomb rack. The two matelots hopped out, untied them, straightened the handlebars, then booked-in and pedalled off to the fleshpots of Chester. Full marks to the True Blue!

That'll do for the time being,

Goodnight, all.

Danny42C


(The curious "wraparound " failure in my 8th para seems to stem from my laptrop).




Thank God we've got a Navy (or have we?)

Last edited by Danny42C; 31st Mar 2012 at 15:57.
 
Old 30th Mar 2012, 17:25
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rear sear spring retainer keeper

Hi, I was an armourer in the RAF in 1941 and this piece of equipment has left an indelible memory in my mind. The "rear sear spring retainer keeper" was a very small piece of metal at the rear of the breech block of a Browning 303 machine gun, which - believe it or not - kept the rear sear spring retainer in place. I can't remember the shape but I certainly remember the name. Can't remember what I did yesterday though. I'm knocking on 90 and still play keyboard, entertaining in old age homes. I can play more than 2000 songs from memory - without even thinking "what's the next note" but if I go from one room to another I can't remember why.
All the best
Harry
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Old 30th Mar 2012, 19:19
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Hi Harry, welcome to the thread! Don't worry about short term memory loss, for only long term is needed here. The amazing recall from that far back is as you say amazing, as the posts of our many contributors testify. So get stuck in with more "Naming of the Parts" or whatever else may come to mind.
I was struck by the information (was it posted here?) that the four cannon ammunition feeds in the nose of the Westland Whirlwind Fighter were designed by a Process Engineer. Baked Bean tins and Cannon Shells it seems have a lot in common ;-)
Danny, your tale of being exiled to a cold and wet night's airfield guard duty brings back memories of my own of a snowed in Oakington 1962/63. It had snowed, thawed, refrozen, snowed, thawed, refrozen, etc, while we student pilots were on Christmas Grant. We returned to find a flap on, as every RAF runway except ours was rapidly attaining "Black Top" status, thanks to such things as Goblin engines mounted on trailers. 5FTS had none of these, but plenty of us students. So armed with shovels, spades, pick axes, brushes and whatever else might fit the bill, we were herded out to the runway. Unfortunately a previous attempt to clear the snow, involving Vampires parked in echelon on the runway with engines revving, had merely melted the snow, but with iced up drains the slush soon froze hard. Hence the pick axes! Eventually half the length and half the width was cleared. The CFI fired up a Vampire, took off in the cleared length, did a circuit and landed. He soon used up the cleared bit, overran into the contaminated bit, and only came to a halt thanks to the barrier.
Luckily for us they then went to plan B, and we flew out the aircraft (Varsities) to Wyton and flew from there, until nature did what we could not. I've never been so cold and so miserable! If they'd tried to get us to dig out the whole runway length I think we might have seen the second RAF mutiny!
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Old 30th Mar 2012, 21:05
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A bit of a diversion - Lancaster seat restraints

Sorry to interrupt the flow but there is a question circulating on other forums about whether any of the seats fitted on the Lancaster (or any of the heavy bombers) were fitted with harnesses or lapstraps.

The question started with whether the fold down "second dickey" seat had one, but the question has widened from there.

Can any of the veterans assist with this question? If the answer is there were no restraints (which is current thinking) how did the crew cope with a corkscrew?

Any help to solve this mystery would be brilliant

Last edited by Petet; 30th Mar 2012 at 23:04.
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Old 31st Mar 2012, 00:55
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To Harry and Chugalug.

Harry,

Welcome aboard, and congrats on your first solo! We can certainly do with some new blood on this Thread. I can't do better than second Chugalug's suggestion in his earlier Post #2359 p118, and I quote:

"Let it be yet another British idiosyncracy that a thread about pilot brevets includes all other ones as well, as well as none at all ! Well, why shouldn't it ?"

Couldn't have put it better myself ! We were all on the same side - come on in - the water's fine !

Now we can ask all the armourer questions which have been troubling us. For starters, was it true (as I was told) that the British .303 Brownings stopped with the block at the rear, but the American .300 ones forward, so that there was one always "up the spout", which could go off spontaneously in a hot gun ? (the thing I flew had two of each - I ought to know, but I don't !)




Chugalug,

Ah, the winter of 62/63 - (what use would the wind farms have been then, with that enormous high anchored right on top of us, no wind and ground temperatures never rising above freezing for about six weeks ?) Just back from (centrally heated) Germany, I was at Linton, we had a rig with two Derwents mounted on a kind of pallet pushed by a 2500 gallon bowser. They gave it welly, the sheet ice in front flaked off a treat, but the thrust pushed the bowser backwards at a rate of knots over the ice, so they had to pack it in. Best thing with snow is leave it alone - trouble is convincing the Wg. Cdr. (Flying).

Came across our old friend the triple gauge (remember the Daniel "PT-17" panel ?) It was from a Vultee BT-13 panel (something more sophisticated, I said - how wrong can you be ?). Remember it well, one day in Burma my affrighted gaze fell on one such: oil pressure zero! Got the thing home, then pranged it ! Gunner and self survived all right. Aircraft beyond repair.

Have you any news of Cliff?


Harry and Chugalug, my regards to you both, and Goodnight,


Danny
 
Old 31st Mar 2012, 21:25
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The Lancaster Manual (publ Greenhill Books) has two pictures of the pilot's seat. One shows a bucket seat (so the pilot can sit on his parachute) and this shows what could be two straps on the back cushion of the seat, but it is not obvious exactly what they are.

On another picture there is a seat with a padded base (not suitable for the sit on type parachute) and this clearly has a 'Y' shaped strap running over the back cushion such that the two top ends of the 'Y' would go over the shoulders of the pilot. The end of the strap is not visible so it's not possible to see how it connects to anything.

Both pictures show a lever called the 'Pilot's Harness Release Lever' which is situated on the right on the outside front of the arm rest and attached to it (which can be raised so the pilot can get in or out of the seat). This lever looks like it could be hydraulically operated, or some sort of flexible rod, as there seems to be a flexible pipe coming from behind it leading round to the back of the seat.

There's also a photograph of the Flight Engineer's foldaway seat and I can't see any evidence of strapping in the vicinity.
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Old 31st Mar 2012, 23:50
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Re: Lancaster Harnesses / Lapstraps

Hipper

Thanks for the feedback on the pilot seat.

Photographs I have seen support the theory that the FE did not have any restraint on his fold down seat.

The position regarding the navigator and wireless operator seats is also unclear but current thinking is that there were no restraints, although one veteran believes there were lapstraps (and one photograph suggests that the navigator seat had a webbing strap of some description).

The assumption is the gunners had no restraints either.

Would be interested to hear from others

Regards

Pete
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Old 1st Apr 2012, 09:41
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Well in one of the publicity photo's for the DamBusters film it shows Richard Todd looking down on the Dam well and truly strapped in................I know I know Hat Coat etc

CDR
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Old 1st Apr 2012, 09:51
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Re: Lancaster restraints

Thanks cliver029 for your feedback.

I am assuming he was portraying a pilot (excuse my ignorance) in which case, as you say, he would have had a harness to keep him firmly in place.

Assuming that is correct, we have one position on the aircraft sorted, just the other six to go.

Thanks again
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Old 1st Apr 2012, 11:49
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I think this confirms that the pilot in a Lancaster definitely had a seatbelt. From an unpublished manuscript written after the war by S/Ldr DPS Smith, of 467 Sqn - my great uncle's pilot and the only survivor from the crew. This is his description of the moment they were shot down over Lille on 10 May 1944:

We were just about to drop our bombs when everything went hot and dry and red. When the flame had gone out, I was still in my seat but could feel no aeroplane about me. I immediately released my seat belts and then my parachute. It seemed to open immediately...
I've asked another veteran I know (a rear gunner) if he can add to the discussion.

Adam
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Old 1st Apr 2012, 16:11
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Of course a corkscrew manoevre didn't involve a 360 degree roll, 'just' a 45 degree roll:

Evasive maneuvers and formations

I would imagine the rest of the crew would hear the 'corkscrew' announcement and take appropriate action. It doesn't matter if they fall out of their seat whereas it is a problem if the pilot does!
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Old 1st Apr 2012, 23:32
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Straps, beds, rear springs, and the ATA!

a lever called the 'Pilot's Harness Release Lever' which is situated on the right on the outside front of the arm rest and attached to it (which can be raised so the pilot can get in or out of the seat). This lever looks like it could be hydraulically operated, or some sort of flexible rod, as there seems to be a flexible pipe coming from behind it leading round to the back of the seat.
Once strapped in with the usual Sutton Harness, this additional lever could slacken off the harness, giving the pilot extra movement, e.g, to lean forward to see the magnetic compass. Simply leaning back tightened the harness.
Whitleys, Wellingtons, Lancs and Halifaxes all had lap straps on the "jump" seats. Engineers on Halifaxes seemed to stand behind the pilot as their instrument panel was situated there, and they had to move to change tanks. When we were inverted and dropped 7,000 ft, my engineer "hit the roof."
I think Gunners and Navigators used lap straps.
All the above mentioned heavy bombers had a "bed," or stretcher, in the rear. Carrying an unconscious Bomb-aimer from the bows to the bed, using portable oxygen bottles, was hard work. Other casualties went on the floor (deck.)
[B]rear sear spring retainer keeper. [/B] I remember it well, but I know nothing of the differences between British & American Brownings.
In the sixties and the seventies I regularly met some of the wartime ATA women pilots, and their log books made our eyes water. To qualify for heavy aircraft they attended a Halifax conversion flight. If they passed, they were qualified to fly all four engined aeroplanes, except flying boats.
They had flight engineers (ATA) for the bigger aircraft.
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Old 2nd Apr 2012, 22:58
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Danny gets stuck.

A Funny Thing happened to me one day.

Open cockpits are fine in the summer in Florida, and you're glad to have your canopy open in places like India. English weather is different - you keep it closed or freeze to death. But there is the odd warm day, and this was one of them. I slid the canopy back. You normally flew with your seat as high as possible, so as to get the best all-round view (of marauding CFIs!), so your head is usually only an inch or so under the perspex.

My goggles (pushed up on my head) flew off. Held by the band which is buckled to the back of the helmet, they fluttered madly about in the slipstream. I slammed the canopy forward. It shut - with the goggles still outside, but now with the band jammed in the frame, and consequently with me pinned to the top of it by the scruff of the neck! My head was so close to the canopy catch that I couldn't get my hands behind to open it.

Now what? I could see by squinting sideways, and reach the spadegrip at full stretch. I could still fly, but I certainly couldn't land. Not the brightest pebble on the beach, it took me a few seconds to realise what to do. Take your helmet off, idiot! Done, now to retrieve the goggles. It would be a bit of a struggle with the canopy catch as the band was jammed in it.

Now my readers are settled back in delighted anticipation. You know what's going to happen next, don't you? The canopy flies back, the goggles act as a pilot chute and pull out the helmet, which acts as main chute and takes out mask, oxygen tube and then yanks out radio flex and plug! All overboard in half a second!

Stop grinning, it didn't happen, I'm not as thick as that. I secured my end of the flex, and now I could get both hands on the two "butterfly" catches (leaving the Spit to fly itself for a bit). With some difficulty, I got the canopy open and "all was safely gathered in". I was not to go down in RAF legend as "The Man who Managed to Lose his Helmet in the Air"; (although years later it seemed for a while that I might be "The Man who Lost the Corpse he was supposed to be Looking After", but that must be a story for another day).

Changing the subject, you might be interested in the tale of the Dual Spitfires.
I first heard of these in the early sixties, but didn't really believe they existed until I saw one for myself at Coxyde (Ostend), looking very sorry for itself under a tarpaulin in the rain. For who on earth would want such a thing? Apparently some people did, and I was told various stories. They all agreed in that the RAF had nothing to do with them, apart from supplying a number of Mk. IXs for the conversion. I have heard several figures, but 20 seems to be about right. First I was told that someone like Marshalls of Cambridge or Oxford Air Services had done the job. Now I believe that they went back to Vickers, which seems more likely, for it would have been a tricky conversion. Who was the customer, though? First I was told that it was the Belgian Air Force, which tied in with the Ostend specimen I'd seen in 61.

But quite recently I've been whiling away some time in a Hospital waiting room, and picked up a dog-eared copy of "What Car". In it , James May gives an account of a ride in one, and he puts the finger on the Irish Air Corps - it figures! (and no, it's no use setting the Race Relations police on me, with my name I can crack any Irish joke I like, and they can't touch me!). Seriously, the best known example (the "Grace" Spitfire) is a heartening story in itself.

Why would the Irish (or anyone else) want them? Anyone who's been trained to Wings standard in any Air Force can surely jump into a Spit and take it away? As an advanced trainer, perhaps? Why, when the world was full of redundant Harvards? Doesn't make sense. And the aircraft's C of G must have gone walkabout, for they put a panel, seat and pilot with controls where just a radio set used to live. It can't have been pleasant to fly.

That'll do for the time being,

Goodnight, all,

Danny42



Why do Kerry dogs have flat faces? - from chasing parked cars!

Last edited by Danny42C; 4th Apr 2012 at 17:18.
 
Old 2nd Apr 2012, 23:37
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Danny gets stuck

Now what? I could see by squinting sideways, and reach the spadegrip at full stretch. I could still fly, but I certainly couldn't land.

Shades of Saturday morning cinema in the 1920s. Last few breathless moments. We puzzled all week, wondering how our hero would escape.
Next Saturday, "With one bound, Danny was free........"
Fredjhh
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Old 3rd Apr 2012, 08:21
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fredjhh:
Shades of Saturday morning cinema in the 1920s.
..and even into the 50s Fred! I am proud to reveal that I was an ABC Minor, and still have my membership card somewhere to prove it.
Would Flash escape this time from the Merciless Ming, having rescued Dale from a fate worse than death? Would he then be able to light the sparkler that seemingly powered his space ship suspended on wire? All would be revealed next Saturday, after the birthday parade, community singing, and Abbott and Costello, of course....
Wonderful images conjured up there, Danny. I wonder though if you shared the experience quite so freely at the time, or was it a case of "Mum's the word"? As you say the Grace Spit is an inspiration, not simply by being a Spitfire, though that is enough in itself, but because of the tale of love and devotion that goes with it. As to why it was, I'll leave that to those that know. I rather suspect though that if it had not been converted it would have never been restored, and would by now be a very ex set of saucepans!
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Old 3rd Apr 2012, 09:59
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Re: Lancaster Restraints

Thanks to everyone for their feedback on the subject of restraints.

I am not sure that we have reached any conclusions across the forums as some say seats had lapstraps (pilot a harness) and some say they did not.

I thought there would be a straightforward answer to this, but clearly information is being lost in time, which is why this thread is so important.

However, having watched "Into the Wind" last night, I can understand why veterans have difficulty putting pen to paper.
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Old 3rd Apr 2012, 23:20
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Pilots Harness Release Lever.

Petet

I am sure Fred (#2461 p124) is right about this in his reply to Hipper (query #2455 p123). The "flexible pipe" he saw would be a Bowden cable. All single-seaters in later years had a four-point harness; the two shoulder straps were anchored to a cable behind the top of the seat. The cable ran back round a spring drum, which locked when fully "back" (like your car seat belt).

The pilot had this little release lever by the side of the seat; he needed it to reach the far corners of the cockpit (and that might be quite a way in the big American ones). When he straightened up, the cable ran back and locked (or at least that was the idea).

I know nothing of the "heavies", but would think that the presence of this
"release" proves that there were shoulder straps in the seat.

*************

Fred and Chugalug,

Glad that my "Perils of Pauline" moment raised a smile or two - even after I managed to wriggle out of it! (Ah, those happy flea-pits of long ago!)

*************

Chugalug,

Too right I kept quiet! I've always been a believer in the old adage : " better keep your mouth shut, and let people think you're a fool, than open it and prove it!"

Goodnight, all.

Danny.



"They can't do that to me!"
- "They can do anything to you lad, except put you in the family way - and they'll have a damn' good crack at that !"
 
Old 3rd Apr 2012, 23:42
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Danny, those familiar with this thread will understand that somehow Reg and I forged a bond that spanned many years. I know nothing of the war years, but am filled with wonder that night after night "ordinary" men became heroes simply by taking off to take the fight to the enemy.

There are those, as in the Nuremburg thread, that argue about the motives, the strategy if you will, and whether what was done was right.

I cannot judge, but I do know that I question whether I would have done that, night after night, fly 4 hours into enemy territory, using fairly rudimentary aids to find a specific place, then settle down for a minute straight and level till "Bombs gone, Skip" and then find my way home again for another 4 hours, never being able to relax until touchdown. Then the wonder of whether friends on another aircraft made it home or not.

Cliff began this thread and many of us wonder why he has been silent. The reason is not too difficult to guess. He is fighting his hardest foe and I wish him success.

My heart was broken when Reg took his final flight and there is too much dust around tonight for me to see clearly but this thread must go on as a record not only of the training but also the SPIRIT of those men who daily (well, nightly) took the fight to the foe.

Cliff, I wish you well, you created a marvellous testament not only to yourself but for others who cannot voice their memoirs, and for those scarce few that have done so, we salute you.

You have ensured that the Torch of Remembrance has been successfully passed on. Rest easy and God speed.
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Old 4th Apr 2012, 01:54
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Cliff

Icare9.

Kevin (I hope you don't mind my using your name), Thank you for passing on the grave news about Cliff. We all suspected and feared it, yet while there is life, there is always hope and we must hold on to it to the end.

I can only join you in your tribute to our in-thread Bomber Command heroes like Reg, Cliff and all the others. Speaking as one whose "operations" were hardly worth the name - they were so (relatively) - safe, I have always marvelled at the repeated courage of those young men who went out, night after fearful night, with full knowledge of the odds against them. "Screwing your courage to the sticking point" is fine enough on even one occasion, but to do it repeatedly over a period of months is on another plane altogether.

Had it fallen to my lot to take part, I hope I would have acquitted myself well, but who can tell ? I was very glad that it didn't.

Of course we must keep this Thread going in their honour, and we will. But keep the questions coming (it's what gives life to it), and let's have some recruits. I'm sure they're out there somewhere.

Thank you again Kevin - keep us posted, and Goodnight,

Danny,
 

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