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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 29th May 2012, 00:24
  #2621 (permalink)  
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Thanks for the interesting clip - it's a bit of a mixture, isn't it? The shots of the bewildered recruits being harried about like cattle certainly rang a bell - and I never thought to see again that awful instrument of torture, the U-tube of mercury which you had to puff up 40mm and hold for a whole minute. Did they still have it in your day ?

I found it hard to place some of the old aircraft. Who remembers the Defiant now ? And among the old timers I spotted a Fairey Battle, a Whitley (the "Flying Suitcase"), a Hawker Hart (or one of its many variants) and one or two more I couldn't place - that monoplane with the big radial sticking out in front ?

Small-gauge railways to places like Dehra Dun (not sure), Chakrata - certainly ! While there I was told that the local kukri-smiths found rail steel just the job - it would take a lovely edge. Driver of 8.15 gets shock when loco drops on to sleeper, length of line lifted during night !

Gentlemen's agreement reached: old worn lines left by side of track for the smiths when replaced by new: new ones no longer pinched !

Nearly all the Hill Stations had to have these toy-trains, it was the only way of getting there. Some steep ones were rack-railways (Ootacamund). You have to admire the Victorian and Edwardian railway engineers. Yes, the TV series was very watchable.

Thanks again Chug - this'll keep me quiet for hours.

Goodnight, Danny.
Old 29th May 2012, 12:12
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Monoplane with the big radial, I haven't watched the video yet (taking the Michael somewhat at work I feel) but could it be the Wellesley?

Chap up the road from me flew those in East Africa (possibly the last person alive to have done so?) after missing the Dunkirk evacuation and escaping from the south of France to Africa. His mother thought he was dead for months before he found a post office. I really must knock on his door before it's too late and see whether he has anything written down.
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Old 29th May 2012, 14:56
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It's a Wellesley. Held some distance record at some time (no doubt on Google somewhere)
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Old 29th May 2012, 17:37
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Wellesleys !


Seems you're right - now get round up the road to old feller, tell him to buy laptop, if he's not on line already (his great/grand/children can club up and buy it for his last birthday). Tell him any idiot can work it (look at me), join PPRuNe, get on thread, start talking. (I could do with a hand).

And that's an order !




Spot on ! 0% to Danny for Aircraft Recognition ! (Yes, Google - as usual - tells all).

My thanks to you both,

Old 29th May 2012, 19:16
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Duty Carried Out.

I have paid a brief visit to my (nearly) neighbour (who I had been worried about because his house was for sale). Thankfully, he appears sound of mind and body. I have have secured an invitation to visit him and look at some of his papers.

He did tell me one brief bit of extra information, he was involved in the ferry runs from west to east Africa. Some of those aircraft continued on to India but he says he never saw a VV (although he did know what one was).

In fact, he also told me that he has already written memoirs but that are not easy to find. A quick Google has shown me that he is sufficiently famous to be on Wikipedia so I don't think I am breaking any confidences with this link:

Guy Buckingham - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I did know about the cars, that was the common interest that first got us talking.

Anyway, I will see what I can do to get memories from him to me and hence to here. I have already established that he is not a user of t' interweb.
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Old 29th May 2012, 19:18
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There's a whole series of RAF at War available and they are mostly excellent.

Amazon Amazon

You may find them elswhere cheaper.

Last edited by Hipper; 29th May 2012 at 19:19.
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Old 29th May 2012, 20:47
  #2627 (permalink)  
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Your old chap sounds to have been a "man of many parts". As he's not a "silver surfer" - yet, could you take a laptop round sometime and tempt him with a page or two of the Thread ? That's how I got started (#2250, p.113). Once you've got him on the hook, bet you'll have to struggle to get your laptop away from him ! Anyhow, thanks for the try.




Amazon sounds very reasonable - broad hints to daughter for next birthday are in order !

Thanks, both,


Last edited by Danny42C; 29th May 2012 at 20:48.
Old 30th May 2012, 09:29
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Anyone wishing to review the "RAF at War" Series if only as a precursor to buying it, as suggested by Hipper, should find all 10 parts on YouTube. PPRuNe seems to default, with a few exceptions, to the "mini screen" presentations rather than with a simple link to the YouTube page. A search on the YouTube site for "RAF at War" threw up this (hope it works!):-
RAF at War - YouTube
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Old 30th May 2012, 22:10
  #2629 (permalink)  
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RAF at War.


Tried the link you found (Secn 2/10). Works ! Will countermand instruction to daughter.


Old 30th May 2012, 23:16
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Marlborough (no, Danny) s'en vat en guerre !

The day came when the Squadron was pronounced ready for action, and ordered to move up on detachment to Chittagong, then just a small port on the East of the Bay of Bengal, close to the Burmese border. The plan was to land en route at Jessore (in present Bangladesh) to refuel.

"A" Flight mustered seven aircraft (I think they had eight, one must have been u/s). We packed ourselves, our kit, the ground crew's kit and toolboxes in the aircraft and started up.

Mine cranked-up all right, but had no hydraulic pressure. This was a known fault with a known cause and a known remedy. A pressure relief valve had stuck and needed a wallop with a hammer handle on a tender spot. But this was high up on the front of the engine firewall, and of course a panel had to come off to get at it.

This was a stepladder job on account of the height of the engine. So it was a case of shut down, get the steps, take off the panel, thump valve, remove steps, start engine to confirm success, shut down, replace panel, take away steps and start engine once more.

This would take at least twenty minutes; the flight commander (Flt. Lt. Topley - "Topper") decided not to wait, but took th other six off as planned, leaving me behind to follow if my aircraft could be fixed.

It was, and I got into the air half an hour late. It was a gin-clear morning, navigation was easy, and I mapread happily along, hitting all my checkpoints "on the nose". "Robbie" had expected that he'd just be coming for the ride like the rest of the formation (the other Nav was in the lead ship with Topper), and had made no preparations to navigate. So he was quite happy to leave it to me.

After an hour, I reckoned that Jessore should be about five minutes ahead, but was puzzled to see specks milling about on the horizon where the airfield should be. Who might these people be ? By now our flight must be on the ground refuelling, or had already taken off for Chittagong.

It crossed my mind that the airfield might be under attack (at that time we had little idea of the Jap capability in the air). I dropped down below the strangers and approached warily. Soon I was relieved to recognise the VV trademark - its tail-down "sit" in the air.

They were our six, now strung out in the circuit for landing. Unnoticed, I tacked on to the end of the line (good thing I wasn't a Jap!), landed and parked. Topper climbed out, counted his chicks and did a double-take. He'd one more than he started with ! My neighbour sat morosely on his aircraft wheel. "Where have you lot been?"

"Well might you ask", was the gist of the reply (plus a bleep or two). Flying in a loose formation of six, they'd all been happy to leave the navigation in the hands of the lead crew. Topper's navigator was a P/O, a very nice son of a vicarage who shall be nameless. He'd set about his job in best textbook fashion with protractor, dividers, charts, Dalton computer, pencil and rubber (might even have had his nav bag with him to put iit all in).

There were two good reasons why this was unlikely to work. Dead reckoning requires an idea of the en-route winds. He'd relied on a forecast which was no more than a guess, and a bad one at that. And the panel-mounted US compass his pilot had to fly on was a boy-scout affair. You couldn't fly a course within five degrees (even supposing the thing to be accurate to that extent). I believe the Mk IV had a P.8 compass in cockpit, but Mks I-III didn't.

So they got good and lost, and had wandered around helplessly until by pure luck they found something on the ground they could recognise on the map, and mapread back to Jessore. Of course, there were no radio aids, no D/F and no way of checking drift. I think they must have been blown off well to the south, for there were plenty of railways on track from Calcutta to Jessore (and the fantastic "spider's web" junction at Rhanagat, 50 miles before Jessore which no one could miss).

All the other pilots had been too busy flying formation to mapread (it is not healthy to be poring over a map while flying close to your neighbour). And the other back-seat people (all gunners, I think) had just enjoyed the ride, assuming that their betters (?) in front knew what they were doing.

Topper's nav should have done what I did, just mapread along from point to point. You'd think this first experience would have taught him, but no. We refuelled and set off for the second leg. Now from where we were you can't not find Chittagong. You just fly south-east across the Sunderbands (the huge delta of the Ganges and Bramahputra) until you hit the coast, then follow it round till you get there.

The Sunderbands are thousands of square miles of swamp and a maze of waterways, largely uninhabited and mostly uninhabitable. It was a desolate place, and our nav became increasingly concerned that there was nothing to check his position or track in this featureless landscape.

At last his nerve broke; a plaintive voice came on the R/T : "Can anyone pinpoint me,
and give me a Course for Chittagong ?" (in fact it didn't really matter what Course he flew, all he had to do was to carry on south-east till he reached open sea, and the rest would be child's play. As for a pinpoint - forget it !)

Everybody froze, for he had committed a double crime. In operational areas, we used hand signals, R/T was not supposed to be used except in dire emergency - as the Jap could D/F you - and "Chittagong" was a free gift to him. Even now an English-speaking Jap monitor might be signalling to a fighter base to arrange a welcome party for us there. He should have said "to our destination", or "to our airfield", or something like that.

But now the cat was out of the bag. Someone told him to damn' well fly south, and he did. And when he hit the coast, he couldn't go wrong, just follow it. All the gunners scanned the skies with extra care and we were very relieved to get to Chittagong without finding a hostile reception committee. It was not an auspicious start.

Topper was an excellent Flight Commander and normally made intelligent decisions. How on earth had he come to entrust the navigation of his whole Flight to this well-meaning but essentially incompetent operator, without checking his flight planning ? And he would be an experienced pilot-navigator himself (as we all were), well able to keep an eye on the landmarks which were plentiful in the early part of the trip, and able to see things going wrong from the start.

It had been pure luck that all six hadn't ended forced-landed in the bundoo ( although they should have had enough fuel to get back to Calcutta if on ETA Jessore they had no idea where they were). And then why let his nav get in a quite unnecessary panic on the second leg ? It was a mystery to us.

Anyway, that was the end of proper navigation, from then on our navs were
used as gunners and nothing else. For the next three years, nobody navigated my aircraft but me (come to think of it no one had ever navigated for me!).

A few days ago I dug out daughter's old school atlas, and made some rough distance measurements. As the crow flies, I reckon Asansol (near enough to Madhaiganj) to Jessore to Chittagong at about 280 nautical miles. Say two and a quarter hours' flying time. I logged just over three hours! Where had we been? And Asansol to Chittagong straight across the Bay is only 260 n.m. It was well within range. Why didn't we fly direct ? Perhaps it was the single-engine pilot's deep-rooted aversion to flying over open water !

Rather a lot tonight, I'm afraid,



Takes all sorts.

Last edited by Danny42C; 30th May 2012 at 23:20. Reason: Add Title.
Old 31st May 2012, 02:22
  #2631 (permalink)  
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Hi Danny, I really enjoy reading this thread about your, Cliffs and everyone elses WW2 experiences from people who were there.

From my user name you can tell I am no longer a "good" SLF, although I used to be, but I love reading about and watching
all types of aeroplanes.

My father was never one to talk about his time in the R.N. and I only ever managed to obtain 5 very small details about
his 1939 - 1945 years. 6 actually, if you count his being invalided out.

Please, everyone who posts their WW2 experiences, keep up all the good work.
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Old 31st May 2012, 09:30
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Rather a lot tonight, I'm afraid,

Danny (if I may), Nothing for you to be afraid about, so long as you are content to continue to regale us with your wonderfully worded tales of your fascinating experiences.

Your devoted readers are the ones who should be afraid when they keenly open up the Military Aircrew forum only to discover that there is no new transmission from you - no call for R/T silence here!

With best wishes and grateful appreciation of your outstanding contributions.

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Old 31st May 2012, 10:02
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Danny, I'm enjoying reading your posts, along with all the other authors on here. Your last one,(#2618), was a particulary good read.

I used to like reading the "I learnt about flying from that" page in Air Clues, when I was in the RAF, and found it comforting that the Two Winged Master Race cocked it up now and again. Lesson learnt (eventually ).

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Old 31st May 2012, 22:18
  #2634 (permalink)  
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Nervous SLF,

I'm a bit puzzled - what constitutes a "good" SLF? and is "SLF" an abbreviation of something I should know, but don't? (and that covers quite a lot!)
Certainly your Dad should have counted all his service till they invalided him out. They were still paying him, and that's all that mattered!

"everyone who posts WW2 experiences - let's have some more" (your words). How true. That's the trouble. Where are they? I know there must be an end soon, but am I really to be "the last of the Mohicans" ? I hope not.
Union Jack

When I started, Cliff (bless him) cautioned me against pushing out too much at a time, so as not to bore people and put them off. I still think it was good advice, but some of the stories to come can't easily be broken up without upsetting the flow. We'll see.
Dan Gerous

Yes, I well recall: "I learned about flying from That", which was about the best thing in "Air Clues", and the never to be forgotten P/O Prune from "Tee Emm" with its monthly award of The Highly Derogatory Order of the Irremovable Digit. Your're quite right, there were just as many Bloggs in the post-war generation as ever there were Prunes in the earlier - and just as stupid, no matter how many wings they sprouted

Once again, thank you all three for the interest shown and the encouragement. Much appreciated!

Last edited by Danny42C; 31st May 2012 at 22:53.
Old 31st May 2012, 22:39
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SLF Acronym

It's a rather sarcastic acronym for a passenger and stands for Self Loading Freight.
Often used by waggon dragons or to give them their real name Air Hostesses.

See the last Misc forum thread

Last edited by exgroundcrew; 31st May 2012 at 22:46.
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Old 31st May 2012, 23:02
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Thanks ! I live and learn - or hope I do.

Laptop has been bu##ering me about something cruel just now - hope spacing turns out right !


Old 1st Jun 2012, 09:12
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A short interlude ...

In an attempt to give Danny's typing fingers a rest, I am urgently looking for veteran ground crew (aircraft maintenance), trained during the early war years, to provide some information on their training programme.

I am researching someone who undertook an 18 week course at 5 Wing Halton and then a six month course at 1 Wing Hednesford ..... what he did after that is a bit of a mystery.

Would he have completed training at that point? Would he be posted to an operational squadron to continue his training "on the job"? Would he have had to undergo further "school" training?

If any veteran ground crew are listening in, would love to hear about your training experiences (as I am sure that contributors here will agree that the pilot's could not have done their job without you)



........ and now ..... back to Danny ...................

Last edited by Petet; 1st Jun 2012 at 10:21.
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Old 1st Jun 2012, 17:42
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Some decent photos of a Vengeance in an Australian museum. If you click on the photos you get a closer look.
Aussie Modeller International - Vultee Vengeance Walkaround by Danielle Lang
Always read your posts Danny. Keep up the good work.
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Old 2nd Jun 2012, 01:54
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Museum Specimen of Vengeance Mk. 1 in Australia.

mmitch (and Chugalug, for you'll be very interested in this link),

Checked the link - this is a real honeypot! For a start, I thought that only Mk. IVs in various stages of completeness were out in Oz. This is a pukka Mk.1 (EZ*serial number). What a find! (Far beyond me to go out and see it for myself now, I'm afaid).

Have not had time to scrutinise properly, Chugalug, and the pages (1 - 3) seem difficult to pin down, but on Page 2,(?) Line 10, middle row, there is our old wingtip radio aerial wire as plain as a pikestaff! Cannot find a pic of a top of a fin to take the other end, but it could go nowhere else. This must have been a rare mod on some aircraft, although I never saw one. Why did it go to India? What use was it?

Several views of back cockpit; among the bits strewn around can tentatively identify: wobble pump handle, rudder bars, stick (in socket), nav table and pillar for gun mount. (Plus all sorts of weird things I cannot yet recognise).

mmitch, thank you, thank you, thank you! Will play for hours with this,

Next instalment on the stocks

Goodnight, Danny.

Note *: Apologies to any reader who puzzled over "AN". It's "EZ", of course. Mental aberration, I'm afraid ("AN"s were also Mk.1s).
D. 021536

Last edited by Danny42C; 2nd Jun 2012 at 14:37. Reason: Stupid Mistake.
Old 2nd Jun 2012, 23:07
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Danny fills in some odds & ends.

I broke off my technical description of the VV about a fortnight ago (16 May to be exact), so I'd better fill in the rest of the remaining details I remember, and then you can forget all about it and we can get back to the more interesting things (where we went and what happened to us when we got there).

They used an inertia starter. A small, heavy flywheel was wound up by an electric motor for twenty seconds or so, building up enormous kinetic energy, then clutched through reduction gearing to spin the crankshaft. The engine (usually) fired, coughed, banged, fired again and settled down to a discontented idle at 7-800 rpm.

There was a "live-line" hydraulic system, always under pressure (2000 lb/sq.in.) with engine running, with its emergency hand pump in the pilot's cockpit. This worked the undercarriage, which retracted in the popular American way, rearwards with a quarter turn to fit flat into the wing.

(Why were they so keen on this odd arrangement ? You have the extra weight and bulk of the bevel gear needed; this has to be fitted in underwing projections (the "knuckles"); * these in turn must mean some extra drag and loss of some lift - and for what ?) Were there any British aircraft which used this idea ?

Incredibly, the lockable tailwheel also retracted - an unnecessary complication in an aircraft with absolutely no need for it ! (Neither the Spitfire nor Hurricane had them). Hydraulics also powered flaps, bomb doors, cowl gills and the dive brakes.

These last are the most important fitments on a dive bomber, and the Vengeance had splendid ones. Massive grids extended above and below the wings * On the upper surfaces the grid was hinged on the front,* so airflow would tend to force it shut. On the lower, the hinge was at the rear, with the opposite effect. Top and bottom were coupled, so the forces cancelled out.

These brakes could be opened at any speed, partially or completely, and when fully open restricted the terminal velocity to about 300 mph (knots did not come in till much later). They did not interfere with control or trim in any way, for they were well clear of the wing surfaces when fully extended and so did not obstruct the airflow over or under them.* This low terminal speed gave us plenty of time in the dive to draw a bead (in our case the yellow line) on the target.

Two unique design features improved dive stability. The angle of Incidence was zero, the Vengeance being AFAIK the only dive bomber designed from the outset to dive vertically. The side effect was a comical tail-down "sit" in the air in level flight.* A Vengeance "dragging its a###" could be recognised miles away.

Flying slowly, as in coming in to land, this combination of tail-down attitude and long nose meant no forward vision. We had to put up with that, after all the Spitfire had been almost as bad. In the same way the fin was fitted without the usual small offset to compensate for the gyroscopic effect of the propeller.

With powerful dive brakes and these novel features, the Vengeance made an excellent dive bomber. In a vertical dive, it was smooth and stable (with only 20 seconds to line up, you don't want your nose swanning about round the target). Judged purely as a flying machine, it was useless. Ponderous, awkward and slow, all was forgiven for the sake of that dive. One-trick pony it may have been, but it did its one trick very well indeed, and that was all that mattered to us.

Before my first flight, I'd spent an hour or two in the cockpit and had a good look round. Getting up there in itself was no mean feat. The book method was to climb a series of hand and footholds up the fuselage to the rear cockpit, or for the pilot to step onto the wing and go forward.* Sounds easy, but try it with a parachute on and a red hot aircraft after hours in a tropic sun !

Pilots had worked out a better way. Put your chute up on the leading edge above the wheel. Then right foot up on the wheel, left foot in the "stirrup"* on the oleo leg, right hand up on your chute, a quick scramble and you're on top. Stroll across and climb in.

There was a sketchy set of Pilot's Notes (from Vultee I think) but all I recall is a table of Engine Limitations and some doubtful advice about What to Do when the U/C Won't Come Down (their "last resort" idea was: "reduce speed as far as possible and yaw the thing vigorously from side to side !") In my limited experience, this struck me as a fair recipe for a spin, but later I was to learn that it was impossible to get the Vengeance to stall cleanly, and I don't think anyone ever managed to get one to spin.

The first impression was of immense space - you could really stretch out in the cockpit - and in the heat that was most welcome. I tried to make sense of what I could see. My US training came in useful, for the layout of controls and instruments was typically American (higgledy-piggledy - "like a pawnbrokers' shop window"). A long nose stretched out in front, blocking out all forward vision. There was a primitive ringsight for the front guns, with its "bead" a couple of feet in front of the screen,* and the yellow line bombsight mentioned already.

I didn't like having to go back to hydraulic toe brakes, much preferring the British compressed-air system used on the Master, Hurricane and Spitfire, and on some of our heavies, too (?) with a bike-style lever on the control column (much more controllable, IMHO). There was a separate pull-out handle for the parking brake.

The flying controls were standard; the stick could be locked by a lift-up stay; the bomb release button was on the top of the throttle, transmit button on the stick. There was a normal four-point harness with centre box.

After this digression, back to the main story tomorrow (I hope).

Sleep tight,


Note * All these are clearly visible on the must-see YouTube clip posted by Chugalug (#2549 p.128 9 May above), and on the Camden Museum Link posted by mmitch (#2626 p.132 1 Jun above).

Keep smiling !

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