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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 3rd Jun 2012, 07:54
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mmitch, what a wonderful set of pics, and of Danny's beloved (?) A31 too! You've certainly made his day, and mine for that matter.
Danny, now that you've had time to peruse them, are they all as you remember, or are there "variations of"? I'm thinking in particular of Comms, and of the wing tip/fin long wire aerial. I notice that the rear cockpit has a monstrously large radio fitted on the coaming. Is that the original MF one fed from the central aerial mast? Would the wing aerial therefore be SW? In which case are we looking for a US version of the famous RAF 1154/55 Tx/Rx combination? It would have to be quite bulky I would have thought, which brings us back to the rear coaming. Over to you!
What does come across is the spaciousness, front and rear, just as you say! I'm also taken by the neatness of the pilot's instrument and switch panels. Would have done justice to a Ford V8 Pilot, I would have thought. As to higgledy piggledy, given the layout of some British Military Cockpits of the time, isn't that a bit of Pots and Kettles? I guess that you are thinking of ergonomics rather than neatness, in which case as a "user" you do of course trump all other opinions!
Wasn't the rearward opening lower dive brake a bit of a hostage to fortune? If the VV had been at Midway and made that fateful dive into heavy accurate A/A fire, a hit on that live hydraulic line would have prevented retracting them would it not? Not a very clever bit of design, or have I once again missed the point?
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Old 3rd Jun 2012, 19:34
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Chugalug,

No, you've certainly not missed any points, and made several good ones. Starting from the top, therefore:

This is certainly a Mark 1. But what they have done with it is beyond belief. I've only had a quick look at the pics, but it looks as if they've put in a row of large downward facing lamps under at least one wing ! (now guess what they might be for - I can't !) This might explain the obviously bolt-on bank of switches low left on the panel (where formerly a row of only six fuel pump switches lived).

But I must stick with your questions or we'll be here all night. The "aerial wire": I've had a quick hunt through the pics, and in one it looks as if it might be going up to the hangar roof ! Earthing wire (to a metal structure, better than concrete floor) ?? Nowhere can I see the other end going back to an aircraft - although the radio mast-fin wire shows up well on many.

Yes, the radio set looks strange to me, could well be an American c/w set the Aussies put in. Where was our R/T set ? - can't remember - shame on me!. In back cockpit is a hand reel which might be a trailing aerial (I've never even seen one of those); where is a W/Op to help us ?

Instrument panel: top half much as I remember, and yes, it really doesn't look too bad now I come to look at it. But I spy strangers!. It looks as if this thing has had all the electrical fuel pump system stripped out: over on the right there is an obvious manual fuel selector and another top left for "Trap Tank" - and we know all about those. Just a few points of interest: they had a proper compass - we didn't.

And note that the AH has a cage/re-erect knob as they all did in those days; taken out later as obvious danger of chap relying on it on take-off on dark night (was my best guess for (Polish) President Sikorski's Lib going off Gib straight into drink during war). Later read about the Somatogravic Illusion, can hardly spell it, never mind understand it, but seems to ba a good candidate (me, I'd sooner stick with Positive Rate of Climb !)

Yes, if you were left with dive brakes stuck out, and couldn't hand-pump them in, you'd had it. AFAIK it never happened. For that matter, if your engine were knocked out you didn't go far. Luck of the draw.

I think that once we dig a bit deeper, there'll be more questions.

Danny,
 
Old 3rd Jun 2012, 21:05
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Danny, it seems that the large radio is a Bendix TA-12 4 channel MF/HF transmitter:
TA-12
the trailing aerial that you spotted is its associated Bendix MT-5E Antenna Reel:
http://aussiemodeller.com.au/Images/...-LH-Rear_V.jpg
the fixed wire aerials from wingtips to fin can just about be made out here:
http://aussiemodeller.com.au/Images/....-EZ-999_V.jpg
but are of much finer gauge than the mast to fin aerial
The mystery is where is the associated MF/HR Receiver? Perhaps it was much sought after by Hams etc, as was the RAF's 1155. As this aircraft appears to be in a much modded state, with temporary switch panels etc, we have to take what it has or hasn't got with a pinch of salt, but it seems to have been equipped to a rather higher spec, and hence expense, than your own Mk1's. I mean, it has a clock for heaven's sake! I would guess that the IAF ones, in the YouTube video, shared a lot in common with this one, especially the enhanced comms. Nonetheless, there is a lot here of the basic VV for us to study, and for you to recall, no doubt.
Your point about the seeming preference for rearward stowage of main landing gear in US singles of the period is a good one. Why did they go for such a heavy and draggy design? I've no idea, but I would guess that they all came from one company and basically to one design. The Brits for instance persevered with big single wheel main U/Cs for their heavies to well after the war, despite the introduction in it of twin wheels for US aircraft. I suppose if a design worked and you were tooled up for it you kept supplying it until the customer said stop!

Edited to add that the seemingly missing MF/HF Rx was probably the Bendix RA-10:
RA-10D Aircraft Radio Receiving Equipment Year 1941 BENDIX
This was essentially a remotely stowed "black box" and only its associated controls and indicators would be in the cockpit. As can be seen it was a combined comms/nav set with provision for a loop aerial and radio compass indicator as well. It would seem that the latter was not fitted even to the "gold plated" VVs as there is no sign of a loop Ae on either the IAF ones or the Aussie museum one. Here are, not one, but two remote receiver controllers, screwed to the cockpit floor!
http://aussiemodeller.com.au/Images/...ockpit-2_V.jpg
Higgledy Piggledy indeed Danny! Yet more proof that this was indeed a later mod, perhaps for aircraft having need of extended range comms compared to the original factory fit.

Last edited by Chugalug2; 3rd Jun 2012 at 21:48. Reason: RA-10 Receiver
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Old 4th Jun 2012, 02:16
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Chugalug,

Yes, I must admit the wire does seem to head in the direction of the fin, but I can't see any sign of an insulated attachment point there. I think it'll have to go in the "unsolved mystery" file.

The OTU would only use the same R/T set as we had on the Squadrons; there would be absolutely no need for any of this kit and its aerial array, or trailing aerial on their aircraft. I never saw it on any VV. No such luxuries like D/F loops or radio compasses for the likes of us - come to think of it, no radio stations anyway! This must have been a purely Aussie mod. So how did one get to India - at least the wire bit? Again, we'll never know.

As for the Rx "black box" - buried or not, if it had value it would have been knocked off years ago. But we did have a clock (in same place on panel), that way they didn't have to give us watches, we had to buy our own.

Not all their singles had the lift/twist u/cs. The P51 Mustang and P47 T/bolt folded in like Harvards. Yes, we did seem to hang on to our big single wheels (and tailwheels!) long after their sell-by dates,

Once again, thank you (and mmitch) for laying such a treasure trove before me, and for all your helpful advice and suggestions,

Goodnight,

Danny.
 
 
Old 4th Jun 2012, 08:04
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Don't know if it's really any help, but I do remember the aerial going from the tail to the mast near the cockpit and then going out to a wingtip on this particular aircraft. The tensioning spring behind the radio mast was quite stretched so the actual aerial was hanging loose - I had to duck under it a few times during the couple of times I crawled all over it with a vacuum cleaner and large brush. I also remember that the cockpit canopy was locked by a retrofitted large rusty padlock...
Most of the aircraft in this collection were looking pretty old and tired when I was last there four or five years ago (since the owners passed away the museum has not been open to the public and I got in on 'working bee' days with the Sydney Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society).
No idea what happened to the original radio sets however.

Adam
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Old 4th Jun 2012, 10:08
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Sorry kookabat, I hadn't realised that you are an eyewitness to this particular aircraft, and a highly motivated one at that it seems! Reading your post, you say that:
I do remember the aerial going from the tail to the mast near the cockpit and then going out to a wingtip on this particular aircraft
So have Danny and I been looking in the wrong place? Did the wire aerial arrays describe a "T" looking down from above, all joining not at the fin, but at the radio mast? That would make a lot of sense, for the feed could then come down the mast as before, straight to the TA-12 transmitter. The wingtip/mast/wingtip aerial being an efficient (though directional) dipole array.
Danny as to why the Australian aircraft should have been so fitted, could they have been intended for use over the sea? I'm thinking of the Coral and Arafura Seas in particular, from where came the threat of invasion, and to where the offensive to drive back the Japanese would be taken. Such operations would have required longer range comms for which MF alone would not suffice. What do you think?
As to why the IAF should apparently have had the same fit, I agree it doesn't add up at first glance. Of course, we don't know when the YouTube clips were taken. Is it possible that they were later deliveries? Is it possible that they were initially for the RAAF, and hence so fitted, but diverted to the IAF from the very large Australian allocation?
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Old 4th Jun 2012, 10:58
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Downwards-directed lamps ... being coloured, I'd guess at some form of recognition aide .... early IFF. The control panel for these appears to be the one snuggling up to the compass ... so if you left them on, I daresay navigation on the way home might be more interesting.
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Old 4th Jun 2012, 12:07
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Indeed, Dogle, the "Downwards Identification Light" description in my Hastings Pilots Notes reads:
"The three downward identification lights in the fuselage nose are controlled by a switch on the coaming panel. Red, green or amber can be selected and, by pushing up the small lever on the morsing switchbox, the selected lamp can be used for morsing"
So very much the "colours of the day" as well as discrete messages to/from ground parties.
A bit of a treat for us from Avialogs for us, Danny. A repro of a painting used by Vultee for publicity purposes:
Avialogs - Vultee aircraft
Tantalisingly it seems to show our elusive wing top wires going to the lower fin. Or does it? Have to admire the sanguine crew member having a last fag alongside a fully fuelled up, and currently being bombed up, Vengeance! Mk I or IV?

Last edited by Chugalug2; 4th Jun 2012 at 12:08.
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Old 5th Jun 2012, 00:11
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Danny breaks his duck.

So that the bulk of our "readership" should not become too bored with the specialist minutiae of aerial wires on VVs, here's another slice of the main narrative to be going on with.

Our errant Columbus was well liked and soon forgiven. Pilots smirked inwardly at having their private opinion of navigators confirmed, and resolved to place their faith in themselves and their maps in future. What my nav Robbie thought of his colleague, he kept to himself. Besides, this chap had been the source of much innocent merriment more than once already, for his was a trusting nature.

About this time there had arisen a rumour to the effect that the RAF was about to introduce a double-wing insignia for Navigators (then still called "Observers"). This was not wholly improbable. Their American counterparts, after all, did wear a double wing like pilots.

And not only in the RAF did this rumour gain credence. The stallholders dealing in such wares in the Calcutta bazaars picked it up, and sensed a business opportunity. If there is a potential demand, why not create a supply ? It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Someone had to be first; our hero came back from Calcutta wearing a magnificent double "O" wing. I can't swear to it, but it might even have been in gold lace - all flying badges are in "drab silk" (with the exception of mess kit miniatures). (This is not entirely true - who remembers the weird No. 1 SD jacket brought in in the early '50s ? - I do, I bought one of the bloody things!)

The C.O. told him smartly to take it down. The rumour was baseless and soon died out. But this poor chap seemed fated to be "taken for a ride" in the bazaars, for he fell prey to the con-men there again. He was coming up on time promotion (six months) for his F/O, and needed a new pair of rank cuffs for his shoulder straps. Brand new P/Os got free hand downs from new F/Os, but as it took two years warime service to reach Flight Lieutenant, and not many people had got that far since commissioning, second-hand F/O cuffs were much harder to find.

Now a F/O's rank braid is 5/16 in wide. An Indian braid weaver somewhere made a mistake, and set up his loom for 7/16. They ran off a hundred yards or so before the error was discovered. No use good stuff going to waste. Put it on the market, don't suppose it will make much difference to the customer.

They were right ! Our friend appeared with a pair of these massive stripes on his shoulders. He was mockingly congratulated on his promotion to Air Commodore. His cuffs soon joined the pretty wings in the bin, to general amusement. Luckily he was a resilient character, and endured the ribbing with good grace.

At Chittagong there was an accommodation problem. Our few officers could be fitted in the Mess on the station. But there was no room for the influx of aircrew NCOs. We were dumped in a transit camp in the town. As the Squadron came to readiness at dawn, we had to up at first light and out to the airfield, long before breakfast in the transit camp.

A bunch of hungry and resentful sergeants faced the prospect of flying the Squadron's first operation without even a mug of tea. Our M.O. (Dr "Pete" Latcham - I'm glad he survived the war) was rightly indignant. He got hold of an empty and cleanish four-gallon can, borrowed a blowlamp from the engineers, scrounged the makings of a brew from somewhere, and made the best mug of tea we'd had for a long time. He couldn't get much in the food line for us except emergency rations: "Ship's biscuits" and a tin of jam (plum, I think). Not much but better than nothing. Well done, that man! I'll always remember that "breakfast". As it happened, we didn't fly that day. But the fur flew, and from next morning there was early breakfast for us in the Transit Camp.

Looking back, I cannot see the sense of waiting so late in the season and then sending us forward. As I've said, we flew up to the Arakan on 12th May; I flew my first three "ops" on the 15th, 16th and 17th of the month, then - nothing! Clearly, the monsoon had broken and by 5th June we'd flown back to Bengal.

Our kind of dive bombing is not feasible in hilly country with a base down to 500ft and torrential rain. The onset of the monsoon (in those pre-climate-change days) was predictable almost to the day. IMHO the Squadron was as well trained as it would ever be when I got back to them in April. Why hadn't they used us then? Don't know - never will know, like so many other things in war.

Although our time out there that first year was so short, it was not without incident. We saw our first Mosquito aircraft there, and gathered awestruck round the famed "wooden wonder". Probably a PR version, it had taken a bit of flak over Rangoon, and had come up from there "at 200 mph on one engine", as we told each other in hushed amazement.

We wouldn't have been so impressed had we known of the nasty trick the Mossie had up its sleeve - namely to self-destruct in mid-air without warning, when the glue which was supposed to hold it together - didn't! But this disconcerting problem did not arise until the following year, and was eventually resolved by the development of tropic-proof glues.

As the first VV Squadron to go into operation (that week at Dohazari in March), we were graced by a visit from the AOC 221 Group - the same AVM who had rubber-stamped my recommendation in February. If his gaze had chanced on me (which I doubt), then he had forgotten me. He was a charming elderly gentlemen of the old school.

Too old a school! Casting an eye over a back cockpit, his gaze fell on the twin machine guns poking up. "Ah", said he, "you have Vickers G.O.s, I see". We were shocked. These would have been the guns he'd had in the back of the Wapitis and Hawker Harts he'd flown in his young days up on the NW Frontier. They look nothing like Brownings, as I knew all too well after the hours I'd spent at Newquay, pulling the Vickers to bits and trying to put it together again! It didn't inspire confidence.

He asked the usual question: was there anything we wanted that he could try to get for us? "More bombs, Sir", growled a grizzly old F/Sgt Armourer - we'd been dropping them faster than we could be re-supplied. (Possibly that was why we stopped so suddenly after only three days). Slightly taken aback, the great man consulted his Staff and promised to look into it; then they all piled into their Anson and flew back to Calcutta.

Rather a lot tonight, but (like Topsy), "it just growed"!

Cheers, all,

Danny42C


Soldier on!
 

Last edited by Danny42C; 5th Jun 2012 at 00:18. Reason: Correct Error.
 
Old 5th Jun 2012, 01:50
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Chugalug and Kookabat,
 
More riches piled on my undeserving head! Chugalug, I had a quick look at your last link, and had a good laugh at "Berlin Express". Dream on - he had as much chance of getting to Berlin as I've got now of running a 4-minute mile!

But not without interest. They must have had some kind of double winch to haul two bombs up. AFAIK, we had to winch them up one at a time. The winch fitted on the big slot just in front of the stick in the pilot's cockpit. This also came in useful for sweeping out mud and rubbish out from the cockpit floor - every family car should have something like that! (Don't be surprised at the crewman enjoying his fag - in the US our instructors openly puffed their "see-gars" in the cockpit!)

And I'm puzzled a bit about the Camden VV, How come one shot shows a single .50 Browning poking out the back? That is an A-35/Mk.IV fit. Two old .303s should be, if anything, much easier to find - but then you'd need the right back canopy section for them. It's very hard to tell an A-31 from an A-35 from the outside. Dark suspicions arise! ("EZ999" wouldn't take a signwriter long).

Per contra, the cockpit is mostly familiar to me; the wings only have two gunports, (A-35s AFAIK had 3 x .50 a side, but I think a few had only 2 x .50). The hole in the wing is no guide, it is the size of the long blast tube down which the gun fired and it would take a .50 as easily as a.303.

There seems to be plenty of provenance, though. Perhaps it's just my suspicious nature! And what purpose could it possibly serve to dress up an old Mk.IV as a Mk.I? (Kookabat, you've worked on the thing - am I talking nonsense?)

Time I was in bed! Goodnight, both,

Danny 

Last edited by Danny42C; 5th Jun 2012 at 01:57.
 
Old 5th Jun 2012, 08:08
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Whoops, sorry for leading everyone 'up the garden path'. I am by no means an expert in matters Vultee, my experience with the Camden aircraft being limited to a couple of hours of general dusting and cleaning on a couple of occasions five or six years ago. My memory is hazy on the details but I definitely remember a sagging aerial that I had to duck under occasionally, and that great big padlock that stopped me getting the canopy open (purely for the purposes of dusting inside, of course ).
So I went a-Googling. Here is a contemporary photo for sale on that auction website that I reckon shows three wires attached to the vertical fin: one to the mast on the cockpit canopy and one to each wingtip.
Here is another angle on the Camden VV. You can clearly see the (single!) gun and the tensioning spring on the radio mast that I mentioned in my earlier post - looks like the wire from the tail went to the spring and then into the cockpit, with the spring itself the only thing attached to the mast.
And here is a very clear photo of that gun - but it doesn't show enough of the radio mast to answer the question. Looking at the date on this photo I reckon there's a good chance that this was taken on one of the days that I was there, though I don't recognise the photographer's name.
Finally, I mentioned earlier that this aircraft used to be taken out and ground run. I found some photos of that too. Note the outer wings were not in situ at the time - I can't for the life of me remember if they are back on or not. I used to have some contacts who knew those in charge of the family trust who now look after the museum but unfortunately I no longer live nearby so I can't go back to see for sure...

That probably raises more questions than it answers!!

Adam
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Old 5th Jun 2012, 09:06
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Cool

Another Link for Danny.

ADF Serials Message Board -> Navy Vengeances & Spitfires

The RAN received a number of VV via the RAAF to use in Deck Handling Training. The link has history of the airframes, and some good contemporary photos.

Danny, don't stop. I lurk, but enjoy reading the true historical details that give life to the stories of ur forbears.

Three Wire
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Old 5th Jun 2012, 20:43
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kookabat, no need for apology, for you have brought valuable information of a rare beast, a surviving Vultee Vengeance. Whatever mark it might be, and we await Danny's verdict, this is an aircraft of which I had little or no knowledge before Danny introduced it to us.
I must admit to developing a bit of an anorak obsession with its aerial arrays, which would perhaps be more appropriately expressed in the History and Nostalgia Forum rather than here on this thread. So it is for me to apologise for the thread drift. In a plea of mitigation I can only plead the presence of a repetitive voice inside me that forever asks "Why?"!
A lot of the why's Danny has covered; "Why the Vengeance", "Why was it in India", "Why was it altered to the MkIV?". So as soon as Danny spotted the flapping wires running from the wingtips of the IAF ones on YouTube the same query arose. Filed in Pending TFN!

Danny, Berlin Express? Wot a larf! All part of the "first casualty of war", or blatant misadvertising? If the latter we must presumably give credit to the Air Ministry in putting the brochure to one side with a "Thanks, but no thanks!". As to you wide eyed Air Commodore/ Flying Officer, he certainly strikes a chord. There was always a rather naive chap around who would swallow any story and hence be the butt of endless wind ups. Remorse follows of course, and later shame. Well maybe not, but perhaps it should do ;-)

Three Wire, thanks for the very informative link. The depth of knowledge of such sites is simply amazing. What a sad end for those Spits though (oh, and the VVs of course!). Bulldozed, broken up and buried! Even saucepans would have been a more acceptable fate.
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Old 5th Jun 2012, 22:32
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Aerial Wires on Vultee Vengeances

To Kookabat:

Adam,

EDIT: Have just checked the auction link you gave me. Even with my old eyes, there's no mistaking it - three wires (from mast and both tips) come together at the fin. Settled! (only question now is "Why").

Curiously, I'm sure I've seen that same pic many times before, but this is the first one which shows the wires without the shadow of a doubt.

Thanks a lot for your efforts - your "the wire from the tail went to the spring and then into the cockpit" is dead right - and we can see how - Last pic on Page 1. of the Camden set shows the insulated entry point on the stbd fuselage just under canopy - with a bit of wire sticking out for good measure.

If they had slack wires going every which way - which seems to be the case - you must have been in grave danger of being garrotted when you were dusting it off!

We'll have endless fun with this,

Danny

Last edited by Danny42C; 5th Jun 2012 at 23:40. Reason: Additional Material
 
Old 5th Jun 2012, 22:42
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To Three Wire:

Three Wire, I've had a look at your link - heart-breaking to see all those perfectly good Spits going for scrap in Oz - but then we must have been doing exactly the same in the UK at that time. Why didn't I buy a dozen or two as an investment? (but then where would I keep them!)

There is a first-class shot of an A-35 in your link. If you can find a shot of an A-31 somewhere from exactly the same standpoint, it's just possible to detect that the wing has been shifted to give a 4 (?) degree A of I. - but you have to look really hard to see it.

Thanks a lot for this - and the kind words!

Danny42C
 
Old 6th Jun 2012, 18:07
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Hello, I've been lurking, intermittently, on this thread for months if not years. I am particularly interested to read your posts, Danny. My father was an engineer officer in India and Burma from '44 to '47, latterly I think in charge of (?) a glider squadron. Like most of his generation, I know next to nothing of what he got up to, apart from a few amusing stories. So it's very interesting indeed to read your posts on life in India, Danny, thank you for them.

Some things you mention bring back memories of his tales. He said Indian gin made him (and everybody else) sick very quickly. Potassium permanganate everywhere. I'm surprised you are so casual about malaria, I'm sure he once said you'd be put on a charge for going out improperly dressed at the wrong time of year/day(?) owing to the risk of acquiring it. And somewhere buried in India at the bottom of a latrine (drilled incidentally by an auger) lies his silver cigarette case...

Probably the only sensible comment I can add to the thread is that he said (some) American-built aeroplanes were welded (to improve production speed) and therefore sealed for life - on the grounds they were more likely to be written off than require repair.
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Old 6th Jun 2012, 21:07
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I've been absent from Pprune and this thread for sometime for medical/work reasons and now I'm back it's not changed.

I was so sorry to read of the death of cliferno, words fail me really.

Danny - you may be interested in my dad's memoirs which start on post1307 of this thread. He followed in your footsteps to India but was able to use the Suez and put Spits together (he was an erk).

Wori, Dum-Dum, Kohima et al.

Hope you enjoy India, Burma, Malaya and Singapore from a ground crew point of view.

Had he lived, Dad would have been 90 few days back but I remain hugely proud about what he did.

And keep yours coming, belting so far!
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Old 7th Jun 2012, 00:11
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Danny gets down to business

Akyab, occupied by the Japanese since '42, is a sizeable island off the Burmese coast. It had a small port, an airfield , a radio station and a well built jail. The Japs threw out the occupants of the jail ( don't suppose they minded too much) and took it over as headquarters and their main barracks. There was an important bridge at Narigan which was an attractive target, too.

Akyab was a useful base for the Japs and they defended it. It was the only place I met that they had heavy AA, which could reach us at 10-12,000 ft as we came in. Low down, they seemed to have plenty of light Bofors-type guns. (The rumour was that these were Bofors guns, left behind in full working order - with ammo - by the Army in the '42 rout. But this may be a base slur on our gallant gunners).

As I've mentioned, my first three sorties were all to Akyab. I'm hazy on the details of the First Arakan campaign, but from what I remember, the Army hoped to push the Jap back south and retake Akyab before the '43 monsoon. Fat chance! The Jap counter-attacked and the Army was hard pressed to hang on where they were.

Consequently, we'd no opportunity to do what we did best, which was to hit well dug in Jap defensive bunkers to assist the Army when they were on the offensive, (this would turn out to be be our major task in '44). The Jap didn't need bunkers now; he just employed his usual tactic of infiltration and encirclement which had served him so well so far. And of course you never knew exactly where he was at any one time, so you couldn't bomb him.

So, to start with, we had to go to where we knew he was, and that was in Akyab. Memory is a strange thing. I remember all the details of our first strike on the jail, but absolutely nothing about the second (Narigan bridge) or the third (Bume radio station) attacks on Akyab, other than that I must have gone there as it's in my logbook.

But the Jail sortie will do very well to begin with. And this description of it will do as a template for every VV operation which followed, for the modus operandi was always the same. Off we go, then.

I've said that we normally put up only six aircraft at a time. On this single occasion, we scraped up twelve - six from 110 and six from 82 Sqdn. 82 ("Out of the blue came Eighty-Two!") were to go in first. As a new boy on 110, I flew the 6 position, which would mean I would be the last man of all to go down. As I never flew in a 12-ship strike again, this was the only time I was able to watch all the action from the air.

Topper was leading our six. We came in from the North at 12,000 ft with 82 ahead. It was afternoon. As we reached the island, the heavies opened up. Our two formations were "weaving", flying a slow zig-zag with a course change every twenty seconds or so. This confuses the gun predictors, so the flak bursts were 2-300 ft off to the side, but uncomfortably accurate for height. We overflew the island, then turned left in a wide sweep over the mainland, flying right round until we reached Akyab again, but this time coming out of the haze and gloom of the eastern sky.

It was a clever ruse (if it was a ruse - perhaps the 82 leader had simply misjudged his first run-up). Later intelligence confirmed that the Jap had put out an air raid warning the first time. But as we didn't bomb, they assumed that we were going on somewhere else and sounded the all-clear. Second time round, we caught them napping, sitting with their evening rice.

The jail was a bomber's dream target. Built on the cart-wheel plan, I suppose it was 2-300 ft across. It was unmissable. It must have been the largest building on the island. As the last man on the line, I could allow myself room to watch the action. 82 were a mile ahead, so I watched them all go down. They were like beads sliding down a string, three spaced out at a time. I could see the bomb flashes dead on target, billowing up in smoke and dust.

Then it was our turn. Topper waggles his wings. This is the signal for the rear "vic" to drop back and move into echelon starboard. A few seconds later, he waggles again and opens his bomb doors. All open theirs. 3 and 6 (me) swing across into echelon on 2 and 5 respectively. Now we're all in a diagonal line like a skein of geese. (This formation change is made only at the last moment, for although it looks nice on the newsreels, it leaves you practically at the mercy of an attacker - and it advertises your imminent attack to any watcher on the ground).

Mechanically I go through my drill: Canopy shut, check bomb doors open, bomb switches "live", trims neutral, 2100 rpm, mixture rich, gyros caged, cowl gills closed, straps tight.

The first three go down. A few seconds later 4 goes over, settles in the dive and puts his brakes out. 5 puts his out as he rolls over. I put mine out, throttle back to a third and then roll. This gives us an extra bit of spacing for safety.

After that, it's simply "doin' what comes nacherly". Rolling over, I throw my head back and look straight down on the dust cloud over the jail - or what's left of it. Then it's just a matter of sighting down the yellow line and "flying" it onto the target. Feet braced on my big fat rudder pedals, I sense the dive is as near vertical as dammit - you can feel it with practice. Topper has done us proud, for this is a follow-my-leader operation, and if he's off vertical, then the whole thing will be a mess.

I can see 4 and 5 ahead for a few moments, then 4 pulls away from my field of vision. Bomb flash. I'm snatching quick glances at my altimeter, which is spinning like a broken clock, one sweep of the "big hand" every two or three seconds. 5 pulls away, keep line on target, bomb flash, 5000 ft, check line, 4000, check, 3500, press button (on throttle grip) and pull, pull, pull for dear life - literally - five seconds too late and you're dead.

Order your copy early for the Next Thrilling Instalment,

Goodnight, all,

Danny42C


All in the day's work. 

Last edited by Danny42C; 7th Jun 2012 at 00:19. Reason: Forgot tag at end.
 
Old 7th Jun 2012, 01:22
  #2659 (permalink)  
Danny42C
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angels,

Welcome back! Before I ventured onto this wonderful Thread last January, I'd read and re-read the 112 pages which had gone before, and remember well your late father's memoirs. You are quite right to be proud of him!

Things have changed since then, and I seem to be left "holding the fort", ever hoping that we can find more old-timers to lend a hand. The chance of getting actual participants is fading by the day, and the next best thing is to look to your generation (and the following one) to root out any memoirs that Dad or Grandad may have left tucked away at the back of a drawer. So if you've got any more, I'm sure that we all (Moderators included, if I may be so bold) would be more than glad to read them here

Goodnight, and thank you for your kind compliments,

Danny.
 
Old 7th Jun 2012, 08:49
  #2660 (permalink)  
 
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...press button (on throttle grip) and pull, pull, pull for dear life - literally - five seconds too late and you're dead.
Danny, your literary style has us all squashed deep into our seats as we vicariously pull out of our own imaginary dives behind you. Your description brings home the devastating accuracy of the dive bomber and what made it a must have ingredient of any Air Force's toy box in the 30's. Those that went on using it into the 40's however must have known full well how dangerous it was, following the mauling the Stukas received in the Battle of Britain. Much respect then to them. Much respect then to you and to your colleagues!
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