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 7th Jun 2012, 11:07
  #2661 (permalink)  

FX Guru
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Greenwich
Age: 67
Posts: 900
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Danny - rest assured I'm on at friends, colleagues etc all the time to hoover up any stories their relatives may have!

Your story about your 'march' in Brazil contrasts so wonderfully with the official version. That's why the history of the 'ordinary Joe' is so important!

I recall Spike Milligan noted that during the desert campaign Churchill said in his history, "We moved xx Division from A to B". Simple eh?

Milligan goes on to describe that a move of some 15 miles was a total and utter shambles with no-one knowing what they were doing and it being a complete balls up which ended up with them going back to whence they came (and more seriously, incurring casualties from mortars).

That's real history!

Edited because I'm a proud bugger......

Last edited by angels; 7th Jun 2012 at 11:09.
angels is offline  
Old 7th Jun 2012, 15:25
  #2662 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

Welcome aboard to our virtual crewroom in the sky! (and so say all of us, I'm sure). Take a pew! Would have said "Hello" much earlier, but your Post must have crept in under the wire after I went to bed last night (Moderator casting eagle eye?).

Pushed for time, now (yes, really). Many of your Dad's themes ring my bell - will try to say a bit more tonight.




Back again! It sounds as if you must have heard many an interesting tale from your late father. Please rack your memory and see if you can recall more of the details - even if they seem random and disconnected to you. We may well be able to fill in some gaps, as of course you'll have seen happen in many a previous Post on this thread. Let's have all you can remenber - we'll be very grateful.

An engineer in command of a glider Squadron (where there aren't any engines?) Sounds incongruous to me, but what do I know? This is exactly the Alice-in-Wonderland sort of thing that went on all the time in war; if the White Rabbit came hopping into the Mess, no one would be in the least surprised (he'd be in a curry in no time). I can't remember gliders being used much, except possibly in Wingate-style incursions behind Jap lines, certainly there were no large scale Arnhem - like drops AFAIK.

Gin - would be Carew's - neat, it might well turn your stomach - it was only palatable as the basis for long drinks, you had to have something with it; as a last resort on a train one day we were reduced to Carnation tinned milk, the mixture wasn't at all bad. The slacks-and-long- sleeves rule after dark was a sensible anti-malarial precaution; the mossie comes out at dusk and goes for wrist and ankle. Only a newcomer would flout that order and he had to find out the hard way. Malaria untreated could very well kill you, but all M.O.s knew the beast well and how to treat it.

It wan't that we regarded malaria in a cavalier way, it was simply that it was so common that we simply accepted it as part of being out there. A silver cigarette case - now there would be a good use for ground radar! An auger? - your dad was lucky, pick and shovel for us! (Later on, I have written a thesis on the Deep Trench Latrine, but that will have to wait).

I am a bit doubtful about all-welded aircraft. That war was a throw-away economy is true. But the snag would have been that welding (and can you weld aluminium alloy?) needs very skilled tradesmen, whereas drilling holes and pop-riveting could quickly be taught to anyone who turned up at the factory gate.

Hope that helps,

Goodnight, Danny42C

Last edited by Danny42C; 8th Jun 2012 at 02:10. Reason: Additional Text.
Old 9th Jun 2012, 01:58
  #2663 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Danny starts to earn his keep

Things go dark and I'm crushed down in my seat by "G" for a few moments, then I relax a bit and vision clears. Brakes in, we're in a 40-degree dive from a thousand feet, still with most of the 300 mph we picked up on the way down.

The sky looks like a dalmation dog, for light AA has been pumping away merrily for a minute or two. Surprised, it dawns on me that they're still firing at us. I feel quite indignant. Poor little me, what have I done to deserve being shot at at like this?

This dangerous reverie exasperates the battle-hardened Robbie behind. "Get weaving, Skipper", he roars, sees a gun position on the ground and gives it a long burst to distract the gunners from their aim. That wakens me up.

No time to ruminate - jink and get down on the deck as fast as you can! At this point I should explain that aircraft come out of the dive heading every which way, depending on where they were facing when they pressed the button, and that has been affected by the amount of "weathercocking" which they'd had to do on the way down. It was rather like a Red Arrow "bomb burst", only in sequence.

So you had to pick up your bearings, decide which way was home, and pull round onto it. It must have life more difficult for the AA, as no two of us were following the same path, and this was all to the good.

Now I'm sailing over the tree tops and out of most harm's way. Not entirely, any Jap with a rifle or LMG is going to try a potshot if he sees me in time and in range. It was not uncommon for aircraft to come back with small arms hits.

Dive bombers are a very hard target for AA. Before diving, they can weave as we did to keep out of trouble. Diving, they are well nigh impossible to hit. Pulling out, they are going so fast and low that aimed fire is ineffective. All the gunners can do is to put up a barrage through which they hope we might fly. If they get one it's pure luck. Having said that, I must admit there were cases of people just not pulling out of a dive. No one could say whether they'd been hit or not. The probability is that they were concentrating too hard and left the pull-out too late. The margin for error was tiny.

Once level, you can open your canopy and close bomb doors to reduce drag - but not while you're still pulling "G" in the turn onto the home straight! In a dive, the two internal 500 lb bombs, if simply dropped from the racks, might hit the front wall of the bay, or drop into the arc of the prop. Either way would be disastrous.

To avoid this each bomb is carried in a fork pivoted at the front of the bay. Round the bomb is clamped a "trunnion band" which carries the two "trunnions" - projections which engage in slots on the ends of the forks. Released, the bomb flies out and then off - safely - for you! (the Stuka used the same idea).

On pulling out, centrifugal force will continue to hold these forks out against the pull of "bungee" cords, even after the bombs have gone. There's always one who's too keen to pull in his doors - and traps them against the forks! Everything about a VV is massive - no damage is done. Following crews enjoy the spectacle of a big daddy-long-legs, slowed down by the dangling forks and half-open doors. It can take quite a while before the penny drops in the cockpit concerned.

Topper slows down to let the people behind catch up and get back into position. Here the dive brakes come in handy - you can come charging into the formation and pull up on the spot like a car in traffic.

When all are back in position, we climb to 1500 ft and the hang-up check starts. On the leader's waggle signal, all open doors. 6 leaves position and sweeps 20 ft under 1 - 5. He and his gunner scan every bay and wing for a bomb which should have gone - but hasn't. 6 goes back in position, 5 drops down and checks him. As all is clear, nothing need be said, and R/T silence is maintained.

In the gathering dusk, the flames in the exhaust stubs burned longer and brighter every minute. Chittagong airfield was tricky to get into at the best of times. The approach came over the docks, and you had to dodge the ships' masts to get down to the runway. All twelve landed safely.

Climbing down, I felt a tinge of self-satisfaction. I'd done my first "op". I'd struck a blow for King and country in return for their two years' investment in my training. From now on it would be payback time.

I really don't need to describe any more sorties, for the procedure was always the same. Only the targets differed, and from now on they would be mainly Jap bunker positions. As I've said, the two other strikes I flew to Akyab must have been carbon copies of this one (except that there were only six of us each time), but I can recall absolutely nothing about them.

Then the rains came and that was the end of our first "campaigning" season. It would be late October before we went back.

Next time we'll hear a bit about the experiences of the man in the back.

Once again, Goodnight all,



Last edited by Danny42C; 9th Jun 2012 at 02:06.
Old 9th Jun 2012, 07:35
  #2664 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: West Sussex
Age: 82
Posts: 4,703
Received 100 Likes on 35 Posts
Danny, congratulations on your first OP and glad to hear that all 12 aircraft made it safely back! Your vivid description and detailed explanation brings a sequence of events, seen from afar as it were, to the very forefront of our minds. Of course, I can now see that as you roll left or right to keep that painted band on the nose of your aircraft lined up exactly with the target as you dive vertically onto it, your eventual pull out will be in almost any direction. Useful for confusing the AA guys, not so useful in confusing you, especially as the direction it takes you in might be the last one that you would want (rising terrain, enemy concentrations, the opposite way to the way back home!). The sheer danger of the dive, by leaving the recovery too late, is also clear. Miss-set altimeters, altimeter lag, even mental maths mistakes in adding 3500' to the target's altitude (I assume all this was on local QNH?), and of course misreading a frantically unwinding altimeter, could all make this procedure as terminal for the attacker as the attacked.
I believe that the Luftwaffe posted its creme de la creme to the Stuka. One can begin to see why!
Chugalug2 is offline  
Old 9th Jun 2012, 10:10
  #2665 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 5,222
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
I looked for Akyab Island and it took me to Sittwe, Burma. Just to the north of the final approach to runway 28 I found this place. You mentioned that the target looked like a cartwheel; would this be the one?

Fareastdriver is offline  
Old 9th Jun 2012, 15:03
  #2666 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Akyab Jail.


With 99% probability, Yes! (and sincere thanks for transporting an old man back to the days of his youth).

What we bombed would have been the circular structure to the W. IIRC, a ring of cell blocks took the place of the prison wall in our time, and I think that there were more than four radial wings - more like six and much more cramped. The structures to the E. were not there then. I would guess that they might be prison workshops now, as the wall runs right round. (Then they'd simply chain them up in gangs and set them to work on the land).

By the time I got to it, all I could see was smoke and dust; later intelligence confirmed that we had reduced it to rubble - the Jap had to make other arrangements for his HQ. How many did we kill? Don't know.

Yours gratefully,


Last edited by Danny42C; 9th Jun 2012 at 15:08. Reason: Egregious Error !
Old 9th Jun 2012, 17:55
  #2667 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
What goes up comes down.


The Stuka pilots might have been mit sahne, but I fear their RAF counterparts were a bit clotted at times! Yes, when you'd pressed the button, you'd no time to even wonder which way to turn - it was a case of pull out first and sort yourself out afterwards.

And if the sun was near the apex (as it could be in early May), and you were over a featureless landscape, it wasn't easy to decide which way to turn. For of course your DI was caged, the (panel) compass had gone to pot; any of your mates who happened to be in sight were as (temporarily) lost as you were. (You've a Navigator in the back? - Loud guffaw!) Luckily the jail wasn't far off the coast, so if you could tell the difference between the blue and the brown stuff on your map, you should be able to feel your way along.

We would not have known what a QNH was if it got up and bit us - or a QFE either, for that matter. You set your altimeter at zero when you started up and left it there. Luckily, there was nothing much above 200 ft amsl in the coastal plain of Arakan, and southern Bangladesh (East Bengal to us) mostly has about six inches of freeboard at high tide. And remenber, the weather would be glorious all the time. It was a case of: "No see, no fly".

Later, in Assam and points East, there were a lot of "hills" (aroud 7-8,000 ft) and you made due allowance in cross-countries. Luckily, we never had to bomb in the "hills", as we found it easier to run (and the Jap to chase us) - or vice versa - and do the fighting - in the jungles and paddy fields on the valley floors.

I had left Assam before the major Imphal/Kohima battle (which was in the hills), but I do not think they dared to use the VVs there, as the combatants were so closely locked together that blue-on-blue would be a certainty.

Happy days,


Last edited by Danny42C; 10th Jun 2012 at 16:16. Reason: D! should be DI !
Old 11th Jun 2012, 09:58
  #2668 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Midlands
Age: 55
Posts: 181
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts

If you click on the following link and scroll down to post 17, there's a photo that might get the memory banks stirring.

Lysanders but look at the codes.... - Key Publishing Ltd Aviation Forums
mlc is offline  
Old 11th Jun 2012, 20:56
  #2669 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
View from the Back Seat

Now might be a time to pause and recall a few details. First, what about the poor devil in the back? He had to go down "with his back to the engine", as he might be called on to man the guns as soon as we pullled out from the dive, should an "Oscar" bounce us - none ever did in fact, but you had to be ready for them all the same.

Half a mo' - you said your canopy was closed? If his was, too, the guns wouldn't be much use, would they? This difficulty had been foreseen (on all the front- line Squadrons), and dealt with by an unofficial "mod". (It was wonderful what you could get away with in those days; you didn't have to seek Higher Approval if you wanted to do a bit of DIY on your aircraft).

The last (curved) section of the canopy was a nuisance. When folded forward to free the guns, the gunner lost most of the room over the nav table, and it wasn't as easy for him and his pilot to shout at one another with that thing in the way (we didn't bother with the intercom much). It wasn't as if he was left out in the cold, as it were, for he still had the straight section of canopy over his head to keep the rain off.

So take the curved bit out and dump it! If you look at almost any pic of a "fighting" VV, you'll see that that bit is missing - it was "parade wear". (The OTU may have kept them in, but not sure). Were they ever put back? I suppose you would have to when the monsoon came, otherwise the guns would get wet (and the back of the VV fill with water!)

Another example, Vultee was worried that a pilot might close the throttle on landing with the mixture control well forward (leaned out) . Accordingly they fitted a one-way catch on the mixture control which enabled the throttle to push past it on opening, but would pull it back (into rich mixture) on closing.

Of course the thing was a damn nuisance in formation, for as luck would have it the best mixture setting was just at the point on the quadrant where your throttle was being jiggled to and fro. It was always getting in the way, and you had to keep resetting your mixture. Find a file, get rid of it!

Now what about the back seat man? At least he couldn't see his altimeter on the way down: he just had to trust his pilot and hope for the best. He had another problem in the early days. The guns were pivoted on a mounting, but the attachment wasn't quite strong enough in shear (with the whole load downward). Curiously, we had trouble with the front gun fixings too, but that is a story for another day.

In a dive, the pivot sometimes gave way and the twin guns fell into the gunner's lap. The weight pinioned him to his seat, garlanded with ammo belts, till they got down and somebody could release him.. I don't think any of them suffered much worse than a bruising (the armourers soon beefed the attachments up).

While not suffering much harm, it must have been rather uncomfortable (and just think what the effect might be, should you come to a sudden stop (crash landing, say), if it happened. 200 lb of steel battering ram a foot or so away level with your head wasn't a pleasant prospect.

From Wiki I read that the IAF believed that there had to be someone in the back seat on every dive, as otherwise the C of G would move forward and make the pull-out harder. Some straight-in accidents were ascribed to this. All I can say is that I never heard of it - but then IIRC I never dived solo myself. A good handful of trim should have sorted it out.

Talking of trims, I recall that, on one or two occasions, half way down in the dive, I spotted, out of the corner of my eye, the elevator trim wheel (the size of a dinner plate, easy enough to see) slowly winding forward (nose-heavy!) of its own volition. I grabbed it and hauled it back. It was just what you didn't need, midway in the dive.

Other people had had this experience, too, and it only seemed to happen when you were carrying a full load. But as it was very rare, and no one knew what it was or what to do about it, it was decided not to bother, but just put the word round as a case of a "watch it, chaps!" Perhaps something like that might account for the OTU "stoods" tent-pegging in (Did we warn them? Might have done. AFAIK, they'd only use practice bombs, anyway, so the problem shouldn't arise).

As a compensation for these minor inconveniences, the rear seat occupant didn't really have much to do. In formation, he would waggle his guns about a bit from time to time to show willing. Stew started off by testing his guns (as they'd taught him at gunnery school), by firing a burst into the side of the dispersal pen when we started up.

As this scared all the groundcrew witless (and me!), meant that he'd have to clean the guns himself when he got back, and was of no value at all (what was he going to do now if they were u/s? - we'd be rolling in a few minutes), he was ordered to desist.

On a sortie, everyone in the back had to act as a gunner, irrespective of rank or aircrew trade. And as all the pilots were in formation, the only one navigating was the leader. Although we'd all been to the briefing and tried to remember whatever jaw-cracking name of the place was that we were supposed to attack, in practice we were all in the invidious position of Christopher Columbus, who: "Didn't know where he was going when he set out, didn't know where he was when he got there, and didn't know where he'd been when he got back." (But Christopher made out all right, and so did we).

Next time we'll talk about hang-ups,

Evenin' all,


I thought you had control.
Old 12th Jun 2012, 00:58
  #2670 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

Stirring memories, indeed! Now you've really set me off! I clicked the link, and was soon in way over my head. Only thing to do: get pen and notebook and make notes on the 25 (if I've counted right) intriguing pics, otherwise would be hopelessly at sea in my reply. Three pages of notes so far!

Imp of mischief whispered in my ear: many of these would do well in a Caption Competition! Compromise with imp: will put his suggestions in in italics (Editor disclaims all responsibility for views expressed by imp). Pics numbered in order of appearance.

Have introduced new acronym (is it allowed?) - "IK", means "Insufficient Knowledge" - (cop-out minute on files by lazy Staff Officers in my day - wouldn't dare today, I suppose). In plain words: "Know nowt about it/them!"

Pic 1. (Oops!) Some little chap has had a mishap. (Lysanders? - IK).

2. Looks mid-monsoonish. We did not deal in squadron letters much, all my log entries are serial nos., I got as far as VV EZ993, not far from the Camden EZ999. Can't remember what our letters were in either 110 or 8(IAF) Sqdns, so can't help here. Sorry.

3. The lone "F" would probably be on a training unit. 31 Sqdn were the much loved Daks we saw the most of at Chittagong - always good for a lift to Cal!

4. I think this is very early on (pre-war?) Note large serial numbers painted
under wing of Wapiti. Are those bomb racks ? (look horribly flimsy to me). Another indication of early days: "Bombay Bowlers" proudly worn. There seems to be extensive construction work going on in the background.

5. That is the scruffiest aircraft I ever saw outside a scrapyard! Surely that Audax didn't fly! It's a disgrace to the RAF. (possibly a training hulk) (Happy BB wearers again). Mystery object? Beats me! ("we lent it to the Taliban, Sarge, and this is how it came back - but they gave us this feather-duster thing to help clean it up, they hadn't any feathers, so they tied on a bunch of rags")........

6. Gets chilly in the North in winter - lad's wearing his No.1 jacket over a shirt - (jacket'll have to go to the dhobi before next parade). Has ditched BB in favour of Cap FS. Progress - of a sort.

Note: the www.bharat-rackshak.com/IAF link you gave is well worth a look.

7. No comment.

8. Could this be another Tiger of Hyderabad ?

9. Looks like a jack-up after a belly landing. Nose of a/c (Dak?) looks funny in some way. Now there's a ladder and a half! Best of luck!

10. Nice line of VVs there. Would like to know what was painted on nose just below front screen.

11. and 12. There's posh for you! A/C all bulled-up, BBs correctly worn. Must be be VIP in vicinity.

13. "Are you all right? " - 0r - "White ants again, Sarge!"

14. "The M.U. says the prop and wings should be coming along next week, Sarge" - Or - "Put that man on a charge for having a dented Bowler!"

15. Welcome breeze today - blown BB off head of man in foreground, retained by chin strap (normally across top front). VV on far side missed the draft.

16. Fine body of good-looking castaways - and not one with BMI>20! (Obesity hadn't been invented).

17. Cor! Burra-burra Sahib and Memsahib and ADCs stroll over to their car.

18. They also serve who only stand and wait. (Coffee and biscuits being finished off on board by VIP party.

19. "And the winner in the How Far can you Throw the Passengers' Luggage Competition is ........"

20. "Now which one was it they told me to press to drop that bomb?"

21. and 22. (Beaufort - IK). What is that thing on wing outboard of bomb rack? On both (nice) pics.

23. (Hudson - IK). Posh - note socks pulled up. Or "What the Butler Saw".

24. and 25. Mohawks (knuckles and all). 5 Sqdn had them in N.Burma in '44. Or "Where did you get that Hat?"

It is noteworthy that all the aircraft seen are carrying the old three-colour roundel. This means that the pictures were taken very early in the war, for all operational aircraft would have the two-colour (blue and white) of ACSEA.

Hope that helped (I've had some fun with it!) Thanks a lot, mic, for putting it in for me.

Old 13th Jun 2012, 09:52
  #2671 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: West Sussex
Age: 82
Posts: 4,703
Received 100 Likes on 35 Posts
More welcome "by the way" gems for us to pick at, Danny, thank you!
Your rear crew-man must have had some official status, presumably that of Air Gunner, as you seem to characterise his navigational skill as simply the ability to find the aircraft in order to climb into it! I think if I had been in his shoes I would have ever happily traded sight of the altimeter for the opportunity to sit facing rearwards and hence fully supported by my seat back, in preference to hanging by my straps in that prolonged vertical dive towards enemy ground fire. What the eye don't see the heart doesn't grieve over...on the other hand collecting a lap full of machine guns and ammo on the way would be rather a turn-off!
The most scary part of your post though is the ability of the elevator trim to arbitrarily wind in nose down trim into a dive that will already require all your strength to pull out of anyway! You saying that no one really knew why, and that the DS solution was merely to keep an eye out for it, hardly inspires confidence. I wonder if the pampered pilots of the MkIV had to contend with the same phenomena? Probably not, as it seems that they, like me, simply passed their time in straight and level flight, though whether tea came on the hour every hour I rather doubt.
Keep it coming Danny. It's pure gold!
Chugalug2 is offline  
Old 13th Jun 2012, 17:28
  #2672 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 2
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Riveting story, Regle.

Not long after your lucky escape Bill Blessing was made a Sqdn Ldr, awarded the DSO & DFC, married his WAAF girlfriend*, and was shot down & killed over Caen by a German nightfighter on 7 July 1944.

(*Pamela Birch. My mum by a later marriage. Sadly she died 48 hrs ago, which is how, thanks to Google, I saw your post while researching her eulogy)
nedguy is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2012, 02:20
  #2673 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

You do me too much honour (but keep it coming!)

As regards the status of the chaps in the back; they were the remains of the old Blenheim crews who'd come out in the first panic in mid '42, so there were two claimants for each seat in the VV (they didn't claim all that hard). The surplus went to all sorts of odd jobs, as in India we only had a few B-24s and Catalinas that carried full crews.

There were plenty of Daks, but I think it was all a bit casual as to who sat in the dicky seat - could be a pilot if they had one, possibly a nav, or a w/op (he could be of some use, getting bearings and things) - or simply a favoured passenger. (QA or PMRAFNS preferred!). Don't really know.

When the Beaus and Mossies came out, complete crews came with them, of course. I don't think there were any Conversion Units out there as far as I remember. The VV OTU in Peshawar (Ambala?) was only set up late in the day, to supply crews for the two IAF Squadrons, and really they only operated for one whole dry season (43/44) before they were pulled out.

As for Mk. IVs, none got to India to my knowledge, some went to the RAAF, some to the UK (all as target tugs), and the USAAC (at whose behest an Angle of Incidence had been put on the wing) did nothing much with the A-35s they took. Wiki tells me all this, and that the Free French tried them in N. Africa without much success. I don't think any did much diving, except possibly in Aus.

I agree with you - if I were in the back I'm sure I would have found it more comfortable looking up - if the guns are going to fall on me, I'd like to see them coming, - and I'd rather not see the altimeter, if you don't mind!

As to the trim problem, I'm no aerodynamicist; perhaps the trim tabs on the elevators, riding "free" in the dive as they were, could push back in the airstream to line up with them. As the tabs would normally be depressed (= elevator slightly up), this would produce the effect. (All right, clever Dick, account for it only happening with a 250 on each wing?) A disturbed airflow "wiggling" the elevators in some way? (I've got an answer for everything,
haven't I ?)......... I'll get my hat.

Cup of tea every hour on the hour? (One day - in ATC - but not yet!)

Keep the questions coming (and criticisms always welcome),


(Can not get this spacing under control - probably me - sorry)....D

Re: Previous Post #2660, think Moderator best person to handle..Agree?..D

Last edited by Danny42C; 14th Jun 2012 at 02:43. Reason: Reference Post #2660
Old 14th Jun 2012, 08:12
  #2674 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: West Sussex
Age: 82
Posts: 4,703
Received 100 Likes on 35 Posts
Danny, as time is of the essence, I have taken the liberty of sending a PM to nedguy informing him of the sad loss of Reg Levy. I'm possibly not alone in having done that. The loose hand that the Mods allow us in this Forum and in particular on this thread means that it would be by no means certain that his post was seen and answered promptly. I hope that is how they see it anyway!
I'm sure that we all are as one here in expressing our sympathy to nedguy at the sad loss of his mother so recently. As a member of the WAAF, with a life so inextricably woven into the fabric of those already told on this thread, it would be good, I think, if her WWII story, even though not RAF, not a pilot, and not having a brevet, might one day be told here.
Another member of a remarkable generation.
RIP Pamela Birch.
Chugalug2 is offline  
Old 16th Jun 2012, 10:03
  #2675 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2008
Location: East Sussex
Posts: 460
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
With all the fuss about the Bomber Command Memorial, are there any followers of this thread going? If so, perhaps they could help Danny's pleas for more memories to be shared.

That must be the last rich "fishing ground" for further contributors to keep this thread alive as a testament to those 55,000 plus men who didn't have an opportunity to tell THEIR stories.....

So, please, anyone going, take a note of the PPRuNe thread ISP and pass it around. Anyone getting a chance to snaffle a Guest List of the invitees might find some useful Names to contact... (since when was it expected that the people it commemorates who have to APPLY to be there?).

I can't imagine anyone who organised a "commemoration" of England National team footballers over the years and then omitted the World Cup squads, and how much mock outrage would be expressed about that.

Come to that, wouldn't it be a wonderful gesture if the current England Euro 2012 team to all give up their fees and donate to the Memorial Appeal? For once I could forgive these muppets their overpaid and overinflated egos?

Ah well, I can but dream ..........

Sorry, Danny, please carry on with the enthralling tales!

Last edited by Icare9; 16th Jun 2012 at 10:04.
Icare9 is offline  
Old 16th Jun 2012, 18:24
  #2676 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2012
Location: London
Posts: 47
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Danny, thank you for your message. You are, of course right, rivets - instead of nuts and bolts; still no maintenance.

It was in anticipation of your deep trench latrine that I mentioned the auger. (I remember his asking why we didn't have one for digging them at Scout camp...)

He used to mention the ghastly prickly heat he - and many others - suffered from, and how the only place where relief was available was at the cinema, being as it was air conditioned. The useful piece of advice that if somebody is coming at you with a bayonet you need a .45 not a .38 otherwise he might still kill you after you'd shot him dead.

Mostly it was funny stories, like the American in the hut (?) next to his who was shooting up beer bottles, drunk, one night. (Did you get a lot of Americans staying with the RAF?) Or the blankets that had gone missing from stores and a great kerfuffle ensued until he had the bright idea of redesignating them as "rags, aircraft for the cleaning of" which seemed to cure the problem as they then became expendable.

But why was he always so grateful to the Salvation Army for providing him with cups of tea when he was in India? Didn't he have a wallah to provide them?
Reader123 is offline  
Old 16th Jun 2012, 19:21
  #2677 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

Thank you for your warm words of encouragement - they help to keep me going! It seems (at the moment at least) that there simply may be no more contributors to come forward to carry the torch on when I go. I hope I'm wrong, but, as you say the "fishing" is meeting with little success.

We have to realise that a): there can be only few of us left, b): few of those are on line and c): those that are are keeping their heads down, as I did myself for six months before timidly offering my two cents' worth. ("Never volunteer for anything" was the first thing all recruits learnt!)

I am 100% with you on the scandal of the handful of survivors having to apply for places at the Bomber Command Memorial opening ceremony.
They (and their close families) should be there as of right. There is worse; read the thread "Freddie Johnson, DFC" , and despair of this country.

As for football and footballers - you take the words right out of my mouth! But you are on dangerous ground; it is the new State Religion: its adherents (the real ones and the Great and the Good who pretend to be) would gladly burn you at the stake if they could (if H&S allowed).

Me? I'll just sharpen my quill and get on with the next Gripping Episode.

Old 16th Jun 2012, 20:06
  #2678 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Re: Post fom nedguy.


Thank you for taking the lead and letting nedguy know the position. I would have been a bit uncertain about a PM. He was then still a Probationary PPRuNer - when I came aboard in January, the Moderator checked my first five Posts before letting them loose on Thread. Did Homer nod in this case?

As I recall, you sent me a very helpful PM of advice when I started - and then you had to tell me on a Post that you'd done so, as I didn't know they even existed, and then I had to reply on Post as I'd no idea how to reply on PM! (Later on, I ran up seven unanswered PMs before I noticed - how did we ever win a war?) EDIT: On checking back, I find it was Cliff (RIP) who was the first to run foul of my ineptitude - very sorry, Chug. Your turn to suffer from it came later. Only excuse, "Short Term Memory Loss" (afflicts younsters of my age).

Agreed, there must be thousands of good stories waiting to be told by the surviving erks and erkesses of those days. I'm glad that the Moderators let them in, for the brevet-wearers are thin on the ground now.

Say not the struggle naught availeth,


Last edited by Danny42C; 16th Jun 2012 at 21:23.
Old 17th Jun 2012, 00:42
  #2679 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

I've sent you a PM about your kind offer of a complimentary copy of your book - I much appreciate it.

Some names off the top of my head which may be useful:

I'm afraid the name "Mosher" doesn't ring a bell. But he may have been in "B" flight (the Flights were quite remarkably autonomous, and even in the mess you'd tend to socialise with the people you worked with). He may have come on the Squadron after I left (for 8 Sqdn.) in November '43 (unlikely), - or did he come with the Mossies (which took over from the VVs in late '44) ?

Against that, I think I do vaguely recall on "A" Flight a Sgt-Pilot "Robbie" Robinson; we also had a P/O "Robbie" Robertson (nav), who flew with me on my first three 'ops'.

As for adventures in Afghanistan, and a Pancho and Chico, I'm at a loss.("Chico" was a generic term for any little Indian lad, could he be one such earning an anna or two doing odd jobs round camp? Or were they both "bearers"?

A nav/wop-ag might "crew up", and fly mostly with one pilot, but there was so much messing about that everybody flew with everybody else on the Flight at one time or another. From my logbook I can give you Sgts Payne, Denton, Stewart-Mobsby (my usual wop-ag), Mills, Turner, Brown, Lewis, Foster and F/Sgt Skelton.

In addition I had a F/O Baldwin and P/O Robertson (both navs), and No, F/O Baldwin was not the one who got the Flight comprehensively lost on the way to war, he of the air commodore's braid and golden wings - I never flew with him on 110 Sqdn. But he came over to 8 with us, I flew with him then a couple of times (on the clear understanding that I would do any navigation involved).

Dave Cummin I don't recall - probably on "B" Flight (and Sgt or P/O?) - we could have been in different Messes.

As for pilots, I was saddened to hear of the death of Reg Duncan. He was a grand chap - did he ever speak of his dog "Spunky" ? I'll put the (sad) story in on my next "main" Post.

Topper" was a great Flight Commander (and he acted as Squadron Commander for most of the time, as S/Ldrs seemed to come and go). Did he ever tell of the lovely little dachshund he had in Khumbirgram , and how it would try to see off the Works & Bricks elephant which worked round the Flights?

Edward Helliwell I don't remember, but the same applies as in the case of Dave Cummin - different Flights or ranks, or both = different worlds!

Also as certifying Officers in my log, I give you S/Ldrs Lambert, Gill and Penny (Perry?); F/Lts "Crudsell" (or something like it), D.J. Ritchie (RAAF); F/Os H.P. Brooke and D. Hedley.

My W/O (Pilot) Doug "McEvoy", RNZAF, (a few posts back) was of course your "McIlroy". Some day I'll try to get on Post my (one and only) pic of "A" Flt, taken in New Year '43.

That's about all I can usefully add at the moment,



Last edited by Danny42C; 17th Jun 2012 at 02:11. Reason: Spacing.
Old 18th Jun 2012, 01:39
  #2680 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Bomb Hang-ups - a Mystery.


It would seem our Posts "crossed in the post" as it were. First, I am sorry if you misunderstood my light-hearted use of the word "betters" (referring to navs/wop/ags in relation to pilots). No real denigration was implied!

Of course, this was all part of the good-humoured banter that went (and I hope still goes) on all the time in war (and peace) in the RAF. The "lesser breeds" responded vigorously, sarcastically referring to "The Lords of the Universe", "The twin-winged Master Race", and much more not printable in a family publication. Even in the hallowed reaches of civil aviation, it is a commonplace that "God lives in the Left Hand Seat", and similar comments of the same ilk. There's no harm in it - don't worry about it.

Your father must have joined 110 just about the time (Oct '43) as I left it for 8 (IAF). Did he ever speak of the air raid on Khumbirgram, which happened just before I left? With all that was going on at the same time, it is no surprise that I can't now remember the name. So many names!

I am very interested in the Takoradi detachment in '44, which, AFAIK, was tasked to do the first anti-malarial spray trials with the new magic stuff (DDT) - before its toxicity was recognised. I didn't know that they had Mk. IVs for the job. (They might have done better with Mk. IIIs, as it turned out, apparently).

My interest is this: I was employed in a similar business, using the same spray tanks, in 1340 (Special Duty) Flight in Cannanore (S. India). Ours was a grimmer task, we were spraying mustard and phosgene gases (for the purpose of evaluating methods of defence, of course). We were allowed to continue our planned trials to completion for a few months after the war, and then we cleaned out the tanks and had a go at the anti-malaria spraying ourselves.

I think the solvent used was kerosene, but am not sure. As this was in Jany '46, much water must flow down the Ganges before my Posts get there. One thing: I have a good pic of a VV flying with these spray tanks fitted (underwing). This may be the only one in the world - at least, I have never seen another.

This may be a good opportunity to relate a sad story about the untimely end of Reg Duncan's dog "Spunky".

While we were at Madhaiganj, Reg had picked up a better-class stray dog. "Spunky" must have had a lot of proper dog in him, and was growing up into quite a handsome animal. In my logbook is an old photo of "A" Flight, with the pair together among the rest of us on an aircraft wing. The two were inseparable, Reg doted on his dog; he was the Flight mascot and a great favourite of all. But "Spunky" picked up some spreading skin ailment which had him tearing all his fur off.

"Pete" Latcham, our M.O., did his best, for he knew how much "Spunky" meant to Reg. But none of his unguents did any good, things were only getting worse and the dog was obviously suffering. There was only one thing left. Reg had to take his pistol and perform the last act of kindness for his friend. Everybody was sad for quite a while. This must have happened while I was away in hospital in the March, for people were still talking about it when I got back in April.

I don't normally mix the main narrative with the personal exchanges, but there is a particular reason in this case. So here is the promised section on bomb hang-ups.

Hang-ups are rare, but can be very dangerous. If you have one, you try to get rid of it safely by chucking the aircraft about over water or open country. If it still refuses to budge, you have a difficult decision. In theory, if the switches are "safe", the thing should be harmless and you can land with it - or even crash with it, (as I proved the following year}. But it ain't necessarily so.

Shortly after I left Khumbirgram on posting to 8 Sqdn. a crew was killed there when a wing hang-up dropped on landing and exploded when it hit the runway. I think 8 Sqdn. were still "working up" far back in Bengal at the time, so details of the affair were sketchy and took some time to reach us.

It is difficult to imagine how this came to happen. Did the pilot not know he had a hang up? Impossible, you'd say, from what I've been telling you about the hang-up check a few posts ago.

Confession is good for the soul ! The whole of my tale about the jail sortie is perfectly true. But it's actually a composite of my first VV strikes (where in truth we just formed up and went home after bombing) and later ones when this mandatory check had been introduced. (It seemed neater for me to tell the two parts of story in one piece, as it were, as I didn't intend to tell it again - mea culpa!)

So in the early days, not only did we not do any checks, but a practice had sprung up whereby the bomb switches were left "live" after we'd bombed until landing and switch-off. There was some method in this madness.

When a bomb drops, a loop in a wire "fusing link" is held back in the rack by a solenoid bolt which closes when the rack is switched to "live". The other (two) ends of this wire "link" run through holes in a sort of "safety cap", and locks this onto the end of the bomb fuse on which it is loosely threaded. (Same way as a split-pin locks a nut).

This cap protects the detonator inside from accidental impact, (but not from idiots with hammers and chisels!). Incidentally, there are two fuses to a bomb, nose and tail.

It is amazing what blows this cap can survive and still do its job. If a bomb is dropped "safe", the solenoid bolt stays open, the fusing link goes off with the bomb, so the cap stays on the fuse, still held by the wire. It can now go down 20,000 ft into the ground and (should) not go off.

But if the bomb has gone "live", the wire is held back in the rack; the cap has lost its locking. "Windmill" vanes are machined round its circumference, it is loose on the thread, the airflow spins it off in a moment, away we go.

That is rather a cumbersome explanation, but it brings us to the point. If you return the switches to "safe" after dropping your bombs, the solenoids withdraw, the links fall out and are lost. Why should that matter?

Because, if you come back with no links, there is at least a possibility (worse, even suspicion) that you have stupidly "bombed safe". With your links "all present and correct", you're in the clear. Also, you don't need new links for the next lot of bombs (there may even have been a shortage of links - it's exactly the sort of small, cheap, insignificant thing we would be short of), and it's one less job for the armourers. Leave the links in (switches "live").

Good idea? So we thought. And now we can see what might happen. Suppose you have an unnoticed hang-up, it falls off as you land. That's it ! How could it come to be unnoticed on a wing when the pilot rejoined the formation? Only if he were the last man, and it was on an outside wing, it might be possible that no other pilot would notice it. But then, couldn't a gunner on an aircraft ahead, looking back, spot it?

Supposing he did know, he would certainly have done his best to get rid of it, failed and concluded that a landing was safe - it wasn't!

The switches would have gone back to safe, of course, but the trouble with a hang-up is that you never know just how things are in the rack. The bolt may have jammed in the closed position (rear door in my very old car jammed a few months ago, very similar mechanism; main agent estimate 500 [ouch!]; friendly auto-elec chap down road: 3hrs @ 20 = 60 - fixed). And how securely is the claw still holding your bomb? You don't know.

In this way we lost two good men. In fact, it was a risk too far (my log tells me I've done it myself on one occasion, I was lucky). Really, the only sensible thing to do was to bale out and let the aircraft go - there were plenty more where it came from, and a crew is worth more than an aircraft.

I believe that it was in consequence of this accident that hang-up checks became the rule.

One curious little thing: the front fuse cap spun off well clear of the aircraft and was lost (I can see some museum director in the future trying to puzzle out what this little round thing, dug up by a treasure-hunter, might be).

But the tail fuse safety device took the shape of a little sheet-metal butterfly-shaped thing (I've no idea how it worked). On quite a few occasions, an aircraft would come back with this thing embedded in a flap. It was too small to do any real damage, but the flap had to be patched after you pulled it out. It was a nuisance.

Now I must link this to a strange contradiction. I quote from "Vengeance", by Peter C. Smith, published 1986 by Airlife Publishing Ltd. (ISBN 0 906393 65 5) - (I trust this will be acceptable as a sufficient acknowlegment).

(Page 117, end):

"Glyn Hansford was an armourer with 110 Squadron. His mount was a three-ton Chevrolet truck rather than a dive-bomber, but he and his companions played their full part in this campaign. It was one continuing round to keep the planes flying, but some incidents stood out, as he related to me,* and the one just mentioned was one of them".

"There were many acts of courage and devotion to duty. One of the most vivid was that of a Canadian pilot, Flying Officer Duncan, who returned from a sortie with a bomb hung-up, which he could not shake off at all. He attempted to land with it on, a very risky thing to do, and it blew up as he touched down. He and his aircraft were totally destroyed, along with his little pet dog, which he had taken with him on every mission." **

* The speaker is a F/O "Red" (sometimes "Bud") McInnis, RCAF. (He was on "B" Flight, but I knew him well - and I took over his unit when he returned to Canada in April '45).

** (Underlining is mine) I cannot believe this. Can you?

The news of this accident, when it later reached us on 8 Squadron, named Reg Duncan as the pilot concerned, and we saw no reason to doubt it. I had originally named him as such in my earlier draft on the hang-up story, but edited it to remove the name before putting it on this thread.

Peter C. Smith is a highly respected aviation writer.

Now what? It's beyond me. (110 Squadron War Diary - F.540 - must have a full record of this incident; I look to those more computer-skilled than I to find a possible explanation).

EDIT:.......... I have now checked the C.W.G.C. - There is no record of a grave in India or Burma (Myanmar). The mystery deepens. I would have discounted Hansford's evidence on the ground of his last ridiculous sentence alone (about the little dog), but for the backing of Red McInnis. (How could you dive bomb with a dog on board - how could you secure him ?)..........(19 Jun 12, 1620hrs)....D.

Goodnight, all,


You never know

Last edited by Danny42C; 8th Aug 2015 at 23:18. Reason: Introduce Further Contradictory Material. And Spacing !

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.