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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 18th Jun 2012, 01:32
  #2681 (permalink)  
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To Reader123
Rivets: it's true that they're a low maintenance item when they're new, but as they were light alloy (which didn't matter much when the life of an aircraft would only be a few months), corrosion became a nightmare for enthusiasts trying to rebuild them maybe forty years after. They had to drill 'em all out and start again.

Deep trench latrines - it's not a pleasant subject, but then they played an important part in our lives and I have an amusing tale to tell about them - but not now!

From what you tell me, I can fix your Dad fairly confidently. The only air-conditioned cinema I know was in Calcutta, in Chowringhee, not far down from the Grand hotel, which your father would have known very well (air conditioning was very new then, the Grand certainly didn't have any). We had to do our best with fans or (out in the bundoo where there was no electricity, punkhas) - a punkha-wallah was a must in any office or workshop. Do you remember the punkha-wallah in "It ain't half hot, Mum"? (he'd let loose a stream of Hindi with the last few words in English - they actually do that quite often).

There were no char-wallahs? Not in a busy city like Calcutta, there wouldn't be. they were creatures of the camps far out in the wilds, where there was no competition.

Prickly heat; yes it was terrible. wear nothing tight (certainly no underclothes) and drink plenty of soft drinks, (it'll come straight out again as sweat, but it seems to ward off the dreaded prickly). And of course, Calcutta (along the river) was particularly hot and sticky from March onwards. All the Memsahibs and the families trooped off to Darjeeling for the hot months, leaving Dad behind to sweat it out, earning a living.

Americans: there were a lot about but we were all busy with our own little bits of the war and didn't have many dealings with them (they envied us our Boy-Scout shorts in the heat).

I gather your father was an engineer officer; there were plenty of Engineering and Equipment units of all kinds all over town, from the huge arms factory out at Dum-Dum downwards.

The blanket/rags tale goes back to WW1: The original story goes like this: some officer was responsible for a batch of water tanks, some had been nicked. He stood to have to make the loss good out of his pay (and they were very expensive).

He reported the loss of the same number of water bottles, (these were dirt cheap). A week or two later, he put in an amendment slip to his original loss report: "For "Bottles", read "Tanks". A bored clerk passed it through unnoticed: he was in the clear........ (Les silences du Colonel Bramble)....... Author forgotten (Andre Maurois??). ............ Someone will tell us.




Last edited by Danny42C; 20th Jun 2012 at 15:42.
Old 19th Jun 2012, 18:14
  #2682 (permalink)  
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Danny wanders about for a bit.

FIRST, READ EDIT TO MY POST # 2668 TO savimosh01

At Chittagong, the record in my logbook breaks off briefly until June 5, when the rain must have slackened off sufficiently to allow a formation trip. My log drily notes "Electrical Failure", but no more. I can only assume that the EDP mod had been done on my a/c; indeed we'd have been idiots to go to war with the chance of having to wobble-pump home!

On the 8th, another strange one: "To Panda & return" - 40 min. Twenty minutes each way - say 40 miles. Where had we started from? (Pandaveswar is a good 180 miles from Chittagong). What did I go for? Don't know.

This will be my constant refrain for the the whole of the next five months, until the 15th October, when we would go and start operations again. P/O "Robbie" Robertson (my nav on my first three ops) has vanished. In the meantime I was flying with all and sundry till further notice.

July, all formation except the on the 3rd - "Air Firing" - just that. Where was the range? What did we fire at? Front guns or back or both? How did we get on? - not a solitary clue.

On the 27th, "Stew" (F/Sgt now) turns up from somewhere - no idea from where. We will stay together as a crew from now on.

August, lots more formation, a bit of fighter affiliation. On one day, I fly with a Battery Sgt-Major Callum (what was that all about?) The last two entries for the month (12th & 13th) are puzzles. "Air/Ground firing" - no wiser! Last one: "Bombing - 2x250 - formation".

Why would you waste 250 lb bombs on some sort of exercise, when 11 lb practice ones are available? Where was the range?

By now my readers (if they're still awake) are as sick of the question marks as I am. let's forget them. September, some good news, my commission has come through. George Davies (whose own had come a month before) welcomes me into the Mess. (Trip to Calcutta, buy new hat, have photo taken, find to my dismay that Calcutta full of troops, now have to return twenty salutes for every one I used to have to give - buzz soon wears off).

I was lumbered with the job of Squadron Entertainments Officer. This was a sinecure, as there were no entertainments other than the very rare visits from a travelling Services Entertainments Party, and none of these came anywhere near us in my time. As we had no power (and dry batteries were practically unobtainable), there was no domestic radio; our only resource was the wind-up gramophone (Grandma will explain).

You couldn't get the steel needles you had to use with them, but it had been found that a particularly hard thorn was almost as good. You could get packets of these at an extortionate price in the Calcutta bazaars; it was really not much hardship to go down to 'Cal' every so often, have a night in the Grand and come back with a big bag of these.

Although Concert Parties were rare, I must say that the 1970s TV comedy "It ain't half hot, Mum" was remarkably near the mark. Some of these shows were local amateur efforts, and cringe-makedly bad. But they were doing their level best, and meant well, so of course you had to polish your buttons and turn up to support and applaud, even if you did regard them as one of the Horrors of War.

There are huge blank periods in the log. 14 Aug/21 Sep, and 23 Sep/3 Oct. There would have been a lot of leave periods at this time. Mostly these would have been spent in Calcutta (as I intend to devote a whole Post later to Kipling's "City of Dreadful Night", I shall not elaborate now).

On one occasion we (Stew and I) went up to Darjeeling for a couple of weeks and revelled in the blessed coolness. Don't remember much about it, except that we got up at crack of dawn one morning to climb a hill from the top of which it was alleged you could see sunrise over Everest. (E. covered in cloud, of course, should've stayed in bed and bought postcard instead).

After you've waded through that lot, there are more interesting bits to come next time. On 15th October the Squadron flew Digri - Jessore - Khumbir(gram) (way up North in Assam) - we got the navigation right this time! - clocked 3 hrs, 30 min, about 500 miles plus pitstop. Now we're back in business again!



Chocks away!

Last edited by Danny42C; 25th Jun 2012 at 22:26. Reason: Correct error in 1st line: original 2670 to read 2668
Old 19th Jun 2012, 23:16
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We seem to be unravelling the mystery at last! There's not much more to be said; I'll just add a few comments to clear the air, dot the i's and cross the t's.

I'm very glad to hear that Reg Duncan lived a full life to the end, I remember him well as a cheerful and very popular friend on "A" Flight. I am sorry for Tony Davies and his gunner "Jackie" Robertson. Are we sure he was a gunner? My man was a nav: P/O "Robbie" Robertson, I think we may have two different people.

Coincidentally, "A" Flight had a P/O George Davies (Davis?) RAFVR, also a pilot.
I never knew the OTU at Peshawar (152 - didn't know the number), took RCAF (and RAF) people in, thought only IAF were trained there.

I never knew the early history of "Spunky"; I was always a bit doubtful about the "stray" theory. The rabies danger made it very unwise to adopt a "pi" pup, however cuddly he might look. So that was the story Reg told - just like him, to conceal a truth which might upset a hearer (and himself), without actually telling a lie.

I would have been on the phone to Peter Smith the moment the book appeared! As Mark Twain (?) put it: "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated!" So he had a pile of unsold books? Stick an amendment slip in! What's the problem?

I still cannot grasp how a Squadron can have casualties, bury them, and then let the wrong names get out to the rest of the RAF. Yet that is what seems to have happened.

S/Ldr N. Prasad was the C.O. of 8 (IAF) Sqdn when I joined them on 18 Nov '43. The move to Double Moorings was on 12 Dec '43. S/Ldr Ira Sutherland, RNZAF, first signs my log as C.O. on 29 Feb '44 - he may have taken over earlier in the month. (I had been hors de combat since the 24th).

On 17 Dec '43 I went to THAUNGDARA in a box of six. Don't remember ever flying in a 12 again.

Now I think we can put it all to rest

I was very sorry to hear that "Topper's" son has also passed away. How old it makes me feel.


Old 20th Jun 2012, 23:07
  #2684 (permalink)  
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Danny, a Tiger, an Earthquake and some PR.

We flew up to Khumbirgram (hereinafter "K") in 15th October '43, I flew my first sortie on the 21st, and on 18th November, Stew and I, and another crew from "B" Flight, were posted to 8 (IAF) Squadron back in West Bengal. So we were there only a month, but (in contrast with the last dull five months) it was packed with action!

A quick tour round K first: it was in a scenic valley up in the Assam hills, a dozen or so miles NE of Silchar. Very unusually, they'd built a concrete runway along the valley floor, obviously intending to stay there for good (it's there yet). They were also building proper dispersal pens and concrete taxiways on our side (the south) of the runway.

"A" Flight bagged some of these; "B" Flight had to make do with just the trees on the far side plus their camouflage to protect them (it proved a blessing in the end!) 45 Sqdn took some of the south dispersals.

The Mess was on top of the hill on our side. It had been a planter's bungalow. The whole hillside was a working tea garden and the scent of the fresh tea tips being harvested from the bushes filled the valley in the cool, fresh mornings.

The planter was away for the duration as a reserve officer in the Indian Army. His Indian foreman was running the show while he was gone; if the planter had a wife and family, there was no sign of them - they would probably have gone back to the UK if they could, or if not were settled in some hill station well to the west out of harm's way.

The large and palatial bungalow had been taken over by the RAF; we had our Mess, anteroom, billiard room and bar in it; our accomodation was in individual "bashas" in the former garden and tennis court.

Amusingly, I recently read on an IAF website, a grumble from a later ex-IAF pilot (7 Sqdn?) who was out in the wilds at Uderbund (not far North, over the hills), to the effect that the Sahibs had pinched all the best accomodation, leaving them out in the bundoo - the exact same complaint I made in one of my Posts long ago (Hullavington) about our transatlantic cousins! You get the picture.

Assam in those days was still tiger country, and there was an amusing incident one night. We had locally recruited chowkidars (guards) keeping night watch on the aircraft. Nothing much ever happened, no one was going to pinch the things and there was little danger of sabotage. So one of our chaps was having forty winks.

He was roused by an animal nuzzling his hand in a friendly way, like a dog. Opening his eyes he found himself nose to nose with a full grown tiger. With a howl of terror, he dropped his rifle (probably empty, anyway), and shot off in one direction,An equally shocked tiger fled in the other - he must have been kin to the Cowardly Lion of the "Wizard of Oz", or Ferdinand the Bull (remember him?), who "just liked to smell the flowers". Or, more probably, he was already full of the villagers' goats.

The tiger is a territorial beast, and it seemed we were on this one's patch. Weeks of tiger-awareness (not to say tigerphobia) followed. As with ghost stories, it is easy to be brave in broad daylight, but when night breezes rustle the bushes, and moonlight shadows move, tigers popped up all over the place.

It must have been on my mind. I awoke one night to feel my charpoy gently tilting and moving about. First thought - "some idiots have had a gin too many and are playing silly b#####s". Then I realised that I was alone in the basha. Next thought was of some large animal under the charpoy, arching his back to scratch on the underside..........Tiger!!!.....Then I realised that the whole basha was moving.......Earthquake!!!I shot out into the moonlight to join the others.

By then the tremor had stopped. It had lasted only a few moments and done no damage. A basha hut, its bamboo frame lashed together with coconut fibre string, is flexible enough to survive much larger earth movements than the one we'd just had.

We hung about for a few minutes, and then went back to bed. It seems that these tremors are not unusual, but full blown earthquakes rare, at this end of the Himalayas.

As in the Arakan, Army close support was the greater part of our work, and we could get feed-back from them. When we went further afield, it was more difficult. Some strikes were on supposed Jap stores dumps in riverside villages. Leaving behind only a huge cloud of dust, you can't tell how successful a strike has been. If it was important to know (ie, do we need to do the job again?) a PR Hurricane would go out to photograph the result.

An air staff officer back at Group had a bright idea (make for the hills, chaps!) Why not kill two birds with one stone? Fit a camera in the bomb bay of the last Vengeance to go down, and let him take the photographs himself after he's bombed. They checked for free space in the bay: it could be done.

This proposal did not meet with any enthusiasm. To begin with, it violated the Golden Rule of Ground Attack, which is "DO NOT HANG ABOUT THE SCENE OF THE CRIME". By the time a defending gunner has put down his mug, stubbed out his fag and swung his weapon round onto you, you want to be hull-down on the horizon, going like a scalded cat. Many a good chap has been lost,
staying behind to admire his handiwork.

Nevertheless they decided to give it a whirl, and I drew the short straw. Our target was a small Burmese town with a jaw-cracking name (my personal best in the log book is: "Kyathwengyaungywa" - but that's not today).

All I remember about our target was the pagoda in the town centre: Its gold leaf sheathed spire blazed in the morning sun; our intelligence officer noted that every single crew made particular mention of it at de-briefing after we got back.

The strike was on the river edge of town. There were no railways so far north in our part of Burma, and the roads (little more than bullock cart tracks) were too dangerous for the Jap to use by day in the dry season. The long dust trail raised by even a single truck could bring down attack by a patrolling Hurricane or Beaufighter.

But all the rivers ran north and south; they were the natural highways of the country. The Jap used them as suppy routes, moving barges by night, and lying up camouflaged under overhanging trees at staging posts during the day. This place was one such post (according to intelligence, which we hoped was correct, otherwise, a lot of innocent Burmans were going to die for nothing).

We were to target the riverside buildings.The strike went according to plan, as far as I could see. I was disappointed to see no black smoke - a sure indicator of rubber or a petroleum product, war stocks on the way to the Jap armies around Imphal, and no explosions after the bombing. The first five aircraft cleared away to the West and left me to it.

I went off down river for five minutes or so, then turned back north at 1500 ft as instructed, bomb doors open for a straight and level run over the target. I was acutely conscious of having no armour plate underneath me.Over the spot, Stew switched the camera on for its ten-second run.

Nothing hit us, and I carried on up north, intending to clear the area before turning west over the ridges. These ran north/south at about 6,000 ft in parallel with the rivers.We must have been flyihg a minute or two, when Stew chipped in: "There's a radial engined fighter about two miles behind us".

More soon.

Sleep tight,


Keep smiling.

Last edited by Danny42C; 20th Jun 2012 at 23:14.
Old 21st Jun 2012, 02:17
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"There's a radial engined fighter about two miles behind us".

More soon.
No wonder we keep coming back, with cliffhangers like these!!!
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Old 21st Jun 2012, 06:17
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Good morning Danny,
I do hope your amazing stories bring back happy memories of those times when you volunteered to put yourself in harms way. I am in awe of your writing skills especially when we consider you are possibly over fifty years of age

Not only were you a talented pilot, you are quite clearly a VERY talented writer..

THANK YOU for taking the time and the effort to keep us all enthralled with your exploits.

Best wishes,
A not so secret admirer
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Old 21st Jun 2012, 14:03
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Ah the Fog of War! Where am I, where have I been, where am I going? Known and unknown knowns (or unknowns?). The Log Book as an aide memoir is a boon, but as sole memoir it certainly has its limitations. I'm sure we'd all find similar anomalies if we tried to emulate your example Danny and give a detailed account of our flying career in a sequential day by day order. I can only admire the tight rein you have held thus far on your movements, and movements they suddenly are! 500 miles away from the coast and deep inland to the west of Kohima. A very different scene which is suddenly full of menace. I can't wait to read the next instalment. What a cliff hangar!
Edited to add that for those with Google Earth I think that "K" airfield (now named Silchar Airport) is at 2454'42.98"N 9258'38.37"E and ironically NE of Kumbhirgram, which in turn as Danny says is NE of Silchar! Good business for the local cab drivers!
More here:
Silchar Airport - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Last edited by Chugalug2; 21st Jun 2012 at 14:43.
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Old 21st Jun 2012, 14:53
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[QUOTE} intending to stay there for good (it's there yet).[/QUOTE]

Still there Danny.
Google Maps

Last edited by Fareastdriver; 21st Jun 2012 at 14:55.
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Old 21st Jun 2012, 15:33
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No wonder we keep coming back, with cliffhangers like these!!!

With due recognition to the illustrious and sadly departed founder of this wonderful thread, the expression sounds entirely appropriate.

Hats off and grateful thanks indeed, Danny, pilot and wordsmith extraordinaire!

Noting Cliff's comment regarding logbooks, it's interesting to recall that Cliff's own opening post referred to working initially from logbooks, but what amazing aide memoires they have proved to be.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch .....

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Old 21st Jun 2012, 17:41
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Looking at the Google picture of the airfield on the southern side there is the present mititary, predominately helicopters, base. Further up on there are the unmistakable signs of a perimeter track. There is also what looks like a quarry with the inevitable dozens of Spitfires and VVs buried within.
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Old 21st Jun 2012, 20:25
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#2677, Kookabat; (I'll do my best to keep a good customer happy!)

#2678, glojo; (Admire away! - I can take any amount! As for writing talent, it shows what can be done with the average bone-idle schoolboy with a timely dose of Corporal Punishment. Churchill said: "I would not have boys beaten at school - except for not learning English. But I would beat them very hard for that!" The schoolmasters of those days took this to heart!).

#2679, Chugalug; (I'll leave the "sequential" style soon for a bit to expand on tactics and "What the Well Dressed Airman wore on ops", and "Calcutta" - no, not that one! And thanks for the link).

#2680 and #2682, Fareastdriver; (thanks for helpful pointers to Google Maps. Don't remember any quarries, though. Funny, the way the "buried" Spits have dropped off the Radar).

#2681, Union Jack (I wouldn't dream of stepping into Cliff's (RIP) shoes)

Thanks all round for your very kind comments on my efforts; the fact that they appear to be so appreciated is all the reward I need.

Next Gripping Instalment on the stocks!

Don't hold your breath,


Last edited by Danny42C; 21st Jun 2012 at 21:03. Reason: Added Material.
Old 22nd Jun 2012, 18:35
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Danny has Close Encounter (but with what ?)

"There's a radial engine fighter about two miles behind us".....
I didn't like the sound of that. There were two such aircraft in the area which would fit the description: the Japanese "Oscar" and our "Mohawk". They were very similar in size and general appearance (but not in performance; an "Oscar" would have a "Mohawk" for breakfast, any day).

But there was a useful difference. The (US P-36) Mohawk's wheels retracted back-and-twist, so it had "knobs" on the leading edges of the wings. The Oscar didn't.

"Can you see the knuckles, Stew?"...."Can't be sure, wish I'd a pair of binoculars". I wished myself far away. It was most unlikely that a 5 Sqdn. Mohawk would be swanning around so deep into Burma (and where was his wingman? - he wouldn't be alone, fighters always operate in pairs).

The odds were on an Oscar. We're well below him, so he probably can't see me as long as I stick to the jungle covered hillside, and keep away from the bare paddy fields on the valley floor, where my camouflage would be no use. (Over jungle it was excellent, as I knew from the DIY training sessions in which I'd played the "fighter").

If it is an Oscar, and he spots us, we're cold meat. Infinitely more agile, 100 mph faster and more heavily armed, he'll cut us to ribbons - (IIRC, starting with 2 x 0.30 guns, they'd moved up to 2 x 0.50, and some had 2 x 20mm cannon). Much as I respected Stew, he'd done little or no live firing since his days in a Blenheim turret eighteen months before. We'd go down with all guns firing, but the only thing Stew was likely to hit was our own tail.

The unwelcome stranger stayed with us, still a couple of miles astern and some 1500 ft above. The minutes passed very slowly, it was his move now. I fancied I could read his mind. He's seen the dust of the attack on the town, thought he'd glimpsed an aircraft heading away North up one of the valleys, but isn't sure which one. He'll keep going to see if something pops up.

What I mustn't do is to climb over a ridge, for then he's spot me on the skyline straight away. But as he was making no attempt to close the range, I became more confident that he wasn't following me - he was simply following his hunch. (It's just possible that his guns were empty, but that's hardly likely in a war zone). As I'm in his twelve o'clock position, and below him, what he was looking for was (literally) "under his nose", but he couldn't see it.

So I'm stuck, flying North up this valley. It would be fatal to try to turn round - he'd have me at once. It was stalemate. This must have gone on for five or ten minutes.. It felt like eternity, and I had to review my options. I'd flown off the northern edge of my map and now there was nothing in front of me but China two or three hundred miles ahead.

My remaining fuel might have got me there, but luckily it wasn't necessary to try. For at last he must have decided his eyes had been playing him tricks, and he cleared away to the east. We were very glad to see him go. I waited a few minutes more to let him get well away, hopped over the ridge and set off back.

I must have run a good 40 miles north of target with him sitting on my tail, so I had to guess a rough heading for base. Keeping climb power on the engine, I steamed along over the endless mountain ridges, feeling very lonely and insignificant in a very wide world.

Half an hour later, I spotted five dots on the horizon, dead ahead. It was the rest of the formation, dawdling along to let me catch up, and wondering where I'd got to. And I'd run straight up behind them! Stew was amazed (so was I) and bored the Sgts. Mess rigid when we got back, bragging about the navigational genius he'd got for a pilot (I didn't disillusion him!)

The photographs were duly developed and didn't show much. I think there was still too much dust over the target to get a clear picture. But you couldn't expect an aircraft which had just bombed to wait around in the vicinity for a quarter of an hour to get a better one. (221) Group had second thoughts, and dropped the whole idea - to general satiisfaction. Let the specialists take the snaps. And the stranger? Nobody knew or cared.

As to whether the strike had achieved much - or anything - we never heard. We had agents in Burma, but information seemed to take a long time to come out and filter down to a Squadron.

With Army Close Support it was different, and on one of my last strikes from K, a pat on the back came my way. The target was "2 Stockade" - wherever that was - (it's in my log, but I don't know if it was a "Goodie" or a "Baddy"), The Army problem was that the Jap was able to supply and reinforce the particular place that was giving us trouble over a single road. If the road were destroyed, it would make life much harder for him. A sortie went out; the Army reported that all the bombs were close, but the last man down had put three of his four into the road, with the desired result. I'd been in my (usual) 6 position, so it had to be me. (Pure luck, of course).

Just as we had nicely settled ourselves in K for the dry season of '43/'44, all the RAF VV Sqdns. were raided to supply experienced air and ground crews to build up the two new IAF VV units (7 and 8 Sqdns) which had recently been re-equipped with the type. I think 110's share was three or four crews; we were one of them. It wasn't very flattering - if you were a squadron commander, would you send your best people? (I've already mentioned that the gullible nav who'd got the Flight lost on its way to war the previous May was among us).

I believe it was a political thing. Independence was in the air, and I think we wanted to hand over a "going concern", with all three Services up and running, to our successors. At that time Partition was hardly considered as an option, we hoped and planned for a united India which would replace the Raj. Sadly it was not to be, and millions would die in the communal riots which accompanied that failure.

But before we left K, the place was bombed by the Japs - for the first and only time (AFAIK). And that will, I hope, make for an interesting Post indeed.

Time for bed, now.

All in the day's work.

will happen....Postscript: Attempted to Post this last night (after pasting across from Wordpad): laptop went ape - chaos ! - during struggle half the entire thread self-selected itself on to Post (1806 hrs 21 Jun), took me half hour to delete and restore status quo. Sorry, Danny. Will try again now - God knows what D.

Last edited by Danny42C; 13th Aug 2012 at 16:01. Reason: Adjust Type Size.
Old 23rd Jun 2012, 22:17
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I came across this thread purely by accident when googling other RAF matters and notice that most of the training posts are made by pilots who usually started training around 1941/42.I volunteered for aircrew in January of 1943 and was subsequently called in front of the selection board about four months later.
This board consisted of a WW1 Group Captain whose main interest was in knowing whether " you played rugger old boy" but having been to an elementary school, I couldn't satisfy him on that score, and if memory serves me, a Squadron Leader who did not have much to say. Anyhow I was accepted as PNB and then had to undertake the infamous aircrew medical including the mercury blowing and holding your breath for what seemed an interminable time.
Having survived these hazards I was then sworn in, given the RAFVR lapel badge and placed on deferred service. Thus began the tortuous route to gaining a flying brevet.
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Old 24th Jun 2012, 10:08
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Thus began the tortuous route to gaining a flying brevet.

..... and, we hope, the not so tortuous route to telling us all about it since you are precisely the kind of contributor Danny has lately been calling for.

A warm welcome awaits you .....

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Old 24th Jun 2012, 10:29
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Hello Taphappy (may we have a name to address you by?),

I've said it before on this thread, it's the individual stories like your own that are so important. They all go together to giving those of us who were not there some idea of 'what it was like' to gain an RAF brevet in WWII, and to ensure that future generations have a (superb, interactive and beautifully written) record of the sorts of things you got up to. Sincerely hoping you will add your memories to what has become one of, if not the best thread on PPRuNe.
Best wishes,

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Old 24th Jun 2012, 13:29
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Welcome aboard.

I am in the process of doing a detailed study about the training side of things at ACRC / ITW / Trade Schools etc so I would love to hear your stories about where you were, the training you undertook, day to day life, uniform, drills etc etc.

I hope you feel able to contribute
Petet is offline  
Old 24th Jun 2012, 17:04
  #2697 (permalink)  
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Welcome, Taphappy !


You're as welcome as the flowers in Spring! Come on into our virtual crewroom, coffee's on the brew - help yourself (3d in the jar, please!).

Seriously you're what we've been waiting for since Reg and Cliff died recently (requiescant in pace). "Now You shall stand / At my right hand / And keep the Bridge with Me". (We still need another chap for the other side, but two
will do very well for the time being).

I suggest we Post alternately from now on, each time waiting a day or so for the fall-out before the other chips in. Suggest? You're two years junior to me ! It's an order ! Your turn first, now!

For the benefit of our younger members, perhaps I should explain that ale once came in wooden barrels (not metal casks); the cellarman "tapped and spiled" the barrel, ie stood it on end, removed the "bung" and put in the "tap" (the "spile" was a small tapered wedge driven into a hole drilled in the barrel so that when the barrel was "put up" on its side, the tap would be "at six o'clock" to draw the beer, the "spile" at "twelve", midway on top. It was loosened to admit air, removed to funnel in ale slops (what the eye doesn't see.........) or to dip to see what was left. Barrel empty; hammer in spile, saw off flush with barrel; take out tap, put back bung; back on dray lorry. (sorry, Mr Moderator)

Now we can interpret "Taphappy" (I'm sure it's not true).

I'm bursting with questions, but will just ask: did you get away with your lapel badge? How long did you stay on deferred service?

In keen anticipation,

Old 27th Jun 2012, 12:00
  #2698 (permalink)  
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Just to bump this back to the front page; I've been missing my daily fix of fascinating reminiscence. I understand Danny is waiting on Taphappy... but please don't let this thread drift down the black hole of the forgotten. These sort of memoirs represent the only access to "how it was"... and your audience are all on tenterhooks!!

Let me endorse Danny's invitation to anyone with wartime experiences to get to the keyboard and keep up the momentum on this thread....possibly the greatest ever on Pprune.
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Old 27th Jun 2012, 12:19
  #2699 (permalink)  
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I'm looking forwards to reading future instalments from Taphappy & Danny
ricardian is offline  
Old 27th Jun 2012, 12:23
  #2700 (permalink)  
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Danny gets Bombed - the biter bit!

(Sorry to muscle in, Taphappy, but the customers are getting restive)

In November '43, shortly before Stew and I were posted away from K to 8 Sqdn, the Jap decided that our people there had become too much of a thorn in his side, and he decided to do something about it. Shooting sitting birds may be a bit unsporting, but it is by far the most effective way to deal with our sort of bird. He put in a high-level air raid on the place; this was unusual for him; his normal tactic was to use the Oscar in low level hit-and-run raids. These were mainly ineffective, as our aircraft were usually well dispersed among the trees, or (exceptionally, as in "A" Flight's case now), in the luxury of three sided protective "pens".

It was a glorious day. North India in the cool, dry season must have one of the best climates in the world. We had six aircraft bombed-up ready for an army-support strike later that morning. We had had the briefing, delivered by an Army liaison officer. This would amount to little more than telliing us the name and position of the the place we were going to thump. If the target was difficult to identify, it would be marked by a mortar smoke bomb when we arrived on the scene. Other than that, the sortie would be so much like all the ones we had flown before that we could almost fly it in our sleep.

We had enjoyed our preflight glass of "char", and were making final preparations, when a signal came down from 168 (?) Wing: "Japanese bombers in the area. Scramble all aircraft not bombed-up". We could sense their dilemma. There was no certainty that an attack was coming our way. If we put the bombed-up six into the air, and kept them hanging about until the danger had passed, they would have to be refuelled and turned round after landing; this would then make them late for the (timed) attack by the Army, which might have to be abandoned. On the other hand, if the attack were on us, and we were all on the ground, we could lose the lot.

There then followed a mad scramble to get all the other flyable aircraft into the air. S/Ldr Traill, (45 Sqdn) started one of his, knowing that it had no wheelbrakes, but hoping to steer with rudder and prop blast down to the runway. You move a Tiger Moth about like that, and might manage it in a Spitfire. But not in our lump! He got out of his pen, across the taxiway and straight into a tree. Fast growing tropical vegetation is relatively soft; no damage was done - except to the tree - and to his self-esteem!. (en passant: he would be killed with his crewman in a flying accident the following year). The scrambled aircraft got off, took up a grandstand position a couple of miles away, and settled down to watch the fun. My aircraft and I waited on the ground with the rest of the box, one unflyable one and the one stuck up a tree.

All was quiet for a time, then we heard the drone of approaching engines. They came in from the East, nine "Bettys" (a twin engined thing about as big as a Wellington - or "Sallys"? - very similar) at around 10,000 ft. Their formation was immaculate, three vics of three. Our nice new white concrete tracks must have caught the eye of the lead bomb-aimer. There was nothing to distract him, we had no AA and the nearest Hurricane was 200 miles away in the Arakan.

Now was the time for all good men to make themselves scarce. Some slit trenches had been dug round the dispersals, but we aircrew decamped to a small ravine nearby, snuggled into the sides and waited. The bombs came down with a rush like a flock of starlings and burst like firecrackers at Chinese New Year. Some came into our ravine, but nobody got a scratch. The Japs wheeled away to the south, and we climbed back to survey the damage.

Two of our airmen had been killed instantly. It seemed that they had decided, at the very last moment, to "find a better 'ole", mistimed it, and were caught in the open when the bombs fell. I still remember the sharp ferrous smell of fresh blood mixed with the hanging smoke. One was a sad sight indeed. He must have flung himself down at the very last moment before a bomb landed on the concrete right behind him. The shrapnel sprayed round at ground level; one piece had opened up his back along the spine from bottom to top as cleanly as with a tin-opener. Blast had torn off shirt and flesh, the result looked for all the world like a side of meat you (used to) see hanging up in a butcher's.

I looked at this pitiful mess, stunned, for a few moments before someone came up with engine covers to shelter him and the other man lying nearby, not visibly injured but just as dead. I'm afraid I don't recall their names (but they'll be in the 110 Sqdn. ORB). Apart from these two, I don't think anyone else suffered any injury; as they had all been down in one or other of the slit trenches.

That's all for now,


Very well!

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