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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 17th Aug 2012, 01:31
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Careers and Vampires

DANNY 42C--Yes Danny I could follow all your saga--I would never had made it- Sports---could never understand ,when at school ,the fun involved in running around in winter in short trousers and shirt wrestling in mud in rotten weather===then in summer you wore long white trousers,a shirt and pullover--so except for squash I was cured of "sports" early in life.
A friend here was a Boulton and Paul apprentice and became an RAF pilot in the 60,s--went on to Shackletons and as an F/O was told he would make a good JUNIOR officer!--so he bailed out but got no joy looking in the UK civil field. It was at the time of Vietnam and US airlines werent getting the usual flow of ex US service pilots, American Airlines recruited him in London along with several other ex RAF pilots--including some with only singles experience. Retired at 60 as a Captain on 767,s Which reminds me
26ER----Didnt BA or BOAC pilots retire at 55?--I assume that, as here , it is now 65
Union Jack The ex RAF friend I referred to lives in Alicante. Several years ago he was going to write a book about his experiences-- the stories made wonderful e mails!---but he never did go ahead with the book and is now not in the best of health. He had ended up on 737,s with Air Algerie but earlier he was "trooping"with Hermes to Africa and the FE
BTW I note several comments on the lethal F104----around 1965 I visited HFB in Hamburg where they were developing the Hansa twin jet---forward swept wings. They had engaged an American as test pilot. Swede????. Earlier he had been a test pilot for GE ---the 104 had a GE engine--he had dead sticked a 104 at Edwards AFB. After I met him he went on with the Hansa to Madrid for hot weather trials--got into a deep stall,bailed out but was caught by the tail and was killed.
Too many of my stories seem to end in tragedy---apologies
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Old 17th Aug 2012, 18:26
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Flying was done at Scone near Perth in Ansons piloted by civilian pilots employed by Airwork who ran the Reserve Flying Centre.

Taphappy and anyone else with an interest in Ansons should be sure to have a look at the link in Post 79 in http://www.pprune.org/military-aircr...ge-55-a-4.html and the following few posts. With grateful thanks to Samuel

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Old 18th Aug 2012, 08:27
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Mention was made of S/L Gus Walker earlier (starting page 142, post 2832).

Here's a little bit more about him, starting at the end of the first paragraph:


Last edited by Hipper; 18th Aug 2012 at 08:29.
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Old 18th Aug 2012, 17:30
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Danny in Calcutta (Part I).


("City of Dreadful Night " - Kipling).

For servicemen stationed in Calcutta and all points East, Calcutta (now "Kolkata") was the destination of choice for leave, just as Cairo was in N. Africa. Indeed it was the only choice, even if you were going further afield, you usually had to go through "Cal" in the first place. I must say the new name makes no sense to me. I believe the name derives from "Kali", the Hindu goddess of death, and "Ghat" a landing place on a river, specifically where cremations take place. It is quite easy to see how that might sound like "Calcutta" to the first Europeans who asked. There is a story that an early explorer in Australia, seeing a large hopping animal, asked an Aboringine (by signs) its name. "I don't know", came the reply - "Kangaroo" !

Why change "Calcutta" to "Kolkata"? They sound very much the same as "Bombay" and "Mumbai", and "Peking" and "Beijing". And how have Delhi and Bangalore avoided a change (so far) ? And why has Madras changed to "Chennai" - which sounds nothing like it ? It's a mystery to me.

You arrived in "Cal" by air at Dum-Dum, or by train at Howrah station. Dum-Dum was out to the East of the city. There was a very large munitions factory there; the place has given its name to the flat-nosed bullets which were first manufactured there, and which have a much increased stopping power.

On arrival, if you were not entitled to, or could not scrounge a lift, on some service transport, you climbed aboard a taxi, always an old open American tourer: "Grand Hotel", you said, "Chowringhee" - to let the (invariably) Sikh driver know that you were familiar with the city and couldn't be taken on an expensive ride round town.

During the war, the Grand was the leave base for all aircrew. It is still there, now the Oberoi Grand, with five stars and prices to match. Then they let in service officers and NCO aircrew, but no other BORs. You shared, two to a room (no choice of your room mate). Full board was ten rupees a day (about £ 30 in today's money); this you could easily afford - about a day's pay for a sergeant-pilot, much less for an officer.

We gorged ourselves, I remember there were about ten courses on the menu at lunch and dinner, and nobody batted an eyelid if you worked your way through from top to bottom. This you could easily do if you'd been living in the field on service rations for a few months.

One of my chance room mates told an interesting story. He was a young American who'd joined the Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet at much the same time as I. "Washed out" half way through Primary School for some flying misdemeanour, he'd left the Air Corps (which he was perfectly entitled to do), and applied to the Chinese National Airways Corporation ( a distant ancestor of Cathay Pacific).

They used American crews, and had taken him on as a second pilot on their DC-3s with which they flew a regular service "over the Hump" into China from Calcutta to Kunming. Their business (very lucrative, I believe) was to ferry urgent supplies to the Nationalist leader, Chiang-kai-shek, who was fighting the Japanese invaders (without much success).

All my chap had to do was to keep the thing straight and level on course and look out for mountain tops. He was really no more than a human autopilot, even with thirty hours flying time he could do that. His captain would navigate and do all the take-offs and landings. For this simple task they were paying him Rs750 a month, three times what the RAF was paying me for bombing the Japs and being shot at into the bargain - and he'd failed that same Course I'd passed ! Not for the first - or last - time, I realised there's no justice in this world!

But I must admit that his pay was really danger money. It was a thousand mile haul, and the DC-3s had to get right up to their ceiling to get over the "Hump" (the Ta Liang Shan range - 18,000 ft.) There were losses; it was rumoured that some of these were the result of "off-manifest" (smuggled) cargoes, which earned the crews many times their pay, but overloaded the aircraft so that they just didn't manage to scrape over the tops in cloud.

Early on, I was given a useful insight into practical ethics. The '42 Bengal famine was at its height, basically because we'd lost Burma and all its rice exports, aggravated by the business acumen of the Bengali rice merchants, who were sitting on their stocks, waiting for higher prices. In consequence, when you strolled down Calcutta streets in the mornings, you skirted delicately round the previous night's starvation corpses awaiting collection by the trucks of the Calcutta Municipality (this was long before Mother Teresa's time).

My interlocutor was an Old India Hand. I was a tender-hearted youth in those days. "Why can't we do something for these poor devils ?" "Listen", said the OlH, "you have a hundred starving Indians". "You have a whip-round and collect enough cash to feed them for a twelvemonth". "Then you go back - do you find a hundred well-fed Indians ?" "You do not". "What do you find ?" "You find a hundred and fifty starving Indians".

This is a gross exaggeration, but it embodies a grim truth. Any zoologist will tell you that every animal population will (disease and predation apart) increase until it is limited by its food supply, and it is obvious that it must be so. What is not obvious is that this applies equally to human populations. It is not pretty to see this happening on our TV screens, and it evokes the generous outbursts of charitable effort with which we are all familiar. I do not say that these are pointless, but even if all the monies donated could immediately be turned into food on the spot (and this is often very far from the case) the same remorseless logic would apply in the end.

More about "Cal" next time,

All the best,


You never can tell.

Last edited by Danny42C; 19th Aug 2012 at 00:27. Reason: Correct Error
Old 18th Aug 2012, 21:58
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From the Independant newspaper talking about Churchill
“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” This hatred killed. To give just one, major, example, in 1943 a famine broke out in Bengal, caused – as the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has proved – by the imperial policies of the British. Up to 3 million people starved to death while British officials begged Churchill to direct food supplies to the region. He bluntly refused. He raged that it was their own fault for “breeding like rabbits”.
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Old 18th Aug 2012, 23:29
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Danny, there is one thing worse than stepping around the sleeping bodies for whom the streets of Calcutta were their homes and that is to step around their lifeless corpses. The suffering that was, and still is, a daily fact of life for many of India's citizens is both terrible and seemingly insurmountable.
The Hump will be a familiar term for those who have read Ernest K Gann's Fate is the Hunter. they will recall that he flew Liberator freighters on it, based in Nagpur.
Overloading in his case led to barely missing the Taj Mahal and the many Indian workers cleaning and restoring it on scaffolding erected for the purpose. The monument lay close to and in line with the Take-Off runway, though in this case it was more of a stagger-off.
The cause might ring a few bells with many who read this. The night shift fuelled and loaded the aircraft, the morning shift then did the same...

Last edited by Chugalug2; 18th Aug 2012 at 23:31.
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Old 19th Aug 2012, 14:46
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Yes, it is still the case that a large part of the world's people live in conditions that are almost beyond our comprehension.

Your chap wouldn't have been going over the Hump when he nearly missed the Taj after take off. It's at Agra, a long way West. Probably he'd loaded up there and would go on to Dum-Dum (or even further East - Gauhati ?) to top up with fuel before taking to the hills.

I believe the Taj was under "scaffolding" (bamboo poles lashed together with string) for most of the war; it wasn't the beauty spot it is now. Never saw it myself - would like to have done so.

Old 19th Aug 2012, 15:12
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Danny, of course Agra as you say! Obviously time I dug out my copy of Fate is the Hunter and read it again, and to brush up on my geography! Anyone (especially those who have flown multi engine transports around the world) who has a love of flying and who hasn't read this book should. Other than to say it is set mainly in the 1930/40's, initially in the NE of the USA, then into the global setting of WW2, and finally into the post war US civil aviation world, it is best left to its readers to judge. In many ways the settings are immaterial, for it is the way that Gann can describe a cloud scape, an approach in poor weather, a rapidly deteriorating technical situation, that really rings the bells.
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Old 19th Aug 2012, 16:03
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Angel Ansons

Union Jack.
Thanks for info, nice to see old Annie flying again'
The last time I visited the Museum of Flight at East Fortune they were rebuilding an Anson 19, still had a lot of work to do as it was more or less just a shell.
When I was a part time wallah with the VR at Perth there were a couple of Anson 19s on the strength, in these the W/ops position wa s up front next to the pilot rather than the rear of the fuselage.
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Old 19th Aug 2012, 23:08
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Bengal Famine of 1943.

West of London,

I have never sought to set myself up as an authority on anything on this Thread, and this subject is no exception. I merely saw the consequences at first hand. However some general points can be made. All authority in India resided in the Viceroy, but Provincial Governments had been elected in the thirties, these were in most cases Congress led. These enjoyed a fair degree of autonomy, and cannot be absolved of their share in the disaster.

It is true that HMG (in the person of Churchill) could direct the Viceroy in matters of local policy, but he had many other problems on his plate (there was the direction of the War to attend to). The suggestions that the famine deaths were in some way due to "his personal hatred of Indians", or the result of imperial policy, are to my mind ridiculous. What advantage would lie in that ?

I quote from the Independent writer: "a famine.....caused, as the Nobel Prize -winning economist Amartya Sen has proved - by the imperial policies of the British......." Wiki has an extensive article on the "Bengal Famine of 1943" , and an even more extensive "Talk" section on the subject, which are both well worth reading, although you may well despairingly conclude: "Tot homines, quot sententiae".

My Old India Hand merely stated the facts of the matter as he saw it, in the same way as Malthus had theorised a century or so earlier. (I now think we are so far off Thread, that we had better leave it before the Moderator wields the axe).

Old 20th Aug 2012, 15:31
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"In the Royal Navy you have to be one to get one!"
During the Suez Campaign of 1957 (1956?) the RN was very strict on petrol consumption. At RNAS Culdrose one could revel in the vision of the Captain and his acolytes cycle in formation round the airfield during "Captain's Rounds". I believe there was a modified protocol for the saluting of bicycle-borne senior officers: Pedestrian matelots and lesser lights must en passant salute the bicycle-borne, but the bicycle-borne was excused returning the salute. I do think, though, that the b-b had to give an "eyes left" or "eyes right" as appropriate.

All this talk of "PC"! I rose to the height of squadron bicycles officer. At one time the squadron moved and bicycles had to be returned to stores. I issued the order for them all to be returned to my bicycles shed, and so it befell. In the gloom at the back was the remnant of a once-proud bicycle, no wheels, I think. Anyway I had it loaded with the rest and sent off to the stores on a truck ("barge"?). Minutes passed and the telephone rang for S/Lt, as he then was, Davaar.

'Twas Commander (S): "What in H*ll is this?". Briefly put, the RN can LOSE a bicycle ("I've still got to render my A-25"), but, a propos my wreck, it cannot "WIN" or "ENGENDER" a bicycle. "Explain!"

Aha! I held various stores in excess, which I traded with others of my modest rank, and some I kept. No more accounting for excess. Yet another lesson in Naval life.

I also remember at that time looking out the crew-room window (or should that be "scuttle") at a sight passing strange. A running figure appeared far away on the peri-track carrying what appeared to be a wand of some sort, making his way towards our little home-from-home. He eventually arrived with bosom a-heave for breath, and it turned out that he came from some Officer On High, bearing a message for our CO ---- in the cleft or cleave of the cleft or cloven stick that he delivered. Saving power, you see, and someone indulging his boyhood memories of Sanders of the River.

Last edited by Davaar; 20th Aug 2012 at 15:42.
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Old 20th Aug 2012, 16:30
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Danny in Calcutta (Part II).

I have only shadowy recollections of the Grand. The frontage looked out over Chowringhee Road, and across the Maidan to the Hoogly river. Outside the hotel entrance there always seemed to be a sacred cow reclining on the pavement, and of course no one could even think of shifting it - that would cause a riot. But the Hindu concern for these beasts did not extend to actually feeding them. They might garland them with marigolds, but it was quite in order to let them starve. It called to mind the old doggerel:

"Thou shalt not kill, but needst not strive,
Officiously, to keep alive".

Circumnavigating this cow, and ignoring the everpresent beggars ("Sahib, Sahib, backsheesh, Sahib"), you entered the long entrance hall of the hotel. In it was a shop-in-shop, "Bright & McIvor's", British military tailors. There was only one other of these in Calcutta (to my knowledge): "Ranken's" in Old Court House Street. You would only go into these establishments to buy home pattern (and UK prices) blue (or khaki) uniforms, greatcoats or caps.

For khaki drill slacks and shorts, and cellular bush jackets and shirts, you'd go round to the "Hog Bazaar" behind the Grand, and get what you wanted for a few "chips" (rupees) from one of the many "dherzis". (It would be from one of these that our naive Navigator bought his unofficial gold-lace double wings and the oversize rank braid - story in an earlier Post).

Old Court House Street, besides Ranken's, housed the Great Eastern Hotel, quieter and more exclusive and expensive than the Grand. This was the haunt of the more senior officers, and I doubt whether a Sgt-pilot would be allowed to darken its doors - not that anyone ever tried, IIRC. Over the road was "Firpo's", coffee shop plus ice cream parlour par excellance. They did an ice-cream sundae with chocolate sauce which haunted our dreams in the heat and dust of Burma. Doing good business was "Bourne & Hollingsworth", photographers, where every newly commissioned officer posed for the photo to send home. Nearby was a grimmer memorial, the site of the Black Hole of Calcutta.

Not far away was a curiosity in the town centre - another airfield ! "Red Road" was no more than its name suggests, a long straight stretch of a park road that had been closed off for use as an airstrip. It was cambered, it wasn't very wide, and the approaches were over the city buildings (much like Templehof in Berlin). Operating from it must have been a dicey affair for anything bigger than small communications aircraft. I know Hurricane pilots used it, for my shipboard friend on the way out, Ronnie Bray, was a ferry pilot on Hurricanes: he told me that it was a difficult place to get into, and I can well believe it.

The question was: why have it there at all ? There were two perfectly good airfields (Alipore and Dum-Dum) serving Calcutta already, and others not far away from which a defence (such as it was) of the city could have been mounted. I think it was really intended to bring in the top brass, for it was only a short stroll to reach the Great Eastern from their staff Ansons and Proctors at Red Road.

To get round town you used rickshaws. It is well known that a horse can pull seven times as much as it can carry, and the same goes for a man. Although the man-powered rickshaw is terribly Politically Incorrect these days, it provided an income for the rickshaw-wallah that at least kept him and his family from destitution. He would take you a mile for a few annas (and that was several times more than a Bengali gentleman would pay), and most of the time we kept within that radius of the Grand.

You could not carry much kit, or two of you, or go very far in a rickshaw. The next step up the transport ladder would be a "tonga". An emaciated pony pulled a two-wheeled trap, with the driver (no fatter than his pony) perched in front of the axle, and the two passengers facing the rear behind. You had to be careful to balance the load, or the back would go down and the unfortunate pony be lifted off the ground in its shafts. His nosebag always seemed to be stuffed with green fodder, which naturally came out the other end the same bright colour.

The final stage would be the taxis already discussed, but they were only needed for trips out to the airport, or Howrah station, or to places like the Botanic Gardens. However, they were an essential part of the answer developed for a particular problem. Provisioning front-line Messes with bar stocks and items extra to basic rations was always a hit-and-miss business with the constant moving about, and various strategems were devised.

One of the more successful of these was put in place by the RAF Vengeance squadrons, and it worked like this. A crew would be given a week's leave from the Squadron to Calcutta; they would be entrusted by the Messes with a shopping list and the cash to cover it (and not forgetting the Carew's empty jars). They would take an aircraft and land at Dum-Dum at a pre-arranged time and day (normally Saturday).

There they would be met by the previous week's leave crew, who would be holding a taxi well laden with their filled orders. They would stow this stuff in the aircraft and fly it back. The new crew took the taxi back to Calcutta, and made it their first job to put in the order for their supplies, to be collected first thing the next Saturday morning. They would pick up the stuff from the suppliers, load it into a taxi and drive out to the airfield at the appointed time. And so on, and so on.

It worked like a charm. Flying meant two day's extra leave for the crews; the Squadron only lost the use of the aircraft for the duration of the one round trip. As it was in everybody's interest to keep the arrangement going, and anyone who upset it would not be popular, there was rarely a hitch. Of course, the first # Crew had to find their own way to Calcutta, getting a ride on one of the shuttles if they were lucky, or spending 36 hours on train/boat if not, but after that it worked fine.

Enough to be going on with - there's plenty more to come,


Take cover!
Old 20th Aug 2012, 17:43
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Danny, I had no intention of implying that you had set yourself up as an expert and if in posting Churchill’s reported comments I did this then I apologise unreservedly. They seemed, to me, relevant and in support of your post.
I found the quotes whilst researching the background of my father’s service with the RAF (82 then 113 Squadrons) in India and Burma between March 1942 and November 1944.
Sorry, I do not read Wiki when it comes to matters of opinion or politics.
I have very much enjoyed reading your posts and those of others, they have greatly increased my knowledge and understanding and I thank you. David
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Old 20th Aug 2012, 17:47
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Sanders of the River (and the A-25 Song)


Greetings! Yes, the RAF reluctantly let us ride round on bikes in uniform, but drew the line on open umbrellas - whether on or off bikes. ("Bringing the King's uniform into contempt and ridicule !")

Ah, the A-25......"Cracking show - I'm alive ! - but I still have to render my A-25 !" (If puzzled, think F.765C of evil memory). Do you know many/any of the verses of that wonderful ballad? From memory to start you off:

(To the tune of: "Toodle-ayoodle-ayoodle-ayaye !)

"They gave me a Seafire to beat up the Fleet,
I polished off "Rodney" and "Nelson" a treat,
Forgot about the mast sticking up on "Formid",
And a seat in the "Goofers" was worth twenty quid!
Cracking show............"


"Went off from "Ark Royal" in a Seafire one day,
Came in to land with the hook stowed away,
Came over the flight deck, the batsman gave "CUT",
And we float,float,float,float,float,float,
Float,float,float, PRANG!
Cracking show............."

(I'm sure Union Jack could add a verse or two!)

At Leeming, we had progressed beyond a cleft stick. Our chap had a bike and a satchel: we called him "Wells Fargo".


EDIT: "Sanders of the River" was one of my favourite reads as a boy ("Speak the language of the land, Bosambo !"). My father served in the Army as an instructor in the Nigeria Regiment ca 1900 - 1905. He said that Edgar Wallace had the W. African detail about right.........D.

Last edited by Danny42C; 21st Aug 2012 at 18:36. Reason: More Additonal Material.
Old 20th Aug 2012, 21:42
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I attended a meeting of Probus today and was having a conversation with one of my fellow members who flew Hurricanes in your part of the world. He had an engine failure and had to force land in the Burma jungle - broke his back but survived. However, I am getting off the point. When I told him I was reading this thread and currently it was largely about the Vultee Vengeance he said that he once got a lift in one to Calcutta and that they got a total of twelve of his colleagues in the back. I was a bit sceptical and asked how the heck you could get twelve blokes in a cockpit meant for one WOP/AG. He said the Vengeance had a large fuselage! Is this his memory playing tricks or would it have been possible?


Last edited by ACW418; 20th Aug 2012 at 21:43.
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Old 20th Aug 2012, 23:01
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Bengal Famine 1943.


Absolutely no need for any apology, I assure you! It's true that Churchill said many things unwisely, and he may quite possibly have said the words attributed to him by the "Independent" writer (he was, after all, viscerally opposed to the break-up of the Empire).

But to extrapolate from that (as the quotation from the article appears to do), that the British Government engineered the Famine (or hindered relief efforts) is IMHO simply untrue. In saying that, I have to stress that I have no specialist knowledge of these horrifying events, I was only a simple witness of them.

It was (and is) my intention to make this clear, and to stress that I must not be quoted as an authority on the subject - no more than that. For controversy still rages round it (cf the "Wiki" entries). My own opinion ? There was a very large element of cock-up involved, whatever the other causes (and they were many and complicated) might be.

Hope that clears it up (no offence taken!) Hope to hear from you again - this is exactly what this Thread needs to keep going,


Old 20th Aug 2012, 23:31
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How many in a Vengeance ?


I think the greatest number I've seen in the back was five, but then we would have had the guns, the gun mountings and ammo cans still in position. If all these were stripped out (as they might be post VJ day), then ye-es, you might do twelve.

I don't like the reference to "fuselage". With the guns etc. out, there would be a lot of space below and behind the "step" which carried the gunner's seat; it would be very cramped and uncomfortable (and you couldn't see out). More seriously, the control runs ran along the bottom (I think), and you don't want a chap parked on them ! C. of. G. would be off the scale !

I have lived too long to say that anything's impossible, but......,

Old 22nd Aug 2012, 17:47
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Danny in Calcutta (Part III - and last!)

What did we do with our time ? Well, what we did not do was to embark on an orgy of vice (forget the Fry's Turkish Delight ads, it wasn't like that at all). If you wanted that sort of thing, you could find it, but in my experience very few people did. By day, there was the Calcutta Swimming Club pool, and an air-conditioned cinema (the very first that most people had ever seen) a few doors down from the Grand in Chowringhee. The Victoria Memorial and the Botanic Gardens were a taxi ride away, but well worth seeing.

And then there were the Bazaars, where you could stock up with almost anything you wanted - except razor blades! And there was always "Firpo's". By night we varied the Grand cuisine at Chinese restaurants; it was reckoned that your chances of food poisoning there were much less than in an Indian. In any case, after spending a few months out there, most people developed brass stomachs and could eat most things without fear of consequence.

A regular port of call was the Base Accountant, from whom you drew cash. His office was in (and I am not making this up) Sir Hamish Mukerjee Street. I know the Scots were very strong in Calcutta's history (notably in the jute trade), but how a Bengali (even one who had served the Raj so well as to earn a knighthood) came to have a Scottish Christian name is beyond me.

Calcutta got bombed one night in early '43. The "Calcutta Statesman" (like the "Daily Telegraph") headlined: "Calcutta takes its place among the much-bombed cities of the British Empire". It was a gross exaggeration. Jap bombers had dropped a handful of small anti-personnel bombs. They knocked a few chips out of the masonry and killed a few sleepers on the pavements, but did little damage. But the effect on the populace was enormous. Bengalis are not a martial race. Panic took hold.

It was estimated that a million and a half fled the city in the next 24 hours, on foot or on anything that moved. The hotels were denuded of staff, the guests at the Grand had to fend for themselves for days until the terror-stricken mob dribbled back. When you consider the effect that the Japs had achieved, with so little effort, in a city crammed with important military units, you would naturally expect them to keep up the good work, and try again.

So they did a few weeks later, but that night we had a remarkable bit of luck. Another flight of three Jap bombers was making for the city. So contemptuous were they of our defences (and with good reason) that they flew in formation with their navigation lights on. Foolhardiness on this scale should be rewarded, and it was.

A Flight Sergeant Pring was on patrol with his Beaufighter. He saw these lights and, curious to know who these idiots might be, went over to have a look. Identifying them, with some surpise, as Japanese, he tagged on behind, closed up stealthily into point-blank range, and opened up with his four cannon. The birds of a feather stuck together (as we were enjoined to do), so he was able to bag all three in one go. He got a well earned DFM, became the toast of Calcutta, (and was KIA some time later); the raids ended.

Google some time ago led me to some old Calcutta memoirs, and a slightly different story of the interception was offered. In this Pring was vectored onto his prey by ground radar in the same way as Fighter Command had been in 1940. This would need the same equipment, in particular an array of "Chain Home" 360 ft (?) radar masts.

As all the country around was flat as a pancake, these really ought to have been noticable, and it would have been nice to have been told about them (did we have NOTAMS then ?) But I never heard a whisper of, or ever see any such things. And the story I have recently told about the simple radar hut in Arakan suggests that we were a long way from such sophistication out there.

Later in the war, a welcome alternative to the Grand appeared in the shape of the Elgin Nursing Home. This was (as you might suppose) in Elgin Road, off Chowringhee, half a mile north of the Grand. During the war, it had become virtually an aircrew hostel. They charged the same as the Grand, but it was much quieter.

Calcutta was the source of "Carew's" Gin, the staple of bar stocks in every Mess in India. Before the war, there had been plenty of British duty-free spirits out there, but shortage of shipping space had cut these supplies off (and also things like India Pale Ale, specially brewed to stand up to the journey out there).

Very limited quantities of Scotch came out as "Welfare" items: these were eagerly competed for and hoarded. "Carew's" was a quite acceptable substitue for English gin, and there was a "Rosa" rum which was tolerable with plenty of fruit squash. After all, in a country where sugar cane is grown, it is as cheap and easy to make good rum as bad.

Vodka was unknown then; the locally produced "brandy" and "whiskey" were bought, but only as a substitute for the meths (which they closely resembled) which you needed to fire-up the incandescent mantles in the pressure paraffin lamps which were widely used. "Carew's", in its four- gallon blue jars, has been mentioned several times already. At home, during the war, I think that a tot of whiskey or gin sold for 4d, which would give the pub a mark-up of 50%.

Nobody quibbled about paying the exact equivalent (4 annas) out there, but the mark up now was nearly 200%, so the Messes could not help but make money hand over fist. (What happened to it all at the end, when they were being closed by the dozen ?). Don't know, but I harbour dark suspicions. I only hope HMG didn't get its hands on it.!

At last, back to our long farewell to the Arakan next time,

Cheers to all,


All's grist that comes to the mill.
Old 24th Aug 2012, 06:24
  #2979 (permalink)  
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WW 11

gosh...we r all guessing about WWIII (WW3) and here already WW eleven is in th past....
Old 24th Aug 2012, 08:32
  #2980 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2006
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Davaar, you are quite correct. I remember my father (Cdr Exec RNAS Eglinton) being being saluted by a CPO on a bike sitting ramrod straight and a sharp eyes right. Perfectly correct even if it did look a bit odd!
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