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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 24th Aug 2012, 15:04
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Great stuff, Danny, please keep it coming. My father was stationed at Dum Dum in '46, presumably whence he went to the cinema you mentioned.

More on Flt Sgt Pring here - brief description with the sale of his medals.

Dix Noonan Webb: Medals: Auction Archive: Search Catalogue Archive: Lot 568, 30 Jun 98

And here is an entire article on him.


which includes the immortal line (just like Danny's on the VV) "And in view of the demonstrated ineffectiveness of the AI Mark 6 Hurricanes in the
U.K. , it was decided to send the 12 Hurricane II C (NF)s to India!(8)
Imperial habits die hard."
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Old 24th Aug 2012, 20:42
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Green Guard, it's taken you until 2,966 posts before you but in with your enlightening comment. Add something useful or move on, please...

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Old 25th Aug 2012, 05:21
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Danny and the Long March back from the Arakan.

Now that the brief day of the Vengeance was over, the idea seemed to be that they should be put "out of sight, out of mind" -as far away as possible on the subcontinent. The spot chosen was Samungli, a small airfield a few miles to the West of Quetta (in Baluchistan), and just about touching the SE Afghan border. My memory of those days is extremely hazy.

However, the distance involved was just short of 2,000 miles. How the air movenent was planned, I do not know, but would guess at two 300-350 mile stages per day with two overnight stops en route. It seems (from S/Ldr Thomas) that one British crew crashed on arrival and were killed, but I have no details, as I travelled on the main (rail) party (and there must have been an advance rail party to welcome the air party to their new home).

Why didn't I fly? - Don't know (could it be that there were not enough aircraft to go round, and as I'd pranged mine it would serve me right). I thought that we entrained at Chittagong, but S/Ldr Thomas says Dohazari, so I'll take that as read. For the next sixteen days my little world was our group of four in a train compartment. All RAF, we were the M.O. (very nice chap, name forgotten), F/O 'Pete' Ganthony (Signals), * the Engineer Officer (F/Lt Steele) and myself.

(Note *: After Samungli, I saw S/Ldr Ganthony just once more, close to death from a brain tumour in Halton hospital in 1959).

So where was Stew? We certainly didn't leave him behind, he was with me at Samungli, he must have basely deserted me and cadged a ride as supercargo on another aircraft.. Of course ! Stew was still a Warrant Officer; he couldn't have been with us (yes, it still mattered in those days). As an SNCO on the train, he would have been much less comfortable than the "Orficers", he must have squeezed himself into the back of a VV as the better option.

F/Lt Steele must have taken over the dog "Scruff" later at Samungli, and the dog must have given his bird-catching tour-de-force there (#2922 p.147), for he certainly wouldn't have been left behind, and he wasn't with us. This often happened, the original owner had to go home tour-ex, he couldn't take his dog on the troopship, the dog would have been the pet of the whole section/flight, so he was among friends, he would soon settle down with a new master he knew well already.

We started in some style. The East Bengal Railway had dusted off the Official Saloon of the Chief Operating Superintendent(ca 1880) for the Sahibs' use (have you seen Queen Victoria's Royal Coach in the York Railway Museum?). But we travelled in mahogany, crystal, chintz and polished brass only as far as the eastern ferry terminal somewhere in the Sunderbands. Then stern-wheel paddle boat again (might even have been the same one which had brought us from Khumbirgram six months before). Finally "bog-standard" first-class for the rest of the way.

And it was quite a way. The arithmetically minded reader will have worked out that we averaged 125 miles per day, and Puffing Billy could do better than that. The trouble was that the insertion of our (quite long) special troop train into the already crowded rail schedules was causing chaos. So for hours at a time they had to pull us off onto some siding or other to unscramble the blockage, before letting us back on the main line again. When we got into the northern and north-western areas, we were overrun with monkeys at some of these halts. We had to close all doors and just rely on fans and the louvred shutters to get a bit of air.

Food was never a problem on Indian railways, all ranks could always get something to eat at any station. S/Ldr (Corporal then) Thomas was under the impression that the IAF were left to fend for themselves, whereas the Sahibs were "fed on the train". Nobody was fed on the train; there was no such thing as a dining car on any Indian train I was ever on; the (far better) arrangement was that the train stopped at a station for half an hour or so while the passengers enjoyed a meal, then climbed back aboard.

Alcohol helped to relieve the tedium of the endless days, our M.O. reported that one ingenious solution found in the IAF coaches was meths and raisins shaken up in a bottle. We had prudently invested in a 4-gallon jar of "Carew's" gin (Rs 65, Rs 4 back on the jar) before we left. This is 24 bottles, six apiece for the sixteen days, so we should suffer little pain. The problem was the "chaser". For some reason, the supply of fruit cordials seemed to be concentrated over in the East. At first, we could buy bottles of squash at. shop price from the stations en route. Then they became scarcer, and we had to buy at "peg" price. Then they dried up altogether.

The resourceful M.O. sallied out into a local village with an IAF airman as interpreter, returning with a big bag of fresh limes. We had our mess tins, and the little burner, and plenty of sugar. Water was no problem. We cut the limes up and boiled them. The result was quite creditable: we could enjoy our "Collin's" again in the evenings; the cooled loco boiler water would be fairly sterile, even if the cooling had been done in a "chagal" * hung out of the moving train window.

(Note *: Canvas water-bag, water slowly seeps through, cools by evaporation).

At every long halt, a queue of men would form at the footplate steps with tin kettles, and anything that would serve as a kettle, to "milk" the loco and brew tea. The tap is at the bottom of the steps (might be worth knowing one day); the kindly (always Anglo-Indian) drivers didn't mind; the extra few gallons were neither here nor there at the next water stop. At about the fresh-lime stage, the train ran through the Sind desert and we clocked our best figure on the journey - 132 (F) late one afternoon (cf : "It ain't half hot, Mum !").

The last day on the train came to an end, that night we were to climb the Bolan Pass up to Quetta (I think we were double-headed now). The lime juice had been finished, fruit squash was unobtainable for love or money. Necessity is the mother, etc....... We looked around, there were still a couple of tins of "Carnation" milk.........it didn't taste at all bad, but I can't see it catching on commercially!

In the morning, we thought we'd died and gone to heaven (no, nothing to do with Carew's and tinned milk). Quetta is over 5,000 ft amsl; it is really a Hill Station; the temperature was hardly warmer than the English summers we used to know, and above all it was dry. There is no monsoon there. We were going to enjoy our stay.

All about Samungli next time,

Goodnight, all - (and a special "thanks" to Reader123 for the wonderful link about Pring and the Calcutta air raids; told me much I didn't know).


All in the day's work !
Old 26th Aug 2012, 09:05
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Move over Michael Portillo. Great Railway Journeys?
The spot chosen was Samungli, a small airfield a few miles to the West of Quetta (in Baluchistan), and just about touching the SE Afghan border.... the distance involved was just short of 2,000 miles... I thought that we entrained at Chittagong, but S/Ldr Thomas says Dohazari
Now that's a Great Railway Journey! One wonders though how strategically necessary it was to move these 'assets' such a great distance, at such great time and cost, not least of all in lives, as it tragically transpired. But perhaps I pre-empt your revealing that very explanation Danny, in which case I'll consider myself deservedly chastised.
The advantages of steam power are many and various, but supreme amongst those must be the ease of having a "brew up", of whatever nature. Yours, I suspect, removed all pain and ensured that the sixteen days passed for the most part in good cheer. Such a journey graphically illustrates the huge distances in what was still the Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire, but saving it from the Japanese ironically hastened its removal from the British as well. Funny old world...
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Old 26th Aug 2012, 16:28
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To Danny42C

Never lose touch with Pprune. Re-joining has driven me up the wall.
I stopped regular communications when I finished my flying training but certain other points caught my eye and I answered them, still fascinated by the whole theme.
Then the fate that struck Reg and Cliff hit me at the end of April and, when the Doctors said they could do nothing for me, Leucaemia, non-smoker, etc.
two or three months seems a very short time to get on with your affairs.
Just returned home from two weeks away in a "Home" to give my familly break.
Communications will end abruptly. Will send my home address privately to Danny.
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Old 26th Aug 2012, 17:27
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Please don't talk about apologies !

I know how the entire readership of "our" Thread will be as saddened as I am by your news. Quoting loosely from a past Post (about Bomber Command on 'ops'): "We'd all got tickets booked to the same destination, it was just that some chaps had taken an earlier train". We, the dwindling little band of wartime survivors, all hold those tickets now and we know it.

Please Post still, but only if and when you feel up to it.

I'll P.M. you at once with my address and phone number, and wait.

God bless you,

Old 26th Aug 2012, 17:55
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Fred, Danny has spoken for us all, authors (like you) and readers. I can but add my sadness at reading your message. How typical though of your courage to post it (and to have a moan about PPRuNe in doing so :-). Everyone will I am sure be thinking of you and praying for you. Again, as Danny said, God Bless You.
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Old 26th Aug 2012, 19:22
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Great Railway Journeys


By no means should you be chastised ! As things turned out, it would have been better (and infinitely cheaper) to disband 8 Sqn when VV ops ended in summer '44, scrap the aircraft and disperse the crews, then reform it in the November as a new Spitfire XIV unit with new pilots. But you never know, perhaps it might be a good idea to hang on a bit just in case ! (Something like that may have been in the mind of AHQ Delhi - perish the thought of a simple cock-up !)

Yes, the old steam engine had a lot going for it; Indian Railways stayed steam-hauled for many years after the war. As for the Jewel in the Crown, it was pretty well the whole thing, I have read that the Crown ruled directly over more subjects in India than in the rest of the Empire put together (but I cannot quote a source). It had its own department of State (the India Office), whereas all the rest were lumped together in the Colonial Office. The Viceroy was the plum political appointment of the day: out there he was God for all practical purposes and ruled in appropriate splendour.

When would Indepedence have come had there been no war ? And under what circumstances ? Could Partition have been avoided ? Those are some of the most tantalising questions of 20th century history: now they must for ever remain unanswered.

Terribly sad about Fred, hope my reply was adequate.


Last edited by Danny42C; 27th Aug 2012 at 15:26. Reason: Spelling Error.
Old 27th Aug 2012, 13:31
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So sorry to hear your news.
As a fairly recent contributer to this thread I had read all your posts with great interest and in company with Reg, Cliff and now Danny you have kept this thread alive with your riveting stories. My thoughts and prayers are with you at this time.

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Old 27th Aug 2012, 13:48
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fredjhh, you are among friends.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 14:33
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After 25 years of service I thought I knew a lot about RAF history.

Not even close! The personal viewpoint makes a lot of difference.

I thank you, sir.

J Alex
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 22:23
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Words never seem enough at times like this - but thank you. For your wartime service, for getting stuck into this thread to tell us about it, and for letting us know your latest news.Our Thoughts and prayers, from all over the world, are with you.

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Old 28th Aug 2012, 01:08
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Danny at Samungli.

This is one of those periods when the "Funny Things which Happened On the Way to the Theatre" are more interesting than the show itself. First, Samungli: then a quiet little airfield from which we did hardly any flying (it is now an important PAF base). There was nothing for us to do, and the fact that we were about five inches of boost short at full bore, because of the altitude, meant that a VV would have trouble enough getting off the ground "light". With 1500 lb, it would be problematic - AFAIK, nobody tried. 8 Sqdn. were the only ones on site and, I believe, would stay there until November when they were to be re-equipped with the Spitfire XIV. Meanwhile it would be "dolce far niente", and I was quite partial to that.

Things did not start too well. During our long train journey, I'd taken off my watch and looped the strap round the top of the name card holder frame on my bunk. On arrival at Quetta, in the bustle of packing and getting my kit off, I'd forgotten the watch and got to the end of the platform before I remembered. I raced back - I can't have been away more than a minute. But in India that was more than enough. It was an expensive mistake.

Hardly had I got unpacked and settled in, than I went down with malaria for the second time. I blame the train. It is not practicable to rig up a mossie net on a train bunk, and as the air is in constant motion round a moving train, the mossie has no chance to settle anyway.

But we had been stationary for hours at a time, often at night. Now there are all sorts of malaria, but in our day there were simply two: "Benign Tertian", and "Malign Tertian" (BT & MT). The first is bad, the second worse. BT is usually treatable in SSQ (or even in your own basha). This time I had MT and it put me on my back in a military hospital in Quetta. I honestly thought I'd "had it". (There is also a rare "Cerebral" malaria, with a high mortality rate, and another insect-borne disease: "Dengue" fever, a sort of "Malaria-lite", much milder, which lasts about a week).

When I was on my feet again, the first priority was a new watch. This was not straightforward. They were very scarce, and to ensure that they went only to deserving characters, you had to get a Certificate of Authorisation from a magistrate to begin with. A modest "bung" to the Clerk helped things along, I had my "chitty", and I presented myself at the "West End Watch Company" which had been warmly recommended to me. I spotted a small "military" style "Bijou", very plain, in a massive stainless steel case. It was ticketed at Rs150. That was quite a lot - about five month's salary for an Indian doctor - or a week of my pay. It would be about 12 then, say 600 today.

Well, I thought, I'll start at Rs100 and see how far down we can get (the shop was a cut above a bazaar stall). To my surprise, the salesman wouldn't shift - it was take it or leave it. "What is the world coming to?" I thought, but finally had to capitulate. I had to have a watch - and he knew it. I shelled out the Rs150 with very bad grace. It was about three years before I found I was running around with a Longines on my wrist. It is there yet, and will be with me to the end, I trust.

Quetta was a pleasant place, it was full of military units and a prestigeous Staff College. There was a military open-air swimming pool - a rare treat - with a little stall where they turned out egg-and-tomato sandwiches made in Heaven. An egg is an egg the world over, but those tomatoes...... Luscious, sweet, flavoursome, juicy, paper thin-skinned.....what a contrast with today's supermarket armour-plated offerings, tasteless, bred only to last for ever on the shelf.

At Samungli I had an experience which I am sure has been aired more than once in fiction, but which I can assure you actually happened to me. One of our airmen had been charged with the theft of some welfare stores, it was a serious matter, the case was being considered for Court Martial. I had been detailed to take the Summary of Evidence, which is the necessary preliminary.

I had got my witnesses available and ready to give evidence, I had my chap in front of me, and was obliged by law to ask him whether he required the witnesses at the Summary to give their evidence on oath. In almost every case the accused declines, for this means that any evidence he will give will also be on oath, and he does not wish to add possible perjury to the list of his alleged crimes.

But in this case, the accused did so require - I think he'd been "got at" by some barrack-room lawyer - so I had to find a Bible. I knew where one was, on a shelf in the Orderly Room. I adjourned the proceedings and went to get it. It was a dusty, cheap affair, bound in black cloth, and had seen long service. All the lettering had worn off the cover and spine, but it would do. I riffled the pages. It was a dictionary.

I had a short struggle with my conscience, and my conscience lost. My witnesses all solemnly swore on this dictionary (I took good care to grab it back each time the moment the last words had been spoken). As most of the witnesses contradicted each other, and some were manifestly lying, the result was a bit of a dog's dinner. Higher Authority binned the Summary with some barbed remarks about the quality of its preparation, and the charge was dropped.

I sometimes wonder about the legal implications of my peccadillo. Would such an oath bind in Law ? After all, "mens re" is the thing, isn't it? If the witness believes he is taking the oath, isn't that enough? It's a nice point. Could a charge of perjury stick? And what could I be arraigned on - "Perverting the course of Justice?" - (and then there's always "Conduct Prejudicial !" - "Sacrilege?" (don't you have to have a Consistory Court for that?)

I was all set for a pleasant, not too strenuous autumn. The RAF seemed to have forgotten all about me.

No such luck !

Goodnight, chaps,


No rest for the wicked !
Old 28th Aug 2012, 07:10
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Ah, Danny 42C? Caught up with you at last old chap. I was asked to help forward this Pass to you, though what use one intended for Burma might be to someone now in NW India I have no idea:-
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Old 28th Aug 2012, 08:46
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------and the Japanese will give you even more.
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Old 28th Aug 2012, 18:38
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Blood Chits in Burma in WWII


I never cease to marvel at the way you keep pulling these wonderful rabbits out of the hat ! (For the benefit of late joiners to our happy band, here is the relevant excerpt from my #2714 p. 136).

I quote: "It also held leaflets in Burmese, for villagers you might meet and whose help would be vital. In translation they read, so I was told, something like this":

"Dear Friend",

"The bearer of this letter is a British soldier come to save you from the hated Japanese who have caused so much sorrow in your land. If you treat him well, hide him from the Japanese, and help him to reach the British Army, you will be very well rewarded by Government".

This was all very well as far as it went, (and the Burmese were generally well disposed to us, particularly the Naga and Kachin tribes in the north), but I couldn't help feeling that if I floated down in or near a village that we'd just blown off the map, it wouldn't go down too well with "Dear Friend" - always supposing I could find one who could read".

The remarkable thing is - after the survival itself, over 70 years, of one of these leaflets from WWII Burma - how closely my memory of the English text (which I'd never seen - it wouldn't have been on the original, of course) corresponds with the real thing.

I must say, however, how suspicious it looks that sixteen lines of Burmese seem to condense into six lines of English !

I would suppose that unused leaflets would be handed back to the I.O. with the rest of the escape kit, but my stuff would be a bit battered and bloody. I certainly wouldn't have had a leaflet with me in Samungli.



Too true ! Any aircrew would be straight for the chop. I remember a photograph of the time (taken by a Jap, but which had come into Allied hands somehow - "leaked" ?), which showed a captured Sgt-Pilot kneeling, blindfold, quietly resigned, as a Jap officer "addressed" his target with his Samurai sword much as a golfer addresses his ball before the swing.

Thank you both,

Old 30th Aug 2012, 17:03
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Danny is dragged back into the fray (and DH Mosquito troubles)

(Gone quiet all of a sudden, hasn't it ? Let's have it back on its proper place on Page 1...D)

The time frame becomes obscure at this point (I'll try to clear it up later, after a good root round in Wiki), but the sequence of events is clear in my memory.

One afternoon I came back from a swim. "Boss * wants to see you", they said. This was not good news. The only time S/Ldr Sutherland wanted to see anybody was to tear a strip off them. What had I done? Could my subterfuge with the dictionary have come to light? I'd kept my mouth shut, of course, but might the accused or one of the witnesses have called in the Orderly Room and recognised it back on the shelf? It was possible. I tried to construct a defence on my way to Squadron HQ.

(Note * I'm not sure that that expression was current in those days, but it was in everday use in my later RAF service, so I've no hesitation in using it . But "Staish" is entirely foreign to me - so I avoid it.......D).

The Adj pointed to the door without a word. I tapped, went in, snapped to attention and threw up my smartest salute. S/Ldr Sutherland was a man of few words. "Get your kit packed - you're on the morning shuttle (from Quetta) to Delhi. Adj's got your Air Movement Authority, he'll give you all the details, Good luck." "Thank you, Sir" - salute and out !

John had the paperwork on the desk. "What's this all about?"......."You're posted down to Yelahanka"......"What for?"......"Well, you know the Mossies have been grounded for a while?....... I nodded, everybody knew that ...... "How does that affect me?"........."They're setting up a sort of quick conversion course to use the Mossie crews on the Vengeance until they can get the Mossies sorted out"...........This was the daftest idea I'd heard for a long time, but "ours not to reason why"........ "Where do I fit into all this?"........"You'll be an instructor"........."But I'm not a QFI"......."Who checked you out on 'em, then?"......(he had a point there !)... ......"Will Stew Mobsby be coming as well?"......"No - they don't want any Navs or AGs"

"What about my Clearance Certificate?"........."I've sent a lad round with it this afternoon, you only need to pay your Mess Bill"...It was a fait accompli. He produced my high priority air movement, which allowed me to take all my kit with me - an unheard of concession - it amounted to 126 lb (this was a measure of the urgency with which the affair was being conducted).

I said farewell to Stew and the other chaps. The pilots would be kept back, and I think some would stay until the Spitfire XIVs came in (about November). And at that point (according to Bharat Rakshak) all the RAF Navs and Wop/Ags seem to have been cleared out and scattered all over India.

Flying down South (Quetta-Palam-Nagpur-Yelahanka), I thought a bit harder about this short conversion course, and tried to imagine what might have been in the mind of AHQ when they decided on it. Gradually it dawned on me that perhaps it was not as stupid as it first appeared. At that point, the Mossies had all been grounded (full story below), but the reason for their numerous failures had not yet been established with any certainty, and it was by no means out of the question that the fault might be inherent in the materials, design and construction of the aircraft: the things might never be fit for use in SE Asia.

If that proved the case, then the only stopgap for the moment was the recently discarded Vengeance, and it might be a long time before the Allies (who had only been ashore in Europe for three months and had their hands full) could provide another ground-attack type for the Far East. We all know now that victory would come in Europe in eleven months: we did not know it then. (Hitler gambled on a quick summer victory in Russia in '41: he was bogged down in there for four years). We had to plan for the worst-case scenario, the Vengeance might have to soldier on for two or three years more.

Assuming that to be the case, who was going to crew them? Most of the existing crews were still in India now, but many of them would be tour-expired by the end of '44 (this particularly applied to Dominion aircrew who had left their home countries, then done six months' AFU, OTU and general hanging about in the UK before coming out to India). Although they were ready and willing now, we had to plan for the long term; the Mossie crews were just beginning their tours. Better to bite the bullet, it was easy and quick to convert them onto the Vengeance, do it now.

For the same reason, it would make no sense to round up all the original 36 ex-fighter OTU pilots, who had come out at the end of 1942 and were now unemployed, to fly the Spitfire XIV s which were scheduled to come into action in early 1945. They would all be nearly tour-expired by then. It is true that 8 Sqdn. had a large proportion of RAF pilots on their Spitfires, but these were people who had come out much later. Whether they ever achieved their goal of a 100% Indian manned Squadron before Independence, I do not know.

So that was what I was going down to Yelahanka for. I did not promise to be an onerous job. I resolved that they would get the same instruction as I'd had myself eighteen months before. ("Here's the Vultee Pilot's Notes - there's the cockpit, this is the best way to get up to it, we'll go over it together now, this afternoon I'll take you up in the back for half an hour to get the feel of it - then it's all yours - any questions ?"). All they'd need then would be a bombing range, practice bomb racks and bombs, and time.

I had no idea at all about how this "Conversion Course" was organised or who would be running it, and I'd never seen Yelahanka. I did not expect the Mossie pilots to be exactly jumping for joy at the prospect - my heart bled for them, after my own disappointment with the Spitfires the year before, they could jolly well join the Club.

There's plenty more to come !

Evenin' all,


What next ?

Last edited by Danny42C; 30th Aug 2012 at 22:41. Reason: Spelling Error (Yelananka should read Yelahanka)
Old 30th Aug 2012, 22:06
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Well you kept quiet about that one, Danny! It seems that I was indeed rocking the boat in querying the need for the transfer of the Vengeances and the entire squadron to NE India, for it seems that their Airships were making a very understandable contingency plan should the Mossies have to remain grounded. I promise that I will try to curb my impatience in future and wait for the interlocutor to.. well, locute!
Ah, how many of us have had similar thoughts coursing through our minds when told, "The boss wants to see you"? Having to pack and go at no notice must have seemed like a blessed reprieve compared with the scenario that you had mentally rehearsed.
So off on your travels again on this Cook's Tour of the sub-continent. To Bangalore if Google Maps is to be relied upon, or at least its northern outskirts. The only airfields now at Yelahanka are Yelahanka AFB and Jakkur, but of course neither is necessarily where you are headed for, is it? So I'll wait to find out. See what I did there? I'm just patiently waiting. No problem at all. Quite relaxed. Simply waiting. Easy...
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Old 31st Aug 2012, 00:07
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Danny dragged back into the Fray.


As always, a timely and pertinent comment (caught me with my last cup of cocoa !). Your interlocutor locutes, as follows :-

You were right the first time: (moving us 2,000 miles to no purpose was not a really bright idea). As for our Airships having Contingency Plans - they wouldn't have recognised a Contingency Plan if it bit them on the bum. The whole war out there had been conducted "off the cuff" from the beginning.

This was inevitable: the enemy had the advantage of surprise: "Thrice armed is he that hath his quarrel just - but four times armed is he who gets his smack in fust!" We could only react.

"Events, dear boy" had led us round by the nose, from the time the impregnable Singapore and unsinkable "Prince of Wales" fell to the Japanese version of "Events".

When the Mossies first started to fall apart, the official reaction was: "this isn't really happening, it's just a bad dream, if we close our eyes tight it'll go away". AFAIK, the "reverse-conversion" decision was not taken until mid- October, whereas the Mossies had been claiming lives since May. If the Air Staff had seen the red light then, there would still have been time to "hold" the six VV squadrons in readiness west and south of Calcutta (just in case).

"Contingency Plan" ? Of a sort, I suppose - but made "on the hoof" after disaster had struck them. But isn't hindsight a wonderful thing !

As it turned out all this is acedemic, as will shortly appear. (Oh, it was Yelahanka AFB - and civil airport now, I think)

Goodnight, Danny.
Old 2nd Sep 2012, 02:06
  #3000 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Danny is sold another pup (it happens).

And where were the Vengeances we were going to convert them on? Why hadn't they given me one from 8 Sqdn ? (they'd never do anything more with them until they were scrapped): I could have flown it down myself. Here I've some hazy ideas. In the first place, these were the aircraft that had served through the '43/'44 campaign (In the case of the RAF Squadrons, '42/'43 as well).

They'd had hard use, flying from very rough strips (and had some rough handling !). They'd always been operating in clouds of dust, which couldn't have been doing the engines much good. (Why did our Merlins have to be "tropicalised", while the big American (and British) radials just took it in their stride?) If they've plenty of new VVs on the shelf in Mauripur ( Mk. IIIs) - as it seemed they had - then let's have 'em now.

The four RAF Squadrons, which had operated with the Vengeance in Burma for the past eighteen months, had been scheduled to re-equip with the Mosquito FB VI (with fresh, fully trained crews from the UK), for what would prove to be the last year of the war (although we didn't know it then, of course). From early '44 the aircraft and crews started coming out. The changeover began. (S/Ldr Traill, he who put his aircraft up a banana tree, was on his way to AHQ Delhi to make the final arrangements for the handover of 45 Sqdn when his fatal, unexplained accident happened). At first all was going smoothly. Then disaster struck.

The Mosquito was a brilliant aircraft, and its great selling point was that it was made of wood (almost uniquely among the operational aircraft of the day). This was much cheaper, and in more plentiful supply than aluminium alloy, and employed wood craftsmen for whom there wasn't much other call in the middle of a war. So now is the time to relate the sad story of the Mossies. What was the trouble?

Simply, they started to fall to pieces in mid-air. An aircraft could be flying along, there'd be a rending crash, the two occupants would find themselves a few thousand feet up "without visible means of support", with a cloud of splinters a quarter mile astern and two Merlins hurtling to earth. Most, but not all, managed to get rid of their seats, pulled the ripcord and floated down unhurt.

Examination of the wreckage showed that in most cases the main spar had catastrophically failed; the glues holding the many laminations (which gave it its strength) had let go. The first answer was obvious, the damp, heat, moulds and bacteria in the Far East were responsible; unless a solution were found soon the things were useless out there.

Not every aircraft was affected, but you didn't know which ones until something happened, so all had to be grounded. (One explanation offered somewhere in Bharat-Rakshak, was "White Ants" - and although the little beasties would have devoured the Mossies with pleasure if they could, I can't see them shinning up the main undercarriage or tailwheel assembly to get to the Promised Land).

Then someone drew attention to the fact that 684 (PR) Sqdn in Calcutta had been flying Mossies (Mks. II,VI,IX, & XVI) since September '43, and theirs hadn't been falling apart - yet. Clearly there must be something different about the later production aircraft - but what?

The best brains in the industry laboured night and day on the problem. There may have been considerable political pressure applied, for a fortunate coincidence may have worked in our favour. 684 Sqdn had a pilot, F/O Robin Sinclair, on strength and he had a friend at Court. Daddy was Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Secretary of State for Air in the War Cabinet. (How the wires must have hummed!)

Finally, careful analysis of the glue recovered from the wrecks revealed that some of the stuff was sub-standard, (A scurrilous story going the rounds was that some sub-sub-sub contractor had been found using wallpaper paste, but I place no credence on that). Quality Control was improved and the next batches of aircraft stuck together and did sterling work, climate or no climate, until the end of the war.

My Record of Service shows that I went down to Yelahanka on October 25th, and when I got there, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to go, I was told (not for the first time): "That was Yesterday - It's All Been Changed !" They'd just "Found Out the Cause of the Bother"; the quick-conversion idea was out of the window (to the enormous relief of the Mossie crews, who'd regarded it with the utmost horror); I was out of a job, on strength of SHQ Yelahanka, for 8 Sqn. had no interest in taking me back.

Bit of an anti-climax !

Goodnight, all,


It's just one damn' thing after another.

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