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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Old 3rd Oct 2012, 22:31
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Danny and The Day that the Rains Came.

I flew the last aircraft out of Cannanore when the '45 Monsoon broke. The other two VVs had gone on a day or two before to Sulur (Coimbatore) where we were to be detached to sit out the rainy season (as it had a paved runway, taxiways and dispersals).

All my MT (a Fordson canvas tilt 15 cwt, a Bedford 900-gallon bowser and a nice newish Bedford 2-ton truck) had gone down already (but not the WOT1, which we didn't need at Sulur as they had their own crash trucks; in any case I don't think the old thing would have made it down there under its own steam). The bulk of my airmen had gone with the MT or by train (only a day's journey), leaving one or two to see me off and follow by rail.

The Harvard was left behind, huddled under tarpaulins and well picketed down. Although it was on my inventory and we maintained it, this aircraft was really provided for the use of W/Cdr Edmondes as a runabout. Checking my log, I see that I never flew it at all. There was no reason to, there was always a spare VV to do all the odd flying, and that was much more comfortable, could carry more people and stores, cruised slightly faster and was much nicer handling on rough ground, where the Harvard tended to be rather skittish.

I had to get out fast, for the rain came down in a solid sheet (I think they measured 13 inches in the first 12 hours), and our strip would soon be flooded. I'd done some monsoon flying in previous years, and knew that even in the heaviest rain there always seemed to be a few hundred feet clear between cloud and ground that you could use - so long as you didn't run into any hills.

"Roaring down the runway, throttles open wide,
Second dicky snoring - he just came for the ride.
Over the treetops out of sight,
It's pouring down and black as night -
We're right a-round the corn-er.
We're right a-round the bend !" (31 Sqn. song, to the tune of "Lilli Marlene"):

My plan was to stay down and mapread south along the coast until I reached the "Coimbatore Gap", a wide pass through the Western Ghats, which otherwise run up to 6-7,000 ft in a range parallel to the coast all up the Western side of India. There I'd turn inland, pick up the "Iron Beam" (railway), wiggle my way through the Gap and come out onto the Deccan Plain.

The monsoon wouldn't have got over to the East of the Ghats so soon after hitting the coast; it should be clear there; I 'd have no difficulty following the line to Coimbatore; Sulur was just on the far side of town. Overconfident, I trundled off into the downpour. For once, I'd to close my canopy, heat or no heat, or get soaked.

Airborne, I found that I'd got my ground clearance all right, but visibility in the heavy rain was about "as far as the prop". I hung grimly onto the shoreline, but this was enlivened every few miles by a headland jutting out to sea. I had to follow these round rather than take the risk of flying across when I couldn't see what was in front of me.

And each one I followed naturally slung me off the end out to sea. The visibility got worse, and each turn back to shore more and more hair-raising. It was plain that there was no future in this carry-on; a CFIT was looking more probable by the minute.

We'd never had to do any instrument flying since leaving OTU (and there were no navigation aids of any kind here to help us), but now I had no option. Needs must when the devil drives ! Up into the "clag" I went, clinging to the AH like grim death and doing some hasty mental navigation. I reckoned that if I flew the heading of the coast for another fifteen minutes, I should be about opposite the Gap. Then I'd turn East, continuing to climb until I came out on top, keep going inland until the monsoon cloud broke up, come down and find my way back to Coimbatore.

The cloud over the hills was an unknown quantity, for in this first, most violent stage of the monsoon, there'd be a lot of fully developed "cu-nimbs" embedded in it, and if I ran into one of these I'd be in for a "rough ride" indeed. It was unlikely to be turbulent enough to damage the slow-moving and massively built Vengeance, but flimsier aircraft had been torn to pieces many times. A greater danger was that I might become disorientated and lose control; in turbulent cloud this was generally fatal. All this added up to the reason why we kept safely down below monsoon cloud for as long as we could.

If we couldn't, then the drill was to slow down as far as possible (no trouble for me: the VV only did "slow"), turn the cockpit lights full up to lessen the shock of a lightning strike (but I didn't have any lights). Strikes rarely cause any structural damage, as the current goes right through on its way to earth, but your radio may get fried and the compass goes to pot. One final precaution, lower your seat to the bottom and tighten harness straps. That way, you're less likely to get thrown up and knock yourself out on the canopy bars.

All this advice, the result of hard experience, I followed to the letter. Being Prepared, as a good Scout should be, meant that nothing happened - always the way! Up I climbed in the dark, wet cloud, until I reckoned it time for my turn. The altimeter needle crawled round, 7-8-9 thousand. I must be starting to cross over the Ghats now.

Suddenly a huge black shape shot over my head and disappeared. It gave me the fright of my life. What a big bird was doing at that height in cloud, and why it didn't get out of the way when it must have heard me coming, I can't imagine. It was lucky to get through the 12 ft prop disk and not hit my screen (so was I, but the armoured panel should have resisted the impact anyway).

Nine thousand feet, still in cloud, then ten, then eleven. How high does this stuff go ? What now ? I daren't let down over the hills in this. ("if you'd end up safe and sound, don't fly through cloud to reach the ground !"). Twelve thousand (and no oxygen). How much further ? Thirteen thousand, and I'm really getting worried.

Then suddenly things brightened up and in a few seconds I broke out into dazzling blue sky. Almost immediately the cloud broke up into long tendrils and I found myself sailing over Ootacamund (about 20 miles north of my intended track, but never mind). There was Coimbatore down on the southern horizon, so nose down and get in for lunch.

Now our happy family must settle in for a month's constant heavy rain, followed by three more with it slackening-off. There would be little flying; all our kit would get damp and mouldy, the white ants would have a field day and everybody would get "cheesed-off". (C'ést la guerre).

Get your monsoon capes out, chaps.

Goodnight again,


Raindrops keep fallin' on my head.
Old 4th Oct 2012, 09:31
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Folks, my humble apologies. I've checked back in his memoir and dad said he had 'yellow jaundice, or hepatitis'.

My mistake, sorry for the confusion and head scratching I caused!

Dad has this to say about innoculations. At the time (March 1943???) he was staying in a commandeered boarding house in Morecombe (ah the exotic life he led!!) This, of course, ties in with Blackpool.

We had inoculations against many diseases, including Scrub Typhus. We were issued with tropical kit, complete with a 'Bombay bowler', this was a large helmet, rather like the ones that the Royal Marines bandsmen wear.

We were transported to Liverpool Docks where we embarked on the 'S.S. Stratheden'. It was a modern 'P&O' liner.
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Old 4th Oct 2012, 12:22
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I vividly remember having to carry Cholera, Typhoid and Yellow Fever inoculation certificates along with my passport for travelling to Malta in 1967 and to Singapore in 1969. The certificates were closely perused at the Health Check, between passport control and customs. We were required to keep all our "jabs" up to date at all times in case of a need to travel on detachment anywhere in the world at short notice. Cholera was renewed every sx months, Typhoid at two years, I think, and Yellow Fever was good for ten.
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Old 4th Oct 2012, 19:22
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Danny 42C
So you have missed me posting Danny!--Two reasons---First I have been captivated by the India stories from you and others and I didnt want to spoil the continuity. Second I was waiting until your chronology got up to your 608 time.
But here goes!
"AIR BRITAIN" has published potted histories of SINGLE seat Meteors and there is one I cant reconcile.
The aircraft was with 608 from early summer1956 until it crashed at Cueta in Spanish Morocco in August---engine failure F/Lt pilot killed.
I can reconcile the Morocco aspect because that summer 608 went to Gib for camp but I cant understand the single seat part because I believe 608,like other RAuxAF Vampire squadrons only had the odd Mk7.
I contacted a guy who was with 608 from 1950-57and his recollection is that it was a Vampire which crashed on take off in very hot weather while on liason work--presumably with the Spaniards and the SERGEANT pilot was killed. In that era though I would also have thought that because of the Gibralter controversy liason with Spaniards would be questionable.
I understand that "THE KIPPER PATROL"--the history of 608 published in 2009 MAY have details.
Do you have any clues?
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Old 5th Oct 2012, 22:29
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First, get on with spoiling my continuity as much as you like, young feller ! It gives me a welcome rest, and we who can recall those momentous days owe it to the next generations to tell our tale while we still can. Take up thy pen and write !

It's as well that you didn't wait till I got round to my time at Thornaby, for it's a long way down the line yet. As regards the 1956 incident on 608 (R.Aux.A.F) Sqdn I can't help much, for I left the Station in late 1954. Incidentally, I think the Auxiliary Sqdns packed up in '57.

Rooting about in Wiki, what seems to have happened is this: 608 went out to Gib in '56 for Summer Camp. There there was a F/Lt Murphy, who was in some sort of an admin unit organising the reception of the Summer Campers - (could he possibly have been i/c their Advance Party ? - not unlikely as he seems to have had their Squadron Meteor 7). This he took off one day in late August, had a DFO, the thing had enough height and speed to get across the Straits to Cueta, but then crashed and he was killed.

I think this "Vampire/Spain/liaison work?/Sergeant" business is a confused red herring. a): Spain did not join NATO till 1982, so b): if any "liaison" had to be done, the air attaché from Madrid would be doing it and it wouldn't be a Sergeant ! That leaves the Vampire. But now there is something I vaguely remember.

However, this accident happened on 608's annual Summer Camp at El Adem while I was serving as Adjutant to 3608 (Fighter Control) Unit at Thornaby, so it must have been in '52, '53 or '54, with the probability on one of the last two. If I had to guess, I would say '53.

It was a Vampire, (the Auxiliaries had just one Meteor 7 per Sqdn for I/Rs and the like - I never got to fly it, but they let me play with their Vampires from time to time). Their officer pilot was killed. There may be a possibility of these two stories having been confused in your informant's memory.

The "Kipper Patrol" I do not know, but from the title I would guess that it relates mainly to 608's war service with Coastal Command on Hudsons and Ansons. Nor have I read the "Air Britain" articles you quote. And now you have set me rooting about on the trail of the date of the Last (fixed-wing) NCO Pilot in the RAF ! Any offers ?

Rack the old memory, now, and hit those keys ! Cheers,

Old 6th Oct 2012, 09:46
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We had 2 SNCO flying instructors on 1 Sqn at Cranwell in 1964 ish - ISTR both disappered for a few weeks and returned as fg offs.
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Old 8th Oct 2012, 00:19
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Danny at Sulur.

I got down to Sulur all right but I didn't have Stew with me. It must have been one of my lads on the flight. In that case I hope he enjoyed the ride, assuming I'd got everything under perfect control (ignorance is bliss !)

So where was Stew ? He last appears on the 11th May, when we flew to Kolar and back from Cannanore. What for ? - no idea. And he never appears again. It must have been about this time that he left to go home "tour-expired": we'd said our last goodbye. If the trip had been Yelahanka, I would have probably have been putting him on the main line to Bombay (to save him a day on the train). But Kolar ? (it's well over to the east of Bangalore).

On 28th May I flew a gas-drop at the Kumbla range - only 45 minutes - so I must still have been at Cannanore. And then nothing in June. Three flights in July, starting 5th, all admin to Cochin. Five in August, three to the Porkal range flown from Sulur (2hr 30min trips). Four in September (all admin).

October 9th, I flew back to Cannanore. So now we have the dates for Sulur: around May 29 to October 9, over four months. That's the end of the boring bit.

So what did we find when we got there? We found the Navy already in residence, to be exact the Wavy Navy, in the person of Lt. Cdr T. Neville Stack, RNVR (as were all his officers). He was a pre-war long distance record-pilot of some renown. (He had a son of some renown, too: Air Chief Marshal (Retd) Sir Thomas Neville Stack, RAF). Neville Stack senior ran a communications squadron with Beechcraft "Expeditors", nice little light twins, to ferry Admirals and their Staffs round Ceylon and South India.

Carrier aircraft came in from the sea from time to time; one day a "Barracuda" flew in in a rainstorm, skidded off the wet runway and skated across a patch of flooded grass into one of my correctly parked VVs. Both aircraft were write-offs, but there were no casualties. I see from my log that we still had three when we went back to Cannanore, so they must have given me a replacement pretty quickly. Mk. IIIs were ten-a-penny anyhow.

I celebrated my arrival by immediately going down with my third (and last !) dose of malaria. The rains had left puddles all over the place, and anopheles had had a field day. That year's nouveux vintage of mosquitos had gone looking for new blood, and found mine. I spent a fortnight in the Navy's Sick Bay - the food was very good indeed.

As I've said, we didn't do much flying apart from the regular pay run to Cochin and other admin jobs. The weather must have dried up a bit in early August, for on 7th, 10th and 11th, I flew three gas dropping trips back over the hills to the Porkal range with a Major Truelove as passenger. (Where did we get the mustard from ? - we certainly didn't take any down with us, the CDRE must have sent the stuff by road).

These trips were a bit hairy, what with the rain, low cloud and hills, so there must have been some special reason for them. Perhaps CDRE wanted to know what the effectiveness of gas might be on rain-soaked fields.

On the last of these runs we had a bit of excitement. The engine began running rough (dirty plugs ?) as we were coming back over the Ghats above solid cloud. I couldn't clear it by increasing or decreasing RPM, playing with the mixture and changing tanks. With fifty miles to go and nowhere to put it down, I warned Truelove to be ready to bale out if the thing stopped.

We tightened up our leg straps (going out with them loose may seriously curtail your chances of progeny), but the engine kept going, although noisier and noisier. We got back into the circuit at Sulur where the clangour caused some alarm. ("I wouldn't sign for that !", said Corporal (Fitter) Reavill, as I clattered round on finals). Investigation found a weld crack in the exhaust collector ring.

This happened on 11th August. Four days later the war was over - so there was no urgent need for the flight in any case, but of course we hadn't the faintest inking beforehand. In early October, Cannanore had dried out and we went back.

Next time we'll consider some aspects of that last year of war as it affected us.

Goodnight to all our faithful readers,



Last edited by Danny42C; 8th Oct 2012 at 00:21. Reason: Typo.
Old 8th Oct 2012, 13:03
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To Danny42C etc.

Still here, but only reading with nothing to contribute. Even typing this line is hard, but keep up this very interesting thread. Does any one know a cure for 'loss of taste'?
I haven't been able to taste anything in 8 months and all I see on TV are cookery programmes.
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Old 8th Oct 2012, 14:07
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Loss of Taste.


Great to hear from you ! "Loss of taste ?" - you're not alone, old chap. Don't know of any cure, but sure as Hell know the cause - Anno Domini !

God bless,

Old 8th Oct 2012, 14:19
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Fred, thank you for checking in on frequency. It is appreciated by all I'm sure knowing the effort it must involve. Hang in there, and try to find instead a "makeover" programme to watch, for they are almost as numerous as the cooking ones. I find I have no inclination whatsoever to knock through, redecorate, or put in fitted furniture etc to emulate their example. It is great entertainment especially, as is often,when it all goes wrong!
Danny, you have once again cheated the fickle finger of fate. Supposing it had been something more sinister than a fractured exhaust weld, supposing it had happened outbound when loaded with your fragile "eggs", supposing...well perhaps best not to. You have now survived the war, and especially the Far East one which, had it not been for the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would have involved a very costly all out invasion of Japan. Little doubt that your little eggs would have been involved, little doubt that you would have been required to lay them. So many ifs, so much supposing, but such is war. Those who survived as POWs, unlike my Dad, owe their lives to those two bombs, as do maybe a million others. So, I suspect, do you.
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Old 8th Oct 2012, 16:02
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What you say (about the Bomb) is all too true: the alternative (an invasion of Japan) lay all too heavily on our minds in that strange "interregnum" between the May and August of 1945.

Coincidentally, I am exploring that topic at greater length my next Post (Great Minds.......?) And it is certainly correct that survival in war largely depended on being on the right side of every one of a whole string of "what if"s.

Good to hear from Fred,

Old 8th Oct 2012, 17:15
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Gaining an RAF pilots brevet in WW2

Danny 42C
Thank you for your successful investigation of my 608 Meteor query.
My AIR BRITAIN is out on loan at present but I recollect that they too included F/Lt Murphys name. Assuming I receive the AB back I will check with them on the apparent anomaly--they list the accident among a very long serial list of what they note were all SINGLE seat Meteors. We both agree that the Vampire RAuxAF Squadrons only had TWIN seat Mk7,s.
That said it appears F/Lt Murphy did not have a passenger if it was a Mk7.
Now here is a story to break further into your Indian saga.
I have a friend, APV, who was an ex USN pilot and an aviation writer.
It must have been around 1960, in the summer, that he and several other writers were invited to go on what were to be two record breaking USAF flights. Two KC135,s were to take off from Westover AFB in Mass.--one was to break the NY- London record and the other was going to go NY-London-NY non stop.
At the briefing on the morning of the flight a question was asked about the take off weights and apparently a 135 had never taken off at such a high gross as the round trip aircraft--and this was the one where APV was to be a passenger!
A hot summer evening and the RT aircraft never made it-it was scattered all over the nearby Massachusetts Turnpike--all killed.
The next issue of TIME magazine had a picture of the ill fated aircraft taken shortly before take off with their soon to be killed correspondent going UP the stairs and APV coming DOWN, off the aircraft, with his baggage in hand!
APV is now 90+ and I think still flying a Cessna--Old pilots and bold pilots!

Last edited by DFCP; 8th Oct 2012 at 17:21. Reason: Spelling
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Old 10th Oct 2012, 16:36
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Danny finds that 1945 was a strange year out there.

That year, like Caesar's Gaul, divides easily into three parts. From the New Year till early May we had two wars. From then till mid August we had one war. After that we had no wars. A good thing, too ? Well, not entirely as regards the middle bit.

The war in Europe ended in the spring to nobody's surprise. With the invasion of the previous summer going well (we'd got across the Rhine), and the Russians forging steadily west towards Berlin, the end was no longer in doubt. And it was obvious that it couldn't be long coming.

In South East Asia it was a different story. Although the 14th Army was starting to get the upper hand in Burma, and the Americans were steadily island-hopping across the Pacific towards Japan, it looked as if the war out there could very well go on for years. The end game would almost certainly be an invasion of the Japanese mainland, and that was a fearsome prospect.

It was soberly estimated that such an operation would cost a million Allied lives (quite likely including mine, as Chugalug has pointed out), given what was known about the fanatic fighting quality of the Japanese soldier in defence. Japanese civilian losses would be horrendous, as experience in Okinawa had shown.

So the British Government had to plan for a large-scale transfer of forces to India to clear the Japs out of Burma, Malaya and Singapore, which they had held since 1942. This was going to cause manning problems. You could hardly expect troops who had for months fought their way across Europe, or from North Africa up through Italy, cheerfully to cross the world to start all over again out East. Still less could you expect it when they would be only going out to replace others who felt that they'd also done their bit, and were now entitled to come home and put their feet up.

But - "THERE'S NO DISCHARGE IN THE WAR" (Kipling: "Boots")

So the first thing out of the window would have to be the fixed (three-year in the RAF) overseas tour (which was a hang-over from peacetime in any case). We've got all these chaps out here, well accustomed to the country and the climate (and that was no small thing). How can you send them home for release (for there's nobody there for them to fight), when you have to replace them with battle-weary squadrons from the UK ?

Let's keep the people we've got out here, and reinforce them with all the others from home. It looked as if I would now be out there to the bitter end, although the change in policy had not been promulgated, everybody knew that it had to come. And it was not going to be popular.

They cast about for means to sweeten the pill. The first idea was to set up what we now know as "R & R" (Rest and Recreation) Centres. You give your tired troops a good time for a few weeks in a pleasant spot, they'll go back to the job all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for another year or two. Or so the theory went.

How about a Ski School ? There's plenty of snow in Kashmir (already a popular summer leave venue), and accommodation in the hotel buildings there (mostly closed in winter). No sooner said than done. They chose Gulmarg, some miles southwest of Srinagar. It was a small place, around 9,000 ft amsl, with a few ramshackle wooden hotels. These the RAF requisitioned. As instructors, they called for service volunteers, who knew something about skiing (or said they did). It was established as a proper RAF unit: the command was given to a W/Cdr Navigator who must have been the most envied man on the subcontinent (what a cushy number !)

Army boots were modified as ski boots by grinding a groove round the heel to take the spring cable of the "Kandahar" ski binding. This primitive device was then the standard world-wide and lasted well into the fifties before replacement by the modern toe-release designs.

I can't recall what they did about ski kit, but they must have provided something, for khaki drill was no good in the winter up there, and very few people had blues. Probably blue or knaki battledress, with plenty of "wooly pullies" to keep out the cold, would have been issued. Can't remember. (This was not all that long after the era when mountaineers set out in deerstalkers, tweed Norfolk jackets, plus-fours and an alpenstock).

They got hold of skis from somewhere, or had them made locally, The Indian bazaar artisan can usually make good copies of anything you show him, provided it's made of metal, wood or leather (there were plenty of places up on the Frontier where they'd do you quite a decent home made Sten or Colt .45). The skis would not have had metal edges, so "carving" turns was not an option, and we were still in the days of "waxing" the soles of the skis with black wax and a hot iron.

The whole set-up was made ready to start the Courses at this School when the snows came in November. The Japs surrendered on August 15th.

That's quite enough for the time being, bit more about it next time,



Gentlemen, today is the 10th.........(again !)

Last edited by Danny42C; 10th Oct 2012 at 16:42. Reason: Bright Idea.
Old 10th Oct 2012, 18:03
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Gaining an RAF pilots brevet etc.

Danny 42c
As I reflect on your posts I dont recall any mention of hydraulics and certainly I have no memory of any on Cornells or Harvards during that period of training in WW2 .
I think I am correct in thinking that the standard aircraft hydraulic fluid used throughout WW2, and indeed later, was "red oil" ,Mil H 5606 in US parlance. As an "oil' it was flammable and under pressure but one supposes a relatively minor danger during war.
Even after the war it seems that it wasnt until the 50,s when Douglas had some catastrophic DC cabin air compressor fires,using 5606 as the lubricant, that research took place in their labs in Santa Monica Ca.
There,a chemist developed a synthetic fluid which more or less duplicated the physical properties of 5606 and was fire resistant. It was important to descibe it as fire resistant rather than fire proof since under certain conditions it would combust.
A sidelight was that in that era at least some aircraft industry patent holders were given a share of the proceeds.This chemist was thus able to early retire with a continuing commision on every gallon sold!
Douglas adopted these fluids as standard for the DC8 hydraulics but Boeing resisted a change--that the fluid was a Douglas product probably didnt help!---then Boeing had a brake fire on the Dash 80, the 707 prototype, and they "joined the party"
BTW it was not just a case of draining 5606 and replacing it with this new fluid--seals,sealants and paints all were different to those used with 5606, so unless incorporated at the design stage the economics were at best difficult.This was confirmed when Boeing quoted astronomic figures when there was discussion of retrofitting B52,s with fire resistant fluid.
In Europe the BAC111 and VC10 were both designed with this fluid from the start---not so the Caravelle.
Around 1962 Swissair lost a Caravelle at Zurich. The pilot had backtracked down the runway with some thrust against his brakes to disperse fog. After take off the brakes exploded in the wheel wells and fire resulted. I believe the accident investigation blamed rupture of fuel lines in the wheel wells but hydraulic lines were also in this area
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Old 10th Oct 2012, 18:36
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Gentlemen, today is the 10th.........(again !)
That reminds me. I must pay my mess bill.
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Old 10th Oct 2012, 19:13
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Hydraulic (and other) fluids.


Everything I wanted to know about hydraulic fluid, but was afraid to ask !

Brings to mind two tales told during the War by "Tee Emm". In each case a bomber returning from Germany picked up some flak which caused the loss of much of the fluid. In the first episode, the captain ordered the crew to empty their coffee flasks into the tank; this provided enough fluid to pump the u/c down when they got back.

In the second, they'd drunk all the coffee, but a last resource remained - they all peed into the empty flasks, then tipped them into the hydraulic
reservoir. Success as before !

At least there was no problem with fire-resistence !


Ps: (Old trick) Suspicious little puddle under your old banger - could be oil, but....
Dab a bit on finger, brake fluid tastes sweet ! D.
Old 10th Oct 2012, 23:03
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Danny, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! I'm afraid we can't go telling people to taste unknown liquids from the ground these days, well not without a standard declaration of denial of all responsibility. In an age where almost whole generations have lost the sense of self preservation because they've never been allowed to walk to school, climb a tree, or ride a bike down the road, they must go on being protected by not trying anything that is in the slightest way risky for fear of serious injury or even death. The latest example of the problem is the tragic case of an 18 year old out celebrating her birthday, swigging down a cocktail that was still bubbling with the liquid nitrogen that has just been poured into it! They had to remove her stomach. Presumably the military now has to first instil a sense of fear in trainees before they can then instil a sense of aggression? I came fully fitted out with a highly developed sense of fear, which has served me well. Old pilots and bold pilots etc!
The RAF Winter Sports Association planned Far East branch was new to me. These little surprises are what makes your posts a real must read, Danny. I don't suppose though there were many that regretted it was still born given the reason. Perhaps though it did spur on the very successful flowering of the European branch!
As to the Sub-Continent Bazaar Artisans, their skills were indeed legendary. Lee Enfield 303's a stock in trade I believe. One wonders what else they might have produced if encouraged; aircraft, bombs, A-bombs? Oh, they have? Ah, well it just goes to show!
Chugalug2 is offline  
Old 10th Oct 2012, 23:45
  #3118 (permalink)  
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Skis and backstreet Gunsmiths,


"Still-born ?" Not a bit of it ! We shall get to the Eternal Snows yet (and this wasn't the Winter Sports Assn. , but a pukka RAF Unit. All found, all paid. War is hell !)

Same bazaars, same sort of chaps today, I would think, but would do you a fair copy of a Kalashnikov.

Time I was in bed,

Old 12th Oct 2012, 00:19
  #3119 (permalink)  
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Danny has to adapt to Changed Circumstances.

Running a war is like a huge flywheel, which has taken years to wind up and now contains colossal rotational energy. You can't stop it overnight - it'll take months to wind down. Meanwhile, what's the best thing for your troops to do, given that you've not enough shipping to get them home all at once ? Even supposing you had, the Demob Number system, which I've explained some time ago, had to come into effect as soon as possible and take priority. Otherwise it would be a free-for-all and end in chaos.

So after the incredulous amazement and sense of relief that prevailed in those fateful first days had worn off, and after a week or two of running around like chickens with our heads cut off (reminiscent of the scenes in the US immediately after Pearl Harbor), it was realised that the only sensible order was " Stand fast" - keep on doing what you had been doing before, (except fighting), and await further orders, until you can turn the huge organisation round and start getting your troops home.

So the Kashmir Ski School opened up in the winter of '45 as if nothing had happened. Some time before the RAF had signalled all round, asking selected units each to nominate one tour-expired aircrew for a month's Course..

The signal landed on my desk. Can a duck swim ? This was too good to miss. I put my name in, tongue-in-cheek, for I didn't think Group would "wear" it. But in the chaos of those days it slipped through - attachment approved ! (for mid-December). But December was still a long way into the future, and I've a lot to tell before we get there, so I'm afraid the tale of the "Round the Bend Ski Club" will have to wait its turn.

Meanwhile the carry-on policy worked particularly well in smaller units like ours, where there was a strong sense of cohesion, and our work could continue just as before. For in this respect we were more fortunate than most, because CDRE was allowed to continue their planned programme of trials right through to the end, as Porton Down had invested a lot in setting the place up, and the information found might well prove useful at some future date (war?). They finished, as far as I can deduce from my * log entries, around the end of February '46.

Note *: remember that the Unit had other pilots on the job at the same time, and some trials used two or three of our aircraft together.

And then they "diversified" into doing the first trials of spraying the new wonder stuff - DDT, using the gas-spray tanks (hopefully well cleaned out !) I am not sure what solvent was used - water ? - kerosene ? (can't think of anything else easily available in bulk except petrol, and we certainly wouldn't have used that !) Of course, the toxicity of DDT had not then been recognised.

It was hoped that it might eradicate malaria and other insect-borne diseases which are still the scourge of mankind. A local village was chosen for the tests (I don't suppose the inhabitants were even consulted), and I believe the incidence of malaria in it was greatly reduced, but of course this experiment was too small-scale to be significant. However, that new task kept us going some time longer (I understand that 110 Sqdn took up the operation over in Takoradi (W. Africa), with VV Mk. IVs in 1946, flying out via the M.E., but had a lot of trouble with their aircraft. I know nothing more about that).

But up in North and central India in the larger concentrations of troops and airmen unrest developed, discipline broke down and there were outbreaks of mutiny in early 1946. (Wiki gives quite a bit of detail, including the surprising figure of 50,000 airmen taking part in various places). The trick was to keep your people busy - but in many places that was not possible. I was just lucky. My chaps heard about the mutinies, of course, but their only reaction was surprise at the ease with which these people seemed to be getting away with it.

Lots of other things were taking place in these few months, but they will have to wait for my next Posts.

Enough to be going on with,

Goodnight all,

Danny 42C.

It'll all sort itself out in the end.
Old 14th Oct 2012, 04:36
  #3120 (permalink)  
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Danny and a Mixed up Period.

When the Japanese war ended so abruptly, it had some strange consequences. There were a number of aircrew at sea coming out to start their tours in India. Now there was no need for them, and normally the obvious thing would be for them to stay on the ship as it turned round in Bombay and returned to the UK.

But these were not normal times. Every cubic inch of space on the troopers leaving for home was needed for the people going home on "demob"; the newcomers would have to disembark and take pot luck. Theirs was not an enviable situation.

The squadrons and units they were going out to join were now closing down and in many cases disbanding - they had no use for these "new boys". All the "kutcha" strips and camps would soon be abandoned and turned back to farmland and rice paddies, presumably by the original owners. The ones with paved runways often became the post-war regional airports.

Even the transit camps were bursting at the seams with homing troops waiting for "the boat". As it was practically impossible to find the newcomers a flying job, a short-term expedient (for NCO aircrew at least) was to misemploy them, on quite a large scale, as MT drivers, storemen and clerks, etc. (I believe the same idea was taken up in the UK).

The officers were more difficult to find slots for, essentially they were bundled into any corner which had room for them. My little corner did not escape. I suppose the idea was that we could give these latecomers some flying, even if it wasn't very much. The VV was simple enough for anyone to fly, even (as in one case I had) a chap who'd piled up 1,000 hours instructing on Tiger Moths in Canada, and not flown much else since his own training days.

All these supernumeraries ran my officer total up to more than a dozen, and some of them were senior to me. That left me in an anomalous position: W/Cdr Edmondes put in a call (w/t) to AHQ, Delhi; the CDRE "pull" worked its magic, with the result that I had the acting rank of Squadron Leader (and an extra Rs100 a month) for my last few weeks in post.

Accommodating all my new officers was no problem. It doesn't take the Army long to put up a few more of the tents in which we all lived. These were large and luxurious, with sand floors, mats and proper furniture. Pitched a hundred yards from the sea, they enjoyed all the sea breezes and were very pleasant to live in - in the dry season, that is !.

A ridiculous thing was that this idyllic life qualified us for a Hard Lying Allowance, an extra hundred rupees or so a month. Not only that, but I was also drawing Japanese Campaign Pay (another introduction late in the war), although the nearest Jap was two thousand miles away. Ironically, neither of these extras had been paid in the two years before, when I was living (relatively) rough, and on operations against the Japanese. Truly, there's no Justice !

Unfortunately, the first thing 225 Group knew about my acting "scraper" was when the signal was copied to them, and they reacted with the same indignation as had S/Ldr Lambert when the Dominion High Commissioners went over his head, and he had his NCO aircrew commissioned without reference to him. But three-stars trumps two-stars any day; Group had to accept it, but with bad grace. This (and another occasion in which I'd crossed swords with a W/Cdr on the Air Staff and come out on top) meant that I was not exactly their favourite Unit C.O. - this may explain a certain coolness between us later.

All sorts of things happened in those last six chaotic months before I came back home, and it's difficult to fit them into date order, so I'll tell you all about them in a series of individual stories and my general impressions (for what they're worth) of those times. More about this next time.

Goodnight, chaps,

Danny 42C.

Last edited by Danny42C; 14th Oct 2012 at 17:06. Reason: Typo.

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