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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 12th Nov 2012, 23:26
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Thanks in Triplicate.

lasenigel, glojo and cockney steve,

Thank you all for your kind words and my Birthday greetings. (I'll try to keep up the good work !)......D.


Watch it free on iPlayer the next day ! (most of it's old news rehashed anyway).

Your "small things...." - very true ! In the early days of TV (when we were glued to 9-inch b/w screens) it was known (not unreasonably) as: "The Idiot's Lantern" and "The Goggle Box". In the US, Ogden Nash (?) characterised it (I can only remember a few words):......."Video.......And some of it was marvellous......But most of it was hideo". (And when they got colour TV, their NTSC system was Never The Same Colour - to be fair, our PAL was little better).

Your: "I've successfully photographed some of it, now I'll have to learn how to post it on the net and do the linky bit" puts me to shame.

In spite of Chugalug's careful, kindly instructions many moons ago (which I carefully copied longhand in a notebook and have kept, the complexity of Copy/Paste being then beyond me), I remain a devout coward in technical matters and have never got beyond photocopying on my printer (and that in fear and trembling). It took me about ten years to get to the bottom of my Word Processor, and there's hundreds of things I still don't know about it.

With renewed thanks to you all - Goodnight, Danny.

(Next Instalment on stocks).
Old 13th Nov 2012, 20:31
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Danny intends to Put to Sea - but not far.

Besides the main story which I've been telling, there were a number of "sub plots" running concurrently in these last days. They will make a change and I hope you find them interesting

Ever since I'd taken over the Flight I'd been trying to get some kind of Air-Sea rescue craft attached to us to patrol offshore while flying was in progress. Every take-off was out over the sea, and it was inevitable that one day someone was going to finish up in the water.

With a load of mustard gas in the aircraft this was not an inviting prospect. If the internal tanks were ruptured, or the external spray tanks opened (very probable as impact with the sea would rip off the tail pipe sticking down at the back), the occupants could be paddling about in a pool of the stuff for some time. In this case it would be better for them to drown straight away and have done with it.

A few weeks before we finished flying my prayers were answered. I was allocated a 24 (?) ft "Bomb Scow" (whatever that might be). I'd hoped for an inflatable of some sort, which could be kept on shore and easily launched from the beach at Moplah Bay (just the other side of the Fort). But this was better than nothing. However, before this vessel could appear, I had to prepare moorings to which it could be tethered.

Three laterite blocks of specified dimensions had to be made and sunk offshore in a equilateral triangle of given size. They had to be connected together by chain cable bolted into each block, then coming together to a single chain and buoy. The length (but not the size) of this chain was specified. That, I suppose, would depend on the size of the boat.

While the CDRE were casting about for the laterite, and masons to cut it to size, it fell to me to produce the chain from RAF sources. No mariners being to hand, Sgt Williams and I looked down the Stores lists, and decided that one-inch chain should be about right for a vessel of our size. The demand went in to the appropriate M.U. (Union Jack is now convulsed with laughter if he is reading this).

I was still puzzled. How were the blocks to be taken out to sea - what with and by whom ? How was the "Scow" to be serviced and refuelled ? How were we supposed to get out and back from it ? Swim ? (there were no port facilities then * - just the beach). I've no idea. All would be made plain in due course, I supposed. An inflatable from the shore, perhaps ? Then give us the inflatable and forget the Scow !
* There are now. A breakwater (pier ?) has been built out from Moplah Bay just South of the Fort. From the tip of the Fort promontary there seems to be a curved extension to the South. The result looks like a little harbour. It would make sense, there is a large military establishment covering the site of the old maidan now and they would need port access.

Of course, it never came to anything. Before we even got started on all this the end was clearly in sight. The project was abandoned. I signalled the M.U. to cancel delivery of the chain (I swear I did !).

By now we were half way through March and my log shows that I left for the UK on 29.4.46. Still six weeks to go, and airmen still have to be paid. Although I'd plenty of odd-bods whom I could have sent down with a truck, on one occasion I drove down to Cochin myself with Sgt Williams. I think it was so I could draw the several thousand rupees accumulated in my paybook from the Accountant officer, take it to Lloyds Bank in Cochin and exchange it for a sterling Banker's Draft to take back home.

Things were hotting-up now. Instead of an hour's flight, it would be a whole day by road through the countless coastal towns and villages. We'd take the 15cwt "Canvas Tilt" Fordson, we could lower the windsceen flat and enjoy the cooling airflow as we trundled over the rough roads at 20-30. I smoked a pipe in those days, and puffed contentedly as we rattled along. I didn't notice a glowing bit of tobacco which blew out and landed on the (starched) waistband of my shorts.

There a smouldering ring grew unnoticed until it reached flesh. Then I noticed in a big way ! A very amused Sgt helped me beat out the conflagration; I had a very sore tummy for some time and resolved not to drive and smoke in future. A few miles south of Cannanore we ran through Mahé, the tiny French enclave I've mentioned, little more than one street.

Much farther on was Calicut, a fair size, but apart from that one village name only sticks obstinately in my mind - Parientalmanna (probably because it sounds like "Parental Manor"..........Small things amuse.......). At one stop about noon I was nonplussed to see my shadow ahead of me in the line of travel, I had a few moment's "Red-on-Black" alarm before it struck me that at about 11° North the Sun would be well North of overhead now. I'd never given it any thought before.

All sorts of odds and ends still need to be tidied up before my story leaves India,

Cheerio for now,


Any Elastoplast in the house ?
Old 14th Nov 2012, 08:52
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The demand went in to the appropriate M.U. (Union Jack is now convulsed with laughter if he is reading this).

Au contraire, Danny. I was aware that bomb scows were used for transporting armaments from shore to flying boats and amphibians but, until I did a quick shoogle with google, I was unaware of the more precise details of their history. Worth a look - there are lots of pictures, and everything from the award of a posthumous George Cross to a very brave man trying to help one of his comrades after a Sunderland exploded at Singapore to the court case of an Australian accused of stealing a bomb scow in the Northern Territory.

By and large (a good sailing expression), I am drawn to the conclusion that it was just as well that your empire was not increased by the arrival of such a vessel, despite your worthy attempts to prepare for its arrival!

Perhaps a former member of Coastal Command or the Marine Branch can come up with some more personal reminiscences of such craft.

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Old 14th Nov 2012, 18:57
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The Chains that Bind Us.

Union Jack,

Thanks for the tip - Wiki gives a photo of this enormous flat-bottomed thing. I'd got the length wrong for a start (31 ft was the smallest on offer). Lord help us if we'd actually got one !

And thanks for keeping quiet, so as not to shoot my fox (for I'm sure you know what is coming next). We haven't heard the rest of the story !

All in good time, Cheers, Danny.
Old 14th Nov 2012, 19:55
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Like you Danny, I will defer in every way to Union Jack's professional expertise re Scows, Bomb or otherwise. Indeed my first question is "What is a Scow?". (Peers over pince-nez at the Press Gallery and adds, "Would the gentlemen of the Press please make a note of that question?".
Having followed his advice I duly Googled 'Bomb Scow' and found these two pics:
The latter shows why there was a lack of superstructure of any kind, even the hand rails had to be lowered before floating it under the wings of a flying boat (here a Catalina) before hanging the bombs (here Depth Charges?) from them.
The other picture shows a very unseaworthy hull, I would have thought. Designed purely for taking heavy lumps of metal out to moored Flying Boats rather than act as a quick reaction SAR vessel. I think you would indeed have been far better off with an inflatable (Did they have them then though? Powered ones I mean), or at least an outboard powered dinghy. I think someone was "Avin a larf" with you, Danny.
I remember chatting to the Skipper of an RAFMCU launch detached to Borneo on anti piracy duties. He said it was the best job ever, everything he wanted he got because no-one else in the RAF (locally anyway) knew more than he to question him.
On the whole though things nautical should be left to those who go down to the sea in ships, such as those commanded by the RNO (Royal Navy Officer) RAF Christmas Island. His "fleet" consisted of an MFV (Motor Fishing Vessel) and an LCI (Landing Craft Infantry).
The former was fitted out with fully harnessed bucket seats and outrigger rods for deep sea fishing that would have done justice to the Florida Keys.
The latter was used to ferry in supplies from visiting merchant ships and to ferry out the copra crop harvested by the resident Gilbertise Islanders. They in turn were administered by the DCO (District Colonial Officer) who, hearing that the base was finally to close and pretty well everything other than the personnel to be left behind, asked if he could take over the LCI.
The RNO duly signalled their Lordships who replied in the affirmative with the proviso that tenders over £100 only should be accepted. As this exceeded the value of the crop, the DCO said sadly that he couldn't afford that much. "Too bad", said the RNO, "I'll just have to leave the keys on top of my wardrobe".

Last edited by Chugalug2; 14th Nov 2012 at 20:03.
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Old 14th Nov 2012, 22:09
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Formidable beasts indeed, these Scows !

Certainly we had inflatables, for there were all sizes of aircraft dinghies from the "K" (one-man) upward. All you'd need to do would be to put in a wooden transom (hasn't he just mugged up the correct term !) of some kind, for I'm pretty sure we had outboards in those days, too. We would have been far better off with something like that, as you rightly say.

"Avin' a larf" ? Now you come to mention it, it was a bit suspicious how the thing was offered to me right after VJ Day (when the Boat people in Redhills and Ceylon had no further use for it). Dump it on someone else, let him worry about the disposal !

I think their Lordships were chancing their arm a bit. What would they do with a war-surplus LCI stuck out in the Solomon Islands ? It'd cost far more to sail home than they'd get for it as scrap. The RNO had the right idea - get rid of the thing (they should have paid the DCO for taking it off their hands !)

Must now settle down to draft out the last chapter(s) of my weary tale.

Goodnight, Danny.
Old 16th Nov 2012, 22:24
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Danny and the final Wrap-up.

About the middle of April I got my "Marching Orders". Not for release yet, but as my (extended) overseas tour had time-expired. 1340 Flight had ceased to have any purpose (except to act as a holding unit for the aircrew officers who had come out just after VJ and would have to wait some time yet before shipping was available for their return home).

They would still need a C.O. "Alex" Bury was named to succeed me, he would inherit my "as new" rank cuffs on the 29th of the month (and I would revert to Flight Lieutenant). On that date I would hand over the safe keys and the code & cypher books. My one-and-only Command had lasted for only 13 months, but it had been interesting. Alex would not need to catch up with much paperwork, but I would still leave him a problem (in the shape of an unintended legacy to the good folk of Cannanore). It happened like this:

A couple of days before I left, there was an agitated message from the local Stationmaster. My chain had arrived ! It was taking up a lot of room, could I please come and take it away ? I went to have a look. No, I couldn't !

When we put the demand in, we'd blithely assumed the "one inch" referred to the overall size of a single link (well, it stands to reason, doesn't it ?) Unfortunately, it doesn't ! - It's the thickness of the rod from which the links are forged that counts ! What we had specified would serve as anchor cable for the Queen Mary (or at least a Mersey ferry) ! And IIRC, there was 100 fathoms of it. Of course the stuff shouldn't have been sent at all; it was the M.U's mistake as we'd cancelled the order. We signalled them to come and take it back.

Meanwhile there was this monstrous pile taking up half the goods yard, and the Stationmaster was tearing his hair out. I left for Bombay and never did hear the end of it. But everyone was in the winding-down phase, chaos reigned and I would not be at all surprised if the huge heap of rusting chain is there yet. By now it will be covered in vegetation and may have acquired religious significance. Mothers will tell their babes tales of the Great Danny Sahib, who once flew in a Huge Iron Bird from the maidan and in gratitude for his safe return to Earth had caused this stupa to be raised in honour of whichever God ruled the roost in those parts.

Curiously enough, I've never been able to find out how much longer the Flight (or CDRE for that matter) carried on before they finally closed down. I didn't keep in touch (no point). For 1340 Flight Wiki just quotes back our Thread to us; there may be some way to get at the final F.540s (the ORB), but I don't know how.

Wiki is no more use when I fed in: "Chemical Defence Research Establishment in WW2". This throws up: " WW2 Mustard Gas Tests on Indians / Military History", which leads to: "Militarian" Military History Programme. This carries a "Guardian" story all about alleged large scale mustard trials up North on supposedly unsuspecting Indian troops; all I can say is that I was in India at the time and never heard a whisper of any such places in the CDRE Mess in Cannanore (or anywhere else). (Cow or Pig fat to grease the cartridges, anyone ?). It contains no mention of us. Both Cannanore and Porton always seemed to be treated as "hush-hush" to a great extent; there was some sort of a security angle to them.

Now we must think of small details. What kit did I have to go home in ? (besides my KD, of course - and I may have had a bush-jacket & slacks in jungle green - "bottle-green battledress" - or (colloquially): "battle-green bottledress"). Did I have a No.1 SD - certainly not ! Greatcoat - no. * Blue battledress - certainly - I would need it for the Med. Where did I get it ? I must have had it to come out in '42, and had to have it for Ski School. Meanwhile it must have mouldered away for three years at the bottom of my tin box/Uniform Case with my Black Shoes.

* Near the end, RAF Stores "Officers' Shops" out there had "sealed pattern" blue serge (but not Crombie) greatcoat cloth for sale by the yard (dirt cheap). For a few rupees, I got enough for a coat, borrowed another coat to show the dherzi how to set about it, got measured up and left my stuff for him to have a go. It was a woeful mess, I think I gave it to my Bearer, "Joseph".

So when I went to Worli (again !) all I'd need with me was battledress, blue shirts , u/wear, black socks & shoes, plus a bit of KD, towel and "small kit". All the rest of my belongings went into my Uniform Case. A CDRE carpenter crated it up for me, it was handed in to RAF Stores (Cochin). I would not see it again for a month or three, then it turned up safe & sound in Southport (mirabile dictu). Even the bottles were intact !

Not long to go now. Goodnight, chaps,



Last edited by Danny42C; 16th Nov 2012 at 22:25. Reason: Correction.
Old 17th Nov 2012, 11:03
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So not only is it the Lord that giveth and taketh away, Danny, it seems that their Airships do too. As you were in KD and wearing rank slides (a Freudian term if ever there were to facilitate one's easy progress up and down the CoC!) no embarrassing shadows or stitching betrayed your previous exaltedness.
As to the dynamics of your move, I shared your wonder at the safe reuniting with my effects consigned to the uncertain fate of a deep sea voyage while I flew ahead from RAF Changi to Stansted with merely a suitcase and the clothes that I wore. Despite all the dark talk of the jettisoning of crates of deck cargo, including cars being carried as an "indulgence", from HM ships suddenly diverted to operational tasks I never heard directly of anyone being left bereft of their trunks tin, not wanted on voyage, for the use of. Perhaps others did though...
Bad luck with the DIY Greatcoat, it was definitely worth a try. Further East and later on, Chinese tailors always managed to rise to the occasion. In the '60s the No1 SD uniforms produced in Kowloon far exceeded those of R.E. City or Gieves in both quality and value for money in my experience. All good things though come to an end.
Your tale of the anchor chain is a cautionary one and again confirms the old adage of each to their own. When our Squadron's Hastings aircraft were all grounded at Changi for some months following the tragic loss of one with all on-board at Abingdon, our Boss hit upon a scheme to keep us all occupied. He purchased an aluminium ex-ship's lifeboat (perhaps already having served its designed purpose?) and had it delivered to an impromptu boat-yard behind the Squadron building.
We were all "invited" to sub into the project which was to convert it into a cabin cruiser, with the financial incentive that its enhanced value upon completion would result in a capital gain realised on posting by your replacement purchasing your share from you. For me that failed at the first hurdle as I was tour ex well before the launching ceremony and thus suffered a total investment loss
In the meantime one was constantly called upon to scrounge material, be it wood, paint, rope, or for that matter chain, from where one was able. I believe it did finally sail and was used for Squadron barbies etc. So glad...

Last edited by Chugalug2; 17th Nov 2012 at 11:21.
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Old 17th Nov 2012, 19:07
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Long Arm of Coincidence.


The tale of your experiences touches mine at so many points that it is positively uncanny. For a start the Boat: In 1952 a certain G/Capt. Geoffrey (?) Jarman (O.C. RAF Middleton-St-George) was court-martialled at RAF Thornaby on charges of improperly using Service labour and materials to convert a second-hand ship's lifeboat * into a cabin cruiser.

Admittedly, this was not (like yours) a project for the common (?) good, but was for the sole benefit of the G/C, who planned with his family to cruise the waterways of Yorkshire and Durham in the completed vessel. Things ended (well, not too) badly for him - ("no names, no pack drill" does not apply here; it was a nationwide cause célèbre; via Google I have read accounts in the press of his home town in NZ).

* The lifeboat itself (as Exhibit "A") was parked in front of my HQ during the trial; I had a photo once........D.

I quote from you: "Our boss hit upon a scheme to keep ourselves occupied .....
........constantly called upon to scrounge material etc."...........

One more example of: "The trouble with the human race is that it doesn't read the Minutes of the Last Meeting". Your Boss was lucky that the Changi S.I.B. were poor readers !

(Hope you enjoyed the barbies, but wasn't it a bit of a fire risk in a small boat - said he, wearing his old part-time Fire Officer's hat !)

Like yours, the boat did sail, there was a happy ending ('fraid full tale is a very long way down the line yet, may get to it someday.....D).

R.E. City rings a bell, they made me a Mess Kit, quite decent and none too dear. Gieves put a fast one over on me once - so never dealt with them since. (Monty Burton more my style; and what was the name of that marvellous firm in Newark that sold 2/hand No.1s and greatcoats (in good nick) for half-price?). Were the offerings of Messrs J.E. (?) Bates, of Jermyn Street, still the headgear de rigueur in your time ?


Last edited by Danny42C; 18th Nov 2012 at 15:24.
Old 17th Nov 2012, 19:37
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.....and what was the name of that marvellous firm in Newark that sold 2/hand No.1s and greatcoats (in good nick) for half-price?
Ernie Bedford. A wonderfully traditional military tailor and gentlemen's outfitter, long since gone. With cut after cut reducing the RAF to a pathetic shadow of its former glory, poor old Ernie was no longer getting sufficent stock to keep his secondhand clothing business alive....

Sadly, Bates no longer sell their markedly superior RAF SD caps.... Most people buy them from clothing stores nowadays, it seems.
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Old 17th Nov 2012, 19:47
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I think the Newark chap was called Bedford. He sold me a secondhand mess kit and re-ranked it all for a reasonable price. Regrettably it shrank in the wardrobe!

Belated Happy Returns


Darn Beags got in first.

Last edited by ACW418; 17th Nov 2012 at 19:48.
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Old 18th Nov 2012, 11:01
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"The trouble with the human race is that it doesn't read the Minutes of the Last Meeting". Your Boss was lucky that the Changi S.I.B. were poor readers !
Point taken Danny, though in fairness to my Boss he was faced with a challenging dilemma of how to keep a lot of guys (100 odd?) fully occupied for an indeterminate period. In that regard he was successful and I'm pretty certain he would have gotten the support of the Station Commander beforehand just as he did with the business of the NAAFI trading monopoly previously.
As to the SIB they were preoccupied with establishing that Singapore was not an HM ship and that all duty free cigarettes so marked, though being the only ones available when imported within one's allowance, could be confiscated on arrival and exchanged for Camel cigarettes which NAAFI could not otherwise shift.
Mercifully I avoided most of the shipbuilding experience as I was detached to Far East Comm Squadron and in Sydney at the time of the grounding and remained there to perform the weekly maintenance requirement together with our two ground crew members. Eventually the rectification team arrived and we returned to Changi and I rejoined my Squadron. A fellow co-pilot warned me of the blood, toil, tears, and sweat presently on offer and suggested instead volunteering for a place on a Jet Provost Trials Unit looking for aerial observers, operating from Butterworth but based in Penang. It was a tough choice but one instinctively new where one's duty lay, which was obviously away from the ship yard, so off we went 'oop north!

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Old 18th Nov 2012, 17:09
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BEagle and ACW418,

"Bedford's of Newark" - of course ! Thanks to you both for the info, and for the birthday wishes. Bedford's were a lifeline for the NS people who came in in the '50s, and for the ones like me who crawled back in under the wire, and who saw no reason to keep Messrs Gieves and their ilk in the style to which they had become accustomed.

I would think that the bulk of their stock was bought cheaply from the huge number of chaps leaving at the war's end. Fortituously, the wartime jacket could be converted to current pattern by simply cutting off the bottom button and invisibly mending the buttonhole (those of us who still had wartime jackets dispensed with this last step and just shrugged the buckle down a bit).

The ca. '51 pattern horror rather upset the applecart for a while, but it soon disappeared amid universal execration. Another source was "Exchange & Mart"; some chap advertising had bought a big batch of surplus W.O.'s uniforms from RAF Stores; cut off the "two dogs fighting", sweet-talk everloving into sewing on braid, a good press, and (if you were a stock size, like me), Bob's your uncle !

Crombie greatcoats were more of a problem; the old style ones would have needed quite a bit of re-tailoring to pass muster in the new (half-belt) style, but I was lucky in getting a newish one. The (optional) serge ones were a bad idea from the start.

Whatever happened to the blue mackintosh (rubberised) Raincoat ? Now there was a useful thing !


I am sure your C.O. acted from the most laudable of motives, but was it wise to encourage a bunch of (shall we say) very enterprising young gentlemen to use their initiatives in acquiring the materials for a vessel - particulary an aluminium one ? (the G/C'c was wood clinker-built). Supposing a mainplane or a canopy vanished, wouldn't the constabulary say "Allo, Allo ?"

Now you're an Aerial Observer on a Jet Provost Trial ! That ranks with "O.C. RAF Ski School, Kashmir" on the Cushiness Scale. What exactly did that involve - it sounds just like the job that would have suited me: I know nothing of the JP, but it looks quite harmless in a teddy-bearish sort of way.

This I must hear !

My thanks to all three of you, Danny.
Old 19th Nov 2012, 09:28
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Bedfords of Newark were still of great value to newly commissioned Flt Cadets in the early 60s, for I obtained a very warm and excellent condition Greatcoat from them then. I seem to remember that "staybrite" buttons were what to look out for, otherwise old type brass ones needed to be replaced with a new set.
Danny, I don't think that the level of "acquiring" that you envisage was required. Those who knew about these things pronounced the hull of the lifeboat as in excellent condition and the conversion consisted of the fitting of a wooden deck and a cabin. The engine was also top notch. A lot of the "marine" items required were contributed by "mariners" within the Squadron, so the call mainly was for timber and paint. As I was away "observing" I can not say how that was acquired, but there was of course a large RN presence then. No doubt inter service co-operation ensured that time-ex and scrap material was put to good use.
As to the JPTU, it was hell, but someone had to do it! We were accommodated in a rented villa by the shore on Penang Island, along with the ex-UK team of JP pilots and an MOD scientist. The latter planned each day's tasks, the team would commute on the Ferry to the mainland and then to RAAF Butterworth.A sortie would consist of flying to the trial area (variously open country or jungle clearings) wherein would be pitched a small one man issue ridge tent. The "FAC" would talk us onto the target, and the time taken to acquire and whether it was by the pilot or his observer duly noted. No doubt there was far more to it than that, but that was the gist of it. The trial was to assess the "COIN" concept and in particular the efficacy of the JP for it. Bear in mind that the Strikemaster variant was soon on offer and Vietnam was then raging and re-writing the rule book, as most wars do.
That was the one sad aspect of what was otherwise a "busman's holiday". Once a week the RAAF medivac Herc flew in on its way to Australia, and a Tannoy made for blood donors to report to the Medical Centre. Given that we were aircrew and engaged in flying we were told that we could not join that queue. We felt bad about that but there was never a hint of resentment about that or indeed that we should have been involved in the war anyway, either from the Aussies or the USAF, into whose various bases we were often flying, both before and after the period that our aircraft were grounded.
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Old 19th Nov 2012, 19:10
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Buttons & Blood


You lay before me a veritable feast of topics !

Quoting from you:

.......... "staybrite" buttons were what to look out for, otherwise old type brass ones needed to be replaced with a new set"........ (I'm not sure. The "staybrites" I got hold of were wretched hollow bits of pressed tin; the anodising wore off in a month and then they looked scabrous, far worse than any dirty brass button. Were there better-class ("officers for the use of") solid anodised buttons to be had ?)............."Old type brass ones needed to be replaced with a new set"..........(I take it the problem was the King's or Queen's Crown on the button, but it would need an eagle-eyed Inspecting Officer (or Mr Warwick !) to spot that. And in any case, as I remember, they left us "old hairies" alone with our (nearly polished away) King's crowns - like the Observers with their "Flying A***holes").

............"As to the JPTU, it was hell, but someone had to do it! We were accommodated in a rented villa by the shore on Penang Island",........(nice work)......."along with the ex-UK team of JP pilots and an MOD scientist. The latter planned each day's tasks,...... the team would commute on the Ferry to the mainland and then to RAAF Butterworth"..........(where there was no single accommodation?)

......"A lot of the "marine" items required were contributed by "mariners"......(not me, Guv)..... "within the Squadron, so the call mainly was for timber and paint. As I was away "observing".....(good alibi)..... "I cannot say how that was acquired, but there was of course a large RN presence then"......(Union Jack, spring to the defence of the True Blue !) "No doubt inter service co-operation ensured that time-ex and scrap material was put to good use".....(I bet)....I'll believe you, Chug old chap - many wouldn't !

"The "FAC" would talk us onto the target, and the time taken to acquire and whether it was by the pilot or his observer duly noted. No doubt there was far more to it than that, but that was the gist of it"......(this sounds suspiciously like the Indian Rope Trick - two men and one shovel !).......

"The trial was to assess the "COIN" concept and in particular the efficacy of the JP for it".......(Britain had long experience in Subduing the Tribes: I reckon you were always better off with a big, slow, well armed and armoured single piston which can hang around for ages on location)...... "Bear in mind that the Strikemaster variant was soon on offer".....(JP with hair on its chest)...... "and Vietnam was then raging and re-writing the rule book, as most wars do"......(true, and at least we then had the sense to stay out of unwinnable ones which were none of our business).

........"a Tannoy made for blood donors to report to the Medical Centre. Given that we were aircrew and engaged in flying we were told that we could not join that queue".......... (In the early '50s, the similar call rang out at Thornaby. Danny nobly responded - nobody gave a toss whether you were flying or not).

It really needed Hancock to do it justice. "Have you", they said, "ever had any of these ?" I ran an eye down the grisly list. "Well", I said, "I've had jaundice once, dengue once and malaria three times". "Out, out", they cried. "What about my tea and biscuit ?", I asked (affronted - it wasn't my fault they didn't want my blood). "Out, out" they repeated. It would be fifty years before I got my own back and used up most of their stock in the NE NHS region.

Cheers, Danny.
Old 20th Nov 2012, 07:15
  #3236 (permalink)  
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I know as much about Staybright buttons as I do about matters nautical, Danny. So the only thing I can say is that I never had any trouble with them (or more importantly got into any trouble with them) so perhaps as you say they were subject to later development.
I hope that you have been copying and pasting my words in quoting them, Danny. They certainly weren't worth any more effort than that. Hopefully we can draw a line under the boat business. I only raised it in support of your "Scow's Chain" reminisces, but now realise that "There is little more that I can helpfully add to assist you in your inquiries". I had forgotten the effectiveness with which I had avoided involvement in the project, and therefore knowledge of it. Now that is convincing, isn't it?
What the real point of the COIN trials in Malaya were really about, I'm not sure, just as I'm not sure why we weren't billeted at Butterworth. I suspect that I was savvy enough not to question either, given our tenuous attachment to this gravy train and the obvious disadvantages of a premature return to Singapore if we became all of a sudden surplus to the trial! I suspect that either the MOD was trying to help BAC flog COIN type aircraft or was thinking of buying some itself. As you say much better to get some big radial engined monster out of mothballs anyway, as the the USAF did with the Skyraider.
Oh to be a fly on the wall as you tried to contribute your armful! Turned you down just because of a few technicalities, such as jaundice*1, dengue*1, malaria*3? Just like Hancock there was really only one dignified response, "Very well, I shall take my business elsewhere, I bid you good day!" (Exits right through cupboard door, re-emerging to try exiting again).
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Old 20th Nov 2012, 19:03
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Danny says a Fond Farewell.

"There was one who was famed
For the number of the things
He forgot when he entered the Ship". (Lewis Carrol: Hunting of the Snark).

Or, in my case, when he got on the train. My memory is totally blank. What was the rail route ? I don't think there was a "West Coast Main Line" out there then (is there one now ?); the train would have to go first south (the wrong way) and then east to Coimbatore, then north-east to Yelahanka, before turning north on to the main lines up the spine of India before branching off north-west for Bombay.

Overall, I reckon three days for the journey. Who was in my compartment ? - no idea. It would be full (4), the others would probably be Army officers on their way home. As all roads once led to Rome, so now all lines led to Bombay.

My final leave-taking was short and without ceremony - there was no sense in farewell parties when people were disappearing all the time. I think the Colonel and W/Cdr Edmondes were still there: I would take formal leave of them (I would run into Edmondes some three years later in HQBC). I wished Alex the best of luck - he would probably have to close the place down. I thanked Sgt Williams with all my heart for the advice and support I'd had from him: I think I held a small informal parade to wish my chaps well. I still had several hundred "chips" left, so I left a couple of hundred to my bearer "Joseph" - it would keep him for a twelvemonth - together with all the stuff I left behind in my tent.

Our bowser and the WOT1 had gone back somewhere, of course. We still had the 2-tonner and the 15-cwt, but I think W/Cdr Edmondes ran me down to the station in his Jeep. The guard blew his whistle and waved his flag, we were off.

On the way, I had plenty of time to think back over the past three years. I have never mentioned another more distasteful wartime duty that all officers had to perform on units abroad. It's not often mentioned in people's memoirs - I suppose they don't like to be reminded about it. This was the censoring of your men's letters home. Who censored my letters - quis custodiet ? No idea (of course this all stopped after VJ Day).

Our chaps knew it had to be done (for reasons of security) and kept their letters bland, but even so we thought it a nasty thing to have to do. Particularly sad were the replies from lads who had obviously had a "Dear John", or who'd had family deaths, perhaps in the V1 & V2 blitzes.

The only things I ever had to "blue-pencil" were bits of technical detail of our equipment and what we were doing. And of course there was an unspoken "seal of confession" laid upon us. This was universally upheld, I never heard a whisper about any airman's letter from another officer in my entire time - and certainly never breathed a word about mine. And, come to think of it, that may account for the "amnesia" about the whole business now. We've simply airbrushed it right out of memory.

The time frame needs some working out now. I must have left in the first few days of May, say three days on the train and four days at Worli (now they knew for certain what ships were coming in and when, they did not need to keep large numbers on hand, but could call forward people "just in time" to fill and turn round the troopers). A week, plus two more on board, and I'd be back home by the month end. All plain sailing ? Well, not quite, as it happened.

I have few memories of Worli. It was not much more comfortable than first time. I think I handed in my pistol and ammo there. I may have been vaccinated (again !). It was getting very hot and sticky now; the monsoon was brewing. I had a swim or two in the open air pool of the Willingdon Club in Bombay; on the last afternoon the pool blackboard read 97 °F - the exact temperature of the human body.

We all know and love: "Bless 'em all". Now I was to grasp the full force of: "...as up to the gangway we crawl..." We were allowed to take on board what we personally could carry on one trip - once on deck there was no going back. My days as a Sahib were over. No more "Bearer !" - I was on my own now !

What ship was I in ? (you'd think I'd know !) It was either the "Andes" or the "Aorangi" (as there were 5,000 of us, I would guess "Andes" as being the larger ship). We were in "Standee" berths. As far as I could see, these were essentially a double-bunk version of the standard wire-mesh barrack bed, but with tubular steelwork in place of the angle iron.

At worst, I should not have as far to fall as I had on the ship coming out (7-tier bunks - I'd been on top !). I looked over the ship's rail across to the huge "Gateway of India" as the tugs pulled us away from the quay. A chapter in my life had ended. But I'd been: "with Harry - on Crispin's Day".

Goodnight once more,


You never know what's coming next.

Last edited by Danny42C; 20th Nov 2012 at 23:35. Reason: Add Material.
Old 20th Nov 2012, 19:13
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"You never know what's coming next. "

Indeed. But it IS keenly anticipated I think!
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Old 20th Nov 2012, 21:23
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COIN Trial

Two of the BASOs from 224 Gp succeeded in getting in on the act for a while, thanks to Mick R. We did about ten trips each in September '65 from Tengah and according to my logbook three or four from Butterworth the following month. Wg Cdr Offensive Ops was not amused at the thought of his underlings enjoying themselves so he dragged us back kicking and screaming to HQ. I seem to remember one of the team managed to fly through a tree after an overenthusiastic low pull out - not either of us fortunaately.
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Old 21st Nov 2012, 07:37
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26er, thank you for dotting and crossing those i's and t's. So it would seem that the trials started in Singapore but then moved north to Malaya.
My JP4 flights spanned the period 14 October to 23 November 1965, all out of Butterworth. For the life of me I can't recall how we got there or indeed how we got back to Changi. If it were by road or rail I would have remembered such a journey I think, so I can only guess that we flew. I see that having returned from Sydney I flew on a few training flights at Changi in mid/late September, so we obviously had one or two aircraft flying again by then. It could well be that was how we made those journeys.
Could it be that we replaced you BASOs? Knowing that the Hastings were (almost all) grounded, the obvious place for Group to look to for replacements was us. As noted earlier I clearly displayed a commendable lack of curiosity then such as to rival any BBC DG. Like you two BASOs we jumped at the chance and were definitely not questioning anything or anyone!

Danny, I see that I am not the only one to be uncertain of my comings and goings. The Indian Railways are still mind boggling in their complexity. However, the internet can help unpick some of it. As a starter here is a modern route map of the system:
Indian Railways, Railway Map of India
Individual journeys may be planned here (by those with degrees in data processing):-
Indian Railways Time Tables, PNR, Route, Fares, Arrivals/Departures, Running Status - eRail.in (Better Way To Search Trains)
from which one can at least confirm your statement that there were no direct trains to Bombay for you to take.
That journey, especially as you viewed the disappearing Gateway of India from the deck of the Andes (an interesting name for a ship on the UK India trooping route!), must have been full of emotion.
R.M.S. Andes ,26,000tons | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
No doubt you looked forward to a home coming, but overwhelmingly you must have regretted this sudden severing with a time and place that was so unique in your life. I suspect though that the culture shock is yet to hit you as you return to a bleak land of post war shortages!

Last edited by Chugalug2; 21st Nov 2012 at 09:26.
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