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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 21st Nov 2012, 12:16
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"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 !

I'm sure that the Navy was only pleased to have the Far East Fleet augmented by Chug's Boss's converted lifeboat!

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).

ANDES was indeed the larger of the two, and indeed one of the finest looking ships afloat at the time, not that the AORANGI would offend a sailor's eye. However, the simplest way of deciding which was "your" ship would have been the fact that the ANDES had one large funnel, whilst the AORANGI had two more slender funnels.

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Old 21st Nov 2012, 16:07
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Chugalug, my trips spanned 9 Sep til 1 Oct at Tengah and 8-10 Nov at Butterworth. Like you I can't remember how we got to Butterworth and back but suspect it was courtesy of the RNZAF Bristol Frightener. I do know that we didn't stay in Penang but found rooms in the mess.

Last edited by 26er; 21st Nov 2012 at 16:09.
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Old 21st Nov 2012, 16:16
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Those who Go Down to the Sea in Ships.


I'm sure there were Indian Railway time-tables in my day, but I never looked at one then - and life's too short to try now ! The best plan was to go down to the station and take pot luck. You would get to your destination sometime - and patience was a virtue ! Will have a good look at the map, though - thanks for the link (I like maps). EDIT: It seems that there is a broad gauge line now direct from Kerala up to Bombay, but the North bit looks wiggly.

You must be psychic ! I have a (not too far distant) Post in draft about the mixed emotions we all felt when we got back, but will not shoot that fox yet.

"Andes" ? I suppose it was intended for the S.America run in peacetime. But in troopship fit, all ships were alike, boring, packed, squalid and uncomfortable. You were always glad to get off them...........D.

Union Jack,

Why do I have two ships in mind ? Could they have been in port at the same time (quite possibly) ? How many funnels did it have ? No idea ! (You can't expect a poor landlubber to remember tiny details like that - should have bought a postcard !).......D.

My thanks to you both (and to Jobza Guddun, for the encouragement),


Last edited by Danny42C; 21st Nov 2012 at 16:32. Reason: Add Material.
Old 23rd Nov 2012, 21:00
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Danny arrives home under a Cloud.

We were still finding our way round the ship and can't have been at sea more than 48 hours; we hadn't even "turned the corner" round Aden yet. An Army lad turned up on sick parade. His M.O. found himself facing a foe he may have seen only in textbooks. He was looking at a case of real, live smallpox.

How could this possibly happen ? In those days, every baby was vaccinated soon after birth (it may even have been a statutory requirement). Every serviceman was re-vaccinated at the Reception Centre as soon as he came in. Everbody was certainly vaccinated again before going out to India. And I'm not sure, but I think that they vaccinated us all at Worli before we boarded the boat home.

I'd nver heard of a case of smallpox in the Army or RAF all the time I was out there. (Dr Danny has no medical qualification or experience of any kind other than that acquired in a lifetime of hypochondria. Sleep easy in your beds. Wiki has been milked for following detail).

There were five doctors available - the Ship's Doctor and four M.O.s. Did their man have some form of immunity to cowpox- so that vaccination would never take? So how did he escape smallpox in India (where it was endemic) for so long ? Were there any more like him on board ? There is no cure for smallpox, like most viral diseases it has to run its course. It is highly contagious in the early stages. A minority die, the others are mostly severely disfigured.

There were 5,000 of us on board. Our doctors rolled up their sleeves and set to work, running a vaccination clinic non-stop for 36 hours until they had re-vaccinated everyone. Even so, we were all effectively in quarantine until the expiration of the incubation period (17 days) - and this seemed to start anew at every stage of the journey up to our home doorsteps.

We went through the Canal at night. At Port Said the "bum-boats" were kept clear of the ship (a few rounds over their heads from a sten gun reinforced the message to the slower learners) and no one was allowed off the ship.

The Mediterranian in late May. Gorgeous weather ? No chance ! Grey skies, cold and wet. Everybody in blues now (a lot of the KD went over the side). We put in to Gibraltar to offload the patient into an isolation hospital there. The clouds were well down on the top of the Rock. Then on home. We picked up the Mersey pilot at the Bar lightship and slunk up river flying the yellow quarantine flag - a plague ship!

We berthed at the Landing Stage. Everything looked exactly the same as I' d left it 3 years before. As soon as the gangplanks hit the Stage, two or three Port Medical Officers rushed on board; in their wake a band of minions followed, with spray lances and five-gallon drums strapped to their backs. With these they set about fumigating the ship from stem to stern. It may have Killed All Known Germs, but it can't have done us much good, either!

There was a silver lining. A bunch of us were rushed straight through Customs, "without our feet touching the ground"', onto a RAF coach, then into the Mersey Tunnel. I was very interested.

Although I'd been driving since 1938, I'd never had occasion to go through the Tunnel since that Sunday in 1934, when just before the official opening, and for one day only, pedestrians were allowed to walk the 2.1 miles through to Birkenhead (and back if they liked). My father and I (12) had done just this (but we chickened out and took the ferry back !). This time we emerged into the light of day and went right across the Wirral to RAF West Kirkby, and - straight into isolation hospital !

Two more weeks of Durance Vile, then they gave me a railway warrant and turned me loose, with a dozen or so lost and bewildered souls also on the final leg home, but strangers to Merseyside. Knowing the area like the back of my hand from boyhood, I was able to act as bellwether for my little flock and put them on the the right trams to their stations (mostly Lime Street, but a few on Cheshire Lines) before hitting the well worn track back up Dale Street to Exchange and the electric train to Southport.

The warrior had come home, to (I think) 14 days Disembarkation Leave. Yet the Medics were even now not satisfied. I had to report to the town M.O.H. every week for a check-up. Needless to say, Mother was very relieved to see her son again more or less intact. When I'd had my crash in February the previous year, the dreaded telegram had come to the door. In war that usually meant only one thing, so on opening it she was thankful to read that I had been merely "injured on air operations against the Japanese".

But that was bad enough. How seriously ? When I'd been in the MFH for couple of days, and learned of the wording of the Casualty signal that the Squadron had to send, I managed (I don't know how), via the Hospital staff, to get a cable away home: "Injuries trivial- letter follows- Love- Danny". But still the suspicion lingered that I was putting a brave face on things, in spite of the denials in my "airletters". So it was not until I started flying again that Mother was partly reassured. Now she could see that I was as good as new: her fears were groundless.

Once more, Goodnight all,


There's no place like Home !

Last edited by Danny42C; 14th Jan 2015 at 01:01. Reason: Duplicated Text. And spelling ! ("Georgeous", forsooth !)
Old 24th Nov 2012, 13:50
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As I recall, flying the Yellow Jack was not the sole privilege of Plague Ships such as yours but rather a routine hoist meaning 'I am inbound from foreign and (therefore) require Customs and medical clearance' (and probably may be still ... Jack?). I'm bound to think that sea travel with its attendant incubation period was a good pandemic-blocker, now lost to us as we saw with the jet-hopping Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome which was so fortunately nipped in the bud not so long ago.

I suppose that your entry to the Mersey was seen by the port Medical Officer of Health as his finest hour, and he was determined to save the Nation at whatever cost to the 4999 on board .... your recall of the very swift Customs clearance has made my day (some distant progenitors of mine were Preventive Officers in the halcyon days of that once-great port; I feel quite confident that, had they been faced with such circumstances, their discretion would have supplanted their valour with no difficulty at all).

Danny, after so extended a stint in India flipping between very-wet-and-warm and very-hot-and-dry, did the return to British weather come as a relief, or otherwise? I wonder if the first, so-long-anticipated pint was something of an anticlimax, and whether the battered state of Liverpool amidst the general conditions of shabbiness and shortage came as anything of a shock to those returning?
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Old 24th Nov 2012, 14:42
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Danny. I've been away, so trying to catch up. My calculation is that you would have turned 18 in 1939 (what timing!) My question is this. (Axiom) at some point in your teens, you would have become aware of problems in Europe (fog in The Channel, Europe cut off). Corollary: This is going to be really serious, and it's going to involve me. At what point did you ralise you were going to have to go to war, and what were your thoughts? (ahem)
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Old 24th Nov 2012, 18:10
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5000 smallpox vacinations

There were 5,000 of us on board. Our doctors rolled up their sleeves and set to work, running a vaccination clinic non-stop for 36 hours until they had re-vaccinated everyone. Even so, we were all effectively in quarantine until the expiration of the incubation period (17 days) - and this seemed to start anew at every stage of the journey up to our home doorsteps.

Whilst not wishing to dispute the posting, why would the ships MO, just happen to have 5000+ smallpox vacination doses available.

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Old 24th Nov 2012, 19:00
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In those days they would have had a five gallon jar of the stuff and scratched it all on with the same two needles.
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Old 24th Nov 2012, 20:30
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Smallpox and Memories.


Yes, a ship at sea must be almost the best Isolation Hospital you can think of. At the time I thought it strange that the M.O.s on board seemed so worried about something which they were normally so in control of - and would indeed stamp out in the '80s for good (so we hope, until some terrorist or rogue state gets hold of the tightly guarded research stocks of virus still kept alive in places).

I have a vivid imagination (still !) Let me (Like Dickens' "Fat Boy" - who so "liked ter make yer Flesh Creep"), pose a scenario: Let us suppose that the smallpox virus mutates in some way (there was plenty of the stuff in India in '46; tinkering by Ayurvedic medicine might do something to it even it could no more cure it than we could). Further suppose than this mutation removes the immunity which recovery from cowpox (or dead vaccine) confers. In short, we now have a super-smallpox alive against which the human race has little or no defence.

This is not entirely fanciful: it has been thought that something of the sort may have happened in the influenza pandemics of the early '20s, which killed more people than WW1. Indeed IIRC, a few years ago influenza corpses from that era were exhumed in Spitzbergen (preserved by the permafrost) so that samples of the virus might be recovered for DNA examination. (Come to think of it, never heard any more about that, could "Google" it - waste of time for me !)

If such a thought had crossed the minds of our doctors, they were not happy men. One of the lascars down with it - fine. One of our chaps - that's different. The thing is highly contagious; we have 5,000 men tightly packed. We could be in a "Roses of Eyam" situation. (Of course, all this is nonsense, Danny is talking through his hat, isn't he ? Couldn't happen, could it ?)

Your ancestor Preventive Officers were in a noble profession, which I joined as an Officer of Customs & Excise to eke out my miserable pension at the end. Only I was (please keep it quiet), a VAT Inspector (oh, the shame !), so did not have to ferret through manholes and poke about in oily machinery spaces. In uniform, I would have been a two-ringer, so at least I kept on bumping along the bottom till the end. (In the circumstances in question, yes - I'd have kept well away from me).

The '46 returnees were mostly the '42 and '43 outbounds; Hitler had done his worst to the place by them, so it looked a bit shabbier than before, but most of what was left standing in late '42 was still there when we got back. The Dark Waters of the Liffey never tasted finer (in those days they came in the wood from Dublin). It was a rather cold summer, as I remember - but then any English summer would have felt cold to us after the tropics. I recall one incident which I may enlarge on later........D.

Yamagata Ken,

This is a really hard one. To what extent are our recollections today coloured by our knowledge of What Happened in the End ? And to what extent were my opinions then (as a teenager) formed by my parents, relatives and teachers ? WW1 was fresh in every grown-up memory; the majority of men seemed to have fought in the trenches and I remember disabled ex-servicemen as pavement-artists and begging in the streets. Nobody wanted another one.

So the question is: when did the nation as a whole come to feel in its bones that war was inevitable ? I think after Chamberlain had brought home his piece of paper from Munich ("Peace in Our Time") and Hitler had invaded Czecho-slovakia, with our Premier's chilling reference to "a faraway land of which we know nothing". The game was on from 1938, the year I left school.

But how and when would it come ? I think Churchill's book title, "The Gathering Storm", expresses the feeling well. And what did my friends and I think about it ? Frankly, we didn't think a lot about it at all. We lived for the day: getting a start in our employments or professions seemed by far the most important thing to worry about. What would come, would come.

As we all know, it came on a Sunday morning, 11 a.m. on 3rd September. Nobody who heard Chamberlain's lugubrious words will ever forget them. Us ? - well, suppose we'll be called up soon. Carry on, wait for orders. Nothing else you could do - for the moment.

Not a very satisfactory answer, but the best I can do..............D.

Cheers to you both, Danny

Last edited by Danny42C; 24th Nov 2012 at 22:39. Reason: Text Error.
Old 24th Nov 2012, 22:20
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Gulfstreamaviator and Fareastdriver,

5,000 doses of smallpox vaccine held on a trooper ? I've wondered about that myself. All I can say is that there were 5,000 of us on board (give or take); the M.O.s vaccinated us all (or said they did), so they must have had the stuff on board, for nothing came out to us.

It would make sense for a troopship to carry a full store of all the vaccines which might be needed for a disease outbreak on board. In the case of smallpox, what would be the logistical problem ? Let's assume that each chap gets a drop (1/20 ml - would he need that much ?) 5,000 would need 250 ml. It's not an excessive quantity. Any ship's doctors reading this ?

I would think Fareastdriver is in the right ballpark !

Thank you both, Goodnight,

Old 25th Nov 2012, 06:06
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In the 60s version of Her Majesty's Royal Air Force we were required to keep all vaccinations up to date and stash the certificates with one's passport, ready for instant deployment. If I recall correctly, yellow fever was valid for ten years, smallpox for two and a half and cholera six months. I suppose the victim managed to skip a session while in transit to Bombay and picked up his bug on the train journey.
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Old 26th Nov 2012, 20:40
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IIRC, we had those little Inoculation Books, too. Our chap would certainly have had one (or he would never have got aboard). He'd had his vaccinations all right, but still got smallpox. That was what worried the M.O.s so much.

We didn't have passports - we owned the place then !

Cheers, Danny.
Old 27th Nov 2012, 12:45
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We didn't have passports - we owned the place then !
Reminds me of the chap who was refused a British passport on the grounds that he was born in India of parents who were also born there. Asked if he had ever been abroad before, he said "Yes, I crossed the Channel once- but there were no border controls when I led my men ashore on Sword Beach!"
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Old 27th Nov 2012, 16:50
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Danny stops to reflect.

Looking back on the war years, I've always been struck by the speed with which "wartime" became our normal way of life in Britain; after the first few months we could hardly remember a peacetime existence, and quickly adjusted to the changed circumstances in which we found ourselves. Even all the privations (rationing, the blackout, the shortages, the dried egg and bully beef, the bombing) became just part of the day-to-day existence. I imagine we youngsters probably adapted sooner than the older generations, but many of those also had vivid memories of '14-'18, and had seen it all before. Britain simply "settled down" to the new job. ("Don't you know there's a war on ?" was common parlance).

When I came home, (and thank God for that), my first impressions were strange . Everything seemed to be just as it had been five years before, when I'd gone off to war. It was as if time had stood still, and I had never been away. Now the people might be a bit older, but they were all the same. Liverpool was knocked about a bit more, but it and Southport were just the same. All my old suits (luckily !) fitted me still. My old bike only needed the tyres pumping up. My old job waited for me - I think I actually went back to my old desk and chair. My workmates were the same bunch of WW1 veterans, a bit more grizzled than I remembered them.

But I wasn't the same as I'd been five years earlier:

The problem was that of the "Office Boy Major", which followed both World Wars (and probably all wars). Your gangling office boy goes off to enlist. He comes back six years later, inches taller, heavier, a battle-hardened Major. Kipling's old cavalryman, back from the wide open veldt of the Boer war, put the point well in "Chant Pagan":

"Me that 'ave been what I've been -
Me that 'ave gone where I've gone -
Me that 'ave seen what I've seen -"

Every one of us would have a different story to tell:

"Tell me, my Lord Northumberland,
How went the day with you ?"
"Hither and yon" the Earl replied,
"As ever a fight must go.
For some fought well, and some fought ill,
And some struck never a blow". (Kipling: The English Way)

And some slept beneath their headstones, and some were broken in mind or body or both, and some had been captives, and some had come home laden with honours. With a tiny number of exceptions, all had done the duty to which they were bound by their Commission or Oath of Attestation - that Oath which will for ever set them apart from the civilian. ("Any man", said Dr. Johnson, "thinks more meanly of himself for not having borne arms for his country").

And through all had run a great golden thread of comradeship.

That's enough. back to the story next time,


All present & correct.

Last edited by Danny42C; 27th Nov 2012 at 17:21. Reason: Typo
Old 28th Nov 2012, 13:44
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Poetic Danny, thanks very much. Sorry to put you on the spot re: teens. I can remember much of what I was doing, but little of what I thought (apart from a pathological loathing of school and a pleasantly rewarding interest in girls).
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Old 28th Nov 2012, 16:03
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Danny, your precise recall of past events obviously extends also to favourite books, be they poetry or novel. The comfort of familiar lines sustained a generation that lost loved ones, comforts, possessions, and even the prospect of their own early and violent demise. God forbid that we should face such privations now, but if so what would comfort us en masse? Morecombe and Wise, Dad's Army, Fools and Horses? Excellent though they might be they do not compare with the strength that comes from an apt and wise quotation that brings everything else into perspective. We are the poorer for it, I fear.
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Old 28th Nov 2012, 19:24
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Yamagata ken,

I remember that a "Royal Enfield" 250cc four-stroke (31/17/6) - after a "Pride & Clarke" two-stoke "Red Indian" (at 29/19/6, about the cheapest new bike on the market) was the unattainable object of desire. But as I never saw 31/- in one piece, never mind 31, it had to stay that way.........D.


Well said ! Kipling (for generations derided by the fashionable as a mere scribbler of jingoist doggerel) rates just below Shakespeare in my book. I always remember the "Times" reference to him on the occasion of King George V's death (Kipling had died a few weeks previously): "The King is dead - and he has sent his trumpeter before him !"

Google: "Kipling___Chant Pagan", read the poem through, and get an idea of what many felt at the war end.....D.

Regards to you both, Danny.
Old 28th Nov 2012, 22:00
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Motorbikes, ah yes. You'll have to lift your sights a bit from 250cc though. A younger (and slimmer) Ken.

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Old 29th Nov 2012, 10:06
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Change of subject continued a little :

1953 at 16, a 1937 Velocette 250cc two-stroke GTP, good for just under 60 mph: by 1959 (& National Service beckoning after 5 years Apprenticeship) the proud owner of a British world beating m/c industry product - a heady Velocette Venom 500.
Supposed to do 102 lying flat on the tank whilst trying to raise an eyeball to squint & see if the magic 'ton' showed on the Smiths chronometric speedo clicking away !

Jump forward 50 years and I'm back on a bike, such glorious freedom & fun & almost as good as flying - better sometimes. A 650 cc now gives an effortless 100 mph just sitting up and almost anywhere - and who built this oiltight reliable electric self starter creation with fantastic brakes ?

That's right it's Japanese - I still feel funny about that aspect after all that time & I was only a kid during the War.

mike hallam

Last edited by mikehallam; 29th Nov 2012 at 10:07.
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Old 29th Nov 2012, 11:53
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My Dad got invalided out in 1946 via Weeton after his Egypt stint from '44. He joined in '41. Caught a severe case of dysentery.
After marriage moved to Southport where I was born.
He had a Velocette KSS, which when I was old enough to cling on to the back of his jacket, used to go to a Temperance place up a street off Lord St, where they sold sasparilla out of a tap.
He was head cocktail barman at the Prince of Wales hotel then the Royal before we got a pub in Wigan.
I was a BSA man and had a '56 DBD34, Grandpa had been a Norton man.

Motorbikes, ah yes. You'll have to lift your sights a bit from 250cc though. A younger (and slimmer) Ken.
On a Velocette without a "fishtail"...sacrilege!

However sorry to digress from Danny's excellent contribution.

Last edited by lasernigel; 29th Nov 2012 at 11:55.
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