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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 10th Dec 2012, 18:15
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Danny42C
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Danny and a Game of Pass the Parcel.

I'm sure this idyllic state of affairs might have lasted over Christmas but for the Autumn Exercise. The RAF had one every year, to keep Groups and Commands up to speed in running a war. This meant a lot more work for them, and they put in bids for extra people. Botttoms of barrels were scraped and dark corners scoured for the workshy. My name came to light, so after a pleasant couple of months at home, I was sent down to make myself useful at HQ Bomber Command (High Wycombe).

Here I ran into S/Ldr (now) Edmondes, last seen in Cannanore, on the Tech Staff there. He'd been chopped down after the war; nearly all wartime people who managed to stay on dropped at least one rank, counting themselves lucky not to have been kicked out into the cold post-war world outside. S/Ldrs are ten-a-penny in a Command HQ and don't count for much. He could do nothing for me: he was an Armaments Officer and I was attached to the Air Staff.

Naively, I'd brought my helmet and goggles. That was a waste of time. It was clear that they'd nothing for their new boy to do. Put him where he can do no harm. Give him to the Command Air Traffic Control Officer. "There's not much for you here", said the CATCO, "Would you like to have a look at ATC at one of the Groups ?"..... "Why not, Sir ?" ....... "Fine, 1 Group at Bawtry Hall, Off you go !" A game of "Pass the Parcel" had begun.

Bawtry Hall was a noble mansion half way up the old Great North Road, near Doncaster. Its gracious facade fronted the usual gaggle of Laing huts in which we lesser breeds lived and worked. I can't remember doing much there, but I settled down with the GATCO and tried to make myself useful.

Part of the Exercise while I was there was a fascinating experiment. It had long been suspected that many of the wartime bomber losses hitherto ascribed to enemy action might really have been mid-air collisions. Hundreds of bombers were channelled into bomber "streams" to saturate the German defences and so reduce losses. In darkness, cloud, rain and snow, in unlit black painted aircraft, flying on parallel tracks at much the same heights to the same target, usually "weaving" to make life hard for the night fighters, you could see what might happen. A mid-air collision is the worst kind of flying accident, nearly always resulting in the death of all on board both aircraft. There would be no witnesses to tell the tale - just two more "missings" to rub off on a blackboard.

They decided to set up a mock attack on the power stations at Newark. Two or three Lincoln squadrons would be formed into a short stream, bundled together just like their wartime forebears. Without navigation lights on a moonless night, they would fly a 300 mile triangular course, avoiding all brightly lit areas. On the appointed time on the run-in to the target, all navigation lights were to be switched on.

Apparently it was terrifying. Crews which had been flying for two hours in what they thought was isolation (and remember that they knew the purpose of the test and were keeping a good look-out) found one or more others dangerously close. The worst situation was the "piggyback". By great good fortune, there had been no collisions. The experiment was never to be repeated.

On which cheerful note,

Goodnight once more,

Danny42C.


Keep the home fires burning !
 
Old 11th Dec 2012, 08:27
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Danny,
we used to do a similar daft thing on big Transport Command exercises. Argosies, Beverleys and Hastings all converging .in a stream, on the same DZ.
The variation in airspeed and the lack of anti coll lights made for a very 'interesting' time.
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Old 11th Dec 2012, 08:44
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Heard a story during a wash up on an exercise in Salisbury Plain that I was on. An Argosy crew, severely worried about the number of aircraft milling around their airspace, decided to hide in the Bath Prohibited Area circling around at 5,000ft with no lights on.
They subsequenty found out the two others crews had done the same thing; also at 5,000ft.
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Old 11th Dec 2012, 17:40
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aa62:
Argosies, Beverleys and Hastings
We know a song about that, don't we boys and girls?

FED:
An Argosy crew.... decided to hide in the Bath Prohibited Area circling around at 5,000ft with no lights on.
Um, it were two Hastings at 2500ft circling Bath in opposite directions, unless this very unwise procedure was repeated later. It happened after the formation went IMC immediately after take-off from Colerne and was thus forced to scatter. Fortunately pour moi the Stream Leader radioed us further back the line not to get airborne. The Exercise had been postponed previously due wx and this was its final chance. To help it on its way a Wing Commander from Group did the Met Briefing (the Metman had been thanked for turning up but told he was not needed). Strangely, the forecast he gave was for wx conditions exactly on minima. He lied like a cheap Changi watch!

Danny, the RAF had a love affair with Autumn Exercises. Probably something to do with Grouse or Pheasant shooting, or maybe Stag hunting. Anywayoop it all had to be done late September/ early October IIRC. The great annual bean feast for the Tactical Transporters was Exercise Tense Caper. Never was an Exercise more appropriately named!

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Old 12th Dec 2012, 08:20
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Um, it were two Hastings at 2500ft
It had obviously expanded a bit by the time the story reached me. I suppose the present day equivalent has a squadron of Hercs going one way with a couple of C17s going the other.
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Old 12th Dec 2012, 08:50
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Wasn't that tried with Tonkas and Jaguars..............
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Old 12th Dec 2012, 18:52
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Things that go Bump in the Air.

I must say that I'm amazed these games of Blind Man's Buff seem to have gone on so long after Bomber Command had scared themselves fartless so comprehensively in '49 (but then, we never learn, do we ?)

Chugalug, you may well be right in your supposition that the huntin'- shootin' -fishin' calendar dictated the timing of the RAF's Annual Jamboree, but how does the "Glorious Twelfth" fit in ? Speaking as one who never fired on anything which could not (and did) fire back, is there a stop date to this grouse-shooting lark ?

Might be the next instalment tonight if I bestir myself.

Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 13th Dec 2012 at 18:56. Reason: Typo.
 
Old 12th Dec 2012, 19:52
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Danny has to Smarten Up a Bit.

There was a Parade for some reason; my old Indian SD cap came in for disparaging comment. I had to admit that it had seen better days. I had to buy a new one. I must, unusually, have been flush with cash for I ordered a No.1 SD and a dinner jacket from Monty's in Doncaster while I was about it. I'd picked a bad time to buy a new SD.

The Service Dress jacket pattern had changed from the pre-war style. This was the story as I heard it. Pre-war, there had been a Mess Kit for RAF officers: a very natty short pale blue "Eton" jacket and waistcoat, and a gold stripe down the side of the "trews". The war had put all these into mothballs "for the duration", and in the austere post-war years it had continued to be thought inappropriate (and too expensive) to revive their use. For dinners and functions in Mess, your No. 1 uniform was quite good enough.

But there were mutterings among some older and senior officers (who had kept their Mess kits and were still able to get into them) that this was "letting the side down" and amounted to a lapse in standards. There was a Committee somewhere in Air Ministry which busied itself with these matters. Some bright spark came up with a compromise. Why not have a SD jacket which could double as a Mess kit top ? People now wore battledress all the time on duty: off duty you always wore mufti. The only time your SD came out of the wardrobe was for parades and Mess functions - when you wore it with a white shirt and a black bow.

It seemed that King George VI took a keen interest in these proceedings - after all, he had been an RAF officer as Duke of York in the twenties. He had the last word in any change in the Sealed Pattern of any Service uniform. He approved this idea of a dual-purpose SD jacket. Now to design one to his liking.

I can only report that the Committee and its royal patron took leave of their collective senses. What they came up with was an incredible thing. The back centre seam of the jacket was replaced by a double "syce cut" (like an old policeman's tunic). The lower patch pockets came off. The fourth (bottom) button below the buckle came off, replaced by a small, flat button to go under it. To cap it all, the wings were in gold lace !

This ludicrous garment was promulgated in A.M.O.s. There was no question of its being put out to Service trial first. This was it - like it or lump it. Officers must replace their old jackets with this thing and no other. All the Service tailors had to fall into line, of course. Protest arose on all sides, but the Air Ministry set its face against it like flint. The A.M.O. was re-issued some months later, it was quite emphatic, there was no going back, the new pattern was here to stay.

Trust me ! I was one who fell for it. Monty's duly made me one. And then guess what ? Another A.M.O. - complete volteface ! All change again. To rub salt in the wound, they went right back to the old wartime pattern, but merely to save face kept a single (pointless) trace of their mistake. The three-button front, with a hidden button under the buckle, was retained. As I've mentioned earlier, it was the work of a moment to "convert" your old WW2 jacket into a passable copy of this (new) new one.

I got rid of the dreadful thing I'd bought - can't remember how. I can't recall ever seeing anyone weaing one. But I and others ended well out of pocket, for it did not occur to the Air Ministry to offer any compensation.

I got on quite well with the GATCO. But the Exercise was winding down. "Would you like to have a look at one of our Stations ?"......"Sounds like a good idea".........."How about Binbrook ?".........The parcel was on its way again.

Cheerio, everybody,

Danny42C.


"Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy"
 
Old 13th Dec 2012, 20:08
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Now that post is a prime example of the USP of this thread, Danny. I vaguely remember your mention of a variation of the old SD jacket by the replacement of the bottom button with a flat one (under the buckle) but had no idea that there was another variation bearing a Royal Seal of Approval. What a wondrous creation it was too, double vented, no lower pockets (where are the sarnies supposed to go then?) and golden wings! Surely it was worth fighting for on that latter basis alone? We of the two winged master race had a unique opportunity to literally blind others with our presence and let it go? Unbelievable! On the whole though it was probably for the best. The No1 SD became interchangeable with the Battle Dress (made out of the same barathea), giving one a spare working uniform if anything untoward happened to either, and the Mess Dress was certainly an improvement on your "Royal" SD, especially the white sharkskin Tropical variant.
I'm sorry that your investment was a "write off". No doubt if you were still in India (or better still the Far East) a local tailor could have done a cut and shut job for you and thus salvaged it. Just as well though that the King didn't add to your woes and have you swap the SD cap for the rather quaint titfer that he wore at his wedding. I see that the RAF bands have finally ditched the Busby now for the SD cap.

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Old 13th Dec 2012, 20:25
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And they called it the (relative) 'safety' of the bomber stream...
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Old 14th Dec 2012, 00:07
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Chugalug,
I am not surprised that the 1951 New Pattern SD jacket has been forgotten, for it was so eminently forgettable. Those stupid enough to have bought one (like me) dare not wear it and concealed the fact, so as not to become the butts of vulgar jest.

I don't think even the most ingenious dherzi would be able to do much with it (the wings would go back in stock, of course, for had not old Abdul on the next stall once sold such a pair to a gullible Navigator-Sahib long ago, and dined out on the story ever since ?)

I'm not quite sure of the official status of the Barathea Battledress. I (and many others) bought one, for it was immensely smarter (and less scratchy) than the stores-issue blue serge. It must have had some official stamp of approval, or Monty Burton wouldn't have had in the catalogue around ' 53 - '54. As a matter of record, they would do you a barathea battledress then for £12/15, a No.1 SD for £13/15, and a Crombie (yes, really) Greatcoat for £15/15. (the inflation factor was 26 approx). At the time, I'd be getting about £45 a month as a Flt/Lt (including 3/- or 3/6? a day Flying Pay).

I must admit that the old Full Dress headgear was rather a figure of fun, but even so the King did at least get married in the uniform in which he had been proud to serve (as had done his father, his son-in-law and his grandson). It seems a pity that the tradition seems to have been been abandoned......D.

Kookabat,
I've absolutely no experience or specialist knowledge of night bombing in Europe, but I suppose that it was a choice between flying alone (and almost certainly being picked off by a night fighter) or in the "safety" of a crowd. Essentially, it was the wildebeest's solution to the lion problem (but then, do wildebeests collide ?)......D.

Cheers to you both, Danny.

EDIT: If you haven't read it already click on "Flt/Lt. William J. Corbin DFC"
(on Military Aircrew). Marvellous stuff (and the old boys are good value, too).......D.

Last edited by Danny42C; 14th Dec 2012 at 00:30. Reason: Add Material.
 
Old 14th Dec 2012, 00:46
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And that's my understanding of it as well, Danny. That, and 'keep your eyes peeled, lads'. When I first started thinking about it - the masses of aircraft, in the dark, no lights, no radios, certainly no 'air traffic control' as we now know it - I found myself wondering why there weren't many mid-air collisions. Then I thought about it a bit more and realised that actually there probably were more mid-air collisions, but if there were no survivors from either aircraft concerned how would the authorities know the difference between an aircraft lost to enemy action, versus one lost to what was essentially an accident? With no witnesses, both would simply vanish without a trace.
I suppose though that the chances of colliding with other aircraft were somewhat lessened by everyone flying in (roughly) the same direction and (in theory) at the same speed, despite the 'concentration' of aircraft. In fact I believe the Bomber Command Operational Research scientists looked into this during the war* and decided that, if they diluted the concentration of aircraft in a stream to reduce the collision risks, the risks from what they called 'other factors' - presumably enemy action etc - would increase and the overall loss rate would in fact increase with it. So a heightened collision risk was more than offset by the lessening of other risks afforded by concentrating the bombers in a stream. Maybe it WAS the safety of the stream!

Right. Back to the 1951 New Pattern SD jacket!

Adam

*A surprisingly interesting book about this is called "The Science of Bombing", by Randall T. Wakelam.
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Old 14th Dec 2012, 14:51
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Hello everyone from a little boy who never grew up, at least as far as aircraft are concerned. I have been working my way through this thread for months, awed by the memories of Cliff and Reg, enjoying Danny's daily postings, and Chugalug memories ring a bell. Please can I make a contribution?

My father served 26 yrs 1936-1962. He trained as a gunner on Harts and went to France with 142 Sqn Battles but did not fly on ops as far as I know, he would never talk about it other than to say it was a massacre. He did say he had been lucky to get out of France and he became an airframe instructor at Halton. In 1944 he was posted to Poona, India, where the next year I met my first aircraft, a Vultee Vengeance. Being lifted into the cockpit was being lifted into Heaven. We moved to Karachi (Tempests) and at partition had my first flight on a Dakota to Bombay for three weeks on the Georgic to home. I was so excited that I was sick most of the night before.

Father was posted to 9 Sqn Binbrook where I soon found a Lancaster used for dinghy drill beside the static water tank. Three houses away was my dad's friend F/Sgt Bob Nash from Vancouver, who could be tormented into taking me to the Lancaster cockpit for Sunday lessons. In 1945, after two tours on Lancasters, a grateful nation had told Flt Lt Nash that he could continue flying if he resigned his commission (and the pension and pay that went with it). Bob said his Lincoln WS-D flew like an overloaded Lancaster but it was better than not flying at all. So when the other kids said their party pieces, I had the Lancaster takeoff checklist off pat, which either got the party going or produced a stunned silence with sympathetic looks for my parents.

In 1951 we were posted to Aden (8 Sqn Brigands), returning by Hastings to Lyneham (12 hours with two night stops) then to Leuchars (Meteors) and father's choice for his last posting, 202 Sqn Met Flight at Aldergrove (Hastings). I was able to fly on 202's last sortie, a four-ship formation escorting the Standard to its new home at Leconfield. My pilot was the legendary Flt Lt Ignatowski, who had stolen a light aircraft to make his escape from Poland and the advancing Germans. I can still see the tailplane of the lead aircraft rising and falling only a few yards in front of the windscreen, Iggy breathing hard at times as he heaved the Hastings into position.

When in France my father took photographs with his (illegal) Brownie camera. I think they are unique in depicting Battle operations in France, and I would really like them in some museum in tribute to the forgotten airmen of Bomber Command, who suffered twice the losses of their fighter comrades during those dark days of 1940.

I'll try to post a couple, the first being 142's Battles dispersed at Berry-au-Bac to the left of the main road between Laon and Reims, airfield a grass area made from fields on the right. Most personnel were under canvas. Snow has been shovelled from the taxiway in the bitterly cold winter of Dec 1940 with temperatures often below -20C. Seems to be sandbag blast wall beside refuelling bowser. Further along the line is empty bomb dolly. Ground crew is running up first aircraft, to right of bowser a crewman with parachute walks towards the machine.
The second pic (below) is one of several showing mainplane change. Note what appears to be 250lb bombs on the bomb dolly in front of crane. There's more if the audience is interested. Many thanks for this wonderful thread, particularly to those who have made their final climb to the stars.


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Old 14th Dec 2012, 16:27
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At risk of trespassing on these hallowed pages I wonder if I may make a contribution?

I have a lengthy PDF with pics telling the story of a B17 crew which made it's way from the US and details its service based at Gt Ashfield - written by the Navigator, one Joel Punches.

Has it been seen here before?

If there is interest I'll see if its possible to get a PDF from my computer onto here, I've never tried.

I'd hate to see our transatlantic cousins' experience left out!
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Old 14th Dec 2012, 16:35
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The More, the Merrier.

Geriaviator,

Let me be the first to welcome you into our Virtual Crewroom ! (where good fellowship prevails and "never is Heard a discouraging Word" - even if I can't answer for the clouds........

"Please can I make a contribution ?" and "There's more if the audience is interested". Of course you can and of course we are ! Get contributing to your heart's content. Start now ! - and don't go away !

Hail fellow - well met,

Danny.
 
Old 14th Dec 2012, 18:56
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Danny gets into a Control Tower.

Binbrook was on top of a Lincolnshire Wold, about a dozen miles inland from Grimsby. It was a cold place in winter, and it was November now. The only unit on it was 101 Squadron (Lincolns), commanded by a living legend of Bomber Command, Wing Commander Hamish Mahaddie. He doubled as Wing Commander Flying, greeted me warmly and passed me on to the SATCO. This was my first close brush with the Branch in which I would serve my last seventeen years.

Of course (unqualified) I wasn't allowed anywhere near a microphone, but made myself useful round the Tower, sorting out the RAFACs and TAPs and doing the amendments. I had a good look at the Controller's work, and it looked pretty easy to me. There was no intensity at all here; a Lincoln would take off and you wouldn't see it again for about twelve hours.

At that time Intelligence was very interested in any atomic tests the Russians might be making. 101 flew a Lincoln every few days up to Jan Mayen island (70° N, about 1,000 miles). There air filters were deployed to pick up samples of the radioactive fallout which might have drifted on the winds prevailing at that latitude.

These trips were uneventful as a rule, but on one occasion a wind change, or a dicky compass fooled the navigator. (I'm not sure whether they actually found Jan Mayen (there's not all that much to find), or were up at the right latitude and just put the sniffer pads out anyway). After an hour or so on the way back they were horrified to pick up (on H2S radar) land to the west where no land should be. They were off the sea ice on the East coast of Greenland, hundreds of miles off track.

This was signalled back to Binbrook and caused rather a fluttering in the dovecotes. With the increased distance involved, would they still have sufficient fuel to get back to Scotland ? They could divert to Keflavik and refuel there. But their arrival would not pass unnoticed by Soviet agents, who would guess what they had been doing (they probably knew of the flights anyway, but there is no sense in giving a potential enemy gratuitous information).

Maps, rulers and dividers came out, there was a frantic session of mental arithmetic; the fingers-crossed consensus was that they should make Wick (or at least Sumburgh - would their runway be long enough ?) In the event, they got to Kinloss - panic over. Needless to say, I took no part in the affair, but it was rather pleasant to be at the heart of things while having no responsibility whatever for them.

I only remember odd details of my time in the Tower. A Lincoln with a fearful case of pilot-induced oscillation, doing grands jetés down the runway, leaping gaily from one wheel to another until, mercifully, he packed it in and went around, and we could all breathe again.

And one dark night when the following cross-talk was heard:.......(ATC): "Kingpin 23, clear line up & hold"..... (23): "Can't - Caravan's giving me a steady red"......(Cpl on i/c to Twr.): "No, I'm not, sir !.......(ATC): "He says he's not"......(23): "I tell you, he is".......(Cpl on i/c): "No, I'm NOT"........"He says......".........."I TELL YOU....."....this went on for quite some time before ATC could convince 23 that what he was looking at was the obstruction light on top of the Caravan.

(And this brings to mind an old "Tee Emm" tale of the WW2 chap who found a steady red in blacked-out Britain, thought "Pundit", circled for a while to wait for the ident and then realised that he was flying round his own navigation light).

Christmas approached, and I was gratified to hear from Lloyds that I had gone up to 23/- a day. A fortnight later they told me that they'd made a mistake: it should have been only 21/-. Ah, well.... And I carried on busily swotting for my Promotion Exam "B" in March.

But the rush of wealth to the head set me thinking about a vehicle of my own. RAF stations are always in the back of beyond, and "wheels" of some sort are essential, buses (if any) being of the "once-a-week-on-market-day" kind. I'd been carless since '49, when I'd sold the old wreck of a Standard I'd bought on demob leave. New cars were almost unobtainable (and in any case unaffordable for penniless junior officers).

Leafing through "Autocar" in the Mess one day, I came across a Road Test of the Bond "Minicar". I still remember the conclusion of the Test Report: "This little vehicle is claimed to be able to carry two six-foot men, at up to 40 mph, with weather protection, at up to 100 mpg. The mere fact that we found these claims to be fully justified is worth more than any amount of journalistic lily-painting".

They retailed at £199. I put in an order for one (for delivery in May) from Sharp's Commercials, of Preston. (see Google: Bond Minicar > The Bond Minicar Page > Mk. A for pics. The Bonds lasted well into the '70s). I was to keep it for more than four years, and run up 30,000 miles on it. It was a wonderful little thing. I wish I had it now.

Goodnight again, chaps,

Danny42C.


(Soon be flying again now)

Last edited by Danny42C; 14th Dec 2012 at 18:59. Reason: Typo'
 
Old 16th Dec 2012, 12:30
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Geriaviator:
There's more if the audience is interested
Well, this audience is, for one. So please let us have more of this tragic and little known part of RAF WWII history. We had a chap in the 30 Sqn Assn who was airman groundcrew on Battles and volunteered as a rear gunner. He still complained bitterly that there were gongs a plenty (and no doubt very well earned) for the pilots and navs but "nothing for us erks that sat at the back". When he complained of his Lewis gun seriously overheating when firing back at attacking 109's, he was told; "Well, don't fire it so much then!". Along with the Blenheims, the Battles paid dearly for not being a match for what they were up against.
Your own childhood recollections are very interesting too, with so many types "under your belt" and yet still in short trousers! The mention of your Polish Hastings pilot is a reminder of how many aircrew from Eastern Europe were then in the RAF. With the very real dangers involved in returning home to suspicious and vindictive Communist regimes, large numbers made the RAF their permanent home instead. Scattered from their wartime national squadrons, they filled slots all over the peacetime RAF. Flt Lt Ignatowski was by no means the only such one on Hastings, and without exception they were all larger than life!

ab, please don't hesitate. Just jump right in. The water's fine, honest!

Danny, I'm a bit confused as to why, having got back into flying in the RAF, you are now busying yourself with the no doubt fascinating business of amending ATC publications. Have I missed something, or is it just another variation of the Service's aversion to idle hands, and the belief that doing something, anything, is better than doing nothing (rather like building boats behind the Squadron HQ)?

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Old 16th Dec 2012, 15:26
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Thank you for the welcome!




Danny and Chugalug, thank you for your warm welcome, I'm honoured to join this august squadron on this fascinating thread. Growing up in the RAF made a vast impression on me, especially this story which involves Binbrook.

Douglas Alfred MacLean of Southampton joined the RAF in 1936 and met my father of Belfast in 1938 when they trained as air gunners with 142 Sqn. Airmen named MacLean were nicknamed Dandy after a character in the Weekly News, just as White became Chalky and Wilson was Tug.

They were posted to 142 Sqn at Andover and went to war in 1939, being stationed at Berry-au-Bac in France, where the RAF suffered appalling casualties. When the surviving squadrons returned to Binbrook my father was posted to Halton but kept in close touch with his friend Dandy, who sent him this picture in April 1941.

On the night of June 18 1941 Dandy was rear gunner on a Wellington returning from operations over Germany when it was twice attacked by a night fighter, and he was fatally wounded. My father found later that his son - that's me - had arrived into this world just about the time Dandy was leaving it, somewhere over the North Sea. His telegram to Dandy was returned by the 142 adjutant.

The damaged Wellington struggled back to Binbrook and Dandy was taken home for burial in grave D485, Eastleigh Cemetery, Southampton.

My father would seldom speak of his wartime experiences but encouraged me to remember that Dandy was only one of the 55,573 airmen of Bomber Command who gave their all so that their children could have better lives. He always said that their bravery never received the recognition it deserved.

I have been lucky to have flown in Hastings and wartime Dakota, and to have taxied in a Lincoln, yet one thing has been forgotten: the incredible NOISE. The pilots in the old movies chat nonchalantly away, they hold the mike six inches in front of their face, but my memory is of the tremendous roar and vibration from four big pistons. Without intercom the only way to communicate is to lift the earpiece and shout into the ear, or write a note.

Six hours in the Hastings from Aden to (I think) El Adem had us exhausted, yet young men faced even longer sorties night after night, never mind the perils. I was reminded of this watching the BBMF Lancaster running up, tail turret shaking from side to side, empennage vibrating enough to pop the rivets.

Our generation does not know how lucky we are. Maybe Danny can be coaxed to post again?

Last edited by Geriaviator; 6th Jan 2018 at 15:50. Reason: photobucket replacement
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Old 16th Dec 2012, 17:59
  #3299 (permalink)  
Danny42C
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Chugalug,

Never fear ! I shall raise my eyes (but not much else) to the heavens in the next Post. As it seems that the RAF at this point had set up only one Jet Conversion School for its entire pilot strength, there was this enormous queue for places. I had six months in the doldrums, two spent on indefinite leave and the rest as an itinerant dogsbody, and by pure chance had stumbled into the ATC empire. It could have been worse. I might have been Officer i/c Pig Farm somewhere.

I heartily second everything you say to ab and Geriaviator (I wonder if he has come across my telling * of the Vultee Vengeance saga - the type to which he was introduced at such an early age !

* Starts Post #2250, p. 113 (IIRC). And Ga: See Chugalug's #2549 p. 128.

Danny.
 
Old 16th Dec 2012, 18:21
  #3300 (permalink)  
Danny42C
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Danny is to become Jet-propelled at last

My Jet Conversion Course came up at the end of January (24th). W/Cdr Mahaddie was kind enough to write that they had been impressed with me in ATC and would be happy to have me in the Branch. I would have had a long and awkward train journey ahead of me to get back round the Humber into East Yorkshire, but he saved me that, too.

A Lincoln was laid on, Master Pilot Kalinowski flew me and all my kit over the river to arrive in some style in Driffield. Now I would start flying again in real earnest. (This was typical of Hamish Mahaddie - a real gentleman - to do (unasked), this act of kindness to a complete nonentity. His crews thought the world of him. He died about 15 years ago, I believe - RIP).

The RAF had set up a single jet conversion school (203 AFS) at Driffield in East Yorkshire. It was a few miles west of Driffield town, about ten miles north of Beverley. IIRC they ran two Courses there: a (very!) "short" Course for regulars and returners like me, who had previous experience of fighter aircraft in WW2 - ( I was on No.1 Short Course) and a longer Course (3-4 months) which was in effect an OTU for new entrants, among whom might have been appearing the first National Service newly commissioned pilots. (National Service had been re-introduced on 1st Jan '49, so it was just possible).

On arrival, I bedded down in a room in a typical Laing hut, and still remember the nasty little square coke stove I had. This put out more fumes than heat, it was a wonder I survived. I'd to settle down to some serious reading now, for I was going to take my Promotion Examination there at the end of February. The RAF was quite keen on promotion exams then. You had to take Exam "B" to get to Flt. Lt. (this was still in effect in the late '50s), and "C" for S/Ldr (this was a requirement for selection for Staff College). (And I believe that formerly there had been an Exam "A" between P/O and F/O). The RAF argued, quite reasonably, that an officer who couldn't pass his promotion exams must be either stupid or lazy, and in either case should clearly not be promoted.

Kerosene was the only jet fuel in those days; the whole place stank of it, and the good folk of Driffield had to put up with it, the prevailing wind being in their direction. The ground crews wore heavy green rubberised "kerosene suits" for protection. All day long the welkin rang with the banshee howling of the "Goblin" engines in the Vampires - you could see how they got the name.

All full-Course students had to do the first half of their Course on the dual Meteor T7s (the dual Vampire did not appear until much later). They were then allocated to the Meteor and Vampire training Squadrons as required. I have no idea how the selection was made. We "short-Course" people just flew the Meteors; we thought ourselves a cut above the drivers of the "kiddie-cars", as we scornfully dubbed the Vampire. (Anyone who knows the RAF will have no difficulty in guessing which type I was posted on to when I Ieft !).

There were two kinds of students, experienced WW2 pilots who'd managed to stay (or wangle their way back) in the RAF, and the new intake. We old-timers had at least handled what passed for fast machinery in our day, but the newcomers had flown only Chipmunks and Oxfords (which were reckoned slow in 1939). They were in for big surprises. To begin with, they were confronted with "Black Mac" - W/Cdr McDonald, the CFI, feared by every Bloggs throughout the RAF as a ferocious disciplinarian who struck terror into the hearts of all his students. Then they met the Meteor.

Having come from the Oxford, which I suppose did most of its flying around 130 knots, they found the Meteor a bit of a handful (to say the least). Why that thing, and not the Harvard which would have been much better for them, I cannot imagine. It is not speed alone which was the killer, rather that things happen far quicker than the mental processes can keep pace. Perhaps the logic was: the Meteor is a twin; they must learn to fly twins; any twin will do; we have a lot of these in stock.

This was sound enough reasoning, except that the Meteor was just as good on one as on two (except when you came to land on one, when it was a real pig). Indeed, it was acceptable practice to shut down one engine to stretch the range. But it meant that our young aviators had to make the jump from a prop-driven air taxi of the thirties to the first-line fighter of the RAF twenty years later. A comparison today would be from a Tucano straight into a Tornado (or Typhoon !) It was a tall order, and more than some of them could manage. Carnage was the result.

Cheers,

Danny42C.


You can't make omelettes without breaking eggs.
 

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