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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 29th Dec 2012, 16:34
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Danny manages to Get Down Again in One Piece.

What Goeth Up, must yet Descend, all good things come to an end and soon it was time to go home. The endurance of the T7 was 45 mins and you could count out 10 mins for start-up, taxy out and taxy in. This left you 35 mins, and now you had used (say) 5 mins to get to the upper air (where you did all your exercises). Now you're down to 30 mins. You could not afford a wasted minute in getting down, for this would eat still further into the little time left for instruction or practice up on top. (And there was another good reason, see my reply to Geriaviator - #3315).

The RAF devised the high-level Controlled Descent procedure (QGH): this was standard for all my years in the RAF. All depended on the CR/DF. Assuming you had religiously kept calling for Steers (or kept an ear on the VRB), you should not be far away. The ATC would set you a height to fly (16,000 ft was the usual starter - Flight Levels were far in the future). Two or three more Steers should see you o/h Driffield (ATC can see this on the CR tube).

Then he would turn you onto your Outbound leg in the "Safety Lane" (this was a misnomer if ever there was, the only thing he knew was that there was no high ground in it). Immediately you confirmed on the outbound heading, he would check QFE set and you were told "Commence Descent, call turning left at Ten" (say).

Then the fun started. You reduced to Flight Idle (8,000 rpm), put the airbrakes out and maintained 250 kts. To do this required about a 50░ dive and the rate-of-climb hit the stops the other way. About 8,000 ft/min we reckoned, which meant that your turn should come up in about 45 seconds, give or take. You called "Harpic" (unofficial, but used everywhere in the RAF, for Harpic reaches.......!) ATC would come back with your inbound heading, and "Check height, 2,500 ft" (say). If ATC was on the ball, he would have started with your "Harpic" bearing, allowed for your turn (Rate 1) and any correction needed to close you on the Inbound Safety Lane heading.

As you approached 2,500, you would pull out of your dive to get level at that height, brakes in and let speed bleed off to circuit speed (180 Kts ?). If you were visual, ATC would give you a steer or two until "Field in Sight".... ...."Over to local". Otherwise, it would be "Descend to visual", etc. Now if all was quiet, and there was no other traffic, and the pilot and ATC were reasonably competent, this worked like a charm. From "Commence Descent" to "Field in Sight" should last no more than 2-3 minutes. But......... There was generally more than one customer at a time. No.2 was homed at 17,000 until No.1 had started down, and was not cleared to descend until No.1 had turned inbound. Again ATC was busy - four at a time was reckoned the practical limit if everybody was playing the game.

It was a big "if" ! A high speed turn in (possibly turbulent) cloud on instruments, standing almost upright on his rudder pedals in a 50░ dive, is no fun for anybody. For poor Bloggs (solo), who had been bumbling about gently in his Oxford only a few short weeks ago, it was all too often the end. Even if he kept a semblance of control, he could be trapped by the smallest ASI needle and believe himself to be at 14,000 when it was really 4,000 ft (sounds unbelievable, but we know - from the lucky ones who survived - that it did happen). I would think that many of the cases when he came out of clouds like a thunderbolt and went in like a tentpeg stemmed from this source. (See aw ditor's comment #3317 p. 166 26 Dec).

With my time as a dive-bomber as useful experience, the descent attitude was no problem, and I was well trained in watching my altimeter like a hawk, but even so, sometimes doing it in cloud (and a turn into the bargain) kept me on my toes (in every sense !) However, I'm still here, aren't I ?, so we must have got back in the circuit all right.

Plain sailing now. I'm a bit hazy about speeds (and have no Pilot's Notes for the T7 of '50) , but remember that we kept 1/3 flap on (for better control). U/C limitation was about 160 kts, and you musn't forget to put your airbrakes in (you may have used them to slow down to circuit speed). No "Spitfire Approaches" now. A nice, sweeping turn at around 150 kts. Full flap. Engines kept at 8,000 - (you might yet need full power in a hurry), and now the biggest change in my flying experience in nearly ten years. Throttles closed in good time (engines take much longer to wind down). You didn't land aeroplanes any more, it seemed. You just flew them onto the runway. An orang-utan could do it. I could do it.

Of course this was my first nosewheel landing. "Just do a wheeler", said Willis, and demonstrated. Now he had to put the nosewheel down. I watched in horror as the nose went down.....down.... down. The wheel's still up ! The nose's going in ! - (and me with it !) Then the comforting thump as rubber met tarmac.

Now I'm in a dream aeroplane. It couldn't ground-loop - it would run true. It wouldn't float off, even if you'd come in too fast. It wouldn't bounce - it would break first (so I was told - never tried it). You could clap the brakes on as hard as you liked - you couldn't put the nose in. What more could a man want ? To stop the damn' thing before it went haring off the far end, of course! Thank God for Mr. Dunlop ! I'm afraid he was cruelly misused in our early days.

That'll do to be going on with. With all Good Wishes for Good Fortune in 2013 to all my readers (and the rest of you !)


Say not the struggle naught availeth.

Last edited by Danny42C; 29th Dec 2012 at 16:43. Reason: Typo.
Old 30th Dec 2012, 08:32
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A well known internet auction site has a DFC medal group for a WW2 Halifax pilot with a bit of history that may sound a little familiar in places to readers of this thread. Are they?
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Old 30th Dec 2012, 13:06
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More memories from France, Dec 1940

Personnel of 142 and (I think) 12 Sqns cut off branches to camouflage their Fairey Battles on their makeshift airfield at Berry-au-Bac. Note Battle nose visible at top right. Right picture: In -20C temperatures and thick snow, they lived in tents pitched around the woodland. One of the tents can be seen on the left.

For light relief, one could always dress up: my father in German helmet found in the WWI fortifications. The helmet was holed front and back. Such antics ceased when someone dressed in similar fashion and carrying an old weapon was shot by a nervous sentry. My father noted that the bunkers contained many helmets, gas masks, footwear and piles of shells of all sizes, left after the first war. Right picture: Four-page editions of the Daily Mail were regularly delivered to the personnel at Berry-au-Bac.

To my fellow ancient aviator: A sad story why I never made it to Berry-au-Bac. When my father left the Service in 1962 he swore he would never fly again. I gained my licence shortly afterwards and for the next 24 years my many offers of a flight were politely declined in Service fashion, ie Notbloodylikely or Nobloodyfear.

Came the day when he discovered a wartime friend paying a short visit from the USA to Weston-super-Mare. I explained he could get there quite easily in about 20 hours ... or I could collect him next morning and have him there for his morning cuppa. He was very nervous at first but we had an excellent trip in brilliant sunshine, and he couldn't get over the comfort and performance of my Piper Arrow, 160mph at FL100 over Snowdonia.

When I asked him in early 1986 if he would like a trip to Berry-au-Bac, to my great surprise he said he would love to go. I still regret that he died a few months later before I could take him.

Last but not least to Danny: the "gas" attack indeed happened, my father said the Pongos were very annoyed and complained bitterly, to which the RAF replied that the Germans too would not give much warning of an attack. However, my father was in no doubt that poison gas would be available if the Germans used it first.

Re earlier pic of the Battle cockpit: the gun was stored inside the cockpit. When necessary the canopy was hinged from its forward end into the vertical position, providing some protection from the slipstream. The hapless gunner stood facing the rear, monkey-chain around his waist to keep him in, Vickers on a ball mounting to combat the fast-approaching cannon.
The hole in the fin is a defect in the original photo. I don't know about the bomb racks, though apparently they were ideal for carrying a bicycle in the days when people walked or cycled rather than drove.

Danny, your memories and your style are spellbinding. Thank you again, and please keep them coming!

Last edited by Geriaviator; 30th Dec 2012 at 15:12.
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Old 30th Dec 2012, 13:23
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thank you for your explanation. Berry au Bac is very close to a place we visit when in France. It is The Dragons Cave on the Chemin des Dames. I will make a point of going there when I next visit the area. Your stories and the incredible pics I find riveting as I do Danny's tales. I too have a regret that I never managed to get a neighbour to the RAF Museum before he died. He had flown on the Berlin Airlift as a Flight Engineer on Avro Yorks. His pics , log book etc were all lost in a burglary !
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Old 30th Dec 2012, 23:53
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Devil Mixed Bag.


Sounds ominous. But the auctioneer's catalogue would name the (presumably deceased) recipent, surely ? There must be a lot of Lancaster and Halifax ex-aircrew going to their rewards now; a lot of medals going for sale.....D.


Copies of this wonderful cache of photographs must go to the RAF and Imperial War Museums, for I'm sure that documentation of that period of the War must (in view of the circumstances at the time) be scarce.

They were certainly living in miserable conditions, under canvas in that weather. You would think that a local village would be a better bet - in the straw in a barn could be quite warm.

Yes, your chap with the stahlhelm was asking for trouble. There was an apocryphal story (how I love that word !) that, near the war's end, when the uniforms of all Free Europe were fielding salutes around the West End, two RAF Intelligence types dressed up as Luftwaffe officers and joined the parade for a couple of hours before someone said "Half a mo' !

I'm not convinced by the RAF excuse for spraying the squaddies with mustard. On the same logic, a Hurricane could have cut a swathe through them with all guns firing. I would not have liked to have been the pilot when he got down !

And now I come to think of it the Battle photo was pre-war; the gunner could keep snug and warm with his gun, safe from surprise attack. And I've just noticed how sleek a Battle really looked. A bit of dihedral would have improved it IMHO, but it was really quite a handsome aircraft.

A practice bomb rack used as a bike-carrier ? Perfectly true - I have seen it done (you had to loosen the handlebars and turn them. of course)......D.

To you all, thanks for your encouragement and a Happy New Year.

Old 31st Dec 2012, 09:14
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The endurance of the T7 was 45 mins and you could count out 10 mins for start-up, taxy out and taxy in. This left you 35 mins, and now you had used (say) 5 mins to get to the upper air (where you did all your exercises).
I recall reading a comment from some ex-bomber baron posted to CFS to fly the Meatbox:

"When I'm down to 30 min endurance, one radio and no navigation aids, I normally declare an emergency - rather than ask for take-off clearance!"
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Old 31st Dec 2012, 10:55
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I don't know about the bomb racks, though apparently they were ideal for carrying a bicycle in the days when people walked or cycled rather than drove.
The spares pannier carried in a V Bomber bomb bay when one went on detachment generally contained the Crew Chief's bicycle. The ossifers would be whisked away in a crew bus while poor old chiefy was left behind to tidy up the aeroplane and make his own way to the Sergeants' Mess.
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Old 31st Dec 2012, 18:35
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Danny gets into a Spin.

As always under training, my log just shows a series of exercise numbers, which now mean nothing to me. One solo trip logged 1.05: this would obviously have been a cross-country with ventral and tip tanks. As for the rest (amounting to 20 trips totalling 15 hrs), one was a (dual) spinning exercise, and a number of others would obviously need to be asymmetric. Five were I/F.

One thing I do remember about aerobatics: the engines would flame-out from fuel starvation after 15 seconds of inverted flight. You counted one-two-three-four-fifteen ! P2 Willis was my instructor throughout. Sadly, he wasn't to last long.

Following Chugalug's tip to a link which has given me Pilot's Notes (up to 1970), I find that by then Intentional Spinning had been forbidden, and I'm not surprised, for it was only allowed dual at Driffield in my time, or it would have bumped up the casualty rate quite a bit IMHO. It was quite an interesting experience to try once - (but only once !)

The trouble was that the Meteor would't stall cleanly, but "mushed" (not at all unlike a VV) as the stall came near. The answer was to catch it unawares with a sudden flick-stall about 10 kts above stall speed, and then keep in-stall control applied and hang on for dear life. "A rough ride can be expected", said the P.N.s of my day, and they weren't kidding.

It cut loose like a bucking bronco in a rodeo, and I defy anyone to recall what happened in the next few seconds. The nose went flick-rolling all over land, sea and sky, you hung on grimly, and waited for it to do something - anything - you could get a handle on. After a seeming eternity, the nose awkwardly dropped into a spin of sorts. But it didn't like it one bit, if you didn't hold it in tight it would wriggle out into an untidy spiral dive. After the first lesson, most people were content to leave spins to the birds. Willis (who would get one session per stude per course) told me that no two spins were ever alike - not even from that same T7 he'd spun only an hour before.

I don't remember spins ever doing us actual harm, but asymmetic training for landing was a different matter. The original policy was to flame-out one engine for the exercise, rather than just pull it back to idle. The theory was that Bloggs would be more highly motivated to succeed if his safety net were taken away; he would give of his best; it would be "more realistic". The trouble was that sometimes his best just wasn't good enough, and it got all too "realistic". Accidents increased exponentially.

Mercifully (and before I came on the scene), a statistician in Air Ministry totalled the accident rate (per 10,000 hrs) from this cause alone, and was astounded to find that it exceeded the failure rate of the Derwent engine over a similar period. Therefore, if we cancelled this training, and simply accepted that everyone who had an engine failure would crash, we would still be better off than under the current policy. This was a ridiculous state of affairs, and the common-sense decision was taken at last: asymmetric training would take place with one engine idling at 8,000 rpm. The "safety-net" was restored and the accident rate dropped.

This did not make the T7 any easier a proposition with one "out", when the speed dropped below 170 kt, with wheels and flap down. As the engines were so widely spaced, anything like full power on the live engine produced a savage yaw, far more than could be trimmed out. Sheer leg-power had to fill this gap, and some people are more muscular than others.

A veritable Samson might hold it straight at 125 kt with 14,100 (enough to climb away from the threshold on a missed approach), but for ordinary mortals the rule was: "Never let the speed drop below 150 until the landing is absolutely 'in the bag' ". Slower than that, you were absolutely committed: any attempt to open up and "go around" and the thing would overpower you and yaw/roll into the deck. (Of course, we are talking about "real" cases here: in practices you would smartly open up the "dead" engine as soon as doubt crept in).

I've been re-reading my log carefully of late, for my memory of the end of my Course is rather fuzzy. I flew from 6th to 28th February. Over those 23 days I actually flew on only 11 (weather ?) On one of them I flew 4 times, on three occasions 3 times, and on two twice in a day. It was certainly a "short" and intensive Course !

Did I finish it before Fate took a hand ? I've always believed so, but now I'm not so sure. On or around 29th I went down with a violent fever. It felt very like malaria to me, but the M.O.s (who had both served in the Tropics in WW2) did not think so, and I must admit that the hallmark of true malaria (the way the "shakes" recur at almost exactly 48-hour intervals) was absent. But they did not know what it was, so they diagnosed "PUO" (Pyrexia of Unknown Origin) - in other words, we haven't a clue. Keep him in SSQ.

While I was in there, I was told that P2 Willis had taken off in a Vampire with full underwing (100-gallon) tanks. These ride very close to the ground: the story I heard was that he had started to turn too low, either a tank dropped off or he wiped it off; the inbalance put the other wingtip in and that was that. Hard luck. He'd been a good chap and an excellent instructor. I couldn't say "goodbye" to him, for before I got out of dock he was dead and buried. The curious thing is: I cannot now trace the casualty in Google, this is eerily reminiscent of the Reg Duncan affair in Burma - the death that never was.

But the medics did know what to do about me. Give him a good dollop of this new wonder stuff, Penicillin, and see what happens. What happened was that the patient made a rapid and complete recovery, but was so groggy that it was the 16th March before I was able to move on out. Missed Examination "B", of course (next chance not till September). Ah, well.

Form 414A was a bit cagey: "As a u/t Jet Pilot - 'Average' ", from which "u/t" I infer that I hadn't completed the Course, but they were happy to send me on my way regardless. Perhaps P2 Willis had put in a good word for me.

Next time my travels come to an end (at least for eighteen months). And now it only remains for me to wish you all a Happy, Fortunate and, if possible, a Prosperous New Year.


Tomorrow is also a Day.
Old 1st Jan 2013, 13:18
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I remember one of the last ever Final Handling Tests in a Meteor at Oakington in 1962. The student was doing an approach with the CFI in the back doing the check. For some reason he decided to overshoot at a late stage and gunned both throttles. No 1 was running too slowly to accelerate properly so No 2 did all the work.

The radius of turn around the runway caravan was amazing. It could not have been more than a hundred yards before they were hurtling off cross wind. In the end the CFI did not penalise him because they got away with it.

The one thing the now qualified pilot remembered was the bang as the runway controller closed the caravan door behind him.

One thing I remember about the Meteor was the continuous chuntering in the cruise. More noticeable from the back; the nose seemed to swing left, right, up and down all the time. It may have been because of the T7s long nose without the weight that the NF11 and 14 had.

Fantastic rate of climb, though.
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Old 1st Jan 2013, 13:45
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Danny, your post seems to underline a suspicion that the RAF post war flying training appears to have been based upon the precept that any nod towards common sense safety was somehow going to undermine the aggressive spirit that had been so fundamental to its successful conduct of the war. Why should it take a statistician to work out the blindingly obvious, that deliberately shutting down a perfectly good engine while exploring the limits of maintaining control in the air was bound to lead to disaster for many an inexperienced student jet pilot?

FED, your post also reminds us of the very poor acceleration of those early turbojet engines. The MO at Cranwell always had an open window in his ground floor surgery, even in the depths of a Lincolnshire winter. Outside was his mini, key in the ignition, and engine warmed up from time to time a/r. On the first sounding of a crash alarm he would be out and away leaving his hopeful patient alone in an empty room. As the fleet there consisted of Meteor and Vampire Trainers at the time this was a frequent occurrence. ISTR that the engines had a minimum RPM for the approach to provide for a Go-Around. Unfortunately this was not always maintained by a busy and over-loaded student. I was lucky, for ours was the first course on the far more forgiving JP.

A Happy New Year to everyone who enjoys this thread, whether as author or reader.

Last edited by Chugalug2; 1st Jan 2013 at 13:51.
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Old 1st Jan 2013, 14:04
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The curious thing is: I cannot now trace the casualty in Google, this is eerily reminiscent of the Reg Duncan affair in Burma - the death that never was.
Danny, might be able to find
details here details here
. 3 years, 470 pages.

Air Historic Branch list of relevant publications:


The Price of Peace - A Catalogue of RAF Aircraft Losses Between VE-Day and the End of 1945 by Colin Cummings
Published by Nimbus Publishing
ISBN 09526619 5 0

Final Landings - A Summary of RAF Aircraft and Combat Losses 1946-1949 by Colin Cummings
Published by Nimbus Publishing
ISBN 09526619 4 2

Last Take-Off - A Record of RAF Aircraft Losses 1950 to 1953 by Colin Cummings
Published by Nimbus Publishing
ISBN 0 9526619 3 4

To Fly No More - RAF Aircraft Accidents and Write-Offs 1954-1958 by Colin Cummings
Published by Nimbus Publishing
ISBN 0 9526619 2 6

Lost to Service - A summary of accidents to RAF aircraft and losses of personnel, 1959-1996 by Colin Cummings
Published by Nimbus Publishing
ISBN 0 9526619 0 X
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Old 1st Jan 2013, 21:18
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The spares pannier carried in a V Bomber bomb bay when one went on detachment generally contained the Crew Chief's bicycle
There wasn't room for the chiefy's bike in our Valiant's pannier when we left Gan for Butterworth so our chief put his in the top fuselage aft of the fuel tanks. We pilots got the inpression that the ailerons were a bit light when we were in the cruise. Not to worry, we used the autopilot which used a rate gyro to control the rate of roll.

On arrival at Butterorth we found that the bicycle had shifted and spreadeagled itself over the aileron Q feel cans therebye leaving us with only spring feel which was why they were so light.

Very apologetic crew chief; didn't bother to follow it up.
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Old 1st Jan 2013, 23:48
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Danny 42 c
What year was all that? I remember waiting for take off and seeing a Vampire do what you described
Pressure was on to expand our defense and I for one thought I might not live to the end of the course.
I was suitably humbled as we all were by the sight of a Queen Mary parked outside the classrooms wit the wreck of a Vamp or Meatbox,... a fresh one every week.
The Meteor certainly gave excellent grounding for any sort of assymetric flying in later life on big aircraft
Having bollocked me the Wingo Flying took me up to show me how when id had a bit of difficulty .
(I had had to go around on one,low on fuel, having forgotten to put the gear down they shot red vereys at me and I didnt see the red uc lights cos it wasnt even selected! )
He was very kind,and explained a lot including the scars on his arm from a Mosquito propeller when he was forced to put it down on one. I realised now how to give it the boot and lock my leg.
I was congratulated, passed out and sent off on leave
Just before I exited the main gate I heard a screech from the runway as a Meteor ground to a stop on its belly
'Twas the Wingco and the Stn C.O.on a mutual training flight,... forgot the wheels
Others werent so lucky with their bollockings.One chap was picked on taxying back from outside the far end towing bits of fencewire; He then made the mistake of telling the Wingo that he thought it was not so bad because he had already done the same in the morning and nobody said anything to him
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Old 2nd Jan 2013, 00:21
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The aircraft losses which you describe on the Meteor training were surely unacceptable but I do not remember any great publicity at the time. Was it not ever thus so far as training establishments were concerned?. I do not know whether any statistics have been compiled regarding training accidents during WW2 but it was not unknown for less than than half a course to survive OTU. It would not have been good for morale to disclose these facts which is why they were not disclosed.
After your experiences at Driffield I would have thought that you had used up your nine lives and it was time to fly a desk. I know i would but you are obviously made of sterner stuff. Happy New Year and lang mae yer lum reek.
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Old 2nd Jan 2013, 01:05
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Happy New Year to all PPRuNers.


There was a famous case at Gaydon (?) in the early days of the Vulcan. In a worst-case asymmetric landing exercise (the two out on one side had been idling a while), the student was making a piggies of it. The instructor took it back (rather late) and whacked all four open.

The thing dived off onto the grass, put a wingtip in, whipped round, wiped off the mains, and carried on backwards at ton-up-plus on its belly towards the Tower (Alarm and Despondency in ATC). Before getting there, it rode roughshod over the Flying Wing carpark, finally knocking a sizeable chunk out of a corner of the Tower (where the loos are) and coming to rest.

The only casualty was a passing airman, who was running for his life. Looking over his shoulder as he ran, he went slap into a brick wall (his injuries were not life-threatening). The car-park was a sad sight (I think Air Clues or whatever printed a photo).

All about 18" high, but you could read the number and maker's logos still. (It was reminiscent of the sad bales of scrap coming out of a car crusher: quite often the front number plate is visible still: a sad last reproach to the owner whom the car had served so faithfully, but who had now consigned it to this cruel fate).

I heard that the RAF paid compensation on a new-for-old basis on condition that everybody kept his mouth shut. (It would have made quite an insurance claim, wouldn't it ? - ("there was this V-bomber.....)

Having said that, your chaps were very lucky. Once an asymmetric T7 had got the bit between its teeth, there was generally no way back. The Caravan Corporal would have done better to dive underneath the van. I wouldn't have bothered with the door ! Concur exactly with you about the aircraft - it's the behaviour I described as the "wooly" feel......D.

P.S. (Your bike story - Oops !)


Yes, we do seem to have had a cavalier disregard for human life in those days. I think our all ex-war Senior officers were still in wartime mode: there were always more Prunes where this one had come from. (C'Úst la guerre). Bloggs replaced Prune, but the thinking didn't change. This was hard luck on Bloggs, but that was how it was.

Yes the JP looked a nice little aeroplane, and, as we've always said, "If it looks right, it'll fly right". Never had a ride in one, but think it would be something like a Vampire, which was very nice.........D.


Thank you very much for the time and trouble you must have taken in this research on my behalf. But it looks as if money is involved, and I'm a paid-up member of the Scrooge, Fagin & Shylock club. Myself, I'm quite certain the chap was killed - I certainly hadn't dreamed it - but was just strange that I couldn't trace a record........D.

All the best for the New Year, and thank you for the kind words about my tale,




Feb - March 1950. They were exciting times (looking back on them). Then they were just terrifying !




As I've said to Chugalug, it all sounds unbelievable now, but that was how it was then. I would guess it would be the early '60s before public opinion at last forced the RAF to pay more than lipservice to Flight Safety.

Sterner stuff ? No, just luckier stuff, Taphappy. Will keep lum reeking as lang as possible. Roll on this fracking business ! - pension may run to a few more cu. m. of gas then.

Happy New Year to our latecomers, as well.


Last edited by Danny42C; 20th Feb 2015 at 17:54. Reason: Extra Text.
Old 2nd Jan 2013, 14:54
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Mind is not playing tricks-the National Memorial Arboretum shows a Reginal Marshall Willis being killed at Driffield on the 17th October 1950.He is now buried at Ferryhill Cemetery Co Durham.

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Old 2nd Jan 2013, 17:40
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P2 R.M. Willis (RIP)


This is incredible. The fact and place of Willis's death are confirmed, But 17th October 1950 !

How could my memory have led me so far astray ? I am still positive that the news came to me before I left Driffield on 13th March 1950, and while I was in SSQ there. In October I was flying Vampires on 20 Sqdn at Valley, miles away.

And when did wilyflier (#3341) witness the similar incident at Driffeld ?

Could there have been any possibility of an error in the dates at the Arboretum ?

Whatever the outcome, my sincere thanks for the information,

Danny (an ex-Scouser, too !)

Last edited by Danny42C; 2nd Jan 2013 at 17:46. Reason: Correct Error.
Old 2nd Jan 2013, 22:04
  #3358 (permalink)  
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Danny reaches his Squadron - at last.

Next stop, HQ 12 Group (Newton). This was not encouraging, normally I would have expected to be posted directly on to my Squadron. And (let's face it) 12 Group was the "B" team of Fighter Command. I sensed a slight uncertainty: as in so many times before: they had got me, but didn't know quite what to do with me.

From the record, it seems that they pondered for 13 days (during which I took the opportunity to do some skating in Nottingham), and then put me on the train to 20 Squadron at Valley. This involved a very awkward cross-country journey with many changes, culminating in two ancient coaches pushed by a 0-6-0 "Terrier", which clanked through Stevenson's century old iron box tunnel bridge * over the Menai Strait into Anglesey - and on to Valley.

* Burned down (accidently, it was thought) a few years later. The most popular theory was that a fire had been started inside the tunnel (merely to warm themselves) by some old tramps, or a bunch of "Just William" lads, the inch-thick lining of dry soot (accumulated over a century) ignited. It blazed for hours, until the old wrought-iron plates and rivets softened and the whole lot fell into the Strait. I believe the huge old masonry supports still carry the new road/rail bridge built to replace it.

(Wiki tells a different (and no doubt correct) version of what happened, but I have not corrected my account).

Why "Valley"? It isn't a Welsh name.* In this most Welsh corner of Wales, all the villages had Welsh names. The best known of all is "Llanfair P.G." in Anglesey, when spelled out in full is the longest place name in the U.K. - it goes the full length of the station platform. Valley isn't in a valley. For that matter, there aren't any valleys worthy of the name in Anglesey, nor any hills either if you count out Holyhead mountain.

* EDIT: Oh, yes it is - "Y Fali". Why was it anglicised when all the villages around were not ? Don't know. D.

I have always believed that Valley had been a Coastal Command station, an airfield built in WW2 between village and sea (Caernarvon Bay). It was a typical Nissen hut affair, which you would have thought would have been abandoned post-war like so many others. But Valley had been found to have an unique attribute. In the autumn nights of radiation fog, which in those days might close down every other airfiield in the land, Valley could be relied upon to remain open.

This single meteorological quirk made it too valuable as a diversion airfield to lose. It's still there, now home to to the RAF's "Hawk" Advanced Flying School (and also to an Air/Sea Rescue helicopter detachment, much in the current news on account of one of its pilots - Flt.Lt. William Wales).

Now I learn from Wiki that it was actually a fighter station during the war; based on it a number of squadrons had defended Liverpool and West Lancashire with considerable success by day and night.. The USAAC also used it as a ferry staging post for their replacements at the end of their Atlantic crossings (this may help to explain a later episode in my tale) . You learn something every day !

Wide open to all the westerly gales off the Irish sea, it was a bleak, wet and windy place. We said: "If you can see the hills (Snowdonia), it's going to rain - if you can't see them, it is raining !" The windsock rarely dropped below the horizontal. We lived in wartime discomfort with our coke stoves in the old Nissen huts, with a Nissen-hutted Mess and draughty Nissen hut communal ablutions. (All very different now, I suppose).

20 Squadron had been there since the summer of '49, I arrived in March '50. We were the only "lodgers" on the Station, commanded by a W/Cdr J.E.T. Haile. Between the Wars, No. 20 had been a dedicated Army Co-operation Squadron, spending most of its time out in India. Centrepiece of the Mess silver was a farewell gift from our old Indian Canteen Contractor. This was a richly ornamented silver urn - at least as big as, and more ornate than the F.A. Cup. (Another item - a silver ashtray - came from a certain F/O B.E. Embry, who was destined for greater things).

The Cup showed what a fortune the Contractor must have made out of us over the years (for he would have done the catering for all the Messes). "Gratitude is the lively expectation of favours to come", said that old cynic La Rochefoucald. The Squadron might well come back to India one day (Independence was still eighteen years away). They would need a Canteen Contractor again.

More about the Squadron next time,

'Night, all,


Home, sweet Home.

Last edited by Danny42C; 22nd Aug 2013 at 00:22. Reason: Alteration.
Old 2nd Jan 2013, 23:29
  #3359 (permalink)  
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Although a possibility it is unlikely the date is wrong.The only other time I have had cause to use the Arboretum site it proved correct.Strangely that was to track down the date of the death of my uncle's best friend who died in a Meteor T7 as an instructor in 1955 at Gamston,then a satellite for Worksop.He fell victim to a botched assymetric overshoot(simulated engine failure)by his student.
The bare bones of Driffield are still there as I frequently fly over it in my Cessna 150 but diminish year by year.Used to be part of The Defence School of Transport based at Leconfield down the road but that may have changed.
Yes I too feel a bit like an "honorary" scouser not having been "home" in over 30yrs!!

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Old 3rd Jan 2013, 13:33
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I note your query about rapid descents, which I quite often did. Two minutes from 40 grand, bucking against compressibility, but you had to have finished the landing wthin the next 2 or 3 mins or it was another 5 in IFR !!
I did one of those express descents once at Driffield ready to pop straight through a layer of stratus but luckily changed my mind when I saw treetops peeping up through the cloud layer
I had a Mark8 bucking at .84 once trying to dive past a trio of B47s (on their way to Russia ?)
I caught up but couldnt pass
'Twas quite funny really . I saw a distant vapour trail in the clear blue and chased the bogie for 70 miles or so. As i got nearer I saw it was 3 B47s in tight vic. There was a strict notice out warning us away from any B47 presumably something very special
I dropped between the contrails and crept right up to the leader unseen from the 2 hidden wingmen .
I was flat out probably .82 ...when I felt an uncanny itch on the back of my head (truly).........
So when i looked round there was one of the wingmen right up MY own arse .Thats when I tried to overtake by diving, but they got away
The Cold War pressure was really on then 10-12 hours training on jets , then a bit of gunnery ;and into no.1 Squadron with live ammunition standby scrambles. In 1955 I spent a couple of weeks in Nocton Hall hospital ,next to a senior officer with back compression from a bounced wheels up landing in a Hunter.(him not me)
He explained about the fear of Russia and the necessarily foreshortened training

We began to get Sabres from USA/Canada to improve interception capability( I brought several across the Pond myself, ... (the same endurance as the Meteor}

I didnt rate the Sabre as good as the Meteor for intercepting incoming bombers, would probably pass the inbound bombers a while halfway up the climb ,and have to turn and chase them all the way back to the coast before catching up. The Meteors could climb to height and meet them head on some 70 miles offshore( ( one attack pass only, easier than a quarter attack, but it had to be good!!)

I know the bosses did care about safety in training, (and all our flying was training for the real thing)
because I was called in for a chat a couple of times myself for getting 50 and 60 % hits on the drogue.
Or for a camera gun shot of a Fortress port inner engine filling the screen ; and even a bollocking for wasting an expensive towed target glider with its acoustic' hit' recorder at gunnery school, by shooting it so it fell to bits and crashed.
That lamp seems to start swinging with a life of its own, and it is teatime
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