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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 Jan 2013, 17:45
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What Danny Found when he Got There.

Of course, the younger generation were not yet coming in to the Officers' and Sergeants' Messes, although National Service airmen were no longer a novelty. We were all wartime pilots, flying (mostly) wartime aircraft and living in typical wartime conditions. The old spirit lived on, tho' it was to fade out slowly over the next years (it would be the '60s before I had a mild surprise on seeing my first S/Ldr pilot with no war ribbons under his wings). This change was inevitable, of course, but there was a tinge of regret all the same.

"Boss" was S/Ldr Alex Hindley, and you couldn't have a nicer one. The Flight Commanders were "Willie" Hewlett (also the PMC) and "Red" Dunningham. I seem to have started in "B" Flight, then tranferred to "A" Flight, but "Willie" signs as my Flt. Commander throughout. I think that "A" Flight was supposed to have the Spitfires and "B" the Vampires, but everybody seemed to be flying both types.

The lone Beau was nominally on "B" Flight, but it was the sole preserve of two refugees from Communist oppression: Master Pilots "Joe" Halkiew (Pole) and "Zed-Zed" Zmitrowitz (Czech), although the Boss and Willie (and maybe others) were checked out on it. (I'm sorry to say that I never even looked into the cockpit !)

One of "B" Flight's pilots was Niel Ker (yes, that's how he spelt it). He had been appointed to (ie lumbered with) the task of Squadron Adjutant. There was quite a lot of paperwork, and as I, an ex-Civil Servant and ex-C.O. of my own small Unit, had some experience in fighting the Good Paper Fight, I was co-opted to assist. I could fly in the mornings, while he polished the office seat, after lunch we changed over, and vice versa the following week, and of course the show kept running when one of us was on leave, and that was handy.

We got along very well in double harness. He was a former Indian Army officer who'd transferred, first into the Indian Air Force (he was actually on No.8 Sqdn, on Spit XIVs, but long after my time), and then into the RAF on Independence. Two old Sahibs, we naturally had plenty to talk about. We kept in touch through the years: he died two years ago.

The bane of our lives was the Squadron Aircraft Inventory. You might suppose that an aircraft came (Stores-wise) as one complete unit. No such luck. First you had (say) a Spitfire XVI airframe number so-an-so. This came in under its unique Stores Reference. Then came a Merlin Mk. 266 engine serial number whatever, with its own Stores Ref. We're there now ? Not a bit of it ! As cherry on the cake, we also had 24 spark plugs (God knows what Stores Ref.) to account for. Why, of all the hundreds of parts in an aero engine, this one item should be singled out, is beyond me. Perhaps it was the easiest of all to take out and get lost.

If a complete aircraft came (raise Demand Voucher on Stores) or went (raise Return Voucher), it was relatively simple, although you had to be careful to list all the serial and reference numbers correctly, and not forget the plugs, and enter all the details of the copy Voucher in the Inventory when (if) it came back from Stores . But then there were engine changes, where only the engine details needed amendment, but the plugs had to booked-out and in like everything else. And these, IIRC, could be swapped (Exchange Voucher) from Stores when they got coked-up or whatever. And copy vouchers can easily get lost, or get entered up wrongly.

You'd need a clerk of saintly assiduity to keep up with this. We had a succession of National servicemen of very variable quality. The Inventory became a nightmare. On paper, we had twin engined Spitfires with an astronomical number of plugs, a single-engined Beaufighter with none at all, and - to cap it all - one whole Spitfire went missing (on paper, at least !) It reminded me of Burma, where rumour had it that a certain W/Cdr Chater had worked the system so well that he had at his disposal a personal Harvard and a Tiger Moth that no longer (officially) existed.

Next time we're going flying again.

Goodnight, chaps,


The Old Order Changeth.............
Old 10th Jan 2013, 18:47
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The RAF store-keeping system was a mystery to me (1959-73). On one unit I had a "kit, tool, general" which was deficient of "tin-snips, watchmakers for the use of". The stores sent me an "alternative item" which was an enormous pair of bolt-croppers.
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Old 10th Jan 2013, 19:32
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The weird and wonderful ways of stackers were still holding sway some 2 decades later....

I was once told that I had to check my 'clothing card' with 'stores'. I'd no idea what a 'clothing card' was, but it was duly produced from the depths of Handbrake House and still included items lovingly entered in longhand by some old boy who'd done my initial kit issue at RAFC some 15 years earlier. I spotted an error and brought it to the attention of some civvie in a brown coat...

"Look, it says I've still got a Gnat oxygen mask and g-suit. I haven't flown a Gnat for at least 6 years and the RAF doesn't even have any Gnats nowadays - they've been scrapped. Obviously there was an error when I handed my Gnat kit back at Valley"

"Still on your charge, sir..."

So I found a friendly Flt Sgt who was a fellow member of the station gliding club. "Leave it with me, sir. I'll ring you tomorrow".

Which he did. The solution was to be handed 2 equipment labels, correctly completed, for items which didn't actually exist. But they bore the magic word 'Scrapped'.

So the next day, back I went to 'stores'.

"Here you are - I've 'found' the labels"

"No problem, sir". And a few majestic strokes of The Pen saw me liberated from the mill stone of non-existent Gnat flying clothing on my clothing card. The System had been satisified!
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Old 10th Jan 2013, 21:00
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Shortly before 110 squadron disbanded in Singapore we had our oldest Whirlwind 10 force land and was damaged. It went off to the
MU at Seleter and after a couple of months I telephoned them as to its condition as I held the inventory for all the squadron's aircraft. I was told that it had been given to the Singapore Air force as a fuselage repair trainer.
I informed SCAF and after they had checked they asked me to go over and clear off the inventory. As Changi was shortly closing we had people posted in for short tours and one was this young WRAF supply officer. There then followed a long session of the Warrant Officer feeding us conversion chits as we disposed of the aircraft.
This Whirlwind was carrying an incredible amount of other squadron's equipment; possibly even a Griffon engine and a Hercules noseheel assembly. After we had finished clearing up the entire station's loose ends it was decided, despite the fact I was a hundred miles from the accident, that all my flying clothing was on it too.

It saved an awful lot of people an awful lot of trouble, including me.
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Old 11th Jan 2013, 08:25
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Ah aircraft inventories ! I had the inventory of one of our Hercs when I was on 48 at Changi. I was summoned one day to the mighty paperwork empire to explain why I had 'lost' one Allison T56 engine from 'my ' aeroplane. My explanation that the a/c in question was 'down route' on a task and thus presumably had the full complement of said Allisons cut no ice with the system. My suggestion that the paoerwork could be in error was treated with derision.
The doctrine of infallibilty formerley residing in the medieval Popes had been seamlessly inherited by by these clerks.
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Old 11th Jan 2013, 08:27
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Which reminds me of two stories one of which I was involved in and one I read............

We had a bowser which was always u/s, it went to Saudi in GW1 and lived up to expectations and was u/s most of the time. Afterwards some equipment was declared as 'surplus to requirements, not worth shipping back to UK' and to be stripped for spares and scrapped in situ. This was duely done and the carcass dumped on the scrap compound.

Guess what - 2 years later I am walking through the vehicle park at Hullavington - and I recognise a number plate !!, blow me down if somehow, someone hadn't rebuilt it and returned it to UK - why ?? - I just don't know..... some things just never go off inventory it appears. (The effort involved in rebuilding it musty have been collossal)

Second story is in 'Chickenhawk' where the Huey goes missing and every bit of missing kit on the base is on it it appears (everyone in 'Supply' using it as an opportunity to write off missing kit). One of the mechanics says he's not surprised it crashed as it must have been about 2 tons overweight !!

anyway....................back on track, come on Danny42C - lets have your next installment.

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Old 11th Jan 2013, 11:42
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Thanks, as always Danny. I was taken by this:

"The lone Beau was nominally on "B" Flight, but it was the sole preserve of two refugees from Communist oppression: Master Pilots "Joe" Halkiew (Pole) and "Zed-Zed" Zmitrowitz (Czech)............"

In my teens (1960s) I had a Saturday job working on a farm. They had a labourer, a German ex-POW. I asked him why he stayed on, and he said there was "nothing to go back to". It didn't occur to me at the time to ask if he came from what became East- or West Germany. It was clear enough to this teenager, that having a roof, a job and food on the table was enough. He'd met a girl, married and settled.

Sort of rhetorical questions. How many men were like these? It can't have been purely political for the Poles and the Czechs, the physical destruction was Europe-wide. How many, called into service in their teens, had nothing to go home to? What happened to all the POWs in North America? Were they allowed to stay on?
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Old 11th Jan 2013, 12:49
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Your Whirlwind may have solved 100's problems Fareastdriver, but it was disposal of the Meteors of 1574TF Flight by acetylene torch that saved the bacon for Electrical Engineering Squadron (aka The Gin Palace). There was an astonishing amount of avionics equipment in these venerable old flying machines. Their inventory records suggested they were the original multi-role combat aircraft, equipped for intereception, bombing, reconnaisance and maritime patrol as well as their usual role of being shot at in the finest traditions of the Royal Navy.

They even accounted for Automatic Propellor Synchronisers (well, they DID have propellors for winding the target drogues in and out), thousands of Griffon Engine spark plugs and quite a few sonobuoys. Not to mention a Watts Datum Compass belonging to The Admiralty.

Ssshh! I said not to mention it.
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Old 11th Jan 2013, 14:16
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I've got bits of Liberator in my attic!

This one's for you, Danny, with many thanks and a request to please keep your priceless stories coming. I did sent the 142 Sqn in France pictures to the IWM but did not receive an acknowledgment. However, there's another souvenir of India which will end up in our local aviation museum as an example of swords being turned into ploughshares.

When this little boy joined his father at Poona/Pune in early 1946 he was delighted to meet the Vengeance but very disappointed to be refused one of the Liberators which were parked in a corner of the airfield. It beat toy cars any day, and Dad had said they were only scrap so I could not understand why this ideal plaything could not grace the front of our bungalow.

In fact this piece of Liberator is still with us today. The industrious Indians cut up the Liberators, melted down the alloy and recast it in pure aluminium, which was then pressed and beaten into cooking dixies and lids for use on Primus stoves or open fires. After use the cookware would be scoured clean with sand and water. These dixies were used in India, taken home to England, used again in Aden and then put away for the past 60 years. (You never know, my parents said, they might come in handy one day.)

Pay attention kids, we had to learn these tables by heart: The cookware was assay marked with an official stamp and sold by weight, Rupees 2 Annas 2 Pice 0 per lb. From memory one rupee was worth 1s 6d (7p in today's fast-depreciating money) and there were 16 annas in the rupee. I don't remember the pice but it was somewhere below the farthing.

We also had a Liberator first-aid kit in a canvas satchel. Over the years we used the various dressings for childhood bumps and scratches, the burn cream was very effective six years later in Aden, but fortunately we did not need the useful 10 syringettes of morphine which were still in the satchel when I found it in the roofspace after my parents died 28 years later. Mum would have been horrified to see me put it in the bin ... such waste.
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Old 11th Jan 2013, 14:58
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Sort of rhetorical questions. How many men were like these?
Quite a few. In the early 1950s my late father employed several Germans ('Theo', ex-Luftwaffe was asked by our cockney foreman whether he was "One of the bleeders wot bombed arr 'ahse" - he wasn't though!). Rudi and Big Fritz often used to baby sit for some extra dosh; the only embarrassing situation being when we were watching "The Valiant Years" when the programme was about the HJ. "It vasn't like der Boy Scouts", he said, "Ve HAD to join". 'Little Fritz' I never knew (he wasn't popular with the others); he went back to Berlin but found himself on the wrong side of the wall. When we received a letter from East Germany asking for a job so that he could get out, my father informed the authorities and one day some spook turned up announced at the kitchen window for a chat....

The Italians were great fun. Toni, Vince, Jerry and Rene always had happy smiles. One day my father asked "Do you have Mafia in Oliveto Citra (their village)?". Poor old Toni nearly had a heart attack before muttering "Si, plenty Mafia". One of them had been a Vatican Guard; just standing around the Vatican with a pike all day, hardly very difficult. When asked why he'd given up such a cushy job, he replied "Wassa very heavy pike-a!". Jerry went down to St Merryn to help with the hay making one year and brightened up considerably when he saw the holidaymakers "Much jig-a-jig here!", he smilingly announced.

In those days (mid-to-late 1950s), down in Somerset there were lots of ex-POWs who'd stayed on to work on farms. A few romany gypsies (who were never any problem) and the odd Sikh travelling salesman. The only orientals were those who worked in the Little East restaurant in Taunton, but I don't recall having seen any people who would have been described as 'negroes' in those days, even though Jamaican immigrants had arrived in England in the late '40s. 'Racism' just didn't exist, everyone seemed to tolerate one another quite happily.

Sorry for the drift, but it was an interesting time - and neither was there any friction between the 'ex-enemy' and the RAF personnel at the aerodrome.

Last edited by BEagle; 11th Jan 2013 at 15:00.
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Old 11th Jan 2013, 18:09
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Yamagata Ken

POW,S---A North American story---a Luftwaffe POW pilot was being transferred West by train across Canada. He jumped off and made his way the short distance to Prescott Ontario where he took a small boat and crossed the St Lawrence to Ogdensburg NY
This was before the US got into the war so he was allowed to go free and made his way back to Germany via S America. I believe he went missing in a 109 over the North Sea later in the war.
In the UK in early 46 I was one of a detachment of AC2,s sent to 3 MU Milton. We lived on an ex US airfield --Grove--near Didcot- there were also German POW,s living there. All of us were taken for work at the MU by truck-- POW,s and AC2,s bouncing around in the back while the leader of the POW,s rode in style with the driver. During the day we mixed with the POW,s and there was no doubt in their minds that man for man the German soldier was superior to ours. Only unfortunate circumstances led to them losing the war.
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Old 11th Jan 2013, 19:12
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DFCP, that would be Franz von Werra.

Despite the efforts of the Canadian Government to obtain his return, and of the United States Authorities to hold him, von Werra crossed the border into Mexico. Travelling by way of Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Spain, he reached Berlin on 18th April, 1941.

On October 25th of the same year, while on patrol, his plane was seen to dive into the sea. No trace of von Werra was found.
After his return to Germany, he was awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross. But he also reported his experiences whilst in captivity, which led directly to improved standards being applied to Allied POWs.

By the time he suffered engine failure over the North Sea in his Bf 109-F4, he had achieved 21 victories, 13 of which were gained after his escape from Canada.
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Old 11th Jan 2013, 20:50
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Many Things.

Yamagata Ken,

I'm afraid it was all political, Ken. Although people like Joe and Zed-Zed knew they might be living more comfortably than in their ravaged homelands, they didn't accept repatriation, much as they might have wished to go home.

They simply feared to return. In all the Soviet bloc countries, ex-prisoners of the West were politically suspect. They had been exposed to western values and were all tainted by the association. They were far from welcome, treated as pariahs, and lucky to escape imprisonment - or worse. Many had married British girls and were allowed stay in Britain, and I don't think we actually deported any who wished to remain.

Russian prisoners sent back (against their will) to Russia mainly finished in the Gulags. Regrettably, we seem to have had a hand in this forced repatriation (in Austria) but I forget details. ........................D


"Automatic Propeller Synchronisers" would do fine on a tug with two tow pylons ! Seriously, the Store-bashers were a race apart; anything could be made to disappear if it were opportune that it should do so (but I think that our elephant in Burma was a bit too much even for them).................D


There were 12 Pice to an Anna (I never saw a Pice). On my reckoning, the bowls were 3/6 each, or 7-8 today. The bazaar tinsmith would have been quite capable of beating a piece of the Lib into any shape required, but the metal would have been too thin for a cooking utensil. I suppose the old arms factories (like Dum-Dum) did the melting down and casting.
(Our parents had had to "make do and mend" all their lives). Plenty of shots in my locker still (Arclite01 to note - thanks for kind words !).

IWM should be ashamed of itself...............D.


Can't do better than Kipling:

"I do not love my country's foes - nor call 'em 'eroes. Still,
Where is the sense in 'ating those,
'Oom you are paid to kill ?".........D.

Thanks to you all for keeping the pot boiling,

Old 11th Jan 2013, 22:49
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DFCP, that would be Franz von Werra.

The original "The One That Got Away" although some of our younger members might be more familiar with that being the title of a song by various singers .....

So far as the writing off of stores is concerned, I really can't compete with some of the preceding tales. I do recall, however, hearing the story of the young Lieutenant commanding one of the final group of post-war XE-Craft midget submarines, whose rather expensive binoculars had unfortunately gone missing without a trace.

After some deliberation, the Form S126 (Loss of Stores) submitted to the depot ship described how the boat, which had of course no fin as such, was being surfaced in a very rough sea and and an exceptionally large wave had swept the binoculars away from round the skipper's neck.

He was subsequently summoned on board the submarine depot ship to see the Captain (SM) of the squadron, and invited to expand on the circumstances of the loss:

Captain (SM): Was it a very large wave?
Skipper: Oh yes, Sir - a very large wave.
Captain (SM): Was it a very, very large wave?
Skipper: Oh yes, Sir - a very, very large wave?
Captain (SM): Was it definitely one of the largest waves you've ever seen?
Skipper: Oh yes, Sir - definitely one of the largest waves I've ever seen .
Captain (SM): Well, X, for once I really have to agree with you. It must have been a really enormous wave - it washed your bloody binoculars right into the depot ship wardroom!

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Old 12th Jan 2013, 09:28
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Sort of rhetorical questions. How many men were like these?
Sorry Danny 42C, slightly off thread again.
I was in the ATC living in Blackpool as a kid, I went to school with a lot of first generation Polish kids. The band Sqn 2354 based at Layton was run by a guy Wing Commander "Bob" Turaek (sp?), he was an ex WW2 Spitfire pilot who stayed on at the end of the war. From memory he said he had flown post war, Meteors, Vampires, Venoms and Javelins. Some of you here might recognise his name. One of his sons who was in the ATC with me wanted to be a fighter pilot like "his Dad", unfortunately he was about 6ft 6in, so apparently with bone dome wouldn't fit in to a modern day fighter (early '70's presume). He ended up in Transport Command I think flying Hercs.

Apologies again back to you Danny 42C.
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Old 12th Jan 2013, 09:31
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Project Propellor 2013

For those who have not heard of it, Project Propeller is an annual reunion for 150+ WWII aircrew, to which they are flown from all over the UK in light aircraft by current volunteer pilots. Full details of how to take part are on the website.

Project Propeller
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Old 12th Jan 2013, 14:51
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Union Jack,

Marvellous story ! - "Collapse of Stout Party" (as Victorian "Punch" used to say)........D.


No direct connection, but two odd coincidences: I was at St.Joseph's College, Layton Mount, before the war. Was the old place still there in your day ?........and, I have a relative living in, Toorak, Victoria, Australia. Could be a Polish name.

Don't apologise - butt in all you like !.........D.


Project Propeller is a wonderful idea. They have 150+ WWII aircrew, they say. Might some of them be persuaded to come in here and lend us a hand ?...........D.

Thank you all, chaps, (bit more story tonight)

Old 12th Jan 2013, 15:12
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Was the old place still there in your day ?...
"Holy Joes" as it was affectionately known in the '60's. Always the odd scrap between us lowly people at Claremont Sec Mod.

A school Sqn formed at our school as well (2454), that was run by a teacher/Ex RAF guy called Wing Commander McGarry. His claim to fame was being on the episode of This is your Life for teaching John Inman who went to our school.
My Dad and another teacher Bob Sanderson, who taught at Claremont were in 177 Sqn based at Squires Gate pre war, as was my Uncle Fred who I mentioned before was killed as a Sgt pilot in Burma.
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Old 12th Jan 2013, 15:57
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Danny gets out of the Office.

Besides struggling with all the paperwork, we did fly from time to time ! The Spitfires (XVI) were old friends, of course, and I was very keen to get into the Vampires (Mk.III). No longer could I sneer at "kiddiecarts"; and as the T11 had not come along yet, it was a case of read the Pilot's Notes, climb in and off you go. This I did on 31st March, after they'd had some innocent fun with me some days earlier by checking me out on, and sending me off on a sector recce, in the Tiger (of all things) - which I'd never flown before in my life ! (Full report to follow).

I took to the Vampire like a duck to water. It was a delightful little aircraft, very easy to handle with sweet, well harmonised controls, and fantasic cockpit visibility. A big tear-drop perspex canopy replaced the prison bars of the T7; now we were pressurised and I could swan around at 30,000 plus without a hot, sweaty, rubbery oxygen mask clamped onto my chops all the time.

Of course, it wasn't the "ball-of-fire" that the Meteor had been, its rate-of-climb was less than half that of the T7 (I was told that a good Griffon Spitfire could out-climb it). But it had much more range and endurance than the Meteor. All in all it was one of those aircraft that you're at home in straight away, whereas it would take me a long time to be comfortable in a Meteor. The Vampire flew , the Meteor was just a projectile - all push and no lift. That was the difference.

Our work was the dullest flying imaginable. During the summer months our chief regular customers were the TA AA camps at Tonfanau: they fired 3.7s (?) out to sea, some of the time at a target (drogue - flag ?) towed by the Beau. When this was in front of the guns, the crew were fairly safe, but as it got farther down the firing line the angle closed up, and sometimes an over-keen Terrier would bang off one round too many.

They peppered the tail feathers of the Beau from time to time, but never managed to shoot it down. "Joe" and "Zed-Zed" philosophically accepted this hazard, as for the little (NS) airman on the winch at the back (who was closest of all to the shrapnel), nobody asked him.

A drogue is all very well, but a live aircraft would be all the more interesting to fire at, wouldn't it ? We weren't as expendable as all that, (although I sometimes have my doubts), so we arranged to give them a wraith of a Spitfire to aim at, as the next best thing. They had a half-silvered mirror built into their gunsights. A Spitfire flew (6,000 ft) up and down a "beat" from Barmouth to Aberdovey and back a mile or so inshore behind the guns.

The mirror image of the aircraft would appear in their sights, traversing North as you were flying South, and vice versa - and Bob's your Uncle. The shell-bursts would cluster round the phantom aircraft, sometimes they got a direct "hit", and everyone was happy.

On the south side of the Barmouth estuary a TA Bofors gun battery had a tented camp for their people, with their guns set up to "defend" it. We had to practise mock strafing attacks on this camp, (if the guns fired back, I hope they used blanks). Oddly, no "minimum height" was in the Orders for this, and we took full advantage. It made a nice change from the previously described task; now we got right down among the tents. I don't think we ever knocked any down, but we may have blown a few over.

Almost as soon as I arrived, there was a tragedy. It was a dirty night, and a Lincoln was coming in on a diversion - actual or practice I know not - and Valley didn't then have a CR/DF, but still used the old manual rig. Things were made more difficult by the fact that a very broad Scot was our Controller, the pilot was a Czech whose command of English was not all that good. And, as Geriaviator has pointed out, (#3286 p. 165. 16 Dec) all the aircraft of that era were very noisy inside, a Lincoln more than most.

To cut a long story short, they got him overhead and sent him out on Valley's Safety Lane, which was Zero One Zero. As this goes straight out over the Irish sea, I don't suppose he would be more than 2,000 ft. He read One Zero Zero, and before the D/F operator could get a reliable bearing, there was another wreck in Snowdonia to add to the scores of wartime ones (all dead, of course).

As for us, to the best of my knowledge and belief, we never had a single flying accident during the whole time I was there, and therefore no casualties. There was little temptation to do anything stupid; although the two Menai bridges absolutely begged to be flown under, identification and the consequent sacking would be so certain that nobody even thought of it.

Next time I shall put in a Tale of Old Valley (trusting once again to our Moderator's infinite forbearance).

Evenin' all,


You never know your luck.
Old 12th Jan 2013, 16:22
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Danny 42C
I note that all your fellow pilots in 20 Squadron were WW2 vintage.
I think the NS pilot scheme began in 48 so one might think some of them would make it to Squadron service by 1950.
Or was NS too short to allow this?
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