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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 18th Jan 2013, 19:01
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BEagle and PeregrineW,

The Welsh language "snub" seems to have been more extensive than I thought. Perhaps it wasn't just us.

In India, the IAF officers used Hindi or Urdu among themseves in the same way as the Welsh, although they were all fluent English speakers. Again it was odd to hear "Formation" (say) interjected into a flow of Urdu. There was a wonderful example of this used with effect in the much loved "It aint' half hot Mum" TV comedy series many years ago.

The punkah-wallah, in reply to a question regarding the Colonel's activities while on recent leave, lets loose a stream of Hindi which ends in "having it off" !........D.


To the best of my (limited) knowledge, training accidents in Spitfires were rare (none in my three months at 57 OTU), at least compared with the postwar carnage with the T7. IMHO, I don't think a dual Spit would have made much difference. Now the Harvard could be a little devil - I reckon it more of a handful than any Spit !

Seems the buried Spitfire saga has ended. Pity - we all enjoy a good fairy tale........D


Tiger to Spit in one bound ? The jury must now be out forever on this one (as in so many of the wartime mysteries). I must of course defer to your QFI (S/Ldr Mock). My case would have been that, with 150 (or even more) hours on the Tiger, the lad would have complete instinctive control of an aircraft, and could concentrate purely on the added mechanical problems he now had and in which he had been thoroughly instructed.

It is curious that it was never tried out in the war (when Prunes were in seemingly inexhaustable supply and anything went). I heard tales of people being taught ab initio to fly (under the hood) from after take-off to long finals. Others did the first 40-50 hours all by night, before they were allowed to see the light of day (when, so the legend went, they were horrified). 150 (or 200) on a TM would save a lot of money.

The test was: try it, it might work. In this vein was the four-engined primary trainer (4 x Pobjoys). I've seen a Recognition silhouette of this, so it must have flown. All these tales reached me out in India, thousands of miles from the action. But somebody must still remember !.........D.

Keep it coming, chaps,

Old 18th Jan 2013, 19:58
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In this vein was the four-engined primary trainer (4 x Pobjoys). I've seen a Recognition silhouette of this, so it must have flown.
Probably this:

The Short S31, a half-scale Stirling powered by 4 x Pobjoy Niagara engines which first flew in the late 1930s:

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Old 19th Jan 2013, 00:52
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The Short S - 31


This perfectly illustrates the unreliability of memories. I must have seen the silhouette, somebody said: "looks like a four-engine primary trainer - jolly good idea - they're all going to end up on four engines, makes sense to start them the way they'll finish" , and voilà !, we've got a four-engined Tiger Moth - whereas it's nothing of the sort ! (nice pics, too).


Last edited by Danny42C; 19th Jan 2013 at 00:55. Reason: Add Accent.
Old 19th Jan 2013, 09:26
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It is possible that it flew quite well. There doesn't appear to be so many built in headwinds compared to the Stirling.
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Old 19th Jan 2013, 10:01
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Ab initio by night

Unreliable memory not at all, Danny, you continue to enthrall us. You're right about the ab initio night flying experiment, I recall that my aforementioned CFI Tubby Dash was deeply involved. The trial may have been at Stapleford Tawney or White Waltham.

The Welsh language is alive and well to this day, being switched on for Saesneg-speaking shoppers. We have holidayed in Wales for many years and genuinely tried to support local shops, but after so many discourtesies we now go to Tesco. We find bilingual road signs a hazard too: the local Welsh speakers know where the places are, the visitors who don't must decipher their destination from the clutter.

Thankfully Cardiff ATC does not issue cllearances in Welsh, though I remember being cleared for a VOR approach into Casablanca by a controller speaking very poor English to me, French to a military aircraft already in the procedure, and Arabic to something else. When he cleared us down to the same level as the other aircraft I became rather worried ... but that's another story.
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Old 19th Jan 2013, 13:32
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It's a slack news days so has anybody noticed which number war we are fighting in this thread.

Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW11
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Old 19th Jan 2013, 15:34
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Counting the conflicts this week perhaps it's not so far out ...
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Old 19th Jan 2013, 17:39
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Many thanks for the confirmation that at least one of the tall tales I was told in my trusting youth had some substance. But what a story must be there ! Did Tubby tell you any more about it ?

As for the Gift of Tongues in ATC, I will shoot another of my foxes:

The place: Shawbury Tower on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Pierre was a rare exception, a Free French pilot who had married an English girl, stayed here and gravitated (as so many Poles and Czechs) into ATC. (He was short-sighted and was once found in the far corner of the Approach room, having forgotten his specs, trying to read the CR screen with the Tower binoculars).

On this occasion, a French Air Force pair were on frequency (why were they in the UK ? - B. of. B. display ?) The leader's English was not very good and he was having difficulty. Pierre confidently picked up the mike and let him have an earful of his best Parisian. Dead silence for a few moments. Then: "Can you pleeze put zumone on who can speeek Engleesh ". Poor Pierre never lived it down !

Old 19th Jan 2013, 23:57
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Danny and the Lead Soldier Man (Part 1).

The Beauty Competition débâcle took place in the August (I think) of '49, but we (and "20 Sqdn" and "Valley" are synonymous in this respect) were still very much under a cloud the following Spring when I came. But help was at hand - from a most unexpected source.

I've already referred to our manual D/F hut, which was sited at Trewan Sands (a mile or two on the far side of Rhosneigr). Our T/R towers were over there as well, as in war both had served an underground Operations Block nearby. This was now disused, of course, but still on "Care & Maintenance" (for you never know). It was supposed to be inspected once every blue moon, but in fact no one had looked at it for years.

As it had been built during the war, the contractors would probably have been working on "cost-plus", so wastage would be of little account. An Ops Block (particularly an underground one) needs miles of underground cabling. In the days before PVC had been invented, lead sheathing was the usual waterproofing protection. There would be an enormous quantity of scrap cable arising from drum-ends and offcuts. The contractor disposed of these in the way in which builders always do with their rubbish (have you ever dug the garden in a new house ?)

As Valley was a Master Airfield, the D/F hut would need to be manned 24/7: this would require four operators working a four-watch system. This allows plenty of free time during some days, and they weren't all that busy when on duty. Navigators trying fixes from the old HF/DF stations were getting tired of "cocked-hats" the size of Greater London, when they could get instant bearings on VHF, accurate to a degree, from any CR/DF in earshot. Our four lads had a lot of time on their hands, and one (NS) chap had a very useful hobby indeed. He made lead soldiers.

He had a miniature electrically heated crucible, several sets of moulds and a row of "Humbrol" enamels. All he needed now was a small, but regular supply of lead. And of course, here was one to hand, free for the digging (for the cable was barely under the surface, and there were bits sticking up, so he didn't even have to prospect for it). The operation grew apace. (I would suppose the other three lent a hand; they could do the digging and stripping the lead while the Skilled Man did the casting and the painting). The results were of professional standard.

And they were coining it, right ?....... Wrong ! Now comes the surprising bit. He gave these sets of toy soldiers away free to local Good Causes - Childrens' Christmas parties for the Messes, Draw Prizes for local charites, Hospital Childrens' Wards and Orphanages. The Great Freeze started to melt. Perhaps RAF Valley weren't so bad after all. All this, of course, met with the heartiest approval of everyone from the W/Cdr downwards. The Station Institute staked him for his paint, linseed oil and brushes. People have got MBEs for less.

Here I should perhaps explain that the lead-phobia of later years had not yet developed. From the time of the Romans we had stored our water in lead cisterns and drunk it from the lead pipes in our houses, without noticable ill-effect. As late as Jan '73, on my "resettlement" Course at Catterick, I wielded a blowlamp doing "wiped joints" (?) on the old lead pipes with the best of them. The sight of her babe sucking on a lead soldier would not faze a mother in the least then. Lead toy soldiers were still in the shops.

Even National Servicemen had a bit of leave in their 18 months, and our chap was away. On a Monday morning, the Orderly Room got a call from the Stationmaster at Holyhead. The Adjutant groaned: "Not those bloody Communication Cords again !"

On Saturday nights the airmen used the train for a night out in the Big City - Bangor. Returning in cheerful mood to Valley on the last night train, they did not fancy a two (or three) mile walk from Valley station to the camp, when the line ran literally right behind it. A quick tug on the communication cord, the train ground to a halt, a crowd of shadowy figures tumbled out into the darknes (slamming the doors behind them, I grant you that) and legged it away over the fields before the guard could get anywhere near them. Cursing heartily in his Welsh whiskers, he had no option but to climb back aboard, reset the alarm and blow his whistle to restart.

Complaint to the Station Commander was ineffective, for the culprit(s) could not be identified, and the practice became so regular an occurrence that British Rail became resigned to it, it was said that the loco drivers shut off steam almost as soon as they pulled out of Rhosneigr, ready for the "emergency".

The story of the Lead Soldiers is about to take an unexpected turn.

Goodnight again,


Things ain't what they used to be.
Old 20th Jan 2013, 17:30
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Some writer called Charles Dickens made his living by publishing his novels chapter by chapter, leaving his readers on tenterhooks until they obtained the next one.
Danny, it's never too late to start a new career ... while we eagerly await the fate of the Lead Soldiers, here's another pic:

Chugalug may like to see a very much younger Geriaviator checking out his Hastings at RAF Khormaksar, February 1953. Another daily visitor was the Hastings' pressurised cousin, the Hermes, which passed through the civil terminal at the opposite (east) end of the airfield.
The Hastings returned us to Lyneham the following day for six months at the ghastly Croft transit camp near Warrington. I visited the site a couple of years ago and the concrete hut bases and roadways still remain, as does the dining hall although its roof has collapsed. The entire site is overgrown and peaceful, though it's not hard to conjure up the ghosts of the thousands who passed through it, never to return.

On the right, 20 years later, the Tiger Moth shows yet another talent, this time as a glider tug. At the end of the war a batch of Tigers, mine included, was given to l'Armee de l'Air which in due course pensioned them off to the French gliding movement. Mine, formerly NL896, built by Morris Motors and the same age as I am, came from Avignon complete with French specification oil temperature gauge, engine fire extinguisher system and glider hook. The British C of A required all to be deleted, but they let me keep the hook. It was sold to Brazil a couple of years ago.

I have found a few more pictures taken by my father, these from Andover in 1938. I shall post them shortly, but only after Danny has produced the second chapter of his current saga

Last edited by Geriaviator; 22nd Jan 2013 at 07:04. Reason: To correct time interval. Never could do sums.
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Old 21st Jan 2013, 18:34
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Lead soldiers etc

Wow Danny,

What memories you awake! Like your lead soldiers, I will never forget a fellow apprentice who spent most of his meagre pay on models of German Second World War tanks ( I believe made by Tamiyah, a Japanes company)! Having spent all his money and a few weeks lovingly assembling and painting said tanks, he would cover them with lighter fluid and set fire to them in the garden outside of our block at Halton. He would then proceed to photograph the 'conflagration' and I assume still has said photographs.

I apologise for the thread drift, but even us 'new boys' have memories ! Flying Meteors/ Vampires, blimey what's next ?????
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Old 21st Jan 2013, 19:36
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Geriaviator, many thanks for the period pic of you at "Kormate". You clearly had excellent taste for such a young age, obviously insisting on being photographed in front of the most majestic kite there;-) Unfortunately your heroic pose (at first sight I thought, blimey that's a very young liney!) obscures both the serial number and fin markings. I'm guessing though that it's a Mk2 on the assumption that all the Mk1's had been modded to Mk1A's by then with the additional underwing tanks, but I could be wrong of course.
Interesting that the Flt Eng has dressed his props at 10 past 2. Ours used to opt for the 12 o'clock, but fashions change I guess. Nice to see the venerable Pig there too, a period scene indeed.
The one and only time I visited Khormaksar was in rather more edgy times. I remember watching a film outside of the OM. Half the mess were watching the movie, the other half were on duty guarding the first half...wasn't too sorry to be on our way next morning.
Couldn't agree with you more about Danny's excellent literary style- always leave them wanting more! And we do, Danny. Lots more!

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Old 21st Jan 2013, 22:15
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Please don't wait for me. Put in your Dad's pics (next post re Lead Soldiers due tomorrow - with any luck as my broadband is u/s tfn on account of break in wireless connnection). Only managed to read Posts up to #3440 as technical wizard daughter wired-up to phone socket. Do not know if I can get this away.

(And no, do not intend to stand in freezing hall nursing laptop at my age - will wait till broadband restored). Thanks for all nice things said !


Last edited by Danny42C; 21st Jan 2013 at 22:18. Reason: Add Material.
Old 22nd Jan 2013, 14:45
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Your wish, my command!

Danny, glad to hear it's only an electronic problem, Desmond my QFI warned me never to trust those black boxes as they would let me down just when I slipped into relying on them. I'll post the story when the weather improves enough for photography. So take your time, like good whisky your tales improve with age!

Chugalug, another Hastings story on the way. The Pig (Vickers Valetta to some) was used to service the various operations up country (ie the Radfan and Yemen). Then as now the local people gave us a warm welcome, I remember a Brigand mainplane with a one-inch hole on the underside. The crew at 2000ft heard a thump just before a huge exit hole appeared on the top, the culprit an Arab with his jezail muzzle-loader. Now for the first of the promised pictures:

When 142 and 12 Sqns flew into Aldergrove, Co Antrim, for their 1938 armaments camp they found a very boggy grass airfield. Three Harts overturned on landing and a couple of others were damaged.

Engineers of the time well knew that acetate dope was irresistible to cattle and my father snapped this herd which normally kept the grass short. The Hart was written off anyway so they were allowed to get on with their dietary supplement.

Much later I was to learn that sheep are much better mowers. They keep the grass much shorter, they don't trample it into ruts, and best of all their output is ... well, firmer. My lesson was to wash an Aztec which had flown three hours after splashing through cowpats, ample time to bake it solid.

However, nothing goes to waste and impecunious airfield operators have a recipe for runway markings: Cut end from 40gl oil drum. Half fill with water, mix in 1/2cwt lime, add three buckets fresh cow s**t, mix thoroughly. Apply with yard brush, will last until next year's CAA inspection. One might say that runway number 2 has a whole new meaning, but I'd better not.

Oh, the gems one can find contained in this thread.

Last edited by Geriaviator; 22nd Jan 2013 at 17:03.
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Old 22nd Jan 2013, 16:41
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Cowpats and Holes.


Broadband all singin' all dancin' again. Sad pic (happy one for the cows !) Never knew that "dope" turned cows on, stands to reason I suppose - the things I'm learning from this Thread at my age !

Your Desmond was right. Always remember: "A Black Box has no fear of Death" ! The Brigand story reminds me of a verse of Kipling:

A Schneider cracked in a thicket,
Someone giggled and fled.
And the men of the 1st Shikaris
Picked up their officer dead,
With a big blue mark on his forehead
And the back blown out of his head.

("The Grave of the Hundred Head" - what we would call a War Crime in our more enlightened days).

Next instalment soon, I hope,


Last edited by Danny42C; 26th Jan 2013 at 15:34. Reason: Spelling Error.
Old 22nd Jan 2013, 18:12
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Danny and the Long Arm of the Law.

But this time it was a perfectly innocuous call from the Stationmaster concerning a kitbag which an airman had put in for carriage by rail. There was nothing at all unusual about this. A chap on posting, or going on demob, might well send a full kitbag home a few days before his move. It eased his baggage problems on the day, and he could have the bag sent on to him after he got to the other end.

I can't remember what the Stationmaster's problem was, but the Adj sent a SP we had down to sort it out. Of course it had to be our benefactor's kitbag, and the SP found it extraordinarily heavy, although not unduly bulky. And now the baggage staff recalled that this was by no means the first such kitbag that our man had despatched. The SP's whiskers twitched.

The consignee's address was checked out - although it looked like a normal domestic address, it was in fact a scrapyard. The kitbag was locked with a standard kitbag lock (ask Great/Grandad). The padlock was only a Woolworth's job, the Luggage Office had a big box of old keys, the bag was soon open. There was about half-a-hundredweight of small lead ingots inside, each swathed in a padding of old newspaper. The SIB were onto it like terriers after a rat.

Our lad had to do some swift talking when he got back. But then he talked to some purpose. It was all lead sheathing surplus from the toy soldier enterprise. The stuff was all thrown away, wasn't it ? Nobody wanted it, did they ? Nobody had bothered with it, or troubled to recover it except him. He'd done all the work, hadn't he ? Why should he not have the benefit of it ? How could this be theft ?

There was much force in this argument: most people were sympathetic. Jolly good luck to the lad. More power to his elbow. The SIB hesitated, irresolute. They made no move to charge him (or his three companions in crime, who would naturally have had a small share of the profit from the lead sales). But you know how deeply suspicious these people can be. They looked around, and their gaze fell on the old Operations Block. It would do no harm to have a look.

They got the power and lights on. At first sight, everything seemed "all present & correct". But then they turned on the stop-cock, and hurriedly turned it off again, for fountains had erupted all over the place. Investigation showed that much of the easily reached domestic lead piping had been removed (including that vital bit between overhead cistern and seat).

Now he was for the High Jump - but not beaten yet. He stoutly maintained that all "his" lead had come from stripped cable. As for the Ops Block, he knew nothing at all about that. Some Person or Persons Unknown had Done This. ("Nothin' to do with me, Guv"). His three confederates went into Three-Wise-Monkey mode. The SIB got no change out of them at all. Nevertheless, they charged him with theft. The AOC granted a Court Martial. Up to this time, I'd chuckled happily, like everyone else, at every stage in this enthralling story, but then something happened which wiped the chuckle off my face.

He asked for me as his Defending Officer.

Of course, no officer can refuse such a request. I borrowed the Orderly Room copies of KRs and MAFL, wrapped a cold towel round my head, and set to work.
After looking at the case from all angles that I could think off, I consulted my client, who was, IIRC, in Open Arrest, and was dismayed to learn that he intended to plead "Not Guilty". I think he relied on me to pull off some "Perry Mason" stunt, and get him off on a technicality.

And I had to admit that his case was not without merit. The evidence against him was wholly circumstantial. Nobody had seen him breaking and entering the Ops Block. He had made no admission to the SIB. There was an awful lot of this buried cable about the place. His story was not altogether unbelievable. In a civil Criminal Court (where the Prosecution has to prove guilt: it is not for the Defence to prove innocence - or at least that is the general idea) - he might yet stand a chance

How will our hero escape Justice ? Place your order with the Newsagent.

Until next time, then.


A Daniel come to judgment !
Old 23rd Jan 2013, 13:13
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The Grave of the Hundred Head

Yes, indeed, Danny. But perhaps even more so:-
A scrimmage in a Border Station-
A canter down some dark defile
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.
The Crammer's boast, the Squadron's pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!
(Arithmetic on the Frontier - Kipling)

Last edited by Schiller; 23rd Jan 2013 at 13:15.
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Old 23rd Jan 2013, 14:22
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Well quoted, Sir - "The odds are on the cheaper man" - as true today in Afghanistan as ever in Kipling's time.

In my book, Kipling ranks next to Shakespeare (or indeed to your illustrious namesake).

Old 24th Jan 2013, 17:58
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Danny has a narrow escape and some Hot Buttered Toast.

But Courts Martial may be daft, but they're not stupid. They tend to apply the commonsense test, that of the "Man on the Clapham Omnibus". And the M.O.T.C.O. would convict out of hand, of that I was sure. Of my man's guilt, I was absolutely certain. Yet my duty in MAFL was clear. Whatever my own opinion might be, I must put forward the accused's case to the Court to the best of my ability, but MAFL grimly warns that: "he (the Defending Officer) is not to concoct a defence ." Any half way effective defence I could think of would have to be concocted. It would likely to be worse for him in the end. Courts do not like being messed-about and having their time wasted with cock-and-bull stories - and this may be remembered in sentence !

Whereas, if he'd take my advice, plead "Guilty", and throw himself on the mercy of the Court, I could put in quite an impressive Plea in Mitigation of Sentence. It was a first offence. He had honestly thought that the old Ops Block had been abandoned (like so many other wartime structures). I could cite all his excellent charitable works (even if they had merely served as cover for his nefarious operations). He had been dropped on the head as a baby. He was depressed because the family budgie had died (you know the sort of thing).

Yet he remained adamant in his intention to plead "Not Guilty". His reasoning was: If I plead "Guilty", I may well go down for a few months (the estimate for repairs to the Ops Block was at least £ 5,000), whereas there's a slim chance I may get off with a plea of "Not Guilty" (I thought not ). The Summary of Evidence was taken; this only confirmed my expectation of the final outcome.

And then, almost "on the steps of the Court", the Prosecution abandoned the case.and withdrew the charge. Why ? No reason was given then, and to this day I have never been able to get an answer. A very relieved young man was demobbed with an "Excellent" service conduct sheet, and his Defending Officer was happy to have been spared his day in Court (the Ops block was never used again anyway and was demolished a few years later). The chap's name ? (Never mind !)

In the May of 1950 my Bond "Minicar" was ready for collection, and I went to Preston to pick it up. I was on wheels again. Coincidentally, petrol rationing ended on the 26th of that month (Google). I could write reams about the "Bond", but that would be right off Thread. Suffice to say that it was a perfectly functional vehicle for the conditions of the time (quite unlike that ridiculous Sinclair C-5 which appeared a few years ago). I ran it for 30,000 miles over four years and I was never actually stranded with it, although bits broke and fell off from time to time (but that was no surprise to any owner of any British car of that era). Wiki gives a very fair account of the Bonds; I saw them running around till the mid-'70s.

As with my dive-bombing experience, I shall give one detailed account of our Y6 "job" which will stand for all the others. You were required "on station" at 6,000 ft with your Spitfire from 1400-1600. The "beat" ran from Barmouth to Aberdovey (some 20 miles) with a procedure turn at each end. At endurance speed one complete circuit would take about 20 minutes, the Terriers would have 12 "firing passes" with a two-minute break in between as the aircraft was turning. We had no R/T communication at all with the gunners.

If you've seen one Welsh mountain, you've seen 'em all. And when you've seen the same one a dozen times in an afternoon, four afternoons a week, for a month or two, the sight tends to pall. Add in a good lunch in the Mess, the warm sun streaming through the canopy and the muted purr of your Merlin running at 1800, you might well drop off even if you hadn't been counting the sheep on the slopes of Cader Idris.

As the next stop would be an impact on good Welsh granite, or a splash-down in chilly Cardigan Bay, it was advisable to remain awake. The preferred method was to take up a paperback. You trimmed the Spit to fly S&L, aimed it at the far end of your beat, and set the D.I. at zero. Most people managed a page per 8-minute run, with a glance at D.I. and A.H. at the end of each paragraph. (I should perhaps add that in those days there was very little air traffic over North Wales).

At the end of your two-hour shift, it was back to the Mess for tea. The old coal ranges in our kitchen made perfect toast on their (nearly) red hot tops: with a lot of butter and jam it was food for the Gods. But it was a case of "first come, first served". All afternoon your Merlin had been running slowly under low boost. The plugs must need blowing out ! Up to 2850, nine pounds boost, nose down from 6,000, and "Home, James" past Harlech castle and Portmeirion across Caernarvon Bay at 250 knots.

Tearing over the Lleyn peninsula, the bee-line ran a few miles east of Pwllheli. The swimming pool of Butlin's camp lay exactly at the right angle to catch the late afternoon sun, it blazed like an enormous sapphire aginst the green hills. Then over to Valley to get to the Mess before all the toast had gone !

Enough for the moment to restore this Thread to its rightful position,

Good night, all,


Action This Day.

Last edited by Danny42C; 24th Jan 2013 at 18:05. Reason: Correct Spacing
Old 25th Jan 2013, 12:42
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Still a little steep on your approach, Hoskins ...

Another bleeding Hart, this time at Andover, 1938. The ground crew seem to have anticipated most situations, taking with them a spare undercarriage assembly as well as the recovery trailer. The tail is pulled down by the rope attached to the truck at left.
Top right, same place, same year: Vickers Wellesley which in 1938 flew 7,100 miles from Egypt to Australia, taking two days non-stop, a single-engine record which stands to this day. The aircraft was designed under Barnes Wallis's geodetic principles, as was the later Wellington. The Wellesley operated in Africa and the Middle East until 1942.
Lower right: Handley Page Harrow, designed as a bomber but used as 20-seat transport until the Dakota took over.
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