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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 25th Jan 2013, 17:16
  #3461 (permalink)  
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Handley Page Harrows.


Once again, thank you for the interesting pics. It is sobering to think that that same summer two sixteen year olds (a cousin and I), propped on our bikes, were looking longingly over the fence at aircraft flying from Wyton.

Looked up the "Harrow"; Wiki led me to the Long Aerial Mine - a hare-brained idea if ever I heard one - of which I knew absolutely nothing. Worth a look.

Old 25th Jan 2013, 20:35
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Danny, you do yourself an injustice in claiming that you would have lost your case had not the charge been withdrawn. Like your hapless client I would have the utmost confidence in your powers of persuasion. As to concocted, one man's concocted is another's brilliant presentation of the facts!
Intriguing though that the case was dropped, for the "Three Musketeers" were seemingly banged to rights. I wonder if your man had pleaded guilty, as he logically should have, if the case would still have been dropped. Perhaps he did himself (and his accomplices) a favour by defying both logic and you. Despite your respect for the evidence (was it termed a Summary or an Abstract, I'm not sure) gathered, there must have been some glitch in it, don't you think? Perhaps Exhibit "A" went to the great smelter in the ski after all, or the RAFP had got the direction wrong in the "I was proceeding in an Easterly direction when...". We shall, I fear never know.
Geriaviator, your pictures are amazing! I can't help thinking that the RAF Museum would be very keen to add copies of them to their collection. Other than "official" photos, I'm not sure that there were many taken privately in that era, other than at the Hendon Air Shows, etc. Was it your Dad's hobby? I mean did he develop and print them as well, or was all that done by the local chemist?
The RAF seems to have got through a prodigious quantity of Harts ("Bleeding" or otherwise ;-) it would seem. You'd think that someone would have travelled ahead, or even rung ahead, before launching three of them towards a would be bog, but perhaps that would have detracted from the operational realism of the exercise! Even in those days Aldergrove would have boasted a signal square, would it not? Didn't that indicate if the grass landing area was fit for use or not? I suppose the advice would be to "land between the wet patches" anyway. Danny?
Two days airborne, single engined, long sea crossings? Respect!
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Old 25th Jan 2013, 21:56
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More ancient aviation

Glad you liked them, Danny, a few more to come. Your teenage Wyton visit brought to mind the Ethiopian Air Force goodwill visit to Khormaksar in 1952 with their 12 Saab B-17 dive bombers (no, not the Fortress, a tubby single-engine job like the VV). Half of them fouled their plugs and this little boy was in seventh heaven with 28 plugs per Twin Wasp to dismantle and clean.

The flash point of petrol was way below the Aden ambient while goodness knows what the fumes were doing to my little lungs. Elf 'n' Strafeme would have a fit but we didn't know about the perils in those days. My reward was to sit in the back while the brute was taxied up and down the runway. The goodwill visit lasted for some weeks as half the squadron went u/s, there were dark whispers that the clever Ethiopians knew they would get a major overhaul if they could coax the beasts from Addis Ababa to Khormaksar.

On another subject, ITV produced a superb documentary called Bomber Command to mark the Memorial unveiling in 2010. If anyone wants a copy, strictly for personal use of course, drop me a PM.

Chugalug, the pics have been offered to IWM London and RAF Hendon, no reply ... Dad was just an amateur with his 25s camera but his prints clean up very well in Photoshop. In fact the French ones measure under 3ins x 2ins. Your promised Hastings story is on the stocks, or should I say in final assembly hangar.

Last edited by Geriaviator; 25th Jan 2013 at 22:01.
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Old 26th Jan 2013, 17:29
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Tutti Frutti.


I'm fairly certain that it was a "Summary" in those days, and that "Abstract" came later. (In the same way "Courts" became "Boards" of Inquiry - to conceal the fact that they were really out for blood, just the same).

I am not sure about what they would have on a Signal Square in '38 (I think they had them then). Later, IIRC, the "dumb-bells" would have black bars on them to indicate that you must use them as the grass was u/s (and of course, you must stay on the tarmac after landing).

As you say, we'll never know where the Fatal Flaw was in the Prosecution Case. I couldn't spot one, and reckoned that we were on a hiding to nothing......D.


Confession: When we first saw you in #3438 (20 Jan), we said "Doesn't he look young to be an airman ?" (as you were in normal airmen's working kit for the tropics). However, as it is often said, you know you're growing old when the policemen start looking younger (and even older when the Popes start looking younger), so we didn't do the arithmetic.

It now seems that the RAF was employing child labour (in contravention of Lord knows how many Statutes of the Realm - and probably of the Geneva Convention as well). And not only that, but contracting you out to the service of a Foreign Power ! How did they get away with it ? And were you suitably rewarded ?

(Cleaning plugs ! How well I remember (when a two-stroke stops, it's always the plug !) Did they have that clever bit of kit with a bunch of steel needles in a tube which screwed onto the end of the plug and you shook up and down ?
Happy days !......(Now let's hear a lot more of your story........D.

Cheers to you both,

Old 27th Jan 2013, 17:53
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Danny does his part in the AOC's Parade.

The next thing was the '50 AOC's Inspection. Station Parade rehearsals were ordered to smarten us up a bit. The Wing Commander had an idea. A Band might improve matters on the rehearsals - but we had no band. So why not select a gramophone record of some stirring march? The radio mechs could wire the turntable into the Tannoy down at the Flights; all we need now is somebody who can hear the order "March" and simultaneously drop the needle into the spinning groove. I was appointed Disc Jockey.

Of course it was a miserable failure. With the best will in the world, the Tannoy would boom out half a beat behind the order; it would take about twenty paces of utter chaos before they got back in step again, and with all the change-steps it sounded (as the SWO graphically described it: "like a cow slapping"). The idea was quickly abandoned, and IIRC, they managed to borrow a band from somewhere (the Army ?) for the big day. Our record ? - "Milanello". (Wiki says it is the Regimental March of the 2nd Battn, Coldstream Guard, and as far as I'm concerned they're welcome to it). As far as I remember, the Inspection passed off all right . I only recall the Parade standing at ease on a warm, calm morning, in absolute silence as the Comm Flight Anson (bearing His Airship) touched down.

One day I had a high trip over the Bay for Tonfanau (28,000 ft), and for the life of me I can't remember what I was supposed to do, or why I had a Spitfire instead of one of the Vampires which normally did all our upper-air work. I was in good time and climbing slowly and steadily, pushing the throttle open bit by bit to keep the power coming.

Suddenly there was this enormous bang, the boost gauge shot up and down to settle several pounds higher and a savage snarl replaced the Merlin's previous gentle murmur. It was several seconds before I realised that the engine was not about to blow up, but that the aneroid controlled switch had thrown and clutched-in the two-stage supercharger. I pulled the knob on the quadrant back to "M" gear and all was quiet and peaceful again.

As we never flew much above 10,000 ft in the Spit XVIs, either there or on my '49 refresher at Finningley, "S" gear had never been needed, and we left the control in "Auto" all the time, as that left the knob up at the front of the quadrant and well out of the way. Here I must put on record that no Spitfire ever did me any harm: any times they scared me it was entirely of my own doing !

Enough for the moment - Goodnight, all.


Cheer up - it may never happen.
Old 27th Jan 2013, 19:41
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Parade standing at ease on a warm, calm morning, in absolute silence as the Comm Flight Anson (bearing His Airship) touched down.
We had the same thing at Honington except that the AOC came from HQ 3 Group at Mildenhall, some 10 miles in a straight line. He considered that the only way to arrive at a station was down the centre line. To this end he would be chaffeured from his office to a 3 group Comms Anson in his staff Jaguar Mk3. Once the door was closed and the engines started the Jaguar would go into Monte Carlo Rallye mode and hurl down the lanes of Suffolk to be at Honington when th AOC arrived.
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Old 28th Jan 2013, 12:20
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Ah VIP arrivals!
HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother was to present a new standard to, I think it was 50 Sqn. On the probability that it would rain, one poor airman was assigned to umbrella duty and the SWO set to work training him. The CO's car went round and endlessly round, stopping at the marked spot each time, when the umbrella man would step forward smartly, open the passenger door and raise the umbrella. He mastered the performance perfectly (Well, with the SWO's close personal attention he would, wouldn't he?)

The day dawned; as expected it was raining. The AOC's staff car picked up HM as she deplaned at Station Flight and conveyed her to the Squadron offices. Umbrella man stepped forward smartly, whipped open the door and erected the umbrella all in one smoothly executed movement. The Queen Mum opened the other door, stepped out and walked round the back of the car.

Such is life in a blue suit.
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Old 28th Jan 2013, 18:55
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Wink Child exploitation? Bring it on ...

Yes Danny, I was 11 when the Hastings photo was taken, and I was indeed put into service of a foreign power, but never was a child more willing to be exploited. The great Ethiopian Air Force breakdown occurred on a Friday afternoon when the Saabs were due to return to Addis Ababa.

The resulting Saturday and Sunday work for hapless National Servicemen was my good fortune, for I was forbidden to enter Flying Wing during the week. Weekends with their absence of brass were another matter and my father's airmen spoiled me rotten, undoubtedly because their own little brothers were far away. My reward was the navigator's seat during runup of Saab or Brigand, if I was lucky a taxi ride which often involved lifting the tail down Khormaksar's baked gypsum runway.

None of your hi-tech cleaning gadgets, Danny. My spark plug cleaning tools were one bowl, enamelled, shaving, filled with petrol, an old paintbrush, and a small screwdriver ground to fit into the plug body and hoke out the crud.

Of course I was severely traumatised by these experiences which have resulted in my obsession with aircraft ever since. Indeed I feel a damages claim coming on, so while I consult m'learned friends, here are more pictures which an enthusiastic young airman (my father) took during his first posting to Andover in 1938:

Top left: Faithful Annie, an early Anson with its manually operated turret. Right: Miles Magister primary trainer, contemporary with the Tiger Moth. It has not proved as durable because its wooden construction delaminated with distressing result. Not so the Dragon Rapide G-AEML in the background: bought new by Wrightways of Croydon in 1936, it was impressed into RAF war service, back to civil use in 1946, and is still flying with the Fundacion Infante de Orleans, an aviation museum in Madrid.
Bottom left: Bristol Blenheim Mk 1 with all-glass nose. Right: Gloster Gauntlet fighter. Looking at the lower two, perhaps it was a wise decision to appease Hitler in 1938, giving time to produce Hurricanes and Spitfires.

Last edited by Geriaviator; 28th Jan 2013 at 19:05.
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Old 29th Jan 2013, 13:38
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Fred Heathfield

I don't know if the news has been posted on here yet, but please raise a glass in memory of fredjhh who took part in this thread. A pilot who served with 51 Sqdn, crashed in Belgium in June 1943 and was then a prisoner of war. You can find some memories of his life on you tube, posted by his family. Here is the link:

RIP Fred.

Last edited by pbeach; 29th Jan 2013 at 13:41.
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Old 29th Jan 2013, 15:15
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Angel Fred

What a wonderful tribute to a great guy who made so many great contributions to this thread.
My thoughts and sympathy are with his family.
Rest in Peace Fred.
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Old 29th Jan 2013, 15:37
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What a stunning tribute, both pictorially and musically, by a justifiably proud family.

Very dusty atmosphere too for the time of year .....

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Old 29th Jan 2013, 16:36
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Fred Heathfield RIP

I feel honoured and privileged to have shared Posts with Fred on this Thread. My family and I are deeply saddened by the news of his death. Fred and I are among the last members of that happy band who can truly say: "We were with Harry....on Crispin's Day".

We extend our deepest sympathy to his family, and will remember them in our prayers. We thank them for this beautiful tribute to his life.

Danny, my wife Iris and our daughter Mary,

Requiem aeternam dona eum, Domine, Requiescat in Pace.
Old 29th Jan 2013, 21:05
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... as Jack says..... lovely tribute <sniff> and so much dust
2nd November last year, but better now than never...
RIP fredjhh and thanks for all the posts, they will live on and keep your memory fresh....
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Old 1st Feb 2013, 00:06
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Danny and the Battle of Britain at Home Day.

And now September was on the horizon and there were two small problems ahead The first would be my Examination "B", postponed from March, which I now had to take early in the month. And looming behind that was an even scarier prospect - the Battle of Britain At Home Open Day on a Saturday afternoon in mid-month. Every year most RAF Stations were butchered to provide a public holiday - or that's what it felt like to be the reluctant hosts on these occasions.

Setting aside the numbers of pilots killed training for, or performing in the various aerobatic displays on the day (which, so the rumour went, was fast approaching the number killed in the actual battle itself), these affairs were an administrative and logistical nightmare. On the flying side, if you had a well-practised "party piece" on your unit (which let us out !), you were in duty bound to go round with it to as many other Stations as you could reasonably fit into the afternoon. The grateful recipients' ATC would then have to integrate your Show with all the other acts that had been offered to them, and compose their Flying Programme for the day.

Everbody sent as many of their "own" aircraft as they could spare to other places, where they would be novelties, for static display, (and naturally Spitfires were in demand everywhere, Vampires not far behind). Only having one Beau, we hung on to that. We managed to get (IIRC) a Lincoln, a Meteor and a Mosquito. With our own Spitfire, Beau and Vampire we had quite a respectable line up to show the public. A second Spitfire would do LL flypasts and climbing rolls; the Tiger could do the ever-popular "crazy flying" act to fill in gaps in the flying programme.

The people who were flying our Spitfires and Vampires away for static display elsewhere now had the new-fangled Civil Airways system to contend with. As all our normal flying was over Anglesey or the NW coast of Wales, this normally troubled us very little. The occasional Harvard trip to 12 Gp. at Newton was flown VMC under the airways.

There was very little other air traffic in the area in those days, apart from one of the very first airways (Amber whatisit ?) between Speke and Collinstown. The only user was an elderly DC-3 which plodded twice daily along the route (which incidentally cut straight across Valley's "Safety Lane", or vice versa, whichever way you look at it): we took no notice of that at all.

The very idea of "Controlled Airspace", into which RAF aircraft could enter only with permission, seemed preposterous to us in the early '50s. Who did these people think they were, to say that every RAF pilot, in an RAF aircraft, did not have the absolute right to fly all over His Majesty's domains (which the RAF had so recently and so valiantly defended) where and as often as he pleased, and to alight wherever he wished, without "let or hindrance" ? Those were the days !

All this was apart from the mundane requirements of all such events: car parking, Public Address announcements, collection points for lost children, Portaloos (or whatever served the purpose if they had not been invented), St. John's Ambulance for minor scrapes, etc. Fortunately NAAFI jealously guarded their monopoly to feed and water the horde of visitors which was likely to descend on us - free entertainment being in short supply in that area - so they looked after that side of the business.

But for us there would be more to it than that. Enough for the moment, though.

Goodnight all,


Goodbye, Fred (RIP).
Old 1st Feb 2013, 08:54
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Binbrook Memorial preserved for posterity

Ah Danny ... those golden Battle of Britain Days in early September. As a lineup of Lincolns, Merlins crackling and growling, slowly inched towards the runway for the Operational Takeoff, my father told me to remember the sight and sound for I would never see one again. I can still see the Lincolns thundering off Binbrook's runway as their forebears, the Lancasters, had done so only five years earlier.

So I was delighted this morning to hear from Ray Whiteley, whom I visited at Binbrook in September, that his long-awaited memorial project has come to fruition. The Lincolnshire Wolds are a lovely part of the world and fellow Prunes will find Binbrook worth a visit.

A two-acre site on the former airfield has passed into private ownership, thus ensuring its continued existence as a memorial to bomber crews.
Opened in 1940, RAF Binbrook saw many operational types flying from its airfield on top of the Wolds and was for a time the home of 460 (RAAF) Squadron under the command of Wing Commander Hughie Edwards VC.

Operating Lancaster bombers over enemy-occupied Europe, 460 Squadron suffered typically heavy losses and site custodian Ray Whiteley has long made it his goal to turn the RAF Binbrook Heritage Centre into a lasting memorial to the lost aircrew.

To this end, he has built the 460 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force Identification Square Memorial and the Hughie Edwards VC Memorial and has carried out extensive tree planting to form the Bomber Command Memorial Park. Trees have been planted in Fairey Battle, Wellington and Lancaster Avenues with each tree representing a crew member of those particular aircraft types who failed to return.

The land, formerly the site of RAF Binbrook's air traffic control tower and fire section until their demolition after the station closed in 1989, has also for some years been the home of the Lightning Association's English Electric Lightning F6 XR724, a preserved example of the iconic Cold War fighter in full engine-running condition. Another Lightning, T5 XS457, also stored at the site in component parts, is awaiting reassembly. A small museum houses numerous aircraft artefacts, some of which have been found by Ray during exploration of the site, and photos of former RAF Binbrook aircraft and personnel.

Commemorative benches are placed amongst the trees and Ray reports a steady stream of UK and overseas visitors who come to visit the place from where their relatives flew operational missions.

Until recently, however, the land was owned by the company Winchester Marine who, whilst generously allowing Ray and the Lightning Association to occupy and develop the site, were unable to offer long-term security of tenure. The transfer was recently concluded and Ray and Charles Ross are now very happy in the knowledge that the memorial to the brave bomber crews and RAF Binbrook's association with the famous Lightning fighter are preserved forever.
For further information on the RAF Binbrook Heritage Centre, please visit website www.binbrook.demon.co.uk.
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Old 1st Feb 2013, 09:56
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RIP Fred 6.3.21 - 2.11.12

No, not Fred - his daughter on his iMac. Dad sadly died on November 2nd after a debilitating struggle with bronchiectasis - having been a lifelong hater of smoking this was particularly cruel. I am slowly going through all sorts of notes and accounts with passwords he left for me - always so meticulous. My greatest fear is that I shall throw away something of value (sentimental/historical) from his great collection of war memorabilia. My father wrote his memoirs down which we are having self published. I'm not sure if anyone would be interested in reading this. We don't intend making profit from it but in order to cover costs it will possibly cost around 20 (it is no small tome...277 pages and A4 size). PM me on Dad's account if you'd like to know more. Also, if anyone has any suggestions for an organisation that might be interested in looking through some of the paperwork I'd be keen to hear. Margaret
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Old 1st Feb 2013, 10:04
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Fred's family thank you all for your LOVELY comments. He lived with us in the annexe for 8 years so we have a HUGE hole in our lives and we miss him terribly. We are having a memorial service in St Giles Church Bredon, Gloucestershire on March 3rd at 10am to inter his ashes with my beloved mum. The British Legion plan to give him a bit of a send off I believe! Anyone able to get there is most welcome.
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Old 1st Feb 2013, 11:29
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You can self-publish as an ebook on Amazon, for example. You have no risk of carrying inventory. You get a 35-70% royalty; you must charge between $3 and $10 (in the US). It's another option for you to consider. It's a great way of getting limited print runs out there without up-front costs and a garage full of books.

Good memories of Fred.
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Old 1st Feb 2013, 12:39
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Margaret, I'm so sorry for your loss. Fred would probably have been the first to say he'd had a good innings and ,no doubt, quietly chuckled at the irony of the illness to which he succumbed.
The world of PPrune will be emptier and quieter without him.

i am so pleased he saw fit to share so much with us here. So many war-veterans kept a stiff upper lip to the end and their knowledge and memories died with them. -my own father was in the Merchant Navy in WW1 and was .apparently blind as a result of that service. I never could get anything much out of him. so the reminiscences of the contributors like Fred, become all the more important.

It's marvellous you have the prescence of mind to think carefully before clearing-out.having dealt with 2 deaths recently, I shovelled everything into plastic crates and stored until the family can objectively evaluate.
Once discarded, it's usually gone forever.
Good wishes, I.m sure your Dad would be pleased that you logged-in to let us know he'd departed for blue skies.
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Old 1st Feb 2013, 21:37
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Margaret, thank you for posting here. I too would like to offer you and your family my condolences in your sad loss. I should also like to endorse Steve's point about the importance of this thread and its contributors such as your Dad for the children of that amazing war time generation. Through your Dad and his fellow orators we learn something of what followed when called up for the "duration of hostilities"

Rest in Peace, dear Fred... "This is the happy Warrior; this is He that every Man in arms should wish to be."
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