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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 12th Feb 2013, 23:39
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Danny va faire le ski.

To keep costs down, IIRC, the members on the rail/sea party would travel on leave warrants made out to Folkestone, but would first join the air party at the assembly point (Victoria), then split up and go on to the boat train or to Heathrow (this arrangement was to be of value to us later). As far as I remember we were about evenly divided, about 30-40 in each party, mostly Army singles and no Navy at all). Apart from we two, the only other RAF representative was a W/Cdr pilot in the air party.

We travelled in early January in the "dead" (cheap !) Winter Sports season. First we enjoyed the comforts (?) of British Rail (Irish Mail from Holyhead). Then to Folkestone and on to an ancient, rusty, SNCF ferry, which pitched, rolled and groaned across to Boulogne. After that there was an endless overnight journey (but at least they gave us couchettes ) right down through snow-bound France (no TGV then) to Chamonix. There we found that the air party had had a comfortable night in the hotel, after kitting-out late the previous afternoon, and were now enjoying their first morning on the slopes. Suddenly, the air option didn't seem such a bad idea after all.

Our thoroughly train-lagged party had lunch, then went out to pick-up boots, kit, ski passes, skis and poles (and of course all the better stuff had been bagged by the air party). I wasn't surprised to find that we were on the same old cable bindings I'd had four years before in Kashmir (I was still on them in Gargellan as late as '61 !)

The Association had done us not, perhaps, proud, but quite adequately. The hotel (name forgotten) would be four-star in the terms of that era. Willie and I shared a warm, comfortable room. The food was a revelation, causing us (not for the first or last time) to wonder who exactly had won the war (I particularly remember oeufs en cocotte )

On the Monday morning we met our French instructors. They had limited English ("Bend ze knees" was about it), but we got along well enough with mime and schoolboy French. Their first task was to sort us into classes. Willie had done some skiing in Scotland and I could at least remember what I should be doing.

My memory of the topography is hazy, but as far as I can remember, the "home peak" (Le Brévent) divided into three sections. Right behind the hotel was a gentle rise over a very wide area. Generations of woodcutters had cleared all the trees; it served as one huge nursery slope. Above this was a large flat mogul field with a small ski restaurant at one side. Running up to it from the hotel was a succession of T-bar drag-lifts (I suppose it's all different now).

On the snows next time,

Goodnight, all,


Not to worry unduly.
Old 13th Feb 2013, 09:34
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Whilst he is regaling us with ripping yarns of living it up Chamonix, Danny-fans, who may have not looked at it, might wish to be aware that Danny has very succinctly aired his views in http://www.pprune.org/military-aircr...ged-again.html

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Old 15th Feb 2013, 07:03
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Skiing must have had some primeval pull for you Danny. Having risked life and limb in experiencing it in the sub-continent (the risking bit being getting to and from it), here you are again and facing the self imposed rigours of British Railways and the SNCF to boot, instead of the superior luxury of a charter flight. Well, on your own head be it (not literally we trust). This must have been right at the outset of the post-war package tour trade, so trend setting again!

The previous occupant of your room at Valley must have been a strange cove. Who on earth would want to paint their stove at all, never mind in gloss paint? Had the walls been done in some "hint of white" arty emulsion? Co-ordinated drapes and scatter cushions as well perhaps? It reminds one again of the classic Yorkshire observation that, "The whole world's gone queer 'cept thee and me, and I'm not so sure about thee!".

Never mind, you have now re-attained the best commissioned rank in the RAF. An elegant sufficiency of dosh (24/- pd, what on earth will you do with it all?) and usually nothing more irksome than a barrack block inventory to distract from one's primary role of paid member of the world's best flying club. Now don't go and mess that bit up, will you? Oh, you will? Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!
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Old 15th Feb 2013, 17:41
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An engineer's nightmare

Very early one morning in 1956 I was awakened by some disturbance before I heard our old car departing at about 5am. Like any dutiful teenager I turned over and went back to sleep, awakening at a more sensible hour after 1030 or so. Many years later my father told me what had happened.

Posted to 202 Sqn Aldergrove in 1954, my father and his colleagues were responsible for launching a Hastings at 0800 every morning. These ‘Bismuth’ flights of up to eight hours would collect data for weather forecasting, and continued until 1964. The ground crews never failed to get their aircraft away on time, although a standby was always ready as the Bismuth was so important.

By 1956 we had acquired a 1936 Hillman Minx car, purchased for £30, rewired with cable from the B-29 Washingtons on Aldergrove’s salvage dump, and with a section of B-29 bomb door just the right curvature for riveting over the boot, which had corroded clean through. The Hillman engine drank oil, but we had ample supplies of OMD-270 as used on the Bristol Hercules; if it was good enough for the Hastings, it was good enough for our Minx, which would rattle along with a trail of blue smoke just like the mighty sleeve-valve Hercs. I thought one of the Wright Cyclones from the scrap Washingtons would make it go even better but Dad drew the line at that.

On the morning in question my father dreamed he was in his office when he heard the dreaded roar of engines and the dull thump of disaster. He ran onto the airfield and saw one of his airmen coming back from the vast pall of black smoke and flame calling ‘crossed controls’. My mother remembered being awakened about 3am by my father shouting ‘Crossed controls, crossed controls’. He was very distressed and left for Aldergrove at once.

My father normally took the bus to work as it was cheaper and more reliable than the Minx, but the first bus would not leave until 6am. Fortunately the old Minx performed that morning, and he arrived long before anyone else. The Hastings was ready to go and all was in order, but he found to his horror that the elevator controls on the standby machine were reversed, the cables having been crossed during the check which had just been completed.

My father said the assembly had been done by two of his most reliable fitters and presumably he had signed it off without checking it himself, though I can’t imagine he or any other engineer would do so. More likely he did inspect it but did not notice the deadly error, perhaps an early senior moment, but fortunately his subconscious did notice and reminded him in dramatic fashion.

I’ve often wondered if the heart attack he suffered a few years later resulted from the stress and responsibilities of the aero engineer. It certainly did for my Uncle John, who in 1953 became one of BEA’s first Viscount engineers and was under constant pressure to keep the glamorous girls on schedule. Many years later, when I qualified myself and signed off many a log, I would realise the loads carried by those who had gone before.
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Old 15th Feb 2013, 18:32
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Aldergrove’s salvage dump,
The many happy hours I spent there in the late 1940s. Pride of place was a Sunderland; how did they get a Sunderlnd to scrap itself at Aldergrove? plus assorted Halifaxs, Lancasters, Oxfords, Spifires and IIRC, a Walrus.

My father was a pilot on 202 Sqn Halifaxs doing the same job. I lived on the Station and having seen the latest, slide along the runway, or, spear into the mud I would be chased away from exhibit 'A' by the SPs until they had defuelled it.

I can remember a juvenile plan to convert one of the Sunderlan's floats into a boat, drag it down to Lough Neagh and sail it but my father was posted before completion..

I also lost my first love; Deidre Judkins, are you there?
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Old 15th Feb 2013, 23:41
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Thank you for your approval (in Another Place) of my Non-PC forms of address. (I'm far too old a dog now to learn any New (PC) Tricks).

As you suggest, the previous occupant of my hut might well haved been a Yorkshire lad. As they say,

Yorkshire born, Yorkshire bred.
Strong in th'arm, weak in th'ead !

As may appear later, we changed our minds about air travel from Geneva - and then had it abruptly changed back for us........D.

Geriaviator and Fareastdriver,

I have an interest in the last days of 202 Sqdn, for several of their people turned up at the ATC School at Shawbury around '65. I particularly remember a little old Master Pilot (a Czech, I think), who had managed to keep in flying posts all the time from war end right up to age 50 (he looked about 80+). Can't remember his name: ring any bells ?

He taught me a lesson which every Instructor must learn: never judge a book by its cover ! This chap struck me as an old has-been - we're going to have trouble with him ! I could not have been more wrong. He had a brain like a razor, picked up his new trade in a flash, finishing top of class in the Course exam.

Ah, the old Hillman Minxes ! Rootes sold all their factory rejects to the RAF as entry-level Staff Cars (well, that's what it seemed like). The High Oil Consumption was notorious (in an age when 2000 mi/ Gallon was "good"). I clearly recall driving one from Thornaby down to the south coast; MT section gave me three gallons of oil in tins for top-ups during the journey - and I used the lot !

Nobody bothered about the smoke - they all smoked - until (like one of my old cars) you couldn't see through the rear window. Every garage sold some sort of "house" reclaimed oil at a shilling a quart (that did me for about 50 miles). "Reclaimed" was, of course, old sump oil filtered through a few thicknesses of newspaper and diluted to taste with paraffin.

The story of your father's dream raises hairs on the back of the neck. I thought that that supreme example of "Murphy's Law" had been made impossible decades previously (by having two incompatible sizes of the cable turnbuckles that were the weak point). Not so, it seems ! Rule: Never neglect a hunch - somebody (your Guardian Angel ?) is trying to tell you something........D.

On which thought-provoking note,

Cheerio, Danny.
Old 16th Feb 2013, 14:40
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More little boys' memories

Danny, could your ancient aviator have been Flt Lt Ignatowski, always known as Iggy? The name is probably Polish so maybe I have it wrong. As to the Minx, we can recommend OMD-270 as used in Hastings, 50psi oil pressure when cold, zero when warm ... eventually the old girl ran her bigends with a great clattering.

Fareastdriver, salvage dumps were indeed wonderful places. Binbrook in 1949 featured a Frazer-Nash rear turret from a Wellington on a tubular stand so we could spin it via the manual operating handle; conical bomb tails with fins and propellors for fusing; approach indicators with red and green glasses and spirit levels for lining them up; bomb dollies which were (fortunately for the populace) too heavy for us to pull to the hill down into the village; sundry armour glass which defied all attempts to break it; and a trolley-acc with Villiers engine which I managed to get going, to the great annoyance of my father who had condemned it the previous month and the greater annoyance of myself when he made me take it back.

Chugalug has suggested we might stretch this thread to include a child's eye view of the postwar RAF. Sixty years ago in faroff Aden, Khormaksar's kids kept a Cold War secret. This great untold story is here if you want it ...

Last edited by Geriaviator; 16th Feb 2013 at 16:19.
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Old 16th Feb 2013, 20:15
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I think we have the wrong man. Our chap was certainly a Master Pilot, and I have come across Ignatowskis, certainly more of a Polish name than a Czech. (Could be a derivation of Ignatius ?).

The bomb dollies would have gone down the hill all right (and written off most of Binbrook village !). The trick would have been to get 'em up again. (you weren't planning to ride down on them, I hope !)

The "propellers " were the safety device for the rear fuses: they were the things which embedded themselves in the under wings of our Vengeances when the 250 pounders came off the racks and they spun off the fuses.

The AAIs would be the old portable things which guided a very nervous D down onto a gooseneck flarepath in a Wiltshire field long ago.

The Aden "Swallows and Amazons" story sounds a jolly good idea to me (the more, the merrier on this Thread). Bring it on ! But it is a matter for the Moderators - suggest you try it and see what happens.

Cheers, Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 16th Feb 2013 at 20:19. Reason: Spacing.
Old 16th Feb 2013, 20:23
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I can't speak for Danny, who holds the flame, but I'm sure Cliff, the OP of this thread and Reg (bless em both) would have no problems with using the thread to continue the story, post WW2. I believe that this thread has proven to be something of a record of our services history and, not least, the personal experiences of people who were there. I'm sure Danny will respond in a similar manner and look forward to any inputs that would add to the wealth of information, from the horses mouth (no current food problems intended).

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Old 16th Feb 2013, 21:44
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Danny gets down to detail.

That leaves the top bit, and that was a very different proposition indeed. It was about a thousand feet of unskiable sheer rock - a sort of mini North Face of the Eiger. From top left just below the summit a narrow descending ledge traversed the face down to the mogul field ( Planplace ?) and the restaurant.

A very small téléphérique (about big enough for four skiers) was the only way to get up to the top (short of mountaineering). Our instructors unanimously told us not even to think about going up there.

As I remember, the plan was: nursery slope until the class was fit to tackle the T-bars (always good for a laugh with the beginners), in stages until they could manage the very easy slope from top restaurant down to the hotel. Then we were bussed to Les Houches, about three miles down the valley, to try the intermediate slopes above the village.

They had a restaurant and cable car station beside the road, and a very good idea. I hadn't met this before, and it may be universal now (it is fifty years since I was last on skis). When you bought your cable car ticket (or showed your Pass) , they gave you a numbered token. Now you could enjoy a leisurely coffee while keeping an eye on a monitor, which showed the last number for the next car load (my local "Boots" has the same idea with the filling of prescriptions).

This did away with queues (and queue jumpers !) in the draughty cold of the cable station. You strolled out, gave up your token, and climbed aboard, trying not to do too much damage with your skis to your neighbours in the packed car. First-timers always revealed themselves by their squeals of terror as the gondola clattered and swayed on passing the first pylon.

On top, you put on your skis and looked around. There was a beautiful panorama of alpine peaks, and a fiendishly expensive restaurant. This was an important consideration for us, for in those days we were only allowed £20 In foreign currency to take out of Britain (everything else had to be covered out of the £30 sterling we'd paid for the "package").

Economy was the name of the game: the cheapest thing in the hotel bar was "Cinzano" (a sweet vermouth), so we drank that, and made each one last as long as possible. I didn't develop much of a taste for the stuff. Coffees outside were very dear. IIRC, this was long before the Franc was revalued (in De Gaulle's time ?), and we got something like Fr. 2400/£, but as everything you bought cost an astronomical number of francs, you were no better off.

To return to the top at Les Houches, my memory is of deeply wooded slopes down which we skied through the trees in the brief intervals when we were not spreadeagled in the snow. I think they had a slalom slope somewhere near the bottom.

Before leaving the subject, the word "Prianon" lingers in my memory, but I cannot recall the context. From Google I learn that it has something to do with a "bubble", but still I'm no wiser. Anyone ?

A bit more excitement next time, perhaps.

Goodnight, all,

Danny 42C

So far, so good.
Old 17th Feb 2013, 07:13
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Coffees outside were very dear. IIRC, this was long before the Franc was revalued (in De Gaulle's time ?), and we got something like Fr. 2400/£, but as everything you bought cost an astronomical number of francs, you were no better off.
The nouveau franc was introduced in 1960, during De Gaulle's term as first President of the Fifth Republic.

Your exchange rates seem a little optimistic though. My sources indicate that, in 1953, there were 975 old francs to the £. Whereas in 1963, following revaluation, there were 13.7 NF to the £.

US dollar rates are interesting - in 1953 you could get $2.8 for £1 and in 1963 £1 was still worth $2.8. In early 1973 £1 was worth $2.35, but it had fallen to $1.9 by the time I first went to the USA in 1978, dropping to almost 1:1 in the yuppiedom of the mid-'80s.....

Last edited by BEagle; 17th Feb 2013 at 07:14.
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Old 17th Feb 2013, 11:17
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Before leaving the subject, the word "Prianon" lingers in my memory, but I cannot recall the context.

I obviously don't wish to burst your "bubble", but I wonder if this have been what you what was lingering in your amazing memory:

L Trinquier Trianon Train Plm Mont Blanc Chamonix 75X105,5 Imp Hugo D Alesi | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

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Old 17th Feb 2013, 16:11
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Growing up in the 1940s RAF

Yes Danny, we had every intention of riding the bomb dolly down to the village and even extended its steering bar. Fortunately we had more enthusiasm than strength so the monster never reached the top of Swinhope Hill; it would certainly have reached Mach 1 at the bottom. I now cast myself upon the charity of the Mods with the opening chapter of 1949 memories:

Austerity Britain, struggling to its feet after a terrible war, was a very dull place ... but to an eight-year-old arriving from the brown plains of India in 1947, Lincolnshire was a riot of excitement and colour, the long-awaited "home" where there was something new to explore every day.

Like most Service families we had to wait for married quarters to become available, and spent our first month in a transit camp. If you explore the crumbling buildings on former airfields, note their single-skin brickwork and asbestos roofs, and the small rooms opening onto a central corridor. Each family would have two such rooms, with communal ablutions in the centre of the block. The buildings were centrally heated but the condensation would stream down the icy walls. Most houses, of course, had only a coal fire and were even more damp.

Our first home was at RAF North Coates, where flying had ceased the year before. For months my father and a few colleagues had to cycle 15 miles to Binbrook to arrive 0800 each day, and 15 miles home each evening, until the RAF reluctantly provided transport. But wartime airmen were tough.

A year later we were allocated quarters on what is now Windsmoor Road on the Brookenby estate. Life was very basic by today's standards. Local farmers collected every scrap of waste food or swill, to be boiled up and turned to valuable pig food. Sweets, sugar and some foods were rationed and our annual treat was a bottle of Coke from the Mess. In school we used both sides of scarce writing paper, and nothing was wasted.

Binbrook was just one of many schools, for Service children led a nomadic life. On my first morning Mr. Gordon the headmaster introduced me and another new boy, saying that our parents were serving our country, that like all Service families we were often on the move, and he asked everyone to make us welcome during our stay in Binbrook.This was the only such welcome I received, and we still remember Binbrook as the community which more than any other took its Service neighbours to its heart. On some stations we were regarded as interlopers, especially as wartime memories began to fade. I was glad to learn that Mr. Gordon's regard for his Service pupils, of which there were 20-25 in my time, was continued by his successors until the station closed in 1988.

Years later I learned that Mr. Gordon had remembered my father's Battle squadrons flying into Binbrook in 1940 after terrible losses in the Battle for France. He told my father that he grieved for the hundreds of young airmen who never returned to Binbrook, and said he would do all in his power to help the Service children. It is fitting that the Australian 460 Squadron memorial is placed at the roadside in front of his school.

The 1949 winter was harsh and coal for our open fires was not only expensive but difficult to obtain at one stage as the roads were snowed up. After every packing-case on the Station had been burned the men from the Patch went foraging on their bicycles, once bringing back a telegraph pole slung along the crossbars of four bikes. It was cut up and split into logs and while the creosote-soaked wood burned well, it produced a thick pall of black smoke which hung over the Patch for a week.

All too soon we were on the move again with a posting to RAF Khormaksar, Aden. My parents offered the choice of an RAF boarding school but I wouldn't miss another overseas trip. I'm still glad I was able to go in those days when foreign travel was impossible for most people, and I remember Aden as though it were yesterday. As you will find from our next instalment, Mods permitting ...

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Old 17th Feb 2013, 20:36
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I've read somewhere that there has been more inflation in this country post WW2 than in the previous six hundred years. When I was in the good old U.S of A. in '41, we got $ 4.08; this lasted till Harold Wilson got his fingers in the pie and it dropped to $ 2.8 - or was it 2.4 ? ("but of course, this will make no difference to the pound in your pocket !" - how can politicians lie so smoothly with such straight faces ?)

They are at it still: in our benighted medieval past they called it: "Debasing the Currency", and they hanged you for it, and quite right, too. Inflation is the cruellest form of tax. Now we churn out paper with nothing to back it and call it: "Quantitative Easing" (President Reagan had a better name for it: "Voodoo Economics"), and then use it to buy up our own Government debt. This strikes me as the equivalent of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, and likely to be as successful, but then what do I know ? (Rant over, sorry Mr Moderator, but it was fun).

I'm sure you're quite right about the Franc rate. Fr 975 in '53, applying my old (sterling) inflation tables (and assuming that both currencies were going down the pan at the same rate) would indicate about 1060 in '51. Memory is unreliable, but a factor of error of 2¼ is a bit over the top ! Thanks for putting me right......D.

Union Jack.


Thanks for the link ! Followed it up, turns out to be something to do with a train on the Paris - Lyon - Mediterranian line. (hadn't they all been nationalised as the SNCF by then ?) "Bubble" ? - Wild guess, might refer to the loops in the line that appear on the map..........D.


Congratulations on the gripping first instalment of your experiences in the days when you were a "service brat". The mere thought of your steerable bomb trolley hurtling down to Binbrook village with a couple of ten-year olds on board makes the blood run cold ('elf'nsafety would have a fit of the vapours !) What's well begun is half done ! Welcome aboard ! Keep up the good work !..........D.

My thanks to all for the "follow-ups" which are what give life to this Prince of Threads.

Cheers, Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 20th Feb 2013 at 19:38. Reason: Spelling Error.
Old 17th Feb 2013, 22:10
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Chugalug, Thank you for your approval (in Another Place) of my Non-PC forms of address. (I'm far too old a dog now to learn any New (PC) Tricks).
Danny, you certainly don't need my approval, but I can assure you of my high regard at all times. With so much pressure on us all these days to conform to a shared perceived wisdom in all things, it is as well to remind people that it was not always thus. The maxim that, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." isn't heard much these days, more's the pity. Could it be that the ferocity shown against those that don't thus conform fires the extremism that is such a feature of the modern world? At any rate, unforeseen consequences seem to litter the landscape these days.
Well, we're all getting stuff off our chests now, aren't we? At least it ensures a safety in numbers, the mods won't know where to start;-)
Geriaviator, I've just worked out a cunning wheeze that will cover all our post WWII reminiscences. I read somewhere that the Cold War is seen by some historians as merely a continuation of World WarII in another form. Now the whys and wherefores of that are not important, it is merely necessary that all who post here are unanimous in that view. Ipso facto, m'Lud, and Habeas Corpus! All in favour? Against? The Ayes have it. The Ayes have it! So there you are, job done. Post on young Geriaviator, you have only your youth to lose, as do we all.
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Old 18th Feb 2013, 15:19
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Well, Danny and Chugalug say to get on with it ...

Once upon a time there was a great Empire with outposts around the world. By 1951 the empire was crumbling but its military servants were still departing for places such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Kenya, Rhodesia, Egypt, Iraq ... and Aden at the foot of the Red Sea.

When Servicemen left on a posting there was always a delay before married quarters became available and their families could join them. During these long months the lonely wives had to care for children and home, an experience vividly brought back by last year’s very moving TV series on the Military Wives’ Choir.

Like all Service families our journey began 12 weeks ahead with the inoculation parade. The queue of National Servicemen stretched all the way round Binbrook’s SSQ, waiting for the jabs for yellow fever, smallpox, tetanus and the dreaded TABC, a cocktail against typhoid and typhus which laid out mother and myself with flu-like symptoms which lasted a week.

On the previous day the medical orderlies were busy sterilising their big glass syringes and sharpening their needles on whetstones. There was none of your disposable nonsense, I told you NOTHING was wasted. It was considered best to get in early before the needles became blunted by so many perforations but don't worry, the needles were sterilised between each customer. One or two airmen would pass out in the stuffy corridors laden with the fumes of surgical spirit, only to be laid on the floor and jabbed anyway.

Meanwhile our belongings were crated up for long storage or for Aden, marked ‘Not wanted on voyage’ as we could take only one suitcase to the cabins. Like all Service mothers, Mum was alone to do the packing, have our married quarters clean and inventoried, and take the three of us to Southampton, two long train journeys enlivened by sheer panic when my sister, then six, wandered off in Waterloo station. We just made the boat train and boarded the Dunera that afternoon.

New arrivals were housed in Khormaksar’s bungalows, for the station had yet to undergo the massive development of the 1960s. Long before the days of TV the family would sit happily under the security light, watching the lizards feeding on the insects it attracted. Around us the land crabs formed a companionable circle, their eyes on little stalks like periscopes following us if we moved from chair to chair.

Each evening my parents would listen to the news on crackly shortwave, with Lillibulero playing in Radio Newsreel on Saturday nights and Forces’ Favourites one Sunday a month. Most people wrote home weekly for there were no phones in airmen’s quarters. Telegrams were for emergencies.

The terrorist attacks were still a decade away but Khormaksar must have been a grim posting for adults, the tiny RAF community having nowhere to go except Steamer Point and perhaps Crater. The young National Servicemen hated the place, so most treated us like little brothers and spoiled us rotten. But for us youngsters, school finished at lunchtime, grown-ups went to sleep off the afternoon’s heat, and Khormaksar was wide open for us to enjoy.

Just how enjoyable you'll see tomorrow ...

Last edited by Geriaviator; 18th Feb 2013 at 16:39.
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Old 18th Feb 2013, 16:29
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Bless 'em All !


Splendid ! A true Irishman, you have clearly kissed the Blarney Stone !

Now you shall stand
At my right hand
And keep the Bridge with me. (Macaulay (?) How Horatius held the Bridge)

The Etruscans ? No chance now !

I would not change a word of it.

Old 18th Feb 2013, 21:19
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Danny Bites off more than he could Chew.

There was, however, one day which will take a lot of forgetting. In the second week, our instructors had turned us loose for a day. It was a nice, quiet morning. After breakfast Willie and I had a good look at the Brévent. From the hotel, it didn't look too bad. Surely, if we were careful........We decided to give it a go (well, you do things like that when you're young, don't you ?)

We rode the T-bars up to the mogul field, then took the little cable car up to the top (we were the only ones in it). Looking down on the ledge, it looked wide enough and not too steep. The car stopped, we got out and put our skis on. There had been a light fall of snow during the night, but no sign of a footstep or ski track - not even the "broad arrow" of a raven. - we were the first ones up there. Small bushes were laden with snow, everything was totally silent and cloud had come down on the mountain top, visibility was about 50 yds.

Following the little piste direction signs, we poled slowly along. After a while the path started to slope down , and a much larger signboard hove in sight, covered in snow. We stopped to knock the snow off with our poles. And then wished we hadn't ! It was an uncompromising:"DANGER DE MORT", below an unpleasantly realistic skull and crossbones.

Gulp....... Had either of us been alone (suicidal in the mountains anyway), I'm sure we would have turned tail and taken the next cable car back (much the same as climbing up to the 5-metre diving board and then cravenly down again). But - "Courage, mes braves !" As neither of us wanted to be the "chicken", and the honour of the rosbifs was on the line, we plodded on. The slope grew steeper, we were skiing now on what seemed to be a dusting of snow over bathroom porcelain. And then we were on the ledge, and fighting for our lives.

The ledge was wide enough, the trouble was that it wasn't level as we supposed, but cambered about 15 degrees down towards the edge over which, hundreds of feet below, waited the mort the sign was talking about. The only possible way to survive was to sideslip for all we were worth. The downward slope increased; we couldn't get enough grip to stop, even though we were on metal edges, but by using all the strength we could muster in our leg muscles we managed to stay on the ledge. How long this struggle went on, and how far the ledge ran, I don't know. It can't have been more than 250 yards, but felt like miles. We hung on and at last the slope slackened and we ran out of the cloud onto the mogul field and came to a halt.

It took about three minutes before we stopped shaking - I'd never had to use my leg muscles so hard and so long since trying to hold a slow Meteor straight on one engine. We slowly poled over to the restaurant. A few early skiers eyed us curiously. Did I hear "espèce d'idiots" muttered ? Didn't matter - even at restaurant prices, we reckoned we'd earned a cognac apiece !

Then we skied slowly and sedately back down to the hotel and spent the rest of the day window-shopping in Chamonix.

Quite enough for the day,

Bonsoir, messieurs,


I learned about skiing from that.

Last edited by Danny42C; 18th Feb 2013 at 21:23.
Old 19th Feb 2013, 11:56
  #3519 (permalink)  
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With approval of our CO (and born survivor^^) Danny ... chocks away for Aden 1951!

RAF KHORMAKSAR in 1951 is a wonderful place for a precocious 10 year old, with lots of exciting things to discover, not least in the Medical Officer’s surgery which I am visiting for an ear infection. On the wall is a huge poster bearing the interesting legend: GUARD AGAINST VD!

“Mum, what’s VD?” I pipe up. “Just be thankful you haven’t got it, son, you’ll find out soon enough”, she replies. “Yes, but how can I guard against it if I don’t know what it is?” Mother looks imploringly at the MO, Flt Lt Powell, who has bowed his head and is shuffling papers on his desk. “That’s right, you don’t have to worry about it. It’s something that only affects grown ups”. “How do you catch it, sir?”, I persist. “Is it something like the flu? Why don’t children catch it? Do you get it at home, or just out here in Aden?” “Well, it’s not quite like flu, but you don’t need to worry, only grown ups catch it”. “Have you had it, sir?” I ask.

Then I notice that the MO is in some distress. His face has turned red, his eyes are watering and he has his hand over his mouth the way my little sister does when she’s going to throw up. That’s enough, says mum, show the doctor your sore ear. No swimming for another fortnight, he says, exchanging glances with my mother. There’s something going on here, I think, but there’s no further discussion as I am marched schoolwards at the double despite the heat that hits us like a wave as we emerge from the cool sick quarters.

Our house is on the corner of the married patch, overlooking the RAF school and only 50 yds away. This can be a mixed blessing, as my best friend David Brindley and I found last week when re-enacting She Wore a Yellow Ribbon after its premiere in the Astra Cinema. We gallop into our livingroom ahead of the Seventh Cavalry to find Miss Buckle our teacher has popped over for tea with my parents. Miss Buckle is very old, I overheard Mum tell Dad she was about 38. Like a cobra, she reacts instantly to any sudden movement by small boys and impales us with her basilisk stare before she remembers where she is and bares her teeth in a terrifying smile instead. It gives me quite a fright while David is so shaken he doesn’t come near our house for a week.

Mum leaves me to the classroom door, I slip into my seat and tell Miss Buckle that I won’t be able to swim in the school contest. “That’s a pity, is your ear still sore?” Yes miss, but mum says I should be thankful I haven’t got VD”. “She said WHAT?” I wilt under Miss Buckle’s terrifying glare, and fear I’ve said something wrong. “Please miss, it says about VD on the MO’s wall and when I asked him what it was he said it’s a grown up problem and I’m not to worry because children can’t catch it”.

Miss Buckle’s face turns red, her mouth twitches, she lifts her desk lid and rummages around inside it, head down. What’s wrong, I wonder? Miss Buckle is not well, maybe she has caught ... an awful possibility crosses my mind. I hope that Graham hasn’t caught one of the four-inch locusts that drift across from Ethiopia. He likes to hide one in her desk so it flies out with a mighty whirr when the desk is opened, because Miss Buckle gets very excited when this happens and while it’s most entertaining to watch in normal times we are in an unstable situation here. Robert pokes me in the back with a ruler and asks what it’s all about, while David is muttering something from across the aisle. We don’t notice Miss Buckle racing down the classroom until the crack of ruler on close cropped head and yelps of pain end further discussion.

When school ends at lunchtime we head for the pool and spend our afternoon discussing this mysterious illness. We can’t think of the answer ... but we know a man who can.

Tomorrow: our mystery deepens as the Khormaksar Kids fall under the icy shadow of the Cold War.

Last edited by Geriaviator; 7th Oct 2017 at 16:29. Reason: Replacing picture from photobucket
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Old 19th Feb 2013, 12:30
  #3520 (permalink)  
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Well, Geri, your light-hearted interlude has certainly given me a couple of hearty belly-laughs.

you're a natural at this story-telling,-please continue.
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