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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 Apr 2013, 22:21
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This Thread should have no prima donnas

I never had you down as a chauvinist, Danny! On second thoughts, since I believe that the male equivalent of a "prima donna" is "primo uomo", I agree that "this thread should have no prima donnas" .....


PS One lump and no milk, please!
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Old 12th Apr 2013, 22:57
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Dream on !


Touche ! (for donna read uomo).

You'll be lucky !

Cheers to you both, Danny.
Old 13th Apr 2013, 08:27
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RAF Auxiliaries & ATC

In posts 3655/6 Danny and Blacksheep refer to the co existence of the local ATC Squadron at RAF Thornaby.

As this thread has become an excellent historical record of the RAF in the 50's I wanted to ask about this. In my days in the ATC, some of us cadets used to put on our uniforms and cycle 8 miles to 614 sqdn at Llandow where we would spend a happy few hours helping to refuel the FB5's and the one T7 (they also had a Meteor 8 which was a bit of a hangar queen as no-one liked the ejection seat). I can still remember that the FB5 main tank held 395 gallons, and I also remember helping to hold the tail booms down after a wet start. Occasionally we were rewarded with a flight in the back seat of the T7, although I never managed that myself. This activity was completely unofficial and carried out on our own initiative. I am therefore surprised that "the cadets of 1261 Squadron were invisible to the real Air Force", to use Blacksheep's words.

Last edited by pulse1; 13th Apr 2013 at 08:28.
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Old 13th Apr 2013, 21:06
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pulse 1,

I've been racking my brains trying to remember 1261 Sqn, Air Training Corps during my time at Thornaby ('52 - '54), and am sorry to say I've come up with nothing (which is not to say that there is nothing to remember).

A haphazard search in Google is no help. There is a great deal of reminiscence from the late '60s onwards, and of course detail from the war years, but the early '50s seem strangely blank.

Another source (published '92) says that Thornaby was placed on a C & M basis in Oct '58, and: "The only remaining living connection being the Air Training Corps, who use the only surviving airmens' barrack block". So it was there then - the question being when it was formed there. Can Blacksheep or any other reader help ? We should remember that the Cadets of that day would be around 15 years younger than my generation, so there should be a fair number around still.

If it can be established that they weren't there in '52/'54, then I'm exempt from Blacksheep's stricture ("the Cadets of 1261 Squadron were invisible to the real Air Force").

Cheers, Danny.
Old 14th Apr 2013, 18:15
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Danny has first sight of his new home.

(Follows on my #3676 p.184).

Came the dawn at Thornaby, and the usual silent breakfast, everyone immersed in his own thoughts, or reading a paper. Then Jack and I strolled over to the SHQ, only a short step. It was the next building to the Guardroom, where I had first arrived the evening before. Next to it was the Flagstaff, and directly opposite that my place of business. It looked formidable, a single storey building surrounded with high blast walls and (so Jack said) had six feet of reinforced concrete on top. It would need a Tallboy to get through that lot.

Thornaby had been a Coastal Command station during the war, with Hudsons and Ansons on anti-submarine duty over the North Sea. This had been the station Operations Room, and had very easily converted into a mock Fighter Sector Operations Room for us. But, although Jack gave me my keys and Secret Documents, he'd never been in the place himself and so was no use to me as a guide.

However, first things first. W/Cdr Sewell greeted me warmly and confirmed what I already knew - I would be acting C.O. of this lot TFN. In my innocence, I had supposed that it would not be difficult for 12 Group to choose one of my half-dozen auxiliary Fighter Control Flt. Lts. for the post. But in all dealings with the Auxiliaries there was an Elephant in the Room - and a big, strong beast was he.

I refer, of course, to the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association (TAAFA). This sounds like a fairly harmless gathering of old fuddy-duddies with vaguely charitable purposes in mind. It was nothing of the kind. It was a power in the land. Created in the early years of the last century to gather all the many semi-official Yeomanry and Volunteer companies into one single organisation, it was established on a county (almost a feudal) basis to administer the newly formed Territorial Army, and it was very jealous of its privileges. Naturally, the R.Aux.A.F. was incorporated into this body.

The Lord Lieutenant of the County was ex officio the President. All the major landowners of the district would have retired Generals and Admirals somewhere in the family tree: they naturally gravitated to the governing bodies of TAAFA. The Secretary of the North Riding of York Branch was a Brigadier Fairweather, and it was with him that I would have most of my dealings. They operated from County Hall in Northallerton; their quarterly meetings (which all Territorial and Auxiliary C.O.s had to attend, or be represented by their Adjutants) were held in the palatial brass, mahogany and leather Council Chamber there (the County Councillors being told meanwhile to go and play somewhere else).

TAAFA had the last word in the appointment of Auxiliary C.O.s, but fortunately their thinking (in our case) was in accordance with mine, after I'd had time to get to know my people. All but one of my Fighter Control officers were ex-war pilots and navigators (who would be "naturals" for the new Branch). The odd man out (David Brown) had been an Air Gunner - with a DSO. You don't see many of those about, and they don't come "up with the rations". Of course, the unspoken rule then was: "Never ask, never tell"; and it is only a few months ago that I learned (from Google) of his WW2 record. He would have finished, after 61 ops, as his (Lancaster) Sqdn's Gunnery Leader, and must have been a fine one, too. There was another "front runner" (at least, in his own estimation), but he was doomed to disappointment.

My log shows that I flew David Brown (as passenger in the Harvard) as a F/Lt on 30.8.52. and as a S/Ldr on 3.3.53, so he must have been appointed some time between the two dates. It seems that I was "holding the fort" for at least nine months, and I suspect the delay was due to infighting between TAAFA and 12 Group.

Next time we'll explore the place more thoroughly.

Goodnight again, chaps,


Press on regardless.

Last edited by Danny42C; 14th Apr 2013 at 18:21. Reason: Add Text.
Old 14th Apr 2013, 19:22
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Gaining an RAF pilots brevet in ww2

Geoff Wright.
I noted elsewhere Geoff that early in your training you got special lenses to correct your vision.
I was surprised that they were willing to do this in 1944 when U/T aircrew were close to becoming surplus.
Was there some reason for what would appear to have been unusual consideration?
Also how close to "wings" were you when training stopped around VJ Day.?
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Old 16th Apr 2013, 19:26
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What were they guarding ?


In your #3683 above, you ask: "One thing that has bugged me is that some stories mention performing guard duty whilst at RAF Regent's Park and it made me wonder what they were guarding."

Ah, if only the RAF were as logical as that ! You don't have to be actually guarding anything. It is sufficient that someone has issued an order that a certain number of guards be set out, and honour is satisfied if they have.

I myself have vivid memory of a beautiful moonlight night in the midsummer of '41, standing (two on, four off) with my "pick-helve" in the garden of the Trebarwith Hotel, Newquay, looking out over the deserted beaches to the shining Bristol Channel. The idea was that, if a German paratrooper came floating down in range of my "helve" (handle), I should bang him on the head.

A rifle would have been useful, but we didn't have any. Luckily the prospect was remote.

Cheers, Danny.
Old 16th Apr 2013, 19:44
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Guard Duty

Thanks Danny .... it all makes sense now!

I hope Geoff has similar memories and will be able to tell us all about them.



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Old 16th Apr 2013, 21:02
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Nicosia 1956. Suez. Lots of Hunters parked - though one less than a few days earlier as EOKA had blown one up by attaching a bomb to the undercarriage. Easily done as hundreds of local labourers entered the station each morning without being checked as far as one could tell. Anyhow, as orderly officer one pitch black night I was obliged to inspect the guard on the pan. From the darkness a quavering voice said "Halt, who goes there?". "Orderly Officer" said I. "How do I know that?" said frightened airman. "Shine your torch" said I. "They didn't give me one and don't come any further, I've got a gun" said he. "Is it loaded" said I. "No sir" said he. At this stage the moon appeared from behind a cloud and we could see one another vaguely. He suggested I put my F1250 on the ground and step well back which I did and he groped around until he found it, couldn't read it of course, but said it felt like a F1250 so we agreed he had done all that could be expected. I said "Well done, airman" and sloped off back to the bar for a cooling Keo.

And some folk think the present RAF is bad!

Last edited by 26er; 16th Apr 2013 at 21:03.
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Old 16th Apr 2013, 21:22
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Guarding Leeming 1979 with a helve.

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
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Old 17th Apr 2013, 02:26
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Danny digs in deeper.

(follows my #3694 sent 14.4.13.)

However, it was still Monday morning, and I had a pleasant surprise. Bob Schroder must have checked with the Mess and been told that I'd arrived the night before. He came up and tracked me down to SHQ. We went over to our place and he showed me round.

It was gloomy inside, for the protective blast walls cut off a lot of daylight, and of course in the interior we were on artificial light all the time. The offices were on the south outside wall, IIRC, mine on one side of the massive steel external door, my C.O's and Bob's on the other. In the corner past my office was the Battery Charging Room; apparently the equipment needed a lot of low-voltage DC - and, although it had an extractor fan, the acid fumes worked their way down the internal corridor, on the inner side of which was the orderly room, opposite my office.

The core of the building was a large square space in which our simulator Fighter Sector Operations Room was laid out. There cannot be a soul in Britain who is not tired of seeing (on film and TV) the Fighter Plotters with their croupiers' rakes, each busily moving the markers in response to the information fed through their headsets from their "oppos" - the Radar Operators - who would be in front of a (simulated) individual radar display; these had been set up in spaces behind the "Ops Room". The rest of the peripheral space was allotted to radar and radio workshops, a Telephone Exchange, our little "canteen", and the Usual Offices.

Bob told me that the prime purpose of the unit was to train Auxiliary WRAFS in these two trades only. We had a small establishment of Auxiliary Clerks, Nursing and Equipment Assistants, etc, but they would go out to the various sections of the Station and learn their trades by "sitting next to Nelly". These "admin" people from all three units would "muck-in" together - for example, all the Nursing Assistants would be instructed by Dr Ian Stewart (the Auxiliary M.O. of 608 Sqdn). And these ancilliary trades would have Auxiliary NCOs, recruited from ex-war RAF trades. It worked fine.

For the devising, and the maintenance of all our technical equipment, Bob had two first-class technical assistants. They were basically civilian employees, but a condition of their employment was that they should join the Auxiliaries to fill two F/Sgt posts which had been established for the purpose. Both ex-Group 1 tradesman, one a Radio and the other a Radar Fitter, it meant that we had as good as two regular RAF Flight Sergeants.

After our recruits had been kitted-out and medically examined, they did all their basic training in the simulator until they were adjudged ready for the Real Thing. Every Sunday morning a double-decker hired from the Stockton Corporation would take a full load out to RAF Seaton Snook (some miles NE along the coast), and there "down the hole". This was one of the many underground Operations Rooms in the Sector Defence complex, being linked-in to (IIRC) Boulmer and Patrington (?). There they would spend all day with the regular plotters and operators "on the job".

A lot of the time they would be tracking, and doing GCI exercises with Auuxiliary Fighter Squadrons (608 and others), who would be most of the RAF traffic over the North Sea at weekends.

We had no RAF Fighter Control officers on strength, so all the Auxiliary officers' instruction was done by the regular Controllers at Seaton Snook. It is important to realise that there was a strict divide between the Fighter Control "operational dog" and my "administrative tail". For example, I never once went underground at Seaton Snook - for that required a special security clearance which was denied to me on the "need to know" basis.

Paradoxically, this meant that some office clerk or shop assistant who had been recruited a month ago would be issued with this clearance, but I would be turned away by the SPs at the gate on top (the same went for all my Secretarial officers, clerks, drivers, cooks and bottlewashers - and the Station Commander).

Bob Schroder was in charge of all our technical training: all the rest fell to me. and I spent the rest of Monday and Tuesday in the empty HQs, with me asking the questions and Bob trying to provide answers.

On the Wednesday morning all my regulars came in, chief among them Sergeant Watt, my Orderly Room Sergeant, who was to prove as much of a tower of strength to me over the next three years as Sgt. Williams had been on 1340 Flight in India in '44. (I've always been blessed with excellent SNCOs: they are the bedrock of the RAF). A rather lugubrious Scot, he rarely smiled (and I cannot recall ever hearing him laugh), but he was worth his weight in gold to me. With him came a dozen airmen: a couple of clerk/typists and telephonists, an MT driver, a storeman, Radar mechs, one or two others - and of course, the two civilian cum Auxiliary F/Sgts who managed all the technical details and problems with Bob.

Thornaby had a Drill Hall, and it came in useful early in '53 as the venue for the Court Martial of G/Capt Jarman (O.C. Middleton St George), where room had to be found for all the National (and some overseas) Press, their hangers-on and the numerous public attracted by this very interesting cause celèbre.

That's enough for the night,

Cheers, Danny42C

All in the day's work !

Last edited by Danny42C; 18th Apr 2013 at 21:45. Reason: Add Text.
Old 18th Apr 2013, 21:08
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Question Leslie Gordon Preece JD118 and possibly LV183

Greetings This is my first message. During WW2 I met a young RCAF flier in Parkstone, Dorset, and I am trying to trace his wartime history. He spent time as a POW, and I am told he was captured in Belgium. He was apparently in Stalag Luft III and possibly in Stalag Luft V..His Service number may have been J86903, and he may have been on LV813 in 78 Sqn,- but incorrectly shown as British. For JD118 in 78 sqn he was shown as both British and Canadian. He died in Canada in Dec 2012. Much of the above is gleaned from forces-war-records. Can you help, or give me any advice, please regards Brian Everett
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Old 19th Apr 2013, 17:55
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Danny has his hopes dashed.

I soon had problems on several fronts. Alex Hindley's recommendation for my PC had not fallen on stony ground, for my first flight from Thornaby was in the station Harvard to 12 Group at Newton, on 20th October. I took Jack Derbyshire with me as a passenger, but my business was with the AOC (AVM Harcourt-Smith). He looked me over and added his weight to Hindley's submission. So far, so good. It looked like a repetition of my original commissioning in '43. All I had to do now was wait. Done and dusted. Or so I thought.

But it happened that Fighter Command was then headed by the redoubtable Air Marshal Sir Basil Embry (he who in one of his escape efforts had killed a German guard with his bare hands - which did not endear him to his captors when they picked him up again - and who had dismissed the Vultee Vengeance as worse than a Fairey Battle). As at that time we were (IIRC) not fighting anybody in particular, he found time hanging heavy on his hands.

To keep himself busy, he decided to check out a selection of the young gentlemen who had been put forward for PCs in his Command. Later in the year (I cannot be more specific, for I must have gone down to Bentley Priory by train - could you get to it from Stanmore ?} I was bidden to present myself to the great man.

He greeted me cordially enough, but the difficulty was that he had done his homework, and worked out that the best I could hope for was a "scraper" around the age of 40 - not quite what he was looking for at all ! That was bad enough, but when he found that, although I'd been to a rugby school, I didn't play - no, not even for the Station, he lost interest in me completely; my fate was sealed. Thumb down.

(One Saturday last autumn, I filletted my D.T., and my eye was caught by the "Property" section. Normally, this would be of little interest (as I don't have a spare half-million), but on the cover page was a Spitfire Gate Guardian in front of a noble pile that looked familiar. It had to be Bentley Priory, looking fine in the autumn sunshine, and I was not at all surprised to read that the MOD were trying to sell it off to some developer for conversion into flats. I looked at the Spitfire. Surely the engine panels' shut lines were never as accurate as that ? Of course they weren't - they'd been done by a signwriter (with a felt-tipped pen ?) The thing was a fibreglass fake.

So there you have it. The very epicentre of the Battle of Britain, the place from which, seventy years before, Britain had been saved from its greatest peril in a thousand years, had now no place in the hearts of the British people, and was tossed on the market like an old bingo hall. And its guardian was an oversized Airfix model ! With the contracting RAF, could they not find one real Spitfire as a memento of the building's glorious place in our history ? So what next ? Chop up " Victory" for biofuel ?)

As for me, it rather looked as if, in five years' time, I would be out on the street, and have to start working for a living. It was time to dig a bit deeper, if I wanted to stay in the service. I came across AM Signal P3406 of 2.6.50. * This introduced what was laughingly called the "Limited Career Permanent Commission" (for "Limited", read "No"). Even so, it was a fair offer. They would keep me on till age 50, and then pension me off. I would not get past Flight Lieutenant. Take it or leave it.

(* No, my memory's not as good as all that: I've a couple of yellowing copy letters in the back of my log).

This LCPC was on offer (originally) only in the Air Traffic and Fighter Control Branches (later it was renamed the "Branch Commission", and was extended - on application - to age 55). I applied for ATC, and was duly accepted. This may strike you as surprising, seeing that I was already in a Fighter Control Unit. But as I've already explained, I was only "admin", and I didn't fancy a troglodyte existence "down the hole", whereas in ATC I'd at least see aircraft flying, blue skies and green grass. And I'd spent some time helping out in Binbrook ATC in '49: the job did not seem too onerous.

Anyway, after Bentley Park I was down in London and I think it was then that I looked up Niel Ker. He was slaving away on his Russian Course, and they'd devised a cunning way to keep their students' noses to the grindstone. Starting with 12 more people than they needed for Paris after Christmas, they set a progress test every fortnight and chopped the bottom two. Simple but effective.

Niel was in digs, his landlady bore the good old Russian name of Mrs Braithwaite, although she'd probably been Grand Duchess of something or other in the Tsarist court. She was the relict of a Mr Braithwaite, and normally lived alone except for a very friendly old labrador called Pyotr. This animal was well trained and obedient, but the thing was that he would obey only commands in Russian. So it was that I learned that the Russian for "Sit" was "Sidi" (seedee). Mrs B mothered Niel, and I can vouch for the fact that she could turn out a very tasty steak-and-kidney pie.

Goodnight, all,


P.S. Perhaps I've been a little hard on Airfix. In the middle of a roundabout in Thornaby town centre is a plastic replica Spitfire, and that's fair enough, but at Bentley Priory......D.

You can't win 'em all.

Last edited by Danny42C; 19th Apr 2013 at 18:06. Reason: Spacing
Old 19th Apr 2013, 18:17
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Danny, I think you'll find that all the "real" Spitfire gate guardians have been replaced by plastic replicas by now. The originals are either back flying, being rebuilt to flight status or used as parts to keep others airbourne; they're far too important to leave rotting in the rain!
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Old 20th Apr 2013, 08:29
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After reading of the adventures in a Bond 3 wheeler I found this
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Old 20th Apr 2013, 11:30
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What a magnificent machine! I think we should all subscribe for a fibreglass replica which we can donate to Danny for a gate guardian. It would bring a real touch of class Chez Danny.
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Old 20th Apr 2013, 12:01
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I think we should go one better - Ppruners could subscribe (a la wartime Spitfire funds) to buy a Bond Minicar for Danny to cherish and enjoy. He could write up his exploits for us all.

There's one on a well known auction site right now
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Old 20th Apr 2013, 13:26
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Danny: having climbed from your gazillion hp Spitfire or Vampire, didn't you find the Bond a little under powered at 10-or-so bhp? And what was the Bond's roll-rate?
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Old 20th Apr 2013, 20:24
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The Spit-Bond Fund.


Yes, I fear you may be right - money talks !. But surely they could keep just one for Bentley Priory ?

As for rotting in the rain, they seem to have some marvellous paint finishes these days. I run (from time to time !) a 14-year old car with the paint almost as good as new, and it lives out in all weathers.

Needless to say, you couldn't say that for cars (particularly British ones) twenty or thirty years ago - for then the dreaded tinworm stalked the land !

(My wheels are basically German, but wearing a sombrero).......D.

ricardian, Geriaviator and airborne artist,

You are all too kind ! The Residents' Association would be up in arms ! I shall have (regretfully) to decline the generous offer (and I don't think we're agile enough to get into a Bond now - and would certainly never get out again........D.

(ricardian, all that appeared on my museum piece was a little red cross, but thank you all the same !).....D.

Yamagata ken,

T'was worse than that (5 bhp from 122cc, or 8 from 197 - but that cost you £25 more). Amazing what you could do with it, though. They have been rolled, which might be hard luck if you just had the unsupported perspex screen. Never did it myself, only lifted the inner wheel a foot or so a couple of times. The rear track was so wide that it was remarkably stable.

Mine was the Mk.1 version, Chugalug put in a nice pic * of one a few pages back, but that was the de-luxe Mk.1 with proper glass screen, a wiper and 8 bhp. I only had perspex and a little hand-operated wiper which you used as little as possible as it scratched the screen......D.


So this was later improved version? Interesting that (according to Wikki) they were made of aluminium, as were so many of those early postwar cars. I recall the A40 Sports and the Triumph Roadster were too, amongst many others. Hardly surprising with so many surplus aircraft to recycle, not least by Sir Freddy Laker's Southend smelter, as previously mentioned. At least you didn't have to climb into the engine compartment to kick-start the engine...or did you? (Text and pic copied hopefully by permission of Chugalug)........D.

Thank you all for your kind solicitude,


Last edited by Danny42C; 20th Apr 2013 at 21:56. Reason: Add Text.
Old 20th Apr 2013, 20:54
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Brian of Chester, thanks for your post, I have put a copy on the main page as it may not get noticed here, click on the link below

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