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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 30th May 2013, 14:52
  #3841 (permalink)  
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Danny packs his bags again.

The weeks passed and the question of the next Summer Camp started to loom large in our thoughts.

In March we were told that we'd picked a real plum this time. We should be flying to GŁtersloh (but employed and quartered at Sundern) at the end of April. This caused a real flurry of excitement. You must remember that at that time very few "ordinary" people had ever gone, or would ever hope to go "abroad" in their lives - excluding, of course, the large numbers of us who'd spent past years "abroad" at Government expense. "Abroad" was were the "foreigners" lived (ie all those who had not "won first prize in the lottery of life" - by not being born British). There they spoke strange languages, used strange currency and had all sorts of strange un-English habits. Here be Dragons. Better not go there.

Coupled to this was the fact that we were going to fly out and back, courtesy of RAF Transport Command. As I've mentioned before, this would be an equally novel (and for some, terrifying) experience. IIRC, the airmens' Pay Books included a Will Form (do they still ?) and many were carefully completed, usually leaving all their possessions to Mum and Dad.

Now I can't remember whether they had to have Passports or not. On balance, I don't think so. In those days we were going out to BAOR (British Army of Occupation on the Rhine), and it was still clear who was the Chief and who the Indian. It was different in the sixties, when I was on standby for Borneo, and the RAF bought me one of the last big, blue and gold "proper" British Passports. I have it still.

I have no record of the exact dates of our 14-day Camp, but it was in school term-time, instead of the previous years in which it had always been in the summer holidays. This immediately caused trouble. Several of our officers were teachers and the local Directors of Education were wholly opposed to the idea of releasing them at this time for their two weeks of R.Aux.A.F. training (and you can't really blame them). The North Riding of York Education Committee was fairly co-operative, but its next-door neighbour in County Durham dug its heels in.

It was time to bring up the big guns. Brigadier Fairweather mentioned the problem to our Lord Lieutenant and he had a chat with his counterpart over the border in the course of some well-fed official function. It was subtly hinted to Alderman Foodbotham, (the "iron watch-chained, grim booted Perpetual Chairman of the Education and Tramways Committees") that Mrs Alderman Foodbotham might find that the invitation to the Garden Party that year (on which she had set her heart and for which she had already bought her outfit) might unaccountably be lost in the post. The Director of Education, who had his sights set on the OBE which (he felt) was long overdue, might have to wait a year or two yet.

There was an agonising reappraisal in Durham County Hall: they found that they could release our people after all, the noble public servants were granted their hearts' desires, everyone was happy except the Headmasters, who had to dash about a bit and take a few classes themselves.

I am not sure what Transport Command had on its inventory at that time, but the best they could offer us was two Valettas. As we would be taking out almost exactly four Valetta loads, we would have to split our troops up. One load would travel on the Saturday morning and the second on the Sunday. It would be a full day's work for the crews. They would have to start from base (down South somewhere), come up to Thornaby, take us to GŁtersloh, load the previous FCU (if any ?), take them home to wherever and go back to their Station.

Apart from a few faint hearts who cried off for various reasons, the rest had to be brought up to date with kit and inoculations ready for the great day. The count-down started.

And how will it all work out ?

Good afternoon, chaps,


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Old 30th May 2013, 19:38
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Danny, the RAF's Dumps have brought forth some treasure in their time, like bomb trolleys for instance, but a fully loaded Stn Adj's safe has to be a spectacular first. Thankfully the resourcefulness of those three bad lads did not rise to the task they set themselves, but marks for effort might be awarded in retrospect, if understandably they were not so granted by the CM.
The restricted capacity of the aircraft tasked for your unit move to Gutersloh obviously added to your problems, but at least they came to you and not vice-versa. I have a hunch that those subject these days to "trooping flights" might well envy you your door to door bespoke arrangements.
Perhaps if you'd left those teachers behind anyway....?
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Old 30th May 2013, 21:24
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Troop transports and Teachers


I think, perhaps, that in those days, there were far fewer "short-haul" airlifts, and so they could be tailored more closely to the customers' requirements. And of course they were far easier to organise !

Teachers were always over-represented in the Territorial and Auxiliary forces. Because, when their little dears vanished at the end of summer term then, they had no intention whatever of seeing them again before they returned in September.

They therefore had eight blissful weeks ahead of them. Allowing two weeks for the family holiday, there was still six weeks to kill. Many of them would be ex-service, two weeks on full Service pay and allowances in a world already familiar to them was no great hardship. (No, I was never one of them !)

Cheers, Danny.
Old 31st May 2013, 10:44
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Mention of the salvage dump brings to mind a fine trophy from RAF Leuchars, where we acquired the pilot's seat from a two-seat Meteor. I think it was a night fighter version but it was NOT an ejection seat or this snippet would never have been written.

The seat followed a long line of treasures from bomb trolleys at Binbrook to land crabs in Aden. By this time (1954) I had graduated to "sailers", Scottish word for a lethal device comprising a packing-case chassis mounted on pram wheels. The Meteor seat completed the ensemble to perfection and made me the envy of the Patch.

My sailer was mounted on large diameter, ball bearing wheels from a Silver Cross perambulator, no less. Rolling resistance was next to nothing, as was braking which consisted of one foot on the ground. Watching my descent of the hill near Leuchars station my father said I would have been better with the ejection version of the seat.

On our departure in September 1954 I bequeathed the device to my friend Alan, who promptly broke his leg on encountering its severe oversteer. For myself, I lost a week's summer hols because the Northern Ireland schools had a different schedule. Ah, the exigencies of Service life ...
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Old 31st May 2013, 18:13
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Ragamuffin Transport


When I were a lad (in Liverpool) we called them "trollies". All of them were directionally unstable (and the tramlines were a bit of a problem !)

The "Silver Cross" pram - the Rolls-Royce of perambulators. I've done my stint as the motive power behind one of those. Quite right, there was very little rolling resistance ! Did you manage to get the soap-box on top of the suspension "undercarriage" ? (went on the roof-rack, the "boat" in the car).

Old 31st May 2013, 20:48
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We bought a Silver Cross when we had our firstborn and at about six months later we went out to Singapore shipping the pram with us. We discovered when we got there that that type of pram was virtuallyeunknown and would have been pretty useless anyway.
We advertised it for sale but not for a lot of money as we wanted to get rid of it. Surprisingly we had an enquiry from an Australian. He pitched up with his daughter of about seventeen and it was apparent that her new brother was a bit of a mistake. They both looked at this immaculate Silver Cross pram with absolute disgust. I asked him why he was so keen on buying it.
"The wife wants a high pram."
Obviously having a child so late had given her delusions of grandeur.
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Old 2nd Jun 2013, 18:12
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Danny Puts his Foot in It - again !

I particularly remember the departure of the first party on the Saturday. It was a lovely calm spring morning, the troops had been marched down and were standing at ease in the space between the hangars, their kit piled ready for loading. Self-importantly, I'd written out a sort of amateur Operation Order for everybody, including a planned time table. In it, I'd scheduled the ETA (Thornaby) of our aircraft at 0900 (sticking my neck out a bit there !) All was quiet, for 608 were yet to start work.

We heard the drone of the approaching Hercules in the first aircraft. As it straightened up on finals, a distant radio in one of the hangar offices started the Time Signal. Precisely on the last "pip", the tyres squealed on the tarmac. We all thought it marvellous (so it was - never happened again, though!)

Dave flew out on the first party, I would follow on the Sunday. As I recall, the aircraft fit was just a row of shallow metal bucket seats down each side, same as all the Daks I ever flew in. I was in the last aircraft off, never caught sight of the leader until we joined GŁtersloh circuit, where we saw that the circus was in town, and the other Valetta was on short finals.

We were bussed over to Sundern and formed up as a unit again. I met a very irate Dave. I'm very hazy about the payment of our troops, for the Accountant Officer looked after all that during the year. I think that they were paid monthly in arrear, but on the occasion of Summer Camp the plan was to pay the last month's pay immediately on arrival there.

But of course the Accountant Officer at Sundern wanted The Cheque from his opposite number in Thornaby before anything could happen. Certainly we'd picked it up from him on the Friday, and it ought to have gone out with the first party on Saturday. There's always some cock-up on these occasions, this was it, the cheque travelled out with me on Sunday.

Consequently the early arrivals, who'd been looking forward to painting the town red that evening, found themselves confined to camp, skint. On arrival, I was as popular as a pork-pie in one of Geriaviator's pal Graham's "sinn-a-gogs" in Khormaksar, for I'd to admit that it was All My Fault. It would be some time before another happy accident would redeem me in the eyes of the troops.

My impression of Sundern was that it was built to last the lifetime of a thousand-year Reich. After years of "temporary" wartime RAF structures, I was amazed at the solidity of the buildings and all the fittings, and the granite-setts camp roads. We were told that the place had been Goering's signallers' training School (a sort of Luftwaffe "Yatesbury") during the war, but Wiki says that it had been a Gestapo HQ. Could've been both, I suppose.

I can't remember now where our people were employed. Of course it would be at some Radar station or another. I dont think Sundern had a "hole" for them to go down, and I don't remember any Radar aerials, but it must have been somewhere in the vicinity. I believe we were the closest station to the W.German border; our fighter Squadrons must have had Fighter Control from somewhere and this was a likely place to put it. (Wiki is not much help, either). There must be many readers with memories of a tour in RAF(G) who could help me out here.

In the weekend in the middle of the Camp we officers went off to Winterberg, which I don't think was very far away. (My wife and I, with our small daughter, were to spend some time there in '60). The big hotel there had been built as part of Hitler's Strength Through Joy organisation, and we had requisitioned it as a Forces R & R facility.

We came back in early May: again there had been no disasters apart from the unfortunate business with the pay on arrival. It was inexcusable of me, for the year before I'd been caught in a very similar way. For some reason I'd been charged with collecting the Station's pay from the bank in Stockton. I went down and walked in. "Where's our money ?" I said. "Where's the cheque ?" they said. By the time I'd got back, picked the cheque up from the seething Accountant officer, gone down to Stockton again and back, Pay Parade was an hour late. Ah, well.

On the Saturday evening after we got back, I went down in the Bond with Mike Tew, a NS officer, to the Saltburn "Spa" (which was the "in" place of our day). Across the ballroom a raven-haired beauty caught my eye. I made a bee-line for her. It was the "once-in-a-lifetime"; she is at my side now and has been for 59 years. We were engaged by the autumn and married in the following July.

1954 was to be a momentous year for me, as will presently appear.

Goodnight once more,


What's well begun is half done.
Old 2nd Jun 2013, 18:56
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Blimey Danny,

Pardon my ignorance but the "hearing the sound of approaching Hercules" got me going(being an ex Hercules GE), but then reason settled my addled brow when I recalled that the Hercles was in fact a marvellous British Aero engine. Having experienced the trouble, anyone, could get in to with RAF accounts, when seeing some of our poor co pilots struggling with their flight impress. You seem to have had a problem with collecting cheques at the appropriate time. I sympathise, why should anyone in your position need to worry about stuff like that ? Keep going Danny, this thread is still more rivetting than the books I'm reading currently. And more informative !!!


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Old 2nd Jun 2013, 19:40
  #3849 (permalink)  
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Across the ballroom a raven-haired beauty caught my eye. I made a bee-line for her. It was the "once-in-a-lifetime"; she is at my side now and has been for 59 years.
It must be an aviator's thing Danny. A baby Observer on the Dartmouth flight before mine looked across a dance floor at a young lady for the first time and said to his oppo "I'm going to marry her" and he did. I'd need to ask Arkroyal his name, but I can see him now.
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Old 2nd Jun 2013, 23:50
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It must be an aviator's thing Danny.
Another sample to test the hypothesis over time.

Roll forward to 1979, the ballroom is now a disco and the young lady is an ash-blond beacon in the wilderness.

34 years on and she's still putting up with me.

Please keep the tales coming, Danny.

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Old 3rd Jun 2013, 10:32
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Danny, little or no mention of Sundern on t'internet as you say. It has though featured on PPRuNe some 5 years ago, albeit in passing as a RAFP SIB base. Many will be familiar with this tale, of a hijacked Canberra at Gutersloh, but as it is of the present thread period it might be of interest to some:-
An interesting aside from ColinB is that the many capers carried out by the younger generation then were facilitated by a laissez-faire attitude from their wartime generation seniors. Present company very much excepted of course, but your thoughts on that would be of very great interest Danny.

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Old 3rd Jun 2013, 17:44
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Strange Doings.


"This Thread is still more rivetting than the books I'm reading currently...", you say.

Listen up, everybody, unless you've heard the tale already (and I was in RAF(G)' 60-'62, and I've never heard it before), you must read Chugalug's link ("The night 57 Squadron lost a Canberra") in his #3840 ! If Seville's story had been fiction, it would have been laughed to scorn. It's absolutely unbelievable !......D.


Ballroom - now a disco in '79. Could it have been the Saltburn Spa ? (bit far from Leeming, but just possible).....D.


Thank you for the lead to the funniest story I've read in years. How could he have got away with it for so long ? Talk about "Fred Karno's Army" - if those were our Security Services then, how on earth did we ever win the war ?

"A laissez-faire attitude from their wartime generation seniors ?" indeed. The W.G.S.s must have been brain-dead ! ......Please tell me it couldn't happen today.....D.

Thank you all for the kind words of encouragement, for dark days lay ahead for

Old 4th Jun 2013, 12:46
  #3853 (permalink)  
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Please tell me it couldn't happen today.....D.
I reckon it could.

In "Fred Karno's Air Farce" (i.e. RAF Waddington) in 1968, "Angry Frank" Moorhen deserted Queen and Country. The RAF Police staked out his Mum's house and searched far and wide but found no trace of him. No wonder: he had moved into the barrack block inhabited by the civilian workers of "Joe SWO's Gang", adopted civilian attire and grown a beard. He ate his meals with the SWO's work party in the Airmen's Mess and everyone knew where he was except the RAF Police. We watched and wondered how long it would take them to find him. Nearly three months passed before he got fed up with the lack of cash and gave himself up. He was 'working his ticket', of course, but it didn't work out for him. After 56 days in Colchester military detention he was returned to Waddington to resume his duties. The 'Colchester Cure' worked its magic on Frank who, being no longer angry, became a useful man on Line Maintenance again.

Security? Nah! Not unless there has been a major change in Plod recruitment.
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Old 4th Jun 2013, 19:12
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In 1964 at Linton-on Ouse two young gentlemen after a particularly alcoholic Dining-In night took it into their heads to fly one of our Vampire T11's to Germany. They managed to open the hangar doors and were trying to push the aircraft out but got tired and gave up and went back to the mess to bed.

How did they get caught? One of them got a bit hot and bothered and took off his bow tie and left it in the cockpit. Unfortunately his name was written on the tie.

It was all a bit hushed up and no action as far as I am aware was ever taken against the two other than an almighty rollocking. As far as I can remember one of the two was subsequently Court Martialled for low flying - twice. The other one made one star.

It wasn't only Canberra that had attempts made on them!

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Old 4th Jun 2013, 19:36
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Seems that our man mastered the art of taxying eventually and indeed of flying, for he ended up doing it for a living. His career included being the Spy in the Sky for Piccadilly Radio, that involved flying, keeping up a running commentary on traffic hotspots, and working Manchester ATC simultaneously:-

My memories are of a period some six years later, but the obvious affection and even respect amongst his peers rings true for another man. Just before I was posted to Changi, there was a Court Martial of a Captain there. Among other duties he was often on the Christmas Island shuttle, routeing back via Brisbane. On arrival there a Holden station waggon would reverse up to the rear door and certain unmanifested items offloaded and whisked away. The pattern became so well known that the shuttle was rerouted through Newcastle, but the Holden merely diverted there as well. Eventually these and other demeanours brought our man to book. The outcome was inevitable but the Defending Officer hoped to extend the proceedings with various character witnesses. His enthusiasm was not shared by his client however who merely wanted the verdict pronounced and to take the rap. His wife had already gone off to Australia and he was soon to follow. They both settled down there raising sheep, showing a very good return on our investment. Or so I was told...
The general impression was that he was a likeable rogue. I'm not so sure he would rate such a forgiving attitude from his peers these days...

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Old 4th Jun 2013, 22:12
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To Whom it May Concern.

Tomorrow (5th) is the fifth anniversary of the day when Cliffnemo (RIP) penned the first Post on this (probably the most successful and best loved) of all the Military Aircrew Threads. To date it has attracted nearly 4000 Posts and a quarter-million hits. One thing has characterised it from the outset. There has always been at least one "regular" contributor who had "Gained an RAF Pilot's Brevet in WW2" and, after the war, continued post war flying either in the RAF or in Civil Aviation.

Now it looks as this continuity may be broken. My future 17 years of RAF service will all be in ATC. I shall never fly again. It is possible (and earnestly to be hoped) that another old-timer may appear to "pick up the torch", but this seems increasingly unlikely as the months go by.

This may well put the Moderators in some quandary. There is already an established ATC Forum, and they may think it logical that I should "set up shop" there, with some such title as "Tales of Old ATC" or some such. This Thread could then be closed.

Frankly, I should like to stay where I am. I've had a quick look at the ATC Forum, and it seems to be almost entirely "technical" in nature. I suppose the "Nostalgia" Forum is also a possibility, but that does not appeal to me either.

On my own behalf, I can advance one argument. For the next ten years at least, I shall be almost exclusively working with the ex-war aircrew who formed the mainstay of ATC up to the early '60s. The stories I shall tell will all have their roots in that background.

Now I throw this open to you all, and respectfully await the decision of the Moderators.


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Old 4th Jun 2013, 22:49
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I have the honour to request,

Firstly, having followed this thread from inception I'm sure "Cliffnemo" would be proud that the thread continues after all this time, I'm not sure whether records have been set, I suspect yes, but I do know that I never miss a day without checking what's happening on "Gaining a Pilots brevet......" I'm sure all followers will have a beer for Cliff on this anniversary.

Secondly, as I see it the thread title calls the shots. Now, whatever way you want to wiggle your joystick, you did, and therefore you have a devoted audience who are keen to know how we get to where "You" are today (I don't see a limitation on when your story stops as you qualify for the original subject of the thread).

Throughout this thread (our journey) we have had diversions (not a bad word for ground crew?) to civilian aircraft hijacking, bomb trolleys stolen from the RAF, and how to beat officialdom in the pursuit of having a decent squadron fund. As someone who served in the RAF for 30 years, it took this thread, for me to realise that young chaps like yourself served and fought so hard in India. The beauty of the whole thing is that it relates, not only to your service, Cliff and all the other contributors from that time. But it makes the likes of a young shaver "like mesself" think and say " not too much change then. Danny, sorry to go on, I joined PPRUNE because of my interest in this thread, I think it belongs exactly where it is, and the continuing story of a Pilot, who earned his brevet in WW2, regardless of branch, is essential reading. I do hope that somewhere, a co contributor can help you along, and who knows, maybe even now, there's someone from the qualifying period sharpening his typing finger. Once again, a day to remember the originator of the thread. I believe the standard he set, along with Reg later, is being maintained by yourself, and I thank you for that. I would finally suggest that if the "real" Military Aircrew on this thread can put up with me, you Sir have no worries. Wow, that's a lot of words for an ex rigger I hope it's not too OTT !!!!!!

Stay well Danny, and fondest memories of Cliff "Habe fabula vivit"

I have the honour to remain, Sir, your obedient servant


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Old 4th Jun 2013, 23:19
  #3858 (permalink)  
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On my own behalf, I can advance one argument. For the next ten years at least, I shall be almost exclusively working with the ex-war aircrew who formed the mainstay of ATC up to the early '60s. The stories I shall tell will all have their roots in that background.

Now I throw this open to you all, and respectfully await the decision of the Moderators.

As I see it, Danny, you have very effectively answered your own essentially rhetorical question - this outstanding thread tells the tale of those who all had something in common, namely that they started their Royal Air Force service during the Second World War, and most of the principal contributors did indeed gain an RAF pilot's brevet.

Inevitably, what they then did with their lives post war was very largely shaped by their war service, irrespective of whether they continued to fly or not, and I for one have found each and every one of the tales told by you and your predecessors absolutely fascinating, and feel most strongly that whatever you, and any past or, hopefully future, contributors did subsequently, it should all be carefully continued and kept in the thread started by Cliff exactly five years ago. In my view, anything else would be a travesty, and totally lacking in the respect that you and your peers are amply due.

With very best wishes and keep on keeping on - preferably right here!

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Old 5th Jun 2013, 02:00
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As a mere civilian, albeit one who sometimes interacted mainly with the Army and once in a blue moon the RAF, I would like
to add my four pennyworth. I also really enjoy reading this thread in fact it is the first that I look for when looking at PPRuNe.

Please keep posting your stories chaps and even more so please continue within this section. I would truely be astounded if any Mods
re-located this thread.

Just one small request, are there any Fleet Air Arm chaps around? I would love to hear from them as well.

I will now withdraw from here before I outstay my welcome.

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Old 5th Jun 2013, 08:28
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Danny, all the main contributors to this thread, from Cliff right through to you, had the one thing in common which tells us so much about your generation; diffidence. Others perhaps had more interesting and significant tales to tell, but each of you knew that you didn't. With very great respect, you were all wrong!
The very success of Cliff's thread belies that feeling. Many of us learned our various trades from those who had started theirs in WW2. They taught us well, but had little to say of their own learning curves and experiences. We soon knew not to ask. Now at last we can, and you and your fellow raconteurs patiently reply with details about food, transport, clothing, whatever. In short you dot and cross the i's and t's that we all wondered about.
Of course we want you to go on Danny, just as long as you are willing to do so, and right here is the place to do it. Mods don't generally endorse threads, rather it is their role to take action when a thread goes awry. I think you can take it as read though that they feel the same as we do who are you ardent followers. Let Mastermind be your inspiration, "I've started, so I'll finish...".

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