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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 15th Dec 2008, 20:51
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regle
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Whose Birthday ?

If you had read my painstaking single finger episode properly ,Andy, you would have noticed that it was Dora's Birthday, not mine which is an even bigger story, if I ever get round to it. By the way, I forgot to mention .. The watch did not get broken but it was nicked from my billet not long afterwards !
 
Old 16th Dec 2008, 05:24
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Wow!!!













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Old 16th Dec 2008, 06:08
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Thank you gentlemen for what you have shared so far and for what we hope you will continue to in your next posts!

I ran across a couple of websites which might be of interest in fleshing out part of the story..

British Pilot Memories - Victor Hewes, Turner Field, Albany, Georgia

British Air Training at Turner Field, Albany, Georgia

Would any Pensacola trained allies like to contribute? I believe both British and French pilots trained there.
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 19:05
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Just glad to see that you guys are still here to regale us all with these legendary tales, was missing the regular up dates!
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Old 21st Dec 2008, 16:02
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Sorry for "going A.W.O.L", but after experiencing a few simple problems I ran out of steam. Should be solved soon. Keep up the excellent and good work Regle.

In the meantime I wish a merry Christmas and prosperous new year to all (Readers, Posters. Moderator/s and critics).

CLIFF.
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Old 1st Jan 2009, 17:28
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Arrow Happy New Year

I find it apt that I am telling this tale today because it is mostly about New Years Eve 1942 and Les Hogan, my Observer , and I were making a lone daylight raid on the marshalling yards at Monceau in Belgium. It was late afternoon when we got there flying at our usual fifty feet and it was very murky with a very low cloud base. I remember that we suddenly found ourselves flying between two huge slag heaps. There was one at each wingtip and we had not even seen them coming ! We dropped our four five hundred pounders on the mass of railway lines beneath us and there was a sudden bang and the windscreen disappeared. I had felt a thump on my chest and I saw that I was covered in blood. Les had cried out and I saw that he was covered in blood as well. I also noticed that there were feathers everywhere and realised that we had hit a large bird. We always wore our goggles above our eyes and we were very glad of them as the wind was howling into the cockpit and it was freezing cold.
Once again we were speeding back over the North Sea but this time we had our two engines but had to restrict our speed because of the windstream in the cockpit. Suddenly, Les let out a yell "I've been hit in the arse " he cried. We searched the sea and sky but could see nothing. Then it dawned on him what had happened. Les had let out the trailing aerial to get contact with base. We were still at fifty feet and the end of the aerial had touched the water and wound out the aerial fully. The handle had whizzed around in the cockpit and had hit him where he said it had. We had a laugh but he had an almighty bruise on his behind.
This time we made it to base but no amount of showering, lathering and scrubbing could get rid of the dead bird smell so Dora and I had to forego the traditional Sgt.'s mess dance and spend it in the Naafi instead
Although the Mosquito was such a wonderful aircraft I still had the urge to fly the really big ones with my eyes set firmly on the future. Bomber Command now had "Butch" Harris as C.O. and the long awaited offensive on the industrial cities of Germany was beginning. I ignored the sound advice of veterans "Never volunteer for anything" and asked to be transferred to heavy Bombers. After a very short period of flying the tricycled undercarriaged Boston and Mitchell I was posted to the 4 Group Heavy Conversion Unit at the famous Civil war battle site of Marston Moor in Yorkshire. Before arriving there I was fortunate enough to get a trip in a captured German Junkers 88. I found it a surprisingly good machine with a performance very close to the Mosquito. Although it had RAF roundels we still had an escort of three spitfires to protect us from some trigger happy RAF fighter pilot.
Four Group were equipped with the four engined Handley Page Halifax. I had secretly hoped to be posted to the more glamorous Lancaster but I soon found the "Halibag" to be a tough,strongly built aeroplane capable of taking terrible punishment. It is true that it did not have the load carrying capacity of the Lancaster and, until the R.R.Merlins were replaced by the Bristol Hercules 16 aircooled engines of the Mark 3,was not capable of reaching a cruising altitude of more than eighteen thousand feet which left it vulnerable to fighters an heavy flak. Nevertheless it was a rugged and, once the rudders of the early marks had been modified to get rid of the lethal rudder stall, a very manoeuverable aeroplane. There was not the luxury of servo controls so throwing a Halifax around the sky took a great deal of physical strength. Nor did we have two pilots. A second pilot was a luxury that Bomber command could not afford so a good aircraft commander, and the pilot was always the Captain irrespective of rank , woul train his Flight Engineer or Bomb Aimer to fly well enough to get the 'plane back to England where the crew, at least, could bale out.
At Marston Moor we were crewed up and so met the men who would be sharing the dangers looming ahead of us. My crew was Howard Phillips, the navigator from Wales, Jackie Collins, the Bomb aimer from Epsom, Surrey, Bill Fox , the Flight Engineer from Yorkshire, Roy Burch, the mid-upper gunner from Calgary, Canada and the "Tail end Charlie" rear gunner, Tommy Walker, a Geordie from Ashington. Roy was the eldest at 28 and I had just celebrated my 21st. birthday
Dora and I had become engaged earlier in the year and we decided to get married, in Blackpool, at the end of the course when we would have some leave before proceeding to one of the 4 Group Squadrons.
Paddy Graham ,my W/op,was my best man and Roy Burch was there too. Dora's inseperable companion from the WAAF , Jackie, was the bridesmaid. I say inseperable because she always came with us when we went out anywhere,much to my disgust ! Not that there was anywhere to go. We walked or cycled everywhere. There was the good old NAAFI in the evening or the Camp Cinema (The gym normally) showing through the smoke laden room films such as "Target for Tonight", "The Wicked Lady".
The Air raid siren would inevitably go before the film finished and I never did see the end of "Night train to Munich", Everyone smoked like a chimney and I once stopped the show when I stubbed out my cigarette on what I thought was the back of the seat in front of me, only to find that I was stubbing it out on a poor little WAAF's neck. Her screams effectively stopped the film.
A very Happy and (dare I say it.?.) prosperous New Year to all of you. REG ..le

Last edited by regle; 2nd Jan 2009 at 14:24.
 
Old 1st Jan 2009, 21:20
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Regle

As the News of the World placards used to say "All human life is here" - what a cracking episode with which to start the New Year. Laconic or what, to use a modern turn of phrase, to experience such a serious birdstrike just after a near miss with two slag heaps, bring your bird safely home, and then go out for the night with your young lady, with you smelling to high heaven!

All the very best for the New Year, and keep the stories coming.

Jack

PS Curiously enough, in view of the near miss, I believe that Monceau is the French word for "heap"! And as for Les's accident, it certainly gives new meaning to the expression "You could have tickled my arse with a feather" ....
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Old 2nd Jan 2009, 06:02
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Vous avez raison, Jack (Jacques ?)

Tout a fait, raison, Jack. En effet "Monceau" signifie un "heap" en Anglais. And I never noticed the apt description all these years. Better still, it was a collection of slag heaps and we were very lucky ...again !.. in missing them. Thank you for your very nice remarks. It makes the effort well worthwhile . My" pretty lady "stayed with me for sixty two wonderful, exciting years, of which I hope to tell you more anon. All the very best to readers and writers in this excellent forum. We do not notice any recession here but hope to show how the youth of each generation rises to the occasion whenever they are challenged. Reg.
 
Old 10th Jan 2009, 09:16
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On with the motley

Occasionally, ENSA, the Forces entertainment organisation would send us one of their wonderful concert parties. Ralph Reader ("We're riding along on the crest of a wave....") and his Gang Show were the best known but I well remember Gordon Harker, a famous cockney actor and film star coming back to the Sgt.'s Mess at the end of one of the shows. Above the fireplace and written on the ceiling in charcoal were the words "Pinky Wood peed in the fire from here". " Anything Pinky Wood can do , Gordon 'Arker can do, " he said and straightaway proved it.
The Pubs, or more usually the Pub was always a long walk from the isolated camps. They were always short of beer and we were always short of money but we were young, we were alive and lived for the moment and morale was high so the everpresent Jackie was always welcome.
We went back to Blackpool and the "Avalon" for our wartime ,rationed wedding reception and then made our way to the railway station to take the train for Southport where we planned on staying a few days with one of Dora's Aunties, who lived there. Unfortunately we had to change at Preston and, as so often was the case, the train for Southport never turned up so we found a grimy little boarding house next to the station and spent our wedding night listening to the stentorian Lancashire voice coming over the Tannoy all night long. " The train standing at platform one is the delayed London to Carlisle express and is subject to unknown delay etc....." There was also the noise of the occasional train rushing non-stop through the station and the very occasional departure but never an arrival. We eventually got to Southport the next afternoon and were made very welcome by Dora's Aunt who must have felt very sorry for the bedraggled , tired honeymooners who were standing on her doorstep.
The honeymoon passed all too quickly and my posting came through . I received a railway warrant telling me to proceed immediately to a place called Heck in Yorkshire. The ticket seller refused to believe that such a place existed but it did and still does and came in to the news a year or two ago when a man, driving a jeep, fell asleep at the wheel and went down the embankment there and derailed the Scotland- London express killing some and injuring many passengers. I noticed, at the time, that the papers called it "Great Heck" but I never heard it called that all the time that I was staioned at nearby Snaith.
Snaith, near Goole, was where 51 Squadron of 4 Group, Bomber command was based and I was made very welcome by the SWO and put in to C Flight which was, unusually, commanded by a Squadron Leader who was not a pilot. He was an Observer and one of the bravest and finest men I was ever to meet aand I was to meet many. He would put himself on Operations with each and every pilot in his flight, replacing the normal Bomb Aimer. I Was now a Flt.Sgt. but when Charlie Porter flew with me I was the Skipper and my word was law. He seemed old enough to be my Father but was probably about thirty three years old. It says volumes for his assessment of ability---and luck---that he survived the mandatory tour of thirty operations despite having to fly with all and sundry. He survived the war and was a popular figure at the annual 51 Sqdn. reunions until, sadly he died around 1992. Strangely enough he was replaced by yet another Squadron Leader Observer, a very different character called Simmonds, who was an ex Guards Officer remustered to the RAF and went into action wearing long brown leather leggings.
Most unusually my first trip on Halifaxes was as second pilot. This, to gain experience, was a very expensive practice that was soon discontinued as two valuable pilots were lost when the machine was shot down. My Skipper was Flt.Lt. Bill Irwin and the target was Hamburg on the night of July 24th. 1943 aand a new device was to be tested on the German defences. It consisted of thousands of thin metallic strips which were to be released from their aircraft as it flew over the target area. Each strip as it floated down would give an echo on the German radar similar to that of an aircraft and, it was hoped, would swamp the German defences. Although the British had known of this device for a considerable time it had not been used in case the Germans used it against us but now, with the ever mounting losses of Bomber Command,
....40 to 50 aircraft on each raid, each containing at least seven crew, was not uncommon... the powers that be decided to unleash "Window" as the strips were codenamed, upon Germany. It was my job, as spare man on board, to drop the bundles of window through the flare chute as we flew over Hamburg. It certainly worked well that night. We heard from our intelligence that it had caused complete chaos in the German Night Fighter defence. Pilots were being ordered to sectors to intercept the hundreds of British planes reported there and being virtually accused of cowardice when no sightings were reported. The use of window in the next few months certainly saved hundreds of British lives but the Germans brought in all their day fighters and illuminated the target area with hundreds of searchlights, silhouetting the bombers above the clouds. This was called Operation "Wild Sow" and was very successful but window had served it's purpose well and was to play a huge part in the D-Day landings when about thirty Lancasters dropping window and doubling back upon themselvs repeatedly, conviced the Germans that a large Naval force was approaching the German held coast.
The raid on Hamburg was to take it,s place in history as the first where great fires were started giving birth to the terrible "Fire storms" that, literally sucked the oxygen from all around it and the destruction, devastation and death toll was terrible. I take no pride whatsoever in taking part in this attack , just a deep sadness that it was found to be neccessary. As "Bomber Harris " so prophetically told the Germans "You have sown the wind and you shall reap the whirlwind.
 
Old 10th Jan 2009, 15:03
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Regle: I don't know if you know of it, but this is the Memorial Garden at RAF Snaith where Mick and Sid look after it. Brave men are never forgotten. Windy place, Snaith; made my eyes water far too much.













Sorry that the images are of different size - I don't know what happened!

Last edited by exscribbler; 10th Jan 2009 at 15:12. Reason: Apology!
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Old 10th Jan 2009, 16:32
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Devil ToExscribbler

Thank you so much for the beautiful photographs of the 51 Sqdn. memorial garden which is, I believe, in the nearby village of Pollington. We always had a very fine bond with the nearby villagers and were always welcome in their homes and farms. We shared their Church and we shared the hospitality of their homes so many times. The result can be seen in the tenderness and love with which the garden is kept. We pay an annual visit during the summer meeting of the Sqdn. Association which is very strong and these reunions are always looked forward to. I think that I can just discern that the first photo is that of the plaque to Sqdn. Ldr. Eno DSO, DFC and his crew. He was one of the Flight Commanders and was operating at Snaith at the same time as me.i.e July '43 /Jan '44.
Thank you so much. That wind that blew around you at Snaith followed your photos because it made my eyes water too.
 
Old 10th Jan 2009, 22:22
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That wind that blew around you at Snaith followed your photos because it made my eyes water too.
And that, Reg, is a wonderfully understated turn of phrase.

I got a little thrill when I saw this thread on the first page of the Mil forum again. Always look forward to the next episode!
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Old 10th Jan 2009, 23:33
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Regle: I was 3 days old when LW497 with Squadron Leader Eno and his crew FTR from Stuttgart. Sadly his (second?) DSO was a little late:

ENO, S/L Lloyd Higgs (40096) - Distinguished Service Order - No.51 Squadron - awarded as per London Gazette dated 31 March 1944. DHist cards refer to Air Ministry Bulletin 13408/AL.785.

This officer has completed many sorties on his second tour of operations and his continued good work has won great praise. In recent operations Squadron Leader Eno has attacked many targets including Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Magdeburg and Berlin. He has at all times displayed great courage and determination and his example has impressed all. In addition to his work in the air, Squadron Leader Eno has rendered valuable service in the training of other members of the squadron.

Doubtless this is how you remember him and how anyone would wish to be remembered. I don't know what to say except, "Thank you."

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Old 13th Jan 2009, 16:40
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The return of cliffnemo

After a few small problems, things are about back to normal here, so while Regle does the hard work, I will carry on with my journey back to Blighty and then describe the endless training we experienced. .

The return journey form Ponca City to Moncton was similar to the outward journey with a week on the train and the temperature rapidly dropping. The coke stoves were kept at full output day and night, food was excellent, and we received the same hospitality at each stop. On arrival at Moncton we were surprised at the depth of the snow, but more so at the way the Canadians just carried on as normal. All vehicles had chains fitted to the tyres, and just drove around quite normally, although accompanied by a loud clanking sound. We stayed in Moncton for a month, where we expected a pleasant relaxing stay, this was not to be, for shortly after our arrival, we were issued with shovels and bussed to the Canadian Pacific Railway and told clear away snow. There was little opposition to this as we were paid a dollar an hour, which allowed us to buy gifts for our families to take home, and a days pay on the railway was equivalent to about five R.A.F days pay. Taking the gifts home was a problem as we were only allowed to take, a big pack, small pack, and one kit bag on board the troopship.. This problem was soon solved when we found a person in Moncton who would make us double sized kit bags.

At the end of one month we traveled by train to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and embarked on . I think the, Andes (could have been the Pasteur, we sailed outbound on one and returned on the other).
The journey was uneventful , with the Catalina and the Sunderland circling night and day, eventually tying up at Liverpool after four and a half days sailing. We immediately embarked on a train waiting at the Princess Landing stage, bound for Harrogate. The only thing I remember about the journey, was when we reached the open country side east of Manchester, how amazed we were at the beautiful colours . Particularly the green. On arrival in Harrogate we were billeted at the Majestic Hotel, a massive place full of newly trained aircrew, who were all very frustrated at being held there.. The food was poor, and we were treated as “a necessary evil”. However I was pleased to be near home, and obtained permission to keep my T.T Rudge motorcycle on camp which enabled me to travel home each weekend..

I will describe the various courses and airfields I was posted to next.
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Old 13th Jan 2009, 23:41
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cliffnemo Nice to see you back.
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Old 16th Jan 2009, 16:31
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With 51 at snaith 1943/44

I had found an elderly couple, in the nearby village of Pollington, who were willing to let their spare bedroom so Dora, now pregnant, joined me. The accommodation was Spartan, to say the least. There was only an outside, non-flushing toilet so many nightime visits with me, accompanying Dora with a bucket of water, were neccessary. Mr Broadbent killed a pig, once a year and then salted it down. There was always a piece of it hanging from the old fashioned kitchen ceiling. The result was the saltiest bacon that you have ever tasted in your life . Mr. Broadbent had no teeth and used to say, as he supped his porridge, " I only like owt wi' a spoon". They were hardy Yorkshire folks and kindly in their own way but any sort of lodging was at a premium and
at least we were together but it must have been a terrible time for my Wife to be left alone in such cheerless surroundings not knowing if she would ever see me again when I left her to go on the many Operations that followed.
During the day of an Operation we would take our aircraft up on an air test to give all the equipment on board a thorough workout. On one occasion I asked Bill, my Yorkshire Flight Engineer, to feather one of the engines so that I could practice some three engine flying. A rotating propellor, without power, causes enormous drag on the aircraft, so the blades of the propellor of the "dead" engine are turned electrically, so that the leading edge is presented to the airstream, This is called "feathering" as in rowing, when the blades of the oar are turned in similar fashion so that they do not cause drag in the water. We always carried out air tests at an altitude of 5,000ft. or more and it was just as well as when Bill pressed the button of the Port outer engine (The engines are numbered from 1 to 4 looking from the tail to the nose, so the Port outer was No.1). and "Bingo" ...all four engines promptly feathered themselves and, of course, stopped. Bill, the unflappable Yorkshireman , said "Bloody Quiet up here ", leaned forward and pressed the same button and all four engines unfeathered themselves. On the post mortem, later, it was found that a drop of solder from some electrical work above had neatly fused all four circuits together.
On another air test , much later, we were just about to touch down so I closed all the throttles. At least that was the idea but the No 1. (again !) throttle stuck halfway open and would not close. We were racing along the runway towards the 50ft. drop at the end where, with typical RAF planning, the Bomb Dump was situated. I could see startled airmen running away from the huge aircraft hurtling towards them and the brakes could do nothing against the power of the still roaring engine, so I did the only thing possible and pulled up the undercarriage. The cockpit was immediately filled with sawdust from the disintegrating wooden propellors, the Halifax was still sliding along on it's belly towards the rapidly approaching bomb dump but Bill had his screwdriver out and was unscrewing a little clock which had been attached to the dashboard to help us on our bombing run saying "No other bugger's having this". We stopped about twenty feet short of the end of the runway and it was later found that the linkage to the throttle had broken and had jammed the control. Only a few weeks before I got to Snaith , the Bomb Dump had actually blown up, killing well over fifty people but it was still there when we slid to a halt just short of it. The only time I saw Bill lose his calm was on yet another air test when we were about six thousand feet and saw a Jeep drop down from above us and slide under our nose. It was going down at a large rate of knots but we had been to Betty's, in York, the night before and Bill was ready to sign the pledge. We found, later , that experiments were already being made in dropping equipment in preparation for the invasion which was a long way ahead of us. The unfortunate Jeep's parachute had, evidently, not opened.
The Wireless Operator had his position directly underneath the Pilot's rudder pedals in the nose of the Halifax. The toilet, a chemical seat called the Elsan, was way back in the tail of the aircraft and virtually impossible to reach for the Pilot who was encumbered with a seat type parachute, so a bottle was always carried for emergencies. The predictable result of using it was Paddy's usually, unshaven, face appearing on the step up to the cockpit, breathing fire, saying in his broad Irish brogue "All over me log again, Skipper". The Navigator and the Bomb Aimer shared a bench forward of the Wireless Op's position in the plastic nose. There had once been mounted a small machine gun but it was removed from all Halifaxes as it was useless as frontal attacks at night were virtually unknown.
Phil, our Navigator, was a highly volatile Welshman and one night, over Germany, on the way to the target, a coloured flare went down ahead of us. As these were dropped by the preceding Pathfinder Force, I asked Phil if this was a Turning Point on our route. Back came the reply "What do you think I am ? The Encyclopaedia Britannica". There was a silence then the Bomb Aimer, Jacky, came up on the intercom. "Skipper, Phil's unplugged his intercom and has stopped working." I put in "George", the somewhat dodgy Automatic Pilot, got out of my seat and sat down next to the navigator. He took a startled look at me, plugged in his intercom, took up his pencil and got back to work.
 
Old 16th Jan 2009, 20:09
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So it seems that air tests were just as dangerous as ops...

This is probably a dumb question, Reg, but can you explain what the expression:
Bill was ready to sign the pledge
means?
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Old 16th Jan 2009, 20:41
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Kookabat,

If Reg doesn't mind...........

To sign the pledge was to go teetotal. No alcohol at all. Usually done by the Methodists in the UK, and, literally, meant signing a document pledging not to partake of the booze.

My maternal Grandfathers pledge is in my possession, he signed it at the age of 12. However, he totally ignored it from being 17. I often wonder which side of the family I take after.......................
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Old 16th Jan 2009, 20:45
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Yet another cracking input from "cool as a cucumber" Regle, and so glad to hear that Cliff is back - I do hope that you are both well and thriving.

Jack

PS Kooks - in case Regle is offline for a spell, to "sign the pledge" means/meant pledging in writing to give up the grog, a wholly understandable reaction to seeing an "airborne" jeep flying past your nose at 6000 feet!
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Old 18th Jan 2009, 11:18
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Thanks for posts FAREASTERNDRIVER and UNIONJACK I needed that to stimulate me to further activity. Also thanks Mr Moderator and staff for Happy birthday wishes..

When I read REGLE’S posts, my mind wanders, and I recall various events, passing out on the return from the Elsan due to lack of oxygen, (portable bottle empty). The nearest I ever came to “getting the chop” on an air test in a Lanc rapidly approaching the ground at ninety degrees. Killing the pig, Keep it up Regle, but not so much about urinating, and elsans.(only trying to raise a laugh). And ANDY more pics of Regle ? I know private cameras were verboten “during the present hostilities” but surely he has a few.

Must keep things in chronological order.

Hopefully a picture of the Majestic Hotel, Harrogate, which when I was there, was full of aircrew. Stripped of all it's finery, and fitted with eight campbeds to each unheated room.


I think that comparing our two stories, shows the difference timing made to our futures.. Remember, my school friend Geoff Davis, who was accepted at R;A;F Padgate at the same time as I was killed on Beaufighters by the time I finished ground school (I.T.W) and Regle who joined before I did, on ops while I was wasting time at Harrogate, and from our point of view, it was wasting time, with drill, P.T, swimming while a war was going on. A lot of us had lost our homes , relatives, and friends or knew some on who had, and our only objective was to stop the war. It then came as a shock, to find there was a surplus of pilots, and we could be in Harrogate for some time . I was offered a commission in the Fleet Air Arm as a pilot , but after consulting “the barrack room lawyers” was advised I could refuse, I refused. Much pressure was used to try to persuade me to transfer as the F.A.A was short of pilots , but I wrongly assumed, that after my experience crossing the Atlantic , I would always be seasick, and of no use to the King’s Navy . Others were offered glider pilot training, and as a previous post reminds me were also offered jobs as stokers on the railway. I decided to stick to my guns, hoping that after a few had transferred I would have my Spitfire. The rumour was that we were being held in readiness to go to the Far East taking over the planes of the aircrew who had already
done their bit in Europe.

Spitfire ? Some chance. I was posted to Pre A.F.U at Kingstown Airfield on Tiger Moths “to keep my hand in”. While it was all good fun, and no one treated it seriously we were still frustrated despite the fact that we could play around the top of Helvelyn in the Lake District, pretend dive bombing and low flying, chasing each other around the top of cumulus clouds. The airfield, just North of Carlisle was on the West side of the A6 with the billets (Nissan huts, with the ubiquitous coke stoves) on the East Side. So between the two, on the A6 a constant stream of American, low loaders carrying tanks and guns. Jeeps, Ducks. D.U.K.Ws ?, etc passed en route from Glasgow to the South Coast in preparation for D Day.

My oppo at Carlisle was one Sergeant Lucien Francois G***** *******, a Belgian who was quite a character. One of his lesser antics was when he flew to Newcastle in a Tiger Moth, to fly through the balloon barrage,.For some unknown reason he got away with that, but on a subsequent trip, when I was with him, finished up on a Court Marshal. I will deal with that next.
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