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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 2nd Aug 2013, 21:36
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Leeming 69-74

Hi Danny, one of those straight in from school SSC young controllers who arrived at Leeming in Dec 69, aged 19 1/2 to be sent straight on leave for Christmas. Returned in the New Year to be trained by you and other stalwarts such as M Plt Bill Ledsham. A tall lanky young officer criticised by SATCO in my first 1369 for an un-officerly, un-military air and tendency to lean on the nearest wall, door jam or whatever!

I recall being taken to Teesside for a liaison visit in an elderly Peugeot with an electric clutch and shown the repaired hole in the OM wall.

We certainly ran CADF QGHs with all the Speechless NCNG shenanigans etc. I recall one night SCT session when 3 QFIs queued up in turn for Speechless QGHs and by the time the last one was about to be handed over to Director the first one had come round again as Speechless 4. Fun though and a bit of banter was allowed providing SATCO wasn't listening too closely.

Like MPN11, I recall mixed CRDF/CADF times at Leeming, only once, when a Swedish Flying School exchange who brought their Saab 105s to fly with the 3 FTS JPs. the Saabs were on VHF and with altimeters in metres as opposed to the JPs on UHF and flying at FLs. We did benefit from the wondrous "minicoms" system though with proper headsets by my time there.

We were carefully inducted by the "old and bold" as you all appeared to this young man anyway and hopefully were a bit better for it. Certainly I was a Supervisor in 72/3 ish before going back to Shawbury to instruct in 74.

Goodness, memories.
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Old 2nd Aug 2013, 23:02
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Danny gets a Cat (or vice versa).

It was a warm summer Sunday morning in '56; our little RC chapel (served from Louth) was packed with holidaymakers for the (one) Mass of the week at Mablethorpe. There was no point in asking for a volunteer server for Fr.McEnery. In my boyhood town of Liverpool, I would have been deluged with offers: every Catholic man would have served his stint as as altar-boy. Not to know how to do this was a badge of shame. But here, in the wilds of Lincolnshire.....things were different.

If you want a job doing.....I was in full kit, cottar and soutane; coming to the end of the Sermon I saw it. The doors at the end of the church were open for coolness: through them strolled the Cat. Casting disdainful glances to left and right it strolled slowly and majestically up the aisle.

The congregation reacted in true British style: they closed their eyes in prayer or buried their heads in their Missals and tried to pretend it wasn't happening. Not one of them had the gumption to get up, grab the cat and throw it out (my wife didn't see it until it almost reached the altar rails). The Credo was reaching the end, the cat was getting near to them with the obvious intent of strolling between the pillars and joining us on the altar steps.

This could not be. I abandoned my post, leaving the celebrant to sort out his own water and wine, opened the altar gate and scooped up the intruder. The Cat made no attempt to struggle or object, but reclined passively in my arms and looked at me in a sort of quizzical enqiry. I took it out into the garden outside and bade it begone. Tail erect in contempt, it stalked off. I closed the church doors and returned to duty.

When we came out after Mass the Cat was still there. It was a glossy young tabby, obviously in peak condition, and (I suppose it must have caught my scent) came over to greet me as an old friend. When we walked back home round the corner, it trotted along with us like a pet dog. We opened our front door, it hopped in ahead of us and started a careful inspection of the house. Finally it decided that the place would pass muster, it sat down on the hearthrug and carefully preened its fur. Then it looked up enquiringly: "What about my elevenses ?" "Poor thing must be hungry", said Mrs D. A saucer of milk was graciously accepted.

Local enquiries turned up no reports of any lost cat; the Police were not interested. We had, it seemed, got a Cat (or was it the other way round ?) First thing, the animal had to have a name. A cursory inspection revealed that we had a tom. With his ecclesiastical provenence, "Peter" seemed apt. Full grown, he would probably become as truculent as the "Tiddles" of Geriaviator's Khormaksar story, but still kittenish, he made an affectionate and amusing pet. He seemed house-trained, and not unduly destructive. As a scratching post he picked a kitchen table leg; I bound it round with hessian and left him to it.

As to rations, he was very picky when it came to canned cat food, but there was stuff on the market called "Felix" (in a yellow and black bag). These were hard and dry lumps, perhaps a sort of pemmican of various offals. It looked most unappetising tack, but Peter couldn't get it down fast enough - and it was cheaper than the tins.

Generally he was well behaved, but every few weeks he would go 'doolally', rather like the musth which periodically afflicts male Indian elephants (but without the aggression). On these occasions he would dash round the house like a (misguided) missile, seemingly unaffected by gravity as he could fly round all four walls of a room without touching ground (much like the m/bike "Wall of Death" riders at the Fairs of those days). The surprising thing was that he never knocked anything over, or dislodged a picture, during these paroxysms.

At the end of the summer I was detached back to Shawbury for the month long GCA Course at RAF Sleap. We went together to Shrewsbury, having found a little flatlet in Porthill. Poor Peter could not be left behind in Mablethorpe to starve, could he ? (in fact I'm sure he was completely streetwise and well able to look after himself). A little elastic collar was prepared for him with our Porthill address. We duly set out.

Sleap is a few miles north of Shawbury, the MPN-1 radar, on which we would be trained, stayed out there. For us to practise on, Marshalls supplied civilian pilots flying RAF Chipmunks from Shawbury.

Much more about MPN-1 next time.

Goodnight, Danny42C

Do not look a gift Cat in the mouth.
Old 3rd Aug 2013, 17:53
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Congratulations on your First Post on this Best of Threads on the Best Forum in this Best of websites ! May it be the harbinger of many more to come, for I'm the last survivor on it (as it would seem) of that valiant band who Gained their RAF Pilot's Brevet in WW2.

As you know, many of our crowd took their talents and stories into the ATC Branch once their flying days were over, and as the Moderators have stretched the Thread to allow them and me to continue to ramble on on it, so I hope they will extend the same courtesy to you and others in this (and other Branches) who have chimed with our stories so well.

Best wishes,

Old 3rd Aug 2013, 20:16
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Your comment about many taking their careers onwards to ATC brings back a memory that may be worth sharing. I served as SNCO i/c Visiting Aircraft Support Section at Machrihanish in the early 80s. I'm an Airframe man by trade so when a Flt Lt Air trafficker turned up, with a private aircraft of his own (and a fine Pilots Brevet on his wooly pully). The aircraft type I'm struggling to recall, it was a single engined, gull winged French jobby as I recall. Anyway, said Flt Lt, name was Dave *********, asked if we could house his aircraft through the week in our huge empty hangar (no probs) and if he had any snags could we advise (no probs). Ahh, there was a prob, our boss was a W.O. armourer, with no sense of humour, comradeship or basically sense. Rants and raves about, the pollution of the hangar floor by engine oil, solved with a drip tray, etc drove us mad. But we looked after the kite, and put up with the W.O.s Red Setter crapping all over the place, and having to clean it up for his inspections. Anyway, I know that Dave had obviously earned his wings, was a more than competent pilot. As I approached the end of my tour I was posted to Waddington on the Nimrod AEW, and, luckily was able to be allocated a married quarter before arrival. I moved my family down to Waddo, and was grateful to Dave for his offer of lifts at the weekend. He flew down to Cranwell most weekends and had no probs dropping me off at Waddo on the way, picking me up on the Sunday afternoon.

So, my last weekend trip home before posting and I get to Waddo on time, in taxies Dave and off we head north. As we get further north, the headwind became so strong that Dave had doubts that we had enough fuel to get back to Machrihanish. The weather was now deteriorating badly and it looked like Machrihanish was beyond his minimums anyway. We diverted to Prestwick, where after a landing that nearly ended up with the aircraft on its nose, we pegged it down and spent the night at Daves parents, they lived locally and kindly found me a bed for the night. The next day we flew back in good weather to Machrihanish, where I was put on a charge, by the W.O. for being "absent from my place of duty". The charge was thrown out unsurprisingly, but I often think of Dave, when I read this thread. The Controller with the Brevet was a most obliging man to someone who had looked after his aircraft for some time. I wish I could remember the aircraft type, I'm sure I've seen the odd one or two around recently since Lyneham closed. Keep it going Danny, its all worth knowing.

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Old 4th Aug 2013, 07:59
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"a single engined gull winged French jobby"


Jodel light aircraft have the distinctive "bent" wing - later variants were built by S.A.N. (Societe Aeronautique Normande). Have a quick Google and see if one of them fits the bill.

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Old 4th Aug 2013, 08:56
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That's the one a Jodel D112 I'm pretty sure, just like this one:

In fact the one in this photograph could have been that aircraft. Thanks for the pointer to that, I think I had a bit of brain fade.

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Old 4th Aug 2013, 10:08
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Similar at Deci I defuelled Hotel as requested to allow the droppers to be removed with hand held Crux bars.... Lots of swearing later by Armourers Chief and threats of tech charges as tanks were full when released with gravity taking over the removal process.... Looks out window and points out that the aircraft in question wasn't Hotel.... Sheepish apology ensued.
Wasn't 3 sqdn in '78 was it? If it was I was one the who nearly had full big jug on his foot!
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Old 4th Aug 2013, 11:04
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Originally Posted by HughGw01
Hi Danny, one of those straight in from school SSC young controllers ...
Hello Sprog

Good to see you here, and thanks for doing the Lossie posting instead of me

(PS: You have a PM - top right corner of the screen gives you the link)

Last edited by MPN11; 4th Aug 2013 at 11:05.
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Old 4th Aug 2013, 16:36
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Danny at his future Place of Work.

We crossed the country to Shrewsbury and settled ourselves in Porthill. Daily, I had to rise early, cross the little footbridge over the Severn, up the "Quarry" to St.Chad's at the top, and down into town for the bus to Shawbury. Tranship to the crew bus to Sleap, where our trusty"Bendix" clonked and whirred ready for us.

If you want a complete description of the "Stephenson's Rocket" of GCAs, you cannot do better than Google up:

http://www.rquirk.com/cdnradar/cor/chapter21.pdf (double click).

by Whitehead and Batch, (link kindly found for me by Molemot in #4011 p.201, and as amended by my #4022 p.202).

So sit yourself down in front of my CRT (I have the Azimuth tube, the tracker, sitting at my left, has the Elevation one). First thing, I am not in front of my tube ! In those days, it was feared that the emanations from a CRT might be dangerous, as the visible spectrum was mixed with X-rays and all sorts of nasties, which might limit - or indeed dash - all your hopes of posterity.

A crafty solution had been found. Now, IIRC , the tube was mounted vertically, shining directly downwards through an half-silvered mirror set at 45. Apparently the light (which is all I was interested in) was reflected back to me, the nasties went straight through harmlessly (or were stopped by the lead glass in the mirror ?)

(You may well ask why this information was not shared with the Great British Public, who in those days were glued to their "Goggle-Boxes" all evening till all that was left was the little spot in the middle. But it seems that, as they didn't have their noses an inch from the tube - which we did - they were reckoned to be safe. At least, no reduction in the birth-rate was observed that might be attributed to this cause).

My nose wasn't exactly on the mirror, but on the "Cursor" just above it. The boffins could give me a Plan Position Indicator (or a 40 segment of one), but hadn't yet worked out how to superimpose an electronic centreline to run between the "goalposts" of the Touchdown Markers. That came on later types.

So we had to do it the hard way. The Cursor was very like a transparent perspex school ruler, some 8in long and 2in wide. Down the centre of this was scribed a line. Mounted vertically close over your mirror, it was pivoted from the top, you adjusted it so that the top of the line was over the point of origin of the timebase.

But your truck is about 300 ft from the runway centre. You pivoted your Cursor to put your line over the Offset Marker, (level with the Touchdown Markers, but the same distance from the Runway as the Truck), and locked it. Now you've a line exactly aligned with your runway. The last bit was easy. The mounting incorporated a parallel-ruler sort of thing. You moved the locked line across until it ran between the Touchdown Markers. There's your Centreline. Job done, bring 'em on ?

No, not quite. It had to be dark in the Truck (remember when we had to draw the curtains to see the old "Box"?), and if your "tube" was bright it was sometimes hard to see the scribed line. No problem, a tiny pea-bulb in the top of the cursors would flood them with light and illuminate the line, so you could easily see it against the mirror.

Now that's "Talkdown" set up. What about "Tracker". This was much simpler. The elevation "sweep" was vastly magnified, so that an actual sweep of some 8 appeared on the tube as about 60. Therefore your 3 glidepath would show as 22.5. The cursor now was fixed at that angle, but could be moved sideways until the scribed line intersected the Touchdown Markers (viewed from the side). This was your Glidepath. Problem: how are Tracker's observations to be communicated to Talkdown while he is talking non-stop (as he must) and is glued to the blip on his own screen ?

Enter Heath Robinson. Tracker's cursor could move bodily up and down (while still maintaining the 22 slope). He had a little brass handwheel to do this. And the whole of his task was to twiddle this to keep his scribed line on the approaching blip. As he did so, a linkage moved a needle on a dial just to the left of Talkdown's tube. "Errormeter" was hardly an inspired name, but a needle showed "on glidepath", and, at 100 ft markings, up to 300 ft above and 200 ft (I think) below glidepath.

So now, if the cursors are set up perfectly, and the talkdown is perfect, and tracker is perfect, and the blips stay on the lines, what can possibly go wrong ?

It is never wise to offer Providence a challenge like that, see the next Thrilling Instalment.

G'day, folks,


You never know.

P.S. : My apologies to MPN11 and HughGw01, and any others whom I may have inadvertently misled. My tale of woe starts on p.113 here, not p.115 as mistakenly stated. (call it a Senior Moment - or "brain fade" ?)

Last edited by Danny42C; 4th Aug 2013 at 16:46. Reason: Add Text.
Old 4th Aug 2013, 16:59
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Danny, that explains why I heard/read about xxx feet above below the glide path, when the MPN11/CPN4 and subsequent flashy modern gear couldn't do it.

Oh, those early days of dark GCA Trucks. I shall burble about that at some later moment ...
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Old 4th Aug 2013, 19:02
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The Truck Radars.

Ah, the Good Old Days ! All we old-timers go misty-eyed when we think back to the halcyon times of the Trucks. I could write a book, but will await your nostalgic recollections and perhaps add a few of my own to them.

Burble on - we're all ears !

Cheers, Danny.
Old 4th Aug 2013, 19:34
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Danny, thank you for describing "how it was done" so graphically. The means by which tracker told Talkdown how the customer was performing vertically was both simple and ingenious, given as you say all the talking had to be done by the latter. I've been Googling around to try to find a picture or diagram of the set up but no luck yet.
I have come across this though, yet another Canadian contribution (are they more caring of their history than we?), which lists the UK airfields "Bendixed" during WW2:-
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Old 4th Aug 2013, 19:40
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Web info on the GCA Trucks is dismally thin. I found one picture of the inside, which was about as informative as The Sunday Sport.

As you say, chugalug2, a shame nobody seems to keep proper records. Perhaps CATCS at Shawbury has something, like an old copy of AP3357 (Manual of GCA), and could post some pictures. I shall try to poke them, if there's real interest.
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Old 4th Aug 2013, 19:55
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The civilian world had similar televison systems...rear projection TVs giving large pictures from small but bright ( and thus emitting all sorts of unpleasant particles) CRTs. The tube was mounted vertically and a mirror was used to reflect the light to the screen.

1947 RCA Model 648PV Rear Projection Console Television - YouTube

Last edited by Molemot; 4th Aug 2013 at 19:56.
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Old 4th Aug 2013, 20:14
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Here's some light reading for Danny and yourself MPN11 :-
Our interest begins at page 327 (ie GCA) but there is an amazing picture at 203 showing aircraft formations coasting out from Southern England and coasting into the Cherbourg Peninsula on D-Day. I'm afraid that the pictures leave much to be desired in clarity but the whole pdf file can be downloaded and saved to PC (or even an ebook). The counter at the top seems to be synchronised to the books page numbers (for a change!) while scrolling down at the RHS.
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Old 5th Aug 2013, 02:00
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Thank you for the two links. The first (more Canadian experiences) is very interesting. It would seem that the original MPN-1 came in more than one design. There are things mentioned that are quite outside my experience. The Search PPI has a range quoted at 40 miles. I think our max was 20. Then the dual-range PAR tubes (10 and 3 miles) were certainly not in our trucks, and I know nothing about them. And the antennae servos for the PAR were operated by foot pedals ??? The mind boggles !

The precision sweep on later (CPN-4 and PAR) was electronically produced on the tube. But the MPN-1 moved the whole waveguides bodily by a sort of big Meccano. This caused a regular one-sweep a second "heart-beat"- inside it was like being in the engine room of a tramp steamer. After a while you got so used to this that you didn't hear it any more.

What you did hear was the "Fast Scan" (4 sweeps/sec) that Talkdown switched in for extra accuracy in the last mile. Then all Hell let loose; "the joint was jumpin'", and as your desk top (and everything else inside) was on a 4 slope, you had to watch that your cup/mug and everything else didn't dance off onto the floor. (It was like your car "fast wipe" in heavy rain).

You might well wonder who was daft enough to design a thing like that. The answer is interesting. It seems that originally the elevation precision antenna was fitted so that it swept down to the horizontal with the truck level on its four hydraulic jacks (reasonable, as aircraft rarely fly underground, and then not very far).

But then the radar couldn't pick up the ground markers which you must have to set-up. And now the things were coming off the production line: it would be very expensive to halt it and redesign. Bright idea: why not tilt the whole truck a few degrees down on its jacks to achieve the same result ? Done, problem solved, all happy ?

Well, no. The shaft on the PPI waveguide was now out of vertical to the same extent, PPI tube useless ! Now what ? Again the ad hoc solution, saw shaft off at roof level, cut a suitable wedge off the truck top corner, fit universal joint in shaft, restore status quo. Now they'd "hacked-it", except that when you put the truck back on its wheels (for a runway change) it looked rather funny with a rotating Leaning Tower of Pisa up top. (And was it four degrees as I was told, or two, as the Canadians say ? Dunno, really).

As to the second link: if I ever finish it I'll know far more about radar than ever I learned at Shawbury !

I have reason to suppose you have a birthday some time this month, if so Many Happy Returns ! (if not put it down to Senile Decay - mine, not yours)....D


I fear the MPN-1 is a lost cause in the mists of the past now, we're unlikely to turn up much else about it.....D.


I remember seeing one in a Mess (Linton ?). Huge thing....D

Time for bed now. Goodnight, all. Danny.
Old 5th Aug 2013, 11:25
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It's dark in here, Mum.

MPN11/CPN4 - the workplace.

And so you climb the external steps to the Ops Truck, heave open the heavy door, and close it behind you. You pass through/around the blackout curtain and it is dark. Dark, as in almost pitch black, because those old radar displays were almost impossible to see except in a darkened environment. Stand still for a minute or so to adjust to the gloom: do not move, or you will bump into the Talkdown controller.

Eventually you can see - a bit. On the left are the three (two) identical operating positions, each provided with a search radar display at the top and a talk down display at the bottom. In front of each position is a tiny shelf some 8" deep, on which the controller scribbles things in chinagraph, or does the same on little plastic plaques. He can see to write, because at his right is a very small adjustable lamp, which emits the minimum glow possible - all else is darkness. (The controller can also tell the time - and to this day I wear my watch on my right wrist).

Everywhere else in the truck are dozens of odd panels, manual controls [many screwdriver adjustable] and odd access panels to the inner workings of the miracle of GCA. But how, you may ask, can they be found, or operated, in the dark? The answer lies here. Each control position is provided with a UV lamp on a long wander-lead (hanging to the right of the displays in the picture below). When waved around, a constellation of lights from the radioactive paint appears: words, buttons, switches suddenly glow in the dark for a little while, before fading to background illegibility/invisibility again. And, yes, we all wore radiation dosimeter badges (a mark of pride for real controllers) which were regularly exchanged at the Medical Centre, where they were checked to see if we would ever be able to breed a new generation of controllers.

Cosmetic considerations were irrelevant in the dark, so the assorted bits of kit were placed wherever necessary. However, if the lights were ever turned on, or the door and blackout curtain opened, one was aware that it all looked quite untidy! A bit of web-searching this morning turned up a (very) few photos I reproduce here without permission, in the hopes that the original author(s) will accept they are being used in a good cause. There's another one I have seen but can't find again at the moment - still searching.

Later on one of us will surely expound on setting-up procedures, equipment controls and the dreaded "Truck Test"

Last edited by MPN11; 11th Oct 2013 at 08:32.
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Old 5th Aug 2013, 13:15
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And, yes, we all wore radiation dosimeter badges (a mark of pride for real controllers)
And what about the pilots?????? We used to spend hours behind instruments that would light up when you turned on the UV lighting.

Come to think of it we didn't need dosimeters, balls of steel looked after that.
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Old 5th Aug 2013, 14:09
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just occasionally you come up with a piece of historical information and can find nowhere to poke it into the historical consciousness.
well I'm going to poke this bit here. make of it what you will.

in a previous vocation I had care of an elderly ukrainian gentleman who opened up over a cup of tea. he explained the reason for something to me.

harken back to the dam busters famous raid on the german reservoirs. this is the raid that used barnes wallace's rolling bombs to demolish the dam walls.

in the book is mention that they struck heavy flak on one dam but on one of the next dams, despite being heavily fortified, not a shot was fired.
my ukrainian gentleman was one of those silent flak gun crews.
he explained to me that the ukrainians came to be in the german army because of a kind offer made by the germans. you either serve as troops or you get shot now. needless to say they all served as troops but with an obdurate streak.
in the weeks preceeding the dam busters raid the germans found themselves with a minor supply hiccup to the flak batteries in the area. they ran short of shells.
so the germans issued an order to the ukrainians that until further orders they were not to expend ammunition unless specifically approved to do so.
well the raid was a surprise which caught the germans unawares and it was over almost before anyone was aware that it was on.
so to a man the ukrainians on that dam wall followed orders to the letter.
they watched the bombers roll in on the approach, watched the rolling bombs release and skip across the water. when they realised what may happen they ran like hell.
my friend said that that night they were incredibly proud to have followed german orders to the letter.
when I attended him he had just had a massive brain tumour removed and was given just weeks to live. I have no idea what has happened to him since then.
an interesting answer to a mystery I thought.
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Old 5th Aug 2013, 16:28
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Reading you GCA operators describing the job reminds me, as a simple driver airframe, of courses I did at West Raynham, one of which was to refresh my IRE category in the spring of 1956. We were briefed on the godlike skills of the West Raynham GCA guys who were able to provide a special service to the needs of DFLS (Day Fighter Leaders School). I stand to be corrected after this long interval but they could cope with a mass of recovering fighters in this manner. Formations would be homed to overhead and then sent outbound, pairs starting their descent at ten second intervals which would put them twenty seconds apart inbound so at say 1500ft and 210kts they would be separated from the pair ahead by a little over a mile. The director would see them in the inbound descending turn and pass alternate pairs to two talkdown controllers, one controlling the first and third and the other the second and fourth pairs. In this way a squadron of eight Hunters, or even twelve, all short of fuel of course, could recover in the most expeditious way. The go-around procedure was to climb straight ahead to 1500ft and call Marham GCA for a straight in, their runway being more or less in line with Raynham's at about fifteen miles and the normal short pattern GCA being impracticable with no gap in the inbound traffic. It all seemed a good idea at the time until "The Raynham Incident" in July '56 when we lost eight aircraft and one pilot killed. The Marham GCA guys were in the coffee bar or somesuch, not in their truck!
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