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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 7th Oct 2013, 13:30
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Not mushrooms but lobsters - posted to 3 MHU RAuxAF at RAF Mountbatten our HQ was adjacent to the pier. At spring and autumn low tides the Royal Marines came in their inflatable dinghies to collect the lobsters that lived in the nooks & crannies of the pier's foundations.
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Old 7th Oct 2013, 18:07
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Danny, mon vieux ... IIRC, the prime area at Strubby for mushrooms was in the angle between 09 and 03, about 200 yards towards the Tower. On a good day the 18"-24" monsters were visible from Local without the need for binoculars. The 'button' mushrooms were only about 6"-10" and thus harder to spot

I may find a suitable moment to chip in on my brief time in the RN, driving small floating objects and dismally failing to become a FAA pilot. Navigating around the Solent using Decca and radar possibly helped my subsequent career in Flying Prevention

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Old 7th Oct 2013, 19:12
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I've sent an E Mail to the DM in the hope they can contact Flt Lt Jack Lamprey, I've linked this thread in my E Mail and hope that if he's "on line" like yourself they will refer him to it. I will let you know if I hear back from them. I'm sure he would have some stories from Canadian training etc. all the best.

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Old 8th Oct 2013, 00:34
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Gurkhas, Mushrooms and Lobsters.


"Ko hai, Sahib !"

I don't think your Gurkhas were unduly solicitous of the welfare of their Sahib. Rather they realised that the success of the night's operation depended on their stealthy approach through the jungle, whereas if he were with them, it would be much the same as having a bull elephant crashing through the foliage, alerting every living thing within five miles.

"A sitrep by radio regarding the likely Japanese positions". How well do I remember them, carefully chinagraphed in on a map overlay on an easel by our ALO at each briefing. Everyone played along with him, although all knew that (a) we had no idea where the Jap was, in fact (b) the Jap probably had very little idea where he was, either. The situation on the ground in Burma was (generally) best described as "fluid".

Post-war, I'm afraid most of the most prolific mushroom grounds soon reverted to the farmland from which they'd been taken (although I believe that pillboxes and air raid shelters were used for small-scale mushroom growers, as being dark and damp, and too much trouble to demolish).

It does my old heart good to hear that someone holds Air Traffickers in respect - if not with affection ! Never mind: "oderint dum metuant" (let them hate provided that they fear), the motto of Caligula and his ilk....D.


Seems like a sensible use of resources, but carried a risk, as the century-old Victorian iron pillars of these old piers would be so corroded that it was only by the lobsters holding claws that they remained upright !......D.


"Ah yes, I remember it well !" I'm not sure they were that big (I take it that you're a keen fisherman, and this is akin to the ever-extendable salmon that got away !) But they certainly were huge: we called them "horse mushrooms".

We're all looking forward to your story of your time with the "fishheads" (sorry, Jack, but you did bring in "crabs" - no offence taken !) Never thought much of the idea of landing an aircraft on the roof of a boat myself, anyhow...Ancien Grognard (aka) D.


Thanks ! Go ahead. Let's have the red carpet ready ....D

Goodnight to you all, Danny.
Old 8th Oct 2013, 07:51
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Danny: "The situation on the ground in Burma was (generally) best described as "fluid"."
"To describe the situation as "fluid" is to give it too-great a sense of cohesion"
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Old 9th Oct 2013, 14:28
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Yamagata ken,

I think you've stunned 'em all into silence with your gnomic utterance ! But I see your point - the ground war in Burma was (in the early stages anyway) largely a game of blind man's bluff, where your enemy had the nasty habit of popping up behind you when least expected.

Old 9th Oct 2013, 20:52
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Danny recalls a few final memories of ATC at Thorney.

A Lockheed T-33 flew in one day. Nothing strange about that. What raised the hairs on the back of my neck for a split second were the Gothic black crosses on the sides. I know we were all pals again by then, but the "Biggles" in me came to the fore for a moment or two .

And a (F1) Gnat, bearing an Indian AF green-and-brown roundel (flown by an IAF pilot with the engaging name of Flt.Lt. Pal) transited through on its way home. It was the first aircraft I'd seen in those colours, all the others had been in the wartime blue-and-white of SEAC.

As a change from the monotony, one night in autumn, a small party (6-8) of ornithologists from a local scientific society, having heard of the magic of radar, had approached Air Ministry to ask if it might be possible to have a look at waterfowl activity by night, as the migration season was almost upon us, and the whole surrounding littoral was one vast seabird sanctuary).

There was no security angle to bother about; the CPN-4 was a well known civil and military airfield radar, it was not like asking for a conducted tour of Fylingdales. Adastral House graciously consented, the Station Commander had no objection, and it was laid on. I was on radar watch in the CPN-4 that night; we got the three consoles working so that they could all have a good look, while I did the running commentary from behind .

The weather had done us proud - clear as crystal. The birds looked up and thought so, too. They got airborne in their thousands and headed south over the Channel. I put MTI out to 10 miles, and the "twitchers" were fascinated by the mile-long skeins of geese, and the less organised formations of other birds. When some instinct said "Now", the birds would leave the ground all together and the flock would expand for all the world like the time-lapse photography of an opening flower.

I had seen it all before many times, but that night there was a "first" for me, too. One of them asked "what's that ?" I looked and was at first lost for an answer. For very faintly, about 50 miles south, a large formless return was beginning to appear, half way out over the Channel, where there is nothing at all but sea.

Radar "ghosts" were nothing new, but these are small and transient, and usually self-generated in the equipment. I watched nervously as this thing slowly took shape - whatever it was, it must be enormous. At last it condensed into a stretch of coastline (where there is no coast). Gradually it extended southward and I suddenly recognised the outlines of the top of the Cotentin peninsula ! But this was 120 miles South, almost double my maximum range. I realised that I was seeing something for the first time which I'd only read about in textbooks - "Skip Distance".

A huge 'high' was stationary over the area, an inversion had developed over the Channel, and my radar pulses were being refracted round under it and returning to me one pulse 'out of phase' (late). Radar is normally line-of-sight, now it was interpreting these late returns as roughly half-distance. My audience and I watched this for some time until it slowly faded away: our guest were greatly impressed, and left highly satisfied with their evening's outing.

Momentous news next time, so put your orders in at your Newsagent.

'Night, all,

Danny 42C.

Things are not always what they seem.
Old 9th Oct 2013, 22:28
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Going back to mushrooms, I seem to remember when I did an Air Cadets nav course at Finningley of seeing a safety film where it was done in the form of time lapse. It was a Dominie taxiing out to the runway with a small inspection door open which was seen by an RAF snowdrop on his bike, complete with shopping basket, collecting mushrooms. Made me chuckle at the time.
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Old 10th Oct 2013, 14:50
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You mean this joker was swanning around on the Movement Area with flying in progress ? And what's a RAF Snowdrop ? (serious question). Only snowdrops I remember were USAF police, but things may have changed since my day.

Feller would've got 14 days CB from me !

More importantly, what did he do when he saw the Dominie with bits hanging off ?

Cheers, Danny.
Old 10th Oct 2013, 16:29
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Danny42C said
Seems like a sensible use of resources, but carried a risk, as the century-old Victorian iron pillars of these old piers would be so corroded that it was only by the lobsters holding claws that they remained upright !.
Not a pier but a stone-built jetty. Nearly all traces of RAF Mountbatten have long since disappeared, including Breakwater House where I was located (3 MHU RAuxAF) 1970-73.

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Old 10th Oct 2013, 18:07
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Yes he was an RAF policeman, perhaps my mistake but when I was young I was told that was the nickname for them because of the white hats.

He cycled on the grass waving his arm, keeping the other to steer his stead. until they stopped, then he pointed out the door.

All rather touch in cheek to get the message across I suppose and taking the micky out of the RAFP at the same time.
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Old 10th Oct 2013, 20:24
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Danny, I cannot think of a greater contrast than that of your last post with those that you posted of dive-bombing operations in Burma. Here in a nutshell is what all that sacrifice and suffering of WW2 was all about. A night of bird-watching using technology that was devised for war!
Of course it was not the end of war, it is with us still and most probably always will be, but the deliverance from an evil tyranny that threatened our nation and so many others was behind us. What better way to celebrate than to spend time twitching the age old migratory habits of geese, providing of course that their habits keep them well away from we latter day aviators!
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Old 10th Oct 2013, 20:25
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Mushrooms, S.P.s and Dumbos.

ricardian ,

Of course ! Silly of me ! (there are more meanings than one of the word "Pier"). Never knew the place myself , but the people who had kept fond memories of it....D.


Profoud apologies ! (another Senior Moment !) Did a bit of digging after my last dismissve post, came up with this, lifted from Wiki:

"RAF Police non-commissioned officers and warrant officers are noticeable by their white-topped caps (giving rise to their nickname of Snowdrops), which they have worn since 1945".

That puts me firmly in my place ! You are absolutely correct.

The Corporal expiated his crime by doing the right thing (still shouldn't have been there though). But were Local and Runway Controllers both asleep ?

Now, congratulations on your recent success in the Cap/Comp. What a wonderful pic ! What on earth had happened to the poor little beast ? (Yes, I know, but how?). Please elaborate.......D.

Regards to you both, Danny.



(Crept up on me while I was in the throes of composition !) All very true, and exactly as you say: just another of the paradoxes seemingly inseparable from wars and their aftermaths. Swords into ploughshares, and all that

And to be fair, the geese were there first !


Last edited by Danny42C; 10th Oct 2013 at 20:40. Reason: Additional Text.
Old 10th Oct 2013, 21:43
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I think Wiki have not told the full story. Snowdrops, as a nickname, was first known in the UK during WW2 when white helmeted US military police were seen everywhere. It was a US term.
In that time RAF police were known as SP's or Provosts.
Snowdrops is something which has transposed into our terminology in recent years and, like so many things, has been accepted as being the norm - it's revisionism.I suspect that the white topped caps weren't introduced until the late 40's or early 50's.I can't find any evidence that they were worn in WW2.Police armbands were worn and, possibly white webbing.If someone can provide photographic evidence to disprove me I'll be delighted to see it.
Sidetracking somewhat but a good example - "Butcher Bird" is another non contemporary name. Where did that come from?. It was always an FW or a 190 or a Focke-Wulf when it roamed the skies.
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Old 11th Oct 2013, 00:50
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Hi Danny,

No need to apologise. Memory is a wonderful thing a times. Now where did I leave my glasses?

Oh and I hate to think of how many times I've gone into a room and then forget why I went there in the first place.

Thanks re the cap/comp. To be honest no idea how it happened. I was searching the internet re some wildlife photos and came across it and though it was worth saving in case I needed one for the comp. It didn't have any caption to go with it.
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Old 11th Oct 2013, 06:06
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All rather touch in cheek to get the message across I suppose and taking the micky out of the RAFP at the same time.
The point being made was the Flight Safety is everbody's business (apart, that is, from 'Mrs Doubtfire' at MPA who allegedly wrote on some Flight Safety missive 'Not for admin wing'....). The Snowdrop had spotted what he thought was an insecure panel, so stopped what he was doing to rush off and report it before the aircraft took off. It was, in fact, the 125's APU intake door and quite normal; he didn't know that but was praised for having raised his concern.

It was a good Flight Safety film - can't remember much else about it, but I can certainly remember that 'laughing policeman' and the undercranked 'Benny Hill chase effect' of him chasing the aircraft on his bike!
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Old 11th Oct 2013, 12:35
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Although we all knew what the "Snowdrops" our old wartime Chiefies referred to were, but they were universally called "Snoops" when I was in.
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Old 11th Oct 2013, 18:17
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I joined the RAF in Dec '40, came in in May '41, spent 5 months in UK, 6 in the US, another 7 in the UK, and 42 in Burma and India. In all that time, I never heard the term "Snowdrops" applied to the RAF Police, although we were perfectly aware of its use in the US forces. Nor do I remember seeing any white tops.

And I don't remember hearing of "Butcher Bird" as a name for the FW190.....D.


Ah, the infirmities of age What a pity we don't have the story of the poor weeping little elephant. (It'd make my eyes water, too). Anybody ?

At judging time on the Cap/Comp, you must exclude my entries from the field, otherwise you'll be (wrongly, of course) suspected of undue influence from the nice things I've said about the pic.....D


Well done, that man ! But: : "so stopped what he was doing" - Mushroom gathering, by all accounts ?

And I've been under the impression that it was a DH "Dominie" with cabin door open (Start-up checks ?)......D.


I think the term "Snoops" referred to the SIB, rather than the uniformed branch....D.

Cheers to you all, Danny.
Old 11th Oct 2013, 22:11
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I enjoy your thoughtful and measured contributions, thank you.

Perhaps you might like to comment on this.. is it as you might remember it?

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Old 11th Oct 2013, 22:27
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Danny becomes a Proud Father.

As autumn shaded into winter, 1959 was to be our Annus Mirabilis. Our daughter Mary was born in the November; to our lives was added this whole new dimension. We were a complete family now: we both had to acquire new skills - and fast ! My share was to learn how to hold the babe without dropping her, to get a nappy on so that it would stay on (without impaling her on the nappy-pin), and deal with the inevitable bucket of used nappies.

These would be of the old towelling variety (I don't think Paddy-Pants or anything like that was on the market then); this last task was, shall we say, character-forming !

To this was added the more technical aspects: sterilising bottles, making up the formula at exactly the right temperature, and getting those diabolical teats on the top of the bottle without their pinging-off to a far corner of the lounge.

However, I must not "protest too much". In the first place, she was a little beauty. Hitherto I'd been of the opinion that all babies looked alike - (just like Winston Churchill). But ours was a stunner. When we strolled abroad with her in her beautiful white "Silver Cross" pram, all the old ladies we met would peep in and couldn't help start coochee-cooing. In return, Mary would "ham it up" shamelessly, beaming and gurgling and waving her little chubby limbs. Even "Sally", on the lead, would prance about proudly: "Look what my Master and Mistress have just got for me to play with!" - but that, of course, would be years ahead.

And to add to all these delights, she was a Good Baby. We cannot remember a single night (but there must have been some) when she knocked us up. Even so, she was a determined character, and would turn a quite alarming shade of purple with rage before breakfast or after bathtime when she considered her rations were late coming up.

Very much around this time we learned of our next (short-toured) move to be - RAF(G) ! We had, it seems, fallen on our feet a second time. One of the first thoughts which sprang to every Service mind after hearing this news was: A New Car ! These were impossibly expensive in UK during those early post war years, basically because of the enormous Purchase Tax levied on them as "luxury items." But if you ordered a British car "for export" (or naturally, bought a foreign one overseas) you escaped Purchase Tax - of course, only under very strict conditions.

Basically, both you and the car had to remain out of the UK for a minimum of two years, otherwise Purchase Tax would be charged on re-importation. As most overseas tours comfortably exceeded this period, it was generally not a problem. So now was raised the pleasant prospect of escape from the long line of moribund old bangers which had been most Servicemen's lot since the war's end.

In nearly all cases, there now started a delightful "window-shopping" time, for the market was your oyster, subject to the amount that your Bank would advance as a personal loan. It was generally reckoned that your Overseas Living Allowance (in Germany, anyway) would buy your car for you over a three-year loan period. For most, the decision "which car" ? was a difficult one. But not for us, and this leads to a turn in the story, which I will leave until next time.

With that happy announcement, I'll leave you.

Goodnight, chaps,


Gaudeamus Igitur - Familia Sumus !

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