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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 16th Dec 2013, 22:25
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Danny42C
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Danny is sent on detachment to Gatow.

The major event in '61 came in the late summer. Thirteen years before Stalin had angrily reacted to the introduction of the Deutschmark in West Germany by blockading West Berlin on the assumption that the NATO powers would be unable to sustain their zones in it by air; our sector would fall into his hands like a rotten apple.

By a strange arrangement that I do not fully understand, it seems that he had been allowed to keep administrative control of the road and rail corridors into W.Berlin, which made it easy for him to throttle movement without our being able to resist effectively. But air access was another matter, that freedom was enshrined in the Potsdam Agreemeent (?): any attempt to choke that off could be a casus belli. We all know the result. His original assumption proved incorrect, we did keep our zone alive with the Airlift; after a year he admitted defeat and lifted the blockade.

So matters stood in mid-August '61, when the good people of Berlin awoke to find a wall arising rapidly, just inside the E/W zone boundary, cutting the city in half. It was to stand for 30 years. This was an ominous development: what next ? Of course we all knew why this was being done. Ostensibly a defensive measure against the supposedly aggressive intentions of the NATO powers, the plain fact was that the younger and more productive sector of the East German working population were "voting with their feet", and getting out to the West while they still could, with the result that all that would soon be left in E. Germany would be children and pensioners. The Wall was to keep the E. Germans in , not to keep us out .

But apart from that, it seemed quite possible that this might herald a second Blockade of the city. Undeterred by their earlier experience, Kruschev might attempt to succeed where Stalin had failed. A second Airlift might have to be mounted.

If that happened, the British effort would depend, as before, on the capacity of RAF Gatow to handle all the incoming fuel, goods and food. In '48-'49 its only approach aid had been an MPN-1 GCA; after it was all over they left it there, as it was more than adequate to handle the small volume of civil and RAF Communications flights still operating. Now it looked as if the 13 year veteran might grow very busy again very soon. I think that a two-watch ATC system was running: this would have to be at least doubled-up, to allow round-the-clock operation.

The ATC Controllers with recent MPN-1 experience were quickly earmarked, and detached in turn for two-weeks each to Gatow. I was one of the early ones. Now there seemed no reason why we should not go by train to (say) RAF Wunsdorf and be flown in to Gatow. But we were instructed to make the whole journey by road, and travel in uniform. All I can imagine is that that would test the Russian road semi-blockade (to see how far they were prepared to go). Delaying or messing-about a W.German civilian car or truck was one thing - obstructing a NATO officer on duty in uniform quite another. (But all this is guesswork).

And it was inconvenient, to say the least. Your wife would be without transport for the whole fortnight: you didn't need the car in Berlin. But that was the way it had to be done. It must have been at the end of August that I packed a fortnight's kit into the car and set out for Helmstedt - the Western end of the British road corridor.

And as the description of the transit to Berlin, and the rest of the story in Gatow, will take up another thousand words at least, I shall call it a night now, and put the rest in my next Post.

Goodnight, all.

Danny42C.


It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.
 
Old 16th Dec 2013, 23:21
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Taffy etc

Danny & Smudge,
Thanks for the corrections. My only defense is my earlier referral to my failing memory (far, far to early in my opinion). Danny, while I have no doubt your ground crew were exceptionally knowledgeable, I would be lucky to walk in their shadow.

Fareastdriver,
Although I have seen a number of pictures of TM's parked rather nasely as described, I haven't seen any pics of Harvard's treated the same. Anyone got a snap?

I believe the SAAF were the last military arm using the Harvard, or are they still using them now?

There is an interesting clip or two on YouTube showing Harvard's doing the old crop duster trick of skimming across a lake. However, these clips have five Harvard's doing it in formation. Very impressive flying.

ricardian,
During my 'visit', there was one chap in army uniform undergoing training. I believe he was doing the RAF Apprentice course i.e. Airframes and engines. When I first saw him, he was a Corporal. By the time I left, he was a Warrant Officer. I was told, every time he passed another phase of the course, he was promoted, and that he would be the Command Engineering Officer for his country's embryonic Air Force. Unfortunately, I cannot remember which country he was from.

Camlobe
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Old 17th Dec 2013, 02:19
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There's a thread on the FlyPast forum about Wg. Cdr. Holden's flight including the story in his own words.

Lightning XM135, inadvertant flight by W/Cdr Holden
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Old 17th Dec 2013, 07:46
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Berlin Airlift ........... A couple of questions

I remember seeing my first night landings. Dakotas landing on 23 at Waterbeach, each aircraft on finals would switch on a single powerful light which seemed to be angled more downwards than forwards, or so it seemed to a 10 year old.

Now does anyone know what the cargo would have been? Given Waterbeach's location fresh produce, meat or even fish seem to be likely choices.

Also would the aircraft have been flying direct to Berlin? Payload / mtw wise is would seem to be more efficient to have refuelled in Northern Germany or to even tranship the cargo.
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Old 17th Dec 2013, 19:28
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Pom Pax,

I'm no expert on the Airlift, but I'd think that they would have to land at one of the "feeder" airfields for the last leg (Celle, Faßberg,Wunsdorf ?) to refuel.
Otherwise they'd have to refuel at Gatow for the return trip, and we were supposed to be flying fuel into Berlin !

I have read that the RAF's speciality was hauling coal in Yorks (don't know if it was true). Many people here have airlift memories.

Danny.
 
Old 17th Dec 2013, 21:47
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Hastings as well, Danny. I understand that when the floors were lifted (possibly during rebuild from Mk1 to Mk1A's, to make them compatible with later Mk2's), coal and coal dust was found in most of them.
Re the airlift most of the RAF effort was, as you say, a rotation between forward West German a/f's and West Berlin ones, refuelling and reloading in West Germany. Nonetheless fresh a/c o/b from the UK would sensibly be positioned fully loaded to make full use of their capacity. One thread here:-
http://www.pprune.org/aviation-histo...ift-video.html
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Old 17th Dec 2013, 22:05
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Chugalug,

Of course, your "Queen of the Skies", too ! Coal dust is very invasive stuff: I don't think we ever got it all out of the pram after its first fateful ride in RAF M.T.

Thanks for the link. Will have a look now,

Cheers, Danny.
 
Old 18th Dec 2013, 07:14
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My son in law's now deceased father was a F/E on the Avro York during the Berlin Airlift. He was convinced that the reason the USSR miscalculated the allied ability to resupply Berlin was based on the German failure to resupply the Sixth Army at Stalingrad. As he said he would not want to have been the senior officer who assured Stalin that an allied airlift could not succed !
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Old 18th Dec 2013, 09:03
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Berlin Airlift, Yorks etc

I remember a number of years ago reading an account by a participant of the Berlin Airlift. One particular incident stands out that I feel sure we all can relate to due to our varied experiences in Light Blue. Hopefully, one of those involved can post the true and accurate details here, as I am sure to have unwittingly made mistakes somewhere.

During the height of the Berlin Airlift, the well-oiled machine of organisation methodically and consistently loaded the various aircraft types with loads pre-prepared. Often they were a mix of cargo's, from liquid fuel through coal and sugar, and included each and every item needed by the population of Berlin to remain warm, fed and civilised.

One Dakota crew, experienced in this continual aerial lifeline, arrived at their aircraft, signed the required paperwork (as Danny says, it was forever thus), started up and taxied. Nothing amiss. Until the take off roll. This particular evening, the trusty old Dak was sluggish. The crew exchanged glances, looked out the windows for flat tyres, shrugged and continued. At some point, late in the take off run, they realised there was something seriously wrong, as the aircraft would not accelerate. Past the point of safe stopping, they decided the only course of action was to attempt to continue. Due to the length of runway in use, and the helpful curvature of the Earth, the Dak finally had air beneath her wheels...but only just. A much flatter climb profile than normal ensued, not through choice. Unable to climb to her normal cruising height, the crew continued rather nervously while checking everything imaginable on the aircraft for the cause of their peril. No huge panels were noted to be causing enormous drag, and no other aircraft issues were identified. But the poor engines were running continually at climb power, just to remain airborne. Our intrepid crew made it (to Gatow ?), landing speed 30 knots faster than normal to prevent falling out of the skies on Finals, and deplaned as nervous wrecks. The Captain insisted on the load being weighed as it was removed. The handlers were baffled why anyone would want their load weighed AFTER landing, but grumpily complied. The Dak, DC3, C47 etc had a load capability of around 3 tons. When this particular load was weighed, it was realised that the aircraft had inadvertently been filled with a load for a York, apparently around 9 tons.

Wonder if this is a world record for a Dak?

Camlobe

Has anyone ever met the man behind Murphy's Law?
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Old 18th Dec 2013, 09:29
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Did not Ernest K Gann describe something similar in 'Fate is the Hunter' ?
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Old 18th Dec 2013, 10:03
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Indeed, aa62. I think that in his case the something similar that he described was the dreaded shift change, so that he was carrying twice what he should have been. That he survived to tell the story, like camlobe's crew, is a tribute to the margins that could be called upon in extremis in that generation of aircraft.
Not so much in the way of margins these days, more like knife edges!
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Old 18th Dec 2013, 10:58
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Chugalug2 said
Hastings as well, Danny. I understand that when the floors were lifted (possibly during rebuild from Mk1 to Mk1A's, to make them compatible with later Mk2's), coal and coal dust was found in most of them.
Hastings were based at Akrotiri in the mid 1960s (70 Sqn?). The airframe chaps in the Cpls Club often spoke of the coal dust hazard under the floors.
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Old 18th Dec 2013, 17:01
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When we returned from Aden in Feb 1953 I was placed at the back beside the loadmaster. In those days pax were weighed the day before and heavy people were seated around the CG, youngsters like me went aft.

Once airborne I noticed a gap of an inch or more around the battered doors. The loadmaster told me it was hard wear from the Berlin Airlift. The refreshing breeze was very nice across Somalia but long before we reached Lyneham my legs were numb. And that was before the overnight at Clyffe Pypard, the nearby transit camp.
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Old 18th Dec 2013, 17:08
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Danny puts his head into the Lion's Mouth.

All down the years I've had it in my head that the road corridor (Helmstedt to Marienborn - Funny, always thought it was Marienfeld) to Berlin was about 60 miles. Turns out it's not. Google gives 110 miles, and the distance across from GK to Helmstedt another 270. Totals 380, a good day's driving - I must have got on the road early that morning. Across W.Germany a lot of it would be autobahn, but not all. I don't remember much about the first part of the trip, but must have reached Helmstedt (Checkpoint "Alpha", it seems) in early afternoon. It wasn't just a simple matter of going on.

You needed a thorough briefing before embarking on the last stage of your journey, for the Russian regulations were strictly enforced. Stops were not permitted: if you broke down you had to stay with your car until the (E.German) police picked you up. You could start only when you got clearance, one vehicle every five minutes. It was believed that the police phoned your departure time through to the other end as you left.

You must drive at a steady 100 kph (63 mph). If you turned up early, I suppose they would have you for speeding. If late, you were suspected of the worst crime of all - stopping to pick up an E.German thumbing a lift at the roadside (I don't think it was wired off at all). For if you could get him into West Berlin (in your car boot ?), he was as good as out to the West.

I saw no petrol stations, but naturally you'd tanked up with (coupon) petrol in Helmstedt. The briefing was delivered by the military police, who'd saved the best for the last. This was a gallery of photographs of the autobahn junctions you'd meet as you neared Berlin. Take a wrong turning, and you might end up, not in Marienborn, but in clink as an illegal entrant at another point; it might take quite some time to get you out. Naturally no bomber pilot or nav ever scrutinised target photos longer or more carefully than we did.

There was a lot of paperwork, travel orders, car registration and identity documents examined, and at last you got the green light. Two hundred yards along on the verge a Russian tank was parked, gun barrel trained on the Checkpoint. These people meant business (We are the masters now !)

The memory of the next 1½ hours will be with me for life. Never have I made such a lonely and nerve-wracking drive. The 5 min separation meant that the nearest vehicle would be roughly 5 miles ahead or astern, well out of sight. I rolled along, keeping exactly to the 63mph, listening to the thump - thump of the concrete joints (we had no car radio).

Every fifteen minutes or so, an E.German police car would come racing up from behind, stay beside me for a half minute (it felt like an eternity) while the boot-faced passenger, notebook and pencil in hand, examined me and the car minutely from end to end, then without any sign or wave of acknowledgement steam away off ahead to, presumably, overhaul the next man and give him the same treatment.

What I could see of the flat landscape was rather depressing. There was little farming activity going on; I noted that in the wide fields at the roadside horses were still being used extensively in place of tractors. At our briefing we had been told to commit to memory details of any Russian military vehicle convoys we saw on the journey (but never to make notes) and report them to our military police when we reached Berlin. But I saw nothing of the kind on my transit.

At last the first of the potential traps appeared; the photographs at Helmstedt served their purpose admirably. I stayed on the right path throughout, and soon saw a long queue of vehicles stationary on the carriageway ahead, obviously awaiting inward clearance. With the true British instinct not to "queue-jump", I slowed down to meekly take my place on the end. But out stepped an E. German police officer from the roadside, vigorously signalling me to carry-on past the others, which I now saw to be all German civilian-registered cars and trucks.

I was being given priority, it seemed. I could almost feel the resentment of the unfortunates (who would be subject to long delays), but they would have been most unwise to show or voice it. For supervising the road police was a Russian officer at the head of the column: a W.German did not bandy words with him , or he (the civilian) would probably be out of circulation for quite a long time.

I was at Marienborn (aka Checkpoint "Bravo"). The formalities were remarkably light. "Nothing untoward seen", I told the RMP Sergeant. He wasn't interested in my "harassment" on the road: it was SOP, he said.

Finding Gatow was easy, I was in good time for dinner and an early night.

Now Gatow/Berlin will have to wait till next time.

Cheerio,

Danny42C.


"Will you walk into my parlour", said the Spider to the Fly.
 
Old 18th Dec 2013, 19:01
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Gerivator,
we used to have regular sessions changing para doors between our Hastings in the hope of stumbling on a better fit. Hope over expectation.
On para drops when the doors were removed ready for despatch they were supposed to be stowed in the toilets. Fitting problems and time constraints meant they were just dumped on the floor aft. This would not improve the chances of them fitting any better.
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Old 18th Dec 2013, 19:03
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Hastings

Late 1973 I was posted to #1 AD (Air Defence) Course on the F-4 Phantom. Part of the lead-in was for the six navigators to do a bit of radar prediction from topo charts, prior to a trip in an NBS equipped Hastings. Once airborne we took it in turns to overlay our acetate sheets with what we expected to see on the flickering display.

Three of us at a time for a four hour sortie, each one doing about an hours worth of jiggling the gain control and trying to find out where the hell we were. Naturally, as the junior nav I was last to have a go - in theory - as it always went u/s long before my turn.

The Hastings was from 1066 Sqn and picked us up from Waddington, even though we were based at Coningsby/Finningley. As we were exiting from the aircraft after another DNCO, I noticed a metal plate above the steps which read something like "This is a/c no xxxx. When it is time expired do not use for fire practice, as it took part in the Berlin Airlift. Preserve for posterity"

If I wasn't lazy I'd dig out my logbook and give the exact serial. Maybe later, it's been a long day . . .
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Old 18th Dec 2013, 19:28
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Just had to dig out my photo of #1 AD course. 12 hopeful looking youngsters there!
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Old 18th Dec 2013, 22:21
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Ancientaviator62

On para drops when the doors were removed ready for despatch they were supposed to be stowed in the toilets. Fitting problems and time constraints meant they were just dumped on the floor aft. This would not improve the chances of them fitting any better.
When I was at Abingdon in 1959 Hastings took-off and landed with the para door removed when doing drops at nearby Weston-on-the-Green. See below.


Last edited by Warmtoast; 19th Dec 2013 at 10:44.
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Old 19th Dec 2013, 07:16
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They don't make mainwheels like that anymore.
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Old 19th Dec 2013, 09:25
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DW

Front row, second right

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