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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 Jan 2014, 07:29
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Not all training is the same

Pah, take some time off over Christmas and keep away from PPrune and it has taken me ages to catch up on what I have missed. Some of my periods with the Army fairly clearly demonstrated to me the difference between ‘their’ thought processes and ‘ours’ but also demonstrated the momentum that some training built up – it’s always been done that way. In the mid eighties I did the technical course on the Scimitar tank (ok the CVR(T)) which consisted mainly of the Rarden cannon and the co-axial GPMG. The course was excellent if a little noddy, aimed at someone not quite as skilful as your average RAF armourer, and we actually fired the Gimpy that we serviced – which the RAF never let trainees do, it concentrated the mind and made sure that you did a good job. A few years later I was due to go to Sek Kong and was told that I needed to do the Spartan course, also down at Bordon. It was supposed to consist of the 76mm cannon and the co-axial GPMG, which obviously I had already done. However, when I got there the Army had unilaterally taken the GPMG off the course as they knew that the RAF now taught it themselves at Cosford. In its place they taught general armament and I had a great course climbing over Chieftain and the new Challenger plus other exotic kit. The course was extremely well taught, if a little laid back. When the instructor was instructing the students were allowed to smoke (I had given up a few years earlier) and when it came to removing the turret of the Spartan we were just shown the kit and told to get on with it. In the RAF you would have needed a chit to check the kit and another one to use it and probably a fair amount of instruction.

When I got out to Sek Kong there were no Spartans, as expected, as the RAF had stopped using them a year or 2 earlier and I asked why I had to do the Spartan course. It was all due to the fact that the co-axial Gimpy with its mounting were not dissimilar to the Gimpy and its mounting on the Wessex that was used in Hong Kong. So I had to do a 4 week course (that I thoroughly enjoyed) for a weapon that the Army no longer taught to the RAF, all because they now taught it themselves. And where was I detached from to go on the course? It was Cosford, where, among other things, I taught the maintenance of the GPMG.

Some years later I was doing pre-employment training for the Falklands and had to do a couple of EOD courses – one of them with the RE down at Chatham. Once again a good course, if a little bit of an eye opener to a sheltered RAF lad into the mind of the average RE. They were very proud when they swamped the bed and when we had to go and blow kit up on the beach and had to book into a hotel they asked for rubber sheets so that they would not get charged for a new mattress in the morning.

They also made the training more realistic. One very cold December morning we were dealing with ‘chemical’ munitions. I was wearing full combats, plus NBC, plus a fuel suit with self contained breathing apparatus. I went forward and dealt with the problem with double sealed bags and plaster of Paris and then came back. I was a little on the warm side. At this point the RAF would have talked about decontamination – the Army had set up a decontam area and within about 2 minutes I was naked under a shower run from a stand pipe. I was then a little on the cold side. And this wasn’t just for the 2 RAF lads on the course – everyone was subjected to it during the exercise.

Once again, I enjoyed working with the Army, both REME and RE – but I am so glad I wore light blue in my normal day job.
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Old 7th Jan 2014, 17:42
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Just finished watching the You Tube you gave me (your #4945 p.248) documentary on the Dams raid. Excellent and very well balanced, I thought. Well worth watching !

And it was encouraging to hear the two splendid old veterans at the end confirming my point about the importance of the fillip which the raid gave to our morale.

Thanks a lot !

Old 7th Jan 2014, 20:55
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"Your post #4959 - Danny recalls some small memories of Quarters life."

Your recollections of the temperamental coke boiler in your MQ in Germany brought back memories of a similar beast that lurked in the cellar of our MQ in Moenchengladbach.

It was coke fuelled and when I first started using it, getting it to work properly was a problem and I very sensibly relied on the knowledge of our neighbours. Major problem was not to let the furnace get too hot, if it did so the coke turned into a solid mass of clinker and as a result went out. There was nothing worse than Mrs WT calling me on a cold winter’s day that there the boiler had gone out.

The only way to start it again was with a supply of old crumpled up newspapers, wood kindling and a degree of patience. Eventually with practice it was easy enough, but one had to keep an eye on the flue doors to make sure it didn’t burn too hot. It kept the house beautifully warm in the winter and the German’s, with typical Teutonic thoroughness, even ensured there was a radiator in the garage — ideal for the very early morning cold starts, straight into a warm car – lovely! I returned to the UK in the summer of 1975, just as we were informed that the coke-fired boilers were to be replaced by automatic gas-fired ones — too late for me, but my successor must have been very happy.

As regards your frog in the laundry room — you must have had a similar quarter, as ours too had steps into it from the back garden as can be seen to the left of the open French Door in the photo below.

Last I heard from German friends who lived in the area was that these quarters had been handed back to the Germans and had been sold on the open market with the new buyers doing modern conversions.

Living in the British military married quarter patch not far from the centre of town in Moenchengladbach was very handy, especially if you were a football fan as Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Bökelberg stadium was about three-hundred yards away. The army major who was our next-door neighbour was HQ BAOR’s liaison with the German football authorities and he always had a supply of free tickets for MG’s home games. On home match days it was chaos in the area with fans parking their cars all over the place, pavements included as seen below outside our house.

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Old 8th Jan 2014, 17:28
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The Ballyshannon corridor over neutral Eire saved RAF flying-boats three to four hours on each sortie from their bases on Lough Erne, avoiding a journey north around Donegal. Northern Ireland had 17 airfields capable of taking four-engined aircraft, including Nutt's Corner and Langford Lodge beside Aldergrove. The first, with Prestwick, were the terminals for Ferry Command from the US, and Langford Lodge became a vast USAF overhaul unit, so big it had its own railway connection to Belfast.

By mid-1940 Britain stood alone against Germany, and Coastal Command’s role in convoy protection became vital. The U-boats were sinking some 50 ships each week, many of them on the convoy route around Ireland. Bodies were being washed ashore in such numbers that Donegal and Mayo councils were concerned at the cost of so many funerals, with coffins at £2.10s each (about £360 in today’s money). Old graveyards, some unused since the Irish Famine of almost a century before, were re-opened for the U-boat victims.

My story centres on Lough Erne, where the Sunderlands and Catalinas began their long hauls into the Atlantic. At first they had to fly north and west around Donegal in neutral Ireland, losing almost four hours of valuable operating time. The Irish Government, protected by the RAF and the Royal Navy and supplied by the Merchant Navy, agreed to permit a low-powered beacon at Ballyshannon, marking a direct corridor across neutral territory for the flying-boats to reach the Atlantic. Today a plaque on the town bridge at Ballyshannon commemorates the airmen who lost their lives on wartime patrol.

Patrols were between eight and 12 hours, the Catalina with extra tanks being capable of 22 hours, its cramped and noisy interior a gruelling workplace for its crew. My friend and instructor Desmond Mock flew the Catalina from Lough Erne in Northern Ireland, and constantly urged me to learn from the mistakes of his wartime days. His patient tuition saved me from at least one disaster.

Desmond quite liked the Cat which he said was pleasant if heavy to handle. With its long wing and wing struts, they tried to keep out of icing conditions. The Cat was cramped for its crew of 10, unlike the spacious Sunderland which even had a well-equipped galley and a magnificent porcelain flush loo in the nose compartment. In fact some airmen slept aboard their Sunderlands at anchor in preference to the damp, freezing nissen huts which housed most of Castle Archdale’s 2,500 staff.

The Cat was very noisy, with the prop blades just behind the cockpit. At high rpm the tips approach sonic speed and create the ear-shattering drone best demonstrated by a Harvard. I met two Catalina pilots in New Zealand in 2001 and both were deaf as a result of four years in Cats. On the other side was the reliability of the Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp, also used in the Dakota. Desmond told me the legendary Rolls-Royce Merlin was prone to coolant leaks, although nobody dared say so, and he and his comrades much preferred the comforting rumble of the air-cooled radials. “Every aeroplane has its good and bad sides, but we felt the Cat would always get us back provided we could keep off the mountains”.

The Cat had 50-cal waist guns and 30-cal in nose and a ventral mounting behind the hull step. Unlike the Sunderland with its four-gun rear turret, the Cat had little defence against the easiest fighter attack from the rear but such encounters were very rare from Northern Ireland bases and Desmond and his crew never saw an enemy -- “though we certainly didn’t complain about that”.

Eleven hours across the Pacific on comfy seat in the magnificent 747 was more than enough for me, so I can only guess at the stamina needed for 11 hours in a noisy, cramped Catalina. In fact 10 to 12 hour patrols were commonplace, and on one occasion Desmond and his crew were at sea for 22 hours. They were listed as overdue as nobody realised their Cat had long-range tanks, and received a rollicking from the CO for their efforts.
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Old 8th Jan 2014, 19:02
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Danny,a PM for you....
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Old 8th Jan 2014, 20:30
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Battle of the Atlantic.


Lovely pictures - takes us back ! Our MQ was at the end of a row, just like yours, with a south-facing back garden like yours. But we think that it looks a size larger. Obviously, as in the UK, they designed a range of MQs at first, and then replicated them all over RAF(G).

I was a bit puzzled by the row of German registered cars till you told me about the football stadium free-for-all parking - they'd crowded out all your white on black BFG registrations !

Now were they still dishing out petrol coupons in your day ? If so, can you remember what extra ones cost (Dm/Litre) ? ....D.


The Battle of the Atlantic, said Churchill, was his greatest anxiety in the war.It was only won through dogged and relentless work by the Navy and the maritime Air Forces, and the heroism of the Merchant Marine. And it is arguable that even that might not have been enough without Bletchley Park and the "Ultra" break-through into the U-boats' Enigma codes, which tipped the balance in our favour..... D.

Cheers to you both,

Old 8th Jan 2014, 22:08
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A couple more Moenchengladbach married quarters photos from my album.

Showing the whole house from the outside, and shots of the dining room and lounge inside. Outside photo shows the rotating aerial I erected for the TV and FM. MG being within service areas of Dutch and Belgian TV transmitters, reception of these stations with quite a few original English language programs and films subtitled in Dutch/Flemish and French made a welcome change to the German WDR and ZDF stations which if they had English programs, dubbed them into German. BFBS of course broadcast on FM Radio 24-hours a day I think.

The other thing I remember was that I was very much into HiFi in a big way and purchased a pair of Wharfedale 15-inch "Monitor Gold" speakers, probably the best speakers I every heard, but sadly Mrs WT wanted something smaller and less obtrusive, so the Monitor Gold's had to go, replaced by something smaller from the American PX at Wiesbaden which was considerably cheaper than the JHQ NAAFI prices. "Monitor Gold" speakers can be seen in the lounge photos.

MQ photos from my album.

"Now were they still dishing out petrol coupons in your day ? If so, can you remember what extra ones cost (Dm/Litre) ? ....D."

Certainly BFG petrol coupons were standard issue whilst I was in Germany (1972 - 1975). ISTR that when I arrived I paid about DM2.50 for a 10ltr coupon. With the rate of exchange when I arrived in 1972 at around DM12 = £1 Sterling it was peanuts compared to the full taxed pump price paid by Germans. Coupons were valid at BP pumps anywhere in Germany and at Esso stations on the autobahns.

The other perk apart from cheap booze from the mess was the NATO "Abwicklungsschein" for use when one bought goods from the German shops. This allowed an entitled buyer to purchase minus the Mehrwertsteuer (MwSt) - Value Added Tax. "Abwicklungsscheins" had to be purchased (a couple of DMs I think) from a pay office and stamped with a Unit stamp and presented to the shop, a minimum purchase had to be around DM250 or similar, but savings for high value goods was well worthwhile.
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Old 9th Jan 2014, 17:23
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Das WAREN ja Zeiten !


Thank you for the second group of OMQ pictures. Very little seems to have changed in the twelve years between our RAF(G) postings.

I'm particularly interested in the price you quote for petrol coupons (Dm 2.50 for 10 litres) - but of course it may have been different in '60 to'62 - and the fact that you were still getting around Dm 12:£1. In our time we first got Dm 11.90, that fell almost immediately to Dm 11.70, but remained (IIRC) at that figure up to '62 when we left.

Sterling at home inflated by a factor of 1.7 between '60 and '72, so you were getting a very favourable rate indeed. Taking all that into account, and doing some sums on the back of an old envelope, I reckon you were getting fuel at the equivalent of 23p a litre today - around 1/6 of what we're all paying. Those were the days !

Now in our time everybody got a free monthly ration of coupons to start you off. Was it still so with you (and can you remember how many ?). Ah, the dreaded VAT (came in with the '72 Finance Act, so after our time). I knew it well.

The principle here was that an exporting State levied no VAT (or MwSt) on goods for export, but the (EU) importing company (which had got the goods in VAT-free) had to account for "output" VAT on resale at the rate in force in UK (or wherever). If you'd bought a really valuable item out there, and benefited from this rebate, then Customs would (or should) have stung you for VAT ad valorum on top of Import Duty (no doubt they did !) when you came home.

Cheers, Danny.
Old 9th Jan 2014, 21:37
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I'm particularly interested in the price you quote for petrol coupons (Dm 2.50 for 10 litres) - but of course it may have been different in '60 to'62 - and the fact that you were still getting around Dm 12:£1.
I may have been a little too generous with the 1972 BFG petrol coupon price. Having spoken to a friend who was in the Army in Germany in the early seventies he thinks my quote of DM 2.50 = 10 litres coupon is too low, but couldn't come up with an alternative. So treat my recollection with a pinch of salt until someone comes up with a better sourced figure.

Now in our time everybody got a free monthly ration of coupons to start you off. Was it still so with you (and can you remember how many ?).
No free coupons in my days there, they had to be purchased.

As regards my DM - £ Sterling exchange rate a better figure is DM 9.00 = £1 Sterling for 1972. When I left Germany in 1975 it was down to about DM 5.50 = £1 Sterling.
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Old 10th Jan 2014, 00:15
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Danny relates two more oddments from Geilenkirchen.

GK produced a monthly Station Magazine. Among the more popular regular columns was "....SO I BOUGHT A ...." In this, a buyer of a new car of a model not previously described extolled the virtues of his purchase. I took it upon myself to write about the Peugeot.

To the best of my recollection, this was the result (written about '60):

"In the dawn of motoring history, a French automobile engineer pondered the problem of suiting the very limited rpm range of his engine to the varying road speeds of his car. With a flash of inspiration, he removed the change-speed mechanism from his lathe and incorporated it into the transmission.

"C'ést brusque et brutale", said he after a couple of turns round the block, "mais ça marche". Not only had he invented the gearbox essentially as we know it today, but he'd laid down the philosophy which was to motivate a whole generation of French car designers.

At home we reserve the highest praise for cars in which "the loudest sound at 60 mph is the ticking of the clock" - ("We'll have to do something about that clock, old boy") . These attributes leave your average Frenchman cold. He has paid for his engine and does not mind hearing it working. His roads are long and straight but rough and narrow, and they are lined each side with trees (planted by Napoleon to shade his Grande Armée on the march), but which also stop you leaving the carriageway and ploughing up good agricultural land.

A specification emerges for a car which goes fast, exactly where it is pointed, with soft suspension to soak up all the bumps, and (when the inevitable load of hay appears half way round a bend) can be hauled to a standstill without capsizing or taking to the woods.

For three generations, the Peugeot family has prospered by providing just such vehicles to Frenchmen of modest means. You will look in vain for walnut veneer cappings, carpets or leather seats (the interior is all plastic and rubber, you can wash it out with a mop and bucket). A very low compression ratio (6.25:1) * lets you use the vilest petrol available. (on this account, and because of their rugged build, they are popular in E. Africa - it's said in Durban that they're the only things that the Zulu cab drivers can't break !)

"Rough and ready" they may be. "Go" they certainly do.

(For this excellent piece of advertising copy, I received not a sou, nor a cent, nor a pfennig). Ah well.

Note *: I'm sure this was the handbook figure then , but research now says 7:1 on that engine (still low).


GK was closed for runway repairs for a few weeks (the Squadrons must have been flown out somewhere, but I can't remember where). ATC put its feet up, but of course we were still manned.

But the GAF took advantage of the empty airfield to use it for working-up a display team they'd recently formed. This was a 4 x F.104 "Starfighter" affair, with (we were told) a USAF Major leading and three GAF pilots. Our South taxiway would be an ideal "crowd line" for them to use as a reference point.

I particularly remember them practising barrel-rolls low-ish over the runway. We spectators were turning pale with horror, there were sharp intakes of breath - Local Control brought the Crash crews to readiness. For "The Widowmaker" was far from the ideal mount for formation aerobatics. With a wing loading of over 100 lb/sq.ft, before hanging anything on it, I would guess (knowing nothing about them) that it would only be happy at 250 knots or more. But at that speed the spectators would hardly have time to get their noses out of the ice-cream before the barrel-roll was out of sight.

So they were doing it as slowly as they dared, and that was the trouble. The things were clearly only marginally in control, sashaying about all over the place as they struggled to hold position. There was no future in this, we thought. Nor was there. Last thing we heard some time later, they had rolled themselves into a ball and gone into an opencast mine somewhere (all dead).

(Wiki has the story, but tells a different account of the disaster, and does not mention the mine. Apparently all further attempts to form a GAF Display Team were forbidden)

'Night, all.


There are old pilots, and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.

PS: Warmtoast, Yes, Dm 9:£ sounds more like it. The £ ended on Black Wednesday in '92 at Dm 2.77:£ !....D.
Old 10th Jan 2014, 09:30
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Hey, Warmtoast, I see you have Airmans fitted carpets in your quarter, did you not have problems with your TV having it sitting on top of what is a glorified magnet?

We had about 4.10 Dm to the £ in the early 80's
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Old 10th Jan 2014, 09:38
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Desmond told me the legendary Rolls-Royce Merlin was prone to coolant leaks, although nobody dared say so, and he and his comrades much preferred the comforting rumble of the air-cooled radials.
Puts me in mind of a remark made by Ferry Porsche (designer of the Beetle and - of course - the Porsche) when questioned on his preference for air-cooled engines:

"All engines are air-cooled! But some designers put water between the engine and the air!"
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Old 10th Jan 2014, 09:47
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Would that be a Sansui or Pioneer tuner/amp mated with a Lenco transcription deck and a reel-to reel-tape recorder?
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Old 10th Jan 2014, 16:22
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Hey, Warmtoast, I see you have Airmans fitted carpets in your quarter, did you not have problems with your TV having it sitting on top of what is a glorified magnet?
OMQ carpets were transferred to AMQ's when worn - just joking!

They came with the quarter so assume they were standard issue in 1972, not sure whether we were entitled to better ones, but they did the job and looked nice so we didn't complain.

Loudspeaker magnets and our TV. ISTR no problems - perhaps they were better shielded in those days.
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Old 10th Jan 2014, 16:27
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Would that be a Sansui or Pioneer tuner/amp mated with a Lenco transcription deck and a reel-to reel-tape recorder?
My HiFi setup at the time as seen in the photo was:
Bang + Olufsen (B + O) Tuner/Amp, Garrard Turntable with Shure cartridge and Teac Compact Cassette player.
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Old 10th Jan 2014, 17:10
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Yes, static could have odd effects. One day I came back home, opened car door (but hadn't put foot on ground). Our dear little dog came bouncing out to greet me. Put out a hand to pat her, she jumped up - and a huge fat spark shot between my finger and her nose.

She yelped and recoiled as if I'd hit her, and wouldn't speak to me all day.....D.


Never heard of coolant leaks being a particular problem on the Merlins I flew behind (Mks. II,III,XII,35 and 266 - the "Packard Merlin"). Coolant trouble was usually operator-induced, notably by allowing the things to get to the boil on the ground.....D.


Ah, we're at the top of the tree now ! My Lump Sum after retirement only ran to a Teleton ("Terrible-Ton" *) Cassiever in '74. Originally £105, they were clearing them off at £55 (x10 in today's money). I ordered one . A polite letter came: their Stock Computer had informed them that the last one had just gone - Sorry.

Just my luck, I thought. "Security Express" (or something like it) turns up in the afternoon - with my Teleton. (Moral: Put Not your Trust in Computers).

* Actually, it wasn't at all bad. The combination of open exhausts (at the end of 42 litres) and open cockpits had left us all high-tone deaf anyway (8,000 Hz top whack), so Hi-Fi was not much use to us....D.

Cheers to all, Danny.
Old 10th Jan 2014, 17:31
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Very 70's interiors, Warmtoast, with 'earth colours' in abundance! I trust you had the long hair and flared jeans to match;-). How important was the Hi Fi set up then! Mine was a Lenco deck, Pioneer tuner amp, Sony compact cassette player and Pioneer speakers in Changi village supplied enclosures. The LP albums had to be sorted through, appropriate ones being selected and played in turn. Rather more thought and effort required than choosing "Playlist #3"!

Very enterprising of you to photograph your home for recalling much later. We revisited ours at Hullavington 25 years after it was our first home together, thanks to the kindness of the Ghurkha officer and his family then in occupation. Rooms were either much larger or smaller than remembered, but now with a modern kitchen and bathroom, and no longer heated from the kitchen coke stove (for hot water) or the lounge backboiler fitted fire (for the main bedroom radiator) but by North Sea Gas. It was greatly improved.

Danny, glad to hear that you enjoyed the Dambusters video. T'internet is a wondrous thing, is it not? Your mention of the F104 recalls an Air Display at Saint Truiden in 1971. All the NATO teams did their party pieces one after the other, vying with a rapidly descending cloud base to boot. The finale was an entire Belgian Wing of said beasts fired up in the woods, where was their abode, and taxiing onto the ORP where they waited in echelon formation. Finally the leader brought up the rear, but taxied to pole position on the runway. The entire wing then formed up in close formation behind him and, on his command, rolled together in that formation on Take Off. The noise, with all in reheat, was deafening, and they promptly disappeared into the murk. What they did or where they went thereafter I know not, for that was the end of the show. Some fat lady!
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Old 10th Jan 2014, 18:54
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OMG ... vintage stereo! Oh, the damp patch that created!! The competition in Tengah to have the best kit was obsessive! And it had to be in a Jimmy Jewell coffee-table-type cabinet, designed and specified by himself.

My system was cr@p. In fact, the current one is also cr@p. I don't care!
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Old 10th Jan 2014, 20:54
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Seeker after Knowledge.

"Military Aircrew" (2046 hrs) says 4998 "replies". Last Post (1954 hrs) is MPN11 #4987. What could be an explanation for this (11 "scratched") ?


Your #4001 p.201 refers:..."Roll on 5,000 !"... That hasn't taken long. And, by my reckoning, we've had 4495 hits in the last 24 hours ! We've got the Best Thread Ever on Military Aircrew * going nicely now - let's keep it up. Thanks, Cliff (RIP) et al.

..."and no longer heated from the kitchen coke stove (for hot water)"... Don't mention that diabolical little square horror to me !....D


You and me both ! Low-Fis of the world, unite !....D.

Cheers, both. Danny.

Note * "Caption Competition" is, by its very nature, bound to generate an enormous number of one-liners which will (in numbers) dwarf all the others.
Old 11th Jan 2014, 14:31
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Lighter moments in Lakeland

Flying was dangerous enough, driving Fermanagh’s winding roads in the blackout was even worse, so the airmen removed the headlight masks from their ancient vehicles and soon encountered trouble from the local police. On more than one occasion country policemen lectured the aircrews on how unmasked headlights would attract German bombers and help them to navigate.

It was too much for one Catalina pilot, who told the policeman to black out his nice white police station in Ballinamallard as he could see it from the air at night, and would prove it the next time he was night flying. The policeman didn’t believe him, so for several weeks afterwards the little village and surrounding countryside were awakened by pairs of Twin Wasps at full rpm a few feet over their rooftops.

It was agreed that perhaps the Luftwaffe wasn’t such a threat after all, and that car headlights could be used in moderation. So peace returned to the Fermanagh countryside.
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