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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 Apr 2014, 18:21
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(Knowing nothing about them), weren't they also described as: "twenty thousand rivets flying in close formation ?"
Old 2nd Apr 2014, 22:12
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Nice to see new arrivals such as ValMORNA and WWWop, so keep the stories flowing!
If ValMORNA needs any old friends looking up, I'm just round the corner. I see I wasn't the first when I suggested that our Branch (now defunct) of the RBL adopt the motto "The only Branch still on Active Service - we go into Battle every day!" which for unknown (ahem)reasons wasn't adopted!

I knew of the Fw190 raid and the bombs in the High Street and the Abbey Gatehouse, but not about the cricket pitch. Drop me a PM if you want me to say "Hi" to anyone.

As for blind pew and Cockney Steve and their memories, I was a Sarfender until only a few years ago, know Manners way and the prefabs very well. I was at the end of the approach by the A127 not far from the EKCO offices, watching Bristol Freighters scrape over the TV aerials as they staggered in to land, the TV used to be a bit of an approach radar, the faster the picture rolled, the closer to us they were.

That's what really got me into aviation interests, you couldn't help but become a plane spotter when they were literally only feet above you.

Shortly about to officially become an "Old Fart" so now taking up a voluntary post in the Local History Museum. What a life for a pensioner!
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Old 2nd Apr 2014, 23:57
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Or 86,000lbs of deafening pandemodium.

Presumably a direct result of eating all those pies......

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Old 3rd Apr 2014, 10:24
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I was told many years ago that a Shackleton had a medium KERRUMP the other side of the pond. It was adjudjed repairable so it was entrusted to Avro (Canada) to be rebuilt. This they did and when they skinned it was fixed in the North American system using flush rivets instead of the good old British domed variety.

This gave birth to the one and only GT Shackleton, Thia one could now go 25-30 knots faster than all of its siblings. No problems unless you used it as a formation leader.
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Old 3rd Apr 2014, 10:50
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The Shackleton Preservation Trust is working towards getting one airworthy again! Amongst the spares they appear to have a store room of all the paper work, vital if it is to fly!
Shackleton Preservation Trust - Home
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Old 3rd Apr 2014, 13:54
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Danny42C said "knowing nothing about them".

Danny, the AVRO Shackleton is the grandson of the Lancaster, powered by the greatest reciprocating aero engine ever produced by Rolls-Royce, the Griffon. The 'Shack' came in conventional (tail wheel) format, and tricycle. The later MR 2 and AEW II taildraggers had an AUW of approx 42 tons (British, you know), carried 3284 Imperial (British again) gallons of AVGAS, could fly for 18 to 24 hours (no air-to-air refuelling) depending on Mark and load, had cannons and a huge bomb bay, and served in the RAF front line for 40 years. The crew benefited from deep, sumptuous leather seats, ash trays, a fully equipped galley, an Elsan complete with privacy curtain. This venerable Queen of the Skies had performance optimised by fully retracting undercarriage and fly-by-wire...and chain, tubes and bell ranks, and enjoyed mild pressurisation...the holes at the front being larger than those at the rear. One felt at one with the environment...rain on your flying suit, and if sat in the nose gunners seat, snow on your boots. The Shack almost ended up with Napier Nomad flat-12 two-stroke diesels with contra-props and 4000 hp each...and a potential sortie duration in excess of 30 hours. Eeek.

The four-engined, eight-propellered, 10,000 horsepowered, tail-dragging example referred to by mmitch, is going to be restored to flight.

P.S. How do you know if you are conversing with a Shack co-pilot? He turns his left ear towards you. How do you know if you are talking to a Shack captain? You have to resort to sign language.

Not that I know anything about Shacks.

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Old 3rd Apr 2014, 19:42
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Everything I wanted to know about Shackletons but was afraid to ask !

Thanks ! Danny.
Old 3rd Apr 2014, 20:28
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 The Shack almost ended up with Napier Nomad flat-12 two-stroke diesels with contra-props and 4000 hp each...and a potential sortie duration in excess of 30 hours.
An engine of which it was said within Napier's in the 50's , was just so efficient...it wouldn't run.
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Old 3rd Apr 2014, 21:10
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Danny's thoughts go back to basic RAF Demographics.

If you can imagine an "ideal" Air Force (which in reality can never be), you might posit that the normal career in it would be from age 20 to 50, and that the Years of Birth of its members would be a smooth spread over the 30 years.

The RAF in 1946 consisted overwhelmingly of the wartime generation. There were comparatively few of the pre-war ones left in it. They had been small in number to begin with, most of them had been killed or captured, and the rare survivors had (deservedly) reached high rank.

I would wager that 90+ % of the rest had been born in the years between '19 and ' 23. Only a tiny minority would be outside this 5-year period. Over '45-'49 the RAF savagely contracted. When I was "demobbed" in'46, I think that there were 100,000 names in the Air Force List; when I came back in '49 it was down to about 10,000 (which would reflect, I suppose, a reduction in total strength from a million to around 100,000). So the post-war RAF was left with one/tenth of the cake - but it was still the same cake mix as in '45. They would have to fit this very square peg into the round hole of a peacetime (?) service.

All sorts of consequences would flow from this. Some were wholly beneficial. Almost everybody was ex-war; they'd brought the old wartime spirit of easy camerarderie along with them: it was still a case of "Not to worry - press on regardless". I wouldn't say that the old way was carefree, but at least your care was not about a "career" (rather, your "career goal" had been to stay alive - always subject to the Exigencies of the Service). The old "band of brothers" still lived on. It was "one for all, and all for one".

And it provided (for example) ideal candidates for the new Branches of ATC and Fighter Control: people who Knew What it was All About and could easily be moulded into these novel tasks without the necessity of ab initio training.

But there was a "Flip Side" to all this. Looking back to the horrific training loss statistics of the early '50s, it is easy to demonise the High Command for its scant regard for Flight Safety. But they were thinking with the mindset of '42-'44, when the only way to live with the figures was to put them out of mind. Callous as it may now sound, in those days there was no point in grief - it was simply: "c'ést la guerre" - and that was that. It was not until the mid-'50s that public opinion became aroused and the RAF had to accept that there was not an infinite supply of Bloggs (as there had been of Prunes), and they had better start looking after the ones they'd got.

But of course the real "Elephant in the Room" was the Age Block. Today it may not be always appreciated how young the wartime Air Force actually was. Of course, this has always been the case - for old men start wars, young men have to fight them. But in the war, Squadron Leaders of 21 were by no means unusual, Gibson (and others) was a Wing Commander at 23, there were 25 year old Group Captains, "Don" Bennett (the "Pathfinder" chief) made AVM at 33 - the youngest ever to reach that rank (having started as a Halton apprentice).

Nobody then grudged them their youthful ranks (and as these were mostly "acting", or at best "war substantive"), they went out of the window when hostilities ended. Even though nearly all those who stayed on (or who got back in) the Service, with the intention of making it their career, had to drop a rank or two, it did not help much. For now the "middle management" was largely set in place for the next twenty years or so, until the whole group was thinned-out from the mid-'60s onward by retirements.

It is with this in mind that I've tried to find one of my old Posts written (it ought to be somewhere aroung Page 165 on this Thread, but seems to have vanished - or did I dream it ?) It was about my first refresher Course in August'49 after coming back in. In this I described sharing a room at Finningley with a recent Cranwell graduate, who told me that it was the opinion of the directing staff at the College that: "we'll do no good with this Air Force until we get rid of all these old wartime people".

I remember Chugalug emphatically disassociating himself from these remarks, which on the face of it do look churlish and ungrateful in the extreme (and not particularly encouraging to "old" re-entrants like me). But now I can see that it is possible to regard them in a more charitable light. They may not have been made in a perjorative or contemptuous sense at all, but merely an acknowledgement of the consequential difficulties which had to arise.

Promotions would inevitably be much slower (or non-existent) for the "old brigade". For where would be the sense of replacing one old-timer with another who's going to retire 2-3 years after the first anyway ? The beneficial effects would accrue to the small number of new young people who managed to get in in the early post-war years (and of course to the much larger intake in the'60s), when it became increasingly obvious to the new ('64) Ministry of Defence that there wouldn't be a RAF soon unless they did something about it.

Don't misunderstand me: there is no element of "sour grapes" in this. The "Right Stuff" was as "Right" as ever it was: it cannot be held against it that it was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Even the "base of the pyramid" benefited to some extent (viz the offer of a 5-year "extension" to me). But it cannot be denied: the'49 Cranwell conclusion was essentially correct.

I left in '72, pretty well in the middle of the clear-out of the "Old Guard". The new generation picked up the baton: they seem to have done pretty well with it.

That's it, folks.

Goodnight, chaps,


The Old Order Changeth, Giving Place to New.
Old 3rd Apr 2014, 22:05
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As you were kind enough to mention me in your post Danny I feel obliged to reply, though I must confess to have forgotten making the comments that you attribute to me (nothing new there though, I constantly marvel at your superb memory).

The point you make about the narrow age group that constituted the post war RAF is valid of course, and there would have been an inevitable, "Last man out please switch off the light" effect if nothing had been done. I suppose that 'events, dear boy, events' as ever had some effect, as the Cold War in particular reduced the peace time salami cuts that are so prevalent nowadays (and with a war going on, to boot). All I can say from my own observation is that those who were ex WW2 (easily identified of course from the ribbons they sported) were in the main excellent, be they JOs, SOs, or VSOs. The latter of course were celebrities in their own right, your AOC could be someone featured in a Paul Brickhill book, be he ex617, or a Stalag, or both!

What they all had in common was a joie de vivre at having simply survived, and a lack of interest in advancement purely for its own sake. That is the main difference I think between my days (1959-73) and what I read elsewhere of the situation these days. Even those SOs who were not exWW2 had been raised in an environment that was still much affected by it and hence adopted many of the attitudes of their forebears. I had some excellent bosses, but most were from this latter group.

The one big disadvantage was what you allude to, the passive acceptance of a large peacetime loss rate, particularly in the new jet fleets. That was when the Flight Safety system was established that I grew up with. It was all enveloping; Posters, Mags, Films, Campaigns, Displays, all pushing the mantra that "Flight Safety Concerns You!" The rate came down, avoidable accidents were avoided, and the RAF maintained its potential power instead of seeing it constantly whittled away. Above all lives were saved instead of being needlessly wasted. Here again I'm afraid things have changed and not for the better, but that is for other threads and not for this one, where we look back upon the best of all possible worlds from our virtual crewroom. Another log on the fire perhaps?
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Old 3rd Apr 2014, 22:11
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I was in Cambridge in 1980 I think it was, and heard a most unusual noise. I looked up to see what I think was a Shackleton with what looked like an AN/APS 20 under the nose. Is this possible?

After an excellent landing etc...
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Old 3rd Apr 2014, 22:43
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Was it a bird, was it a plane...


The Shackleton AEW II wasn't retired until 1991, and the radar system was an AN/APS 20, so I would say yes, not just possible but well spotted.

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Old 3rd Apr 2014, 22:59
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It is with this in mind that I've tried to find one of my old Posts written (it ought to be somewhere around Page 165 on this Thread, but seems to have vanished - or did I dream it ?)

It neither vanished nor was a dream, Danny. Have a look at your Post 2842 and Chugalug's Post 2844 on Page 143 (according to my page numbering setting).

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Old 3rd Apr 2014, 23:59
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Spot on as usual ! My original Page 165 seems to have gone on quite a walkabout - thanks for tracking it down 12 pages away in Page 143 !....D.


Seems that we are both suffering from Sporadic Memory Loss - I forgot where I put it, and you forgot having answered it ! (Ah well, comes to us all in time !).......D.

Cheers, both. Danny.
Old 4th Apr 2014, 07:55
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I was in Cambridge

and heard a different noise. I looked up to see what it was.
Blinked twice and it still was............ a Canberra lifting off out of Marshalls.
A few weeks later they were grounded for good.
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Old 4th Apr 2014, 11:11
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Danny at 5409 and Chugalug at 5410 ... your posts there inspired me to go and have a look at the old ATC Course photos in our secret “ATC Old & Bold" photo album, and kick some memory cells into life.

Up to around 1962, all the students in those photos seemed to have a flying badge of one sort on another, together with at least one row of ribbons from the 'recent bit of trouble'. The first 'lurking plt off' I spotted was in around '61 (subsequently gp capt, see below). And it remained that way for the next couple of years ... the very occasional plt off or a/plt off surrounded by wartime aircrew. Even in 65, when I went through CATCS, the course was roughly 1/3 each of wartime aircrew, post-war aircrew and a/plt offs. I assume this 'demographic bulge' applied in other Branches as well.

What it meant for us newbies was, of course, that all the senior posts in the Branch had already been filled. And our careers (beyond automatic promotion to flt lt) would remain on hold until “age wearied them” and the cork finally popped out of the bottle to make room for our generation. I remember talking to one of our handful of gp capts in the bar at Uxbridge in about 1974. He was waxing nostalgic at the time, and told me that he had been lying in his bath, as a recently promoted wg cdr, when he realised that in a couple of years time he would almost certainly be a gp capt … all the current incumbents were due to retire, as were most of the extant wg cdrs! And so it was to be!

As Danny noted in his post, the ‘clear out’ (or the bursting to that age bubble, as I prefer to think of it) created a whole new world for us kids! My generation were now making sqn ldr after 4-5 years as flt lts (to my personal delight) and the best of the early promotees soared though the ranks largely unhindered (to create another bulge!!). In such a small Branch, it was of course quite easy to keep track of things - my marked-up copy of the Air Force List acquired some notoriety But with roughly 150-170 sqn ldrs, 35-40 wg cdrs and 5 gp capts it was fairly easy to see who would (and wouldn’t) move up the ladder!

Were we a better generation? No, just different. My contemporaries and I at least had the benefit of working with/under the wartime generation - different attitudes in some areas, but invariably professional and with high standards that they instilled into we youngsters. They had been through the war, in the air, and knew what it was all about. My first mentor on OJT was a MPlt … a former a/sqn ldr on Typhoons who at War’s end was deemed unsuitable for holding a peacetime commission and to stay in the RAF was required to revert to Sgt Pilot! You can imagine he was not immensely tolerant of errors by baby plt offs straight out of the box! There were many others like Black Jack - they taught us our trade from a multi-faceted view on life, peace and war, air and ground. Not just ATCOs, of course - the people we controlled were frequently wartime too, and they helped our development with some ‘interesting’ conversations in the bar over a beer or two.

I’ve always believed they made us better.

Last edited by MPN11; 4th Apr 2014 at 15:16. Reason: Typong errars
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Old 4th Apr 2014, 15:03
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Your post 5409 reminds me of the general who, after WW1, said " thank God that's over - now we can get back to proper soldiering".
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Old 4th Apr 2014, 23:06
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I'm very grateful for all the kind things you've said about the age-block of "old hairies", whom you found hogging all the mid-ranks of the RAF when you arrived on the scene. And, of course, your experience bears out the general analysis of RAF manning which I submitted a few days ago.

A point of detail: maybe I'm of a naturally suspicious nature, but (as you wrote): "My first mentor on OJT * was a MPlt … a former a/sqn ldr on Typhoons who at War’s end was deemed unsuitable for holding a peacetime commission and to stay in the RAF was required to revert to Sgt Pilot".

A slight odour of fish hangs in the air. Did you see any evidence to support his story (a log book would do very well, or perhaps there were people who knew his history ?) It seems very strange to me - unless he'd been cashiered, that is ! (there have been cases in the past of officers who've had to leave their Service "under a cloud", but then allowed to enlist in the ranks.

Of course the fact of dropping from M/Plt # to Sergeant would not occasion any remark - I myself finished in '46 as a War Substantive Flt/Lt, very briefly A/S/Ldr. They gave me a VR commission as a F/O in '47 or '48, and in '49 offered me a SSC (8+4) in that rank. It was "par for the course" in those days.

Sadly, there are "Baron Munchausens" in our ranks. About 18 months ago, surfing the Threads, I came across a veteran of 95 (not on this, I hasten to add). At first I congratulated him on his great age ("hope for us yet", I said). Then I looked at his CV and did the sums. It seemed that he'd been flying Hawk Is at age 57. I gently suggested that there might have been some mistake somewhere. He didn't reply and was never seen again (not on that Thread, at least !)

* BTW, What is an OJT ? Cheers, Danny.

EDIT: # I seem to have got a bit mixed up here myself. Of course, he would have progressed from Sergeant to Master Pilot when he came back in after the war. If he had been "shooting a line" (as I suspect), then he would probably have been demobbed in '46 as a Warrant Officer.

ricardian has answered my query (*) above. But I'm still a bit curious about the nature of the "on the job training" in which you were mentored by the M/Plt. What job ? Could it have been ATC ? Or was it earlier, before you came into the Branch ? (By a curious coincidence, I have earlier related how, at the end of the five months I spent kicking my heels waiting for a jet conversion [after coming back in and doing a month's refresher], I spent a month in Binbrook ATC as a supernumerary. I suppose you could regard that as a kind of "on the job training".....D.

Last edited by Danny42C; 5th Apr 2014 at 01:07. Reason: Explanatory Text.
Old 4th Apr 2014, 23:11
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In the same vein: "This ATC would be a wonderful job - if only we could get rid of these damned aeroplanes !"

Old 4th Apr 2014, 23:51
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Danny - in my day OJT was "On the Job Training"
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