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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 15th Apr 2014, 21:49
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I was trying to remember the 'Air Experience flight' I had while I was there and think it was in a Prentice. The pilot asked me to have a try so I flew it like a Kirby Cadet, straight and level. Easy-Peasy!
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Old 15th Apr 2014, 22:43
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I have a new sim card in my phone which is thus limited to making UK only calls now. The first number I tried to call failed repeatedly. I called up my service provider to report this seeming failure to be told, "Ah, that's the code for the IOM, and isn't included in your plan". It's obviously another of those far off places of which we now know little. True enough for me as I've never been there, but I've overflown it often enough, to another part of the UK, Northern Ireland.

WW2 training had a default for preferring holiday destinations it seems. Logical of course, abundant accommodation available given the lack of holidays being taken. Some of it though was occupied by enemy aliens enjoying an enforced holiday courtesy of HMG. Were any of them there when you were, ValMORNA?

Hummingfrog, your father's comments remind us all of that dramatic broadcast by Chamberlain, and the implications it had for every man, woman, and child. War with such a seemingly invincible foe must have been a very sobering prospect to contemplate indeed. I believe that the PM went on to say what a bitter blow it was for him that his long struggle for peace had failed, to which some were prone to respond that it wasn't exactly going to be a bundle of fun for them either!

I look forward to your father's story. Well done for encouraging him to tell it. Thank you, in anticipation, to you both!
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Old 15th Apr 2014, 23:43
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Hummingfrog - you've whetted our appetites!
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Old 16th Apr 2014, 00:12
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Once again I have a contemporary by my side (when I'd almost given up hope !). Welcome to our shrinking (but still happy) band, Hummingfrog Senior, Sir !

Tip for Junior: get the old feller rambling and record it - you can always edit it at your leisure, and rambling is what we old-timers best enjoy doing in any case - I'm looking forward to this.

Jurby does not seem to hold joyful memories for most of the correpondents who did time there during the war, but some of my happiest days as a lad were spent on our annual holidays in Ramsey in the mid-thirties. Sunshine every day, if memory serves....D.


Just as everybody is supposed to remember exactly where they were when John Kennedy was assassinated, so everyone who heard Chamberlain's measured, lugubrious tones that Sunday morning will never forget it.

It was made worse by the fact that the terrible casualty lists of 14/18 were so fresh in the memory of every adult (the beginning of the First Gulf War is further away from us now than the Somme was to them then)....D.

Cheers, both. Danny.
Old 16th Apr 2014, 01:05
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Splendid, HF, thank you so much.

May I put in a word in defence of Mona's Isle, home of tailless cats and four-horned sheep?

It is to me (not having served there) a lovely place; in peacetime, my long-departed family members visiting for holidays always seemed to recall enjoying good weather ..... because they were guided by a former naval person (one who had volunteered for the RN as a boy sailor in WWI), who had the sailor's sense of what we came to call the Met, and on any given day could direct the company to that side of the Island which was due to enjoy the better climate. (He was a remarkable gentleman, having as a humble AB seen fit to put the 'Former Naval Person' straight face-to-face in unequivocal language - and survived! - but that's another story, and I fear way too far off-topic).

I have had the great pleasure of meeting some of the intrepid aviators who continue to fly, for fun, from one of the wartime Manx airfields - and here, by their courtesy, is a link illustrating some of the WWII history -
Andreas Gliding Club
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Old 16th Apr 2014, 18:45
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Mona's Isle.


"Quocunque jeceris stabit" ! (And whatever you chuck on it, it seems to stand up just as well, too). Thanks for the link - I never knew there was so much going on there during the war, apart from the fact that there was a training establishment of some sort at Jurby, and also an internment camp on the Island for (mostly harmless) "enemy aliens", but then I was away for most of the time. I can offer comment on your story and the Andreas Gliding Club history (they must have got some grand "orographic" lift off N.Barrule with the wind in the north).

Your long departed family members showed good taste in their choice of resort. Pre-war, the I.O.M. was a lovely place (provided you kept clear of Douglas - and if you liked Blackpool, you might like that, too) * Former Naval Persons seemed to drift naturally to the Island: ours was an old P.O. Signaller called Tom Onley, and he held a ten-year old boy spellbound with nautical tales which I now suspect were akin to those told by "Uncle Albert" in a later generation. For years after I kept an old code book which he had given me, and could describe to you, at the drop of a hat, the details of the pennant of a Rear-Admiral in the 1912 Argentinian Navy (should you wish to know).

Never did fresh-caught mackerel and blackcurrent tarts with cream taste so good - or the roar of the dawn TT practices (as they pulled away from the Ramsey hairpin up the mountain road) sound so exciting to a bike-mad lad. And the miles that the old chap and I (and dog "Barney") rambled through the glens (Glen Auldyn was unspoilt then), and over the hills. As some were 1800-footers, they probably claimed victims in the War. Pity about the St.Andreas church, though - they should've put the tower back, I think.

Don't know much about aerial activity. A couple of RAF "Saro" flying boats alighted in Ramsey Bay one year in the late '30s (the local boatmen made a fortune from folk wanting to go and have a look). Defence of Liverpool was no great shakes - I remember seeing a (PR ?) Me 110 sauntering unhindered N. up the Mersey one afternoon in '42 when I was on Embarkation Leave.

Eheu fugaces......Danny

Note * : 'Ware incoming !
Old 17th Apr 2014, 21:44
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My Father's tale starts

4 September 1939

My 18th birthday. My dreams of studying medicine were shattered for I knew that, without any doubt, I would be called up to serve my country. On that day, unknown to me, my journey to No 1 BFTS at Terrell, near Dallas Texas, had started.

As the next few months passed the government machine, slow to start, soon moved up a gear and the process of conscription began. Selections were made - Army, Navy or Air Force. I had already made up my mind that, given the choice, the Royal Air Force (RAF) would be my life and home for at least the duration of the war.

During the period of waiting for my call up papers I joined the local Defence Volunteers (The Home Guard) and spent time, mostly nights, guarding a water tower at Cookridge near Leeds and not far from my home!

After visiting Padgate, near Warrington in Cheshire and being subjected to all the various tests and medicals I was eventually selected for service in the Royal Air Force. After even further tests I was subsequently selected for Air Crew (pilot) training and, in l941, I donned my uniform for the first time.

My first days in the RAF were in London where more checks and tests were carried out before posting to ITW ( Initial Training Wing) at St. John’s College, Cambridgeshire, where we were housed in the college in former students’ quarters. Here we went to ground school and spent some three months in the wonderful old College buildings and grounds. The College history goes back to 1512 with its famous Bridge of Sighs over the river Cam. Even three months studying in what was of course Cambridge University leaves its mark and I envy those who have been fortunate to have been, and still are being, educated at Cambridge University.

June 1942

Here starts the real thing - actually flying an aeroplane! This took place at No. 28 EFTS (Elementary Flying Training School) Wolverhampton. During only 12 hours in total in a Tiger Moth I managed to fly my very first solo - what a thrill !

July/August 1942

My fellow cadets and I were now housed in tents in Heaton Park, Manchester, a large Municipal park of grass, woodland, a lake and a reservoir and awaiting our next move. I can’t remember the exact date but we were marshalled to a local railway station and onto a train - totally blacked out - which was waiting for us. During the night we were on our way ‘somewhere’. Our destination unknown to us at that time was Gourock in Scotland where, on arrival to a grey misty early morning, we were taken by tender to a Cuba Mail Line ship lying off shore. At that time we still had no idea which part of the world we were bound for. RAF cadets were trained in other parts of the world, Rhodesia for example, South Africa and Canada. As the day wore on and after much activity our liner, together with three others including the liner Washington, were formed into a convoy with an escort of a large number of naval ships. I still do not know to this day why we had such a massive escort - which, if my memory is correct, consisted of a battleship, 2 cruisers and many destroyers. It was some considerable time before we were made aware of our ‘probable’ country of destination.

We were quickly organised into an ‘onboard’ workforce and I was designated with others to work in one of the ship’s galleys where, for the duration of the voyage, I gutted chickens, the contents of which were swept into a large bin between me and the chicken!

I cannot be absolutely precise as to our exact position in the convoy but, looking out of the galley porthole, we would see the liner Washington and some of the escorting destroyers some distance away on our starboard side.

One day, I cannot remember how many days out of Gourock we were, a crew member rushed past the entrance to the galley shouting ‘the Washington’s been torpedoed’! Suddenly we heard the whooping of the destroyers and we could see clearly the stern of the Washington was covered in smoke. It seemed all hell broke loose and then very quickly we realised the rest of the convoy was moving away and the Washington was sailing on with several destroyers staying with her. My research into this thus far advised it was towed to an East Coast port.

In recent times I have carried out further research regarding the ship I sailed in and it seems almost certain that the Cuba Mail Line liner was the SS Oriente later renamed, when in the hands of the US government, to the US Thomas H. Barry. Further research indicates that the liner which caught fire was possibly the Liner Wakefield, a sister ship to the Washington, built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in the l930’s - known also as the Manhattan. Records show the Wakefield sailed from the Clyde on 27 August l942 and caught fire on the evening of 3 September 1942. This timescale matches the time that I believe I was crossing the Atlantic. There is no record as far as I can find that the Washington caught fire so I must assume after all these years that when our crew member ran past the galley shouting the Washington has been torpedoed that it was in fact the Wakefield. Who knows? But for all these years I have believed it was the Washington. Does it matter? Not really, but I would clearly love to know.

Back to the convoy. The convoy ploughed on, more chickens were gutted and then to our port side we were passing the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline could be seen. We berthed at a quay on the New York waterfront and disembarked only to take our seats in the carriage of a train waiting for us. After starting our journey, final destination still unknown, we entered Grand Central Station - a most impressive sight. Here the train stopped and I bought my first Hershey Bar. This has become a family tradition that anyone visiting New York must always bring back a Hershey Bar bought on Grand Central Station!

More to follow

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Old 18th Apr 2014, 11:48
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It seems that USS Wakefield, formerly SS Manhattan (indeed sister to SS Washington) in her civilian life, was a handsome ship and enjoyed quite an eventful wartime career -

(One is grateful for the fine efforts of the Wikipedia folks ..... but I fear that someone may have been shooting a line with that rainstorm story!).

(Edit: ... or maybe not, now that I recall seeing the sorry, sorry sight of the Empress of Canada on her side in Gladstone Dock .... capsized by the best efforts of the assembled fire brigades to save her.
.... and in that link I see mention of one of Danny's homecoming adventures!).

Last edited by dogle; 18th Apr 2014 at 12:59.
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Old 18th Apr 2014, 14:38
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Welcome aboard, Hummingfrog Senior, and Well Met, Sir !

Your excellent First Post on this (the best of all Threads on Prune, IMHO) has raised so many questions, and started so many hares running that I hardly know which one to begin with.(I'm sure the assembled company will bear with me as the Shawbury Senior Common Room goes in the "Pending" tray for a while).

You may be able to help me with mysteries for which I never hoped to hear an explanation. You perhaps remember that Cliff Nemo (RIP), our founder, was quite adamant that at his BFTS (Darr Field, Oklahoma) the student body was composed 20° of Air Corps "Kay-Dets" (and he had an American "oppo" there to prove it). The idea of, course, was to see how the product of the British flying training syllabus (two-part, 140 hours - am I right ?) stood up against Kay-Dets from their own US Army Flight Schools (some of which had been taken over for RAF students under the "Arnold Scheme" - but never, AFAIK, "mixed"). SO WHAT WAS THE FINDING ?

Nobody seems to know. And it is inportant, because if experience showed that there was no discernable difference (and exactly that was what our OTUs found), then the American system (3-part, 200 hours) must be grossly wasteful and inefficient. And this was quite apart from the anomaly whereby the "Arnold Scheme" washed-out 40% of their RAF intake, whereas the comparable BFTS figure was almost nil - and both from a broadly similar "feedstock" ! (I never found what the Air Corps washout rate was with their own people).

Did you have US Army Air Corps students with you at Terrell Field, Texas ? What did they think about the RAF syllabus ? When they graduated, did they receive their silver wings and a 2/Lieut's Commission in the same way as if they'd gone through the US system ?

That's enough to going on with. Looking forward to your next....D.


It would seem that we came into Liverpool from Bombay in the middle of a whole host of small-pox carriers (having offloaded our one case in Gibraltar). These would almost all have been servicemen who had been vaccinated in infancy (as everyone had been in our day), re-vaccinated on entry into the Services, and certainly re-vaccinated at least once more when going out East, and then a final time before embarking for UK.

So how on Earth ? Something funny was going on.....D.

Cheers, both. Danny.
Old 18th Apr 2014, 18:20
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Hi Danny

I will put your questions to Dad and see if he has any answers. There is a web site for No 1 BFTS hosted by a school in Terrell. I will put up the link when I get home.

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Old 18th Apr 2014, 20:37
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Great start Hummingfrog

I'm looking forward to reading more, although I'm sure the community will cope with Danny42C continuing in parallel (you're not sloping off that easily, Sir!)
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Old 18th Apr 2014, 21:56
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This thread turns up surprises left right and centre. Hummingfrog, welcome, and hopefully answers for Danny to some of his conundrums. I, like many, look forward to your continued input.

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Old 18th Apr 2014, 22:25
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This is the link to the Terrrell BFTS website.

Home - No. 1 British Flying Training School Museum - Fly-In

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Old 19th Apr 2014, 01:15
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No.1 BFTS, Terrell, Dallas, Texas.


Thanks for the link ! It is nice to hear that many of the small Southern towns that hosted BFTSs in the war years have actively kept alive the memory, (and tended the graves of) their former British guests - and good luck to Terrell in their rebuilding of an AT6A (which we know as the "Harvard": it differed in that it was armed, with a top right fuselage .300 Browning firing through the prop. The cocking handle poked out from the corner of the panel - don't know how many rounds they loaded).

The instructor (in the back) had no control of this gun, which in hindsight might not have been a really good idea.

I'm eagerly awaiting your Dad's recollections of any putative "Kay-det" comparisons which might have been made with his (LAC) RAF mates there.

BTW, you have a PM. Goodnight, Danny.
Old 19th Apr 2014, 10:05
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Re your comments on servicemen infected with smallpox. I was intrigued and had a look at The Times digital archive for February and March 1946. There were mentions of smallpox infected servicemen on six incoming liners during that two-months. So not as uncommon as one would think. I was always of the impression that once vaccinated the vaccination lasted for life, but obviously not so.

Here's what was said about the arrival from India of the Duchess of Richmond and Georgic at Liverpool on 2nd March 1946.

"the ship then lowered her Jack" in paragraph two of the cutting is I assume reference to the lowering of the "Yellow Jack" flag that a ship traditionally hoisted on entering harbour to indicate it had a contagious or infectious disease aboard.

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Old 19th Apr 2014, 10:06
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Thank God the pages are back to normal size.
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Old 19th Apr 2014, 10:44
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Like anything on the interweb I'm not sure of it's credibility, but there is a good read on the BFTS scheme here;


In part,

In December 1941, the Air Member for training introduced a new plan, which aimed at raising the standards of pilots by providing more flight hours in their pre-OTU stages of training. The training syllabus for RAF EFTS and SFTS schools was extended and the flying hours were raised to 200. To conform to the new syllabus the EFTS course length was raised from 20 to 28 weeks, in January 1942, and the flying hours increased from 150 to 200 hrs. The primary stage now lasted 14 weeks and gave 91 hrs on primary trainers and the basic advanced stage 14 weeks with 109 hrs flying time. It was not possible to increase the ratio of advanced flying to primary flying because of the shortage of advanced trainer aircraft. It also had been hoped to expand the capacity of each school from 200 to 240 pupils, so as to maintain the previous rate of output, but this was impracticable at that time, and the capacities remained unchanged with intakes of pupils (50} every 7 weeks. Output was accordingly reduced to about 1600 per year.
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Old 19th Apr 2014, 13:44
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I came across this book on the Arnold Scheme, whilst researching Arthur Leighton-Porter (Husband of "Jane".)

Amazon Amazon

I find the book itself (all of it!) is available to read online from Googlebooks...


Last edited by Molemot; 19th Apr 2014 at 14:20. Reason: Correction on name...typo! Also add book location.
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Old 19th Apr 2014, 14:14
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Molemot, I think you'll find it's Leighton-Porter. (Her son was an RAF pilot)
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Old 19th Apr 2014, 15:20
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Dad's story continues

So we journeyed north and eventually entered Canada. We were told our destination was to be Moncton, New Brunswick, an RAF Air Crew Receiving Centre. We enjoyed our stay in Moncton where the citizens were most hospitable towards us.

One day a group of us were informed that we were to be trained in the USA - our destination was to be Terrell in Texas - and so to our day of departure. The long train journey south took us four or five days as I recall. We eventually arrived at Terrell railway station and onwards to the airfield, the camp and our quarters. This was 1BFTS (No. 1 British Flying Training School) Terrell - our final resting place after the long and interesting journey from RAF Heaton Park in Manchester, England.

Mid-September 1942

The first few weeks were a settling-in phase - getting to know our way round the camp, the inevitable parades, ground school and then on 28 September 1942 the ‘real thing’: my introduction to the Stearman PT18. My instructor, K.W. Withey, a very likeable chap, who with firmness but with good humour, led me on 2 October l942 after only 4 hours dual instruction to my first solo and the beginning of ‘Hey I like flying!’

From then on the exercises became more demanding, more adventurous flying, link training, more ground school and some fellow cadets eliminated. On 7 October l942,with more confidence and a great deal of trepidation, I carried out my first solo spinning exercise. I have to admit this demands all your courage. There you are, on your own, several thousand feet up in the air. You deliberately stall the aeroplane and put it into a spin - almost vertical - the aircraft spinning with the ground rushing closer towards you by the second until you carry out the necessary control movements to bring the plane out of the spin - and live another day!!

On 20 November 1942 I flew my last circuit on the PT18 - I think we all felt ‘aces’ by this time!

After a spell of leave we returned to Terrell. My first introduction to the Harvard AT6 was through my designated instructor W.P. Wakefield, a relatively small, stocky built man with a somewhat dour but forceful character which justified his nickname of ‘Little Caesar’, but who more than anyone taught me to really fly. His no-nonsense approach to accuracy is still remembered to this day. In you flew at more than 1,000 ft in the circuit you would suddenly be catapulted forward as he sharply moved the control column forward! Likewise below 1,000 ft in the circuit he sharply moved the control column back! These movements carried out without warning concentrated the mind admirably!

It soon became clear the Harvard was a totally different animal from the Stearman. Immediately noticeable was the mono wing and enclosed cockpit rather than the ‘string bag’ view of the open cockpit with the wings of a biplane. It was a big step up in every sense of the word. Many of the exercises were of course similar to those carried out on the Stearman but it seemed that everything happened much more quickly and more precisely on the Harvard.

Gradually, as experience was gained and confidence grew I found it a great aeroplane to fly. Exercises were carried out both dual and solo and were in a sense repetitious - thus we learned. As in the Stearman, so in the Harvard, I think the most testing exercise was to deliberately put the aircraft into a spin. Having overcome my fear of spinning the Stearman I was, to say the least, more than a little fearful when it came to the moment of the same exercise in the Harvard. As I mentioned before I think you have to muster all your courage to carry out this exercise. However, although it appeared everything happened much faster I survived!

I can sympathise with Dad as although most of my flying has been in helicopters I spent from 1998 until 2013 as a RAF Reserve AEF pilot giving air experience to ATC cadets. Every 6 months we had to spin and that moment of stick back and full rudder still took a bit of adrenalin to do!!

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