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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 23rd Apr 2014, 11:00
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I add my thanks to our enhanced group of worthy contributors

Keep it rocking, gentlemen ... and NO, Danny42C, you are not excused duties
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Old 23rd Apr 2014, 20:48
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The Seas Divide Us, The Air Unites !

Ian BB,

No question of culpa, at all, Sir (and in any case "ego absolvo te" !) The beauty of this our Thread is that all points of view and opinions are of equal value, corrections and contrary views are always welcome, save always that argument "ad hominen" and sharp words are totally unacceptable (I'm sure that I speak for our Moderators here). So you weigh in as often and as hard as you like !

As to the matters before the Court:

First, your man from 42F (which would place him about nine months after me) I quote:

"....It was mostly nonsense and new to us. In fact, several in my class were eliminated because they had too many demerits for not obeying rules that didn't make sense to them..".

In my day, your demerits were expunged with punishment drill ("Walking the Ramp"). You would have to do something really serious to warrant washout and return to Canada on that account. IIRC, all washouts on 42C were flying-related (mostly for not coming up to solo standard in 8-9 hours). It is heartening to learn that some got a second chance in Canada - we were told at the time that this would never happen (obviously so that we wouldn't "opt" for the softer option).

"....The United States, still in a position to pick and choose..."

That was the key to it, as I said before.

Your Jim Cousins, U.S. civilian instructor, became a flight commander and later squadron commander at 5BFTS, retired 1977 as an Eastern Air Lines captain said:

"As a matter of fact, the British were miles ahead of us in training techniques and we (American civilian instructors) were happy to train the RAF cadets strictly under the British system....."

Long ago, regle (RIP) said on this Thread that his training in the Arnold Scheme was "the finest flying training in the World" (IIRC). The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence !

"....The concept of the BFTS program targeted one primary goal: to turn out pilots by concentrated training within the proper allocated time. The Arnold Scheme didn't zero in on the real needs of the British...."

In a war, that has to be your "primary goal !"

"....To begin with, the Army Air Corps did all of those ridiculous things like hazing underclassmen and making them eat at the mess while sitting at attention. Stuff not connected in any way with flying.... It's no wonder that the washout rate in the Arnold Plan was so much greater than that of the BFTS. Some of the boys who washed out at Carlstrom got a second chance and were reassigned to Riddle. Several of them completed our course with no problem and went on to become great pilots".

It wasn't quite as bad as that at Carlstrom for 42C. Admittedly we had to "sit at attention" - but only for a few moments before the command "Parade, Rest" - then we could eat and talk normally. The "hazing" was only a problem there when the last US Course (41F ?) was followed by the first British one (42A). (41F tried it on 42A; there was a riot (I have tried, for the long time, to get the full story - for naturally it would have been exaggerated by the time it filtered down to us on 42C - but the facts seem to have been suppressed (for the sake of Anglo/American good relations ?) and "hazing" was suspended TFN. As I don't think any of the Arnold schools had any mixed classes, so "hazing" can only have occurred on the first "changeover" at each school.

So, all in all, Ian BB, we're not too far apart. Let's hear more from you, please.

Cheers, Danny.
Old 23rd Apr 2014, 20:55
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Re your #5402, and the 'Hit and Run' raids, a book on the subject contains a footnote saying that particular raid was on Robertsbridge, which I queried with the author. As the aircraft came from that direction the report, assuming he quoted from one, was incorrect. My personal view is that the 'target of opportunity' was the jam factory which has long since gone to be replaced by, I think, the area around the Mount Street car park area.

I doubt anyone I knew is still left in Battle but thanks for the offer. My brother lives in St Len's and I keep in touch with local news via the online Observer.
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Old 23rd Apr 2014, 21:41
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More than 5500 posts and we are back, training in the US circa 1942. But what a fantastic adventure we have been on since post number 1. And luckily, contributors still enthuse us with their stories. I'm sure after holding the fort for so long, Danny must feel he has been given a bit of a holiday with the arrival of the "new chaps", don't go sloppy on us Danny, we still expect continuation of your career. Its great to see some more, and possibly conflicting, fleshing out of life under training in the USA in 42. What a truly different world it all must have been, I can only equate it to my joining the RAF in 1969, when I left a large family in a Staffordshire farming village, to become an apprentice at RAF Halton. It was like arriving on a totally different planet. For some this is the classic PPRUNE Military thread, for most of us it's just compulsive reading. I just wanted to pay due respect to the men who are our link to our history, and still have a story to tell. Keep it going chaps, we are all following, in close formation.

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Old 23rd Apr 2014, 21:49
  #5525 (permalink)  
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Round and Round you Go.


Your #5505 reminds me that I used to give "Air Experience" flights to our troops from time to time on Sundays at Thornaby (always picking a sunny afternoon for the Station TM !), and sometimes in the Harvard.

It was strange to find that, even as late as the early'50s, that apart from the tiny minority who had wartime aircrew experience, and some who'd a bit of glider or light airctaft time, no more was generally known about the art of piloting than fifty years before. Many thought of it as a sort of "high wire" balancing act, in which only the consummate skill of the operator stood between safety and and an uncontrollable plunge to earth.

So when I offered the back-seat passenger the chance to "have a go", the response was often naked terror. Not for all the tea in China would they touch the stick, and begged me not to let go. I'd lift my hands in the air to show that the aircraft could happily look after itself - they were horrified. "Take it", I'd say, "there's no trouble that you can get into that I can't get out of in ten seconds" (I was sticking my neck out a bit there). It was no good.

At the other end of the spectrum, some went at it with gusto, and I had to intervene before they had the wings off the poor old Tiger. It takes all sorts.

On the Spinning front, my experience differs from aircraft to aircraft. At Primary School they told us that you had to demonstrate ability to recover from a spin before you were allowed to go solo (in case you got into an accidental one). This made sense, I suppose, but the result was that you were introduced to the spin at the 5 - 6 hour point (when it's only just starting to come together, anyway), and most people found it a nerve-racking experience.

Having said that, I must say the Stearman was kind to us. It would stall cleanly, after all the warning signs came straight out of the book, spin nice and slowly to help us count the turns, and always come out to order. You reall couldn't ask for more. I don't remember anyone trying to spin a BT-13, but as the thing was so cross-grained to begin with, that it was probably a mattter of "let sleeping dogs lie !"

The AT6A ("Harvard") was a different kettle of fish altogether. Stall that and you were quite likely to get your spin whether you liked it or not. The (usually left) wing would drop savagely and you had to get opposite boot in smartish to restore equilibrium. Traits like this were of course what it made the ideal trainer for the first-line singles of the day.

We came back to the UK, and IIRC nobody bothered about spins at all. The Master Is we started on would probably spin all right, but I don't think it was even on the syllabus. We had to treat the aged Hurricanes which they let us try with kid gloves; slow S&L only was the order of the day. When we got to the Spitfire it simply never entered anyone's head to do spins, although I suppose the aircraft would manage nicely (like it did everything else).

Generally, once you got past "Wings" stage, practice spins were things of the past. It was rather like the Driving Tests in bygone years, when you stuck your arm out of the window and waggled it about in accordance with with the Highway Code, passed your test and never bothered about doing it again (even before the "winkers" came in).

As for the Vengeance: that didn't "stall" in any meaningful sense at all. As you got slower it started to "mush", changing in a smooth progression from flying machine to brick. I never heard of one spinning and have no idea how to set about it. Indeed, we were somewhat disconcerted at first by the advice (in a sketchy "Pilots' Notes" from Vultee), in the event of your wheels sticking up, to "reduce speed as far as possible and yaw the aircraft violently from side to side" (this sounded like a good recipe for a spin - until we found that we didn't need to worry).

When I came back in '49, we had the Harvard and spins as before, and in early '50 tried our luck with the Meteor T7. All I can say about that is that it was an alarming experience best forgotten, and when I came back in '54, intentional spins had been forbidden (and a good thing, too).

Cheers, Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 23rd Apr 2014 at 21:53. Reason: Typo.
Old 24th Apr 2014, 15:32
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with the Meteor T7. All I can say about that is that it was an alarming experience
Ours were only permitted to spin when dual. Never solo, student or staff.

The theory was that the weight of two pilots assisted the recovery. One of our Flt Sgt QFIs, that's going back a bit, emphasised the point by pointing at one of our T7s on the line and declaring that there wasn't a problem spinning it when it was an F4. It must have been something to do with the long canopy and still retaining the same fin and rudder assembly.

Our Vampies wer getting a bit tired in 1961 and some of them were a bit warped which was not surprising considering that the wings had to be pushed around by two thin booms. There would be various Red Line Entrys in the book.

'No solo spins.'
'No Solo aerobatics.'
'No spinning.'

Fortunately at the end of 1961 they found a Refurbished Vampire mine so most of our aircraft were replaced. Most of them went to Swinderby when our FTS moved except a couple whose final act was as the backdrop to my Passing Out parade from which they were towed to the dump and scrapped.

Dogs and squaddies love flying. When you have a dog handler come aboard he can't hold the dog back. The best place for a dog is between the pilots so he can see everything that's going on. The most ferocious war dog is like butter when he is there. Initial air experience for sqaddies was a case of throwing it about as much as possible and the next crowd, having seen what had been going on would be shouting for even more.

This attitude came to an end, tragically, at Catterick a few years ago.

Last edited by Fareastdriver; 24th Apr 2014 at 20:18.
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Old 24th Apr 2014, 16:34
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Absolution at last!

Danny, I thank you for your gracious response, and absolution is always a bonus! You kindly invite me say more - I hesitate to do so on the grounds that anything I (think) I know would always be secondhand. After all I wasn't born until 1947 so I just read the relevant books. My father (RAF pilot), stepfather (Fleet Air Arm Observer), and godfather (RAF Pathfinder Nav.) are alas, all now gone to the big crewroom in the sky, although I still enjoy reading their logbooks and looking at their 1940s charts. Perhaps I could persuade my mum who, although in poor health, is still with us, to tell me more about her war (she was one of the 'Jenny' WRNS) serving in the Fleet Air Arm. Danny you are that rara avis, an RAF Dive Bomber pilot with your VV, but I submit that there can't be too many ladies around who remember, when just a teenager, going on Dive Bomber Exercises in the CO's Barracuda. (The targets were moored in Nigg Bay, Cromarty Firth I think).

I reread the interviews with the Carlstrom cadets in Will Largents book last night, 42 E,F,G,H courses all represented. I am sorry to report that West Point Hazing was still a problem, a Lt. Kloppenstein being mentioned more than once, perhaps you recall him? I think you were lucky, in fact like anyone who has followed your story I know you were. (Ah, sure the luck of the Irish - as yer know yerself).
But enough, already, I have tested your patience long enough on this subject, I will leave it with one last excerpt from the book:

"Not a single letter (presumably read by the censors) from former RAF Arnold Plan cadets had a word of approval for the hazing system". "It eliminated more potential British and American pilots accidentally than the German Air Force did on purpose," one cadet said. "There was no reason for it at all."

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Old 24th Apr 2014, 16:43
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Life on (and above) the Prairie

Many thanks Danny 42C, Chugalug & others for your kind comments and here is the next instalment. So as not to stray O/T I have missed out events between the transatlantic voyage and arrival at EFTS, when nothing much happened anyway apart from the long rail trip west.

Darkness fell as we approached Moose Jaw, junction for the branch line to our final destination at 34 EFTS Assiniboia (Saskatchewan) and near the end of our three day journey from Moncton. Here the cars behind us were drawn away, after which I noticed a large yellow orb shining dimly through the back vestibule. Getting up to investigate, I found myself staring at the headlight of an elderly shunting engine; no time like the present I said to myself, nipping to the ground through the open door and walking along to the cab. "Come on up" called the cheerful young fireboy, "we're gonna switch you to the next track". I was up in a trice, closely pursued by a couple of mates, and together we passed an enjoyable interlude chaffing with the engine crew as their antiquated tea kettle shuffled back & forth with our carriage in tow. Bidding them farewell with regret, we returned to our mobile cell and reconciled ourselves to a final sixty miles of discomfort - but at least there were beds at the end of it, praise be.

Our wheeled slum rattled and swayed through what appeared to be a complete void, finally halting in the middle of nowhere about ninety minutes later; a short, low platform fronting a small wooden depot building, behind which was a dirt area containing a couple of buses. Crickets chirped in the warm darkness, making a duet with the locomotive's gently swinging bell as we clambered out and got 'fell in' to the orders of a harsh, unseen voice - a voice we were to come to know only too well in the ensuing weeks.

The voice began to harangue us, its owner becoming visible as he moved into the light. A youngish, good looking Sergeant but no flying brevet; a bad sign, for we had all learned long ago that aircrew trainees were detested by some of the regular ground trade NCO's. The cause was, without doubt, jealousy of aircrew's quick promotion and relatively high pay; that many seldom lived long enough to make much use of these advantages, was apparently not considered. The RAF's peculiar trade structure, whereby disciplinary NCO's belonging to the least qualified and hence worst paid trade group were placed in authority over aircrew trainees, was a recipe for trouble that served only to compound animosity on both sides. At the time I felt little respect for a system espousing such a topsy-turvy state of affairs, and although it worked after a fashion I remain to be convinced that it was the best way of arranging things

Our welcome over, we clambered gratefully into the buses as the train chugged off towards the little town twenty miles distant from which our airfield took its name. Ten minutes later we passed through the gates of No: 34 Elementary Flying Training School, our home for the next two months, and after a meal of sorts sank (or climbed, according to whether one got the upper or lower berth of the two-tier bunks) into a bed that thankfully did not sway, jerk or go clickety-clack.

The first daylight view of what was to be our home for the months of September/October 1943 was hardly morale-boosting; endless, gently-rolling plains of stubble stretching to the horizon (and endlessly beyond, as we later discovered). The (very) occasional and distant homestead aside, there was no sign of other habitation and we were informed with joyful malice that Assiniboia, population 1000 or thereabouts, was the original one-moose town (sans moose) and was anyway over 20 miles distant, its only regular public transport the daily train which had conveyed us to this desolate spot. Not that this made very much difference, as we were also told (with even more glee) that one half-day per week was all that was permitted in the way of free time; to rub it in, the obvious Indian origin of the town's name merely emphasised our outlandish situation.

All domestic and other buildings, without exception, were unusual to our eyes in that absolutely everything bar the foundations was of wooden construction. Barrack blocks were H-shaped, of two stories with fire escapes provided, while the hangars were impressive for their enormous timber-framed flat roofs. The airfield comprised a triangular layout of three runways, each of about 800 yards length (I think); and, as our initial few hours of flight in the UK had been from all-grass aerodromes, this seemed pretty advanced stuff.

The aircraft provided for our tuition was the Fairchild Cornell, a primary trainer. A low-winged monoplane with tandem seating for instructor and student, and powered by a six-cylinder in-line engine of 200hp, it looked highly sophisticated as compared with the antediluvian Tiger Moth of recent memory; an impression enhanced by sliding canopy, flaps and spindly landing gear even if this last was firmly welded down. However, there was an inevitable period in the ground school to be endured first before reaching the interesting part.

Here we found that although the flying instructors were members of the RAF, the ground staff (both instructional and others) were Canadian, a mix of RCAF and civilian. I recall only two, a civilian radio instructor of the old school who could send and receive morse at unbelievable speeds, and a fat RCAF corporal of socialistic outlook who was given to dissertation at length on certain evils (as perceived by him) of the Canadian scene. For some reason the Canadian Pacific Railway was one of these, alleged to function on "hot air and b------t" while the CN, presumably because it was government-owned, was regarded with more favour. Being unable to discern overmuch difference between the two I said so, to be called a "goddam ignorant limey" for my pains. In fact both men were fairly genial characters, although sometimes provoked by the more uncouth and chauvinistic of our fellow students of which regrettably there were quite a few; some, indeed, the same ones who had complained about the journey west. These appalling individuals seldom let slip any chance to denigrate things Canadian, and as little seemed to find their favour the rest of us had to endure the displeasure aroused by their thoughtless conduct. I remember little of the preflight phase; drill and physical training was interlaced with lectures and classroom work, but we must have progressed fairly soon to the flying as the entire course lasted only eight weeks.

But before this long-awaited phase came an introduction to the Link trainer, and for the benefit of non-aviators (others may skip this paragraph) it is necessary to describe the contraption as it played a large part in every pilot's life until superseded in later years by the flight simulator. Named after its American inventor, the Link was the first serious and reasonably successful synthetic flight trainer. Virtually useless as a substitute for the aeroplane in so far as pure flying was concerned, it did provide a cheap and safe method for teaching the rudiments of instrument flight ab initio; later on, it also served as a means of instruction in basic radio navigation procedures. With a full set of flight instruments, "throttle", control column and rudder pedals its plywood "cockpit" pivoted on pneumatic bellows mounted on a turntable and was responsive to control inputs; thus it was able to turn through 360 degrees whilst simultaneously yawing, banking and/or tilting within certain limits. All "flight" took place with the cockpit cover lowered, i.e. on instruments, flight "progress" being recorded (in plan only) by a moving crab trailing a line of red ink on a glass-topped table, beneath which any required map or chart could be inserted. Here sat the instructor, with the important cockpit instruments duplicated, so that he could monitor the student and relate his activity to the movements of the crab and of the trainer itself. These civilian instructors did their best to drum the principles of instrument flight into our unwilling skulls, filled as they were with dreams of the wild blue yonder in which (of course) the sky was always clear; over seventy years later, I hear yet the nasal chant of "needle, ball, airspeed" repeated ad nauseam by our bored and long-suffering mentors in their attempts to instil the basic techniques of frequent instrument scan. Inevitably the Link Trainer was regarded with dislike by most of us, in our youthful ignorance being interested only in "real" flight, but it served a most useful purpose nonetheless.

Came the great day that we moved to the flight line and teamed up with our instructors. Allocated to an ex-policeman of seemingly advanced years (but probably under 30), I found him mostly equable but capable of the outspokenness general to his north country roots. None of us trainees were completely ab initio, having previously done a grand total of 12 hours flying each at various UK grading schools. These establishments existed solely to assess which of us might be worthy of pilot training, unfortunates failing to measure up proceeding thence to schools of navigation or bomb-aiming etc (on completion of which they often emerged with commissions, to the rage of those of us who had stayed the course but ended up as Sergeant-Pilots). Some of us young hopefuls had managed a few minutes of solo flight at grading school; having more than most, I anticipated no problems but soon rediscovered the old adage about pride coming before a fall.

The Cornell was a pleasant aircraft, if somewhat underpowered at our relatively high elevation of approx. 2500ft, a failing aggravated at first by the high temperatures of early autumn. Matters were further complicated by the school's fleet comprising a mix of Canadian and US-built aircraft in a ratio of about 7/3, the American specimens being fairly basically equipped whilst the Canadians were comprehensively fitted out with full IF panels front & rear, electric starters, cylinder head & air inlet temperature gauges, carburettor heat and various other gadgets; not surprisingly, they were heavier and more sluggish than their sisters, which were thus usually preferred for aerobatic work. Those built in Canada had plywood-skinned wings, whereas the Americans were metal-skinned; indeed one machine had one of each (probably cannibalised from a write-off) and needless to say it did not handle too well. Surprisingly, no radio was fitted.

The first two or three hours of instruction were mostly occupied in general handling - stalling, spins, turns level, climbing, or descending (intentionally or otherwise), none of which posed any great difficulty; for most of us for the crunch came in learning to put the beast safely back on the ground, a task which caused me at least a good deal of anguish. In my complacency and ignorance I had assumed that there was one landing technique applicable to all aircraft, however the Tiger Moth had one of its own which was quite incapable of being read across to more sophisticated types. Following initial landing flare, its draggy profile ensured a rapid decrease of airspeed during hold-off; then, at the crucial moment, the control column was moved smoothly rearwards as the Tiger sank gracefully to the deck in (with any luck) the approved 3-point attitude. However, any attempt to do the same with the Cornell resulted in the unfortunate student suddenly finding himself yards above the ground with the proverbial "nothing on the clock"; then, with a blast of invective through the primitive "Gosport Tube" intercom, the instructor would slam the throttle open and take control as round we went again for another try.

Despite Joe Bowler's patience and persistence I appeared to be incapable of learning the correct method, and became increasingly despondent; finally I did grasp it, but used up most of the runway in so doing. Taking over control yet again, my mentor exploded with rage and prophesied an imminent "scrub" unless rapid extraction of digit took place forthwith. Whether or not this was the essential catalyst I shall never know but from that moment on, to our mutual satisfaction and my own most enormous relief, I had it more or less hacked and encountered no further difficulty.

I was fortunate, for failure to surmount this particular hurdle was a major cause of suspension and only a limited number of hours were allocated for pre-solo training; the exigencies of wartime enforced ruthless standards, and time could not be wasted on slow learners. And so the delights of unaccompanied flight, essential for building confidence and self-reliance, became part of daily living and the freedom thus gained a treasured bonus; especially so off-circuit, for without radio and far from the instructor's eagle eye, what one actually did during the allotted time was largely a matter of conscience and common sense. Even the dimmest individual was aware of the necessity to practice at least some of his prescribed exercises, but no normal being could be expected to spend a solid hour gyrating nauseously in endless aerobatics or other such bilious manoeuvres; after all, sundry other activities of varying legality were temptingly available. Overall was a satisfying sense of achievement at having successfully passed this milestone in any pilot's life, and with a better understanding of the Cornell came a fondness for its reliability, docile nature and easy handling.

The most dangerous temptation was low flying, but the risks were very real. Quite aside from normal hazards, the apparently empty prairie contained a surprising number of keenly-sighted people who took grave objection to being beaten up and were adept at taking aircraft numbers. Foremost among these were locomotive engineers and farmers on tractors, and the invariable penalty was removal from training for a student or court-martial for an instructor. Nobody on my course was foolish enough to be discovered in flagrante delicto, and for my part temptation was resisted without difficulty; however, a few of our "betters" were bolder and gave their pupils some exciting moments. Flying on my birthday with a different instructor, we headed south towards the curiously-named hamlet of Willow Bunch in order to beat up the farmhouse of his girl friend's parents. His technique was daring, to say the least; with the throttle almost wide open he aimed our aircraft at an open space in front of the house, brushing the wheels on the ground and bouncing over the roof! Great fun at the time, in retrospect I suppose there was a very real possibility that my 19th. birthday could well have proved my last. A fellow student reported that an exasperated farm hand had heaved a pitchfork at him and his instructor from the top of a cornstack, during what supposedly was an instrument flying detail.

Given the right weather, it was just as much fun and far safer to play with the fair-weather cumulus that floated serenely over the limitless prairie Struggling to climb over a saddle connecting two towering peaks, then nosing down and accelerating into endless g-inducing turns around billowing white castles, diving through great darkening canyons of cloud and suddenly shooting through a narrow hole to find another huge galleon of white vapour to play with was sheer, unadulterated bliss. The slight possibility that one might encounter a similarly-occupied colleague coming the other way was of course never considered, but the sky is a big place and a practice now frowned on in these over-regulated days never (to my knowledge) claimed any victims.

Another option was illicit solo formation flying, somewhat risky in that miscreants were liable to be spotted by any nearby beady-eyed instructor. But by dint of glancing at the authorisation book it was easy to discover what one's mates were supposed to be doing so, armed with their number, other aircraft seen in flight might be cautiously approached from the rear. It was of course advisable to sheer off hastily in case of error, but if one had chosen correctly there then ensued a spell of illegal, enjoyable, and no doubt highly dangerous "formation" flying of a standard that would have given a present-day Red Arrow heart failure. Mutual "dog-fighting" was rightly considered almost as heinous as low flying, and best avoided.

As stated above, the lack of radio rendered one blessedly free from interference. The sole means available for the CFI to exert his authority was a large rotating beacon mounted on the control tower roof, this being the signal for a general recall; but it was a fairly useless piece of kit, only used after a weather deterioration had already taken place when one was less likely to be able to catch sight of it anyway. Furthermore it resulted in dangerous overcrowding, with the circuit becoming a nightmare of about twenty aircraft all jockeying for position in the inevitable race to get back onto the ground.

In fact the term "Control Tower" was somewhat of a misnomer because, given the lack of radio, it was incapable of offering any form of control anyway. This function was exercised by a courageous individual situated just to the left of the runway threshold, flashing (as required) green or red Aldis lamp signals at each approaching aircraft from a glass cupola atop his van. The system worked tolerably well so long as no more than half a dozen aircraft used the circuit at any one time, but beyond this it became overloaded; and although the more conscientious controllers attempted to give priority to anyone thwarted from landing off a previous approach, this was not easily achieved and tempers became frayed after the receipt of several "reds" in succession. On a general recall as described above, the situation became extremely fraught as a positive blizzard of aircraft jostled for advantage in the overcrowded circuit, the controller forced to fire frequent "reds" from his Verey pistol as some pilots suddenly became colour-blind to his lamp signals; the offenders were, I regret to say, usually instructors.

Occasional night-flying details apart, evenings were free. The camp cinema was well patronised although a surfeit of the more rubbishy type of American films was the usual fare, these normally greeted with derision. The occasional film of UK provenance was always rapturously received, such rapture not shared by the locals who were plainly baffled by British humour and likewise annoyed at the reception accorded most US or Canadian offerings; for this one can hardly blame them, as our intolerant element previously mentioned was well to the fore on such occasions. The only alternative entertainment was a canteen providing light refreshment of a non-alcoholic nature, quite useful as the last official meal was at a comparatively early hour. As for serious drinking, we received a meagre ration of beer that worked out at a few bottles per month; it was vile stuff, and to my mind Canadian beer has shown little improvement in the last seventy-plus years. The hard stuff was not permitted, being out of reach to most of us anyway as 21 was the minimum age for a liquor permit.

Our sole off-base time was the weekly Saturday afternoon outing to the metropolis of Assiniboia; to an Old World eye, a gunslinger or two in place of the few motor vehicles would have completed the Wild West illusion. Of timber construction, the low wooden buildings (some false- fronted and all with hitching rails) gave onto raised boardwalks running along the sides of a few grid-pattern streets of rutted dirt, not that this latter feature should have surprised us as the 20 mile bus ride into town had been along an unsealed main highway. Yet behind the crude exterior lay a standard of life that few of us had known at home; the principal shops were clean and warm, offering a reasonable supply of goods even if most prices were beyond our pockets, while lobster salad followed by a large ice cream was my normal fare at the Chinese restaurant. Seemingly rather out of place this facility was apparently fairly common, such establishments being owned mostly by descendants of those who had laboured to build the first (Canadian) transcontinental railroad sixty years before. The bookshop/drug store had an excellent selection of books & magazines, and was fortunately tolerant of prolonged browsing.

I was befriended by the owner's wife, a kindly lady who insisted that I visit their home and partake of refreshment. Her husband drove us the short distance, impressing me enormously with the manner in which his American sedan rode so smoothly over bumps and ruts that would have shaken my father's ancient Humber to pieces. I was even more impressed by the luxury and comfort of their house, with its rug-strewn floors of fine, highly-polished wood and attractive furniture, not to mention the superbly-equipped kitchen; reflecting sombrely on the archaic facilities at home, I gave a guarded response in reply to queries on UK domestic life.

Letters from home arrived regularly, being eagerly awaited; even in 1943, a regular transatlantic air mail service enabled one to maintain a proper correspondence. Heavier items were another story, and although my parents sent regular cigarette parcels only one or two arrived, an experience common to all of us. I was later to encounter the same problem in the Far East, and later still told by ex-POW's that few turned up in their camps either. Post-war enquiry by the Red Cross into the latter problem allegedly proved that 90% of these parcels went adrift when passing through the docks of a west coast port.

As the weeks passed we ventured further from the local area, making cross-country flights both dual & solo of increasing length. The routes were planned so as to negate the easiest method of navigation, i.e. crawling along one of the myriad railways that criss-crossed the prairie. Straggling towards the horizon, these tenuous lines often carried no more than a weekly mixed train, their main but essential purpose to convey grain on the first stage of its distant journey to foreign markets; each small town (hamlet would better describe most of them) along the line being marked from afar by large grain elevators. Theoretically one's position might be confirmed by diving down and reading the station name, but we all knew the old joke about the dimwit who could not find "Pool" on his map, this being the title of a large farmers' co-operative displayed on many of the elevators.

Came the day of the final challenge, a solo flight to land at Regina, refuel and then return. This was a direct flight of about eighty miles across a patch of largely empty country, seemingly an awesome task akin to an ocean crossing. Having equipped ourselves with pencils for log & chart plus various bonbons to ward off pangs of hunger, a group of us were dispatched at ten-minute intervals, this presumably to foil any attempt at follow-my-leader tactics by the less confident. I was pleased to be allocated one of the Canadian-built aircraft, as its full set of instruments were more suited to this sort of work than the spartan fit of its American cousins; also, these latter often had some of the instruments fitted in different positions on the panel as between one plane and another, an annoying feature not uncommon on US-built machines of that period.

I soon found that I had over-equipped myself, losing two of the pencils beneath the floor and being far too busy to think about munching candy. The matter of navigation was of course quite simple in this instance; the weather was fine (we would not have been allowed off otherwise), and it was merely a matter of keeping the bird pointing in the right direction and waiting for the expected landmark, usually a lake or railway, to come into sight and then make any correction required. Arrival at Regina was also unexpectedly straightforward, despite having being briefed to watch out for the daily Air Canada DC3 on its transcontinental flight (plus dire warnings of what might happen to us if we got in its way); the hoped- for green light shone from the tower, and after a quick refuel it was back the way we had come. Nobody got lost, although incredibly this was not unknown.

The days passed in the golden haze of a late Indian Summer, but then suddenly as October drew on we got the first breath of winter to remind us that our stay was almost over. There was the final hurdle of end-of-course tests, but the fact of survival thus far was in itself a pretty sure sign of success; some had been weeded out along the way, but the majority of us were still there to receive news of our next stage of training. Most were imbued with the hope of becoming fighter pilots but I was not one of them, probably because I was not very good at aerobatics; I had conceived a dislike for the more athletic aspects of flight, prolonged indulgence in which tended to make me feel ill anyway. I also had the idea, no doubt misconceived in view of the contemporary Bomber Command chop rate, that large aircraft might perhaps be safer; so, unlike the majority of my brethren, I was not displeased to find myself posted to a Service Flying Training School equipped with the ubiquitous Oxford twin-engine trainer.

The final act was an end-of-course party, for which there was an extra issue of beer. It was a disgracefully drunken affair, but having existed on an exiguous ration of very occasional bottles of a very inferior brew for a very long time our celebration can perhaps be forgiven as the youthful folly it was. A day or two later we boarded buses for the short ride to the local station, never to return.
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Old 24th Apr 2014, 17:25
  #5529 (permalink)  
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Round and Round you Go.


Thank you for crossing the "T"s on my last part of the spinning story (I'd missed off the Vampire, hadn't I ?) Neither on 20 Sqdn. at Valley, or on a borrowed aircraft from 608 at Thornaby, had I tried to spin a Vampire (IIIs and Vs, never saw a T11). Nor had anyone else to my knowledge.

I was just about to go to that priceless mine of information, the "Jever Steam Laundry", to check on permissability, then you come up with the answer (brings to mind the Cholaveram blackboard - "Vengeance:/No aerobatics/No violent Dives/ NO VENGEANCE" [they'd written off the only one the AGS had]).

The Vampire didn't look to have all that much fin/rudder (and the booms none too strong !): I'm not surprised they didn't allow intentional spins.

I think we were only allowed it dual in the MeteorT7 in my time, too. As I recall, the problem was not the actual spin (you had to hold it in tight, or it would slip out into a spiral dive), but in the flick-roll needed to get it in at the start. For about two or three seconds you knew exactly how your socks felt in the washing macine at max rpm !

Happy days, Danny.

PS: Did you ever hear of a Goblin flaming-out for any reason other than no fuel ? D.

Last edited by Danny42C; 24th Apr 2014 at 17:28. Reason: Spacing
Old 24th Apr 2014, 18:02
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harrym, excellent stuff, Sir! The setting again so well described, especially the contrasts (wild west film set town yet with luxurious interiors for a Brit).

The Cornell sounds a very variable beast given its hybrid construction and equipment dependent on its origin, the plywood one side metal on the other wings on one sounds almost as bizarre as the DC2/DC3 wings fitted to one of Mr Douglas's products in Nationalist China, but there again they both flew!

So lots more please, and don't worry about thread drift, indeed embrace it! The many 'by the way' moments are the very essence of our thread. It's more a ramble than a race, so lots of time and lots of interesting byways to choose. Let digression be our watchword!
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Old 24th Apr 2014, 18:11
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Did you ever hear of a Goblin flaming-out for any reason other than no fuel ?
Yes; my bestest mate whilst I went through flying training. I was his best man and I went to his Golden Wedding in February.

He was doing circuits at Graveley, the relief landing ground for Oakington. He opened the throttle to overshoot, IIRC we had to preserve the tyres in the circuit, and the compressor detached itself from the main shaft and advanced through the intake assembly. This caused quite a commotion seeing that the fuel tank was directly in front of it. Our hero, on hearing the noise and all the red lights, looked in his rear view mirror into a ball of flame. Without further ado off came the canopy shortly followed by him. He could see downwards and he had this vision of two wingtips and a cockpit sticking out of a fiery mess.

He had left the aircraft at or below the seats limits, 200ft/90knots, but was probably saved by the fact that the aircraft was still climbing when he ejected. He landed on the runway with some horizontal velocity which also helped.

The aircraft then turned and went straight for ATC. I knew that something was wrong because I was on a QGH at the time and the controller's patter suddenly dried up. It landed on the signals square and there was a delay as the fire crew put the fire tender out. The now Black & White ambulance picked up the pilot and took him to Huntington Hospital. They suspected that he might have suffered a back injury and kept him on boards. After two days of extreme discomfort he was transferred to RAF Hospital Ely. There he was Xrayed and told to get up.
"Get up, nothing wrong with you"

About five years later I went back to Graverley, then abandoned, to do the helicopter sequence for the film 'Robbery'. I had a poke about the old signals square and there were still some old control wires tangled up in the grass..

Apart from that never any trouble.
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Old 24th Apr 2014, 21:31
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Ian BB,

Now, no more of this diffidence !

".....I hesitate to do so on the grounds that anything I (think) I know would always be secondhand...." Your Dad is (sadly) no longer with us: you must speak for him (and for your Stepfather and Godfather).

Although the RAF never had much (or any) time for Dive Bombers in the land war (unlike the Germans and Russians), both the USN (and to a lesser extent our FAA) could see the advantages of them at sea. After all, you mostly have a small target (where the d/b accuracy is needed) against a blank background (so not difficult to "pin-point"). What more would a d/b pilot want ?

Admittedly the skipper would put the helm hard over when he saw you coming, but I reckon that our bombs would leave the aircraft at terminal velocity (300 mph) at or about 3,000 ft. If they continued at that velocity, they would arrive in about 6-7 secs. But in fact they would further accelerate due to gravity (the bomb being much more streamlined than the aircraft) so now we are in dy/dx country. It's long time since I went to school (you work it out !) so shall we say 4-5 secs ?). You can't dodge far in that time in a 40,000 ton carrier !

The proof of that pudding was at Midway in June'42, when a Sqdn of SBD "Dauntless" stumbled on that Japanese battle group which had done the damage at Pearl Harbor. In 20 minutes or less, three of the four big fleet carriers were in flames and sinking (they got the fourth the next day). The back of Japanese air power in the Pacific was broken; all danger of an attack on the Western seaboard of the US had disappeared. There was no way back for Japan; the US yards could outbuild them three to one. And why the Americans don't make "Midway Day" an annual national celebration, I'll never know.

I still think the influence of "hazing" has been exaggerated. Of course it was puerile and objectionable (and was discussed at some length by several Pruners on this Thread at the time of my Carlstrom Field Posts). But surely, at each of the Arnold schools, there was only one "interface" when an RAF intake followed the last Army Air Corps one, and it could be an issue ?

"It eliminated more potential British and American pilots accidentally than the German Air Force did on purpose," (I don't buy that). "There was no reason for it at all" - Agreed !

Cheers, Danny.
Old 25th Apr 2014, 08:47
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Leading on from Harrym's recollection of his nav sortie of 80mls to Regina I post Dad's version of a similar sortie which ended tragically

This incident was the catalyst which saw the school in Terrell start researching the work of the BFTS. My father has been across to Terrell to present them with a painting of a Harvard along with, as mention previously, the album of photographs he took during his time there.

Incident 2 :- 20 February 1943

"Then came the day when we were due to make a pupil-pilot/navigator visit to another BFTS at Miami, Oklahoma. The day dawned with a cloud base of 800ft With a weather forecast for the weather to clear a little and the cloud base to increase in height it was decided by ‘those in authority’ that we should carry out this task. My role was to fly the aircraft up to Miami and my fellow cadet, a jolly cockney (from London) Reg Flanders, was to navigate.

We agreed jointly that with the weather and cloud base so low at Terrell we must be more than vigilant and thorough with our map reading so that at all times we would be aware of exactly where we were. As we flew northwards there was no improvement in the weather. The cloud base did not clear and, if anything, the weather became worse. Checking our position we realised we were flying closer to the mountains and we were both becoming concerned. Suddenly the ground appeared ahead of us and approaching very fast! I remember quite clearly pushing the throttle forward and the control column back to climb rapidly into the cloud and can even now hear Reg swearing out loud! We climbed into the cloud and I turned the plane to return, hopefully, below cloud. We did. We circled the point at which we came out of the cloud and continued circling until, by the grace of God, we located out position. We made a joint decision to return to Terrell and, thankfully, landed safely. The next few hours back at Terrell will never be forgotten. More of our colleagues returned, there was news of a forced landing and with no news of some of our fellow cadets. Some aircraft were missing and there was a search for wreckage. Eventually we heard of a forced landing by Wright and Wall then sadly of the wreckage of the Harvards of Cockburn, Frostick, Hillier and Jensen. It was a terrible time for all 12 Course cadets who had also lost another colleague, Alan Langston, who was killed when his aircraft crashed after landing."

When I heard about this from Dad I was amazed that students would be sent out in a 800ft cloudbase with a ridge of high ground enroute. I also thank the instructor who taught my father to do a low level abort into IMC - not an easy task as well as my father's skill in carrying it out.

It is not surprising so many pilots were lost in training accidents. During my time in the RAF I went to several WW2 crash sites in the hills to see if parts could be salvaged. I remember getting several usable parts for a Blenheim off Ben Hope in Scotland

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Old 25th Apr 2014, 14:35
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Thread drift etc

Thanks Chugalug2, point taken. What's been posted so far was edited from the original, which was compiled with the idea it would be viewed only by family and close friends; so will keep your comments in mind when reviewing the next instalment, which will cover the SFTS stage.

So far, to keep reasonably on topic, I have omitted the part between arrival at Halifax and the subsequent rail journey to Assiniboia but could email it to those interested. Be warned however, I am a rail buff as well as an aviation one!
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Old 25th Apr 2014, 14:51
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What a wonderfully vivid recollection from HarryM, a very welcome addition to our indomitable airborne "Band of Brothers" from WWII.

I fully endorse Chugalug's exhortation that Harry should hold nothing back, especially not regarding trains (speaking as someone who was allowed to "highjack" a DMU in Cornwall some years back) and no Danny, please do not "rest on your oars" for too long (which I trust you spelled correctly....)

One final comment, what a truly sad reflection regarding the apparent theft of Servicemen's, and especially POWs', parcels.

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Old 25th Apr 2014, 22:59
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Ian BB,

A quick PS to my #5533: rooting about on this Thread to find Cliff's (RIP) Post on the Terrell-Darr disaster, came across p.16, #309. Regle (RIP) tells us all about "hazing" (and the whole page is full of wonderful stuff)...D.


Another feast to get our teeth into ! It will be very interesting to get the full details of the RCAF training schools, for I can't recall that we've yet had one complete story from Canada, although, if anything, we have almost too much on the American BFTSs and the Arnold ones.

I see that we agree on the main reason for "washout" on both sides of the frontier; disciplinary offences did cause some, but IMHO, only few. In the majority of cases, it was as you say (quote):

"....I was fortunate, for failure to surmount this particular hurdle was a major cause of suspension and only a limited number of hours were allocated for pre-solo training; the exigencies of wartime enforced ruthless standards, and time could not be wasted on slow learners...."

All this is true: but in the Army Air Corps they could (and did) enforce their own "ruthless standards" to whittle-down the oversupply of Flight Cadets to fit the capacity of their training machine. It was nobody's fault, but our hard luck, that we had to make the best of this scheme of things, even that in the final outcome two-three thousand potential pilots may have been lost to us (but then again we got four thousand extra which otherwise we would not have got at all).

I'm going to want to know: was the RCAF syllabus the same as had previously been taught in the UK (as far as you know), or was there a different "Canadian" policy ? How much time did they give you at EFTS - and SFTS ? And then did they give you your wings there and then, and pack you straight off back to UK for AFS and OTU, or was there any further training over there ?

More questions come in: Were you on RCAF pay rates (reputedly as good as the American) or just the $ (Can) equivalent of RAF pay ? Were RCAF LACs mixed in with you, or were they purely RAF Courses ? Did you have any "Arnold" rejects for retraining, and if so, how did they get on ?

Most important of all: what were the "chop" rates (EFTS and SFTS) on your Course ? (Don't worry, I don't need the answers all at once !)

Did you ever hear the story (brought to our notice by millerscourt - I gave the Post reference a few days ago) that some American/Canadian trainees were found to be of poor quality on return to UK ?

harry, you and I are the only living links with those days still active on Thread. I'm running as fast as I can to keep up with you. Could you please spread it out a bit so we can (as Chugalug told me in my early days) "savour your offerings like fine wine, a sip at a time", and thus have more time to pick the plums out of each section for admiration, addition and comment ?)

I have in mind drafting a Post on the two different routes during the war open to young hopefuls on the long march to the cockpit, but it might take a while yet ...D


The Terrell-Darr disaster was about the worst single incident (AFAIK) that happened during the (comparatively) short life of the Arnold and BFTS Schools ('41-'43). As I told Ian BB, I've been looking for Cliff's (RIP) account of it at Miami, Oklahoma (or something very similar), but no success yet.

The decision to send pairs of students off on a 90 mile cross-country with a base of 800 ft. - and high ground en route - was simply criminal IMHO. Your Dad was lucky that he saw rising ground ahead in time to dive up into cloud (and even luckier that the cloud didn't suddenly turn green on him before he had time to turn tail !)....D.

Hoping to get back to Shawbury soon (bear with me in the meantime, please !)

Goodnight, everybody. Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 25th Apr 2014 at 23:02. Reason: Typo.
Old 26th Apr 2014, 14:46
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Training in Canada

Danny, to reply to your points:

Syllabus: AFAIK it was the standard RAF one, as taught at both my EFTS and SFTS by exclusively 100% RAF instructors - though whether this was also the case at other RAF schools I cannot say.

Failure: In my experience the scrub rate was fairly low, although unable to quote figures as I can't recall either the size of our course(s) or the ratio of scrubees.

Pay: Bog-standard RAF, which was I think 7/6 per day at the LAC rate paid to cadets. This did not go very far, even at the favourable exchange rate of about C$4.50 to the £.

Personnel: In my experience students were 100% Brit, and no Arnold rejects.

Standards: I don't remember any comparisons being made as between Canadian & US trained pilots, although later I did hear some similar chat as to Canadian v S African products - but it amounted to no more than 'pub talk'.

Next Instalment: Point taken, so a little time will elapse before the SFTS scribble appears; in the meantime however, for Union Jack's benefit I will send off my account of the trans-Canadian rail trip (OK, only 2/3rd 'trans' as we didn't even get as far as the Rockies!)
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Old 26th Apr 2014, 15:01
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Canada and after

Apologies Danny for failing to answer all your queries in my last, here I hope are the missing responses:

Flight time: cannot recall exactly without consulting log book which is buried at the back of a large cupboard, but to the best of my memory the EFTS total was 70 hours with SFTS rather more: will dig out the book and let you know.

Wings: presented on completion of SFTS.

Aftermath: on return to UK another 14 months elapsed before attaining what might be termed 'operational standard'. In sequence, this consisted of the usual hanging about at Harrogate, pre-AFU, AFU, OTU (prolonged due to role change after course started), support training, and finally glider pick-up training. By the time it was all over so was the war in Europe, but of course there was some unfinished business out east.............................
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Old 26th Apr 2014, 15:13
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Of Beechcraft and Barracudas

Danny, Thank you for your steer back to Regle (RIP) on page 16, he certainly nailed the subject of "hazing" and indeed, all the other wonderful stuff on this, the best of threads.
I too, was rooting about on the thread last night, refreshing my memory and trying to get all my ducks in a row before posting any of the war stories of my forbears. I know how ruthless PPRuNers can be about "duff gen", and, what with me never having been in the military, I'm walking on eggshells here.
Anyhoo, (as they say around here) I came upon your post 3107, page 156 "Danny at Sulur"

"Neville Stack senior ran a communications squadron with Beechcraft "Expeditors", nice little light twins, to ferry Admirals and their Staffs round Ceylon and South India".

"Carrier aircraft came in from the sea from time to time; one day a "Barracuda" flew in in a rainstorm, skidded off the wet runway and skated across a patch of flooded grass into one of my correctly parked VVs. Both aircraft were write-offs, but there were no casualties".

Two simple sentences Danny, but, with them, you reconnected me to my father, mother and stepfather all at once.
At the time you were in Sulur my father was in India with 229 Group Comm. Flight Palam, flying the Great and the Good (and some not so) about the place. And his favourite steed of all was the Beech 18 Expeditor.
As for the unloved Fairey Barracuda, well, back in Blighty at that same time my mother could be found at RNAS Ronaldsway IOM. She was that rarest of the species "Wrennus" - an Air Mechanic (E) and would be fettling the Merlin 32s of 747 Naval Air Squadron's (yes you've guessed it) Barracudas.
Lastly, just a few months earlier, my stepfather was sailing in the Indian Ocean, embarked upon H.M.S. Indomitable with 817 Naval Air Squadron, dive bombing Japanese assets in Sumatra and the Nicobar Islands in yet another Barracuda, LS 503, to be precise.

Such is the power and the beauty of this thread, and I thank you (and all the others) for keeping the memories alive for those of us who were not there.

Time to feed the "pusheens" now, (small cats, to those of you not resident on the Emerald Isle).
All the best
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Old 26th Apr 2014, 23:19
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harrym, no point made so none to be taken, simply a polite suggestion. You are an absolute natural at this game, believe me. Now that you have let loose that Union Jack is to receive your account of the convoy to NY and the train journey to Assiniboia, might I humbly suggest that might be the first of your 'deviations' to air on thread? That it would then be out of chronological order would merely add to its charm, a case of playing all the right notes, though not necessarily in the right order!

As a veteran poster, Danny has made an art form of incidental detail; kit he was issued, kit he surrendered, sleeping arrangements on active service and his novel variations on same, travel and accommodation in post-war Europe, purchasing cars for overseas postings, OMQs for same, etc , etc. It is the incidental that illustrates the whole. How did the Canadians (who were long at war) and the Americans (who were only recently arrived) differ in their outlook; to the war, to their way of life, to you? Where did you learn the most of a people, in their big cities, or in the very remotest outback? Young men with an urgent desire not to fail at what they are set to become very focused of course, but there are always distractions, impressions, friendships...

Wander as you wish, off piste, back on, and off again. We will avidly follow, for you are our guide in that far off place of which we all know too little - our past!

Hummingfrog, your account of the terrible toll of your father's course cross country navex to Miami reminds us that the powerful combination of weather and terrain claimed very many crews in WW2, mostly in training, but many operational crews as well. In an environment of onboard computers, GPS, VOR, TACAN, etc, we forget how basic were the means then of knowing where you were. Put that into a war-time scenario of black-out, limited transmission time of nav beacons, radio silence, etc, and you soon see what a challenge was the question, "Where the hell are we Nav?".
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