Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > Aircrew Forums > Military Aviation
Reload this Page >

Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Military Aviation A forum for the professionals who fly military hardware. Also for the backroom boys and girls who support the flying and maintain the equipment, and without whom nothing would ever leave the ground. All armies, navies and air forces of the world equally welcome here.

Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Old 6th May 2014, 15:43
  #5581 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
CPN-4 (aka AR-1/PAR).


(Your #5579) Wonderful pics of the inside of a CPN-4 ! (but at least we didn't have to chauffeur the damn' thing around). Did we really handle all that stuff with confidence ?

Fortunately when the understandable bit (tubes plus transmitter switch) came into the Approach Room as AR-1/PAR, most of the rest of it was left in the remote radar heads on the far side of the airfield (where it could stay as far as I was concerned).

Old 6th May 2014, 18:07
  #5582 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Often in Jersey, but mainly in the past.
Age: 79
Posts: 7,803
Received 134 Likes on 63 Posts
I think, Danny42C, that we kids (and that includes you) were actually quite good at coping with new technology and a mass of semi-anonymous buttons and switches. Presented with all that cr@p, we knew what we needed to know. And certainly, in 'my truck', the ATCOs were pretty competent at diving into assorted tech bays to fix a problem almost instantly, instead if waiting for a techie to come across. There was a bay behind Bay 12 that was seriously high voltage, and there was something deep in on the right side, almost at floor level, that occasionally needed to be spoken to. I have no recollection of what it was, only that one was VERY careful putting an arm in there when everything was powered up.

The same way as you didn't maintain the engine of your VV. In the truck, the techies did some things, and we did a limited number of other things. And that symbiotic relationship that still exists ... "You can't have one without the other."

Perhaps looking at life through the wrong end if the telescope obscures the fact that when we were young we could do all sorts of amazing things ... You, and others here, certainly did!
MPN11 is offline  
Old 7th May 2014, 09:16
  #5583 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: isle of man
Posts: 59
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Can't post a photo now as I am absorbing vitamin D in Greece,but I still have an original leather pouch that holds/held black, white and red chinagraphs and the small screwdriver, an essential item to fiddle with the equipment in the radar truck, especially when it was quiet. Was it Bay 12 that we sat with the magnatron between our legs? Surprised I ever fathered any kids, or maybe it was the milkman after all.

Last edited by gayford; 7th May 2014 at 09:17. Reason: Remove word
gayford is offline  
Old 7th May 2014, 09:32
  #5584 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Often in Jersey, but mainly in the past.
Age: 79
Posts: 7,803
Received 134 Likes on 63 Posts
Morning, gayford. Some trucks banned ATCOs from having screwdrivers, in case we "fiddled unwisely" and wrecked the entire set-up

Fortunately Strubby was not one of those trucks, our techs were very controller-tolerant, and we GCA kids were really skilled
MPN11 is offline  
Old 7th May 2014, 10:41
  #5585 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Near the watter...
Age: 77
Posts: 251
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
My father was involved with radar in WW2. He told me that Lord Haw-Haw had broadcast that radar personnel would become sterile...the result of that was a queue outside the radar hut on Friday nights, of chaps wanting to be temporarily so rendered!! They got 5 minutes laying down by the mercury arc rectifiers, as they were the most spectacular piece of kit.....
Molemot is offline  
Old 7th May 2014, 16:19
  #5586 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

(Your #5583) You say:
"I think, Danny42C, that we kids (and that includes you) were actually quite good at coping with new technology and a mass of semi-anonymous buttons and switches. Presented with all that cr@p, we knew what we needed to know"'.

If only we did ! Speak for yourself ! Sadly, the saying: "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is all too true. Our Radio/Radar mechs would've walked out in a body if they'd seen us so much as look at a tool. I dimly recall that there was an equipment console right down at the LH end of the Leeming control desk. From time to time a red warning light would come on low down on the outer panel (no idea what for). If you kicked the panel, it would go out. That much they allowed us, and no more.

Ah, the far-off days when cars were cars, and men were men. You could open any bonnet (locks ? what for ?). There were all the old friends you'd known since childhood. There was the carb, have it off and get the jets out, poke with stiff bristle. Distributor ? Off with its head, clean and gap points, smear of vaseline on rotor, plenty of "Wet-Start" inside and out of cap, put all back. Coil and plug leads ditto. Plugs out, scrub with brass-bristlebrush, gap and replace (only wrist tight, of course). All aided and abetted by the Starting Handle - oh what a blessing that was ! If there was enough in the battery to dimly light a torch bulb, one good swing, and you're on your way. What would you want an AA man for ? Happy Days !...D.


More effective it might have been if you stood close to the "hot" side of the truck for five minutes when it was in full cry. Trouble is, the results would be irreversible ! (and you'd probably glow in the dark ! )....D.

Cheers, both. Danny.
Old 7th May 2014, 17:34
  #5587 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Fairford, Glos
Age: 99
Posts: 155
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
To Chugalug2, Danny42C, Hummingfrog and other friends: As the SFTS instalment is rather large I am posting it in two parts so here is the first section, the other to follow by the end of the month,

Chugalug2: Delighted to hear you are also a true believer! If ever around Didcot way, when it's open you will find me behind the Railway Centre's shop counter most Wednesdays - do look in.

Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

Rattling over the prairie in the last car's open rear vestibule I watched the rails undulate into the distance as we left EFTS behind us, and reflected on yet another manifestation of the myriad differences between New World practice and that of the Old; for the roadbed was grass-grown and virtually devoid of recognisable ballast, yet we scorched along at a good 45-50 mph on seemingly ramshackle track that, at home, would have been considered barely suitable for use as a siding. I could only assume that the combined weight of engine and train rolled it flat, for the ride was better than on some remembered UK branch lines.

By now accustomed to the unfenced track and rural grade crossings of this remote land, their diagonal wooden arms the sole warning for such road traffic as there was, the appearance of crossings protected by lights and warning bell signalled our approach to Moose Jaw, a sizeable town and junction where we were due to change trains. There was time for a quick look around, then as darkness fell our connecting train rolled in and we climbed aboard for the journey to Swift Current, a town about 100 miles westwards along the CPR's main line.

Detraining about two hours later, we were greeted by a voice even more disagreeable than the one that had welcomed us to Assiniboia two months before; a clipped voice emanating from a smallish, thin-lipped, sour-visaged flight sergeant. This hostile creature made no secret of his dislike of aircrew in general and of us in particular, and he remained an unpleasant feature of life at 39 SFTS for the rest of our stay; there was no escape for he was the disciplinary NCO in charge of cadets, and time did nothing to improve our relationship.

The following day saw the issue of winter clothing; autumn was well advanced and there was a notable nip in the air. Old-timers regaled us with dread tales of the weather to come, and so such items of kit as were issued did not fill me with confidence; in fact I only recall two, a bonnet-like cap with side flaps for ear and facial protection, plus a pair of rubber overshoes. In true RAF tradition the Stores were unable to produce a "hat, cold weather" of my size, thus condemning me to the winter's worst with only a "fore & aft" forage cap for protection. Although this could be manipulated to provide some cover it was quite inadequate as compared to the proper article and so, for me, much discomfort ensued during the coming months; for, positioned bleakly on a bluff about ten miles east of town, the airfield was exposed to blasts from all directions. Accommodation was in the familiar H-Blocks whose scalding, steam-filled radiators were either fully on or off, thus giving the option of fug or freeze. Opening a window, even a crack, might result in any adjacent radiator freezing up in which event the occupants were held liable for damage thus caused, so perforce we became accustomed to life lived in a perpetual frowst.

As at EFTS, the flight instructors were 100% RAF but there the similarity ended, the flight line ground crew also being all RAF while the ground instructional staff were a mixture of Service plus local civilian with only the Link instructors being all Canadian. Following the usual preliminary ground school phase we moved to the flight line for introduction to twin-engined aviation and its associated mysteries, a fleet of rather battered aircraft being provided for this purpose. A British product, the Airspeed Oxford was a trainer based on the Envoy, a small commercial airliner of the thirties. Of conventional low-winged appearance and quite well-proportioned apart from a somewhat oversized fin & rudder, two Armstrong-Siddeley radial engines of 350hp each, retractable main wheels and a reputation for wilfulness made it appear pretty hot stuff. Inside was an exceptionally well laid out instrument panel and control pedestal, however as we had already learnt that raising of wheels while not airborne was regarded as a most heinous offence, the close proximity of landing gear and flap levers was a subject for grave thought. Much to our surprise, radio was still conspicuous by its absence and thus air traffic control was as before, from a van by the runway threshold.

The airfield itself was of the now familiar pattern but with 3 pairs of parallel runways, a layout that considerably facilitated operations by providing separate strips for take-off & landing; but night flying was always restricted to a single runway, probably because laying two flare paths was considered extravagant of resources and manpower (as far as I recall, there was no fixed airfield lighting). However the greatest shock was to discover that we were expected to operate through a Canadian winter without benefit of aircraft heating, as during the previous winter there had been trouble with defective heat exchangers allowing exhaust fumes into cabin interiors. The systems had therefore been removed, but as per normal Service fashion remedial action appeared to be very low on the priority scale and indeed was still awaited months later when we graduated - by which time the school was on the point of closure, due to run-down of the BCAP.

Mercifully the coming winter was to be mild by Canadian standards, but was still b----y cold by ours; one of my main memories of those months is of being permanently frozen while airborne despite full inner & outer flying suits, double gloves, fur-lined boots et al. Further discomfort was provided by my instructor being almost as tall as myself, our combined bulk when fully clad making it almost impossible to sit side by side; a partial solution was to stagger the seats' fore & aft adjustment, but this inevitably resulted in neither of us being ideally placed for operating the controls. Somehow or other we coped but it could hardly be described as an ideal learning situation, and after the Cornell's good ergonomics was rather a comedown. At the same time it was a salutary reminder that things British were usually somewhat primitive as compared with the transatlantic product, a lesson re-learnt the following year on encountering the Dakota.

But for now the lesson continued, the next surprise finding that the engines had to be cranked into life by muffled individuals kneeling on the inner wings, their task also to operate the priming pumps buried inside the cowlings. As the handles were rotated vigorously in turn, the pilot pressed the appropriate booster coil button and attempted to "catch" the engine by movement of the throttle as soon as it fired. As may be imagined, the handle-turners' lot was not an enviable one in winter and the normally disgruntled airmen performing this chore became positively mutinous if an engine was allowed to "die" after its first hesitant coughs, a not infrequent event. Despite the engines being winterized with protective baffles, a long warm-up period ensued before attainment of operating temperature; following which, one moved gingerly towards the often icy taxyway.

As compared with the nose-high singles that had comprised our sole previous experience, the clear view ahead with no engine blocking one's line of sight came as a real bonus; unfortunately, this was more than offset by the Oxford's unpredictability in matters of directional control on the ground. Whereas the Cornell's tailwheel had been spring-link connected to the rudder pedals there was no such luxury in this case, and our initial difficulties were compounded by the crude, pneumatically-operated braking system obviously designed by someone who had never flown in his life; to be told that this was standard to all British aircraft (of that period) was no consolation, indeed rather the reverse.

On the ground, the bird was supposedly kept pointing in the desired direction by judicious use of left or right throttle and/or differential brake as required by circumstances. Such variables as slope, speed, wind velocity, camber of the taxyway and so on all had to be taken into account, as well as the aircraft's natural unwillingness to move in a straight line even when these factors were absent. Application of brakes required depression of a thumb-operated lever on the control spectacle, differential action being obtained by holding this lever depressed while simultaneously moving the rudder pedals in the desired direction. Simple enough in theory maybe, but a strong surface wind tended to blow the rudder about or lock it over, thus causing difficulty in applying brake on the desired wheel, the thumb lever was often stiff and heavy in action, while the air supply for brake operation was easily exhausted and very slow to build up again. In short, the whole setup was nothing like as foolproof and simple to use as the toe-brakes of the Cornell (the dear old Tiger Moth having no brakes at all).

Further problems awaited when we came to get airborne, for we had grown accustomed to the cockpit layout common to all single or tandem seaters where throttle and most minor controls were operated by the left hand, leaving the right free for the essential task of flight. Now we faced the layout normal to larger aircraft where engine and other ancillary controls were mounted on a central pedestal between the pilots' seats; so, given the universal practice for the first pilot to sit on the left everything was, at first anyway, all back to front. Taken with other differences already mentioned, it was quite a transition and one or two of our weaker brethren failed to cross this divide altogether.

They were probably tipped over the brink by the Oxford's tendency to sheer bloody-mindedness during take-off and landing. In its natural element it was a delight to fly (if correctly rigged) and had a brisk performance despite the drawback of fixed-pitch props; but in the matter of getting off or back on to the deck it could be an absolute pig, having a most decided wish to veer off to one side if the pilot relaxed his attention for an instant. This was usually to the right, but just to keep the operator on his toes it might occasionally be to the left; what mattered was to check any such wilfulness immediately (or preferably sooner), because once allowed its head nothing on earth could prevent an inevitable excursion off the side of the runway. There was not an Oxford pilot alive who did not at some time or another suffer the indignity of inadvertently taking to the grass, and if one lost it the only thing to do was to keep the throttles closed and try to prevent the fiasco turning into a complete ground-loop. Someone once shrewdly observed that the Mosquito, notorious for similar wayward behaviour, was a good trainer for the Oxford and it was commonly held that he had a point.

Surprisingly we usually contrived to stay on the hard stuff, but the "Oxbox" was not the easiest bird to land anyway and so there was plenty of dual instruction before being entrusted to fly solo. Three-point arrivals were inadvisable, a tail-down landing being the best technique; however misjudgement was only too easy, resulting in a series of kangaroo-like hops of ever-increasing magnitude which invariably terminated in a final almighty crump. It was also necessary to demonstrate some competence following a simulated engine failure, but such training as we received against this dread contingency was (as I recall) confined to a safe height, it being considered much too dangerous to approach the ground in such a state. In any case the Oxford performed indifferently on one engine due to the impossibility of feathering the "dead" prop, and handling in such an emergency was not made easier by virtue of the rudder trim handle winding (unbelievably) the "wrong" way, i.e. to the left for right trim and vice-versa! Fortunately the engines were extremely reliable, and I do not recall a single failure during my Oxford time either in Canada or later in the UK.

A further impediment to learning was provided by the crude intercom "system". Despite side-by-side seating a high noise level rendered normal speech impossible, so the instructor was provided with a mouthpiece slung round his neck, attached to a short length of tube plugged into the pupil's earpieces. However the latter had nothing and was thus unable to make any riposte to the torrents of criticism and abuse that periodically came his way, being able only to scowl in return. This of course did no good, the instructor usually being further enraged by the mouthpiece's tendency to slip down onto his chest (which thankfully rendered him more or less inaudible).

So gradually it dawned on us that, whatever meaning the word "Service" in the school's title was intended to convey, SFTS was altogether a more serious place than EFTS. The same could be said to apply to the Oxford as compared with our Cornell of fond memory; the latter had often been fun, but among the attributes offered by our new bird fun was certainly not included. So slowly we came to terms with this strange creature, with its peculiar habits and freezing cabin that smelt eternally of aviation gasoline, dope and a hint of cellulose paint, a cocktail familiar to all who flew military aircraft of that era. Our beat-up fleet had had a long time to absorb these various aerosols into their ancient frames, for most were of pre-war vintage; the flight commander had himself trained on some of our old-timers back in late 1930s UK, the airframe numbers matching those in his log book.

My first solo passed without incident, and I was soon off again for a session of "circuits & bumps". It was a cold day, intermittent light snow drifting across on a northeasterly breeze, and I had been briefed to make appropriate use of the carburettor heat controls. Now the engines were not unduly prone to icing, but in cold conditions it was most essential that a degree of carb. heat was selected just prior to touchdown or they would surely stop as the throttles were closed for landing; unfortunately the toggles providing this facility were stiff in operation, and if pulled too hard were liable to come right out of the panel trailing yards of piano wire. This made one highly unpopular with all - the technical staff who had to put it all back and the instructors because there was then one less aircraft available, so a balance had to be struck between two undesirable options. Inevitably I got it wrong, with the result that both engines quit on the first landing; using what little airmanship had accrued so far, I allowed the Oxbox to follow its natural inclinations and trundle off onto the frozen ground alongside.

Here I gazed hopefully towards the first line servicing office in a nearby hangar, whence rescue should have appeared but signally failed to do so. As the minutes passed I became progressively colder, and it dawned on me that I was being crudely punished for failure to follow the recommended drill. Not until my time was almost up did a plainly disgruntled airman approach, hooded against the cold and carrying the essential crank handle; had he walked any slower he would have stopped. With obvious resentment he primed and cranked the motors back to life, while my reception in the flight office was rather less than cordial. When my baby-faced instructor (not the usual one) logged me for the whole detail, as against a bare ten minutes of actual flight, my protest was answered with the riposte: "that will teach you to let your engines stop, you stupid clot" (actual words somewhat censored), but it was a lesson I did not forget.

Off-duty life was much the same as at Assiniboia, except that the canteen was markedly inferior. Despite frequent incursions by the relatively mild Chinook wind, there were cold spells bringing temperatures well below 0 degrees F when one went out only if properly dressed and for as short a time as possible. The first intake of breath gave warning; a sensation of mucus freezing in the nostrils, plus snow squeaking loudly underfoot, were sure signs of a cold unknown at home, bringing to mind all one had been told about the very real risks of frostbite. In such conditions the poems of Robert Service gained added poignancy and realism, the night sky so brilliant with stars that it was worth an odd minute's discomfort outside just to gaze upwards; indeed a howl from the proverbial timber wolf would not have seemed amiss, but the artic air bore only a distant wail across the frozen prairie courtesy of the Canadian Pacific - it's a sound that haunts me to this day.

The metropolis of Swift Current had little more to offer than did Assiniboia, despite being many times the size; more shops and restaurants, but otherwise much the same although it was at least situated on the CPR's main line. This offered me some entertainment during our weekly exeat, when an eastbound transcontinental made its scheduled stop; if it were cold, the friendly engineer would usually allow a quick warm-up in his Royal Hudson's snug and commodious cab. On at least one occasion I crossed the tracks with several mates, paying an unsolicited visit to the roundhouse that accommodated several elderly locomotives; nobody objected to us poking about and asking questions, indeed the staff were friendly and glad to show us round.
But the principle advantage of having mainline facilities was that it offered a means of escape during the few furloughs allowed, in total amounting to a couple of short weekends plus four days at Christmas. Making use of an introduction from my Assiniboia friends (of the bookshop) I wrote to a Mr. & Mrs. W of Regina, receiving in return a cordial invitation to stay with them whenever free to do so. They were a delightful and hospitable couple slightly older than my parents, living in a most comfortable home on the south western outskirts. My first visit was for a brief 36 hours, however I was pressed so hard to return for Christmas that it would have been churlish to refuse even had I been minded so to do; for quite aside from their kindness, it was pure delight to be in a civilised and comfortable home and eat decent food again. Their adopted son Jim, a postgraduate student (I think, subject or speciality now forgotten) took me under his wing and drove us to a dinner dance at the big new CPR hotel, the largest in town. Here I was somewhat surprised at the amount of drinking in progress in what was meant to be a near-dry country; but I had seen nothing yet, for the experience of a Canadian Christmas lay ahead.

This came a few weeks later, for most of us the first Christmas away from home. A bout of homesickness was upon me, brought on by hearing well-remembered carols sung in, of all places, the bus returning from town on the Saturday night previous; our motley collection of cadets and airmen had sung surprisingly well, and I knew I was not alone in feeling as I did. So it was a happy day when we climbed aboard the train for Regina, our ancient wooden-bodied reserved coach coupled on immediately behind the big Pacific that was soon speeding us across the snow-dusted prairie. Any apprehension concerning our potentially vulnerable position between the engine and a dozen heavy steel cars (quite contrary to sound operating practice) soon evaporated in a dreamy contemplation of pleasures to come; anyway, we were probably considered expendable.

A few companions had invitations similar to mine, but most had no plans other than to have as good a time as possible. However, there was the slight problem of obtaining sufficient supplies of festive fluid in that a liquor permit was required for purchase of this essential commodity. As previously remarked, one had to be over 21 years of age in order to secure this important document, which officially condemned most of us to a dry few days; but I soon discovered that there was no cause to worry on this score, very much the reverse in fact while a few bold sparks overcame the problem by falsifying the birth dates recorded on their ID cards. This laid one open to dread charges of forging an official document with near-capital consequences if detected, so most of us used other methods.

Fortunately there was no lack of good liquor in my hosts' house, and Christmas passed in a happily alcoholic haze. After seventy years I recall little detail other than that it was a most pleasant day, one full of cheer and good will. Neighbours and friends looked in and were greeted with brimming glasses, there was a general air of bonhomie and considerable quantities of good food were demolished, at least some of which came from their own farm nearby. I subsequently sent home the label off a bottle of superb whisky (contents disposed of in short order), asking my father if he knew of it; receiving a gloomy reply to the effect that it was one of his favourite brands but like much else had long vanished from home shelves, probably never to return.

On either Christmas Eve or Boxing Day (probably the latter) Jim took me to a dinner dance at the CPR Hotel, accompanied by partners that he produced from somewhere; following local practice we also took bottles, a necessary precaution if one wished to avoid a dry evening. Consumption of wine was not a feature of Canadian life at this time, beer was only for Indians and bums, so hard liquor was perforce order of the day and it was soon plain that there was no shortage of this commodity. Before the event was half over several recumbent figures were testimony to a free flow of Christmas spirit, and I was unable to gain entry to the Gents because the door was jammed by a pair of uniformed stiffs out for the count. But by no means were all the drunks service personnel; a number of people (both male & female) whom Jim pointed out as pillars of the local community were much the worse for wear, and as the evening progressed some of them joined others already lying prone beneath the tables. I was rather taken aback at the sight of so many supposedly worthy citizens stoned out of their minds, however it was an early lesson in the futility of prohibition, a useless measure that only exacerbates the evils it pretends to cure.

Indeed the quantity of drink put away in the Wallace home was something of an eye-opener, being considerably in excess of anything in my previous experience of respectable company. It was too cold for any out of doors activity, which no doubt accelerated alcoholic intake, and towards the end of my brief leave the bottled goods began to run short. Permit-holders had already used up their rations for the month, and whatever was obtainable illicitly from taxi drivers and the like cost "heavy dough", with the price escalating almost hourly; plainly; stern measures were called for and Mrs. Wallace announced she would broach her emergency stocks of potato-based "wine" made from home-grown spuds.

In the innocence of youth I assumed this would be as palatable as the fowls and other produce from their private farm. I should have known better; it tasted vile, with an effect like liquid gunpowder, and it was not long before I passed out completely. The last day of the holiday was therefore no more than a prolonged hangover, with a dim recollection of the family pouring me onto the night train with fond expressions of regret. All seats were taken, and I endured a cold and uncomfortable journey in an end vestibule where sulphurous whiffs of coal smoke did little to improve my condition. Reporting for duty next day, my instructor commented on his student's ghastly appearance; issuing a homily on the follies of debauchery, he then further lowered morale by prescribing an hour of therapeutic instrument flying; but at least I was in no worse state than various colleagues, some of whom were in a poor way indeed.
harrym is offline  
Old 8th May 2014, 06:37
  #5588 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: West Sussex
Age: 82
Posts: 4,754
Received 207 Likes on 65 Posts
harrym, where does on start? Well thank you again might be a good idea, especially so for your kind invitation to Didcot as well as of course for this superb piece of descriptive writing. Once again we are sharing a train ride, also feeling the worse for wear (especially after the potato wine), and freezing in the unheated cramped cockpit of the Oxford! That such a seemingly delightful looking aircraft could be so mean spirited and spiteful is a real eye-opener. Mind you, I know what you mean about those pneumatic brakes. Same system on the Hastings, selected by levers inset within the control column spectacles and applied differentially by rudder pedal deflection. Not to be overly used and not unknown for the air bags within the wheels to burst.

Triple parallel runways? We haven't yet got round to a pair at Gatwick! When you have wide open spaces what a difference it can make. Interesting that the cadet accommodation at Swift Current was in H Blocks. Were they of the UK Air Ministry familiar brick build with Georgian casements design, or of a more likely Canadian timber construction? It fascinates me that you could go to any UK RAF pre war station and immediately recognise the Guard Room, Airmen's Insitute, Messes, Accomodation Blocks, Station Workshops, etc, be it in the extreme SW or NE. Was it the same in Canada? Were Moncton, Assiniboia, and Swift Current similarly of a kind, varying in extent rather than in style?

So 'S' stood for Service? Thanks for that, I was trying to work out S words that meant Advanced. Turns out they didn't. Curious nomenclature, as though EFTS's were not Service, but no doubt they reflected the format in use then. Were there none in the UK? Were they all overseas, with OTUs ready to take the strain back here?

Finally some self indulgence, and here I am really trying the patience and forbearance of our esteemed mods, but in an effort to illustrate the logistics of this aviation related story (yeah, right!) herewith a picture of a Royal Hudson and its rake of carriages, c/o Mr David B. Davies:- David B. Davies Train Photographs

Chugalug2 is offline  
Old 8th May 2014, 16:58
  #5589 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Danny moves in, and recalls some lighter moments.

We were not at the Tern Hill Hall for very long, for an OMQ came up for us (certainly) before Christmas ('64). But not at Shawbury, but at RAF High Ercall, a closed Station roughly three miles away. I remember that it had been active in '55, for one morning a few of us CATCS students were flown over and back in an Anson (presumably as u/ts in the Tower). Don't recall what was flying there then.

But now it was on C&M, and they had built three OMQs together - large, medium and small - which Shawbury had taken over. IIRC, all three were occupied by F/Lt School Instructors: we had the smallest (which suited us, as we only had one small daughter). Transport was no problem, a J2 or a Mini picked us up in the morning and brought us back at close of play. Therefore Mrs D. had unrestricted use of the car, and could deliver and collect Mary daily from the little convent school in Shrewsbury (6 miles) in which we'd enrolled her.

Christmas was now approaching fast, and people were coming round at Shawbury, hawking draw tickets for this, that and the other. I collected a few, tossed them into my desk drawer and forgot about them. In the last week before Christmas, I came back to the Common Room after my last afternoon lecture to find that I'd struck lucky. I'd won a Turkey and a Goose !

But they were neither plucked nor drawn - the two sad corpses were simply dumped across my desk (I suppose their necks had been wrung only that morning). We'd already got the order in for our own bird, so these were completely redundant. I hastily put the word out, and succeeded in disposing of both in a Forced Sale (I think I may have got a quarter of the true value, but beggars can't be choosers).

Most of the "Funny Things which happened on the way to the Theatre" happened not at the School, but in the Tower. One sunny morning a Marshall's pilot went off in a Provost, and came on the R/T: "Do you know you've got a dead hare on the runway ?". No, we didn't. "I can see it, Sir", squawked the Runway Control Corporal (pity he couldn't have noticed it before). All eyes turned accusingly on Local Controller. "It wasn't there when I did my airfield inspection this morning", he spluttered indignantly. We concluded that it must have run onto the runway and been hit by a previous take-off.

We sent out the L/Rover chap with a shovel, but as he got close, the "dead" hare shot up like a rocket and bolted away ! It seemed that it had simply been "having a kip" on the (slightly warmer) tarmac; what was amazing was that it wasn't bothered in the least by the row of an aero engine at full bore going past a few feet away. (I've mentioned before how quickly the crows got used to us and held our anti-crow measures in contempt).

"Marshalls' Pilots" perhaps needs a few words of explanation. The GCA School at Sleap had a sort of privatised arrangement with Marshalls of Cambridge to supply the "guinea pigs" on which the "Talkdown" and "Director" trainees could cut their teeth. The RAF would supply the aircraft (and presumably, the fuel); Marshalls the pilots (and the maintenance ??). (You may recall a very similar arrangement, whereby 20 Sqdn disbanded at valley in '51 and Marshalls took our aircraft from us to Llanbedr and there took over the task of providing AA targets for the Artillery).

Some of Marshalls' pilots lived in the Mess (they were all ex-service with a strong FAA element), and used to boast that they had "the only flying job which you could do with just an out-of-date driving licence !" Whether this be true or not, I know not. Possibly there was a loophole in the Air Navigation Acts whereby a CPL (or "B" Licence ?) was only a requirement if you were "carrying passengers or goods for hire or reward" (and they were doing neither). Even so, you would think that at least a PPL (or "A" Licence ?) would be necessary, otherwise any old idiot could take to the skies at will, only provided he was paid for it (and I don't want any witticisms at my expense !)

And that's quite enough for the time being.

Goodnight, all.


Never a dull moment !
Old 8th May 2014, 17:31
  #5590 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Fairford, Glos
Age: 99
Posts: 155
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The Oxford (and other things...)

Sorry Chugalug2, perhaps I was too hard on the Oxbox. As I observed, the specimens at SFTS were pretty beat-up and ancient into the bargain, but those encountered later back in UK were really quite pleasant - fairly new and less bashed about, plus operating in a kinder climate probably helped. OK they could still be a bit wilful, but by then we were more experienced and thus less likely to be caught out.

Yes that arch-pig the Hastings MK1, though to be fair the MK2 was a much better aircraft. Those airbag brake units were awful - not very effective as stoppers, overheated easily, and if a bag failed you were left totally brakeless as system air took the easy route to atmosphere (this happened to me at the old original Kai Tak with its short runways).

I think the Canadian H-block was a standard design for all the training airfields, being of almost 100% wooden construction like all the other buildings - Canada is not exactly short of timber! As you observe, the same policy was followed in this country but using brick - UK has much clay, but not so many trees! The Moncton buildings were of somewhat different design, although again mainly of wood.

I think the titles EFTS/SFTS were applied to all such places training pilots up to Wings standard whether at home or abroad, though cannot be sure about S Africa.

Many thanks for that pic, great stuff! It reminded me of that wonderful day I rode in the cab of Royal Hudson 2860 from North Vancouver to Squamish, a totally unforgettable experience. Yes we are at risk of going OT, but this event did have some connection with aviation as it was that wonderful RAF institution the indulgence passage which made it possible - seats offered on a space-available basis, at very low cost to cover admin expenses. Happy days!
harrym is offline  
Old 8th May 2014, 18:24
  #5591 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a

Your remark:
"A British product, the Airspeed Oxford was a trainer based on the Envoy, a small commercial airliner of the thirties" , makes one wonder why this was the aircraft chosen, of all things, to be the lead-in to the Meteor (the "Tornado" of the Fifties, remember). No wonder the new boys did't know what hit them ! And that was the case as late as '54, to my certain knowledge, as that year 608 got a National Service P/O trained on them at Dalcross.

Hearing your harrowing tale of the Frozen North makes me appreciate my good fortune in drawing Florida and Alabama out of the "Lucky Dip" ! (not that "Ol' Alabam" was all that warm in late winter, even though it was in the Deep South and "The Cradle of the Confederacy").

The American locos and rolling stock looked much the same as your pic of the Canadian ones, Chugalug, and that distant lonesome double wail in the night will be forever unforgettable.

Cheers, both..... Danny.
Old 9th May 2014, 05:46
  #5592 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Wide Brown Land
Age: 39
Posts: 516
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I think the titles EFTS/SFTS were applied to all such places training pilots up to Wings standard whether at home or abroad,
That was definitely the case in Australia. Phil Smith, pilot of what eventually became my great uncle's 467 Squadron crew, did his training at No. 1 EFTS in Tamworth NSW, and then at No. 3 SFTS at Amberley, Queensland. His wings were awarded at the end of SFTS (29 May 1941).

kookabat is offline  
Old 9th May 2014, 15:33
  #5593 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 5,222
Likes: 0
Received 4 Likes on 3 Posts
But not at Shawbury, but at RAF High Ercall,
High Ercall was a relief landing ground for Tern Hill whilst it was 6 FTS.
I know, I did my first solo there on 28th November 1960.

The buildings and blister hangar seemed pretty deserted then but it was rumoured that as an MU it used to be the Spitfire Disposal Unit. They were cleaned out of useful things and the airframes were used as infill for some breakwater on the Mersey.

Irt would have finished any flying there when 6 FTS moved to Acklington and CFS(H) took overr in 1961.

Not only civilian pilots flew out of Shawbury. Naughty RAF pilots did to. A friend of mine got himself into somewhat embarassing mire in 1963/64 and was sent over ther until the Air Ministry decided what to do with him.
Fareastdriver is offline  
Old 9th May 2014, 19:35
  #5594 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
kookabat and harrym,

We seem to have got it pretty well established now that all the Empire Flying Training Schools used the same two-stage EFTS/SFTS standard RAF syllabus up to Wings award. Total hours seemed to vary around a figure of 140.

The US Army Air Corps "Arnold" Schools to which some 7,500 RAF LACs were sent (mostly straight from ITW) worked to a different three-stage (Primary/Basic/Advanced) syllabus of 200 hours.

The British Flying Training Schools (BFTS) in the US, I believe, taught the British two/tier system to start with (presumably of the same 140 hours), but there was an early policy decision to extend this to 200 hours to match the "Arnold" regime. Now how far this was implemented (was it ever fully ?), and when, and by what means, I do not know.

The curious thing was that, although (AFAIK), there were no mixed US/RAF classes in the Arnold Scheme (although obviously there were cases when the last US Class would be followed by a first RAF Class), the US insisted that 20% of the BFTS intakes should be Air Corps cadets.

Clearly this was for the purpose of comparison (of the finished article). So what were the findings ? To this question I have never been able to find an answer. As the Pentagon is far beyond my capacity to question - and in any case I would not dare - (can any of our US readers help ?), my only hope lies in a fancy that, somewhere in the Deep South, there may be a genteely decaying antebellum mansion, and there, in the shade of the cottonwoods and magnolias, a gracious, old "Kentucky Colonel" sips his mint julep.

And dreams of the days when he was on General Arnold's Staff, and knows the answer to this. And is pointed in the direction of PPRuNe by a favourite grandchild.

Cheers, both. Danny.
Old 9th May 2014, 21:22
  #5595 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Llandudno
Age: 100
Posts: 120
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Cool BFTS and Far East Routes

Another thread? I was on 18 & 19 Courses at 1 BFTS, Terrelll Texas from October 1943 to June 1944.We had 80 British cadets and 20 American who all had some flying, more than our 12 hours at Grading School .I got mumps on my birthday 9 march 1944 so was put back to 19 Course finishing in June 44. Then it was gliders! I returned in 1951 and after Harvards and Wellingtons it was Hastings at Dishforth and Topcliffe. The Far East route was Lyneham (to position etc) then Luqa, Fayid, Habbaniyah, Mauripur, Negombo and Changi. If casevac from Korea it was then Clark near Manila on to Iwakuni ( Japan). After commissioning it was Neptunes 203 at Topcliffe (again). They went back to the States in 1956. So it was Shacks, 120 at Aldergrove and then 205 at Changi.. I came back to Lyneham by RAF Comet to collect a Shack from Kinloss route was Changi, Negombo (later Katunayaka) Aden, El Adem, Lyneham. Sun came up as we took off from Changi and went down as we landed at Lyneham . Trip back was Kinloss Luqa, Aden Negombo, Changi. Later trip was Changi, Gan, Aden, Luqa, St Mawgan ( for customs) Woodford to deliver to Avro. I hope that settles a couple of queries.
Ormeside28 is offline  
Old 10th May 2014, 00:11
  #5596 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Wiltshire
Age: 70
Posts: 2,063
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post

Great post sir. First on this thread I believe, we would all appreciate your experiences through your training in the states, if you could indulge us. Your recollection of transport routes to the East are very relevant to another thread asking precisely that question. I'm sure if I knew how I would copy your post to that thread. I'm sure you have much more you can tell us to widen our understanding of your training in the USA. I'm sure Danny, our current CMC will welcome any contribution you can offer.

smujsmith is offline  
Old 10th May 2014, 02:31
  #5597 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Annapolis, MD
Age: 86
Posts: 429
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Remember the Habbaniya, Mauripur, Katanayake, Changi route from 1958 in Hastings. Different times!

Bob C
Robert Cooper is offline  
Old 10th May 2014, 09:02
  #5598 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Wales
Posts: 153
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts

Just out of interest does anyone happen to have the list of exercises undertaken at EFTS and SFTS along with the numbering system that was used to record them in the log?


Petet is offline  
Old 10th May 2014, 09:13
  #5599 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: sussex
Posts: 1,836
Received 16 Likes on 12 Posts
I assume the later marks of Hastings were more stable due to the lower set tailplane. Perhaps 'chug' would care to comment. Handley page always seemed to have problems with the 'back end' of their a/c. I have often wondered how many of the early Halifax were lost due to fin stall when corkscrewing over hostile territory. The later rudder shape appeared to cure this lethal characteristic.
ancientaviator62 is offline  
Old 10th May 2014, 09:47
  #5600 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Ireland
Age: 76
Posts: 242
Received 15 Likes on 7 Posts
More BFTS and Far East Routes

Danny, your last:

"the US insisted that 20% of the BFTS intakes should be Air Corps cadets.

Clearly this was for the purpose of comparison (of the finished article). So what were the findings ? To this question I have never been able to find an answer".

Back to Will Largent's "RAF Wings over Florida". After considering the various theories that have been voiced on the subject he concludes thus:

"The sole reason for the new approach (Blending the cadets) contained no elements of high drama. It was done merely to balance the Lend-Lease Act account between Great Britain and the United States".

"Show me the way to go home"

Re the Far East Routes; I offer this contribution.

My father returned from India in Nov. 1945, working his passage as 2nd Pilot on Avro York No. 185 as follows:

Nov 10 Palam-Mauripur (India 3:15
Nov 11 Mauripur-Shaibah (Iraq) 6:00
Nov 11 Shaibah-Almaza (Eygpt) 5:10
Nov 12 Almaza-Luqa (Malta) 5:40
Nov 13 Luqa-Holmsley South (UK) 7:00


Ian Burgess-Barber is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

Copyright © 2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.