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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 4th Jul 2014, 17:10
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Geoff joins a Comm Flight

F/Sgt Geoff started with 229 Group Comm Flight, Palam July 1st 1944. His last flight with them was on Sept. 7th 1945, so 14 months service in all.
For the first four months not much of interest occurs. He solos the Anson on July 2nd and the Percival Proctor on July 3rd. He flies “the milk run” Palam – Lahore – Palam in an Anson on July 5th and again on July 28th, in between are six or so Air Tests in both Anson and Proctor. Then from July 29 to Sept 14 he does not fly at all. I think that this may be because of the Monsoon deluge, Delhi receives most of it's annual rainfall in July and August. On the other hand he might have been ill (Delhi Belly)? I just don't know - the log book cannot tell me all.
Sept. 14 he is 2nd pilot in an Anson out of Lahore - after 40 mins. they return to Lahore and force land (no reason given). Sept 30th he logs an Air Test and Check Flight in the Fairchild Argus (Radial Engined version) followed by some circuits and local flying with one of their Indian A/Cs aboard.
Oct 2 he flies an Anson Palam - Lahore - Gujrat With “crew” as pax. Next day he takes them back to Palam, again via Lahore. This was the last time he flies an Anson until 1946. Oct 12th he gives a Squadron Leader 30 mins dual instruction in the Argus. Then on Oct. 30th he is introduced to the Beech 18 Expediter which seems to replace the Ansons from this time on.

In November things get busy and Geoff flies 17 days this month. (More like the pace he was used to with 21 FC). His passengers were: Nov. 14th A Major General, Palam - Sarsawa - Palam. Nov. 17th A L/Col, Palam - Lahore - Chaklala nightstop. Nov. 18th (Same L/Col) Chaklala - Peshawar nightstop. Nov.19th (A different L/Col) Peshawar - Basal - Risalpur - Peshawar nightstop. Nov. 20th (Same L/Col) Peshawar - Chaklala nightstop. 21st Nov. A Major, Chaklala - Lahore - Palam. Nov 28/29/30 he flies a civilian, a Mr Aichele, (presumably a Civil Service Nabob) Palam - Lahore - Gujrat - Chaklala nightstop. Chaklala - Basal - Chaklala nightstop. Chaklala - Gujrat – Lahore – Palam


Summary for November 1944 : Expediter (2nd pilot) 4.45. Proctor 1.45. Argus 36.00.

Ian B-B
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Old 4th Jul 2014, 18:44
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Danny finds it is time to Move On.

It is a strange thing, but although any form of School should be a mine of good stories, I remember remarkably little of my time as an Instructor at Shawbury. Whatever, all good things come to the end sooner or later, and in summer '67 it was time for the next step. With my usual luck, I was disappointed (but not surprised) to draw a third AFS out of the bran-tub - Leeming.

ATC in all AFS is very much the same, the student pilots and their QFIs know all the same good old ways of making a Controller's life a misery, and have devised new ones. There was another novelty: at my two previous AFS (Strubby and Linton), they'd used Meteors and Vampires, both types I'd flown, and with which I was familiar. Now they were using the JP (Mks III and V), which I'd never had anything to do with, and so was an unknown quantity. The first thing I had to learn was the point at which you started to get worried (40 min, IIRC), which was better than the 30 min of the Meteor (I can't remember what it was at Linton with the Vampire, perhaps we didn't worry at all - maybe an alumnus of those days can jog my memory ?).

And Leeming was a Master Airfield, so a 4-watch system was in force. Admittedly this gives you a useful amount of time off, but then every fourth night is a whole "night bind" (1800-0800), which upsets family life somewhat. After a year there I got a "Supervisor" rating, which made things easier (I'm not sure whether as a simple 9-5 "day job", or with someone else on a two-watch system), as a Watch Boss.

We had to say farewell to our little OMQ at High Ercall. Fortunately, Iris's mother (in Marton) was 30 miles from Leeming, which was quite a possible commuting distance. Shortly before the Christmas of '67, a quarter came up in the "Coppice" at Leeming. My most vivid memory of the place is the little, square, diabolical coke stove in the kitchen (CHW supply). In this, I spent most of one freezing December night before we marched in, trying to get the beastly thing going (and you must remember that I was a skilled and experienced boilerman - as we all needed to be - by that time). As I recall, it was first cousin to the little black horror I had in my hut in Driffield in February '50, where I was in "Clear and Present Danger" of death by Carbon Monoxide poisoning every night.

Although we settled ourselves comfortably enough in the Coppice, our thoughts turned to getting a place of our own. We'd now been paying rent, either in Quarters, Hirings or privately, for fifteen years; it was a mug's game; it had to stop. After scouting around a bit, we settled on a fairly new, large dormer bungalow in Thirsk. Building Society and Bank came up trumps. In June of '68 we were "in" (and I couldn't sleep at nights for thinking of the monstrous debt I'd saddled myself with for the next twenty years).

Back at the ranch, they seem to have immediately put me to work on Approach. The CA/DF hadn't changed a bit, and there was a wonderful newcomer on the panel - the ARC-52 set. For pilot and Controller alike, this was "the second best thing sinced sliced bread" (the best being the aforesaid CR-CA/DF). No longer did you have to count studs on the box and try to remember which frequency was which, now you just dialled up whatever you wanted.

At the other end of the control desk was a very new creature indeed. The happy, carefree days of the Truck Radars were over for good (more's the pity !) Now two big radar tubes sat one above the other. The lower was easily recognisable: it was more or less identical to the precision radar in the old CPN-4s I knew from Thorney and Geilenkirchen, with glide path and centreline displays on the same tube. Now it was called the "PAR", (the Precision Approach Radar).

But the "search" PPI tube of the old CPN-4 had been replaced by a new Radar, the AR-1, which was a thing of wonder to all who came upon it for the first time - for it was a "quantum leap" forward for Airfield Radar. And I shall say a lot more about it next time, for this is quite enough for one night.

Goodnight, all.

Danny42C.


The old order changeth, giving place to new.
 
Old 5th Jul 2014, 01:02
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Far Away Places with Queer Sounding Names.

Ian BB,

Your Dad seems to have ranged over a wide range of Northern (British) India, specialising in the old NW Frontier of the Raj (my Dad was born (1875) to an Army family in Rawalpindi). The Fairchild Argus I never met (indeed, it was news to me that the RAF had them at all). From what Wiki tells me, they would have been at least as good, and probably better, than the Stinson Reliants which the Army used for Casevac in Burma.

I flew (only as a pax) out there in the Anson and Expeditor, and would imagine your Dad would have made the latter his choice if he had the option !

Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 5th Jul 2014 at 01:04. Reason: Spelling.
 
Old 5th Jul 2014, 08:23
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High End Aeroplanes

Danny

Yes he did see a lot of the NW Frontier at first - but if you will bear with me, trying to bring his old log book to life, he does go south, and also to your neck of the woods in Burma in the course of his next nine months with the Comm. Flight.
You are quite right in thinking that he preferred the Beechcraft to the Anson (indeed as harrym has told us of the luxury of the US made aircraft in comparison to the home grown product). Beech aircraft are ever held in high regard in the general aviation world, and when I had a close look at a Fairchild Argus at a fly-in in the UK, the build quality of the bird was a joy to see. They were so desirable as personal aircraft that (pre US entry to the war when all production went to the military) Hollywood Movie Stars Robert Taylor, Tyrone Power, Mary Pickford and the great Jimmie Stewart all purchased their own.

Ian B-B
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Old 5th Jul 2014, 14:29
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Slight titular thread drift here. A colleague used to fly Horsas as a member of the Glider Pilot Regiment rather than the RAF, and subsequently Dakotas just post-War; would his input be of interest to PPRuNers? It certainly would to me. If so I'll ask him to put finger to keyboard.
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Old 5th Jul 2014, 16:13
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Vampire T11 at Linton

Danny,

Just checked my log book. As a member of the Alumni, as you refer to it, I note that our sortie lengths were from 0:40 to 1:00 with the longest at 1:10. I know not when ATC got worried about us but I seem to remember that after an hour we were getting a bit low on fuel. The shortest trip was 0:35 which was a solo formation trip and knowing how inept I was at formation was probably short because of my sawing at the throttle all the time. One dual trip in formation my instructor said that if I didn't slow down on the throttle the mechanism was likely to burst into flames!

ACW
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Old 5th Jul 2014, 20:46
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"Come in, Number 29, your time is up".

Ian BB,

Most of the places you quote from your Dad's log I know; they are all in the North of (British) India. But Sarsawa and Basal have me foxed, where where they ? Chaklala we used to call Rawalpindi. Gujarat is right out to the West, stuck out into the top of the Arabian Sea. Why would anyone want to go there ? (Just curious !)

Yes, the Argus seems to have been a very useful and deservedly popular thing (about which I know nothing); it seems that many survive still. I'm not surprised that many Hollywood stars chose it as a runabout, and of course among them Jimmie Stewart (who was not a chocolate soldier), served gallantly in the Air Corps over here (I'd always thought on B-17s, but it seems on the B-24), and made Colonel.

He did the right thing, like David Niven, who on outbreak of War gave up his initial career in Hollywood to come back to Britain to rejoin his pre-war Regiment (the Highland Light Infantry) ...D.

Buster 11,

And to this PPRuNer, too ! Bring it on, please ! Ask him ! I would hope I speak for all of us !....D.

ACW418,

In later years (mid-'60s onwards), the AM had to accept that they'd recruited a generation of Bloggs who could neither tell the time nor read a fuel gauge. Accordingly they had to devise a way of compensating for this deficiency. All suggestions were variants of the "Come in Number 22, your time is up" megaphone call, familiar on any Park Lake.

With this in mind, you needed to remind Bloggs when he should take heed of his fuel state. In the case of the Meteor, IIRC, this was 30 mins airborne; for the JP it was 40 mins; for the Vampire I can't remember. All systems depended on the map-pins used by Local Controller - one idea was that the pin (taken out of the pin rack as soon as he called "Taxy") remained with Local as long as he was on frequency in the circuit. When he cleared circuit for Approach frequency, the pin was passed to an Assistant with headset on Approach, he'd already noted time airborne, set the pin in his board with the time, and watched the clock. When time was up, he gave tongue on Approach: the rest was up to Bloggs.

One thing must at all costs be avoided: never call a dual sortie (or the Instructor would be mortally offended). The method used at Leeming was practically foolproof: Bloggs (solo) would use "H", say. and his own personal odd number; his Instructor alone (or Bloggs dual) would use the Instructor's own even number. (or was it the other way round ?). So you must leave H24 or H38 alone, but look after H29 or H41. Worked like a charm.

Then they sought to semi-automate the system (but a veil must be drawn over that for the moment)....D.

Cheers all, Danny
 
Old 5th Jul 2014, 21:01
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Jet Clock

Danny,

I am familiar with the Jet Clock which was used in ATC but they never called us on the JP at Syerston or on the Vampire at Linton.

ACW
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Old 5th Jul 2014, 21:03
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Danny,

Seconded re Buster11, I for one would love to hear stories of combat gliding, having only experienced fairly peaceful stuff myself. Also the dangling of an Army pilot flying the Dakota. I think there's always a spare seat in this crewroom.

Smudge
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Old 5th Jul 2014, 22:14
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Gaining An R.A.F. Pilots Brevet In WW11

February 1952. Topcliffe Yorkshire No 47 Squadron.

There were five Hastings Squadrons in Transport Command in 1952. Three at Lyneham and two at Topcliffe, No 24 (VIP) and No 47. They were all part of the Strategic Transport Force. Most of the aircraft had been used in the Berlin Air Lift and coal bits were still found under the floor on inspections.
We still had R.A.F. bases worldwide, and especially in the middle east and the Canal Zone. We flew out there quite regularly taking people and freight. Route flying out to the Far East was usually Lyneham to start, then Malta or El Adem, Fayid, Habbanniya, Karachi, Negombo, Changi. The Korean War was still on so Hastings fitted with Stretchers and accompanied by R.A.F. Nursing Sisters carried on from Changi to Clark Field in the Philipines and Iwakuni in Japan. They would pick up wounded there and bring them back to Lyneham.
Gliders were no longer used but parachute troops were. We experimented with carrying a jeep and a trailer, or two jeeps or two trailers, on a beam under the nose (and the pilots). Several crews went down to Abingdon and did various drops from various heights- big parachutes. It worked but was not a good idea. The aircraft didn't like it and the thought of a parachute opening without notice did not do much for our peace of mind! We did three drops in April and another to drop parachute troops, all at Abingdon. In May we were to put it into practice in the Canal Zone. The largest Airborne Exercise since the Rhine Crossing, so I looked forward to seeing it from the other end.
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Old 5th Jul 2014, 22:44
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Ormeside28:-
We experimented with carrying a jeep and a trailer, or two jeeps or two trailers, on a beam under the nose (and the pilots).
In the traditional response, rather you than me, Sir! This configuration had passed into folklore by my time, to the extent that a trailer had supposedly become a gun, but whatever the makeup of this execrable arrangement it did not bode well for the business of overcoming gravity. That it was to be used operationally on a mass drop is news indeed, and I for one will follow your telling of it avidly.

Buster11, I second and third the wish to hear yet more of the Horsa. The whole business of how we operated gliders, how they were trained for, how they doubled up with the tug crews, how they were flown by RAF as well as Army pilots, all of whom were deemed to be combat troops as well, is a fascinating and still little understood part of our military aviation history. Ask your friend if he would kindly instruct us, please!

Danny, have you just hit Fast Forward? Are we already in 1968? Even I am now an old hand with 9 years under my belt and a mere 5 left. Where did it all go....?
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Old 5th Jul 2014, 23:50
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Gaining An R.A.F. Pilots Brevet In WW11

Thank you Chugalug. You must have been in Transport after me.
At Kasfareet we did a lot of formation flying. As a co-pilot in those days we were not fully converted on the Hastings- really just a pilots "mate" However on this formation flying the captain was struggling to fly and work the throttles so I "suggested" that I would work the throttles and he could concentrate on flying the aircraft. It worked and then we got on fine and I got plenty of pole time and he even let me do a take off!
We did the Exercise "Leap Year" in a valley away from the airfields. Very impressive as most of the Hastings force took part. We dropped the load of jeep and trailer and ten paratroops and two days later did it again.
Then we went up to Mafraq in Jordan with 50 troops to work with the Arab Legion and two days later brought them back. another couple of days wash up and back to Topcliffe via Lyneham.

We had a Tiger Moth and an Oxford on the station flight and I prevailed on the O.C. to check me out on the Tiger and convert me on to the Oxford, so he did and I was able to help him with his private air force.

Transport Command had a War Prize, a beautiful ex Luftwaffe yacht called the Austern Fischer and it was available for people to use. Six of us went down to Hamble by Hastings and joined the yacht at the R.A,F. Yacht Club on the Hamble river. We had a couple of days sailing off Cowes and the Solent and did a night crossing to Cherbourg. A day there and on to Alderney. We left there next on a rising gale and it took us two days to reach Portland and then motored back to Hamble where we were picked up by our Hastings and back to Topcliffe.

I thought that it was a very dodgy "do" taking a Hastings into Hamble, so I went to see the Wingco Flying and suggested that crews were taken by Hastings to Upavon and I would ferry them from there to Hamble and vice versa. This I did several times.
At the end of July King Farouk was deposed by General Neguib and we were all sent to Malta on standby for trouble. We went on to Fayid but it all quietened down without us being used.

The British North Greenland Expedition was exploring the high plateau in North Greenland at a height of 9000 feet. A Hastings was to go to Thule, a U.S.Base far north and use it to drop supplies, free drop from 100 feet, to enable the expedition to over winter. Mike Clancy was the captain and I was to be his co-pilot. We did the drops at Topcliffe and were all set to go when the Americans insisted that the pilots and navigator were to be commissioned officers, and I wasn't. Shame.
Anyway, off they went to Thule and did their first drop to the expedition. They had a white out and touched a wing. Luckily Mike was a big chap and managed to crash land level. Nobody was hurt but it looked as though the crew were there for the winter. However the Americans landed an Albatross on the ice, kept it rocking so that it wouldnt stick and used rockets and engines to bring our crew back to Thule. I cannot remember how they got back to Topcliffe, but they were back very quickly. The Hastings must be buried deep by now.
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Old 5th Jul 2014, 23:56
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Gaining an RAF pilots brevet in WW2

Danny I wonder if this Burma story "rings any bells" with you.
In the US we have three non commercial TV channels for public interest programs.They are financed by the cable companies.
To day I happened to tune in during an hour program about Air Commandos.. It was a recording of a historian relating the story during a meeting in Kansas City last month
Apparently during -March 44?--a US operation using C47, s flew gliders ---containing British troops? --to a landing behind the Jap lines in Burma.The landings and susequent snatches were done at night.A mini bull dozer had been taken in and was used to clear teak trees felled by the locals .Eventually this allowed C47, s to land but earlier L5, s were used to evacuate casualties one at a time.
At the end of the program three participants were interviewed. One had earlier been with Dolittle on the Tokyo raid----There are only 4 survivors left. I think this man had been Dolittles co- pilot.
D
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Old 6th Jul 2014, 03:44
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Ormeside,

This idea of taking off with all manner of heavy equipment as loose "deck cargo", so that your Hastings looks like a decorated Christmas tree strikes me as hazardous in the extreme, and qualifies as Folly Above and Beyond the Call of Duty. Not this child ! Concur with Chugalug.

Your tale of the Hastings buried under the snow recalled the amazing tale (on TV some years since) of the batch of Lockheed Lightnings buried deep in the Greenland Icecap, and how one was incredibly (proper use of the word) dug out years later and brought up in bits, to eventually fly again.

Strange about the Americans being so sniffy about Sgt-pilots. Not in tune with their Classless Society at all. What was their objection ? (one of that noble breed Sept'42 - November'43 myself)...D

Chugalug,

How Time Flies ! Yes, my final years at Shawbury do seem to be telescoped a bit, don't they ? But I can't think of any more to say. As I mentioned in my #5542 p.278: "Now I've already said that, as we slowly grow closer to the end of my story, my memory does not get better (as you might expect)".
But worse !...D

ACW418,

Confirms that the Vampires at Linton simply were left to their fate if the occupants were too stupid to watch their fuel without the help of outside prompting .....D.

DFCP,

Clearly these are Orde Wingate's "Chindit" operations we're talking about. There must be miles of references on the internet.

Past my bed-time. Goodnight, all. Danny. sent 6.7.14.

Last edited by Danny42C; 6th Jul 2014 at 03:47. Reason: Typo.
 
Old 6th Jul 2014, 07:40
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The Hastings must be buried deep by now.
According to the book about the Greenland expedition, the stunned silence after this crash was broken by the sound of one of the expedition team, Lt Cmdr Brett Knowles, racing down on skis with a bunch of tools to remove (pinch) anything useful he could find.

BK was a larger than life character and was my ATC gliding instructor not long after this event. Reading of the book was almost compulsory for his students.
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Old 6th Jul 2014, 09:03
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Ormeside28,pulse1

The book 'But Not In Anger' The RAF In the Transport Role (Ian Allan 1979 ) has a chapter on the Hastings in Greenland in 1952.


The preceding chapter has an account of the time a propeller broke off a Hastings over Libya in 1950. It scythed through the fuselage fatally injuring the co-pilot who was resting behind the cockpit ( or was it called flight deck in those days? ). The crew attempted to land at Benghazi, at night, but struck a hillock short of the runway - all 4 up front were killed.


There were 28 survivors! Rearward facing seats!!


Danny - I am amazed at the detail, particularly ATC equipment, that you can recall! When I retired I seemed to dump all that when I handed in my headset and ATC manuals at LHR. As for my Herc' time, I can remember people and places extremely well, but being a technophobe hardly anything about kit.
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Old 6th Jul 2014, 10:13
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Obscure Raj Destinations

Danny

Re your no.5907

For what it's worth - Sarsawa is 120 or so miles to the north of Delhi ex RAF, now IAF.

Basal lies to the west of Rawalpindi, east of the Indus, roughly half way to Kohat.

Gujrat (not GUJARAT) is roughly half way up the road from Lahore to 'Pindi.

'Best
Ian B-B
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Old 6th Jul 2014, 10:43
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Ormeside's story of the Greenland Hastings WD492 was covered by Pathe News and can be seen here:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvcMUO19evA

NB, Pathe recently released their library onto YouTube, so that these videos may now be downloaded and saved (on PCs, DVD's, etc), which wasn't possible from the parent site at:-

Ice Cap Men Home Aka Ice Cap Men Return From Greenland - British Pathé

Ormeside, thank you for your recollections of when the Hastings was relatively new, and mention of all those long closed ME stations. As for :-
At Kasfareet
we know a song about that, don't we boys and girls?
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Old 6th Jul 2014, 14:06
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Gaining An R.A.F. Pilots Brevet In WW11

Thank you Chugalug. Film most interesting. You see what a big chap was Mike Clancy, needed his strength to stop a cartwheel.

The annual Coastal/RN Summer exercise happened in June and several Lancasters came to Topcliffe. A co-pilot was asked for for one sortie, a convoy attack using special illuminants. Who volunteered? Me.
The very exciting exercise was carried out and I was put in the left hand seat for the return to Topcliffe. A Lancaster!!! and after three tours in Coastal, I still remember it.
Coming back from Lyneham one day, the captain asked me if I had ever thought of a Commission. I said that I thought about it all the time, so it had been discussed and interviews with various people were carried out. I had one to go, with the AOC at Odiham. I was posted, and thought that was it.
I was posted to the School of Maritime Reconnaissance at St Mawgan. All pilots in Coastal had to be navigators and a pilot and qualified navigator went through the course of three months together.
During the course I was sent for by the AOC at Odiham, and all was well.
The course was obviously geared to maritime subjects. Lots of navigation in Lancasters, astro, bombing and gunnery, ship recognition and a week at Portland with the Navy. It all culminated with a weekend in Gibraltar, my "oppo" a F/O took it out and I navigated back. We were diverted to Marham which entailed navigating through the London Control Zone (at that Time). Back to St Mawgan and postings. I wanted to go on flying boats, so was posted to Calshot to the Sunderland Conversion Course. My posting to O.C.T.U. at Spitalgate came through, so Calshot was put on hold.
The course at Spitalgate was three months, very much run by the R.A.F.Regiment, and I am sure that my training with the Glider Pilot Regiment got me through.
Commission through, May 1953, father came to parade and lunch!!
I had to report to Coastal Command at Northwood. What a difference. Met at station with a staff car and entered by front door!!
"You are here to get your posting?" "No I am going to Calshot" "Oh no you are not. Calshot has closed . You are going to Kinloss and you can choose, Neptunes or Shackletons". So I chose Neptunes.
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Old 6th Jul 2014, 17:36
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Brian 48Nav: ref your 5916 concerning the Benghazi Hastings in 1950, this has interest in view of recent discussion here of pilots having to cope with lack of elevator control. In this case, I seem to recall that it was down to the no. 2 engine shedding a single blade which not only caused fatal injury to the copilot occupying a rest bunk, it also severed the elevator control rods (or cables?). The captain's task was made more difficult by (a) it being a pitch dark night, and (b) what was left of the no 2. prop had taken out the adjacent engine as it departed the aircraft – so, in view of the fact that most of the occupants survived the crash landing, he did a remarkably good job; sadly, he was not one of the survivors.


Danny & others: Here follows the penultimate part of my 1943-45 story, perhaps at an apposite moment in view of recent chat here about military gliders. For me, this plus the next stage (Glider pick-up) were without doubt the most interesting and involving parts of my long training, but also sufficient to make me glad I never had to do it again in face of the enemy!



PART 7---LEICESTER EAST.

Our course at Wymeswold successfully completed mid-February 1945, there followed a spell of leave after which my crew proceeded to the Transport Command Aircrew Holding Unit at Morecambe. So down to Loughborough station (Great Central) for the last time, a place from which so many weekend journeys had commenced, and as the inevitable "V2" hiccuped its way south at the head of our train I reflected on what the future might hold; for with the war in Europe plainly on its last lap, a posting to the Far Eastern theatre had to be considered as more than likely.

Morecambe proved a pleasant interlude. The holding unit HQ was situated on the promenade in the requisitioned Midland Hotel, a slightly futuristic art deco building of the thirties looking rather out of place given the town's Victorian/Edwardian ambience but nevertheless of pleasing appearance; however, with normal Service accommodation being unavailable, the numerous boarding houses that in happier times would have provided rooms for holidaymakers were now utilised for our benefit. This suited both parties, the landladies because they were provided with a source of income otherwise largely denied by the exigencies of war, and us because most of the minor irritations of life on normal RAF stations were thus absent; indeed as I recall we had no commitment to the Service whatsoever other than reporting daily to the Midland, plus an extra weekly visit to collect our pay. Inevitably a good deal of time was passed in pubs & bars, of which Morecambe possessed a great number of a distinctly superior nature. This was a source of some friction with our landlady and her downtrodden husband, who were worthy and active members of the Band of Hope; many fading photographs of local temperance branch meetings & outings bore witness to their zealotry, and contributed to a general air of disapprobation concerning our way of life.

After several weeks of indolence we (and a number of other crews) were warned for posting to No. 1333 Transport Support Conversion Unit at Leicester East, for training in various tactical tasks: supply dropping, delivery of paratroops, towing of gliders and so forth. The journey south on Good Friday was more than usually uncomfortable for, with an early end to the war (in Europe, at least) plainly imminent, following years of deprivation the general populus was determined to have a holiday of sorts despite strong official discouragement. Consequently the train was jam-packed from Leeds onwards, and so it was both impossible and antisocial to insist on any exclusive right to our supposedly reserved carriage, making arrival at Leicester more than usually welcome.

Not far from the village of Oadby, the airfield was situated on open country now probably swallowed by the adjacent city. Planned to last about six weeks, our course of instruction was fairly intensive; so, with memories thereof consisting more of general impressions rather than of any event in particular, an attempt will be made to describe the various techniques taught to us there rather than write a narrative.

Supply dropping took two forms, either by means of electrical release of containers carried on racks beneath the aircraft or the physical ejection of objects from the main door, in both cases the supplies travelling the remaining distance to the ground courtesy of parachutes. In both instances it was necessary to fly fairly low and slow, as I recall about 600ft at 110 mph, rendering one extremely vulnerable in face of any enemy (memories of D-Day & Arnhem, not to mention the Rhine crossing, being still fresh in everyone’s' minds). On my first container-dropping exercise the instructor cautioned me to be sure of the release switch's exact location, so as to be able to find it positively when the time came; "finger it now without looking up" he said while yet some distance from the dropping zone. Fumbling above my head while controlling the aircraft at the same time, I located a switch saying "is this it?" but inadvertently moved it too, so that four containers descended into the Leicestershire countryside far from the DZ. My instructor was not pleased but could say little, his poor teaching technique being to some extent responsible for this fiasco.

Much time was devoted to open-door drops; not only was this a more flexible method of delivery, the army crews responsible for pushing the stuff out were also under training and, as there seemed to be more of them than us, we were kept fairly busy. Communication was by a system of coloured lights plus bell, ejection commencing or ceasing according to the pilot's signals. For them it was hard and dangerous work, today's roller conveyors, ball mats and side guidance rails being far into the future so that everything had to be manhandled to the door and then physically ejected - no safety strops or belts provided, real care had to be taken not to follow the goods out, while keeping one's footing in turbulent conditions at low level could be difficult given the added risk that air sickness might adversely affect judgment and concentration. For us at the sharp end it was an altogether more rewarding exercise; not only was it satisfying to deliver the goods accurately, as an additional bonus one could usually manage some semi-legal low flying on return from the DZ.

Dropping of live paratroops followed similar lines, except that this usually took place from a slightly greater height; and since it was live cargo being launched into space, extra care was taken in timing, assessment of drift & so on to ensure that it had the best possible chance of arrival within DZ boundaries. Considering they were all volunteers, to me none of them appeared over-enthusiastic prior to jumping, on the other hand I don't recall any refusals; and although I have always regarded parachuting as a form of mental aberration (after all, one got paid far more for staying in an aeroplane than for jumping out!), at the same time I have a sneaking admiration for anyone bold (or foolish) enough to do so.

Glider towing was also on the agenda. Many of the glider pilots were trainees like ourselves, so a good deal of time was expended hauling the large Horsa gliders round both circuit and countryside. As a towing pilot, one's job was fairly straightforward and largely a matter of remembering that the glider pilot was utterly dependent on your ability or lack of it. On gliding days, the Horsas would be lined up in single file on one side of the runway, tow ropes laid out ready in front of them, a similar line of Dakotas waiting engines-running on the other. A batsman would wave the lead aircraft into position ahead of the corresponding glider, halting it while the rope was attached to its rear tow hook; he would then wave the "slow ahead" signal to take up slack, then "Go" once the rope was taut. Takeoff usually followed immediately, the tug pilot having already obtained clearance from the tower. Full power was applied as soon as possible, this somewhat facilitated by a reduced tendency to swing owing to the glider's drag having a stabilising effect; nevertheless, time & distance to airborne was markedly longer than usual and on a warm, still day could be rather nail-biting. Although weight limits were doubtless laid down in some order book, we had none of today's performance data, ODM's or the like and so it was all rather hit & miss

Having a relatively light wing loading the glider inevitably became airborne first, but had to be kept down to a height of about 15-20 ft or otherwise the tug pilot would be unable to attain a correct flight attitude. Once he did so and was climbing away satisfactorily it was normal for the glider to remain in the "high tow" position, this being a more comfortable option for both him and tug. An intercom cable was incorporated into the rope so that in theory the pilots might speak to each other, but the system was hopelessly unreliable; the plugs usually fell out at one end or the other, so that the rest of the flight was conducted incommunicado.

This mattered less than one might think; the glider had to follow willy-nilly, its pilots doomed to place implicit faith in the tug pilot’s ability - and integrity, for he always had the option of pulling the emergency release knob. Mostly army SNCO's, the glider pilots’ ultimate unenviable destiny was to deliver their loads into some battlefield LZ, probably through a hail of shot & shell; following which, if surviving this ordeal, they were supposed to assist in leading the payload into battle. Some of them were surplus RAF pilots diverted into the Army's Glider Pilot Regiment, and occasionally I wondered by what small margin I had possibly escaped a similar fate.

To understand their point of view, one day I took a short flight in a glider. The relative silence and lack of vibration was noteworthy, as was also the hard work involved; control forces appeared heavy, which allied to occasional encounters with the tug's slipstream soon had both pilots sweating. However, what really hit home was just how much a misnomer was the term glider as applied to the Horsa, this becoming apparent when its captain pulled the tow release; as the rope whipped away, airspeed decayed with alarming rapidity and with 45 degrees of flap lowered we hurtled towards the ground at what appeared a suicidal angle. But touchdown was smooth, and with the hard braking permitted by a fixed nose wheel undercarriage we halted in very short order, a convincing demonstration of the Horsa's short-field landing capability.

It was my misfortune one day to be allocated for a cross-country towing exercise, an aircraft notoriously below par performance-wise; no reason for the deficiency was ever ascertained, but it was known to require greater expenditure of engine power than its companions for maintenance of any given speed or rate of climb. Further degradation of performance was guaranteed by the unusually warm weather, for after half an hour's struggle at max. continuous power we had barely attained 2000ft agl, by which time (with the cylinder head temperature gauge needles approaching the limit) I decided to call it a day and levelled off. However, during the climb the glider captain's distant voice had already been complaining scratchily down the intercom that his load of ATC cadets were going rather green about the gills, and now I was regaled with lurid accounts of their general malaise. I responded with anxious concern about my overworked engines, but eventually was forced to yield to his entreaties for a higher cruising altitude; to little avail however, as the engines soon started overheating again in return for only a marginal climb rate, and anyway the hot, turbulent air obviously extended way above any attainable level. There then followed a flow of increasingly caustic comments from behind, but fortunately one of the intercom plugs fell out and so the remainder of the flight was relatively peaceful.

A late highlight of the course was introduction to the SEAC Drop technique, still in use today for the airborne unloading of supplies at very low level when conventional methods are either impractical or too risky. Accompanied by instructors, several of us set off for Derbyshire's Peak District, where in line astern we proceeded to fly a triangular pattern at very low level. This was real low flying, hugging contours along valley sides, scraping over ridges at the end and dropping down again the other side; somewhere along the way dummy supplies were ejected at each brief passage over a designated DZ, the whole exercise intended to simulate the reality of forward supply in Burma's mountainous terrain. It was fairly demanding and enormous fun, although I doubt very much whether our euphoria was shared by the inhabitants of a picturesque village whose chimney pots were close-shaved each time round; but then, the War was still on (if only just), and such activity received much greater tolerance than today.

In fact hostilities in Europe finally ended during our course's last week, and a general "48" was declared for all; official recognition of the inevitable, for the whole country erupted into a bibulous, happy bacchanalia of a nature unthinkable in this day & age. All pubs were filled to bursting, endless groups of laughing people sang and danced in the streets all day and most of the night, while vast quantities of flags and bunting appeared from nowhere to festoon buildings large & small. After several hours of celebration in Leicester's bars and streets, long after midnight I boarded an Oxford-bound mail train to be dumped in a grey dawn a couple of hours later; where, after a short rest at home, I joined further celebrations in the city centre. All this might appear silly or even childish today, yet it is impossible to convey to those not alive at the time just what the War's ending meant to all; for after almost six long years of deprivation and (for many) much worse, for the second time in a generation and at most enormous cost in life, money and material, the evil of German hegemonism had been seen off in a most decisive manner. True, Japan remained defiant, but even though I for one knew that this might well concern me personally, I was not downcast; rather the reverse in fact, for with Germany now out of the way surely Japan could not long survive the Allies' undivided attentions.

A week or so after VE day my crew (which by this stage had acquired a co-pilot) plus a few others were notified of posting to RAF Ibsley, home of a small unit offering training in the esoteric art of plucking stationary gliders off the ground; a sure indication that our eventual destination was South East Asia, for it was with that theatre in mind that this technique had been developed. Boarding our train at Leicester’s familiar but now long-vanished Central station, my all-NCO crew found ourselves allocated a rather old-fashioned but immensely comfortable first class compartment, much to the rage of a party of officers in an adjoining, distinctly tatty third. Life looked good; the sun shone warmly, the war was over (mostly, anyway), our "V2" roared away lustily as it hustled the train up towards Rugby & points south, and we looked forward to the next two weeks at what was reputedly a remote and rustic little airfield situated in the midst of Arcady.
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