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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 10th Jul 2014, 12:57
  #5941 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Llandudno
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Gaining An R.A.F. Pilots Brevet In WW11

Gradually we worked up to three squadrons at Topcliffe. Plenty of trips to the rocket and gunnery ranges on the Lincolnshire coast, Mablethorpe and Theddlethorpe, bombing on towed targets and also, on navexs, flame floats away from shipping. There were Ocean Weather ships , converted corvettes and frigates, Juliet at 20W and Kilo much further out. We dropped mail and papers to them, always welcome. Exercises with the R.N. in the Channel and North Sea and off Londonderry. We went to the Joint Anti Submarine School at Londonderry for a month each year, and also to the school in Malta, "Fair Isle" with the Mediterranean fleet. We were able to go out in the ships and submarines which was enjoyable. Also, with the Neptune's APS 20, we carried out exercises with the Fast Patrol Boats out of Felixtowe, vectoring them on to Dutch FPB's out ofHolland. I had two days on one out of Felixtowe, three Merlins, 45 knots, some speedboat. We were lit up by one of our Neptunes and realised how powerful was it' searchlight.
The final exercise at Jass was escort to a convoy leaving the Clyde and being attacked by the Londonderry submarines. Quite dodgy around the Mull of Kintyre. You may remember Danny that one of your ex colleagues from Valley was the Captain of a Neptune which hit the Mull. (We remember that every year at Topcliffe Church.)
Another of our tasks was shadowing our Soviet friends up the Norwegian coast as far as North Cape.
I was given a Captaincy in the spring of 1954 and my first co-pilot and I remained close friends until he died two years ago. When the Squadron went to Jass in the spring, as I had just done the course, I was put in charge of our Neptune at Ballykelly. Lovely! Air tests up the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Self authorising.. A real OCTU exercise "what would you do if you were in charge of fifty men?"
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Old 10th Jul 2014, 20:41
  #5942 (permalink)  
 
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Danny42C .. back from holiday, have read, nothing to contribute about your waste of time at CATCS

If only you had moved on to Area Radar, where the 'real ATCOs' live
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Old 11th Jul 2014, 00:23
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Ormeside,

When 20 Sqdn disbanded in Sept'51, the pilots were scattered to the four winds. Can you remember the name of the one who ended on Neptunes ? ....D.

MPN11,

But we turned out some very fine crops in your time, didn't we ? Posted to Area Radar ? Smelling salts, quick ! ....D.

Cheers, Danny.
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Old 11th Jul 2014, 00:38
  #5944 (permalink)  
 
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Danny arrives at RAF Leeming in time to see them earn some Brownie Points.

It happened on a warm afternoon on 31 July'67, so I can only just have been posted in from Shawbury a few days before. There was a train crash on the NE Main Line near Thirsk.

RAF Leeming played quite a useful part in the subsequent rescue. One of our (dual) JPs just happened to be flying in the vicinity; they were alerted by the huge cloud of dust caused by derailed cement wagons tearing up the roadbed until the severed brake pipes could automatically cause the remaining parted halves of a goods train to stop.

They went over to see what had happened: it was plain enough to see that the two northbound (fast and slow) lines were blocked by wreckage. The "Thirsk Straight" is what it says, several miles of dead-straight track along which the passenger express drivers customarily "get the clog down".. They looked up and down the lines, and were horrified to see a long express about two miles south, running very fast, coming up on the now partially obstructed fast line.

There was no time to give any warning (even supposing that it had been possible to communnicate with the express driver), and they were helpless witnesses as this train, sparks flashing from the wheels under heavy braking but still travelling fast, come upon the obstruction. This threw the train off the line to the right, ripping the sides out of several carriages as it did so. It was clear that there would be casualties (in fact, seven killed and 45 injured).

Of course the Instructor was onto Leeming "Approach" at once; as he still spoke an Assistant was dialling 999. The Instructor could advise the exact position of the accident (a few miles south of Thirsk), and the apparent best road access for the emergency vehicles. And so it was that when a farm hand arrived, gasping, at the nearest farmhouse across fields a mile away to telephone for help, the blue lights were flashing on the horizon and the ambulance sirens could faintly be heard in the distance.

The time (23 minutes) to respond, doesn't sound all that fast, but then I suppose they had to came up from York, and would undoubtedly have been longer without our timely assistance. It was very good PR for RAF Leeming, anyway.

Reference:

Thirsk rail crash (1967) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirsk_rail_crash_(1967)

Goodnight, all,

Danny.


Glad to be of assistance !
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Old 11th Jul 2014, 14:56
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Gaining An R.A.F. Pilots Brevet In WW11

Danny, The name you asked for is Geoff Finding. We have a reunion of ex-Neptuners every year at Topcliffe in October. A Church Service and then a drumhead service in the Cemetery to remember that Neptune (and our other lost friends). Now two of the crew daughters attend, they were babies at the time of the crash and are now grandmothers!! We put up a Torridon sandstone memorial on the site of the crash in July 1998. A nephew of one of the ex Neptuners was C.O. of a St Mawgan S.A.R. 203 Sqn Sea King, flew up to the Mull and took us all up to the site. One of the 36 Sqn took Holy Orders when he left the R.A.F. and conducted the service. We even had a piper. We have a plaque in Topcliffe church and the service is well attended.
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Old 11th Jul 2014, 20:16
  #5946 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by Danny42C
But we turned out some very fine crops in your time, didn't we? Posted to Area Radar? Smelling salts, quick! ....
That's an interesting observation, and soooo 60's.
All the airfield ATCOs at the time had this 'thing' about Area Radar postings. I did 2 airfield tours, and 2.5 area tours as a JO ATCO. On mature reflection (which I can do occasionally) I have to say that Area was more rewarding, from the 'providing a service' perspective. Yes, for sure we didn't get to see pointy-jets doing their thing, but I guess we saw the bigger picture. And it was very satisfying.

As a sqn ldr, I did Senior Supervisor and OC Training Sqn at Eastern and SATCO at Waddington and Stanley (thus exposing myself to any ATCOs around here). SATCO at Waddo, as Strike Force and a MEDA (and IC Station Exercise DISTAFF), was without a doubt a dream posting ... but the challenges of Eastern, supervising and training 50 ATCOs and 150 AATCs, had its own interest too.
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Old 12th Jul 2014, 03:39
  #5947 (permalink)  
 
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Ormeside,

Your:
"Who will teach Maritime Air now if we ever have a Maritime Force again - read Big Steamers by Rudyard Kipling ?"

Know it well from boyhood: "....And the joints that you carve/Are brought to you daily by all us Big Steamers/And if anyone should hinder our coming, you'll starve".

True when written a century since, proved true in 14/18 and 39/45: (Churchill said it was his greatest worry of the war). We were lucky that Hitler was a land animal. If he had only given Grand Admiral Raeder all the money he wanted to build U-boats, he could have had us on our knees in six months.

He nearly managed it as it was. In'41, he was sinking merchant tonnage far more quickly than it could be replaced. It was not until much later that Bletchley Park gave the Navy the vital edge over the U-boat.

That this nation, whose very survival may depend on keeping our sea lanes open (and has actually done so twice in the last 100 years), should leave itself almost defenceless in this respect, beggars belief.

As for the Neptunes, I'm slightly confused. I was at Leeming from 6/67 to 12/72. During that time, it first seemed to me that the skies over the Vale of York must have been crawling with Neptunes (four squadrons of them plus an OCU) from Topcliffe.

But then I never saw a Neptune, we never heard of them (and I'm not sure I knew they even existed). And my memory of Topcliffe is of some sort of Flying School for signallers or flight engineers, with Varsities flown by staff pilots (which I roundly cursed many a time as they came over our Thirsk house, max boost and revs after take-off) when I was just trying to get some sleep after a night watch at Leeming).

After some ferreting about, I learn that they were there '53 to '57. Would that be about right ? At that time ('55 -'57), I'd be in Strubby (Lincolnshire) well away from them.

It's nice to know that their time in Topcliffe is still remembered in an annual Memorial Service (but even if I were still in Thirsk, I'd still be unable to attend).

Geoff Finding certainly rings a bell, but I cannot put a face to the name. Think he was on the other Flight of 20 Squadron...D.

MPN11,

Case of "you pays your penny, you takes your choice !", I think. When your "glass ceiling" is Flt.Lt., all that remains to interest you is your surroundings. When I was "ploughed" by CMB, my options were Fighter Control and ATC. I knew what Fighter Control meant - "down the hole" and a troglodyte life for the next 18 years. Up in a Tower, I would see blue skies, white clouds and (yes) pointy noses. For an old pilot, a no-brainer !

Whereas, you, with a (richly deserved - particularly after the shabby way in which the Navy had treated you) full Career ahead, the Area Radar route was the obvious way to go....D.

Goodnight to you both, Danny.
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Old 12th Jul 2014, 14:11
  #5948 (permalink)  
 
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Farewell to the Raj.

Geoff's final months with 229 Group Comm Flight were uneventful. I see no engine failures or forced landings in his log, and all his passengers got to where they were going. His last passenger-carrying trip in the Argus came in April '45, also his promotion to W/O, and no more Proctors appear in his log either, thereafter all his working flights were in the Expediters. When not working he would take “their” Harvard up on local flights (Aeros I expect).

The 'A' Bombs were dropped in August which would change everything, but the Comm Flight remained a very busy unit throughout Aug./Sept. Can anyone tell me what was at Nawai, Rajasthan at that time? Geoff flew 9 trips to that place in the space of 4 weeks and I cannot see what was there at all. His Commission P/O took effect from 25th August '45. Geoff flew his last trip for the Comm Flight on Sept 7th '45 (it was also the last time he would fly an Expediter) 'tho he would not have known that.
He does not fly again until Sept 20th when his log shows him as 2nd pilot on one of the dreaded C-87s (see Ernie K Gann's “Fate is the Hunter” for the low-down on that machine). His log book summary for Sept. shows that he is now with 232 Squadron (also based at Palam) and his first trip with them, on 20th Sept, is to faraway Rathalana (Ceylon) 7.50 in the air. The next entry in his log is not until six weeks later when he 2nd pilots C-87 (no.617) back to the ranch at Palam 7.45. What they were doing in Ceylon for those six weeks I know not, but as Danny has told us, once the war was suddenly over, all sorts of chaos ensued.

Ten days later his log shows that he boards Avro York no.185 as 2nd pilot and departs Palam for the last time, they nightstop in Mauripur. Nov. 11th they fly to Shaibah (Iraq) and then on to Almaza (Cairo). Nov. 12th on to Luqa (Malta) and then on Nov. 13 1945 from Malta to Holmsley South (New Forest) and Geoff was home - never to see India again.


232 Squadron disbanded at Poona, August 1946.


Ian BB
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Old 12th Jul 2014, 18:59
  #5949 (permalink)  
 
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Ian BB,

Very interesting ! I never heard of a C-87 before. Of course we knew that Liberators had been roughly converted into makeshift transports to carry VIPs to distant shores (Churchill to Yalta ?), and the unfortunate General Sikorski of Poland had a B-24 which dived straight into the sea on a night take-off from Gibraltar in 1943. But I didn't know that there was a full-scale attempt to produce an official pax/goods transport out of the things. (I hereby create a new abbreviation: YLSNED [You Learn Something New Every Day] to add to our Lexicon). From what I now read, Churchill might've been safer in a good old battleship !

Your "Rathalana" was, of course: "Ratmalana". (Never got to Ceylon myself). "Nawai" ? - No idea ! Tried Google, got:

<Nawai Narai (pass) - Pakistan
pk.geoview.info/nawai_narai,1426345‎Cached
Nawai Narai is a pass and is located in Federally Administered Tribal Areas, (ie, "Injun Country") * Pakistan. ... pictures near Nawai Narai ... abandoned airfield, Razmak Airfield.>

* "There is rock to the left, and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,
"And ye may hear a breech-bolt snick where never a man is seen." (Kipling: "The Ballad of East and West")

Followed up, got:

<Razmak Airfield, Pakistan - iTouchMap
itouchmap.com/?c=pk&UF=6276984&UN=6319781&DG...‎Cached
Maps, photos, and points of interst for Razmak Airfield, Pakistan - Spot Feature - Abandoned airfield>

Danny.
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Old 12th Jul 2014, 20:33
  #5950 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
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Confusion!

Danny

You are quite right, Ratmalana not Rathmalana (I misread the m for an h and then added an m to confuse myself even further), his log book was hand written, no laptops in those days! The Nawai I am curious about is, according to his logs approx 1 hour flying time in the Expediter from Palam. I think it is LAT 26.35 N 75.92 E ALT 1007 ft 28 nm south(ish) of Jaipur. It's all water under the bridge at this distance, but I was curious about 9 return trips to this spot within 1 month!
Winnie would have been a lot safer in a battleship, the C-87 was an abortion that lived, (unlike it's progenitor the B-24, the most produced heavy bomber A/C of WW2), just Wiki for the story.

'Best
Ian BB
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Old 12th Jul 2014, 21:57
  #5951 (permalink)  
 
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See also E.K. Gann. "The C87 wouldn't carry enough ice to chill a highball."

He also wrote a complete book about one that landed on a lake in northern Quebec.

After an excellent landing etc...
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Old 12th Jul 2014, 22:15
  #5952 (permalink)  
 
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Ernie K Gann

Hi Flash

No pilot, in my eyes, is complete, unless he has read and absorbed the hard-earned wisdom of the times of the pioneers of transport aviation ie: Ernie Gann. The book you refer to is "Island in the Sky".

Ian BB
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Old 13th Jul 2014, 15:28
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Gaining An R.A.F. Pilots Brevet In WW11

The detachment at Ballykelly took all the Squadron aeroplanes. During this detachment Ballykelly ran out of our fuel, 115/145 octane and Shannon couldn't supply. I had to fly the Neptunes back to Topcliffe to refuel and make sure that we had enough for the exercises.
We had an exercise for two weeks operating out of Orlandt at the entrance to Trondheim Fjord. We were operating with HMS Jamaice and Henry attendent destroyers, Daring class, new at that time, now just replaced with the new and much larger Darings. We operated in the north of Norway, checked out Bardufoss in case we ever had to use it, and saw the remains of Tirpitz in the breakers yard at Tromso. We were warned at Orlandet not to run off the runway as we would be up to the wing in an hour and disappear overnight. There were reputed Condors, which used the airfield in the war, underground!!
The only time I lost an engine in anger was on a weather ship trip. I spoke to another Neptune and said that if I couldn't maintain height below a thousand feet I would blow the tip tanks Which I did and managed to get into Ballykelly on one. At Bk the railway runs across the runway and the train has priority. Not this time and the train was emergency stopped!! The engineers last job before entering the aircraft was to take the pins out of the flange holding the tip tanks on to the wing and show the captain, luckily he had done so.
We had a very good "air trafficker" at Topcliffe. We didn't have proper GCA, but a modified one which we knew as the ARAA, and he was an expert. I was never diverted by weather
Most aircrew officers had a secondary duty and because for several months at Valley I had been in the Mountain Rescue Team, I was give:n that job. There was a very experienced Flight Sergeant in charge so he ran it. I went out a lot with them at weekends when not otherwise involved. Our area was from Jedburgh to Mottram and included the Lake District, Pennines and North Yorks Moors.
We had a Varsity on the Station Flight which was used as a hack, so I managed to get checked out on that.
In August 1956 No 203 Squadron was disbanded. Some were posted to Kinloss to convert to The Shackleton. My wife was pregnant with our first child and the Group Captain arranged with the C.O. Of No 120 Squadron at Aldergrove for me to be converted to the Shackleton on the Squadron, so it was goodbye to Topcliffe and Hello Aldergrove.
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Old 13th Jul 2014, 18:19
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Join Date: Jan 2002
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GLIDER PICK-UP TRAINING

Hello again Danny & friends:- Following on from departure from 1333 TSCU Leicester East shortly after VE Day, this is my last reminiscence of the long drag from grading school, through the wings stage to the point where one was considered (hopefully) ready for posting to an operational squadron.



Passing through Oxford, my long-suffering mother was on the platform to hand over a .22 rifle I hoped to use against New Forest bunnies. During the stop a couple of coaches holding many companions who had been with us since Wymeswold days were drawn away for eventual attachment to the Fairford branch line train, their ultimate destinations airfields such as Fairford itself, Broadwell, Blakehill Farm or Down Ampney, (the latter three now long since reverted to agriculture, and the branch itself vanished). For us, onwards to Southampton where railway officials attempted to eject us, saying the train did not stop at Brockenhurst (junction for Ringwood, our final destination); but the officer i/c our party stood firm, pointing to the routing label on our coach and demanding that it proceed accordingly. In the end the platform inspector went to consult higher authority by telephone, but it was no good - we were now on Southern Railway territory, and the Southern apparently operated to different rules - so perforce we had to pile out and continue the short distance to Brockenhurst by the next train. Here awaited what appeared to be a mobile museum exhibit, a collection of ancient, flat-roofed non-corridor stock headed by a quaint little loco that in later years might almost have qualified as a companion for Thomas the Tank Engine.

However we had already noticed the attractive New Forest scenery during the run from Southampton, its spring greenery becoming even more fetching as we trundled slowly westward towards the then unspoilt and pleasant little town of Ringwood. Ibsley itself lay a few miles north, just off the Salisbury-Bournemouth road, and proved to be a thoroughly delightful, bucolic little airfield whose ambience was further improved by a distinct lack of the "bull" normally associated with larger establishments; indeed we soon found that, provided one appeared for flying when required, it mattered not what we did or did not do in our own time, of which commodity there was no shortage. Numerous hoardings beside the railway track had already informed us that this was the "Strong Country", so we were not slow to avail ourselves of this and other firms' tasty products on offer in the surrounding alehouses.

Situated in a gaggle of ramshackle huts on the edge of the New Forest, no.1 Glider Pick-up Flight's HQ at RAF Ibsley offered a few scruffy offices plus a small lecture room where we would learn the rudiments of what awaited us. Despite previous vandalisation of the HQ notice board outside, where some anonymous wag had painted a crude "O" in front of "GPU", there was no hint of coercion and we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and friendly attitude of the instructing staff who plainly regarded us as near-equals rather than students. Although small-scale glider towing still survives at gliding clubs today, large gliders as such have now ceased to exist; indeed, the very idea of grabbing them off the ground with the aid of a hook dangled from a moving aeroplane would no doubt be condemned as highly dangerous and illegal to boot. Yet, done properly with the correct procedures & equipment, it proved to be both enjoyable and reasonably safe.

A large winch carrying steel cable (approx 3/8” x-section), electrically powered and fitted with an automatic brake, was securely fitted inside the Dakota’s main cabin, the cable ducted to a wooden arm about ten feet in length hinge-mounted just outside and below the main door. In flight, this arm normally lay flush with the aircraft fuselage, but was lowered to an angle of about 700 when pick-up was imminent. Sliding in a track on this arm was a large hook attached to the cable, said hook retained by a spring catch at the arm's end. On the ground, a large loop of nylon rope was suspended between two "goal posts" about ten feet apart and the same height, with a further length of rope attached to the loop's bottom half at ground level via a sliding eye; the far end of this length being attached to the glider sitting to the left and in rear of said posts. There was a "weak link" at this end, very necessary as we shall see even though the glider provided was the Hadrian, an American product somewhat smaller and lighter than the Horsa which we had just finished hauling around the Midlands countryside - but the latter would have been too heavy for the Dak's capability in the snatch role.

Having identified the pick-up site and ascertained surface data by radio (i.e. glider weight, soil firm or soggy, grass long, short, or wet, surface wind etc etc), a wide circuit was flown while the winch crew set their gear accordingly, the most important item being pre-setting of the automatic brake controlling cable payout following engagement of the hook. Turning on a long, shallow final approach, flap was lowered to about 10 degrees, propeller rpm set near maximum and manifold pressure adjusted to about 18-20 inches so as to give a descent rate of about 400 fpm with the certainty of instant engine response being available at the moment of engagement; the aim being to pass over and slightly rightwards of the goalposts at a height of about twenty feet. Now came the critical part: as the posts were about to disappear out of one's line of vision, the control spectacle was moved smartly back and simultaneously the throttles advanced rapidly to full power, producing a tremendous roar from the momentarily overspeeding propellers along with an initial surge of acceleration. However this rapidly degraded again into deceleration as the glider's weight was taken up, accompanied at the same time by a frightful din, heavy vibration and a strong smell of burning brake lining as the winch (hopefully) brought everything back under control. The initial turmoil over, the pilot's essential task was then to keep the whole ensemble climbing at whatever rate could be achieved; in our case, it was only necessary to stagger up to circuit height and fly downwind, where the glider pilot would cast off and land to prepare for the next snatch.

In practice the success rate was no more than about 60%. Disregarding an occasional case of misjudgment resulting in the port propeller rather than the hook contacting the rope, with more or less spectacular (though never, fortunately, serious) results, the most frequent source of failure was breakage of the weak link immediately after pick-up. This invariably occurred at the moment of greatest strain, before the glider was airborne, and was of course immediately apparent to the tug pilot who then had to rapidly reduce power to a more normal setting; the cause always due to a combination of weight plus excessive drag resulting from poor ground conditions, especially so after rain and/or if the grass was overdue for cutting. Although these conditions were taken into account when setting the winch brake, it was an inexact science and available data not always as reliable as it might have been. For myself, I experienced my share of weak link fractures but can say (hand on heart) that all pick-ups performed by our course were always by the hook and not the prop; which is more than our chief instructor could say, who landed ignominiously one day with about a hundred feet of rope trailing from his port propeller.

Watching from the ground could provide some worthwhile free entertainment, indeed a few locals sometimes turning out to watch. There was usually an air of slight tension among the spectators as the Dakota droned steadily down towards the waiting posts; as they fell away at the moment of contact, the tug roared back into the sky, the rope whipping taut behind it and the glider (hopefully) leaping into the air after only a few yards' run. As they climbed away initially, the distance between the two noticeably increased due both to the winch paying out and the nylon rope's natural hysteresis; however the process was soon reversed, and as the winch slowly motored the cable back in the gap once again narrowed. On the not infrequent occasions that the weak link broke, the nylon rope would lash viciously forwards and then trail along behind the tug while the glider trundled a mere few yards along the ground. At this distance in time, I cannot recall how the nylon rope aft of the hook was dealt with following glider release, but fancy that it was either recovered by hand into the aircraft once the steel cable was fully wound in or just dropped during a second run over the field. The tug pilot was of course provided with a means of dumping the glider in emergency, this taking the form of an explosive-powered cable cutter which mercifully was never used during my stay at Ibsley; nor; if the staff were to be believed, at any other time.

The whole business was a tremendous tribute to the Douglas Co. and Pratt & Whitney, makers respectively of the Dakota and its engines; day after day, many times each day, the long-suffering motors were subjected to this punishing ordeal of being slammed from near idle to full power, yet never once did they falter or object in any way. This earned our profound gratitude, for even with provision of the aforesaid cable-cutter any engine failure at the critical moment would quite probably have proved fatal; at an undesirably low speed, and very close to the deck with full power on one side and a suddenly windmilling, powerless propeller on the other, there could well have been only one possible consequence.

Deciding that I ought to savour this unique business from the glider's point of view, one sunny morning I walked over to the pick-up site where a Hadrian was waiting ready by the goal posts, its army pilot lying on the grass and nonchalantly smoking a fag while the Dakota rumbled its way downwind. Obtaining his slightly surprised OK to my request, I watched it turn crosswind, line up on final approach, lower flap and commence the run-in; still he puffed away, making no move to board. The Dak's steady drone became audibly louder, and now the lowered arm with its hook was clearly visible; uneasily eyeing it and then the glider, I attempted a time & distance calculation based on the probability of us perhaps not quite making it - surely we must move soon, or was it already too late? At last, when I had already resigned myself to seeing a pilotless glider whipped into flight before our very eyes, he stretched languidly upright, chucked away his half-smoked cigarette, and strolled slowly towards the Hadrian's door followed so closely by yours truly that we must have looked like a comedy turn - for had I not kept in step, I would assuredly have tripped him up. Once inside, with the now urgent din of engines increasing by the second, all pretence of dignity was abandoned as I scrambled into the copilot's seat and felt fruitlessly for a safety belt that maliciously eluded my panic-stricken fumbling; finally, abandoning all hope of locating it a split second before the Dak roared deafeningly overhead, I grabbed a frame member with both hands and prayed hard.

Coincident with an intense but momentary impression of the glider standing on its nose, an enormously powerful acceleration whipped my head backwards as we positively leaped into the air as if fired from a gun. Ahead, a white rope extended from the attachment point just above us towards a distant and still receding Dakota, while the ASI had apparently jumped instantaneously from zero to over 100 mph; meanwhile my hat, hurriedly placed on a ledge by the seat, had vanished without trace. Suddenly speed was falling again after the nylon rope reacted to its initial stretch and, having temporarily closed the gap, dangled ominously in front; but this was only for a second or two, and as we once more felt the pull of the tug I was able to enjoy this brief period of almost silent, vibration-free flight while the winch slowly drew us back in. This was still in progress halfway along the downwind leg when, to my surprise, the pilot pulled the release knob. There was little effect initially, for speed hardly decayed at all and we continued for a while with minimal loss of height; for as against the Horsa's brick-like qualities, quite evidently the Hadrian was a true glider.

Gravity continued to have only a small effect, and we drifted crosswind in near silence onto the final approach without use of flap. Unlike many of the glider pilots at Leicester, those at Ibsley were all highly experienced and this one obviously knew his business off pat. Whispering over the airfield boundary at hedge-clipping height we came to rest at exactly the right spot, the ground party having only to re-attach the rope ready for the next pick-up; a superbly skilled piece of flying, and a perfect end to an enthralling, one-off experience now (so far as I know) totally unavailable anywhere.

All too soon, our short stay at this idyllic little airfield came to an end. Not only had the work been interesting and demanding but plenty of spare time had been available in which to explore, using our bikes on near-empty roads, the delightful local countryside and its welcoming hostelries. My little single-shot rifle had come in handy too, not for attacking the local fauna which had proved adept at avoiding me when thus armed, but for competitions with my crew in potting at old bottles & tin cans on an adjacent gravel pit. Oddly enough, driving by thirty years later I was surprised to notice that this pit and its associated buildings looked totally unchanged, but that is by the way. Dispersing to our various homes on two weeks leave, at the end of it we looked forward to certain posting to the Far East where the war against Japan seemed far from over.


POSTSCRIPT


As a slightly ironic tailpiece, I never dropped supplies or paratroops in anger, nor snatched gliders or even towed them again; so were the weeks at Leicester & Ibsley a complete waste of my time and the taxpayers' money? The answer is, given the benefit of hindsight, yes with a capital "Y", but at the time there was every prospect that some or all of our expensive training would be put to good use. During my short time in Burma prior to VJ day, it was common knowledge that preparations for the re-conquest of Malaya & Singapore were well in hand, with the operation expected to take place in September 1945; and, had this come about, the air transport fleet would have been heavily involved. Requiring a several hundred-mile flight from Rangoon down the coasts of Burma and Malaya, quite possibly with gliders in tow, this would have been no picnic during the monsoon's tail end. The return distance was close to the Dakota’s max range, so (reputedly) the plan was to have been for the invading forces, having previously been delivered by us to battle via parachute (or glider, maybe), to capture and prepare airfields on which we would (hopefully) land. How true this was I can't say, but none of us were sorry when the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombs finally forced the Japs to see sense!

The pick-up concept had been devised as a method of recovering gliders for re-use, without going to the bother or expense of providing landing strips for normal towed takeoffs. However, in the event it was seldom used for real; not only were most gliders damaged beyond feasible repair as the result of their inevitable semi-crash arrivals, actual operations using them were relatively few and so it was simply not worth the risk or trouble of attempting to recover them.
harrym is offline  
Old 13th Jul 2014, 18:46
  #5955 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Richmond Texas
Posts: 306
Indirect

If the story of an indirect path to a RCAF pilot' brevet might be permitted, here goes...

My uncle graduated from university during the depression when there weren't many jobs available. The RCAF, however, had just announced a direct officer entry program for recent university graduates. He applied and was accepted. Shortly after war was declared he was a Squadron Leader in the supply branch and he applied for pilot training. The powers that be found that he had a minor eyesight defect and said "No, you can't see well enough." Later in the war the RCAF did what services always do when they run short of cannon fodder and lowered the bar. He met the new vision requirements. He applied for flight training once more and was told "NO, you're too valuable where you are." He then took a couple of weeks leave and got himself a PPL (A major no-no). He returned to work and said "Now you have to consider me." They did but they busted him down to Provisional Pilot Officer and taught him to fly all over again. He flew a tour in 6 group, was awarded the DSO and rose to WingCo. After the war, of course, he reverted to F/L. He continued to fly and rose again to WingCo but the powers that be wouldn't let him in a jet. He then retired without pension or much else from the RCAF.

After an excellent landing etc...
Flash2001 is offline  
Old 14th Jul 2014, 02:10
  #5956 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: AndyCappLand
Age: 98
Posts: 7,646
Ormeside,

Bit puzzled about your "ARAA" Radar at Topcliffe - only thing I can think of would be an ACR7 (-C or -D), which could do quite a decent PPI (step-down or continuous descent) - but no glide-path. Does that ring a bell ?....D.

harrym,

No sooner have I invented my new acronym then YLSNED comes into play! Hysteresis ? Never 'eard of it ! Good old Google to the rescue, strikes me that many of the people I've known in the RAF have shown its effects.

Now terror is piled on terror. In the first instance, all gliding is fundamentally unsafe. For: "What goeth up, must yet Descend/And each Flight cometh to an End". You've little choice as to where, and in what circumstances - gravity will decide that for you. Even getting into the air is not without its hazards. You're dragged up by a tug flown some stranger, on a long piece of string (which may bust) or a winch (ditto), into the Wide Blue Yonder and cast adrift without compunction.

And now you tell me that you're actually snatched off the ground ! (by a method akin to the system then used on the railways to grab mailbags without stopping). I remember that, in the Good Old Days, that messages from an army in the field were enclosed in a leather pouch and strung on a sort of washing line held stretched ten feet above ground between two poles.

Then a Wapiti (or something of that ilk) would come along with a version of your hook and do the necessary. I believe the reply came back from HQ with a big lead weight in the pouch (so it wouldn't drift far in the wind when chucked over the side of the aircraft). (This must have made the eyes of some poor squaddie water a bit if he chanced to be on the wrong spot).

Each to his own - I'd sooner have an engine !....D.

Flash2001,

Your: "After the war, of course, he reverted to F/L. He continued to fly and rose again to WingCo but the powers that be wouldn't let him in a jet. He then retired without pension or much else from the RCAF".

This sounds rather hard. Of course, we "hostilities only" people could not expect our wartime service to count for RAF pension purposes (had I returned to, and remained in the Civil Service, it would have counted for that pension). But I think that in the your uncle's case, he must have entered the RCAF pre-war on some kind of regular Commission; surely his service would have continued unbroken through the war, and for a long time afterwards.

Because you don't get from Flt.Lt. back to W/Cdr overnight in peacetime service. I'm not sure what the RAF minimum for a pension was then, but think 16 years (if less, but with 10 years in, you'd get a substantial gratuity). If your uncle had made S/Ldr by '39, he must have had considerable pre-war service. All in all, he must have done 20 years or more, and surely would be entitled to a RCAF pension.

The explanation is almost certain to be a break in service after the war - for then the "clock" is reset to zero: you start again on a new "contract", and your eligibility for pension will be based on that....D.

Goodnight, all. Danny.

PS: I'm rather surprised that no one has drawn attention to a small item in Saturday's D.T. Seems that in August 2010, an unfortunate Chris Wilson was flying something over the Congo with 18 pax - and a crocodile (don't ask me why). The animal was insufficently secured, broke free and was marching up the aisle. The Flight Attendant bolted forward to the safety of the Flight Deck, with a stampede of pax behind her.

The trim shift caused the aircraft to enter a dive from which it did not recover. There was only one survivor, who told the story (and possibly the crocodile: there is supposed to be a video of the creature being removed from the wreckage, alive or dead I know not).

Moral, all you transport Captains: do not agree to carry Crocodiles. (It reminds me of all the horror stories I heard in India of people flying along and finding a snake in the cockpit.... well, what would you do ?)....D.

Cheers, everybody, Danny.
Danny42C is offline  
Old 14th Jul 2014, 02:33
  #5957 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Wide Brown Land
Age: 35
Posts: 516
Wow Harry,
That's a very readable description of a jaw-droppingly amazing activity - they'd never let anyone do that these days. What an experience. Thanks for sharing.
Adam
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Old 14th Jul 2014, 14:33
  #5958 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: EGBJ -> ESSB
Posts: 64
Harry,

I don't suppose you ever crossed paths with a chap called Leslie Kershaw during your time doing snatches? Post-war he too was training on doing pick-ups in the Hadrian and he said it was only a small group of people who were ever trained on it.

Second and somewhat unrelated question. Post war it appears that some Horsa's had their upper surfaces painted silver in the UK? Seems to have been common at the Parachute Training School and a few machines of the 1333 TSCU. I just wondered if you had any recollection?

I believe it was done to machines that may ultimately of ended up in the middle east and the theory was the silver top coat reflected the sun and kept the interior cooler.
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Old 14th Jul 2014, 15:18
  #5959 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Richmond Texas
Posts: 306
Danny

My recollection is that there was no discontinuity in his RCAF service. I am not so sure about dates of promotion and degrees of demotion though, except for the reversion to PPO which was well documented in local newspapers. As senility gradually took hold he became obsessive about setting down the details of his service. I therefore have a huge pile of redundant paper to plough through. If I learn more, I'll post on this forum.

Flash
Flash2001 is offline  
Old 14th Jul 2014, 18:09
  #5960 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: West Sussex
Age: 78
Posts: 4,196
Danny, the story of the Thirsk railway accident and of Leeming's part in alerting the Emergency Services of it reminds us of the many ways in which HM Forces have aided the Civil Power in many more ways than the usual use of that phrase suggests. With ever shrinking numbers I fear that the scope for such assistance must correspondingly shrink likewise.

Flash 2001, your uncle certainly kept his tailor busy, subtracting and adding stripes ad infinitum! As Danny says it seems unusual even for the ups and downs of wartime service. I bow to his interpretation of what may have happened but await your unearthing more facts. Most here will empathise with him though, once the desire to fly is there, nothing else matters much.

harrym. Well, you promised and you certainly came through with a description of a unique procedure that is now scarcely known of. I rather suspect that your Army pilot was acting out a role garnered from Hollywood, including the ditching of the cigarette prior to action. If he'd tripped or you stumbled into him the subsequent scene might not have gone with such precision or predictability. Well done you though for trying out the customer experience. Personally those who I dropped, or who I dropped to, were welcome to my service, but I had no desire to join them in their work.

As to it not being on offer these days, well no, but surely a variation of would be a great attraction at a Theme Park. Perhaps if the whole affair ran on rails...?
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