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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 29th Mar 2009, 09:06
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I remember walking in the Tiergarten in Berlin with my ex Bomber Command captain one day in the early 70's. He said that he often did this when in the city and tried to visualise the place where he had arrived by parachute. It was, he said, the most horrific moment to be unprotected on the ground in the middle of a major bombing raid having escaped with his life from his Lancaster. He also thanked God that it was Luftwaffe troops who captured him as he would almost certainly been strung up from a lamppost by civilians.
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Old 29th Mar 2009, 09:26
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At RAF Valley, one of the MPBW (or whatever it was then called) seniors had been on Halifaxes in WW2. A nice chap; occasionally, after a couple of beers in the OM bar, we could get him to talk about his time in the war - he'd been shot down over Munich.

As is often the case, it seems, he made friends with the local Germans not long after the war and used to go back to visit thm on holiday nearly 30 years later.

He told us that, just after the Munich Olymics time, he was visiting and his wife said to their hosts "What wonderful modern buildings you have...."

To which the German replied "Ja - und your husband was one of our chief town planners!"

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Old 29th Mar 2009, 15:45
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Thanks WAHEKA. Having a chat is the way I hope people treat this thread. No one too worried about, grammar and the odd mistake. (See below). Just cheerful comments and help, and no one upset if someone wanders off thread.

To S'Land. What a marvelous post, thanks . I think interactive is the operative word. From my point of view, and possibly Regle's, sometimes when I feel far from energetic, a new post appears on my screen, and it's 'Full Power' again. So it is thanks to all the contributors and also to our hard working Mr Moderator , who wards off he pedants and critics. (Yes there have been one or two)

Just for a laugh I applied for an award for poor journalism on the thread reproduced below. Not only did I not win the award, there were no further posts after my application

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PPruNe Awards For Poor Journalism
How about we create an award (or series) for the worst articles published in the name of rubbish Journalism on the subject of flying.

This would apply to all Pilots on Prune, so we could all have a go. Maybe we would need an entirely new catagory? CLIFFNEMO Says yer what , catagory? Mods?

Extra points could be awarded for; poor research, oft repeated words and phrases etc. We might also consider 'Prune Annoyance Factor' for the overall effect created by the inaccuracies in the article.

The serious part of this is that poor journalism creates panic amongst the Public, who then think that an aeroplane CAN 'plummet 20,000 feet' in seconds or whatever (fill in your own here).

Come on, we can strike back!
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Old 23rd September 2008, 10:01 #2 (permalink)
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Shouldn't that be spelled PPRuNe

How about the most misspelled word here? My vote is on Stanstead.

!!!!!!panic amongst the Public, who then think that an aeroplane CAN 'plummet 20,000 feet' in seconds !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dunno about that, but we were taught it could fall accelerating at 32 feet per second, per second until it reached a terminal velocity only limited by air resistance .TARA
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Old 29th Mar 2009, 15:58
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Resin Lamps

Hi, zotbox

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Mosquito "Resin Lamps"
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Old 29th Mar 2009, 18:37
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What height did you bomb from ? Weheka

We always tried to bomb from the altitude given to us at briefing as there was always a good reason for it. i;e Other Groups and Squadrons would be given different heights and times and you could get in to a lot of trouble if you got mixed up with them. It was bad enough coping with your own aircraft and the opposing flak, searchlights and nightfighters without making things more difficult.
Altitudes varied for differing reasons; I will give you the last "Ops" that I made . Only the last two were on Hally 111's. All the others were on the Mark 1a series 11. All were made at the end of 1943 when the Bombing of Germany was at it's maximum. July 23rd. Hamburg, 18,400 ft. Aug.10th. Nuremburg, 16,000 ft. Aug. 12th. Milan,17,000 ft.
Aug. 17th. Peenemunde 11,000ft. (Accuracy on a small target vital), Aug.22nd. Leverkusen,19,000 ft. Aug.27th,Nuremburg,17,500ft. Aug. 31st.
Berlin, 17,500ft. Sept.5th.Mannheim,17,500ft. Sept 6th. Munich, 16,000ft.
Oct.4th. Frankfurt 18,000ft. Oct. 8th. Hanover, 18,000ft. Nov 3rd. Dusseldorf, 19,000ft. Nov.11th. Cannes (Marshalling Yards),13,500ft.,Nov 22nd.Berlin, 19,000ft. Dec. 3rd. Leipzig, 16,000ft. Jan 20th.'44,Berlin, 21,000ft Halifax 111, and Berlin Jan 28th.'44, 21,000ft. Also Halifax 111.
During an Air test several Squadron Pilots tried differing heights but these were without operational fuel and bomb loads. I think that 29,000ft. was about the average maximum but not possible unless ,later on when the targets were nearer but then they were usually tactical and much smaller such as V2 sites and lower altitudes were neccessary for accuracy.
I have already given my opinion on the difference between the Lanc and the Hally but will reiterate that there was no doubt at all that the Lancaster was the better aeroplane, by far, than the Halifax but the Halifax was much easier to escape from and had the better armour protection and was much sturdier . I, for one , would choose the Halifax to operate with ,but thank God, I do not have to do it again. I hope that this answers your questions Weheka, Good luck, Regle.
P.S. I couldn't agree with you more, Cliff, on your comment on being spurred into action by a comment or question appearing. I sat down this time with absolutely no intention of writing anything and then I saw your thread and then WEHEKA's and just had to get cracking. So keep them coming.

Last edited by regle; 14th Apr 2009 at 17:45.
Old 29th Mar 2009, 18:46
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Cliff, I don't know if you mixed me up with someone else (I wrote post #601) but that's okay. Keep writing. It doesn't matter who inspires the writing - as long as you continue to be inspired.

Here's another literary moment from the WW2 display at the Seattle Museum of Flight. I think you may get a kick out of it:
"I heard a funny story about Tracy Bird. Two old maids got frightened at the air raids in London and moved out to the country. The third day they were there, Tracy crashes through their roof in an airplane and lands in their sitting room. They were so frightened that they moved back to London."
(True story, apparently, taken from the journal of a Spitfire pilot.)

Mike Read, regle, (and others I may have missed, as I haven't had time to study this entire thread yet).

Wow! I'm mesmerized. This thread is a treasure trove! A lot of those museum warbirds are going to find that lift as I get into this thread.

Your stories will keep those military flight museum doors open. It is so important that we never close that chapter of our history.

Thank-you all again, for serving and sharing.

Last edited by V2-OMG!; 29th Mar 2009 at 19:33.
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Old 29th Mar 2009, 21:34
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Thanks Cliff and regle, and more thanks to Wing Cdr Wilkerson for screening you and most your crew when he did regle.

Being a radial engine fan I think the Hally looked better when herc powered. The Lanc seems to suit the Merlins.

You must have lots more stories to come and I look forward to them.
Thanks again.
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Old 29th Mar 2009, 22:51
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Mistakenly, I hit the link to Page 1 of this thread, which leads me to say that I think we should all make a collective pause to thank the future king of England, Prince William, for being such a clever Bill - (good thing his name's not Richard, or I'd be in real trouble) - and getting his wings in 40 hours.

Let me echo the comments of many others. Keep the stories coming, Cliff and Regle. My Dad would only tell the funny stories. I suspect the other ones still hurt too much to recount.
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Old 30th Mar 2009, 10:23
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Doolally Tap ?


Sorry for confusion. Just put it down to 'short term memory loss' or summat. Years ago they would have just said he's Doolally tap.!

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Old 30th Mar 2009, 17:44
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Spurring you on!

cliff and regle: If either of you ever do get too tired to post, how about the rest of us chase you up if we haven't had a post from one of you in say 3 days? Perhaps you could work a rota, so you each get 6 days to recover from the effort of posting, but you have a huge public following eager for your reminiscences! I don't want to pester or for it to be a chore, but (forgive this, due to your advancing years) sometimes I can't help but worry if you haven't posted for several days!!
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Old 30th Mar 2009, 22:05
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I care9

Thank you for the very moving message. I know that Cliff must feel the same and I am very, very grateful. It is nice that we seem to be appreciated. I look forward to Cliff's expertise and technical knowledge and I know that he appreciates my humble efforts. Thanks a million and I will plunge straight in to my story.
We were still in the terrible Arctic winter of 1946/7 and still living in the cottage and Mrs (Margaret Rutherford) Bod would invite our two very small children, Peter and Linda to tea. She would pretend to be the Lady of the Manor and the children ,Lord Peter and Lady Linda. For those of you too young to remember the English Film star, Margaret Rutherford ,I can only describe Mrs Bod as an eccentric, lovely, old Lady with a heart of gold. Her chickens each had their own names and were called collectively, her Cubadees! She would scatter their food and they would come running as she called "Cubadees, Cubadees"
The snow and ice ,ground on remorselessly. There was no way of getting to the aerodrome and, in any case, flying was impossible. As soon as the field was cleared, down would come the snow again. The temperature plummeted. We were boiling snow for water and living on scraps that the farm had produced. The Cottage had no gas or electricity anyway and the only heating was from a wood burning stove in the big kitchen. Every morning my poor wife would go down and try and light the stove. One morning I heard the most God Almighty bang and I rushed down to find Dora there with her face all black, and in tears. She had got fed up with trying to light the very awkward stove with newspaper and shavings so had primed it with some paraffin from our oil lamp. The top of the stove had blown off and then down came Mrs Bod , ""It's happened. I knew it would happen. I heard a little explosion this morning and I always knew that the cold would do that to the pipes." she cried dramatically. How we kept our faces straight ,I will never know.
We shivered under our woolen blanket which was covered in ice in the morning from our frozen breath. The ceiling had small icicles dropping from it. Our only contact with the outside world was Mrs. Bod's accumulator driven radio. She would only allow the news, to be listened to and that with the volume turned down as far as possible ,so as to conserve the large acid filled batteries. One night, Dora and I were sitting , gloomily reading by the dim light of our evil smelling paraffin lamp ,when in swept Mrs Bod " My, aren't we looking cosy ?" she boomed and turned the lamp down a few more notches. One evening, when the snow had stopped for a few hours I attempted to take Dora in the car to Chippenham. We had only gone a few hundred yards when the car slid backwards into one of the huge snowdrifts and down into a hidden ditch. I was standing there ,cursing when out came Mrs Bod swinging a lantern and holding a spade, looking for all the world like a large member of the seven dwarfs. "My, aren't we having fun ? " she boomed out ,as Dora quickly put her hand over my mouth. She then pitched in and dug us out but we didn't attempt the trip to Chippenham.
This was March and the bitter cold went on into April and Dora was expecting our third at the end of May. Eventually the coldest winter of the century gave way to what was to be the hottest May on record and little Roy was born on the 30th. of May in Chippenham Nursing Home. Tragically he was only to live a week and then died. It was the first real setback in our lives as we had been so fortunate until that dreadful winter .
My position, and such interesting work, at the Empire Flying School had been the pinnacle of my career and I felt secure with my permanent Commission but our whole lives were to be changed drastically. Civil Flying was just starting up again and British European Airways, proposed to start a Check Flight to train and check their Captains who had very little experience of the new, and very much feared ,concept of "All Weather and Advanced Instrument flying". It was to be based at what is now the Atomic Research Station at Aldermaston, near Reading. BEA had received Air Ministry approval to recruit Instructors direct from the Empire Flying School and I was amongst those chosen to start their Civil Aviation career, right at the top as a Check Captain in the newly formed Check Flight under the command of an old friend, Neil Green, who was from the Examining Flight at the EFS.
With some misgivings, I resigned my precious
peacetime Permanent Commission ,and was told to report for demobilisation at the RAF staion of Kirkham, a few miles from my home at Blackpool. I was demobilised on June 26th. 1947. I had flown six years with the RAF with a total of 1527 hrs and 25 minutes. I had been given the substantive rank of Flight Lieutenant.
Before Demobilisation, we went to Reading to look for somewhere to live and were lucky enough to find a furnished house in Tilehurst near Reading. We had another car now, a Riley Kestrel with a fabric body ,and we made the long journey south from the Demob Centre at Kirkham to Reading. There were no Motorways and Garages were to be found with very great difficulty. We had no less than eight punctures en route. New tyres were impossible to find and every puncture had to be repaired wherever you could find a garage. Luckily the A.A. were splendid in those days. If the AA man didn't salute your car when he saw the badge on the bonnet then you knew there was a speed trap ahead ! That is absolutely true . I can remember Dora, once, pregnant, and standing on the running board, holding the distributor head on , when it had cracked and getting electric shocks every now and then, until we reached a garage.
I find, as I write this, that I can hardly believe that it happened . It was over sixty years ago and yet, with all these drawbacks we enjoyed life and thought each new invention was wonderful. I will stop now and continue my adventures in Civil (What a misnomer !) Aviation as soon as I can. I do hope that you don't find this sort of thing boring. Please let me know if you do.
Old 31st Mar 2009, 00:56
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Regle, I suspect you are incapable of writing a boring post. (same goes for Cliff and the other contributors)

I find the whole thread fascinating, and count myself very fortunate to be able to get this glimpse into a fascinating era.

I suspect many people my age (mid 30s) find it difficult to really comprehend what life was like during WWII and the time afterwards, I know I certainly do. Sure, there are plenty of facts around, but it's the intermingling of the operational and forces aspects with the stories of daily life that help to get some sort of understanding.

Post as much as you like, this is the first thread I look for when I log on, and it will never be boring.
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Old 31st Mar 2009, 02:21
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Couldn't agree more with straight up again. As you mentioned to cliff a while ago, maybe you should get together on a book. Your memories are amazing to say the least.

Just to go back to your ops regle, did you ever have any premonitions about others before going on ops? or were you too busy with your own worries. I know there was a lot of luck involved to get through a tour, but you seemed to combine that with using every tactic you could, ie weaving all the time to increase your chances. I suppose that was why the first five or so ops were statistically more dangerous?

Bear in mind I only have the books I have read to go on for info on the subject, untill you guys came along.
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Old 31st Mar 2009, 09:37
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Weheka. Wingco Wilkerson and the Halifax.

I have a very fine Hardback book, beautifully written and containing wonderful Cutouts of the Halifax. It is called "Based at Burn" (A small village, near Selby, Yorks.) The ISBN No. is 0 9525317 0 4 . It is written by Hugh Cawdron and published by The 578 Burn Association , Riverhythe Bundys Way, Staines, Middlesex, TW18 3LD England.
I cannot say whether it is still in print but it is well worth reading and contains over 400 finely printed pages with contributions from all ranks and many great pictures.It is very informative and goes in to great detail of the various Marks of the Halifax including the dreaded "Rudder Stall " which caused many fatal crashes before the fins were discovered to be the culprits , losing response at low speeds and locking, causing fatal spins. The fins were changed to the rectangular ones of all the later Marks and solved the problem but many people lost their lives before this was done.
Wing Commander Wilkerson was revered by all his crews and the Royal Air Force lost one of it's finest leaders when he was killed on 16th. Sept. 1944, whilst a passenger in a Baltimore that crashed , just after
take-off from Hullavington where he was training to instigate the first Bomber Command Instructors School, that he was to command and which he had already asked me to join him there as a Flight Commander.
I thought that this might interest you and others. Reg.
No, Weheka, I never had the slightest premonition about the future, probably because , deep down, amongst all of us was the almost certain knowledge that there was no future...but it wasn't going to happen to you ! I always had in mind a notice that hung in the Briefing room at Snaith, our 51 Sqdn. base near Selby in Yorkshire. It has remained with me throughout my whole career and read "The Price of Safety is Eternal Vigilance ". All the best , Reg

Last edited by regle; 31st Mar 2009 at 09:51.
Old 31st Mar 2009, 09:53
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regle, Amazon UK is showing two used copies of Based at Burn are available from associated sellers for 70.99 and 75.00 + 2.75 pp !!!!
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Old 31st Mar 2009, 11:38
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"Straight Up" - I concur absolutely!

I have been enthralled by this thread, and by the way that Cliff and Regle have recounted their experiences. My father was a WW2 Sunderland pilot and, whilst I know a little about his squadron life, I know virtually nothing about his time square-bashing, learning to fly in Pensacola, or going for other training. Now, sadly, it is too late to ask.

Having very recently made contact with one of his crew via a Squadron website (they had lost touch in June 1945!) I am hoping to learn some more about OTU and Squadron experiences, but your posts have been wonderful in bringing to life the background and atmosphere of all the other aspects of those dark years.

I log onto Pprune daily, and for no other purpose than to read this thread!

Thank you, Cliff and Regle!!
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Old 31st Mar 2009, 17:18
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Sunderland thread in Aviation History

240 Gardner: Have you found the Sunderland thread? I hope you have as it is similar to this, but specifically about the flying boats and what they got up to.
I have to admit that these old b*ggers certainly have a fine recall and writing style which puts many of the other threads to shame.
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Old 31st Mar 2009, 19:42
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Your post # 571 of 21 March

Our Chief Flying Instructor was a tough South African Air Force Lt.Col. called after his famous Boer pioneer Voortrekker Grandfather, Piet Retief, the leader of the Great Trek to the Traansvaal.
I was reading the letters page of the current (May) issue of The Aeroplane monthly and what should be there but a letter from your former CFI's son. If I may quote:

More on the Buckmaster

Sir, I was most interested to see the photograph of the Bristol Buckmaster, coded RCV-F, in the Archive Colour feature of your September 2008 issue. I note that it served with the Empire Central Flying School at RAF Hullavington between at least April 1946 and May 1949.
From December 1944 to December 1947, my father, the late Maj-Gen Pierre Marais Retief AFC & Bar, of the SAAF, was seconded to the RAF. During this time, he was on the staff of the ECFS in the posts of Chief Flying Instructor and Wing Commander Flying, holding the rank of lieutenant-colonel. According to Dad's pilot's logbooks, he flew "Buckmaster F", obviously the same aircraft as in the photograph, on many occasions. According to one report that I have read, the Buckmaster "was an unpleasant aircraft at the best of times", but I don't think that it held any fears for Dad, as he was by all accounts an exceptionally able pilot.

Incidentally, earlier in 1944, Dad himself attended a course at the Empire Central Flying School (ECFS). There he met one Flight Lieutenant F. Chichester, a navigation officer at the school. This was none other than the later to-be-famous Sir Francis Chichester, renowned British pilot, yachtsman - the first man to complete a single-handed yacht voyage around the world in 1966-67 - and author. Retief and Chichester flew together on at least one occasion, in October 1944. Francis was my father's navigator on a navigation exercise, flying in a Miles Magister. In his book The Romantic Challenge (Cassell & Co, London, 1971), Sir Francis makes mention of his RAF service in the ECFS.

Elarduspark, Republic of South Africa
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Old 31st Mar 2009, 20:54
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Thanks regle and brakedwell. I have checked that site and the prices seem to range from 30 pounds to 75. With our great exchange rate of about 40p per $1 it will be an expensive book, but will try to get my hands on one. The only book I have on the Halifax is one combined with the Wellington by Chaz Bowyer and Armand Van Ishoven, quite a good book with many good photos and stories. It also gives a bit of detail on the rudder overbalance causing accidents and 'christmas tree' syndrome effecting performance.

A good tribute to the Halifax in the December issue of Flypast. Gives you a good look at the Yorkshire Air Museums Halifax re-creation 'Friday the 13th', 128 ops!

My wife and I will be making our first trip to your part of the world in July but only have three days in London, what would be worth a visit re Bomber Command, museums etc while there? I know this is a small window but we have a bit of ground to cover and only have a month to do it. I figure at 57 if I don't do it now I never will.

Where are you cliff?
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Old 31st Mar 2009, 22:24
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yes, thank you very much, I have, plus also had several PMs from one of the contributors who was kind enough to answer my dumb questions about some of the terms in my Dad's log book.
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