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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 1st Apr 2009, 09:23
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WARMTOAST The Buckmaster & Piet Retief

What a coincidence. I have not yet seen this article in the "Aeroplane but I remember flying the Buckmasters when I was at Hullavington. I see from my log book that I flew Buckmaster RP243.1 with a S/Ldr. James on March 21sr. 1947 and then twice, on March 24th. in 243 and RP177J also with S/Ldr. James on "familiarisation" flights and then twice again on March 26th. in RP145M with a S/Ldr.Lupton so we must have had a few of them. I can't remember much about the aeroplane except that it didn't impress me. Possibly that was because the next day, March 27th. 1947 I was allowed to take the station Spitfire 1X, MA709C, up a couple of times . It was my first flight in one and I still remember the utter joy of flying it. We were still in the snow and ice of the winter of 1947 but the high pressure that was giving us those conditions also gave us a wonderful blue sky and unlimited visibility over the white landscape and to fly a Spitfire in that beautiful sky was one of the best days of my life. I would be just 24 years of age and I shall never forget it.
Switching to Piet Retief, I remember him , in his capacity of C.F.I. calling me over to his Office one day and saying "Reg, I want you to take a Lancaster over to Little Rissington this afternoon ( It was May 6th. 1947). They are having a VE Day Air display and have asked us to show them a Lanc. Nothing showy . Just a few circuits and, perhaps a three engine landing ." Little Rissington was the important base for the Central Flying School and a very short flight from Hullavington. I picked up one of our Lancs and got a Flight Engineer from the "pool" that we had and I notice I had a F/Lt. Jones as second pilot. I thought that we would show them what a Lanc could do so I called up their Flying Control and got permission to come up from behind the Hangars and sweep over the crowd at a "fairly low altitude" and then pull up in front of them to about two thousand feet and execute a couple of very steep turns (60 degrees of bank) in both directions within the perimeter of the airfield then dive down over the spectators ,disappear and come back and make a landing with both port engines feathered. I tried to forget the CFI's Instructions of "Nothing too showy. I went back to Hullavington and landed . I could see the imposing figure of Lt.Col. Pierre (Piet) Retief waiting for me at the dispersal and groaned inwardly. "I have just had the C.O. of Little Rissy on the Blower " were his opening words. "I thought that I told you , nothing showy " then he started smiling " The CO was raving about the performance. Evidently you stole the show and he wants you to have dinner with him tonight." We had a very fine evening but the story is not finished.
About six years ago we take up the story. I was then about 82 and am with my wife in our nice apartment on the sea front in Dover. We have a very nice lady who is our friend as well as helping my wife out with housework once or twice a week. She was looking at the photographs in my little study and said "My husband's brother was in the RAF." I showed interest and got the rather unusual story of her brother in law's career. He had started as an Engineer's apprentice and had gone through the ranks ( One of Trenchard's "Boys") getting to Warrant Officer and then being commissioned and achieving the rank of Wing Commander.
He had retired and had written a book "Down Chestnut Avenue ". He was living in Andorra. My wife's good "Help" lady friend brought the book in for me to read and my wife opened it up and said "Look, this chapter is entitled "Hullavington"". I read it and realised that he was there when I was and he had been in the pool of Flight Engineers. I looked through my Log Book and saw his name many times , W/O Pennal. He came to Dover and visited me . The first thing that he said was " I think that I have only been scared stiff in an aeroplane once in my life and that was when iI was Flight Engineer with you when we beat up Little Rissington and then had that wonderful evening over there with the Little Rissy crowd."
Sadly, he has since passed on ,as has my wife, but I still have his book which is a tale of sheer hard grind and ,to go from a "boy apprentice", through the ranks ,all the way to Wing Commander was a magnificent achievement and I take my hat off to him and to the many others of similar determination. If I were to be asked what was one of the highlights of my service I would say that I was fortunate enough to meet so many MEN. I put it in Capitals because I mean men ,who you knew , instinctively, were out of the ordinary; Leaders and people that were born to command and yet were humble in their ways. The RAF was and, I am sure,is, fortunate in having more of it's share of such people and I have been lucky enough to meet or serve under many of them.
Old 1st Apr 2009, 12:00
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Where Are You Cliff.

Hi Weheka. I am in Liverpool, which , unfortunately is too far North , (210 miles) from London. As you are only in London for three days, the R.A.F Museum , Hendon is your only option, think you can take the undergound to Hendon. Pitty you cannot go to view the Halifax at the Yorkshire Air Museum , but that is also about 200 miles North. Just Google 'R.A.F Museum, Hendon. for full details.
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Old 1st Apr 2009, 12:06
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If I were to be asked what was one of the highlights of my service I would say that I was fortunate enough to meet so many MEN. I put it in Capitals because I mean men ,who you knew , instinctively, were out of the ordinary; Leaders and people that were born to command and yet were humble in their ways. The RAF was and, I am sure,is, fortunate in having more of it's share of such people and I have been lucky enough to meet or serve under many of them.
Amen to that.
I have been lucky enough to meet a number of veterans of the Bomber war in the course of my research - and to a man they have epitomised your comments. Ordinary men doing extraordinary things - and even today, so humble about it.

You ARE part of a very special generation.

Sorry Reg

Last edited by kookabat; 1st Apr 2009 at 21:48. Reason: Tenses....
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Old 1st Apr 2009, 15:46
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For Johnny OR ICARE
by John Pudney

Do not despair
For Johnny-head-in-air;
He sleeps as sound
As Johnny underground.
Fetch out no shroud
For Johnny-in-the-cloud;
And keep your tears
For him in after years.

Better by far
For Johnny-the-bright-star,
To keep your head,
And see his children fed.

For Johnny
by John Pudney

Thanks Icare , ' Good on yer ' but think I can carry on as usual I’m still enthusiastic . So back to St Athan, and on to page 2 and 3 of the flight engineers log, which hopefully, will miraculously appear below. I must correct a recent mistake, when I said tanks etc , had to be checked every fifteen minutes., as you will see it should have been every 30 minutes or when there was any change in engine conditions.. Four oil pressure gauges, four engine temps, four coolant temps, etc, whether super chargers were in M or S gear, and most of all amount of fuel left, all had to be checked , and recorded. The Lancaster had six self sealing tanks holding 2154 gallons of high octane fuel, with a fuel booster pump fitted in each tank, with numerous cocks, so that fuel could be pumped from tank to tank. An inert gas ,think Nitrogen, was fed into each tank to reduce chance of explosion. Although there were six fuel contents gauges, the engineer had to calculate consumption using a table, for various revs and boost, plus an allowance of seventy gallons for take off, and enter on page four of the log ,as well as entering the flow meter readings on page three. There was also, a cross balance cock in the middle of the six tanks so that the aircraft could be flown using only one tank, from one side only. All this had to be assimilated without ever seeing a Lancaster, considerably harder than a hands on lesson.
Think I have got most of that right. Don’t we have any flight engineers , or P.F.Es out there who would help me out, Must be some correction needed.

Now, you lot , buzz off to another thread while I chat to Reg, Yes Reg, that idea of it can’t happen to me was believed by everyone. It was explained in a lecture that this was so, and was quite normal. The snow of 1947 I remember well, it drifted to up to thirteen feet deep in places. We were ‘snowed in’ for a week, couldn’t get in to work, only as far as the village pub. A pic below was taken about twenty miles east of Snaith. It was taken outside our front gate, with 'War Agg' dozer rescuing us.

This one is pic of a previous summer looking towards the same gate.

Reg , please don't put me on a fizzer for conduct prejudicial to whatsit, just for wearing my battledress off station. Probably just wanted to show my mother. (to the uninitiated, the battle dress was only to be used when flying and on station, and certainly not outside. An Acme whistle was hung on the collar for use when ditched in the oggin.

If their is a pic of me in front of a Q.L 4X4 Bedford, I don't know how it got there, as I posted it on a thread relating to Belsen. If it does appear, I will probably tell you about cliffnemo the heavy goods driver, and maybe even how I drove the Hanover - Bremen express. I wonder if some one who shall be nameless will tell us about a hijacking ?
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Old 1st Apr 2009, 16:08
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Kookabat and Cliff

I should have put "privileged" to serve with them instead of "lucky". Do you know something that I don't know, Kookabat ? I am referring to the tense that you used in reference to me in your last sentence, I am not being pedantic. Just kidding.
Cliff, those pictures of the dreadful winter of '47 were so evocative. They took me back, immediately to that era. I, too, like the rest of us had the Acme whistle and know that they saved many lives. I am learning a lot about the Lancaster that I never knew before, from the excellent drawings that you have shown us. All the best , Reg.

Last edited by regle; 1st Apr 2009 at 22:25. Reason: grammar
Old 1st Apr 2009, 21:53
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Tense changed.... sorry Reg!!!
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Old 1st Apr 2009, 22:28
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No need to exaggerate!

Apology readily accepted. I am going to bed still laughing ! You've made my day.Reg.
Old 2nd Apr 2009, 00:08
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I am going to bed still laughing!

When you get up in the morning, please check your PMs.

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Old 5th Apr 2009, 13:36
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Just to bring this to the top again gentlemen. From an avid reader of this thread (and a late Uncle who was a Lancaster F/E).
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 16:00
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Early Halifax accidents

Regle comments (31/3) on accidents suffered by early versions of the Halifax, due to poor design of the tail fins. It would seem that Handley Page had a long-standing problem with some aspects of aerodynamic design, for not only did the prototype Hermes crash on its maiden flight due to elevator over-balance, its close relation the Hastings Mk1 was hardly a model of perfection in this department. Flying it was most definitely a two-handed job and especially so where the elevators were concerned, indeed it was said of one pilot of below-average size that on his first attempt at landing the control yoke stayed put while he slid forward in his seat. Apocryphal maybe, but the effort required in pitch made one wonder if HP were playing it safe and deliberately designed the elevators to be grossly under-balanced. The Mk2 and other variants were much better in this respect, though still not over-pleasant in use to due a rather spongy action. As for the other control axes, the rudder could start to tramp if speed was allowed to fall too low when a large degree of movement was applied (such as during asymmetric flight) and could lock at full travel if the condition persisted; aileron forces were passable but nothing to write home about, and all round I always thought the Mk1 was something of a pig.
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Old 5th Apr 2009, 17:36
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Handley Page Hastings

Flying it was most definitely a two-handed job and especially so where the elevators were concerned,
No doubt the reason why the following information was so helpfully etched into the control wheel boss on some of them: "MENU COW PIE"!
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Old 6th Apr 2009, 11:37
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At some point during the course we studied the oxygen supply system , the importance of oxygen to the crew, and the effects of lack of oxygen. Particularly understanding the symptoms of anoxia, so that it could be recognized immediately and dealt with. We were told to use the word anoxia, but I think hypoxia would be more apt, but who cares?. Evidently the affect of losing ones oxygen supply resulted in the same affect as consuming too much alcohol, so that should a crew member suddenly become exuberant or start to act in an unusual manner , or even hallucinating
a problem with the oxygen supply should be suspected. To this end we studied the supply system with all the usual drawings in our exercise books and then , visited a decompression chamber, where before entering, received a lecture from the M.O. which included info on how the amount of oxygen in our blood stream would reduce with altitude if we didn’t have extra oxygen supplied..

The visit to the decompression chamber was very interesting, and quite surprising. Four airmen sat on each side with four more facing them on the other side. I and my three oppos on our side were instructed to fit our masks and breath oxygen, while the men on the opposite side told to breath normally. As the air was pumped out, my opposite number, who had a pad on his knee was told to draw squares, which he did. An altimeter in the chamber indicated the equivalent height in feet, and increased as the pressure dropped. At about 17000 feet he suddenly commenced to draw circles, then just scribbled . A t about 25000 feet ,I think, he became unconscious , When all four were unconscious we were instructed , over the intercom to remove any item from our opposite number. I removed his tie, and was told to refit his oxygen mask . When I then informed him that he had been unconscious, and I had removed his tie he would not believe me. I was then instructed to remove my mask and write Jack and Jill went up the Hill . The next thing I remember is writing the last line when I noticed my page was covered in squiggles. Despite watching the antics of those opposite ,I could not remember being unconscious , and was surprised that my wallet was missing.

Ironically , the only one to suffer from anoxia and benefit from all this knowledge was me.
At an altitude about 20000 feet, whilst in a Lancaster, I decided to go to the Elsan, so disconnected the bayonet fitting on my oxy tube and connected it to my portable bottle, then ‘went aft‘. On return , I suddenly felt elated , but carried on towards the cockpit, and then began to feel faint. I think that because of that training in the decompression chamber, I realised I needed oxygen. I managed to struggle to the main spar and grab the ‘Wops ‘ arm, pointing to my mask as I passed out. Evidently Jock the W/Op (more P.C ?) connected his portable bottle, after which I recovered, wondering what had happened. It transpired , later, that the bottles had not been checked by the flight mechs.

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Old 7th Apr 2009, 07:20
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Love it! My hypoxia training was carried out in the 1980's at North Luffenham and it was very similar. However, they reconnected the oxygen before you passed out so that you were able to remember the symptoms. I had to play noughts and crosses with a Group Captain and nearly thumped him when he started winning!

Cracking thread. Keep it coming.
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Old 7th Apr 2009, 09:34
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Cliff that scan of Jack and Jill is brilliant - makes it very real.
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Old 7th Apr 2009, 17:59
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What a way to start "Civvy St. !

Starting a new life as a Check Pilot in the newly formed BEA Check Flight meant that I had to find somewhere to live . We found an old Rectory in Tilehurst Rd. Reading which looked just the job, albeit very expensive. We were warned by several friends that the place was reputed to be haunted by a little old lady who had been seen, by tenants, roaming around the house. We never saw her but there was no doubt that something was strange about it. The two children would wake , crying, whereas they had always been sound sleepers. I woke one night to the very loud sound of racing hooves coming from the meadow beside our room. It was a bright moonlit night and I went to the window. The sound was still there but everything was calm and there was not an animal to be seen ; the most puzzling thing was the disappearance of the fairy that we had placed on the top of the Xmas tree, December 1947. It was there the night that I had placed it and next morning it was gone , never to be found.
Our job at Aldermaston was to give BEA Captains a two day course and check. We would start by giving them dual instruction on the ubiquitous Dakota and the brand new Vickers Viking using, what was called, two stage amber. This involved placing amber panels all around the inside of the cockpit windows so that the Instructor could see outside and then placing a pair of blue goggles over the pilot's eyes . This enabled him to see the brightly lit Instrument panel clearly but the amber side windows now appeared as an impenetrable black. The first day was all instrument flying practice followed by a comprehensive check on their flying, including all emergency procedures.
The job was very interesting and the majority of the Captains who came to us were 100% enthusiastic . They saw the need for the different approach to instrument flying ,that was neccessary with all the new aids to landing and Flying Control that were coming in and performed accordingly. Unfortunately there existed a very hard core of the older pre war Captains who had never been checked by anyone in their lives, brought up on the old "seat of the pants" system ,and who resented the possible idea that their flying was not all that was now required of them.
There had been some cases of aircraft arriving over a beacon and being told to "Hold at X feet" and then their next call was asking where they should taxi in to ". !
I, personally, never, encountered any of these people and made some very good friends amongst the many that came to Aldermaston
during the next nine months or so. One of these was Johnny R---- who later,tragically, "collided " with a MIG who was "buzzing" him whilst flying in the "corridors" which were insisted upon by the Russians in those "Cold War" days, There were quite a few who, on making a return for a "Refresher", would bring us some small gift of something that had been bought abroad ,knowing that we never did any of those flights that were so looked forward to by the ones that were able to escape the still strictly rationed peacetime Britain of 1947.
It could'nt last and it didn't. Labour swept the Country and decided that a poverty stricken Britain would not allow it's citizens to take out more than Five Pounds in cash on leaving the Country. This was, in effect, the same as putting a travel ban on Europe and the outcome was
inevitable. BEA, running with virtually empty aircraft , declared that they had too many Pilots and some ninety were declared redundant. The "Old Boys" were all powerful and only agreed that it would be done on a "Last in, First out. " basis and this was to include Check Flight. So Check Flight no longer existed and we were out of work in a flooded market. As proof of the panic that had beset BEA, within six months they were writing to most of the sacked pilots, offering them jobs again...but not Check Flight. The Old Brigade had won.
Old 8th Apr 2009, 19:04
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Cracking stories as always, gentlemen.

Cliff, your oxygen-deprived scrawls are most amusing. And with regard to your passing out at 20,000 feet...all I can say is that it's a good job that you didn't pass out whilst on the Elsan itself. Much worse for all concerned, I'd imagine...! Please keep uploading the pictures, they really help the stories come alive.

Reg, to digress slightly to your time in the RAF immediately post-war: I've read that during the war, discipline on RAF bases within Bomber Command was fairly relaxed with regards to saluting officers and the like. Was this addressed and things tightened up fairly quickly in the post-war RAF, or did things remain quite casual for a time afterward?
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Old 9th Apr 2009, 11:33
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The Bull began to grow his horns

TommyOv, There was a decided change and,believe it or not, some of it was actually for the better.
To start off with....The end of the war did not actually change the status of the RAF. In fact the hostilities were never ended. The occupation and splitting of Berlin brought the Cold War in to being and the RAF was faced with virtually being in a state of continous alert. The "Incident" that I referred to in my last article when a Russian MIG buzzed a completely unoffending BEA Viking and collided with it causing the deaths of all on board including my very good friend, Johnny Ralph, the innocent Captain , was only one incident of what so nearly became the Third World war and was only averted by the awesome, and I hate this word, as it is used today, and has become meaningless , but in this case was the only way to describe the Allied miracle of the Berlin Air Lift which so shook the Russians with the show of what could face them with, that the catastrophe was averted...but, like Waterloo, it was a "close run thing".
The "Berlin Luftbrucke", in which I was proud to take part, was vital and is very much a part of history. If anything it could be described as a "Dunkirk in reverse " and should be shown as vital as Dunkirk in shaping our History.
So how did the RAF change ? Quite slowly, to start off with. The RAF was always different to the Army as was the Navy to the RAF and the Army, if you get my meaning. I won't say that it went to extremes but there is no doubt that many wartime practices and habits were quietly and , quite easily dropped. Dress was consdered in a different way and the rules were more strictly adhered to. If anything, as aeroplanes grew more complex and control of them even more so, self discipline and strict adherence to Check Lists ,read or electronic, made this discipline vital.
The pre-war requisite of University, Public School education and
the outright class distinction of selection virtually disappeared as it was doing in the "outside world". There was always something that remained but technical knowledge was recognised as being of vital to the existence of the Air Force as a power in the very difficult , poverty stricken and still, rationed Great Britain.
"Dining in" nights became the rule and, once again, rules of dress were quite strictly adhered to. Camp, or a better term, Station discipline became more rigid without going to extremes. Gradually you could see yourself changing in the way that you looked at life...one of the things being that the expectancy of living longer was now a reality, and this change affected different people , differently. The few "real B******'s
that did exist and were fortunate enough to be allowed to continue didn't change , but were more likely to be told a few things by their Superiors to "Knock it off" in a quiet way. Trouble was that one or two were one of the Superiors !
The whole subject is a very interesting one and well worthy of comment in this Forum. To sum it up is not easy. During the war you had only the goal of winning it. Now , in peacetime, the aim was, and is, to sustain that peace and requires the same self discipline as before
but it is very evident that the summary dismissal of Churchill and the advent of Labour was a stern warning; the Nation wanted a big change in the whole system and the Forces would have to abandon a lot of the Old Boy mentality even though we owed our "Battle of Britain" survival to it's existence ... I have a feeling that I have not quite explained the difference in the wartime and peacetime RAF. Perhaps I have opened up the subject and I should like to hear Cliff's and other people's views. A very interesting subject, Tommy. All the best Regle
Old 9th Apr 2009, 14:34
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^^^^^ As always, you open the window a crack and give us a glimpse,- you big tease!

I, for one, would like to know more about the Berlin Airlift, among the many other subjects you tantalise us with as a "byeline" that you drop in to an anecdote.

Sadly, the number of survivors of WW2 are dwindling, those , like the contributors to this thread, who are willing to talk about it, are few and far between.

In my time in the Motor Trade, I had a customer who was an ex-military type. -obviously wealthy, he was a very friendly and down to earth chap....in conversation, it emerged that his father had owned a Shoddy-mill (dirty/waste cotton/wool ) which they processed....Eric went through the mill, so to speak, -he proudly stated that "when the Old Man snuffed-it, I flogged the mill and live quite comfortably off my investments....there's no bloody fun getting covered in muck every day"
Although he lived within sight of my garage, I had occasion to phone him.....Imagine my amazement to see the entry in the Phone -book,- " Milne, E. J. D.F.C. ".........Other than finding that he flew Mustangs as a Recce Pilot ( "unarmed,but nowt could catch us!" ) he let out very little,without a lot of pestering.

A wonderful , down-to -earth guy who is sadly missed.

Please continue , Gentlemen, you bring history into the present and give the past so much more relevance.
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Old 9th Apr 2009, 16:17
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...discipline on RAF bases within Bomber Command was fairly relaxed
At Waddington in the sixties, discipline was very relaxed. On visits to other stations within No. 1 Group it seemed the same.

While on an exercise Mick at Lyneham however, we found ourselves back in the RAF. One of our SACs, having missed the garry, was walking to the the airmen's mess with his hat off and hands in his pockets in the rain. The Staish came along in his car, flag flying. When he spotted the erk he screeched to a halt, and flinging the door open yelled "You There!". Our SAC jumped into the front seat and said cheerfully "Thanks very much Sir! I'm off to the mess!"

Staish was so taken aback that he gave our friend his lift, but we certainly heard all about it later from the detachment commander and were banned from the domestic site for the remainder of the detachment.
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Old 9th Apr 2009, 17:15
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TommyOv, I have difficulty defining discipline, as to me at least, it means many things, and discipline in the air or on the ground.? I think Reg has answered you query better than I could, but would add that in the air every one practiced what they had been taught implicitly.. For instance a bomb aimer was instructed to use only the words, left left, or steady, or right, or bombs gone , exactly, no other words, and that is what they did. We had been taught that , left left , could not be mistaken for right even when almost deafened by the sound of four 12 cylinder unsilenced Merlins. Also remember, all aircrew are, and were volunteers, their main aim was to stop the war and be on the winning side. They did not need some one with a big whip behind them . Perhaps a suitable analogy would be the loose horses in the Grand National which carried on after unseating the jockey. My opinion is that in the air , rank was less important, respect was shown to all the crew, and the “skipper was boss". We did however always salute the Kings Commission on camp . I was once stopped by two S.Ps for walking along with my greatcoat collar turned up in non- inclement weather , a chargeable offence. They started to charge me, but suddenly decided to disappear when I said I would be charging them, for not addressing me correctly. They had shouted “ Eh you stop“, luckily, for me there were other ‘witnesses' around

Thanks for that Kookabat, but thought you would ask what the final line was on the oxygen post., perhaps being chestnut corner every ones knows. For those who don’t it was “ Do you think it was water they were after”
Thanks Spartacan, Will do my best to keep it coming, and I’m sure Reg will do the same however Mrs Nemo says it is about time I did some gardening, plus the oil changing on ‘her ‘ car, and my old Beetle preparing for M.O.T. Don’t worry. I’m the boss.
Would love to know what would have happened if you had thumped the Groupy. Under the influence of hypoxia ?
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